Brandstrat Process: Shock & Rockets (#1)

Hi Homies. In this case study you’ll see a brand strategy take shape and flourish as messaging, style guidelines, and more specific tactics for content and web.

When I first got into brand strategy, it blew my mind, but the process I learned was a little rigid. The longer I do it, the more front-loaded the process gets, with much more emphasis on motivations, origins and stories. While looking for a project to re-test the process I remembered Glitch Arena, a game I spent a few years making. It’s a perfect candidate on so many levels…

Here’s an intro on the Glitch project:

Glitch is loved by the few who play it, but never got the design treatment it deserved, let alone the marketing. The company we created to launch it, Shock & Rockets, is little more than a blank canvas. It’s a hobby project, so the stakes are low, but there is still potential to see how brand affects engagement.

Much more than marketing, my style of branding is largely positioning. It guides core activities, in this case helping decide on which kind of games to make. It makes sure energy is spent in the right way.

Starting with WHY

This is almost a meme at this point, but t’s rightly a universal concept. I’ve outlined a WHY above, but a few others became clear:

These reasons set intentions, create context, and also become reference points to help develop a brand.

Futures

This section is adapted from Futures Studies, and its purpose is to identify a preferred future, backcast a path to the present and work out what changes need to be made to reach this future.

The preferred future of Shock & Rockets is provide for a small, likely dispersed, team. It would achieve this by having one initial commercial success, then reinvesting into future indie projects. It would allow the founders (me and Joel) to focus on game design and testing and not be involved in technical or production. There are no specific changes required to reach this future.

Futures Studies also includes identifying trends that might help or hinder that path. The main trends affecting Glitch are

This trend reveals a need to drill down on what is good about indie games and avoid trying to replicate experiences from larger games:

On “Personal” experiences in games

A personal experience means one that can be fully enjoyed without others. It depends on elements of the experience being new and interesting.

The most acclaimed single player games take players on emotional journeys, like Celeste. Others are centred on likeable characters and compelling stories. In our case, “personal” is more likely to mean the gameplay. In the later brand attributes section you’ll see how we define ourselves as being down-to-earth, creating cerebral games that require method and planning (another way of saying “hard” in non-mechanical ways). In this way a player is engaging with the level and obstructions. But still, some work to work on player goals, other than getting through the level, will be needed because this doesn’t come second nature to us. This is likely to be something whimsical and fun, rather than emotional, which could work well with the genre. For example Dusk, in which the player is discovering and escaping a cult.

It might be worth considering having the protagonist adopt the specific obstacles of the core market – more on these in following sections.

On genre entries

Another core insight within those is the one relating to genre. We are firmly rooted in 90s first-person-shooter genre. We’ve eliminated multiplayer for future projects because it requires a large audience and the quality of the experience largely depends on the quality of the audience. That leaves single player FPS games. To create a genre advancing (same but better in a key way) game that people want to play might require being more formulaic in the areas that are not different, in order to have the genre appeal. Genre entries can’t change too many things at a time.

Origin Story

This is where the brand comes from; what challenges it faced or overcame; what has made it what it is. Because this is a good place to display vulnerability, it’s also a good place to look at what is shared with the market.

Origins

The obvious, positive story

The in-obvious struggles

These pose a few questions:

By answering these, we can create answers, or rest stories, which also hint at messaging around the topics:

Failed adults

These are hard times for PC gaming generations, of which we are the first. We won’t see the same quality of life that previous generations do. Gaming is an escape from this, and an example of how our values have shifted from the physical to the abstract; and from possessions to experiences. Gaming is not RL (‘real life’).

The antithesis to the “failed adults” concept is that failure is an attitude. The perceived struggles of our generations the price of greater choice and freedom. We will use our voice to encourage our people to stay positive and toe the line while focussing their hustle.