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Best format to sell games in?

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I will be selling a game that I have worked on for a while. I was wondering if selling the game in a ZIP format is bad? This would make things much easier if I didn't have to use an installer. The game has a main executable and several sub directories for resources and saves, and total the zip would be about 36 mb.

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I'd suggest providing both. Some users want an installer that puts a pretty icon in the start menu, other users want to put the game on a flash drive.

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I am not sure what your reasons are for not making an installer but if its to avoid the hassle and time of making one, have a look at Advance Installer, they have a free edition and it is really easy to work with

For me personally I would be put off from a game if it never had an installer, this is only because every game I have played has one and naturally accepted that a game has one, but thats just me

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If your game is large enough you will probably need an installer just because of the sheer size of the game. But don't go making a full-blown installer for a 5MB game that doesn't need complex asset tracking etc.. just let the user download the .exe and .zip and play away. Nobody likes installers, since that's one more obstacle between the user and the game (= possibility of the installer failing for some mysterious reason). So don't use them if you don't need to.

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When someone wants to play a game, I think the last thing on their mind is work...
Which is basically what you'll be giving them if you don't take all the steps to ensure that all they have to do is double-click on something.
If you took all this time to make a game, what's a little extra time to make it easier on your customers to be able to play it?

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I'd provide an installer, preferably one that can either include all dependencies or recognise and resolve them. Zip sounds like it should be good enough but it's not - particularly if you rely on external libraries that you don't include (to keep the size down) or that you can't include (for licensing reasons). I've been burned by people failing to get basic required DLLs into the right directory before and I'm reasonably satisfied that this is a common problem once you go outside of the more technical communities. A fundamental rule here is: "don't make the user have to think". Give them a seamless and pain-free experience and it will pay you back in spades.

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The main reason for not using an installer is compatibility issues with windows versions and their directories, but that's a whole different issue. Now I'm thinking about using a self extracting archive rather than an installer (using something like 7zip), so all the user has to do is click it and it will do everything else. I'm pretty sure you can make desktop shortcuts and such doing that too.

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Compatibility with Windows directories should not be a problem if the installer technology uses the correct environment variables/etc: such as %USERPROFILE% instead of hard-coding paths. This isn't too difficult, and if your chosen installer doesn't use them then you really need to throw it out and find one that does.

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Make an installer -- its really not difficult, you should be able to figure it out in an afternoon. Any time something is delivered as a .zip file it screams "amateur hour". A nice installer is part of the nice package that every game should come with.

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+1 for NSIS. I used this for a couple projects. It's full-featured, looks very professional, and was pretty easy to learn.

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While I agree that many users are comforted by using an installer, I agree with providing both for small projects that reside in their own directory only. I believe an installer should be used when one alters the registry, or uses/places anything outside of its defined directory. I hate installers; few do a good job of removing their program entirely, and installers frequently fail horribly, leaving me to have to manually install the program if I want it to run. Copying an installation is now problematic, because you can't just copy a directory; it's installed on one machine only. It can't be put on a removable disk, and it'd be painful if the drive's letter/mountpoint changed after installation.

Also, consider the headache it is to use an installer in another OS, like trying to run Windows applications in WINE under Linux. I've had headache after headache working around the shortcuts taken by installers, that cause them to fail when manually doing what they are supposed to do will work, after reverse engineering it. Copying a directory and launching from WINE is simple.

Often, power users are wary of installers; it is another chance for the developers to not honor their promise of installing only the program, and uninstalling every little thing the application creates and changes. Offering both is great. Maybe even label the archive version as "portable", in that it launches from a removable device. Easy to grasp the concept rather than wonder why you're offering an archive, or worse, an archived installer.

On a side note, net installers make me nervous. If I go to install the application years later, and the URL is now invalid, I'm unable to use the software. It could happen tomorrow.

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I'm never particularly wary of installers, although I do make sure to carefully read the checkboxes to make sure I'm not opting into something I'd rather not. I've never experienced an installer failing to install the software correctly, although I have experienced the uninstall process to be incomplete.

If you have a simple game that resides in a single directory, then an installer is still nice thing -- It looks professional, and it will be dead-simple to create, and to ensure that install and uninstall work correctly, and you can just tell the user that the install is portable and even allow them to install straight onto removable media. What's more, you can have it do additional steps -- take for example a "portable" install of a game using DirectX.

You still need to make sure the user has the DX runtime installed, and the best way to do that would be to package up your app with the DX web installer, and then have the game detect at start-up whether the machine has the run-time (so that it'll even install it if you take the game to another machine that doesn't yet have it, presuming you have the permissions to do so), but to give the user the best install experience, you'd also want an installer to detect the lack of runtimes at install. There's nothing more of a downer than being excited to have a new game all installed, only to fire it up and find out there's *another* huge install that you have to wait for, and maybe even a reboot.

In short, installation is either complicated enough that an installer is the only sane approach, or installation is so simple that you'd have to be brain-dead to experience any of the problems you mention. The added flexibility and professional presentation benefits are a no-brainer, IMO. Also, given that "app-store"-like models are where most people are going to get most of their software (MacOS, Windows 8, ChromeOS, mobile devices, Consoles, and even consumer-friendly versions of Linux like Ubuntu), its probably best you start getting on-board now.

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Personally, if you gave me a *.zip file, rather than playing my game from the jumbled mess that is my Downloads directory, I'd extract that out into its own Program Files directory and make myself a shortcut. Then I'd have to undo my manual installation when I want to remove your game. That's just plain annoying.

If you're selling it, you should probably have an installer. A demo or a free game I'll play only once might sit in my downloads directory without worry: its life is short and I don't care about it much. But I want more from products I pay for. They should make it convenient to play your game, and set it up so its unlikely I'll accidently destroy it.

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Well, just provide both? An installer and the compressed archive and let players choose which they want to use.

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I usually use zip files for small projects but an installer is more professional and is the accepted standard for everyday users.

Did you have to stuff around with zip files when installing Crysis? Or did you double click an installer?

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