The final trailer for Cosmic Trip; this was my first ever series of trailers for a VR game. In a way, it going through Steam Early Access was a way for me to gradually learn about doing a trailer for a VR game. The first trailer was slow and methodical in order to show exactly what you're doing in the game. At the time VR was still very new (at the writing of this post it arguably still is), so I thought it was important to not abstract the game too much with fast cutting. The second trailer was intended to build upon the first trailer by shortening the "tutorial" part of the trailer, then going a more traditional route of exciting capture and faster cutting.
For the final trailer we had a lot of ground to cover. The game as it existed during the first two trailers was a wave-based survival game where you fight increasingly difficult waves of enemies attacking you. In the final game the primary game is a real time strategy game where there's a MUCH larger map, and enemy bases that you take over.
The good news from the get go was I had new music to edit to! The music for the first two trailers was good, but for the final trailer I wanted something bigger, faster, and more exciting. The composer Emeen Zarookian took a first pass on the trailer music, but I thought the mood and tempo wasn't quite right. I wanted to give him as much time to compose as possible, but since I hadn't captured any footage yet, I made a timeline using colored title cards, bits of his first draft, and existing music from the game. The colors behind the title cards were to indicate where I thought the music should shift or change in tempo. On the second try, the track was ready to go!
Another key tool available this time was a 3rd person camera set up by one of Funktronic Labs' programmers Coty Getzelmann. The camera let me get a number of shots impossible to get with the headset, and most importantly helped me make visuals for the story of the trailer. I also had a lot of help from Coty and Kalin setting options that affected the game's economy, where enemies spawned, and other things that made capture much faster.
The intention of the opening shots was to show the game from the perspective of a traditional real time strategy game, then show the audience "Nope, you actually play it in FIRST PERSON." I'm not 100% sure this comes across; irregardless I think it made for a cool opening shot. Originally I wanted to be doing lots of action upon "landing" but ended up with a more of a "Getting ready for battle" vibe.
After the logo there are some establishing shots to show environment variety, and introduce the enemy base. This was meant to show some scope, but also important to show Early Access purchasers that there's more stuff in the game now. Technically the enemy base can appear anywhere on the map, but to communicate visually I put the enemy base in the cave so when the audience sees a dark shot they'd instantly know it's the enemy base (hopefully!). The structures in the enemy base are randomly generated, so I had to reload a number of times before getting a formation I found aesthetically pleasing.
The next section I quickly go over the basic economics of the game which is gems and ectoplasm. Not sure how this reads to a new audience, but at the very least the visuals and sounds are very appealing. I chose not to dwell on it too much in favor of more action. I figured seeing numbers with a + next to it would show that there's an in-game economy.
Since the story we're telling in this trailer is more complicated, I decided it was necessary to have some graphics, but I thought it'd be cooler if they could be integrated with the gameplay. It made sense to have the word "CONSTRUCT" literally being constructed the same way the other devices in the game are. These text elements were implemented by Coty into a special build of the game.
The process of building fabricators, inserting batteries, inserting disks and bots popping out was intercut with enemies spawning at the base. I didn't want to spend too much time away from the enemy base for fear the audience would lose that thread of the trailer. The word "DEPLOY" then pops out just before showing how the player deploys bots by throwing them around, then we see enemies encroaching on the base so that the audience hopefully understands that enemies constantly attack you.
Next up is the section about "CONTROL" which shows the game's map for the first time. This was one of the first moments we came up with, showing a familiar mechanic of selecting units on a map and sending them somewhere, but then being able to look up to see those very units flying out in first person view! I also added a quick first person whip-pan of the bots flying because it just looked cool. On the way to the base there's a shot which showcases some new architecture in the game as they pass the word "CONQUER."
Finally things get really heated as the bots invade the enemy base, and we switch to some first person chaos as the player is fighting the base. This is probably not the best strategy in the game, but it looks pretty cool. Late in the process almost all the cave shots had to be recaptured because in the game some art elements are only rendered when the player camera is present (in order to save memory). Since I was using a 3rd person camera a lot of the time, those effects weren't present, so I had to move the player headset camera to the cave, and then switch to the 3rd person camera to see everything as it should be.
With the basic story of the game loop established I go into full montage mode showing different items like bombs, the bubble gun, shield knockback, and an environment in a waterfall area. One thing we wanted to address was the variety of colors now in the game because of environments and morning/day/night time periods. To avoid visual confusion I decided the bulk of the trailer should simply be outdoors and in the cave, but for the montage I thought it was fine to throw in the waterfall environment since continuity was no longer a concern (plus it's very pretty!) Some combos were special requests like shield knockback, catching enemy bullets, melee saw attacks, and decorations for the friend bot ^_^ The other shots in the montage were just moments or mechanics I thought were cool, and communicated quickly.
Finally came the question of how to refer to the game now that it was out of Early Access. Should we just say "Cosmic Trip" ? Should we put a 1.0 after the title? My first idea was to have the Cosmic Trip logo with "Early Access" underneath that I would then destroy with a frisbee. Coty came up with the idea of replacing "Early Access" with 1.0, but visually the 1.0 next to the logo didn't work well. So he came up with the alternative "COMPLETE" which I think worked great! I have a paranoid fear that people will instantly turn off the trailer once they see "Early Access" but I tried to get the frisbee up as soon as possible so they'll see it get destroyed.
Phew! I'm really happy with how this trailer came out! I've said many times before that good music makes the entire process a joy to work on. Good music plus good material is pretty much the most a trailer editor can hope for. Special thanks to the Funktronic Labs team for the opportunity to work on their juicy as hell VR game. Seriously, the game is just smooth, polished and juicy as all heck, which made it tremendously fun to work on.
I hope a lot of other VR games steal the great ideas in Cosmic Trip!