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Cutting Room Critique: Top Indie Game Trailers of Dec 2013

by Kert Gartner on 12/16/13 12:58:00 pm   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

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The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
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I make indie game trailers for a living, and as a result I watch A TON of trailers. I try and digest as many movie, book, AAA game and indie game trailers as possible to see what other studios are up to and make sure that my work keeps up with the latest and greatest.

Every two months, I'll be rounding up videos that I find and discuss what I think makes them good/bad, and effective or ineffective in marketing their respective game.

If you all find this discussion useful, please let me know and if you want to get the jump on these posts and follow which trailers I think are cool, you can subscribe to my "Awesome Game Trailers" playlist on Youtube.

No Man's Sky Teaser Trailer

The trailer for No Man's Sky is a bit of a double edged sword…  It's a wonderful teaser trailer in that it has created a ton of buzz and interest in the game by letting people's imaginations run wild with the endless possibilities of what may be possible in this game...

And in this case, that's a bit of a problem. The trailer is so vague on gameplay details that it's incredibly open to interpretation. Is the game an MMORPG? A Sandbox game like Minecraft? An adventure game like Spelunky?

Everyone seems to have their own opinion, and that vagueness may come back to bite Hello Games. With people expecting such grandeur from this game, and by being so light on the details in this trailer, I think that a portion of their audience is going to be inevitably disappointed. The game can't be all things to all people.

I'm sure Hello Games is well aware of this, and it's going to be up to them to make sure they slowly start divulging some more details about the gameplay, whatever that may be, in a way that hopefully will generate more excitement and not end up disappointing their fans.

Like: Mr. Div's logo and end tag animation are top notch, as would be expected. The editing, pacing, and the soundtrack are very well done, and they keep the viewer entertained throughout the trailer.

Things I'd do differently: Maybe tease a little bit more information about what the gameplay actually is so people don't start assuming the game is something it isn't.

Bleck Trailer

I became aware of Bleck via a post from Rami Ismail. This is one of the coolest and most clever iOS games i've seen in a while. It's an example of a game that would only work on and makes perfect use of a touch interface.

One of the problems with capturing gameplay from a game like this is that if you simply caputre the screen with something like a Black Magic Intensity Extreme, you don't get to witness the interaction with the device which is part of the whole experience. When a game makes unique use of the touch interface, one of the best ways to capture that is by shooting the screen with a DSLR.

Unfortunately, this opens up a bit of a can of worms since now you have to deal with capturing a live performance of your game, and you want to make sure you make the game look as good as possible on the device. You have to pay attention to lighting, hand placement, dust on the screen etc. in order to pull this off. If you're going to go down this route, I always recommend getting in touch with someone who's done this kind of work before, since it's not as easy as picking up a new DLSR from Walmart and shooting the screen and having it look perfect. There are many technical factors involved as well, which I cover here.

The trailer for Bleck gets everything right. The gameplay progression is perfect, and gently introduces the viewer to how to interact with the game, by showcasing new puzzles of increasing complexity. The subtle sound design of pops and the wind as the player touches the screen amplifies the light and airy feeling along with shooting the game on a white iPad on a white background with very diffuse lighting so there's no obvious shadows. The final puzzle where the player is about to solve a complex puzzle then pulls back is a perfect tease and brilliant way to end the trailer, leaving the viewer wanting to see and learn more.

Like: Great music, lighting, pacing, and editing all come together to create a light and fun feeling trailer.

Things I'd do differently: The title cards are a little static, and it might have been nice to use the same drawing effect to draw on some of the letters/words to create some visual interest there. I also would have zoomed in on the iPad's screen for a few shots, just to break up visuals a bit more.

Samurai Gunn Teaser Trailer

Samurai Gunn from Max Temkin on Vimeo.

Samurai Gunn stands right along side Towerfall as one of the best local multiplayer games this year. The reason I bring up Samurai Gunn's older teaser trailer rather than the recently released launch trailer is I believe that it does a better job of conveying the tension that's felt during a really intense match.

Long shots are a great way to build tension especially if they have great audio to back it up. The movie Gravity is based around this concept, and there's two very long shots in the new Godzilla trailer which do the exact same thing. It's a fantastic technique...

I just wish that the rest of the trailer would have followed suit in a similar way. Maybe showing off a few close up showdowns and quick zoomed in cuts of some intense 1-on-1 battles would have been more effective than cutting to a completely different music track mid-trailer with a different style of gameplay.

Like: Awesome opening music, with visuals cut perfectly to the audio.

Things I'd do differently: I would probably cut down the opening shot's length by about a third. I love the long shot and it really helps build tension, but with attention spans as short as they are these days, I think it's a bit long. We sit on that shot for about 45s before anything happens. I think 20s or maybe 30s would have been just as effective. I also would have added a subtle push into the footage, to help keep things just a bit more interesting visually.

Kert Gartner makes indie game trailers in his home in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. In his previous life, he spent 8 years working in the visual effects industry as a lead 2D compositor and worked on over 26 Hollywood feature films. Over the past two and a half years, Kert has been working with Indie game developers and publishers such as Devolver Digital, Vlambeer, Mossmouth, Semi-Secret Software and Gaijin Games to create exciting and engaging trailers for their games. You can reach him on Twitter, on Tumblr, or through his site at

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