Trailer making for RPG Maker games

MushroomCake28

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When it comes to making a trailer, a lot of things come to mind. How to make a good trailer? How long should it be? What should it show? What's a good structure? Honestly, I myself am not a trailer maker expert. I've only done trailers for my game and only read a little bit on how to make a good trailer, but I'll try to go through important aspects of making a trailer for a game made with RPG Maker. Here's the latest trailer I did for my project Luna Sanctus, I'm going to use it as an example:

So here's the structure I adopted (example with my game):
  • Peak at the game's story/premise and indication of the tone (0:00-0:33): Showing that the story is based on a revenge story. It shows the main characters grieving and it shows how his parents were killed when he was little.
  • Showing the world and the gameplay in general (0:35-0:52): I show how big the world is by showing different big areas with different climate. This gives a sense that the world is big and has a lot to show. And then show a couple of in-game dialogues, skit scenes, basic gameplay things that you don't usually highlight. So there is no more showcase of the story of the game.
  • Showing the battle system (0:52-1:14): Here I show the viewer what the battle is like while highlighting the unique and cool features of it. Since I coded my battle system from the ground up, it is unique and that's what I want to show. Maybe this section isn't as necessary if the battle system isn't an important part of your game.
  • Showing different features of the game (1:14-1:37): Here I showcase the multiple unique features of my game, so the skit scene, the crafting, the menus, the quest system, etc.
  • Gameplay footage overload (1:37-1:54): This is the climax where I don't show anything new, but I bombard the viewer with everything from the game. The goal isn't that he sees everything since he probably won't have time. The idea is to show that there is so much more in the game than what was shown.
  • Conclusion (1:54-2:07): This is the end of the trailer. Here I go back to the game's story by asking the viewer to join the protagonist on his quest for revenge. Black screen, logo and credits. The end.
As you can see, I followed a typical "Story peak -> gameplay -> return to story and end on cliff hanger" formula. Of course you can use something else, and you can allocate time differently than I did, especially if your game is story focused. I don't know if I have a good trailer or not, but here are stuff I kept in mind will making my trailer:
  • Matching music with images: So the way I built the different parts of my trailers was by following the changes in the music. Because I'm a composer and I'm lazy, I didn't compose a track just for the trailer (except the first 33 seconds), instead I reused a track that I compose for the game. I then mapped the different parts of the track and separated the trailers in parts corresponding the the soundtrack's parts.
  • How to start the trailer: This is something I struggled with. Steam actually recommends not starting the trailer with any logo or credits, since people usually watch the first few seconds to determine if they continue watching or not. So you want to start with something that hooks people instantly. With that in mind, you can start with gameplay footage immediately, or start with a sneak peak of the story, but it has to be catchy.
  • Story telling: In RPG Maker, people usually don't have voice acting. Combine that with the fact that telling the story through text isn't as appealing as images, story telling can be more challenging in 2D games than 3D games. That's why I opted for specific scenes that tells a story just by the composition of the image (example from my trailer: the main character in front of a grave on top of a hill surrounded by the sea for a dramatic effect). There are other ways to do it, but it's harder in my opinion if you try to tell the story through in-game dialogue boxes.
  • Dynamic camera: The problem with the above advice is that in-game shots are often with a static camera or a camera that moves unnaturally for cinematic trailers. For cinematic shots, you want slow and smooth camera movement. A solution with 2D games like RPG Maker games is to record at high resolution, and zooming in slowly while moving slightly the camera in the video editing software.
  • Transitions: Honestly I went very fast on transitions because of the number of clips I had, but I would suggest making smooth transitions and trying to vary transitions.
  • Time: So I'd consider my trailer long. I think Steam suggests around 1:30, but that's a more reasonable time. The problem with trailers that are too long is that you might lose the attention of the viewer. We live in a world where people have very short attention span. Also, shorter trailers makes sure you don't lose time on stuff you don't need to show.
  • Showing unique features: With so many indie games and a fast growing market for games, we will have a lot of competition. The goal is to stand out and attract more players. Something important to do in order to do that is to advertise what makes you game special and unique. It could a mechanic, a system, the story, the art, etc. Be sure to highlight that in your trailer.
  • Building an Audience: That goes without saying. It's pointless to have a good trailer if no one is going to see it. Unfortunately building an audience is something hard and time consuming. You can't do that in one day, so you'll have to work on that a lot earlier than when you release your trailer. But that's a subject for another thread.

That's all I got for now. Feel free to add or comment on the points I made, and feel free to give me your thoughts on my trailer.
 

BlueMage

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If it was me, the first thing catch my attention and i usually decide
to take a look on a game or not, all based on its banner/ thumbnail image.
I don't really care much about how good/ what order the trailer is.
If the thumnail image got my interest, even the trailer is clutter,
i would look through it to see if there is any interesting features
in game that worth to give the game a try or not
 

MushroomCake28

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@BlueMage I think you're in the minority though. The banner and the art can give you some information like what type of game it is, but most people on Steam watches the first few seconds of the trailer (without sound), read the small description, and from there they decide if they switch to the next game or keep on reading more deeply.
 

bgillisp

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Actually I don't even watch the trailer anymore, I just read the description and look at the screenshots, then I look for reviews (if any).

If it catches my eye then I put it on my wishlist, as I'm on hiatus from buying games right now until my backlog is thinned a little.
 

Restart

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Technically they shifted off of rpg maker to game maker partway through development, but I think the Barkley trailer is still instructive.

 

MushroomCake28

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@bgillisp Most people would watch trailers though. I think the process goes as follow: you filter the game list by categories that you enjoy, then you read the short description and watch the trailer, if you're interested you're going to look at screenshots and read more about the game and read reviews.

@Restart Although that format would work for a youtube cinematic trailer for a well known company, this trailer starts way too slowly. There's a splash screen at the beginning and it takes 10 seconds to even start. For a steam trailer that wouldn't be good. Valve recommends not putting any splash screen/logo screen at the beginning. It recommends starting off with content and try to catch the viewer in the first 5 seconds. The other issue is the length. 5:20 is very long for a trailer, and I think that most people wouldn't watch it completely.
 

slimmmeiske2

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I'm also on Team I-don't-watch-trailers. When I'm on the game page, I skip straight to screenshot than to synopsis (though obviously there's a delay from time to time, so Steam thinks I watched the first few seconds of a trailer). It's just so much faster to see if I like something by looking at screenshots than watching a whole trailer.
I only watch trailers if your screenshots don't do a good job of showing gameplay or if the game's not yet out and you're a dev I've bought from before.
 

TWings

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+1 for the almost never watching trailers on Steam.
Within a couple of seconds the screenshots usually tell me everything I need to know.
That beeing said I feel like your trailer is probably a bit too slow to start. That kind of slow building up introduction works for movies or hyped games. But for your average RM game, I think you need to go faster to the point of what makes your game special.
 

bgillisp

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I've heard the statement that people only watch the first x seconds of a trailer, and honestly...I think that's false. Steam is set up so that when you go to a page it starts you on the trailer by default and it auto-plays. So what I think is really happening is Steam is counting those few seconds that the auto-play runs until you get control and put it on something else. Or it is counting the auto-play time while you read the description. Either way though, you didn't really watch the trailer, but it is counting as a few seconds of viewtime.

I say this as I one can't remember the last trailer I actually watched (movies or games) and two I can't think of anyone I know who does watch a video game trailer.
 

Indinera

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Not a fan of trailers as well (much like I'm not a fan of youtubers either, as I feel most videos drag on and on).
I prefer to look at the screenshots by far.
 

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Hmm, if I am interested in a game I would definitely watch a thirty second trailer. Is giving viewers a choice between short trailer and long trailer a thing?
 

EthanFox

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Heh, OP, I recently finished a trailer for my indie game and my notes are almost exactly the same as yours! I assume you did what I did, i.e. looked at a bunch of other successful game trailers and broke down their structure; I found the Steins;Gate one on Steam to be a good example.

Mine is actually quite similar in terms of pacing to yours as a result:

 

Matseb2611

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Your trailer is generally pretty good. It's quite similar to the kind of trailers I make for my games - usually with the first 30 or so seconds it's a buildup and introduction into the story and world, then it goes faster-paced to show off gameplay and other features, and have game logo at the very end. I agree that it's best to avoid putting logos and other such things at the start, because potential buyers want to see gameplay as soon as possible.

I'd also say, over the years, I realised that it's best to limit how much you use the isolated text slides. They are boring, and most times it's impossible to cater it to everyone's reading speed. So what I like doing, if I really need to add some text to explain something in a trailer, is to overlay it on top of a gameplay clip. That way, if someone has finished reading the text, they can watch the gameplay happening on the screen rather than waiting for the next one to fade in while looking at white text on black background.

Matching images/scenes to the music is a very useful tool for impact, so thumbs up on that.
Using dynamic camera and slow zoom is also a great tool. I agree. Thumbs up on this too.
The length, yes, generally between 1:30 and 2:00 is the ideal length so that you can show off enough of the game but also without losing audience's interest before the end.

Edit: Regarding watching trailers, I am someone who always watches one prior to buying a game. Screenshots is what I look at first - I think 99% of audience does, as they give you the most information in the shortest time. After that, if you still have a vague interest, you read the description and watch a trailer, because trailer shows off gameplay and atmosphere much better than screenshots do.
But if the trailer is too long and I got the idea what the game is like, then I might not watch it till the end, unless it's a very entertaining trailer or if it has a very catchy music.
 
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MushroomCake28

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@bgillisp Yeah that's true. I never thought about that. I'm still a bit surprised from the number of people here that don't watch trailers, being a trailer guy myself. I always assumed people's first impression was from the trailer. Or perhaps game devs and players have different mentality? I don't know. But it's true that the Steam autoplay function might be affecting negatively the validity of the data. Nevertheless, I still believe captivating the audience in the first few seconds of a trailer (if they watch it) is a good thing, at least better than having long splash screens at the beginning lol.

@EthanFox That's indeed what I did lol. Yours is pretty nice too, and yeah we used about the same formula haha.

@xoferew You could have a long cinematic trailer for youtube and a shorter one that shows more gameplay and is more quick pace for Steam. That would however mean that you have to create 2 trailers, which means that it's going to take you twice as long. If you're a solo dev, it's still considerably more work.

I have to say that I'm surprised that most people here usually don't watch trailers. For me trailers, if well done (meaning if they don't drag on forever with splash screens and slow text scenes), give way more information in a quick amount of time than screenshots.
 

Switz

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I was looking at your trailer earlier and thought it was very well done and follows the template I prefer (slow, landscapes, battles, strategy, puzzles, cutscenes, then slow again) with music to match. A epic style delivery like yours will keep interest for one, but then there are the SPECIFIC things all gamers are looking for as they are now invested to watching the entire trailer since you made and presented it so well. That's the next key part.

Ultimately, the best person at making a trailer is YOU. What game inspired you the mostly fits the game you are making a trailer for? For me it was FFIV. So what areas of FFIV are my best memories?

- Cecil transcending to light
- Military theme
- Awesome enemy bosses/antagonists
- Other worlds
- Behemeth art
- Beautiful castles
- Puzzles
- Focus on story


SOOOO....put examples of ethose your game has in your trailer! If they inspired you back then, then you are your own target audience so everyone else who is like you will also be convinced to play when they see those things as well.

You did a great job. Honestly, very good. However, if your game is a 90's RPG throwback, I feel it missed slightly as I am currently on hesitant. You caught my interest, but not sold yet. I'd definitely read your games description and that would probably tip the scale to purchasing though. I wouldn't even read your description if the video presented art/style/theme I did not care about as with most customers.

My only advice:

Include a scene of an encounter with the big bad enemy or one of the main enemies of the game (as best as possible without spoiling game plot if possible). Showcase the instance they pummeled your heroes or left destruction around them.

Next, add in a puzzle snippet. You have one, but it's when you transition to 4 videos so it's hard to see.

If you have other worlds, it's fine, show it. It's not that huge of a spoiler. These games are almost always going to end up on another world or dimension so why keep it secret. We want to see it has a long story that spans vast areas so our purchase is well worth it.

If you have castles, include a snippet of that as well. I'm a sucker for military themed games, even if it's not central to the story. Always love running around and exploring old school rpg castles.

At end of day that's my interests. If this game is for someone like me, and I hope it is lol I can easily tell this is a work of passion which means it'll show in game, then those are the key aspects I look at.

I was just a random gamer when I played Einlanzers in my signature (now a co developer for our next game). His store page sold me completely. All those 90's RPG references, promise of a huge story, long 40+ hour game and game trailer had me salavating. He hit all my ticks I have been looking for in 20 years now wanting to play a old school RPG again. How many other games have I passed up because the store page and video did not convince me it was a true throwback? I'll never know.

So that's best advice I can give to anyone reading. You/me before becoming a developer. I'm still tapped into that mindset or try to anyway. What would someone like me/you want to see in order to play this game?

It's harder than it is lol. We see our development game every single day. It's not new to us. We know this snippet is super cool, but is it a trigger for our player base? Does it showcase the best our game can offer in their eyes who won't know anything else about the game other than that 2 second snippet?
 
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MushroomCake28

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@Switz We have pretty similar tastes lol (the early FF games)! You have a good point: your game is often the type of game you like, so chances are that your audience are going to be fans of the games you like. I think a trailer has the role of getting people interested and wanting to learn more, but it usually doesn't go beyond that. What will sell the game to customers is the game's description, reviews from other players, and gameplay footage of people actually playing the game.
 

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I agree on that. I'd never go off trailer alone. Even if it was a free game. The trailer hooks, the description sales. And your video hooked me. I would 100% read your description. Then it's make or bust.
 

VitaliaDi

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On Steam I usually skip the trailer too unless the art or game description catches my eye. I need to like the screenshots before I watch the trailer. And then I like short trailers, under 3 minutes, unless it's some artistic masterpiece in movie form like those Star Wars game movies. But, I think those count as movies and not trailers.
So if the screenshots grab my attention and a snippet of the story in the description does too that's when I'll head to the trailer to see more gameplay, story, and storytelling skill of the creator.

I think what you've listed for things to include in a trailer is good. When I make trailers I like to sync my scene transitions to the music and I don't leave single clips on for very long so that the viewer is continually seeing the next thing so their interest is piqued to the end of the video in case they have a short attention span. That's part of my own viewing bias coming in.

For your trailer I think some of the clips, for me as a viewer, are a tiny bit long especially on the big map screens. I do like the music and how you introduced the story.
 

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Trailers can't just be thrown together, I made a few months ago for other projects of mine, people I showed them two did not like them, but they liked the game.

Then I made one for my current project and they loved it.

Some people are really looking forward.
The trailer of the game means a lot to the viewer so it's important to make the trailer as great as you can.
 
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Theres an old saying, you may have heard it, its called Show dont Tell BUT all of these trailers heavily lean on title cards to explain just what the viewer is looking at. They dont feel like game trailers, they feel like a series of bullet points with random video running underneath.

@MushroomCake28 You spend your first 27 seconds establishing the exact same dull and generic story premise 99% of your competition do. Revenge for killing your parents is not a compelling hook to start off your trailer, its every bit as dull as the slideshow that accompanies it.

This is followed by 5 seconds of contextless footage of RTP that tells us nothing about your game and would be too small to make out even if it did have context.

This is followed by 10 seconds of showing off large bland maps of generic desert world, generic forest world, generic snow world, generic forest world again, generic desert world, generic town, generic forest world again again, generic mine world, generic beach (with jumping, watch out folks we got some actual "gameplay" now) and lastly generic fire world. Did we really need all of these shots, are these really the best maps in your game you can show off because all your showing off is how visually bland your map designs are and a complete lack of level design. You also introduce a world name your audience is not going to know how to pronounce and for some reason its only there for one shot, why isnt it there for all of those shots? Why do we need to be told that we will be exploring the world in the first place? Isnt that kind of what the audience is seeing? Dont you think your average viewer is smart enough to work out what they are seeing?

Then we cut to the combat system and we are hit with the words semi tactical? Isnt all turn based combat tactical? What makes yours semi tactical? Is it the grid? We can tell its got grid based combat because we can see it right there in the footage. Are you worried we are too stupid to work out what the grid is? Just show the combat, if we want details we can read the description. If your worried we cant tell whats happening based purely on the visuals then you should rethink how its presented in game.

Next up we have "Enhancing" your characters abilities. Serious? In an RPG? WOW WHAT A BRAVE NEW CONCEPT I NEVER WOULD HAVE GUESSED AN RPG WOULD LET ME DO THAT! Boy I am glad you told me, I was worried this game wouldnt have levelling or skills or abilities, boy dodged a bullet there! Do you understand how stupid pointing this stuff out sounds?

Discover numerous other features? Like what? The options menu? Equipment? Why is this something you would point out? I dont get it? Is it to fill time? Especially when you go on to list a tonne of other features after that shot... including an inventory? Why? This stuff is blowing my mind. Did you know the ocean is full of water? Now you do!

Then we have 4 more shots mashed together again with no context, just random shots smashed together that are too small to make out properly anyway. Its just a visually busy mess.

Then a tagline Join Azel on his journey for Revenge! He sounds like a top bloke, hes not out for justice or to right a wrong, nope hes out for reveeeeeenge.

Then we get a logo that has a font that makes it almost impossible to read what the games actually called.

Sorry if this came accross as overly harsh or dickish but I have seen this exact same trailer for this exact same game a hundred times this year already, and hundreds more over the last 6 years. This template is old, its tired, and it was never a good template to begin with. I know making a trailer for your game isnt easy, especially if your not a video editor or if you dont know one, but RPGM games have a reputation in the toilet on Steam already and trailers like these are a large part of why.

"Story peak -> gameplay -> return to story and end on cliff hanger" is indeed the ideal trailer format, but it seems most people using it in this community dont actually understand it or how elements of their games tie into it.
 

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