Games

On the Creation of a Successful Trailer

Showcasing the narrative element of a game is fine, but we really just want to see how it plays.

As anyone reading this blog probably knows, E3 has been going on all week in L.A. (which seems even farther away from Buffalo than usual these last few days), and as such, a barrage of game announcements and trailers for new product have been finding their way to the internets mere minutes after they are revealed to the Expo's attendants. Of those trailers, there is one that I simply can't shake after having seen it, and it's this one:

Besides being being the sequel to perhaps the best game released for the Wii so far, Super Mario Galaxy 2 has a trailer that is made up of 99% gameplay. Why is this such a big deal? Because we also get trailers like this:

Yeah? Really? That's what the other Bungie team has been up to? Planetscapes and a radio play? While it's easy to see the value in using a dramatic minute of trailer time to announce the inevitable arrival of a new Halo game, isn't that trailer something of a failure when it has to be confirmed after the fact that the game is in fact a first-person shooter?

In the era of on-demand streaming video, making trailers for games has become something of an art form -- a solid trailer can whip up internet frenzy like almost nothing else. Obviously, a developer or publisher wants to show the most impressive parts of a game, and they want to show their biggest ticket items as early as possible, but if there's no inkling in that trailer of what gameplay's going to be like, it's nothing more than a flashy waste of time. I remember thinking the same thing last year when the much anticipated Final Fantasy XIII trailer made its debut:

It's a three-minute and ten-second trailer, three minutes of which is pre-rendered animated movie stuff. There are ten seconds (if that) of actual gameplay in there, which tell us nothing about what our experience with the game is going to be like -- we might as well be watching Advent Children if this is all we're going to get out of a trailer. It all looks very pretty and exciting and well-rendered, but it may as well play like Dragon Warrior for all we see there. Since then and particularly since this year's E3 has begun, we've gotten a better idea of how it plays, but I could have waited until this year for a "first look" at the game, especially given that we're not even going to see the game itself until next year.

Even some of the most celebrated trailers of E3 this year have fallen into the same trap. Take the trailer for Uncharted 2: Among Thieves:

Once you get over the fact that WOW IT LOOKS LIKE A MOVIE, there is, again, not a lot of substance here. Perhaps what this is meant to tell us is that there is a strong narrative element to the game, but again, it gives us very little idea of what we'll be doing as the game progresses, just that it will be bloody, and it will involve guns. The cinematic feel of it is fantastic, the voice acting (a rather major shortcoming of modern games) is miles ahead of most games of this style, and the look of it is beautiful but will there be platforming? Will there be puzzle solving? Probably, but you'd never know it.

This brings me back to Super Mario Galaxy 2. Granted, there tends to not be a strong narrative element in Mario games so to highlight the game's narrative would have been folly, but what you get in the Mario trailer is an idea of how it feels to actually play the game. Giant boss? Check. Lots of flying around? Check. Yoshi? Check. A world made in Mario's own image? Check. Granted, these may be the highlights of the play experience, thus distorting our idea of just how amazing the game will be. But the simple knowledge that these elements will exist when we ourselves get to pick up the controller is as enticing as anything that I've seen come out of E3.

Cinematics and story are all well and good and for some franchises absolutely necessary, but please: show us how it plays. Really, that's what we care about.

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

Keep reading... Show less
3

Gabin's Maigret lets everyone else emote, sometimes hysterically, until he vents his own anger in the final revelations.

France's most celebrated home-grown detective character is Georges Simenon's Inspector Jules Maigret, an aging Paris homicide detective who, phlegmatically and unflappably, tracks down murderers to their lairs at the center of the human heart. He's invariably icon-ified as a shadowy figure smoking an eternal pipe, less fancy than Sherlock Holmes' curvy calabash but getting the job done in its laconic, unpretentious, middle-class manner.

Keep reading... Show less
5
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image