For our second Battle Princess trailer (here’s the first), I was again in the director’s chair. First royal order of business? I shed my director role: abdicating creative rights in favor of somebody I deemed ideal.This case: Queen Lina, the mother of Princess Madelyn.
That is, Madelyn, the heroine of the game is a real little girl. Her dad, (King) Christopher Obritsch helped guide her — while crafting the game around her very real experiences. Likewise, Her mom would have a lot to say about how we reveal the game to the world. While I retained editorial creativity, it was really (Queen) Lina Obritsch’s direction that ensured Madeline’s girl-power spirit shined through.
What matters to a little girl? Emotional support. Encouragement, that “You can do it!” And cute ghost dog kisses. These are all facts that I know to be true, but a little extra nudge went a long way to making sure this felt like something extremely familiar, but also rather fresh. Again, thanks to Lina and Chris for taking the abdicated reigns as I handed them over, and for giving them back as we drove this home.
Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the phenomenal score that crafted to really nail that charming-spooky-fun vibe.
Joggernauts makes you yell at your friends like nothing else. When I met Tommy and Zachery from Space Mace, I knew they struck gold when they realized players yelling “switch” at each other was the best way to showcase their unique co-op switching mechanic. But I knew we wanted to dive into the game’s fiction instead of reminding players of the real world. So we decided to Spaceballs it: that is have the characters from the game, playing their own game. This call miraculously let us do all the things we wanted to do: explain the mechanics, while also making fun of how off these crazy little aliens are.
About twice as much work goes into shot selection for a teaser. Even more when you’re dealing with a roguelike. The first thing to do after laying down the sound for your teaser: go for readability. This first pass will ensure that viewers can read what they’re seeing, but it will lack a keen sense of danger. The second and third rounds of captured footage are required to elaborate on that danger, so the enemies on screen feel like they’re going to kill you at any moment. We achieved this through low-sensitivity player camera, and making sure the player verbs linked between shots.
Paul is always a treat to work with. Risk of Rain 2 is something really special. If you’re at PAX West, stop by the Risk of Rain 2 booth (#859) at the Indie Megabooth.
Can Cuphead’s trailer hype be reproduced by others? I think so. Let’s explore how.
I’m M. Joshua. And I started this whole things because I just love trailers. When I’m not making indie trailers, I’m playing games — and thinking about how their trailers should go.
Cuphead is out today!
You know why it grabbed your attention: that subversive Early-1930s animation art style. It got you on the hook right way. But here’s the thing, that’s not why the game’s successful. Hear me out. But first? Let’s watch the game’s first trailer, which first debuted in 2013, four years ago:
That’s it. That’s all, and it’s not saying a lot.
Weirdly, it starts with this tell, don’t show approach, that doesn’t really give you much information about what the game is actually like to play. But it tries to tell you instead of showing it : “run and gun fighting game hybrid” and it overtly states its stylistic inspiration. Then it shows the controls before jumping into the most basic gameplay, barely hinting at the “run and gun.” This is boring. And it shows everything you shouldn’t do with your trailer.
The funniest part? “Coming 2014” Haha. Clearly they changed their plans. And it’s a good thing they did.
They revised their plans to develop more of an audience before launch.
1. Style isn’t enough — You need to stoke player interest.
So Studio MDHR did some deals with the devil (err Microsoft), pushed back their launch date “a little bit”, and at 2014’s E3, they stole the show with this piece:
That’s it. Just 29 seconds — that’s oozing with style — at the world’s biggest gaming venue (E3). And of course, ending on the subtitle: “Don’t deal with the devil.”
That’s point number 2:
2. Yes, deal with the devil — Look for a publisher with a world-stage
This is pretty easy to do if you have already built the groundwork of your distinct style. Remember Studio MDHR already had this style in the can before anybody heard of the game, but nobody cared until they sold their game’s soul (for probably like 70% of the game’s revenue).
Now, we’re all thinking, “I want to see more.” 29 seconds just isn’t enough. We had to wait a year until the next E3, in 2015:
There they go: give the people what they want: much more gameplay. And it kept people satisfied… for a while.
3. Give people a pacifier — A teaser trailer to retain interest
Then, we didn’t hear much from Studio MDHR for two years.
Not until E3 2017.
There’s two things I want to point out in this trailer. First? This barker text, reminiscent of 1930s carnival barkers: “A special announcement for a thrilling game…” This is more style than necessary information. But the part here, “…the likes of which has never been seen before?” Oh man. You could study this concept for a long time. And it’s always been there from the start.
But it’s grown.
4. Be a REFINED kind of distinct — Grow into a MASTERFUL “never seen before”
While the game really thrives on this style that’s fresh and new, they’ve refined it on the world stage and really pushed for an APPEALING quality. The distinctness. The style? It’s not enough. They had to hone the sales pitch, to really make sure it’s resonating with people in the right way.
5. They took their time building an audience.
So that’s it. That’s how Cuphead did it. Obviously they found their one of a kind style first. But then what they did with it is what turned it into a hype cycle. So after the style is set?
Find a way to Stoke player interest
Devil-deal: Get a Publisher with a world stage
Stick a pacifier in your audience’s mouth: Tease interest
REFINE that “one of a kind style”
Take your time building your audience
So keep that in mind building-up your game’s marketing approach through trailers, so that you see it’s a grand strategy thing and never a one-off tactic.
I may follow-up with a quick play shesh on Cuphead, if I’m not so terrible at the game that it’s painful to watch. Thanks again. I’m M. Joshua. Til the next time we look at some indie game trailers. Bye bye!