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.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.

Music

The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.

Music

Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.

Film

'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.

Music

'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"

Music

Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.

Music

The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".

Music

GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".

Music

Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".

Music

Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.

Music

Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.

Music

The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".

Music

Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.

Books

Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.