DIY Cover Art and Trailer

Back when I was still developing Laser Droplets, I was often thinking about what to do after it’s completed. I don’t mean things like where should I go for a small celebration, or what game to create next (ok maybe I did thought about those a little bit). It’s more like, where and how should I launch it? What price should it be? Do I need a website or a Facebook page will do? How to even set up a website and how is the website going to look like? etc.

I have been trying not to think too much about all these, since nothing matters if the game is not done. Now that the first version of the game is finally completed, I decided to put it up on Steam first. And that’s when I realised that there are still so many things left to do, way beyond what I have initially expected.

One of the many requirements to launch on Steam is of course to submit the cover art and trailer video clip. Everyone knows that having a good cover art and video is very important when it comes to first impression. But I have absolutely no experience in creating artwork and videos. As all my game assets are from Unity Asset store, I have avoided the need to create artwork and video all these while.

Initially I was looking at getting help from someone out there via those freelancers platforms. But obviously it’s not as straightforward as Unity Asset Stores. There are literally countless of such platforms out there, none of them I am familiar with. So after a couple of days of exploring and thinking through all options, I ultimately decided that it will be better for me to do it myself. I guess it’s about time for me to start picking up new skills.

Creating Cover Art for Steam

The Steam Store Page actually requires artworks in many different dimensions. Steam calls them “Capsule Images”. These Capsule Images are mostly compulsory and are classified into 2 categories, Store Assets and Library Assets. Below are the official documentation for the guidelines on Store Assets and Library Assets.

  • Documentation on Store Assets (Link)
  • Documentation on Library Assets (Link)

For someone who don’t know how to draw anything, I came up with what I believe is a creative but probably unprofessional idea. That is to create a “Scene” using the Unity Editor, and take a screenshot of that Scene. So the Unity software suddenly becomes a “drawing” software.

Using the Unity Scene, I have full control of the position, the size and rotation of all the objects as well as the lightings. So to create the main artwork, I created a new Scene in Unity and bring in all the stuff that I want from ui text, to game objects, to particle effects, place and arrange them in the Scene, and once I think it’s ok, I just took a screenshot.

To clean up the screenshots, I did use another software to crop or resize it to a specific dimension required by Steam. A simple software that can crop and resize images would be the “Preview” app that comes together as part of macOS. For anyone curious, the command of taking screenshots in Mac is “Command+Shift+3” for a fullscreen screenshot and “Command+Shift+4” for a selected area screenshot. The screenshot will appear on the desktop as a png file after a couple of seconds.

With that, I somehow managed to upload all the required artwork to Steam. Next, the video making.

Creating Promo Video

The trailer video is also a compulsory item when launching a game on Steam. Below is the official documentation on the guideline on trailers.

  • Documentation on Trailers (Link)

And so I went online to search for tutorials on how to make videos in general. While searching, I came to know of 2 softwares that are already installed as part of macOS. QuickTime Player and iMovie. This was a nice surprise because I didn’t realised I already have these tools from the very beginning, so no additional effort is required to install or setup anything.

To get started, I used one of the features found in QuickTime Player to do something called “Screen Recording”. What it does is that it will record everything that happens on the computer screen and converts it into a video file. There are options to record either the entire screen or a specific portion of the screen. Now all I have to do is to go back to Unity Editor, play the game, and click on the “start recording” button in QuickTime Player. (It did took me a while to figure out that the “stop recording” button is actually a small icon at the top menu bar.)

The file size of the recording is something to take note of, because it can really goes up to the range of gigabytes very quickly depending on the screen size and duration. Another point about Screen Recording, is that it does not record the “internal” computer audio, it can only take in audio from “external” sources such as from microphones. A quick Google search shows that there are special ways to achieve internal audio recording, but I didn’t test them out. Because for my use case, the audio is added in via iMovie.

After taken multiple short recordings of the gameplay, the next step is to import them to iMovie for trimming, arranging and adding stuff like audio, special effects or texts. (Maybe I am stating the obvious,) I find that when it comes to trimming and editing, it is easier to work with multiple short clips rather than one super long clip.

For someone like me who has never done any video editing before in my life, iMovie is actually quite complicated (even though it is considered one of the simplest software out there, compared to those used by professionals). Luckily, I found a pretty good tutorial on YouTube.

  • iMovie 2020 ** FULL TUTORIAL **, Tech Talk America (Link).

With the help of that tutorial and a couple of days of playing around, I finally got the video done. I have uploaded it to Steam Store Page as well as my newly created YouTube Channel (Link).

While making the video, one thing that I observed is that, the selected audio track plays a very important role. The selected audio track will become the “framework” of the video that determines a lot of things. What I meant is that I find the process of creating video to be much easier, when I use the rhythm and the pauses in between the audio track to help determine many things, such as when to switch scenes, how many parts should the video have, duration of video, etc.

Some afterthought. Although I did manage to complete and upload all the required artwork to Steam, I probably learnt nothing when it comes to drawing, image editing and creating cover art… Well, at least when it comes to the process of making the promo video it’s pretty fun. Not only I got to use softwares that I have never knew I had all along, more importantly, it is also the first time I upload something to YouTube.