This is another game being published by Surprise Attack Games who I worked with on Orwell: Ignorance is Strength.
The Stillness of the Wind is a full game based on the small game Where the Goats Are which you can play for free on Itch.io. From playing the free Itch.io game I was instantly intrigued by what I could possibly do for the expanded game.
Where the Goats Are is a short game where you play Tikvah, a woman who lives on a small farm with chickens and goats, making cheese and occasionally receiving letters from her family who have all moved away. I suggest you just play it, because it's easy to get into spoilers quickly.
For the Announce Teaser we wanted to make something very simple. While the game is expanded from the original, it wouldn't be too hard to quickly show the various player verbs in the game. Also, just showing a montage of what you do would largely miss the entire point of the game. The atmosphere, pace and feel of the game were far more important to convey.
I actually sent my first pitch while at GDC, so I didn't have a lot of time between meetings etc. I decided to just show a very small slice of the game. Since it's a very quiet game, I wanted the teaser to have that feel. My two ideas were either to use some trailer text to give some hints to the story or just use the pacing and editing to show some of the game, and then hint at the greater story. As is often the case with these pitches, I ended up doing a hybrid of the two.
There's only one cut in the entire teaser! So with no cuts, that meant I became more of a director than an editor (though the two are often very closely related). The game build I had was played with mouse only; I'm not sure if there will be controller support when it's released. I knew I wanted Talma to water her plant, milk a goat, then receive a letter from the man who comes by. Simple, right? Simple, but not easy.
This teaser needed to be as short as possible, so I wanted all the actions to be performed one after another, because this would (hopefully) make my one cut in the teaser more impactful.
Once I knew what I wanted, I asked Coyan the developer for a special build. I needed a container of water already full of water (in the game you need to fill it at the well) beside the front door entrance, a bucket next to the door for milking the goat, and for the goat to be in the front of the house.
The other options I asked for were the ability to turn off the cursor, some alternate camera angles, the ability to trigger when the man arrived, some animations for receiving a letter from him and reading it, and the ability to affect the speed of the day/night cycle. Thankfully, Coyan was able to provide me with all of these things!
Most of the work went into the one shot, and then polishing it up for the teaser. A number of things had to go right in that one shot for it to look good.
The goat had to be in the right position in the front yard because too far to the left, to the right and Talma would've had to walk too far, wasting precious time. Also, there's only one angle where the man would be visible while she's milking the goat (and I didn't have a freecam).
I had to use the point-and-click controls well enough so that Talma didn't pause for TOO long in one place so that it looked unnatural. In some unused takes she would do things like bump against the goat robotically or clip through objects. I also tried to hide the cursor as much as possible in order to minimize digital removal I had to do later.
I had to properly time when to press the hotkey to activate the man to show up such that I had a little bit of time to milk, but not too much and not too little.
On the last shot I had to match the lighting of the first shot, make sure the man wasn't awkwardly walking somewhere he shouldn't be (sometimes he would reset), and speed up the day/night cycle just enough so that it transitioned to night, but not TOO fast, and also the transition didn't happen until a little after the camera went to the full wide shot.
If you've ever seen what a live TV director's job is like, this felt kind of like that, though without the stress of directing people or doing it live. So basically it's nothing like that at all, but it definitely flexed a different muscle in order to do it.
Originally I didn't want to have any text on screen at all, but Surprise Attack and Coyan felt like the audience might tune out if there wasn't anything happening, so we added in some movie-style credits and a little bit of text.
The end result is that there's a little bit happening during every single moment in the teaser. I tried to balance Talma's actions with the sound effects, the music cues and the titles. I'm always saying that things should constantly be happening in a trailer, and the same goes for this one. The only difference is that it's all very quiet, and happens in only two shots. So it's still a "dense" trailer, but in the quietest way possible.
The last bits of polish were removing the cursor in the parts of the capture where I had to have it on so that I could see what the heck I was doing. Had this been a more edited teaser it would've been easy to keep it off, but since everything had to be so precisely timed, I needed to have it on. This meant hours and hours spent removing the cursor in After Effects and Photoshop. If I had more experience I probably could've done it more efficiently, but I seldom have to do it, so I just did it in the ways I knew possible. I listened to a lot of podcasts in the process.
Hopefully what I managed to pull off is show you that this is a quiet game, but with something else to it that you're intrigued enough to check it out when it comes out. When making it I also made plans for the launch trailer, because when doing a full campaign I never want to have overlap. I thought a lot about what I wrote in this post about teaser trailers.
This teaser was a set of new challenges, but I think that I achieved what I set out to do. Special thanks to Coyan for quickly providing the new builds with my requests and Marla at Surprise Attack Games for her help with the script and feedback. Hopefully you're interested enough to keep the game on your radar!