I started making indie game trailers a couple months back. I blended my my dozen year video/marketing/design career with my several years of games criticism. It seemed like a perfect fit since I love game trailers and indie game trailers especially. Not long after that, I joined up here on Indie Haven to reflect on the strongest trailers in the indie game space. Last week our editor Jose suggested I also share things I’ve learned along the way to help any other developers and game-trailer-makers out there.

First I gotta say, I want to do something different when I make a game trailer. I want to draw viewers into the player brain space, and I don’t think most game trailers do that. For my first public project, we dove straight into that gamer-brain by doing a developer Let’s Play with my buddy, Thomas Henshell. He’s the director of a unique role-playing game called Archmage Rises.

I want to draw viewers into the player brain space

Thomas Henshell and I noticed that there was something special about the dev Let’s Plays Soren Johnson did for the game he lead-designed, Civ 4. We noticed that there’s a rich story to uncover whenever a dev plays a game that invites the player into their head. So Thomas came to me with the desire to make this unique kind of trailer for his game, Archmage Rises. We did a little bit of planning. After a test run, we set a date and time.

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Thomas Henshell took to Twitch to show off his game before a live audience. I hovered over the experience invisibly, providing support and answering questions where I could. Later he sent me the video files that totaled up to two hours of raw footage. I chopped out all the Twitchy bits, added some shmancy titles on the front and back, and smoothed out all of the transitions. I ended up with five videos of moderate length.

At the end of the day, Thomas was very happy. I was happy, and using some simple tools and tricks, we made the game world feel alive in a way that players can feel. You can watch the whole series here. But my favorite part is the combat:

I screwed up a lot. But hopefully my mistakes will save you some time if you try this Developer Let’s Play Demo approach for your game’s promotion.

Lesson One: Pay attention to detail.

I somehow missed that Thomas repeated himself in one of the takes. I sent the “completed” video over to him, but I didn’t spend as much time needed in previewing the project. Next time, I need to get some popcorn and watch the movies more.

Lesson Two: Stay low res as much as possible.

My vanity impaired our file transfer rate. I sent everything in the highest quality video to show how great I made everything look. But when you’re reviewing for content, high file sizes just jam up the transfer times. Lower resolution files could have saved our transfer times and kept the project moving faster. Let it be a reminder: shoot for low res when reviewing content.

Lesson Three: Establish a tone for the series before moving to the second part.

Worst of all? I could have saved some time. I cut together each piece and sent things off before realizing the changes that we needed to make to the project overall. We realized that the intros needed their own music after I had already cut each section. Thankfully digital editing makes this change simple, but I could have done more copy-and-pasting earlier to save the time I spent replacing and fine-tuning in the end.

Lesson Four: Save the developer time and focus on the gold.

Many things went exceptionally well. I saved the developer from having to try to cut this work himself. This meant that he could continue to focus on what matters: his game. Similarly, I made a tighter video cut and render than the developer could have done on his own. We chopped out all of the gunk in his video presentation until all that remained was the gold.

He could continue to focus on what matters: his game

Lesson Five: Focus on the players.

Folks who watched the live demo over Twitch created a culture of excitement and curiosity. It allowed Thomas to feed on those qualities to focus on the aspects of his game that resonated with an audience. This made my work super easy while also solving the greater challenges of video game promotion. Players matter, and I think that’s clear with this project.