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  • Indie Insights: Hooks And Anchors

    - David Logan

  • That said, we didn't only spend time on the new and innovative. Sometimes, the familiar can be just as important.

    Spinch's anchor is its tight platforming.

    The Anchor

    The Anchor plays the opposite role to your hook, but that doesn't mean it's any less important. In fact, most devs I spend time with and speak to tend to forget or take their anchor for granted. It's not flashy or sexy - it's straightforward, sincere and earnest. The anchor is safe. It's relatable. It represents security where the hook represents risk. If you talk to ten players, nine of them will say they want new, exciting experiences in their games. But if you look at the play habits of those ten players, they will typically hunker down with old reliable formulas and genres far more often than they break out.

    The anchor is there to satisfy this desire. For instance, even while Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor broke all kinds of new boundaries with its Nemesis system, it still stayed mostly true to the Assassin's Creed/Arkham Asylum style combat that many open world action games revelled in at the time. In this way, it stays true to the root of the genre conventions that players know and love. And a player picking up the game has an easily relatable, recognizable experience they can compare to.

    For Spinch, our Anchor was the platforming. This type of precision platforming has been a mainstay of indie games since titles like Braid and Super Meatboy blew up almost a decade ago. Players looking for the challenge of those types of titles are going to be swimming in eminently familiar waters when it comes to moving through the six worlds and intermediate levels of Spinch. It isn't going to generate the kinds of comments on Youtube that the art did, but it will drive the most hardcore players. Speedrunners became submerged in Spinch easily and became some of the game's most diehard fans. They are fans because of its anchor after being brought in by the hook.

    Every game has familiar and relatable elements. Often times, it's the genre or the core gameplay mechanics that players expect to experience when they first boot up your game. This is your anchor, and it's just as important to communicate to players as your hook. For every one of our titles, we create a brief, concise phrase to describe it in fundamental terms. Spinch is a 2D precision platformer. You'll see that all over our writing for the game. I even used it in the previous section. Gone Viral is a roguelite brawler. GRIME is a soulslike metroidvania. These all communicate the anchor of the experience to players and often serve as the bedrock to a player's understanding of the game.

    Combining the hook and anchor into a single message allows you to efficiently communicate the core of your game to any potential player in just a handful of words. It will show them the relatable experience that they know and love, the tried and true, and the sensible shoes of a your game. At the same time, it communicates the out there, the unique, the novel, and the "I've never seen anyone do this before but, man, what an awesome idea!" This helps you empower your advocates to share the game among their friends and colleagues. If you've communicated your message well, one player can share their experience with dozens of others.

    That kind of spread is tremendously powerful.

    As always, if you want to connect with us, feel free to do so on TwitterFacebookInstagram or Discord! I'd be happy to answer any questions you might have about our approach to hooks and anchors! Special thanks to our friend, Chris Zukowski for turning us on to anchors in the first place! His blog on the subject is amazing and definitely deserves a read.


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