Agent A is an escape room game with 60s spy movie aesthetic where you're chasing down rival spy Ruby La Rouge through her secret mansion. The game is coming to PC and consoles in 2019; chapters 4 of 5 are currently available on iOS and Android. I don't have a particular affinity for escape room games, but I played a few of the original Flash games on Newgrounds and the "Mom Hid My Game" series.
Before I played the game, my knee-jerk reaction was: "Escape room games don't have a lot of movement and animation; I don't know how interesting a trailer I can make." I changed my mind after I ended up devouring the game's first four chapters over the course of a few days. It's not often I find myself enjoying a game so much I need to stop playing to tell a client I'm interested.
In addition to its strong 60s spy movie aesthetic, it has a delightful amount of items, levers, secret codes, buttons, switches, valves, and things to interact with. It gets a lot of mileage out of its art design and music. Those aesthetics and the game itself got me very interested.
As always, I get excited to work on any game with spoken dialogue. Most of the dialogue is from Ruby La Rouge taunting you, but there's a little bit of exposition from the Chief of your spy organization. This provided the perfect framing for the trailer. Mark from Yak & Co sent me the music from the game as well as some custom compositions from their previous trailers. I stitched together a few sections to build the framework for the trailer.
In addition to the escape room mechanics, the most important things I had to depict were the scope of the grander narrative, art, and humor. In the game, Agent A exists only as text dialogue when they interact with the world, but I knew I didn't want to put any of the text in the trailer, because it wouldn't work when juxtaposed with the fully voiced characters.
To show the scope of the world, I shuffled around the order of the cutscenes. In the game, the explosion on the cruise ship happens at the beginning of the game, but I thought putting it at the end of the trailer would makes it look like the stakes were getting raised. In my early draft, I put the explosion in chronological order, and the trailer's dramatic energy struggled to build up through the end.
The humor was trickier to showcase without the benefit of Agent A's commentary, but I landed upon a funny little moment in the game where after several chapters of roundabout ways to unlock doors to retrieve keys you see one hanging from a hook in plain sight behind an unlocked cabinet. As soon as you open it, the shelf breaks and the key falls into some volatile chemicals.
In the game the shelf breaks almost immediately, but I didn't think it would work as is for the trailer. The reason is, the montage before the gag is cut very quickly and reaches a crescendo, but the shelf breaking as it does in game might be easy to miss; I needed the audience to clearly see the key. I increased the length of time between the events, and added some sound design to spice it up a bit since it's otherwise a very static frame. I even did my own recording of a key dropping into a cup of water because I thought it would make the moment clearer. I also added some sizzling and bubble sounds to indicate it's a dangerous chemical.
For the gameplay, I cut in as many recognizably puzzle-y looking devices into the opening as possible to make the game genre clear. I think devices, dials, and symbols are familiar visual language for "Puzzle game." Part of the reason I did this was because I knew the opening was very cutscene and exposition heavy; these gameplay clips were my way of placating the people who want to see gameplay as soon as possible. My hope is the people who understood what they see will stick around for more.
For most of the gameplay I didn't show the inventory, but there are some situations where camera moves prevented me from hiding it, but I think it's okay to have in a few spots to further illustrate what you do in the game. Escape room games don't have constantly moving things on screen like in other games, so I wanted to show interaction and movement as much as possible whether it was levers, keys being dragged into holes or camera moves.
My other concern was to avoid puzzle solution spoilers. There are some clues and items that could be construed as solutions, so I had to find the balance between showing an interaction without revealing the answers. So for example, at 0:48 I show a grid of buttons, but pressed random ones instead of the solution buttons. I wanted to show buttons being pressed and things unlocking to get that game loop idea into the audience's head. In a few cases I showed the result of a partial solution as a tease to the audience. For example, one out of four locks opening on a big red button. Hopefully they'll see those and think: "I have to find out what happens when you open the whole thing!!!"
For debug options, I had the ability to hide the pause button, inventory and on screen interaction animations (there was a little circle that popped up where you touched the screen). There was also a mode to unlock all the doors, fill the inventory, and also a button to automatically solve the puzzle of the current screen.
I really like how this trailer came out. The art, sound and music made it a very pleasant editing experience. I also enjoyed adding in some of my own foley which let me scratch my sound designer itch. The game is coming to consoles in 2019, as well as the final chapter; I can't wait to finish the game!