Anamorphine is a surreal first person game about a man named Tyler taking a journey through his mind as he deals with the depression of his wife Elena, and his own struggles with it. In the game you explore his mind by walking through his distorted memories represented by abstract landscapes, and the places he experienced with his wife.
I was immediately drawn to this project because I love first person exploration games, and I knew this would be a challenge unlike any other!
Artifact 5 initially contacted me for a trailer they needed in Spring 2017, but I couldn't do it because of prior commitments. Josh Cauller ended up making that trailer. Later in the year around August, they got back to me and asked me to pitch a concept for the trailer. I would typically say no to making a pitch video, but my interest in the project won me over. To make the process as fast as possible, I cut with screenshots I took from the game instead of full capture.
Since the game works without any dialogue or text I wanted the trailer to work purely visually as much as it could. My idea for the structure was to start with the "inciting incident" which is a bike accident. Then I would intercut between the events leading up to the accident, and Tyler's depression after it.
The demo I had at the time was only a small portion of the game, but it was enough to cut together the contrasting images. Samantha described the full events of the game to me, so when I sent my pitch video I explained which parts of the trailer would include latter game events.
They liked my concept, and hired me!
When I started full production on the trailer I went back to my concept, and filled in the shot ideas I had with full capture, and made selects for the other visually striking parts of the game (there are a lot!). My initial pitch was fairly light on showing the more surreal parts of the game like its use of transitions, and scenes where real life objects co-exist in places they shouldn't. For the final version I made sure to show as many cool visual effects as I could without getting too spoilery.
This isn’t the typical game where I can naturally build upon new mechanics or weapons, so I instead tried to make the shots more and more surreal as the trailer went on. Glass bottles assembling around a door frame and then creating a portal was about as surreal as I was willing to get, so it’s one of the last shots. I also ended up using the cello assembly as something of a framing device to guide the audience through. My thinking was if the audience saw the cello partially getting assembled, they’d stick around to see it get finished (hopefully it worked).
I also realized I would need some story text to orient the viewer because they don't have the benefit of exploring, and thinking deeply about what it is they're looking at. So I pored over all the official Anamorphine press kits, blog posts and anything written about the game to come up with: "How do you build a future? Without being consumed by the past?" I thought that nicely summed up the crux of the game's themes.
I knew Anamorphine would be a very niche game due to how it plays and its subject matter, but I didn't worry about "selling" it to a broad audience. First person exploration games are niche, but there is an audience for them. I decided an attempt to make the trailer more broad with a hard sell would alienate both audiences because fans of the genre would feel put off, and people who aren't fans would think we're trying to pull a fast one on them. So, I just did my best to show what the game is, and what its strengths are.
A particularly difficult part of this project was the music which is mostly comprised of cello and string instruments along with dynamic dream-like music that ebbs and flows. Fortunately I didn't end up having to worry about it too much because the game's composer and sound designer Beatrix Moersch ended up doing the final pass on music once my cut was locked.
Execution of capture was fairly straight forward for most of it. There were debug console commands that let me adjust look and walk speed as well as a freecam so I could "crouch" and fly around where necessary. The numbers I had to enter to adjust sensitivity didn't always make sense to me, but I made it work.
The most difficult shots were ones that required precise timing like Elena walking to the bicycle present, and the tracking shot from behind. The cello "assembly" shots were also difficult because of how the camera had to move and look at the same time.
For the early shot where the game jump cut transitions from the present to the past, I put blue painter's tape on my TV to line them up well enough to make it look relatively seamless.
I also made some simple graphics that were motion tracked into the scene. These are pretty cliche as far as trailer graphics go, but I thought they fit with the aesthetic of the game. I also used the plugin RealGlow which allowed me to match the glow of the game rather well. The latter portion of the trailer incorporated some press quotes to add pedigree to the game.
This was a big change of pace from games I usually work on, but I had a bunch of fun making it!