I got this gig because Jonathan Erhardt of Cosmoscope saw my GDC talk about game capture! I first saw Morphies Law a couple years ago via their alpha teaser; I recognized it right away. How many other body mass transferring games out there can you think of?
I don't typically do trailers for multiplayer games because they can be very labor intensive if you want to get good footage. At Hammer Creative I worked on a game called Dirty Bomb which involved the capture team calling in help to get some shots of multiple players moving with very specific blocking. We were all talking via the office phone line, and in the game there was a lot of shooting bullets at the ground to show people their marks. It took a really long time to coordinate the blocking, execute it, do multiple takes etc.
I knew I didn't have the capability to do this sort of thing, but when I found out there was an offline mode with bots I knew I could do it with just a handful of shots requiring other people. I also couldn't resist the unique hook of the game.
I had several conversations with Cosmoscope to figure out what needed to be communicated about the game. Here were the primary ideas:
Shoot body parts to grow your own
Parts that are bigger mean chosen powers are stronger.
There are pluses and minuses to being big or small
Local and online multiplayer
There were also some very "game-y" mechanics they wanted to include too, such as:
Gyro Aiming Controls
60 frames per second
I was okay with showing custom weapons and Morphies because they're easy to show visually, but I initially questioned the need to mention gyro aiming controls and 60fps, but those two came from Cosmoscope's understanding of the Nintendo Switch multiplayer community. Apparently Splatoon's excellent gyro aiming controls mean that any multiplayer game released on Switch inevitably gets asked if it has gyro aiming controls; it's a thing. 60fps is also a concern, but I didn't see much harm in putting it in especially since it added a little gag to the trailer by saying "60ish frames per second."
With these goals in mind, I made a rough shot list and organized it into shots I could capture on my own using bots, and shots that required a private multiplayer session with Cosmoscope.
Shots I captured by myself included:
Over-the-shoulder shots of Morphies shooting
Morphies running (with different body shapes)
Morphies using their abilities
Camera flying around the maps either empty or with bots
There weren't as many multiplayer shots, but they still took 3-4 sessions to capture them all. These shots included:
Shots of Morphies standing still in formation
Morphies standing and shooting each other
Morphies chasing each other in specific areas
Groups of Morphies shooting one enemy
I also made a list of debug options necessary to get the shots I wanted. For example, in the game the Morphies never face towards the camera; their torso and legs move independently from each other. This meant I could never have them run towards camera, perpendicular or diagonal to the camera. Game trailers where you're always looking at the characters' backs would be quite boring indeed. So an option was added to toggle torso attachment to the limbs. I also got an option to offset the camera's position relative to the player.
Because of resource limitations I didn't get all the debug options I would've liked, so it wasn't an ideal capture scenario. For example, the freecam gave me some problems because in certain cases it still had collision, which meant I couldn't pass through walls, large fans would blow me away, and spikes would kill me. Also, the camera was very difficult to bring to a complete stop. Imagine if you had a dying helium balloon that you're trying to nudge into an exact position.
Story doesn't play heavily into the game, but I asked them what their backstory for the game's setup was. I also riffed off of this trailer they released a year prior. This trailer has all the important game design information, but there's a LOT of text in it. I took this script and reduced it to as few words as possible so it would be easy to digest. Best case scenario, the words I chose could be used as messaging for the game because it would communicate the ideas clearly and succinctly.
This was a tremendously busy time for me, so I enlisted help from my friend William J. Meyer to make the graphics for the trailer. I previously worked with William at Eyestorm Productions on Clash Royale spots. I wanted to use the graphics as another means to explain the game's mechanics. To illustrated the mechanics, the words got "shot" and then change their proportions accordingly. William ended up making a LOT of graphics, but I also ended up cutting a lot of animation out because of time or because multiple graphics with the same animation started to feel repetitive.
Cosmoscope also wanted voiceover for the trailer, which would lessen the burden for the text, but also was another element that took time to get set up. I contacted Brent Allen Hagel from Trailer Voice Artists who had recently followed me on Twitter. For the Day of the Dead theme I wanted a Mexican female voiceover artist. He hooked me up with Issa Lopez who I directed over the phone. I've mostly piggybacked voice direction sessions at previous jobs, so I nervously read a ton of "do and do not" articles about directing voice actors; it's still something I need more practice doing.
I spent a while figuring out how to come up with the "robot voice" sound. I watched a LOT of YouTube videos and learned a lot of not so great sounding effects, and how to make GLaDOS' voice effect, but none of them sounded very good. Cosmoscope mentioned they liked the sound of Wall-E's voice. This turned out to be a very unique type of processing that was difficult to find a solution for without hundreds of dollars in audio software.
I ended up using the method from this video on the Voice Granulator effect. I don't fully understand the process, but by dragging a line with my cursor over the software's grid, I affected both the pitch and speed the audio file played at. So if I dragged the line very low, the pitch was low, if I dragged it fast, it played fast. With some practice, I got it working! I made several "takes" of each line, and picked my favorites.
After hearing it, Cosmoscope ended up wanting a male voice instead of female. Since the processing obscured the voice so much, I took a shot recording my own voice instead of trying to find another actor. They ended up liking it, so the finished trailer has my voice in it :P
This trailer took a lot of finessing to get things just right. Sometimes we also had to deal with glitches or bugs that had to be fixed after we saw them in capture. This was my first time hiring a motion graphics artist, and an important lesson I learned was to aggregate client feedback to make things simpler. Early on I made the mistake of sending feedback as soon as it was received, which led to a lot of fragments in multiple emails. In the future I'll wait a little bit to make sure I have everything before passing it along. It's funny, because as an editor this is exactly the approach I prefer, but when it came my turn I didn't think about it until I realized what I was doing.
There's a LOT being said in this trailer, so it was very important for each shot to have just one idea so it didn't get lost in a confusion of shots. It was a lot of work combining all these elements, but I think it worked out. I'm still not a big fan of making trailers with a lot of call outs, because I think they can get kind of rote, but I think the novelty of the game's design earned us the right to be a little formulaic at the end. Also, the custom composed music played no small part in making it as exciting as possible!