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  • 7 Questions To Answer Before Creating A Trailer

    - Alexander Murauski
  • Think of these seven questions as something like choosing between left and right at a junction in a maze where retracing your steps or backtracking isn't really an option. Why? Because the way you answer these pivotal questions now will determine both how your video will turn out and how you will work on it going forward - not to mention your video's future as a marketing tool.

    So, you've got a great game ready for launch and now you need a promotional video for it? Well, first off - kudos on the accomplishment! After all that creative brainstorming and dashing out of ideas running the gamut, it's now decision time. At this juncture, there are a few questions which you should consider and try to answer as early on as possible, before you get buried in the video production process. 

    1. Trailer or teaser? 

    We could hold forth at length on the difference between these two genres, but we'll spare you and give you our short-take on the deets. 

    A trailer is a video that gives the viewer an idea about game mechanics and core features. A trailer is a sort of distilled knowledge-base about a game - think of an experienced gamer explaining to a newbie what exactly to expect after installing or signing up.

    "Explore the game world map, fight monsters, upgrade your equipment - and join other gamers in multiplayer to win prizes." This is the standard barebones script of a trailer - adapted, of course, to the features and genre of a particular game. But you get the idea.

    In a teaser, on the other hand, gameplay may make up just a tiny percentage of screen time - or even be entirely absent. The plot of a teaser video is not built around gameplay or game features, but rather focuses on the emotion that players should feel when they play your game, to get the most excitement and pleasure out of it. A teaser gives the viewer an "entry point" into your game's universe, priming your viewer to experience the gist of your game even before he or she installs it. A teaser "sells" the game to the viewer using intrigue rather than features, appealing to the viewers' curiosity and drawing them in with what you leave out as much as what you actually say.

    It's not easy to choose between the two options, but here's a rule of thumb that may help: if you plan to put your video in the App Store, a trailer stands a better chance of passing moderator review. The App Store has a set of recommendations for videos; a trailer fits these better.

    Consider a teaser if you are planning to significantly improve the gaming experience or change the key visual elements of the game, be it the UI or the main maps/levels. Even if some of the game's "guts" change, while the spirit and atmosphere remain the same, you can continue to use the teaser for marketing purposes, say, on a website or Google Play, without confusing users with visual discrepancies between the video and the actual gameplay.

    Of course, we wouldn't be being completely frank if we said the boundary between the two genres was a clear and fixed line. Combining elements of both trailers and teasers in a single preview can yield a pretty bang-up video. Take for example the video for Altar: War of Gods: at its heart a trailer, but with an opening scene more reminiscent of a teaser: a voice-over narrative of the game universe backstory accompanied by video with some motion graphics.

    Settling on one of the two genres will influence at the outset how you conceive of the type of final video you want.

    2. Gameplay captures or rendered footage?

    This question, albeit a more mundane and practical matter than the previous one, bears repeating to yourself as you work on your script. When you're coming up with specific actions and events for each scene of the video, ask yourself: would actual gameplay footage be able to tell the story the way you've imagined it? And if not, do you have enough resources to simulate the gameplay specifically for the video?

    The thought that you have to fit your script to the assets and resources that you have to bring your ideas to life should be readily apparent as you read through this article, and it's a rather sobering consideration when you're thinking about a blockbuster script for a standout video for your pretty stellar game.

    The rush and thrill of the creative process, flights of fantasy and your desire to make your storyline as attention-grabbing as possible might distract you from the hard reality of the fact that you're going to likely have to face up to certain objective limitations. At least the menial, ever-present details such as deadline and budget constraints.

    Let's say you want to start your video off with a dramatic cutscene where two rival armies are clashing on a particular map or level. But after considering your actual gameplay, you realize the start of the battle doesn't convey the emotional impact or deliver the visceral punch of the action for players who've never played the game before. In order to get the impact across to viewers, you need to zoom in on certain units, then switch to "first-person" perspective and pan the camera up to capture a sky blotted out by enemies hurtling toward the viewer. If you can't do this directly in the game build, you will need to model these elements specifically for your video. 

    In certain cases you can create scenes directly in your game engine by building a location, objects, lighting and camera path. In other cases you may be able to create the setting and environment from graphic assets and animate the scenes directly in the source video file. Either way, it's going to take a lot more time than recording gameplay from the existing game build. 

    Don't be afraid to part with your bang-up script ideas that look super on paper if making them a reality turns out on closer consideration to be too time-consuming or expensive.

    It would be far worse if you have a fantastic script that you have to completely rehash on the fly after production has already started due to objective time and budget limitations.

    But don't let that hold you back -  just make sure you don't lose sight of reality when you begin your creative search at the script-writing stage.


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