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.

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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.

Indie Game Marketing Monday Live Streams

Recently, I partnered with two fellow game marketing pros for a live stream that airs every Monday at 4pm EST on Monastery’s YouTube Channel.

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Game marketing mogul, Justin Carroll joins me with game PR expert Racheal Mack as we put our heads together answering the toughest questions game devs face with marketing their games. It’s been great for all of us: lots of cross-learning and skill-refining that come along. Plus, devs are smart people who ask smart questions, which generally means that we get to dig deep for answers.

We’re only four episodes in, but you can watch our previous episodes on the following topics:

  1. Game Marketing Introduction
  2. Do-It-Yourself Press
  3. Crowdfunding
  4. Elevator pitch

Our best episode so far is our latest, one about elevator pitches. I’d recommend starting there.

If you’ve got any questions about game marketing, want to propose a topic, or ask a question?

Ask away.

We’d love to deep-dive a topic you’ve been thinking about, and make it the focus on one of our next streams. You can reply here in the comments, on one of the YouTube videos, or shoot me an email at mjoshua@mjoshua.com.

And be sure to check the show out when we’re live on Mondays at 4pm EST. We’ll be out December 26 and January 2 because of the holidays, but be sure to check us out on December 19, January 9, and every Monday after that!

Also, you can subscribe to the show and set a notifications to get an alert when we go live on our YouTube Channel.

Steamworld Heist trailer review

If you like tactics games, you must play Steamworld Heist (I wrote an article on why it’s great), but for indie devs, the most valuable lessons are in the trailer. Let’s dive in.

Trailer Review

Check out Steamworld Heist’s trailer. It rightly harps on the unique gameplay benefits of playing the game by showing you the best moments and using a narrator to explain what you’re seeing. It may just look like a features trailer, but these “features” are actually benefits to the play experience.

First, the trailer teaches you how to read the game, then it shows the unique gameplay (the selling point). After the establishing shots, it introduces the gameplay section, then the narrator sells the game’s unique combat element: use free-aiming to line up your shots. Then they sell the game’s MOST unique selling point: pull off ricochet trick shots. Notice how the trailer lingers on this main distinctive.

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Next, we learn about recruiting a team and how each character uses unique abilities for a tactical advantage (unique selling point). Then they talk about equipment and missions; this is basic game structure stuff that shows players that there’s a lot to do when they get the game. The trailer ends by teasing a few of the game’s bosses and flashing a ton of procedural level designs. This boosts the confidence of potential players that Steamworld Heist will be well-worth their investment.

The trailer gets too long (nearly three minutes for what could be one and a half), but they were smart to fill it to bursting with impressive ricochet trick shots so that you can see how much of your role in the combat can lead to creative solutions—and more importantly, selling the unique gameplay feature that no other game has.

The takeaway for any action game developer is clear: after teaching viewers how to read, harp on your game’s best and most-distinct selling point gameplay—showing it many different ways. Then, build confidence by showing that there’s plenty of game to play that justifies the purchase (show maps, bosses, etc.). Finally, show the very best shot of your unique gameplay one last time before showing them the name of the game—and where they can go to buy it.

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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: 


Worst Trailer Mistakes

“What shouldn’t I do in my next trailer?” is the second-most-asked question I get (the first is “how much?“). Anybody can make their own game’s trailer, but it takes craft to do it well. Here’s some traps to avoid:

I can’t read your game (you didn’t teach me how to play)

Think from the uninformed viewer’s perspective: they don’t know how your game works or what the goals are. Use that knowledge to teach them how to make sense of what they’re seeing. You don’t need to teach them exactly how to play, but they need to understand enough that they aren’t lost.

Games typically take hours to make players feel competent in a world, but your trailer has to do that in one minute. Pre-established genres have a huge advantage here, so if you’re genre-mashing or creating something altogether new, consider this your first major hurdle: players can’t imagine themselves inside of a game they don’t understand. You may have to straight-up tell viewers what’s happening on-screen (like in the FTL trailer) — and that’s okay. Just get them there.

You failed to hook me

Forget showing your logos. You’re not LucasArts, so flashing your logo doesn’t make people say, “Oh, this is gonna be good.” Your best game moments should do that.

Give context when needed, but make sure that you hook players fast. And don’t wait thirty seconds to show the best parts of your game. Some major movie trailers now start with ten seconds of the most interesting scenes from the movie, devoid of context. That might not work for everybody, but it demonstrates a good practice of hooking viewers first.

You said too much

Don’t try to cram too much into 90-seconds. I get it. You want to make sure viewers know enough to make an informed purchasing decision. The problem is that when you say too much, you end up saying nothing at all. Leave room for imagination and mystery. Stick to a singular focus. Apply the KISS principle. Stick to your heart (your game’s true heart — that speaks to the player’s motivations).

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You forgot the player’s motivation (and just listed features instead)

Don’t just list your game’s features. Drop the bullet-lists. Show what feels good about your game — the parts that make your lips curl into a smile and make you say, “Yeahhhh!” Hyper Light Drifter grabed me because the release trailer took me to a place full of tension, secrets, and underlying mystery. I didn’t know yet how much the brutal difficulty would shape and inform that, but I knew I wanted to feel what it’s like to be in that world. Players want your game because of how it makes them feel. Show that.

Your trailer feels flat (there’s no emotional journey)

The best stories feel like a well-designed roller coaster. There’s there’s a rising action, there’s loops, a climax, and a resolve. It’s this emotional back-and-forth that makes an impression. As I stated in my full article on this topic, Ask yourself: what are the player’s emotional highs and lows in my game? If either end is lacking in the trailer, the player will subconsciously feel it. The emotional ride will “taste” bland. Think of good Thai food. It focuses on four key notes: sweet, sour, spicy, and salty. Too much of any one of those and you crave more of the other. As Kert Gartner likes to ask, “Am I creating a story with my trailer?”

Your game looks like that other game

I’m not gonna share your trailer with my friends unless it’s unique and memorable. If it looks just like something else I played, I’m closing the tab. Only showing familiar game mechanic bores viewers. Don’t bore them. That’s a death sentence.

Play-up your game’s uniqueness. Feel free to go to town. It’s okay if your trailer looks better than your game itself, because some genres just don’t play well with trailers. If your game’s all about stealth, please don’t show yourself hiding behind cover for sixty seconds. Yes, that’s true to the game-feel, but players need to see what happens when the crap hits the fan. That fan-crap-spray makes a player’s day. Let it fly!

You rushed your trailer (and it shows)

I like to call this, “oh shit, we need a trailer tomorrow.” Another name for it is “meh, this’ll do.”

Everybody can edit video these days, but great video editing takes time. Ninety percent of great writing is rewriting — and the same goes for video production. First drafts only take a few hours, but if you think your trailer is ready to go at that point, you’ve got another thing coming. It annoys me how long that ‘hell stage’ of trailer production lasts, but great art takes time. You should put that as a reminder on your desk somewhere (especially if your game is taking years): “Great art takes time!”

Plan-out for when you need your trailer. Planning on a September release? Start your launch trailer no later than the beginning of August. I usually say “three weeks,” for a trailer turnaround. And sometimes that’s rushing it. If you’re doing the trailer yourself, you should keep that time frame in-mind. Your trailer is the first thing people see on Steam — it’s usually what pushes folks towards or away from a buying decision. Make sure it tips them in your favor and shows that you put time, thought, and quality into your game.

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Reach out to M. Joshua at mjoshua@mjoshua.com, on Skype at m..joshua.cauller, or you can call him directly at 717.201.5278. Sign up for his newsletter, where you’ll get all kinds of trailer tips and insights: