Which parts of Bokida’s trailer were Damn-Near-Perfect?

Here’s the second episode in my game trailer takeaway series, ‘Damn-Near-Perfect’:

[Transcript]

So, Bokida — Heartfelt Reunion: it’s out today! I did the trailer — working with Rice Cooker Republic. So I can’t objectively speak to its quality, but I can say we tried to make it Damn-Near-Perfect. Now, I started this series only planning on talking about others’ work. But, hey! It’s timely, so let’s check it out.

So we learned a ton on this, and I think we’ve got some useful takeaways for those of you making your own game’s trailer:

1. Hard-to-explain game? Let style drive.

Bokida is…a puzzle sandbox, open world, exploration game where you are trying to reunite two stars with block-building—and powerful momentum mechanics.

Forget about all that.  Let’s just run with style!

What’s your game’s weirdest most-style-distinct element? Yeah. Focus on that. But don’t forget to explain the game (with that style).

2. Ground things in a human voice.

The first thing that we experience in life are human voices and human faces. So in lieu of one of those, use the other. Make your game feel human, and relatable. After all, your trailer is trying to build a relationship with the player. And like I said, if your game doesn’t have a voice, use a face. It doesn’t have to be a real face; could be a character face.

3. Focus on the player’s verbs and motivations

Please, for the love of all that is gameplay, show me what I’m doing in the game! Even if it’s a little hard to follow, I need to know that the game lets me do something interesting. So, focus on your player verbs. And if possible, help me understand why I’m doing any of those things!

Player motivation is the single biggest factor to picking up your game. They might not know exactly why they really want to play your game, but you better know that. And you better connect those dots in the trailer.

4. FPS-Cam: Keep it clean, but include the player movement

First-person trailers are nasty for the creator—I just gotta be honest with you. And getting gameplay footage that looks clean takes too many retries. So you need some clean, smooth trucking shots—typically made in the game’s debug mode.

So, not real gameplay.

But here’s the thing: I need to know what it’s like to move around in your game. So you better show me some first-person gameplay movement, so that I can see myself in the game. It’s just gonna take a few dozen tries to get right.

5. Build a story around a theme

We spun this trailer around the theme, “To reveal beauty”  — which is what the word BOKIDA means. So for your trailer, you gotta figure it out: what’s your game’s theme? Take time, and really answer that question: “What’s your game’s theme?” Then when making decisions, you can always ask, “does this moment support that theme?”

Once again, those key takeaways are:

  1. Hard-to-explain game? Let style drive.
  2. Ground things in human voice.
  3. Focus on PLAYER verbs and motivations
  4. FPS-Cam: Keep it clean, but include player movement
  5. Build a story around a theme

I’m M. Joshua. Find my trailer work at mjoshua.com, where I’m available for trailer work and consultations. And? Feel free to subscribe — for the next time we look at a damn-near-perfect trailer.

6 Trailer tips: Don’t offend your audience—like Mighty No. 9

Don’t offend your audience with your game’s trailer. This shouldn’t need to be said; but Mighty No. 9’s latest trailer forces the issue. It has over ten thousand dislikes—and for good reason. Take a gander:

Don’t insult the things your audience loves

Make the bad guys cry like an anime fan on prom night,” will go down in history as the worst line of video game advertising ever used. A top YouTube commenter calls-out this line and has over 1200 likes for addressing how cringe-worthy this line is. Considering how close Mega Man fandom ties to anime, it’s unbelievable nobody at Deep Silver stopped the press and said, “Hey this might not be such a great idea?” A normal trailer production process includes screening the trailer with intended audience members. Apparently somebody dropped the ball.

There’s a key lesson here for game devs: screen your trailers with your audience members before sharing it publicly, and ask them if there’s any parts they hate. If anything goes in the “hated it” category, toss it.

cry

Don’t treat your audience like idiots from the 90s

“Hey you, looking at the screen, let me ask you a question: do you like awesome things that are awesome? Then you gotta play this game, dude. It’s freakin’ cool. And crazy addictive—like popping bubble wrap addictive. Check this out.”

Commit this section to memory. Never say these things. None of them. Bad. Bad.

Show, don’t tell

The narrator tells you what you’re watching  like you don’t already know. “See that’s your dash move. There’s a short dash, long dash, jump dash, spiral, slide…” You don’t need to tell anybody about any of these things. We’re watching it, “dude.”

I still don’t know enough about Mighty No. 9’s absorption boosts, but the line of dialogue about them was the only thing in the trailer that piqued my interest—and it still didn’t tell me enough about them. Voice-overs can illuminate on-screen action, but this voice-over neglects anything important and only flirts with adding anything of value.

Prune your writing until only the essentials remain

If your trailer isn’t written by somebody with games writing experience, it shows. Industry veterans know when to rely on words and when to rely on visuals; it’s why we love games with perfect tone control. Chatty trailers can be fine (especially if you’re Supergiant Games), but anything spoken or written on-screen needs to add to the experience, not state the obvious.

Don’t make your Kickstarter backers hate themselves

Kickstarter backers for Mighty No. 9 saw this trailer and immediately started having second thoughts. “I’m starting to wonder if I should feel ashamed for helping to kickstart this…” Kotaku commenter, Sman X stated. This trailer should have leveraged the values and interests of their Kickstarter backers to gain a keen sense of what resonated with their intended audience. Value your community.

Study good game trailers

Devolver’s marketing team showcases some of the very best trailer practices, so be sure to look through their work. Today’s reveal trailer for ABSOLVER is a great place to start.

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M. Joshua Cauller makes game trailers that leverage the player experience. He offers free consultations. Contact him at mjoshua@mjoshua.com, check out his work at mjoshua.com, or sign-up for his trailer tips newsletter: