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  • Promoting Your Game With Video: In-House Costs

    - Alexander Murauski
  • Let's say you already have a game and a team that's working on developing it, and now you need a trailer for your game and are still deciding whether to make it in-house or outsource the production. And now let's assume you go with the first option of having your in-house team create its own video, and take a look at what's involved.

    There are endless types of game-related videos. You may encounter everything from spliced video capture footage, 2D and 3D motion graphics, to fully animated videos. Of course, different levels of difficulty translate into different time costs, and so game trailers can be seriously all over the map in terms of cost. That all sounds logical, but probably still too abstract, right?

    To dig down into the details, let's consider a hypothetical scenario. With our model scenario, we'll look at which development team members could help with production, and what each of their roles would be, and ultimately how much time - at least in rough terms - each one might need for his or her part in the production.

    We start by making three assumptions for our case scenario: about what kind of video you need, what team members you have, and how you'll organize the video production process.

    The Video : Let's say you need a trailer, no more than a minute long, to be posted on the game's website and on Google Play. Let's assume your video is going to be in English with a native-speaking voice actor, and have music and sound effects.

    Your Team : We'll assume that you have people on board with enough knowledge, skill and experience to handle writing a script, creating graphics for the video, animating them, and syncing it all up with a soundtrack. We'll also assume that your team is all on the same page, communicates well, and each team member can devote half a working day to the task without interfering with their other responsibilities and assignments.

    The Process : you may decide to follow the process we use for creating videos at Alconost: write a script, make the storyboard, record voice-overs, select a background track, string together the animation, arrange the music, and add sound effects. You still may need to fine-tune the process, but how exactly will depend on your particular game and particular team. Since we're using a hypothetical scenario, video and team here, the process should at least be specific and universally applicable.

    At the beginning, your team will brainstorm on things like your target audience, the specific game features that you need to show, the take-away premise of your video, and what kind of "feeling" you want to trigger in your viewers.

    Image Credit: StartupStockPhotos, Pixabay
    Image Credit: StartupStockPhotosPixabay


    We'll assign our script to a narrative designer or copywriter - someone who writes dialogues, quest texts or other user-facing messages.

    So that the designer/artist, animator and narrator have a good idea of what they need to do, the script will need to answer the following questions:

    ·   What background visuals are you going to use in the video? Are you going to use a simple gradient, 2D detailed art, or a 3D environment? This is something you need to square away at the very beginning to make sure that all visual style and art are consistent. Add references and mark-ups to your script.

      •   In what order will the game's top features appear in the video, and how will you show them? If you have a few features that don't exactly lend themselves to visualization (button clutter, a lot of text, tiny icons) the script needs to state exactly how you will show them.

      •   What text will you use for the voice-over? Your narrator will read the text you give him/her without editing it to his/her liking, and so the script-writer needs to be sure that the script text is high-impact, error-free and coherent.

    Image Credit: StartupStockPhotosPixabay

    How you choose to show gameplay features can greatly affect, or even entirely determine, the production process. Some possible options:

      •   Simulate actual gameplay and capture the screen directly from the development environment (this is an option particular suited to games on Unity).

    ·  Make screen captures from the release or test build.

        Put together gameplay footage using graphics sources (required content, e.g., location or inventory items, is modeled from static assets which are then animated).

    You may run into a situation where your script is limited by simple technical feasibility. For example, if developers are buried in work and you need to avoid burdening them with capturing gameplay footage from the development environment, your script needs to include only those game events which can be shown using screen captures from the build or motion graphics.

    Say for example that our hypothetical video will have 4 scenes with 2D animated game graphics (close-ups of characters, a big array of equippable items, achievements, and a game logo) and 4 screencast scenes which the team has decided to capture from the release build, arrange, edit, and touch up a tad.

    Let's assume the script writer spends 4 hours on the rough script, another 4 hours on editing after running everything by the team and adjusting, and another hour for the final polish. We'll add another half an hour for selecting references (things like "lively slogan animation" may mean different things to the script-writer and the animator, so it's better to use more objective directions), and then another half an hour to think how the video's main characters will be outfitted. Because everyone knows that a garden fairy's leather armlet doesn't go with a two-handed orc mace. 

    Of course, these times can vary widely in either direction. Sometimes you can have a script written in one or two hours, while other times it'll take several days before you can get everyone to agree and edit accordingly. Not to mention the times where you realize you want to fundamentally rework the script from scratch when you start trying to work out the details. But let's assume that in our case 10 hours was enough to write a successful script - one that is engaging, logical, and can be realistically worked into a real video.


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