BrightLocker is a new and innovative way of directly influencing, and contributing to, the creation of Indie games. Instead of just funding a game for rewards or interest, you can be actively involved in the creative process and development cycle. Of course, funding is still a present factor but with BrightLocker, you get the power to influence the game development from start to finish.
So what is BrightLocker? The site sells itself as a ‘crowd publishing’ community as opposed to a ‘crowd funding’ community. The difference being that the member gets involvement in any or all aspects of the development process as opposed to just throwing money at an idea, sitting back and waiting for a reward. BrightLocker has a very supportive network of tutorials, FAQ’s and help to guide even the most novice of user (that’ll be me!) in using the site and feeling that they can make a valuable contribution. Even the longest review in the world wouldn’t be able to look at a whole site in detail, but I hope to whet your appetite and curiosity in to this very clever idea and process.
Design and Navigation
The website itself has a beautiful design and continuity to it. The colours are gentle and carried throughout. A standard font and size is used to make the reading process easy, and the helpful use of tables, pictures and videos compliment the way that the information is presented. All explanation videos have a clear structure and sound (with a lovely British accent!) and are auto-subtitled.
A handy toolbar at the top uses the key terms related to each stage of the game production – so the ‘Imagine’ tab will have everything related to the idea generation stage of game design, whereas ‘Play’ is where you can choose a finished game to play.
As you progress through the submission of a game idea, the format is fluid and logical from one step to the next. It clearly shows what is required, but makes clear in the tutorial that some elements will enhance the attractiveness of your proposal to potential voters and backers.
The customisation of your profile is just as simple. Custom avatars can be uploaded, or there are lots of fun combinations that you can create using the ‘in house’ avatar options. The badges are displayed in this section as well as any ideas or games that have been contributed by yourself. There is also information about other community members who follow you or that you follow yourself. A great way to network and very easy to do.
Site Specific Currency
BrightLocker has two forms of site specific currency for the different types of users to make use of. The hearts are for those who wish to cast votes on game ideas. These are earned by unlocking ‘badges’, much like an achievement in a game. You get a very cute little badge visual in your profile and a number of votes, depending on the complexity of the badge you unlocked. For example, the simple act of clicking through a tutorial earns 20 votes, while more complex acts such as completing an act anywhere on the site for 30 consecutive days earns you 600 votes.
If you wish, you can also purchase more votes using the other site specific currency – gold. Gold is the currency that is purchased with real money. It can then be used to buy more votes, add funds to a games development, buy time with a professional (such as an artist) or purchase rewards. There are a fairly well tiered system of gold packages available, however the difference between the middle and high range packages could benefit from more stepped increments.
Support and Community
The site itself is designed to be community friendly, and it achieves just that. You can follow people involved in many different process with differing levels of knowledge and experience. This really enhances the feel of ‘crowd publishing’ as you feel part of a real mix of talent, creativity and enthusiasm. You can interact directly with developers on a day to day basis as well by following their game idea page and participating in the discussions with others. Again, this can have a direct effect on improving the quality of ideas, developing snappier titles or thinking of potential game achievements.
It’s definitely nice to see those interested in the development of a game having their ideas counted, rather than just their cash. Those who generate the ideas can also highlight comments they like so they turn in to their own form of ”testimonial’ for other potential voters. In having a go at a bit of voting, I definitely felt more involved with the games I had picked – I wanted to check the voter leader boards to see their placing day to day and invested more of my votes to try and get them in the ‘GreenZone’ (the top placements that would go through to the next round). One of the strengths of the site is the sense of importance it gives you as a member; as well as the value it places in your contribution. You can also check your status on the site as a community member on the user leader boards. All a good bit of fun that comes from earning the badges for certain acts or achievements on the site!
Submitting and Developing
The site uses a simple set of words to describe each stage of the creative process. ‘Imagine’ is the first step in the journey. What I enjoyed about this is the fact that, once again, the process is very visually appealing. The video guide gives lots of hints and tips about submitting the
perfect idea and making it appealing to a potential voter. Each box to complete also has some tips.
You can add information for the layman (me!) too, such as what the game idea is similar to and go in to as much or as little detail as you have about the controls, story, mission and purpose of the game. After this is done, you can edit for as long as you need – nothing goes public until you say you are happy. This gives you time to record ideas as you think of them, with the opportunity to polish them later. I also really liked the progress bar. It was a lovely way of making the ‘Imagine’ stage very visual after the submission is created.
‘Choose’ is the next section. Once your game is submitted, it gets entered in to one of the voting rounds. The top seven from each round then move forward. The voting process can be joined in by anyone at all, so if you aren’t someone who can come up with great ideas, you still get some involvement. When the very last games have been voted in to the final, the team at BrightLocker then take those ideas and use their industry expertise to decide which one will be the best and most successful game. I don’t envy them that!
The only criticism here is that voting in each round lasts about three weeks, which means the process can seem very long indeed if you consider that season two currently has four rounds planned. Coupled with the length of time a game takes to make, it will be a while before a bank of games are set up.
‘Make’ is the final step that the whole crowd support with. The game that wins the BrightLocker teams heart, then goes in to the funding and creation section of the ‘crowd publishing’ process. The game can be supported in several ways. You can support a game financially using the Gold currency. As an example, the first game that was made, LightEaters, earned 6,500,000 Gold (130% funded). With current values of gold at 10cents each (excluding purchase bonuses), this meant that the funding reached $65,000. Now that is no mean feat and testament to the potential of this site.
The final tab – ‘Play’ – is just as described. Links for where to find the games that BrightLocker has facilitated. They have their own profile screen too which gives you information, trailers and much more. Extremely informative and a good source of inspiration for the quality and calibre potential involved.
I felt that I had lots of involvement with the voting system, but as a non game developer or person of many talents, my input stopped there apart from financial contributions (and of course getting to play the finished products). However this didn’t make the site in any way pointless for me. I learnt a lot more about how you would go about thinking up these designs and the sheer level of work that would have had to have gone in to them.
It was also so nice to not just be a credit card number. I was able to make suggestions or choose where my votes could go. That made the process so much more personable and ‘human’ in many respects. That coupled with excellent structure, aesthetics and community interaction means that I feel this website could really be a boon to game developers everywhere.
• Consistent design and layout makes site attractive and easy to navigate
• ‘Crowd Publishing’ ethos feels inclusive. You feel a valued member of the community
• Very comprehensive support; including help section, FAQ’s, Email and ticketing
• Site currency is expensive to buy in bulk – more purchasing increments would be attractive
• Voting rounds can be quite long which can limit what you can do on the site