Completing a game jam entry can be a daunting task by itself, but don't dismiss the presentation of your game. Ultimately you want players or judges to notice your game to play it, give it feedback and comments.
Depending on the length of the jam, subtract an hour or two from the final deadline and use the remaining time to polish the presentation of your game and make sure everything is in working order. It's a shame if you put a lot of time and effort in a game only for people to skip over it due to the presentation.
Most submission forms will allow you to enter a description for your game. This is a great place to include instructions how to play your game, any remarks if your game is unfinished or if there are critical bugs, and giving credit to other team members and their roles. Don't forget to include the theme of the jam (if there is one) for people who visit your game page that didn't know about the jam beforehand.
Do note that when players have to download your game they won't have easy access to the instructions you've entered in the description field anymore, so do also include those in the game or as a text file.
Optional things you can add to your description include lore or story for the game, information on the development, post-mortem about the game jam or commentary from team members.
A good thumbnail shows what your game is about, looks exciting and grabs the attention of people scrolling by. When players scroll through all submissions of game jams (which can often be thousands!) you'll want them to notice your game. Having no thumbnail or icon at all is death blow for noticeability.
A. The chosen font for the logo is overused, and doesn't say anything about the game. The boring colors (black and white) and lack of any visuals make it a pretty bad thumbnail. However, it's still better than nothing at all.
B. The font looks quirky and the added visual gives players an idea on the gameplay and style of the game. The bright colors will help players notice the game among other thumbnails.
C. The thumbnail looks professional, tells a lot about the game and is easy to notice among others. The only way to get more attention to the thumbnail would be to create a GIF animation showcasing gameplay, although some platforms don't supported animated thumbnails.
You don't have to be an experienced artist to create an appropriate thumbnail. Grab visuals from your game, pick a font from a site like DaFont (take note of the license), and use filters and effects available in most image editing software.
Add appealing and diverse screenshots to your game page, leave out multiple screenshots of the same level or the title screen. It may give users the impression that there's not much content or variety in the game. It's good to have a screenshot with a lot of excitement going on, but it's far more important to make sure that the overall gameplay idea is communicated properly.
The first screenshot shows a menu screen, while you probably spent a lot of time on it to players it's quite boring. The second and third screenshots show different bits of gameplay, this will give viewers the impression that there's more content in the game.
Adding a short video (no intro, no developer logos, no quirky text - just gameplay from the very first second) or a GIF can really help bring across the idea of your game.
(File)name and platforms
Your game jam entry needs a title, something unique and never just the name of the jam you're participating in. Make sure to give your file archive, folders and executables proper names too. When downloading games users want to make sure they're not downloading malicious software, giving files a proper name gives users a sense of security.
While it's good to pick a single platform for your game jam project often game engines can easily export to multiple platforms, here's an overview:
Windows users can open and extract ZIP archives without additional software, they expect an executable (.exe) file to start the game. Users of macOS expect an .app file to start the game.
For macOS games and apps are often distributed through the Mac App Store but it isn't recommended to go through the approval process for jam games.
Linux users are often a bit more tech savvy, the most common way to distribute your game is as a gzip-compressed tar, tar.gz or .tgz. Alternatively Linux users can often run Windows games using Wine, not all games are compatible out of the box however.
- If it's an option in the game engine/framework you chose it's a very good idea to create a WebGL version that works in browsers. Judges and players of game jam games often play a lot of entries in a short amount of time, not having to download a game is certainly an advantage.
Games for Android are most commonly distributed using Google Play, the submission process is quick and the approval process takes two hours or less. You can also supply an .apk file, although only more tech savvy users will know how to install it on their device.
You can only distribute iOS games through the App Store, the approval process takes more than a week and requires an active developer license. It is not recommended to release your game jam games on iOS.
- Most game consoles will require you to go through a lengthy approval process, require your game to be absolutely bug free and you'll have to purchase a development kit. Not recommended for game jam games.
Next to the executable of your game it's also helpful to add both a readme and license text file. The readme file can include the same description as you enter on the game submission page, the license covers what users can and can't do with your game.
Participating in a jam hosted on itch.io? Here's a few additional tips;
Link your game to the correct jam by entering the jam name at the page where you edit your project.
Make sure you select which platform your game is for, otherwise your game might be missing if people filter for their OS of choice.
You can style your game page using different colors, images and fonts. Use these tools to create a themed page which makes your project look more polished and complete.
Last checks before release
Make sure that the audio in your game is normalized and it's not too loud or quiet. Compare the level of your audio with a different game, or video.
Game breaking bug(s)
Play your game from start to finish (even if you did 100 times during development) one final time to check for game breaking bugs or impossible jumps - especially when you changed the layout of levels.
Have you mentioned the name or theme of the game jam in your game somewhere? Often people like to find out more about the jam you participated in, mentioning the theme can also be a first clue to the player on how the game is played.
Remember these tips and share the article with team members so tasks can be divided among the team. Good luck with your next game jam!