Hi everyone, I'm Götz Grandpierre, the product manager for Runes of Magic (and resident video specialist) for Frogster Online. I'm the guy at Frogster that gets to create all of the trailers you see for the game. It may not be a Hollywood directing career, but it's a lot of fun. I've pulled together some tips on what you can do to make great trailers yourself. Why not shoot your own movie this weekend?
In-game trailers are a very good way to show your game to the community. Gamers love trailers - they convey a feeling for the game play, grant a sneak peak of new features and zones plus a trailer is much more entertaining than screenshots with text, especially for people who are totally new to the game. That's why we at Frogster are producing in-game trailers for almost every new major Runes of Magic content update like new zones, dungeons and mini-games. Here I'm going to tell you a little about my experiences with the production of these in-game trailers.
Step 1: Know what you want.
At first you have to be sure what kind of trailer you want to make: Should it present the content or tell a story? This decision does not only affect the scenes you show, it affects all aspects of the trailer like the music, the text or even the editing. It could get annoying should somebody decide that the information about the new level-cap should be in the trailer just AFTER you finished cutting or even the rendering of a story trailer.
Step 2: Text
The text should support the pictures - not vice versa. The audience is more interested in viewing the imagery than in reading a novel - so don't use too much text. For a trailer of 60 seconds 3 to 5 text cards are more than enough. They should provide the basic information you need to communicate the content or story. Be sure that the text is in a final version BEFORE you get started on the rest of the trailer. If changes are made in the text later, it sometimes doesn't fit the pictures and you have to record new footage. Trust me, I definitely know what I’m talking about ;-)
Step 3: Storyboard
If you can, write down every bit of information (i.e. scenes, cuts, text and music) and put it on your storyboard, because once that's done, you're halfway done. If you compose your own music, it it's very important to know which part of the music works with the images you show – for example: do you need the fanfare at second 21 or 25? How long will it take for the text to fade in, should the scene be in slow motion or will there be a flash of artwork – everything should be in the storyboard. It's the bible for the video production process. I'm happy that Frogster is working with Dynamedion, who did a great job in creating cool music and sounds for our game and videos, so we have a near unlimited amount of music and sounds. If you don't have the opportunity to work with professional composers like we do, try to search for free music on the internet. - You'll find a lot of good stuff too.
Step 4: The filming process
For a guy like me who is more accustomed to working on concepts and storyboard, this is the most interesting part because it's really fun: you get to be the the first to have access to the newest and coolest content of the game; you can use all of the developer-commands, and spawn items you never even imagined as a gamer; you can build scenarios and armies and then destroy them in a fireworks display of effects. Sometimes it feels like the old childhood days of playing in the sandbox. You can do a lot of things with very little effort. You don't have to build an army of hundreds of NPCs if you only see twenty from a certain camera angle.
Once, I built a big scenario that took hours to create for a 2 or 3 second scene. In the end, we decided to use only the footage of one big boss-mob, because that actually looked much cooler. So I have learned that it's much better to be simple and try to make things look big. When filming scenes that require more than one player character, you need to make sure to choose players with game experience.
Don't assume that everybody in your company knows how to play every class in game. In some cases, we ask players from our community to participate, because they know a lot about the game and most of them are very helpful and experienced in making movies. If you - for any reason - have to fall back on more or less inexperienced actors, try to keep the sequences simple. Coordinating 10 or more gamers is like herding cats :) Be creative and use the possibilities the game offers you.
Once I spawned little guinea pigs in different colors so the 20 actors helping us knew their marks: “All the scouts go to the blue pigs and all the knights to the green pigs – one pig each!” It worked great. Don't give complex commands. Let them move forward (and I mean ONLY forward), give them a big boss-mob or a little a little army of minions to slay and just let them hit all the funny colorful buttons on their skill bar. This is the no tactics guide, this is Hollywood after all! The most important things when you are doing mass scenes is coordination and discipline. They have to do what you say – and nothing else. They should not have to use the text chat if it has nothing to do with trailer. They should not jump, run or attack if you do not say it. You are the director and you know what you need to film.
Write a small guide with rules and send them to the participants. Be sure that everybody has the right hardware and software they need. We create accounts with premade characters and assign them to the players. You save a lot of time if everything is well organized and everything is pre-arranged.
Step 5: Editing
Editing is the most important part of making a trailer. If the editing sucks, the whole trailer sucks. There are three simple rules you should consider: In the best trailers I've seen, music and cuts are in harmony. Don't work against the beat, work with it. If you want to build up tension, use longer scenes at the start and shorter in the end. Don't irritate the viewer with wild cuts. They want to see a game trailer not an art film. There is alot to be learned about making in-game trailers and though I'm not perfect, maybe I can give you some thoughts that will help you making your next trailer.
- Try to work in a team. Personally I have a great teammate who knows what to do if we are talking about post-production and CGI. We work as a team and inspire each other. I show him the concept and he asks me how I like the CGI effects he's building or the edits he's made. It's always good to get other opinions.
- Don't ask too many people what they think about your work. Show your storyboard to a dozen people and you will get a dozen different opinions. It can be very confusing and in the end you have to realize that you can't please everybody. Try to see what the players want and give it to them if you can.
- There a lot of books and papers about making short films, trailers and commercials out there. Read them! - Watch the trailers for other games and commercials on TV. They all follow the same rules and have the same goal. Get inspired and use new ideas to improve your good stuff and make it even better!
- Try to stay simple with your story – you won't and you can't win the Oscar with an in-game trailer. But you can support a great game in often less than 180 seconds.
I think that’s it. Hope you had fun reading this and maybe the next time you see one of our Runes of Magic in-game trailers you can find that little blue guinea pig in the middle of a raid encounter – that's not my fault, blame the editor.