Humility: Quick Tip (The Mortician’s Tale)

[Transcript from the Video above:]

The gameplay trailer for A Mortician’s Tale is brilliant for one easily repeatable reason: Humility.

Welcome to Game Trailer Quick-Tip. I’m M. Joshua. I make game trailers, but I also like to celebrate other’s great trailer work. Today we’re looking at one quick tip that’ll be helpful for you making your game’s trailer.

Trailer Quick Tip: Humility

Humility might be the weirdest ambition of a hype-train. But I would suggest it’s the most powerful tool in making a game trailer. Just humbly offer a transparent representation of your game. This will speak volumes on what your game is actually like. No superlatives. But no self-deprecation. Just an honest look at what your game is actually like to play.

We’ll take a look at the trailer now. Then we’ll explore how that can translate to your game’s trailer. Cool? Let’s check it out!

So, not every game is as simple as Mortician’s Tale. The game clocks in at just over an hour, and only has three or four different scenes—to really show different variety of gameplay. But that’s the brilliance of the humble approach: you show the simple core interactions of the game and as long at they look readable, it reads as “real”

And let’s be honest, that’s what players want from a video game trailer: for things to feel as real to the experience as possible

Who’s This Approach For?

Since this is a simple point and click adventure, it translates well to the humility approach. If your gameplay isn’t easy to read, you might need a little more of an elaborate explanation of what the game even is and why people want to play it. But once you get them there, you can continue to build on that core—and stick to the humility approach. This lets your audience draw their own own conclusions. And that’s the core. You want to build an environment that lets people draw their own conclusions about your game.

Again, this isn’t for everybody. And sometimes you need a way more “over the top” kind of approach. Because let’s face it, game trailers aren’t a “one-size-fits-all” kind of thing.

A key to the humility approach is to just observe how players naturally experience your game. And if you can just represent that as faithfully as possible—without getting in the way—this can work really well.

That’s it for this quick tip. 

~

I’m M. Joshua. Find my trailers at mjoshua.com. And feel free to subscribe, for the next time we look at a Game Trailer Quick Tip.

Tormentor X Punisher trailer-first commentary

Being offensive is sometimes a wonderful asset in the world of games. Tormentor X Punisher throws all the gore, vulgarity, and explosive sound that it can muster in your direction, and then frames the trailer around the framing ambition of the game: the score.ere’s my commentary on the gameplay trailer, and how that relates to the core experience (latter half of the video):

Special thanks to Joonas Turner and Roland Smedberg for their ferocious trailer!

Steamworld Dig 2 trailer-first commentary

Howdy, travelers! Steamworld Dig 2 sat at the top of my list of anticipated Nintendo Switch releases. And BOY, if it doesn’t make good on my hopes!

While the launch trailer for the game took me by surprise (with a tiny bit less of the legendary finesse that I’ve come to expect from Julius Guldbog and Tombias Nilsson), it captures everything essential about the game. This trailer serves as perhaps the best illustration of how to make an extremely strong trailer — humbly representing the experience.

After a brief trailer reflection, I jump into the game’s core loop — and get carried away. IT’S JUST SUCH A FUN GAME, GUYS! Stick around as long as you like.

Feel free to subscribe on YouTube for more trailer-and-playthrough reflections or check out my work at mjoshua.com.

Trailer-first playthrough of Mystic Melee

Mystic Melee sits right inside the sweet zone of my ideal 4-player brawlers: it’s got physics-driven air maneuvers that invite tons of experimentation — while being easy to play.

So how does the trailer fare?

Just after a brief introduction, I watch the trailer — for the first time. This was one of the rare times I bought a game before watching the trailer. Then I dive into the game, offering a sampling of the experience itself.

You’ll get some of my real reactions as well as some (hopefully) useful takeaways for making trailers that also sit in similar (local-multi, 2D platformer) genres.

Massive thanks to the Serenity Forge team for bringing this to my attention, and to Ben Hopkins for making a game with such exceptional precision!

Trailer-first playthrough of The First Tree

The First Tree snagged me with its trailer and concept, even though I don’t know that I fully got it. So I recorded my impressions on the launch trailer, talked about its takeaways, and then stepped into the first several minutes of the game, to process how the trailer and the game frame each other.

Hopefully, this will be a new series from me? Lots of fun to produce. Lots worth talking about. Enjoy!

Six terrible tips from our NEO Scavenger mobile trailer

[Transcript:]

NEO Scavenger mobile trailer may be the trailer I’m most proud of producing [scripting and editing]. That said… most advice I’d offer from the project is terribleSeriously, it’s awful. But it worked for us. So, hopefully you at least you find it funny?

So, here it is — Six Terrible Tips from our NEO Scavenger trailer:

1. Encourage the developer do his own (half-naked) cosplay

NEO Scavenger starts with you wearing nothing but a hospital gown (and a necklace). Then you venture out into the cold and unforgiving world — alone. So when the game’s creator, Daniel Fedor, said “hey I wanna act all of this half-naked hospital-robe-wearing stuff out in real life.” I said, “Of course! Let’s do it!” 

For added fun, think about what it would look like to cosplay for your own game’s trailer. Like I said, it’s probably a bad idea. Though it might be a useful practice If you’re showing your game at an actual trade show like PAX?

Terrible advice number two: show… Wait, no.

2. Tell, don’t show  (live action)

Here’s the thing: NEO Scavenger is… hard to make sense of at first glance. Heck! Even after a good number of glances, you might still be lost. The game really plays up that “tell, don’t show” angle, especially in combat where it’s mostly about what happens in your imagination (and not on screen).

This was where we identified the perfect way to employ Dan’s half-naked cosplay: acting-out a scenario from the game!

NEO Scavenger takes place in a “slightly” crappier version of our world. Plus it was winter when we started this. So a simple backyard in late Winter looks like it’s survived an apocalypse.  Dan was close with a cinematography team, Digital Cyclops — who was amazing, by the way. And even more conveniently, Dalias Blake showed up.

Dude’s a master of looking intimidating.

screenshot-2017-07-20

But yeah, seriously. “Show, don’t tell” is the right way to go with a game trailer 99% of the time. Except for when your game is literally the opposite. We did the live acting thing because it was the best way to put unfamiliar audiences into the mindset of the game.

3. Crowd-source your script

So, this might be the worst advice yet. Never ask your players, “what should I say in the trailer?” You’re gonna get a whole lot of useless garbage that you’ll have to wade through. Glad we didn’t do that. Well, we sorta did. 

If you ask “What precise experience in this game captures this full emotion?” And you really curate the question? You might be able to focus people towards one sentence responses — you might get something usable. You might even find something perfect! Now we actually had players to ask. We had over a hundred responses. So, that’s a lot for me to pick from. But seriously, crowd-sourcing your script is usually such a bad idea.

Now I’m gonna stop right here and show you the trailer. Then we’ll get to the last few pieces of terrible advice. Cool? Let’s check it out.

Cool. Final pieces of bad advice?

4. Shove players’ words into onscreen actors’ mouths.

Nobody likes it when you put words in their mouth, but we did it anyway. You couldn’t see our actor’s mouths because they were (like characters in the game) wearing rags that covered their mouths as rudimentary air filters. So,we made sure our actors acted like they were talking, with the plan of putting another actor’s voice on them.  We did this, because it was important to me that the players of the game really gave voice to the experience. But because players aren’t typically voice actors, I went for the uber players: those who love the game, but also create their own content.

I’m not 100% sure that the we did this perfectly. But I am sure that it was the right call. Because when you share player’s voices, you can actually capture their passion for the game. These guys, Nelson and Phil — they really really love NEO Scavenger. So I was like, “Yes! I’m-I’m going to use you guys because you really really get it!” Usually people can tell if somebody’s just hired help. But passion transcends.

If you dare try this kind of approach? Go for it, but go for the passionate.

5. String random players’ experiences into a singular story

This is the weirdest one: we took all these player testimonies, the half-naked cosplay, voice actors, and glimpses of gameplay, and we brought it all together — in a way that’s… clearly not for everybody

The best trailers are just one clear story. It starts, it ends. You feel like you’re along for the ride. This is a universal truth. You can keep that in your pocket. But we had like over a hundred stories. And we wanted to link it into a single one.

That took first writing a modular script — designed with targeted emergence. This modular script had one goal: extract the stories, and assemble it into one single story.

Like I said, you gotta be super specific to make any of this work. This was really just planning — that mostly worked because NEO Scavenger just kind of automatically naturally generates these kinds of stories, and because of the pre-existing audience.

6. Leave viewers with a sick taste in their mouth

NEO Scavenger’s tone is so weird! Like normally? You want people to feel smart, powerful, capable of doing anything! And excited when they end the trailer. Maybe itching for a fight! Instead, we figured it was better to make people feel icky!

You’re welcome to copy the idea if you think it might work for you. But because we wanted to hit the distinctives of the game, and what made it what it is, we ended on the creep-factor.

If you’re looking for something actually usable here, I’d say that’s it: focus on your game’s distinct one-of-a-kind feeling.

Also, it’s worth noting that we lightened-up the whole “bleak as hell” thing. At least a tiny bit.

So yeah, this is all terrible advice because it’s really specific to NEO Scavenger.

So once again, those tips are:

  1. Encourage the developer to do his own half-naked cosplay
  2. Tell, don’t show (Live Action)
  3. Crowd-source your script
  4. Shove players’ words into (on screen) actors’ mouths
  5. String random player experiences into a singular story
  6. Leave players with a sick taste in their mouth

So yeah, all of this is terrible terrible advice. Don’t do these things unless you’re sure it’s going to work for your game. It’s terrible mostly because it’s so specific to NEO Scavenger, but I want to leave you with…

real useful takeaway

Consider your game deeply. How people play it, how they talk about it, what they dream about after playing it before bed time. Then craft your game’s trailer around these experiences.

~

I’m M. Joshua. Find me at mjoshua.com. And feel free to subscribe, for the next time we look at some Game Trailer Takeaways.

Video: 5 Kickstarter trailer takeaways from Blasphemous

Here’s five trailer takeaways from ‘Blasphemous‘ — especially for those making a Kickstarter video game trailer:

[Transcript:]

Blasphemous just launched [on Kickstarter] not even two weeks ago and it’s already tripled its goal. So it is definitely successful. And even though the trailer might be off-putting to some (okay actually, most) — I still think it’s damn-near perfect. Now, bear with me. You might not dig this trailer and that’s totally alright — there’s some absolutely key takeaways in here for game marketing. So, hang in there.

Let’s check it out.

Now here five key takeaways for anybody who’s making a Kickstarter trailer:

1. Disgust everybody—EXCEPT your target audience

Rally your tribe around what makes you you. Don’t be afraid if that puts anybody off.

Blasphemous knows exactly who it’s after: the kind of folks who see black-metal twisted imagery and go, “Hell, yeah!” Maybe they like Dark Souls, but would like more gore. Gory and twisted things don’t work for everybody, but for those that it does work for, it says to them, “Hey, this this game is just for us!” That’s the thing that makes them click “back this project.”

2. Show mechanical substance

The action in your Kickstarter game is by-definition not complete. But when we see it in motion, we can have grace for it if the audio-visual feedback isn’t quite there yet. As long as it looks cool and there’s some solid tension in there, we’re with you.

Sharp editing — where each player action is linked in separate scenes — that doesn’t hurt, either.

3. Establish your unique setting

We all know in this descending shot is that this is a weird-dark world with graveyards and bloodshed. And just like that, Blasphemous sets itself apart apart from the rest of herd. With kickstarter trailers, your world should draw us in more than anything else. Nobody knows anything about your game. Nobody knows anything about your world.

Suck us in!

4.Distinct musical composition

Notice this song, how there’s this juxtaposition of two kinds of metal at once: the slow droning of Doom and the incessant Black Metal march. There’s even moments where this ultra-gloomy jam gets straight-up triumphant! Nobody else has this kind of music in their game. You can tell the composer created something new and unusual just to match the vibe.

If you can afford an original composer? At the very least, people are going to buy your soundtrack!

5. Land on your theme’s PUNCH

Whatever your game is really about? Be that twisted bloodshed, or rainbow-laden-peacemaking. Stick hard to that tension. And make it the most-important thing that we see the last thing.

thumbnail_blasphemous

Once again, those Kickstarter trailer takeaways are:

  1. Disgust everybody—EXCEPT your target audience
  2. Show mechanical substance
  3. Establish your unique setting
  4. Distinct musical composition
  5. Land on your theme’s PUNCH

I’m M. Joshua. Find my trailer work at mjoshua.com [which has nothing to do with this trailer]. And? Feel free to subscribe — for the next time we look at a damn-near-perfect game trailer.

Video: What makes the ‘Into the Breach’ trailer Damn Near Perfect?

Here’s five takeaways from the ‘Into the Breach’ announcement trailer — especially for those working with turn-based tactics games:

[Transcript:]

Into The Breach — it might be a little while until this game comes out. But I’m chomping at the bit. Why? It’s trailer is Damn-Near-Perfect.

Let’s check it out.

Here are some takeaways for your own announcement trailers — especially if you’re making a tactics game.

1. TACTICS? Show the interactions in SUPER-SPEED

Anybody who plays tactics games knows most of the game is sitting there thinking about what to do. Don’t show that! But do show the fast-breaking action. Make us feel these hits connect — as fast as possible!

2. Frame the player’s role

If your game’s objective isn’t clear. Try telling them. You can always pare-back if it’s too hammy. See how the city is under attack by kaiju and the big robots arrive with the, “Protect the city?” This establishes the objective for the player. A little bit of context is all the viewer needs to see themselves in the game.

3. Establish street cred — while establishing new gameplay

If you’ve got experience, show it, but highlight your new hotness.

4. Use some swirly-twirly camera focus!

It’s your job to make sure folks only see what you want them to see. When your game has a really-busy heads-up display, you gotta snag the camera control, zoom-in, get in there, keep the camera moving along. Drive their eyes.

5. UNIQUE FRIGGIN’ GAMEPLAY

I don’t know any other tactics games that involve time travel, at least not off the top of my head. This line right here: “If you really can go back in time, do it now?” That’s fancy! Highlight, underline, ALL-CAPS that stuff! Be unique.

THUMBNAIL_Breach

Once again, those key takeaways are:

  1. TACTICS? Show the interactions in SUPER-SPEED
  2. Frame the player’s role
  3. Establish street cred — while establishing new gameplay
  4. Use some Swirly-twirly camera focus
  5. UNIQUE FRIGGIN’ GAMEPLAY

I’m M. Joshua. Find me at mjoshua.com. And? Feel free to subscribe — for the next time we look at a damn-near-perfect trailer.

Video: What makes Flinthook’s trailer Damn Near Perfect?

Here’s five takeaways from Flinthook’s ‘Damn-Near-Perfect’ gameplay trailer:

[Transcript:]

Flinthook! It’s wooing gamers (and game devs) everywhere! Why? Well, it can’t hurt that the gameplay trailer is damn-near-perfect.

Let’s check it out.

Here’s some takeaways, from Flinthook’s trailer, for your own game’s trailer:

1. Use #BRANDCOLORS

Notice these Flinthook™ color bars! We haven’t even started the trailer yet! And already the game is subconsciously establishing its unique voice.

Here’s a quick test: can somebody look at any screenshot from your game and instantly tell that it’s your game?

2. Try a sweet one-shot opener!

Notice how in the first fifteen seconds we’re treated to everything we need to know about the game: the genre, Flinthook’s unique-take on the genre: specifically, the sweet hook-shot! And, killing enemies to bag the loot! If you can show everything that your game does in one shot? Do it right away!

3. Use a bit of “outside” voice

You’re biased and your opinion doesn’t matter. What others say about you, though? Yeah, use it if you got it. The more variety and big names here, the better.

4. UNIQUE FRIGGIN’ GAMEPLAY (This is important)

Nobody else out there has sweet hookshot action like Flinthook. I mean — it’s in the name: flint-hook. But what’s most important is that this one-of-a-kind hookshot action is front-row-center. The trailer opens on hooking. And the trailer ends on hooking. 

Make sure you tattoo this on your forehead: your unique gameplay is how you stand out against the SEA OF STEAM RELEASES.

5. Sneak some player motivations in there.

Notice when the trailer says, “Become the greatest space pirate,” and then shows some action. Then it’s all “Plunder randomly-built spaceships.” This is great too: I love how this line addresses the roguelike structure of the game.

These little statements say so much about why you wanna play the game. And they speak to you kind-of on a subconscious level.

THUMBNAIL_Flinthook3

Once again, those key takeaways are:

  1. Use #BRANDCOLORS™
  2. Try a sweet one-shot opener!
  3. Use a bit of “outside” voice
  4. UNIQUE FRIGGIN’ GAMEPLAY
  5. Sneak some player motivations in there.

I’m M. Joshua. Find me at mjoshua.comwhere I’m available for trailer consultations and trailer projects. And? Feel free to subscribe — for the next time we look at a damn-near-perfect game trailer.

What makes Dead Cells’ reveal trailer Damn-Near-Perfect?

I started a new video series today: What makes this trailer Damn-Near-Perfect? Here’s the first episode:

[Transcript:]

Dead Cells is out today! And I’m there. Why? Because the reveal trailer is damn-near-perfect.

Let’s check it out.

There’s some takeaways from this trailer — that you can reproduce if you’re trying to make one for your own game.

1. First? Establish genre!

If they don’t’ like action games, or “rogue-vanias”, they’re not gonna like this game, and that’s okay, but you’ve got to get there as soon as possible. Qualify your audience.

Next?

2. Show your GREATEST HITS!

Dead Cells is a safe place — for you to hit things as hard as you possibly want! You gotta show the chunky-delicious fallout of your interactions! When players see this, they’re like, “Oh, okay! I wanna make these decisions in a game, myself!”

3. Emotional range, PLZ!

This moment with the scene changed to the ramparts — You’ve got to get to the emotional highs and lows. Give your audience some relief from tension. Then, get back to the tension! But make sure that you show the full breadth of emotional range through the journey of your game.

Also, how did they fit a moment of rest in a thirty-second trailer?!?

4. Slow down to get a hurried-up trailer!

Thirty seconds in, and the trailer is done. How did they do that? The irony is that it takes a lot of time, to make a really short trailer. If you can take your time? Do it! It’s worth it.

5. Land on the emotional destination

Let’s just back up for a second (0:19).
Where you land — what emotion you leave the trailer with — that’s how people are going to remember your game.

In this case, that’s TENSION!

Screenshot 2017-05-10 16.38.23

Once again, those key takeaways are:

  1. First: establish genre
  2. Show your Greatest Hits
  3. Emotional Range, PLZ!
  4. Slow down to get that sweet hurried pace
  5. Land on your emotional destination (TENSION!)

I’m M. Joshua. Feel free to subscribe — for the next time we look at a damn-near-perfect trailer.