Author Topic: How 2 create a good "Cover image" / "Thumbnail" / "Capsule"?  (Read 727 times)

Hi community,

itch describes the "cover image" as follows: “[It] is used whenever itch.io wants to link to your project from another part of the site.”
They say that it can be 315x250 or larger, but in particular on screen, I've seen it as tiny as 243x192. That's not a lot of room:


Gamejolt has a similar concept called "thumbnail": “Think of [it] as [your game's] box cover if it was sold off a shelf in a store ... It should attract attention and give an impression of what the game is like … should be more than just a title floating on a blank background.”

So how do you come up with a good pic for that purpose?

Take “Flight from the robots” as an example. It's in essence a one-roomer. I've got empty playing space, a bed bunk, some technical gizmos, a cabinet and a round table. Ian, of course, and a kind of robot that is only featured in a cutscene. That's not much to work with but not so untypical for the games I seem to write. How am I supposed to arrive at anything spectacular – a “box cover” – from that? 

How do you do it?
Any ideas?
« Last Edit: 17 Sep 2021, 08:06 by fernewelten »

arj0n

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Re: How 2 create a good "Cover image" / "thumbnail"?
« Reply #1 on: 15 Sep 2021, 19:00 »
something like this:
« Last Edit: 16 Sep 2021, 21:43 by arj0n »

Babar

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Re: How 2 create a good "Cover image" / "thumbnail"?
« Reply #2 on: 16 Sep 2021, 13:13 »
Your image does not show up, arjon
As for your question, I was just watching a video recently that touched on it:

I've added the video with a timestamp, but in case it doesn't work, the relevant part starts at 7:22. They also come back to it near the end of the video, so you may wish to watch it all.
Aside from his (quite impractical, if you ask me) suggestion that you should pay someone $500-1000 to do it for you, he makes some pretty interesting points.
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Re: How 2 create a good "Cover image" / "thumbnail"?
« Reply #3 on: 16 Sep 2021, 16:31 »
In this case, I would suggest an artistic solution. Think of the general mood of your game. What do you wish to bring across? What is the environment in the game? Rather than trying to illustrate the game itself, you try to illustrate what it is about, how it feels.

As the example provided, Flight from the Robots, is a room escape game, it could feature a barricaded door, perhaps. If your mood is decline, it could be rusted. If your mood is 'police state', it could be surrounded by security leaflets or marked with an X, to signify that it is about to be kicked down. Another solution could be a picture of a table, with various tools and technical devices strewn about, if you want to emphasise a feeling of jury-rigging and clever little home-made gadgets.

You can be fairly abstract by this method, too. Remember Amnesia: the Dark Descent. It has an excellent cover, displaying a fallen red rose, its colour contrasting to the dark, dungeon-esque cobblestones that surrounds it. Think of the Elder Scrolls. The covers of those games, since Morrowind at least, tend to mimic thick, musty tomes. It hints at the long continuity of that world, and emphasise that feeling of a long romantic tale of adventure.

Play your game for a while, and soak in the atmosphere. Think of record covers and such things, and I dare say that a splendid idea will come along!

Best of luck.

Re: How 2 create a good "Cover image" / "thumbnail"?
« Reply #4 on: 17 Sep 2021, 08:00 »
Aside from his (quite impractical, if you ask me) suggestion that you should pay someone $500-1000 to do it for you,

The trouble with that approach is that it defeats the whole point of the exercise from the get-go. You might equally say, “To get a really good Point & Click adventure, pay a professional to write one for you.”

No.

Instead, get me access to the books, articles, and courses that the professional studied in order to make themselves professional.

Babar

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Absolutely, hence my suggestion to focus on his other points!
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As for your question, I was just watching a video recently that touched on it:
[GDC 30-minute Steam page makeovers]

This is a 30-minute talk, and so I'm going summarize what I perceive to be the main points.

General:
Put real effort into the packaging as a proof that you've put real effort into developing the game itself.
  • There's a lot of low-quality competition on Steam: You need to rise above it. It's about demonstrating that your game has higher quality than the rest.
  • Buyers want to ensure that the game is high-quality before they have taken the effort of playing the actual game itself.
  • At this stage, they can only judge the quality of your game by proxy of the quality of its packaging (shop page). If that page looks as though the studio has put effort into it, then buyers take it as a signal that the studio has put effort into developing the game itself.

Capsule / cover image / thumbnail:
It should feature concept art, not a game screenshot.
  • A game screenshot with a title slapped on can be realized without any effort, so buyers will take a screenshot capsule as signal that effort hasn't been expended on the shop page, by proxy hasn't been expended on the game itself.
  • Even and especially if your game is in low-res, you should not feature low-res art on the capsule.
    • A lot of games have been pushed to the market that used low-res in order to skimp on design and art; it's easier and faster to design low-res art than high-res.
    • So lots of buyers associate low-res games with low-quality games.
    • That makes the low resolution of a pic in and of itself a signal for poor quality.
    • Putting this potentially off-putting signal into the extra conspicuous capsule is a bad idea.

Shop page:
  • Pack your shop page with graphical assets (screenshots, animated gifs) rather than text
    • Select the assets with the aim of telling as much about the game as possible (atmosphere, genre, gameplay).
    • Only put into words what can't be inferred through the assets.
    • Specifically, let the assets tell about atmosphere and gameplay.
  • Your screenshots should differ significantly from one another — they shouldn't look similar. Otherwise, buyers might conclude that the game builds on very few assets that have been expensively bought and then re-used everywhere to the point of boring the player.
    • Different environments, different visual effects
    • Show in-game menus, as a proxy to proving that the game been given effort even in the "unimportant" parts
    • It's better to have fewer screenshots than repeating screenshots
  • Make it abundantly clear what the genre of your game is, so that it can't possibly be misunderstood.
    • People know what game genres they (dis-) like and use this as their first sorting criterion. If they misunderstand the game's genre at first glance, you will not get a second chance to explain it.
    • If there are tropes that all the contemporary games in your genre use then hop on the bandwagon and use those tropes, too. (E.g., all the building games feature capsules featuring a hammer, so if you do a building game then your capsule needs to feature a hammer, too.)
  • Demonstrate on the shop page what the gamers actually do in the game.  Your copy text needs to use verbs that point out the player actions. Especially clarify:
    • What happens when you click on the specific buttons of your input device
    • What kind of death does your game feature (do you die, is it permanent etc.)
    • What kind of time does your game feature (real-time, turn based, real-world clock)

(I'm not going to summarize the subjects "dead games", "Steam algorithm", and "genre mix" here, cf. the talk for that.)
« Last Edit: 17 Sep 2021, 13:05 by fernewelten »

So what do you think about the points in that talk (above)? How does this apply to Point & Click adventures, and in which aspects?

Do you react to unknown games that are presented to you in a similar way as the talk author supposes?

Are Point & Click authors a special crowd that has different tastes than (pure) Point & Click players?

In what way would this specifically apply to game jams, i.e., do jam game players select those games first whose capsule is most enticing, and in what way would that capsule need to be enticing?

If you've recently looked at game jams in order to find games to play, what games made you want to look at them first?

Are Steam, Gamejolt and itch different markets as concerns the likes of the users? Do games need to be presented in different ways in order to please their respective audiences?
« Last Edit: 17 Sep 2021, 17:31 by fernewelten »

Babar

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Do you react to unknown games that are presented to you in a similar way as the talk author supposes?
The specific points he was making about the "capsules" (what you called cover image or thumbnail) absolutely applies, and as gamers, we've gotten a sense of such games, where, while unfortunately judgemental, we form immediate opinions on games based on first glances.
It's not going to be hard, for example, to guess the only "non-trash" (hope to God none of the authors of the other games read this) game from the list below (and yes, they're all indie games of around the same price):
The ultimate Professional Amateur

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In another talk by the same author Chris Zukowski (1 hour long), they point out that typical Steam shoppers go through eight steps to arrive at a verdict about an unknown Steam game, a process that takes the shopper roughly just 1½ minutes. The following steps are particularly interesting (at t =11:58 and following):

1. The shoppers are presented a list of potentially interesting games; in that list, each game is only represented by its capsule. That list is what they need to choose their game from.

2. They hover their mouse over the capsule of those games that they consider interesting. This triggers an animation that shows the first four pics of the game page in sequence, repeatedly.

3. If still interested at that point, they click through. That's the first point in time when they will even see the actual game page.

4. When on the actual game page, they basically first inspect the game on the basis of the same assets that they used before seeing the game page (tags, pics, capsule). Only then do they work with items that are only on the game page (short description, user reviews)

The main way that the game writer can influence the browsing list is by tagging their game correctly, so that Steam will include their game on appropriate pages. So from the vantage point of the game writer, that would mean adhering to the following priorities:
1. Give the game optimal tags
2. Design an optimal capsule
3. See to it that the first four pics are optimal, and that the optimal pics are in places #1 to #4.

Surprisingly, it would seem that the actual game page itself is rather unimportant in comparison.

That's the Steam view (if the talk author is right). Are Gamejolt and itch any different?
« Last Edit: 18 Sep 2021, 10:44 by fernewelten »

The trouble with all this is, I can't relate to this kind of buying process at all .

I have been presented lists of just “capsules”, e.g., in the IndieGala newsletters. Lists that look like this:
Spoiler: ShowHide


In all cases, without fail, I've immediately left the shop, i.e., the presenting page or newsletter.

I CAN NOT deal with a list of pictures without context, optionally adorned with "x % off". I need completely different information in order to judge whether I want to buy a game. I feel that I'm in for a complete waste of my time, by needing to click on All. Those. Damn. Pics. One. By. One. In. Order. To. Get. At. Founded. Information., so I shy away and leave.

I do have got a largish portfolio of games in my Steam account, of course, but I've never arrived at any of those games through a “browsing” process as described. In each case, I'd always been pointed to some specific Steam page through other means, and I went to that page in order to buy, when I was already  sold. For instance, I'm on the Internet (!) homepage of some game, find it cool, see a "Buy it on Steam" type button and then switch to the Steam page to buy.

I don't think I've ever "wishlisted" any game in all my life, and I wouldn't see any advantage to it from the prospect's perspective, either. I'll buy it when I'm ready, irrespective of release drama or sales timelines. I don't waste my time with kitchen fridge lists of what I “wish”, and I don't think that's any of Valve's business to peek their inquisitive nose into, thank you plenty.

Yes, there are sales. But let's be honest and look past the artificial drama. Games have their specific price at each phase of the selling lifetime, and when a “good” price has once been made, it'll soon come back, or an even better one.

Have I become that old?  ???
« Last Edit: 18 Sep 2021, 15:14 by fernewelten »

Babar

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I CAN NOT deal with a list of pictures without context, optionally adorned with "x % off". I need completely different information in order to judge whether I want to buy a game. I feel that I'm in for a complete waste of my time, by needing to click on All. Those. Damn. Pics. One. By. One. In. Order. To. Get. At. Founded. Information., so I shy away and leave.
You're not expected to click all of them. You're expected to be attracted to the one you've be attracted to, and click that. For example, out of all of those, I'd likely only click the ARBORIA game right on the top, because it is obvious from the other images they are all genres I'm uninterested in (simulation games, sports games, racing games). Other than that, I might click on the RAW FURY sale, because I recognise Call of the Sea from there, and I'm interested in that game.

Quote
I do have got a largish portfolio of games in my Steam account, of course, but I've never arrived at any of those games through a “browsing” process as described. In each case, I'd always been pointed to some specific Steam page through other means, and I went to that page in order to buy, when I was already  sold. For instance, I'm on the Internet (!) homepage of some game, find it cool, see a "Buy it on Steam" type button and then switch to the Steam page to buy.
How would you have gotten to that internet homepage of that game? Likely from an image link made of a capsule. That "capsule" is supposed to be your first impression introduction to the game. Your very first impression isn't going to be made from looking at 8 screenshots and reading some summary text, it's going to be an immediate image. Of course, if you're already sold on the game, you don't need that, but then you're not who the capsule would be targetted at.

Quote
I don't think I've ever "wishlisted" any game in all my life, and I wouldn't see any advantage to it from the prospect's perspective, either. I'll buy it when I'm ready, irrespective of release drama or sales timelines. I don't waste my time with kitchen fridge lists of what I “wish”, and I don't think that's any of Valve's business to peek their inquisitive nose into, thank you plenty.

Yes, there are sales. But let's be honest and look past the artificial drama. Games have their specific price at each phase of the selling lifetime, and when a “good” price has once been made, it'll soon come back, or an even better one.
I wishlist games so that I can be notified when there is a sale, and so that in case some kind soul wants to gift me something, they can have some idea, and get me something I'd actually be interested in. Steam might use such data to show me more appropriate games on their homepage/sale pages, but I've never noticed anything like that. You can get pretty good sales quite early on in a game's lifetime (flash sales, publisher deals, etc), and then not get such a good price for ages afterwards, so it is useful.
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Now, with his very own game: Alien Time Zone