How to make your assets an asset

So, you’re ready to start sharing art from your game. Great! Images, especially shared through social media, are one of the fastest ways to spur organic growth and awareness. That said, there is a right way and a wrong way to display your beautifully crafted models and hand-drawn cells.

I’m sure you’ve seen it before, but it is crazy-making and gut-twisting to see social media accounts sharing down-rezzed and blurry images. They don’t look good. Period. Approaching asset design for marketing purposes should be done in a way similar to how a professional photographer handles their work. Imagine if those Josten’s photos from your school-picture days came back blurry, off-center, and generally ‘meh’? Your awful haircut from the day before aside, no one would want to display that bad boy on their fridge door.

 

PUT YOUR BEST FOOT FORWARD.

While it’s unavoidable to put out ‘work-in-progress’ images–and sometimes that can even showcase a neat aspect of your game’s development–it’s easy to forget that even with a big fat “ALPHA – NOT FINAL” watermark, that image will often still be taken as a final piece of art. Just like with an art-school portfolio, you should put your best stuff out there, and trash the rest that will inevitably end up holding you back.

Always be sure to make your screenshots interesting and eye-catching. Here are some tips for catching that perfect shot:

  • Pose it out: If you’re working in 3D, don’t just take a shot from your standard top-down camera. Frame the shot like you would any photography; make sure your subject is centered, clear and taken from an interesting angle.
  • Consider action over static images: Try things like shooting from a low/high angle or catching a character mid-action to show off that really cool-ultra-mega-attack with a million particle effects. Take your time to find something really striking that you think an outside observer would be immediately drawn in by.
  • Be very, very selective: When taking screenshots, for example, you may only select the best 10 shots out of 500! Only pick the absolute best shots. It may sound like a painstaking process, but… well… yes, it is.
  • GET A SECOND OPINION: I cannot stress this point enough. While we all like to think that our judgement is spot on, the fact of the matter is that it’s often not. Ask a friend, ask a fan, ask your mom (if she’s got a good eye for aesthetic, of course) what they think. Be as critical of your work as possible, because no one’s going to be giving it any slack once it’s out there.

SIZING, ASPECT RATIO, & RESOLUTION

There is a big difference between the three, and they are often confused with one another. We want you to know the difference so that when we have to turn your beautiful, high-res PNG into a crappier lower-res JPEG (which will load faster in email blasts and social media posts) it’ll still look great.

  • Sizing: This refers to the actual physical size of the image (think 1000px x 1000px). When saving out images for social media/email, you’ll generally want to keep them under 300KB, for the best loading times possible. You can do this by making the image smaller, as well as reducing the resolution.
  • Resolution: This refers to the number of pixels in an image. The higher the resolution, the clearer the image. It gets confusing, but as a general rule when making images you’ll want to save out anything for web at 96 DPI; anything more will result in slower load times, and possibly lose the interest of your viewer before they’ve managed to open it up. Save anything for print at 300 DPI, though, as you’ll want shots in the highest resolution possible for optimum print quality–and you don’t have load times to worry about.
  • Aspect Ratio: This is the ratio between the width and the height. 1:1 aspect ratio is going to give you a square, whereas a 4:3 is going to give you an image that is a little taller than it is wide. For most screenshots you’ll want to stick with 16:9/widescreen aspect ratio, but other images (social-media focused, in particular) may benefit from different ratios.
  • Mode: This one is easy. RBG is for web. CMYK is for print. Make sure your colour mode is set up correctly or risk getting some real wonky colours when the final version is displayed.

We could go into a crazy-long explanation about these; they’re topics hotly debated among graphic designers. So instead, if you want to do a deep dive, check out this excellent primer.

 

ASSET PACKAGES FOR PRESS KITS

This isn’t going to be crazy different from other asset lists in this post, but let’s run through what you’ll want to include in press kits to ensure media have a lot of options for showcasing your game in their articles or videos. We’re not going to go fully into how to build a press kit in this post, but here are some tips on art assets in particular:

  • Animated Gifs: These are more important than ever at the moment. They’re your social media bread & butter, and an easy way to sell your game at a glance. Stay under 540px wide, and keep ‘em under 5mb (3mb would be even better) for faster load times.
  • Key Promotional Art: These are your show pieces, and often take the form of big splash pieces of concept art. Deliver these in 1920×1080 or other similar ratio, as high-res PNGs and JPEGs. You can also use other aspect ratios–on Terminals we use 2560×853 as our header art, for example. If you’re using a PR service, like Evolve, also think about sending the original, layered PSD files, which will allow them to create new images needed to suit newsletters and other non-standard promo material.
  • Screenshots: Make sure you include no less than 10 screenshots in your press kit. You’ll also want to ensure they’re high quality, meaning over 96 DPI resolution, saved in JPG and PNG format, and as large in size as possible. These screens should show off locations, features, characters, and mechanic; you’ll want at least one each of those categories. Lastly you’ll want to make sure to include non-watermarked versions if you have decided to watermark your images.
  • Trailers & Video: These should in 1080p or larger, and saved as MP4s or any other common video formats. In addition to these raw files, be sure upload a version to YouTube or Vimeo and then provide a link for press to use, as not everyone one likes to use their own bandwidth to host these sorts of files. That said, you should also not rely solely on YouTube links, as many outlets want to host videos on their own channels; don’t miss out on that visibility!
  • Logos: At least one version with a transparent background is essential. This item is so often overlooked, and the one we hear about most from media. This asset allows outlets to easily make thumbnails and add your logo to overlays and screenshots. Consider including both studio AND game logos.

 

ASSET PACKAGES FOR STREAMERS

In addition to the assets above, there are also things you’ll want to provide to content creators on Twitch/YouTube that will entice people to remember your game. Make their lives easier, and your game more attractive, by providing the suggested assets below. It is important to make clear that the streamers/YouTubers are able to use these assets freely. Many content creators have expressed concerns about having content taken down due to using provided assets from developers.

 

IN SUMMATION

Don’t assume that the images you put online are throw-aways, used simply to hit posting quotas. Treat each asset as a stand-alone marketing piece, asking yourself key questions like: “Would I click on this?”, “How likely is this to spark conversation?”, and “Does this make my game look as cool as I know it is?” Keep all this in mind and you’ll be ahead of the game.

If nothing else, the takeaway from this should read as such: As with anything else in life, you’ve got one chance to make a strong initial impression. Make it a good one.

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