The Wild Eternal is a first person exploration game where you play an old woman who is exploring a foggy land in her quest to escape the cycle of rebirth/reincarnation. You interact with a demi-god fox, and as you play the game you learn more about your own story and the fox's. I got this gig via referral from Josh Cauller!
The game was primarily developed by brothers Scott Goodrow and Casey Goodrow over the course of several years. When I started the project they had a lot of questions about the direction for the trailer. Atypical of games in the narrative exploration genre, The Wild Eternal has a "skill tree" where the player gains new abilities like: more stamina, the ability to jump further, ability to slide down cliffs etc. A lot of early conversations were about whether or not to highlight these mechanics, but after playing a bit of the game I decided it wouldn't be the correct approach. The reason for this is that the audience looking for a good story aren't likely to be playing for unique game mechanics, and people looking for unique game mechanics won't feel challenged by what mechanics are there. tl;dr is to know your audience.
The first person exploration genre is something a lot of people are experimenting with, but past successes have shown that there are people interested in these games despite a vocal minority decrying them as not being "real games." That said, it's still important to find what is unique about the game in order for it to stand out from the crowd. The Wild Eternal's art style first and foremost is beautiful and striking, but the story is what the audience is going to be looking for.
After playing through a lot of the game to see the unique environments, items and mechanics, I went through a text document that contained all the dialogue in the game. There's a lot of dialogue that contains stories about the player, the fox, the world of the game and more. But most of the dialogue was focused on too small a part of the game for the trailer, so I looked for dialogue that focused on grand themes, the player's overarching story, the player's perspective on their life, and some big philosophical ideas the fox talks to the player about.
The script from these selected dialogues became the backbone of the trailer, and the rest of the focus was on good capture, and showing the variety in the games. Just because the mechanics weren't the primary focus didn't mean we didn't use them at all, so they became the "action" bits between the dialogues to keep the pacing interesting.
While I said story was most important, variety is still very important! That's why I cut to the interior shot after only two shots in the foggy area. That's my way of showing the audience that there's variety in the game. Had the 3rd or 4th shots looked very similar to the first two, they might conclude there's very little scope to the environments (yes, I worry about the audience getting bored after just four shots!)
The rest of the trailer I tried to build up the "intensity" of game mechanics while the music builds and crescendos. For example, the Fox appearing is very simple, walking with the compass is more mechanical, animals show variety and scope, compass activating something is very "game-y", and same with the tears opening the gate.
At 1:18 is one of my favorite parts as the music crescendos and the candles light up. I captured a version early on which had fewer candles, but they liked it so much that Scott went in to add more candles, and made a custom build that let me set the proximity at which the candles would turn on. This let me get the perfect shot with candles activating at precisely the right moment.
One final behind the scenes thing is the randomly generated dialogue. The game uses a system to procedurally generate spoken gibberish dialogue based on samples from the voice actors. For the trailer I captured as much of this random dialogue as I could so that I could "match" the emotion and intonation of each line so that they fit the text on the screen.
Pace is a very subjective thing, but this project let me explore how to keep it up for what is essentially a very slow and meditative trailer/game. Hopefully I succeeded in keeping the audience's attention, and people check out the game!