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Can we do better with our Cover art?

Last post 12/21/2014 8:58 AM by Ernest Soler. 1314 replies.
  • 1/26/2010 6:55 AM

    Can we do better with our Cover art?

    http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=384792

    Sure, there's a lot of joking going on in this link, but I feel it's a serious issue that needs to be addressed.

    I'm still amazed that a developer might put weeks, months, even years into a game, but then throw together shoddy cover art.  The cover art is the single greatest asset you have to show on the console marketplace... better make it count.

    Take a look at the retail demos and XBLA pages, and then compare the quality of art to what's being shown in the Indie page.  I've even seen some offers in the help wanted section offering to do cover art.  As a community we should better.
  • 1/26/2010 7:05 AM In reply to

    Re: Can we do better with our Cover art?

    This made me lol, but boy is it true. Made me rethink my own coverart.
    I see the quality around here gradually rising though.
  • 1/26/2010 7:27 AM In reply to

    Re: Can we do better with our Cover art?

    They seem to be missing (except for the OP) that Z0mb1es' box art (and title and description) is COMPLETELY intentional and (indirectly) an outright diss against all of the other crappy boxart on Indie Games. . . Watch me drown in a $100K with a sh*ttier box art than anybody elses!

    Any one of those other crappy boxart games could be a goldmine too.  It's just too bad that so many people judge an Indie game by its cover...
  • 1/26/2010 7:32 AM In reply to

    Re: Can we do better with our Cover art?

    Funny you should post this now...I'm getting close to putting my first XBLIG into peer review and was thinking about starting a thread to get feedback about the box art. If I started a new thread to get opinions, would that be bad form? (Like a playtest for marketing materials :) )

    L8r, Paul
  • 1/26/2010 7:56 AM In reply to

    Re: Can we do better with our Cover art?

    Noogy:

    I'm still amazed that a developer might put weeks, months, even years into a game, but then throw together shoddy cover art.  The cover art is the single greatest asset you have to show on the console marketplace... better make it count.

    I totally agree, I think the community needs to be hard on themselves and to others.
    Probably a game can't be failed depending on the art completely, but with some polish you can come a long way to create something acceptable.

    Don't publish your game on XBLIG because you can, but because you have something unique (and polished) to share.

    And it is indeed true that the quality is rising, so hopefully we don't have to see cover arts like the one mentioned on that forum anymore on xblig
  • 1/26/2010 8:26 AM In reply to

    Re: Can we do better with our Cover art?

    Don't let it carry you away to much; if you look at the best performing indie games for 2009 and check out the cover-art, in my opinion, there doesn't seem to be a high level of correlation between just those two aspects. :-)
  • 1/26/2010 1:25 PM In reply to

    Re: Can we do better with our Cover art?

    What would you say for a "Rate my boxart" thread where anyone could post his boxart concepts and other community members could vote for the best one or just simply provide feedback on the existing one? I mean one common thread for all creators. Of course, you can provide feedback on the boxart while the game is in playtest, but I think more people would do it if the developer clearly requested boxart evaluation by posting in a dedicated thread. And I think then they would be more critical than usually on playtest threads.
  • 1/26/2010 2:36 PM In reply to

    Re: Can we do better with our Cover art?

    I've put a lot of effort into my box art, to not do so would be lazy and potentially a loss of many downloads (and sales). It's silly not to when the box art may be the only thing a gamer sees of your game.

    I posted on my blog for feedback on my box art (http://www.krissteele.net/images/BoxArt3.png) and got some, but I'd love to have a dedicated place where I got more... thus far my playtest thread hasn't had any comments on the box art itself.

    EDIT: Added image since other people are doing this now too.... fulll size is linked above, Xbox Marketplace size below.


  • 1/26/2010 3:03 PM In reply to

    Re: Can we do better with our Cover art?

    AwesomeGamesStudio:
    What would you say for a "Rate my boxart" thread where anyone could post his boxart concepts and other community members could vote for the best one or just simply provide feedback on the existing one?

    I would be interested in something like this. I never was able to get much feedback on my box arts when I asked in playtest.
  • 1/26/2010 3:14 PM In reply to

    Re: Can we do better with our Cover art?

    The truth is most of the people here are the wrong people to give feedback. I guarantee that a large number of people looked at that thread and didn't really see what was that bad with the worst box art. Or even if they did, couldn't see what the difference between the average box arts and the great box art was. Most here are developers, not artists.

    It takes a trained eye to spot why different lettering, color or spatial positioning should be used. When cluttering makes sense and when simple is better. You can get feedback from the various developers here and maybe some of them have some good intuition, but really we're not the best. I unfortunately made the Kissy Poo box art but I know had I given it to my wife or to Noogy, it would be much, much better than it is.

    Really, the truth is, if you're a developer with mediocre photoshop skills, stop making your cover art. It's the one piece of art I would recommend EVERY XBLIG pay for. It's gets you the most trials and in the end, that's the most important piece. Spend 100% of your game development budget there if you're going to spend it anywhere. :)
  • 1/26/2010 4:04 PM In reply to

    Re: Can we do better with our Cover art?

    Most of us here are gamers too though... gamers might not be able to tell you that it needs this color here or that color there or the shading is off on this item, but they can probably tell you "i like this" or "i don't like that". Even having someone saying that looks wrong or bad would be welcome feedback, even if they can't elaborate why.
  • 1/26/2010 5:43 PM In reply to

    Re: Can we do better with our Cover art?

    I totally agree with that TIGsource posting. And I actually used to give feedback on the box art in playtest. Especially in those cases where the game title is not readable on the box art (which is the case for unbelievably many XBLIGs). But my experience was, that mostly I didn't get any response on such box art feedback at all. I got the feeling, that the developer in question did not like it to have his "piece of art" critized. So I stopped doing that. My attitude is now, that its probably a good thing if most box art on XBLIG is bad - because then my games can stand out more (because of course I am sure that my box art is totally awesome!).

    In addition, even with box art that looks good, one often encountered mistake is, that the designer forgets that it is almost never viewed in full size. It is either viewed as a relatively small thumbnail, or in one of the dashboard queues, which however is also scaled down from the original size (plus the viewer is a good distance away on the couch). So people forget to make sure that the box art works in smaller sizes too and that for example the title should still remain readable at such smaller sizes.

    @Kris: Since you asked for feedback about your "Abduction Action" box art:
    • The people and cows in the tractor beam are more or less unrecognizable unless the box art is viewed in full size. That's because the tractor beam is in front of the visually busy earth-globe.
    • If I were you, I would use a different background color. "Black" is usually the background color chosen by the non-professional designers. The professionals almost never use black, unless the scene or mood requires it. There are already way too many XLBIG box arts which appear mainly dark/black from a distance (as a thumbnail).

    And to give you a chance to retaliate with some critizism ;-), here's the box art for my Your Doodles Are Bugged! :



    Doc

  • 1/26/2010 6:09 PM In reply to

    Re: Can we do better with our Cover art?

    Quite convenient that this topic came up, because a day ago I was knee-deep in boxart struggles, and was getting feedback to iterate on my designs until I got to something people enjoyed. Box art is one of the more frustrating things for me to deal with because although I consider myself partially artistic, I don't see myself as someone with typography skills nor the strongest sense of design. I think box art is very imporant, but I think it's hard for a lot of people to understand what that means. It might not just be being able to illustrate an image nicely, but to understand what's eye catching or enticing to potential users. Some of those boxes on the Neogaf thread labelled as bad may be poorly drawn, but in some cases the associated games did just fine, or even great in the marketplace, and I'm not just talking about z0mbies. Paint Boll did a lot better than I expected it to do, given its box art and screenshots, and we all know the first HeadShot game had vastly lower production values than Head Shot 2, but stayed on top for a long time til HS2 came out.
  • 1/26/2010 6:26 PM In reply to

    Re: Can we do better with our Cover art?

    So if we already made it the "Rate my Boxart" thread, any feedback on this one is welcome:

  • 1/26/2010 6:56 PM In reply to

    Re: Can we do better with our Cover art?

    Spyn Doctor:
    @Kris: Since you asked for feedback about your "Abduction Action" box art:

    • The people and cows in the tractor beam are more or less unrecognizable unless the box art is viewed in full size. That's because the tractor beam is in front of the visually busy earth-globe.
    • If I were you, I would use a different background color. "Black" is usually the background color chosen by the non-professional designers. The professionals almost never use black, unless the scene or mood requires it. There are already way too many XLBIG box arts which appear mainly dark/black from a distance (as a thumbnail).

    And to give you a chance to retaliate with some critizism ;-), here's the box art for my Your Doodles Are Bugged! :



    Thanks for the feedback! I've already added a background behind the beam to make the people easier to see, but perhaps it was not enough... I'll play with that and look at it as a lower resolution too... anyone have any idea what resolution they get scaled down to on the Xbox lists (Most Recent, Top Downloads, ect) or anywhere else that they would be seen as smaller? I probably won't change the black though... viewed at full scale you can see that there are stars and such (it's space!)... that's sort of the idea... aliens, from space, invading earth. I'm not sure it makes sense to have it another color though maybe I could have the stars more apparent.

    Your boxart looks pretty good. The one critisism that crosses my mind is that it has an aweful lot of blue. It might look better to use a few other colors too, for instance having the pencil or the line from the pencil a different color that stands out more. Of course, you might try other colors and find that blue does look best after all :)

  • 1/26/2010 10:27 PM In reply to

    Re: Can we do better with our Cover art?

    AwesomeGamesStudio:
    So if we already made it the "Rate my Boxart" thread, any feedback on this one is welcome:



    My honest opinion is it looks kinda boring which when reading the actual game title just makes me think, yup this is gonna be boring. I guess the problem is your game title is negative, you're putting the game down before people even look at it, this would be cool if you actually made the cover art more fun or stylish, but the art as it is just makes me actually believe it is just another mundane zombie game

    - my reaction,
    read game title.... 'Yet Another Zombie Defense'.....(my thoughts - hmm surely not another zombie game?)
    look down at artwork... (my thoughts - this guy's not lying - it really is just another zombie game)

    I could see a lot of people taking this approach - just based on the cover art (as your in game screen shots do look nice and would make me download the game)

    I've briefly played your game and contrary to the cover art I think it is pretty cool, would be a shame to damage your sales (as I see there are a few zombie games you're competing with now) over your artwork.

    I think you should keep either the name or artwork, not both. But alas if it's too late I wish you luck. Sorry, I'm not knocking your game, just giving you an opinion which I hope may prove useful?

    Steve
  • 1/27/2010 1:08 AM In reply to

    Re: Can we do better with our Cover art?

    While we're all looking at boxart, here are some possible layouts I'm thinking about. There are also notes about why I'd done what I've done. Any feedback welcome, thanks!
  • 1/27/2010 6:00 AM In reply to

    Re: Can we do better with our Cover art?

    Black Lab Games:
    While we're all looking at boxart, here are some possible layouts I'm thinking about.
    Layout 1 but drop the "bad ass ship", because to me, it's not that badass.  The cover shines nice without it, but the ship itself pulls the cover down to "Indie game level" (tm)
    Maybe you can find something else to put there or add something to it with a different arrangement.
  • 1/27/2010 6:08 AM In reply to

    Re: Can we do better with our Cover art?

    Zombies is in the best category.

    I would say best is pretty subjective and who is this person to pick best? What are his/her credentials? It's obvious that picking the best is this persons taste, no graphics design credentials at all. Yes it all could be better but really how many of us have graphics designers that we can call on?
  • 1/27/2010 7:19 AM In reply to

    Re: Can we do better with our Cover art?

    I think what Noogy and George Clingerman really means to say, that Game development is more than just coding your game.
    It is also about the art, which is really important for the quality of your game and thus (in)directly associated with your sales and customer awareness.

    And it is just what George said:
    George Clingerman:

    Really, the truth is, if you're a developer with mediocre photoshop skills, stop making your cover art. It's the one piece of art I would recommend EVERY XBLIG pay for. It's gets you the most trials and in the end, that's the most important piece. Spend 100% of your game development budget there if you're going to spend it anywhere. :)

    The better your Boxart the more trial you get and most likely you will get more sales.

    And if the quality of the Boxart rises, the Xbox users will hopefully realise that XBLIG has good games to offer and it is not anymore the massage parlor they still think it is ;-)
  • 1/27/2010 9:00 AM In reply to

    Re: Can we do better with our Cover art?

    George Clingerman:

    Really, the truth is, if you're a developer with mediocre photoshop skills, stop making your cover art. It's the one piece of art I would recommend EVERY XBLIG pay for. It's gets you the most trials and in the end, that's the most important piece. Spend 100% of your game development budget there if you're going to spend it anywhere. :)

    This is exactly what I'm trying to get across, thanks George. 

    A large number of consumers will walk into a Walmart, pull a game off the shelf based ONLY on the Title and Cover, and make a purchase.  I feel that if a developer can manage it, hire an artist with a good understanding of layout, color theory, and visual marketing.  The goal of the cover is to make the game look better than it actually is.  It's meant to get the consumer excited.  It is, dare I say, meant to persuade the consumer to spend their money.

  • 1/27/2010 9:20 AM In reply to

    Re: Can we do better with our Cover art?

    Kris, I think your cover isn't doing your game justice.  As mentioned, it's hard to make out the characters in the beam.  I haven't played the game yet, but I imagine it's kind of humorous and B-Movie-Level, so I did this little sketch...

     

    I personally am not a fan of using in-game assets (or worst, an ingame screenshot) for cover art.  Your game seems to have character, and the cover lacks that.  I also feel the font (very thin white around a dark inside against a dark background) makes it harder to read, especially at smaller sizes.  Look at the font for Zombies ate me Neighbors or Mars Attacks.  I feel that's more appropriate.

    Aliens (done in a B-Movie setting) lend themselves to a distinct style that hits home with many gamers.  I'd play it up.  Unless of course you are going for horror or mystery, then I'd do something like this...


  • 1/27/2010 9:37 AM In reply to

    Re: Can we do better with our Cover art?

    Noogy:
    George Clingerman:

    Really, the truth is, if you're a developer with mediocre photoshop skills, stop making your cover art. It's the one piece of art I would recommend EVERY XBLIG pay for. It's gets you the most trials and in the end, that's the most important piece. Spend 100% of your game development budget there if you're going to spend it anywhere. :)

    This is exactly what I'm trying to get across, thanks George. 

    A large number of consumers will walk into a Walmart, pull a game off the shelf based ONLY on the Title and Cover, and make a purchase.  I feel that if a developer can manage it, hire an artist with a good understanding of layout, color theory, and visual marketing.  The goal of the cover is to make the game look better than it actually is.  It's meant to get the consumer excited.  It is, dare I say, meant to persuade the consumer to spend their money.




    This is so true, if anyone remembers Atari 2600 and sorts most had these great cartridge prints, illustrated manuals with stories, and of course the games rarely looked anything like what was pictured.
  • 1/27/2010 9:52 AM In reply to

    Re: Can we do better with our Cover art?

    PhoenixSS:
    My honest opinion is it looks kinda boring which when reading the actual game title just makes me think, yup this is gonna be boring. I guess the problem is your game title is negative, you're putting the game down before people even look at it, this would be cool if you actually made the cover art more fun or stylish, but the art as it is just makes me actually believe it is just another mundane zombie game

    - my reaction,
    read game title.... 'Yet Another Zombie Defense'.....(my thoughts - hmm surely not another zombie game?)
    look down at artwork... (my thoughts - this guy's not lying - it really is just another zombie game)

    I could see a lot of people taking this approach - just based on the cover art (as your in game screen shots do look nice and would make me download the game)

    I've briefly played your game and contrary to the cover art I think it is pretty cool, would be a shame to damage your sales (as I see there are a few zombie games you're competing with now) over your artwork.

    I think you should keep either the name or artwork, not both. But alas if it's too late I wish you luck. Sorry, I'm not knocking your game, just giving you an opinion which I hope may prove useful?

    Steve
    Thanks for your opinion, Steve. I know I'm playing it a bit risky, but I hope that more people will get intrigued with the title than discouraged. I won't really know unless I see the download numbers. And the reason I used in-game assets instead getting hand-drawn art was that I wanted the boxart to look like it used in-game assets. Most of games on the service are 2D and I think that suggesting that my game is 3D might be a good point to attract the gamer enough to check out the screenshots. I'll surely let you know whether was it a good idea after it hits the marketplace :).
    Big Daddio:
    Zombies is in the best category.
    So maybe it's not that bad actually :).
  • 1/27/2010 10:24 AM In reply to

    Re: Can we do better with our Cover art?

    AwesomeGamesStudio, I agree with Steve regarding the title you've chosen, but it could also work in your favor, so who knows?
    Regarding the artwork you've presented, I really like the font and placement of the title name.  I feel that the artwork below gets lost, as there is little contrast in the image.  And it took me a third or fourth look to realize that the zombies were below the fence, instead of on top (I kept thinking the characters at the bottom were survivors, and the man in black was an incoming zombie).

    First off I'd do something to improve contrast in the image.  Do some glows around the zombie and character at the least, to make them stand out.  A more dynamic angle would do a lot to give the sense of claustrophobia and fear.  Here's a poor sketch, but this is kind of what I was thinking.


    If you insist on using 3D assets, you could do this with your models.  The problem with the current artwork is that while it's 3D, it's a pretty bland isometric view that betrays the use of models.
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