DeVRAND

A lightweight programming blog for distraction-free reading.

Tale of the Tormenting Trailer

2018-08-29

Sorry, I am probably having way too much fun with titles. Do you know what else I like having fun with? Video games, of course! But what’s the most important tool to market a game? Trailers are, or at least that is the opinion backed by a large amount of articles, but I am not convinced. In fact, if I can choose between a trailer and a screenshot, I always go with the latter. Enough about me - I still had to do a trailer for Arena, and it was painful.

Retirement

This is not the first trailer I have made for Arena. The first one is a humorous take on the task and a parody of other trailers. It is full of cinematic and dramatic texts such as “Leave us alone” - No Press Like Us Inc., “You forgot to attach your game” - Money Up Front Corp. and “Yes, it was in our Spam folder.” - Sellwords Ltd.

I was really proud of the pun Sellwords Ltd. when I came up with it. Or for that matter, I was satisfied with the whole trailer. The entire thing was scheduled and orchestrated within the game engine which then I just simply recorded and put out without any further work required. Does not that sound great?! It totally does. Too bad that trailer is a complete disaster and it must go.

One game...

To understand why it is bad, here is my main concern with it - there is absolutely zero gameplay footage. Whoever watches the trailer might enjoy one and half a minute of jokes, but will have no clue about the game, what is looks like, how it is played. Sure, some of the game art is there, but if Arena were not in the title I would think I am just watching a random parody video.

The emotional charge of the video is also constant. Viewers are blasted with jokes and will be in a semi-bored mood the whole time through. Ideally, there should be some derivation of a dramatic structure - even one build up to a climax can make that moment of the trailer powerful and memorable.

...with nothing special about it

Lastly, there are some well-known golden rules out there.

  • The first few seconds matter the most as that is where you need to win the viewer’s attention. Starting with a slow fade-in or with a company logo is a suicide mission.
  • Trailers should show the best moments of the game - not what the developer is proud of. The game was made by a single person? Great, but why is that good, and what does that contribute to the trailer? :)

A New Hope

With all the points above in mind, I started working on a new trailer which you can watch right away. It turned out to be way better, but it is still not a good trailer. Oh well. Let’s analyze it!

Starting with the good parts, the music is no longer there as a dumb background noise, but it plays a critical role in the whole trailer. All the actions are synched to the rhythm - making both the music and all the happenings stand out more and empower each other. There is a pacing and a dramatical structure in the narrative, based on the intensity of the music.

Arena Title

There is more gameplay, but there is not enough gameplay. Showing the matchmaking screen even once would have given the viewer an “Aha!” moment, or a match from start to finish. That would have given a good idea of the game. Well, at least there are a few guns and mutators showcased.

The first few seconds - which are supposed to be super important - are not screaming for attention, in fact the trailer starts slow and then builds up over time. Texts are completely gone (except for the ending). It went from a text-only trailer to a zero-text trailer. This is very likely a missed potential. I am very much against Call-to-Action acts, but a few frames saying “with slow-motion” and “chaotic Deathmatch simulator” would have probably helped the case.

The trailer itself is still a simulation within the game engine. This is neither good or bad, just a fun fact. I have tried doing it the old fasioned video-editing way but it looked bad and getting the timing right was a nightmare.

Arena Mutators

It is now in use at the itch.io store page where it rarely gets viewed though, making it less significant. Whether I will do a remake for the Steam release or keep this - not the slightest idea right now.

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