Is it My Genre? — Creature in the Well

Transcript of video: Creature in the Well — Is it my Genre?:

A game’s trailer should show the player if it’s their thing, their unique blend of genres. The only way to know if it captures that unique blend is to play the game deeply.

So after I play through a game I roll back through the trailer. I walk through the individual bits of how they capture the game’s unique genre elements. In the end you might find out if a game is your genre.

Welcome to Is It My Genre? — Episode 5: Creature in the Well

Creature In the Well is this brilliant, amazing game that has a trailer that just knocks everything out of the park. Most importantly it just nails genre. Let’s check it out!

Adam Volker in-trailer: Hello, I’m Adam Volker, a creative director at Flight School Studio. We are making a game called Creature In the Well, a small indie title you may not have heard of.

This particular trailer is really special because Creature In the Well had a lot of trailers — but this is the one that best effectively captures the genre. It does it through what I would call a metamodern kind of illumination into the game-making process.

This unique approach is about connecting with the game’s creators

It’s about the people who are making the game — but it’s about you as the player (and them trying to connect with you).

Adam Volker: In Creature In the Well you pay as Bot C, the last remaining engineer of the robot collective. Your goal is to save the town of Mirage from an unrelenting sandstorm by re-powering an ancient weather machine that has been dormant for centuries thanks to an ominous creature.

So he just explained the goal, the framework, the underlying structure of the game. It helps you to really understand what the game is in a way that you couldn’t in any other way.

Adam Volker: The game plays as a top down adventure hack-and-slash but it’s core mechanics are inspired by pinball, Breakout and other ball-related games. It’s weird, I know. Let me explain. 

An overview helps you understand the genre explicitly

This part is really important because he explains first what the overarching framework of the goal is.

Then he explains what the core moment-to-moment kind of interactions with the game are — what the core mechanics of the game are. Then he’s like “…it’s a lot to take in.”

So we are going to explain that and that’s where things are heading next.

Adam Volker: In the game you explore sprawling dungeons room-by-room. Visualize each of them as a small circuit board. The puzzles challenge the player’s ability to catch, charge and shoot the ball quickly and accurately. Each time you hit a bumper with orbs you collect energy which is shown in the top left corner of the screen.

There’s one key UI moment that clarifies the overarching objective

I want to highlight especially this part where he calls attention to the top left corner of the screen and kind of darkens everything so you can see that you are ultimately working towards this goal in the top left corner.

Adam Volker: You will use this energy to unlock doors and upgrade your character to further progress the game.

Adam clarifies the player’s emotional experience

You are not going to emotionally fully connect with all of what he’s saying but you are understanding the emotional feel of what you are working towards in the game. This is establishing the framework and the core overarching ambitions of the player, which is crazy-effective at helping you understand what the experience is going to feel like as you play it.

Adam Volker: Creature In the Well contains eight handcrafted bespoke,  super duper unique dungeons, each with their own theme and visual style.

One key trailer takeaway: showcase variety and scope

He steps away for a moment from the overarching genre and establishes the variety and the scope of the whole game. He says there are eight dungeons with a unique visual style and that they are handcrafted. They are not roguelike. There is a beginning and an end. When I played through the game I loved how I felt like I had a really substantive meaty game experience in five hours.

Adam Volker: No one has touched the machine in ages so the creature has had a lot of time to tinker and set traps for you to overcome. Some are action focused, challenging your reflexes. While others test your logic and puzzle solving abilities.

He touches here on the core genres’ action and puzzle-solving

This is important because he breaks-away to understand what is going on emotionally for the experience. You know that you are going to be tested in your response time and in your puzzle-solving.

Adam Volker: Sometimes even, the creature will attempt to stop you itself.

You only need to tease the idea of boss fights

This part is important because he is teasing, he doesn’t overtly express the nature of the boss fights but he does tease that there are really special boss fights at the end of each dungeon.

Adam Volker: Creature In the Well is full of secrets. Everything that you find gives you a glimpse into what happened to the machine. There are twelve cosmetic caves and sixteen different weapons, split into chargers and strikers. My personal favorite is the axe. It splits a single ball into multiple, allowing you to hit your targets more easily. 

I love how he mentions the game has secrets

Just having that brief addressing-of-secrets tells you so much about what kind of game you are getting into.

There is no other way to do that in trailers other than to say “hey there’s lots of secrets in here” But the way that he says it and the way that he delivers that information feels very very natural.

It’s amazing when you can highlight and establish what special items you are going to be collecting throughout the game to give you a sense of fleshing out what tools I am going to be using in the game.

Then he calls out two special items and what they do and how they work. It’s not just “hey we’ve got a feature set here and we are talking about all the things that are our game.

Here’s a sense of the scope of what you are getting into

Adam Volker: The hammer slows down time allowing to get your volleys timed just right. The dual blades equip you with an aim assist to line up the long distant shots flawlessly.

Exactly.

Adam Volker: In between your dungeoning you can visit the town of Mirage, the dusty desert outpost town at the heart of Creature In the Well. You will meet it’s kind spirited citizens like Danielle: a dragon, crocodile blacksmith that forged all the weapons and tools you find throughout the game.

Key pacing tip: Spend a moment of time out of the game’s core dungeon

It helps to really sense where you are going to be in the game, not just in the dungeons but having a moment of reprieve.

Adam Volker: If you bring her old cores from the dungeons she can upgrade your weapons and help you level up. 

Again progression. Again genre.

Adam Volker: Back inside the mountain you will find Roger, a humble janitor, aspiring to be a scientist. It in fact was Roger’s great great great grandfrogger who built the machine in the first place, go figure. 

Cute stuff contrasts the heavy stuff

If you have something cute in your game like that that offsets the rest of everything else, that intense action, that’s just great.

Adam Volker: Hopefully this clears up what we mean when we say made up words like pinbrawler or pinball-hack-and-slash.

Note Adam’s genre clarifications

It’s amazing when he clarifies that this is what the core genre of the game is when he says pinbrawler and pinball hack and slash. Those are just blanket terms to overwhelm you with information and quick distillation of what the experience is like. This trailer clarifies all of that with showing and telling and bringing great light to the whole thing.

Adam Volker: Thanks for spending some time with us to talk about the game Creature In the Well. I cannot wait for you all to get your hands on it.

Takeaway: authenticity is key to this trailer approach

I love so many things about this game trailer. The number one thing about it is that it tackles the game play video trailer in a way that feels authentic. It feels sincere. It feels like  you come away understanding what is the scope, what is the spirit, what am I going to feel playing this game? I love a lot about it but that’s it for today.

That’s it for Is It My Genre? I’m M Joshua. You can find my work mjoshua.com and thanks for watching Is It My Genre? Bye Bye.

Blasphemous Trailer Analysis — Is it My Genre?

Transcript of video: Blasphemous — Is it my Genre?:

A game’s trailer should show the player if it’s their thing, their unique blend of genres. The only way to know if it captures that unique blend is to play the game deeply.

So after I play through a game I roll back through the trailer. I walk through the individual bits of how they capture the game’s unique genre elements. In the end you might find out if a game is your genre.

Welcome to Is It My Genre? — Episode 4: Blasphemous

Metroidvanias are kind of the most clearly defined video game genre that we have. You kind of know you are going to be getting some kind of combination of Castlevania, well, specifically Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and Metroid or Super Metroid in this particular case. There is so much that can be said about the genre at large. I am going to talk about my favorite game in the genre that I have played this year, which is Blasphemous. 

Let’s check it out! (Blasphemous – Announcement Trailer | PS4):

Notice the editing on these shots, running right, changing the scene, still running right. It’s the same registry. It’s this great eye trace. Notice the parries, the blocks and the retaliation from the parries. The dash attack is really great.  The finisher moves are a little extra. I really really like the boss battles. They are not the hardest thing in the world. They are not Dark Souls hard…That move right there is so important to defining it as a Metroidvania. Again there’s really crafty finishers and variety. That’s actually really really important special sauce to the game. Wait for it, wait for it… There it is.

It’s a precise kind of Metroidvania:

There’s a lot of things about this trailer that really work well to showcase what’s special about the game. Again some of the other trailers do things a little bit better in some ways — but this one I feel is the best summary of what makes the game exceptionally special. What I personally resonated with the most was to showcase the outstanding characteristics of this precise kind of Metroidvania. We are going to roll back through and process some of those elements. 

The first and foremost thing, I’m not going to go the whole way through the whole trailer. The opening shot was fine. The opening cut scene elements, again were fine. The part that’s really great here is when it gets to this point here: “Explore a forsaken land… ” This is definitive of the Metroidvania genre.

You need to make sure that there is some really good exploration…

Meaning, that you are going to find things that you didn’t know were there. You are going to explore a map that is interconnected. They aren’t overtly stating that here. These are key characteristics of the influence of the genre: the world is cohesively interrelated and you will find special things if you are paying close attention.

They’re showing a diverse array of levels to show that there is a very diverse variety of scenes. By having the associative shots that is implying that you’re going to be using the same verbs to relate to different environments in the same way. “Brutal Pixel-Perfect Combat…

Showcase Parrying!

This is the only trailer that I have found of the game that really showcases the parry. It’s this moment right here: that is a parry where he deflects an enemies’ oncoming attack, which opens them up to vulnerability, which retaliates.

This is a pretty simple thing that exists in the Dark Souls game. It does not, fascinatingly enough exist in any Metroid or Castlevania game that I know of. It is indicative of what makes part of this game particularly special: you are looking for opportunities to deflect attacks and open to brutal executing finishers.

These finishing attacks are not super mechanically important but they are tonally important in establishing that you have a very visceral and bloody relationship with this world.

The curb stomping is a little bit much(which is the point)

But I think that is part of the style and the spirit of the game. It’s all a little bit much which is meant to be dissociating with some audiences and really reinforcing the attachment to the game to a new audience. It’s using the religious, Catholic iconography of Inquisition era Spain for not just fun but also as a family historical celebration of sorts. 

This “Customize Your Build” line is important to define.

This wasn’t discussed in the other trailers. It’s part of the reason why I wanted to include it here. Customizing and shaping how your character is loaded-out defines the framework of the game at large.

It helps you to understand what your character is doing in relationship to the overarching progression of the game. It’s also important because the way that they show it in the next few shots is by navigating the  menu, showing downward attack, and showing this precise combination as its portrayed with the fully upgraded dash. It’s part of what was fascinating to me, sticking with the game and what I love the most about figuring out there’s different ways of relating to things through the combat. It’s not just a: I’m gonna mash the X button sort of scenario.

“Unveil the Mysteries of Cvstodia”

You are making sense of the lore of the game… as you piece together things that you find, and you read the item descriptions. It’s through the long relationship of playing the game for about 20 hours that it took —t hat you will understand the lore and the mysteries and the subtle associations that happen as you go through the game.

Climax time: ratchet-up intensity!

It’s time to conclude. You are seeing a lot of the characters that you talk to and key elements and flashy flashy gets really fast. Slamming the title and then you have to wait for it, wait for it, wait for it and then show the title screen but still wait for it. That moment was actually in the original Kickstarter trailer as the penultimate moment of the trailer, the climax of the trailer.

The last thing that I want to emphasize about this game and its trailer and genre are just how cohesive it feels in the end. I know that a lot of people got into the hangups of some open pits and some insta-death scenarios — but I would encourage you to roll back through and find the critical path through the game. I think that it does some really incredible preparation in leading up to unlocking the Mysteries of Cvstodia.

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I’m M. Joshua. I make game trailers. You can find out more about me at mjoshua.com. Great work all around to the Game Kitchen and Team 17. You made my favorite Metroidvania of the year. This has been ‘Is It My Genre?’ Thanks again, Bye Bye.

Find more episodes of ‘Is it My Genre?’ on M Joshua’s YouTube channel.