CMPM171, Winter 2015, Section 01: Game Website Template

One important element of creating a compelling website is ensuring the site has nice graphic design. While this used to be hard to accomplish, these days it is much easier due to the existence of many websites that offer free to use website templates.

The game's website needs to have its own domain name. While it is possible to host the game's website at a university URL (www.ucsc.edu/...), it is far better for your game to have a domain name that is specific to the game (www.mygame.com). This makes your game's website seem more professional and impressive to potential employers. It also makes it easier for your team to use the website for marketing your game should you decide to put your game into an online store.

Required elements of the content of the game's website include:

  • Description: A compelling description of the game, including background story and main elements of gameplay. If the game features strong characters, there should be pictures of the characters, and background information on them. It is not a requirement to mention that the game was created as a class project. Especially if you think your game will be sold through an application store, it is better not to mention this fact.
  • Contributors: Members of your team, including their role on the team. Photos of team members add substantial interest; people like to look at pictures of other people. Team members include all CMPM 17x students, as well as all artists, musicians, sound effects artists, script writers, etc. Playtesters typically are not counted as team members, though particularly dedicated or long-serving playtesters could potentially be included. As a general rule: when in doubt, be inclusive. Note that if one member of the team would prefer to not be listed (e.g., due to privacy concerns), that is fine. If team members have a personal website (such as one holding a professional portfolio), or a listing on a professionally oriented social networking site, such as LinkedIn, it is a good idea to link off to this site.
  • Artwork: Add as much graphical content as you can. People like looking at conceptual artwork and screenshots (even of the game while it is being developed). There are many freely available Javascript code snippets that create a nice photo browser within a web page; you should take advantage of one of these.
  • News: Have a place for news about your game. News items can include starting an open beta test, public demonstration of your game, putting new versions up for download, making the game available in an application store, etc.
  • Access: How do (will) people get access to your game? The website should include complete download and install instructions. It may not be possible to provide this information until late in CMPM 172 (Game Design Studio III); until then, a placeholder page should exist.
  • Gameplay video/Trailer: By the end of CMPM 172, your website must have a web-based video showing the game being played. In its simplest form, this is just a video showing the game during play. More complex variants include the creation of a highly edited gameplay trailer. Both could potentially exist. If the game offers a lot of gameplay, videos of gameplay could potentially exist highlighting play for multiple levels in the game. Remember, some audiences will never actually play your game, and will base their impression of the game solely on these videos (it may make sense to embed video into the front page of your site as a result). It may not be possible to create some of the videos until CMPM 172. Until then, this section of the site should be a placeholder.
  • Contact information. How can someone who is interested in the game get in touch with the team? The contact information should be stable, that is, this contact point should still work at least a year after the end of the Game Design Studio sequence. Many web hosting sites also provide email addresses that use the same URL. These email addresses can typically be configured to forward email to one or more another addresses, such as a Google email address.

There are several site elements that are potentially desirable, but which are not mandatory. These include:

  • Connections to social media sites. Increasingly, social media technology such as Twitter and Facebook have drop-in website widgets that let you see how people using these other technologies are interacting with your website. If your game has an affinity group on one or more social networking sites (e.g., Facebook group), be sure to provide a link to this. Create a Twitter hashtag or a Facebook page for your game. You may wish to have someone on your team assigned the task of tweeting, or updating the Facebook page, etc.
  • Links to other websites. If your game has received mention on another website, or in the game press, be sure to link to this. If your game is available in an online store, be sure to link to the page where your game can be purchased.
  • Link to game source code. If you are making your game's source code available via an open source license, you should provide a link to the location of the source code, and instructions for access. You might also consider moving the source code into a more publicly oriented source code repository, such as GitHub.
  • Development backstory. People often find the "making of" backstory to be interesting. You could consider making part of the site a blog where you post pictures of your team working on the game, and talk about the challenges you face in getting the game developed. You might consider using Twitter to tell people about your game's development. Alternately, you might consider creating this development blog on another site (e.g. Gamasutra has a large number of blogs by game developers) and use this as a way to drive traffic to your game's website.
  • Marketing materials. You might consider making collateral materials for your game, such as screen background images that are freely downloadable.
  • Photos. Photos of individual team members and of the team working on the game will add interest to your website.
  • Link to your store. Several websites (e.g., Cafepress) allow you to upload artwork and then make it possible to purchase t-shirts, mugs, water bottles, mousepads, etc. using this artwork. These materials are a way for your fans to demonstrate support for your game. You can also use these materials to build team spirit.
  • Subscribe to list. You might consider creating a mailing list of people who are interested in your game. Your website can collect email addresses of interested people. You could then email information about game releases to this list.

Of course, there are many possibilities for your game's website, and the ability to execute on them is primarily limited by the time available to work on this.