An honest guide to getting your Ludum Dare game rated

or, “What do you mean I have to market?”

Ludum Dare is not like most game jams in that it’s not over when it’s over. Finishing and submitting your game is actually just the beginning; after that, you need to market. You may have (and probably did!) make something really cool in just a weekend, and that’s great. But if you don’t find a way to get it out in front of people, nobody’s gonna know about it but you.

Looking back at the Ludum Dare 42 statistics, fully one-third of the entrants failed to crack 20 ratings, and therefore did not get their game scored. Some of them probably weren’t interested in a rating at all, and were just doing the jam for fun. That’s fine! But part of the appeal of Ludum Dare is the scoring. If you want to be part of that and are just at a loss for what you’re doing wrong, the answer is probably either a beginner mistake about your game’s presence on the website, or a failure to properly market it.

Part 1: Common mistakes

First, here are some of the most frequent errors new users make, and the simple improvements you can make to get your game noticed.

No cover image

This is the single mistake most likely to make people overlook your game. Here’s a snapshot of the None filter on a random day. A big chunk of the titles with no ratings at all simply do not tell me anything about the game. How’s that supposed to pique my interest? Why would I play gray box #3 over literally anything else?

Luckily this is an easy one to fix. Take a picture of your game. Scale and crop it to 640×512. Upload it. You’re done!

Still struggling? That’s okay. One quick-and-dirty trick you can do to make a nice cover image is to turn off your in-game UI, take a screenshot of something interesting in your game, then overlay your game title in an image editor. Alternately, if you’ve already put some effort into a pretty title screen, you can use that in a pinch (again, just hide the buttons and stuff).
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Voyager 3.3 and beyond

We’ve not forgotten about the venerable Voyager: Grand Tour. Recently, we released our 3.3 update, which improves the game in the following ways:

Localization

This was a project we started with the 3.2 update last month, finally ready for a full rollout. Voyager is now officially available in all 5 EFIGS languages: English, French, Italian, German, and Spanish. The choice is still optional, but now that we’re reasonably confident the new translations don’t break anything we’ve enabled system-language detection by default, prompting players to switch to their preferred language, and updated our store presence and screenshots.

Rewritten UI

When we first started work on translating Voyager, we ran into a ton of issues thanks to the game’s reliance on an obsolete UI framework. We decided it was finally time to drag Voyager into the modern era and upgrade it to use the same UI backend as all of our other projects. This allows us to more easily maintain the game going forward, and gives us a more solid base to build new features off of. It also allowed us to craft a more responsive design that looks better on a wider range of new devices.

Improved tutorial

Voyager’s tutorial has always been a little lackluster, thanks in part to a well-intentioned but ultimately misguided effort to avoid using text as much as possible. Now that we’ve committed to localization, it made sense to scrap the image slideshows (nobody paid attention to them anyway) and develop a true interactive tutorial to onboard new players.

Changes to replays

This is more of a fun easter egg than a full-fledged feature: all the in-game probes launched after 2005 now have “digital cameras.” What does this mean? Well say goodbye to image grain and noise, and say hello to pixels!

This adds a bit more tradeoff in choosing the right probe for a mission, and gives some personality to the individual probes. Especially Juno, which now shoots lower-res shots than the others to justify its flavor text in the probe-select menu. But we still love you, Juno!

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Grand Finale

One month from now, on 15 September 2017, the Cassini spacecraft will deorbit, entering Saturn’s atmosphere and burning up. NASA calls this the Grand Finale. This dramatic maneuver will mark the end of an extraordinarily successful 20-year mission and prevent any possible contamination of the planet’s moons.

Cassini–Huygens, of course, has been a featured probe in Voyager: Grand Tour from the very beginning. In honor of the probe’s mission ending, we’re working on one final mission pack, the appropriately-named Grand Finale. It will feature 25 new levels, the biggest set since Grand Tour. It is also the most varied pack we’ve ever done, with levels that feature scanning, depth, landers, and more.

We’ve also created a new mission type based on Cassini’s deorbit. Voyager: Grand Tour has always been about not crashing your probe, but these new “dive” missions flip that on its head. To succeed, you must crash your probe as spectacularly as possible! Since the probe cannot transmit during reentry, these replays show the resulting fireball via telescope trained on the target planet.

This mission pack is just one of the things we’re working on for this update. Voyager 3.0 will offer new features, bugfixes, and balance improvements throughout the game. Perhaps the most important is this, our new advanced aiming option:

Voyager is made to be easy to pick up and enjoy by anyone, but almost immediately, power-users began to ask for the ability to fine-tune their aim for the trickiest levels. This new option finally provides just that, allowing players to tweak the angle and power level before launch. Simply pull to aim as usual, then make any adjustments desired with the onscreen controls, and finally tap the Earth again to launch. Even better, tapping Earth again (without aiming) cues up an identical shot, allowing for easy retries on timing-based levels and encouraging experimenting with precision.

This feature will be available in the next update as an option in the Settings menu (Advanced Aiming On).

Look forward to more news on the 3.0 update soon. And best of luck to Cassini in its final days, you’ve been an inspiration to everything we do!

Voyager: Grand Tour 2.0

In addition to all the other fun stuff we’re working on, we decided to do something fun to celebrate the end of the year. Voyager: Grand Tour is getting its biggest update ever, including our first content update since we launched! What’s included?

New lander levels, improved replays, and more

The highlight of this new update is the Touchdown mission pack, which features 20+ new levels, including a new type of mission where the objective is to land a probe on the planet surface.

Reach drop zone, release lander, navigate gently to surface

But it’s not just new missions. Everyone benefits from this update, with new probe-specific special abilities (including new free probes available just for rating the game or trying one of our others), upgrades to replays (now probes are smart enough to look for an interesting shot even on the night side), and tons more fixes and improvements.

Finally, we’ve dropped all paid advertising from the game. If you enjoy what you see, we’d love if you’d purchase our new levels and keep playing, but we’re no longer forcing anyone to pay to get rid of banner ads.

Special thanks to our fans over the years who supported us and offered up their valuable feedback. We always listen, and we are so grateful. Thanks for playing Voyager: Grand Tour!

Voyager: Grand Tour 2.0 is out now on iOS and Android:

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Apophis

Trouble with Apophis? As the final mission in the Grand Tour, Apophis is meant to be challenging! It requires mastery of the Thruster, an omni-directional rocket controlled with a virtual thumbstick. The objective is dramatic change of pace as well. Rather than attempting to scan the target for data, the mission literally puts the world on the line. Draw the asteroid off its collision course with Earth, before it’s too late!

Plenty of people have questions about how to pull this off. If you’re looking for some insight, check out this demonstration.

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Full Circle

Voyager began as a Windows Phone 7 game, and Voyager: Grand Tour would not exist if not for our dedicated and supportive Windows Phone fans. Now, at last, Windows Phone users can experience the new levels, beautiful visuals, and dramatic replays of Voyager: Grand Tour!

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On the anniversary of one launch, the announcement of another

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36 years ago today, the space probe Voyager 2 lifted off from Cape Canaveral atop a Titan IIIE rocket, beginning its vast and unparalleled Grand Tour of the Solar System. Just over two short weeks later, Voyager 1 launched from the exact same pad, on a trajectory that would fire it faster and further than – not just its sibling – but anything else created by human hands.

Next week, nestled snugly between those two amazing milestones, we will be commemorating the occasion with our own launch celebration – finally, owners of Android devices will be able to play Voyager: Grand Tour!

The game will be available on both the Google Play store and the Amazon Appstore, with support for Google Play Game Services and GameCircle (including a brand-new feature: achievements!).

All systems GO for launch!

Voyager 1.0.1

Our first update has just been approved for release on the App Store!

What’s included? Mostly UI and UX improvements: stuff to improve the overall play experience. First up, mission sets now display completion percent with a new progress meter. Earn gold with two stars on every mission for a perfect score!

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We got rid of the need to visit a sub-menu to select an alternative probe – now you can just swipe side-to-side on the title menu to switch. There’s also a brand new bonus probe: Mariner 2, the first successful planetary flyby and great-grandfather of the Voyager missions, is free for anyone who rates (or re-rates) the game!

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On the title menu, there are links to our Facebook and Twitter profiles (please like and/or follow Rumor Games!). Finally, swipe sensitivity has been bumped up in all menus, and the touch target are bigger for small buttons – basically, a bunch of stuff to make the UI feel better and more responsive.

Check it out today, and let us know what you think!
 
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