This was my first gig with Untitled Publisher, a new indie game publisher founded by Chris Dwyer and Nathan Gelman. I previously worked with Chris on the console trailer for Gone Home. Since then we've kept in touch, and he called me up for help!
Bravery Network is an online turn-based fighting game with similarities to Pokemon. I love its aesthetic of 3D backgrounds mixed with 2.5D sprite animation. The game is in development by Gloam Collective.
They already had a draft of the trailer when they approached me, but knew it needed to be fixed up. The original draft was just under a minute long. My first critique was that it took too long to get to the gameplay. The intro was about 20 seconds long and consisted of logos, some text, and a lot of establishing shots; this is way too long for very little to be happening on screen.
I have mixed feelings about logos. As an editor I enjoy using them to separate a cold open from the intro, but I also believe they shouldn't be in the trailer if there isn't any name recognition.
My other concern were the questions I had after I finished watching it. It's not bad for the audience to have questions after watching a trailer, but they should fundamentally know what it is they saw, and want to find more information. I didn't know if it was a fighting game, single player, multiplayer, and what exactly the player does in the game.
I talked with Chris and Min-Taylor to uncover what the audience should understand from the trailer, and these are the essentials:
Online multiplayer game
Turn based combat
Pokemon style choose-who-fights combat
Colorful cast of characters
They solved the first problem by adding "Online" to the title. Early on, I had an idea to add Player avatars or usernames to the top of the screen, because that's familiar visual language for online games. We ditched that because there wouldn't have been a way for the audience to know if the avatars and names were part of the in-world fiction or real human players.
To make the turn-based combat clearer I suggested showing gameplay UI similar to Pokemon or Final Fantasy; people familiar with the genre would recognize that. I also suggested damage and status numbers pop out of the characters, because that's typically another strong visual indicator of a turn-based game.
The original draft had a small character selection sequence towards the end of the trailer, but I thought it was necessary to show that up front to introduce that idea early; a new shot with cursor selecting players was added, and timed to the music.
The cast of characters are featured throughout, but during the introduction I thought that some quick insert shots between the arena shots would liven it up. Gloam Collective created some small character vignettes to fill out the introduction. We originally had more shots, but cut out about half of them because they weren't on screen for long enough to be read properly.
The game was in very early development, so every shot was made by hand in Unity. This meant there was no capture for me to perform or cut with; everything had to be custom made. To get started I took the original teaser, and increased or decreased the length of the shots as necessary. I also mocked up some moments in After Effects so Min could use them as reference.
To accommodate my new cut, the composer did a pass on the music, and remixed it. As Min finished up shots I swapped them out in my cut, and we were done!
I often question the value of what I do when I'm hired on for projects where my hands aren't on the project as much, but I remind myself that they came to me for my years of experience making and thinking about trailers. A lot of trailer editing feels very simple in execution (e.g. providing context for ideas before showing them) but it can be difficult to be impartial when you're so close to the work.
Especially when time is of the essence, I know that when someone asks me a question about a trailer I typically have a response either at that exact moment or after a bit of thinking. I think about this a lot when I'm purchasing products or services. If the money spent is less than it might cost me to figure out on my own (and the quality is better too), then it'll be worth it.
I hope this teaser gets people interested in the game, and I'm looking forward to seeing more!