Week 9 — Creating a trailer

2021-11-19

Welcome to week 9 of the module indie game startup.

By the end of this week, you will be able to:

  • Differentiate different kinds of trailer such as teaser, cinematic and launch trailer.
  • Capture high quality gameplay footage.
  • Select clips that communicate a game’s core mechanics.
  • Edit a compelling game trailer.

Choo Choo Charles

An awesome trailer from recent memory: Choo Choo Charles.

This trailer got the developer 90K wishlists in 2 weeks.

Firstly, it’s a great game concept: you’re on an island, trying to fix up an old train, so you can escape from and battle… a spider train! Not sure if it was inspired by this spider train video from last year or perhaps this RE-meets-Thomas video. The antagonist - Charles - is such a strong and unique character. And horror is such a popular genre (I remember a time before having kids when Resident Evil was the only thing my wife and I played together on the sofa).

The trailer gets straight into the action, and shows the core game loop: you flee from Charles; you attack Charles when you’re on the train; they show how you can navigate using a unique map mechanic; you scrounge the island for scrap so you can beef up the train; all in the first 20 seconds. No drawn out logos, etc.

This all makes it the perfect first video on a store page, as this is what players want to see when they’re shopping: what is the gameplay?

Here’s some analysis by Simon Carless.

The developer - Gavin Eisenbeisz - has since been interviewed in a podcast, where he talks about his concerns post-virality. With a hyped game like this, it’s easy to disappoint gamers when the game finally launches.

I’m also already thinking how the game will pan out. Will it be 20+ hours of the player just having near-misses with Charles? Is Charles too powerful to kill, until you’re powerful enough near the end to finally lay him to rest? Does that mean the game will only have one antagonist through-out?

In any case, Gavin is in a strong position to get funding (he’s low-risk having launched a game before, and he’s got lots of wishlists) and negotiate good terms, so he can definitely build a nice team to make this game all it can be.

Legibility

I found two cool resources lately that talks about legibility, and it kind of crosses over with trailers.

This blog post by Adam Saltsman called Screenshot Theory, and this talk by Zach Gage on “subway legibility” or designing your game to be intuitive at a glance.

We always have to go beyond “this screenshot/trailer looks pretty” and ask ourselves what the asset is trying to communicate. Those trailers/GIFs/screenshots are our first, and sometimes our last shot at getting a player to follow our call to action.

A reflection

During this module, we’ve been exposed to a lot of marketing techniques, and I came to the realisation:

We make games. In other words, we create fun and engaging experiences for people. Why would we not want to create fun and engaging experiences for people outside our games?

Every interaction someone has with a gamedev can be a fun and engaging experience, be it the gamedev’s website, or any of the gamedev’s marketing promotions.

I find it weird that gamedevs don’t spend time and effort on making their website the best it can be, or just putting half-baked promotional materials out there. We can do so much better.

This post is part of my critical reflective journal and was written during week 9 of the module indie game startup.

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