Marketing + Design: What makes great promotional imagery?

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Marketing + Design: What makes great promotional imagery?

#1 Post by RedOwl » Wed Oct 19, 2016 3:21 pm

So, here's something I've been thinking about: what makes an awesome, effective promotional image? I'm not talking about art quality - for this discussion, let's assume the art quality is already very high. What I'm more interested in is the graphic design and the marketing goals. What are you saying with your promotional imagery (what is your sales pitch - your message), and how does the design - the choice and arrangement of graphic elements - convey that message?

Here are some of my thoughts so far:

1. Obviously, the message conveyed should tell your audience about your game - what are the themes, feelings, etc. they should expect from the game?
2. But themes can be complex, multi-faceted - in an image/graphic design - things need to be a bit simpler and focused, or the message will be lost.
3. What message would be most appealing to my natural audience (ppl who would definitely like my game if they knew what it was/existed) - how do I effectively communicate that this is something they would enjoy?

An Example
So I thought I'd take a look at a promo design that I recently found effective, and break it down a bit.
Yesterday, this image popped up on my twitter:
The poster design for Shelter
Image

This animation is popular because it has big names associated with it (I guess?). However, I don't actually know any of these people, so this was "cold" marketing for me.

- first impression: it's anime style. I will look at it a second or two longer than anything else on my twitter (lol).
- 2nd impression: it's a single character who looks fairly small in a big environment. Also, the dominant color is blue. Makes me think she might be lonely. +1 interest (b/c loneliness is a theme that interests me).
- The line of action of the character and the line of light pointing upwards draws my eye up to the weirdness happening in the clouds. "There's something sci-fi about this" +1 interest (b/c sci-fi is also a theme that interests me). Good design will easily draw your eye to the most important elements.

Tropes
There seem to be some standard promo designs that are very commonly used for certain themes. I think the Shelter design is probably a trope in the anime world - single character in large BG = themes of inner struggle, loneliness, and/or sadness. There's also the very common design of "main character surrounded by faces of supporting characters" - This design usually signifies an epic quest or greater mission/goal the characters must face together.
Recently used by
Legend of Rune:
Image

and Episcava:
Image

(I'm not trying to promote these two VNs, I just noticed they used this design trope [and I like their promo images])

Here are the questions I have:

1. What promotional design/imagery do you find most impactful/effective? Post examples, please!
2. Have you thought about what message these designs are conveying? And why they work for you?
3. Have you thought about how this image is conveying it's message? Color scheme? Font choices? Character placement? Etc.
4. What other promo design tropes have you encountered and what are their meanings?
5. What do you think of using pre-existing design tropes vs. attempting a less common/more unique design?
6. Do you think it is necessary to feature the main characters in promotional imagery? Have you ever been enticed by designs that don't feature characters?
7. Any other thoughts on promotional imagery and effective marketing?

I noticed a few posts in this other thread were relevant to this topic as well (however I thought this was different enough to have its own topic): Cataloguing Player Meta-Responses. Especially:
Rossfellow wrote: I bought this game at release price, long before I realized how much I actually disliked it. If you want an example of how box covers/ back covers could sell a game, here's one.
http://i.imgur.com/MVvMDCJ.jpg

http://i.imgur.com/Xi5U0I7.jpg
Lastly, here are some box art "classics" for consideration:

Image

Image

Image

Image
Last edited by RedOwl on Thu Oct 20, 2016 2:16 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Marketing + Design: What makes great promotional imagery

#2 Post by SundownKid » Wed Oct 19, 2016 3:34 pm

Personally, I feel like the Episcava poster that you mentioned is not an incredibly effective marketing image. It shows these people, but doesn't base them in any sort of universe, so they're sort of just there. There is this typical anime dude, but there is not much reason to look further into the game. The art is quite polished, but the characters are not immediately identifiable as "they're from THAT fictional universe".

The one you posted of Tokyo Twilight is more effective (despite the game not being good, apparently) because it shows them in their workplace and gives you a reason to be curious about what exactly they do. (Even if the woman's boobs being front and center is, well.. yeah.)

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Re: Marketing + Design: What makes great promotional imagery

#3 Post by Zelan » Wed Oct 19, 2016 4:57 pm

SundownKid wrote:Personally, I feel like the Episcava poster that you mentioned is not an incredibly effective marketing image. It shows these people, but doesn't base them in any sort of universe, so they're sort of just there. There is this typical anime dude, but there is not much reason to look further into the game. The art is quite polished, but the characters are not immediately identifiable as "they're from THAT fictional universe".

The one you posted of Tokyo Twilight is more effective (despite the game not being good, apparently) because it shows them in their workplace and gives you a reason to be curious about what exactly they do. (Even if the woman's boobs being front and center is, well.. yeah.)
I would partially disagree with you here. I'm probably a bit biased here since I've been following this game's development for a bit, but I think the promo image is pretty attention-grabbing. Does it do a good job of giving any information about the game itself? Nope, not at all. But what it does do is show off the character designs, which are great despite having a fair few anime tropes (Aniam - bottom left - in particular seems to be pretty popular). Would this image sell me the game on its own? No, but it would catch my interest and I would be willing to read more information on the game or (better for advertising) look at some of their other art.

Something that I think is better about Episcava's promo image as oppose to Legend of Rune's is the fact that the name has a prominent place in the image. If I came across the Legend of Rune image and was mildly interested, but didn't have time to look into it, I might have trouble finding it again. (Imagine the Google searches - "red hair guy with other guys.") With the same situation for Episcava on the other hand, I can easily see the name and would later be able to search "Episcava" and find it again easily. On the other hand, though, the name shouldn't take up so much room that it obscures the rest of the image - otherwise that won't be as memorable.

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Re: Marketing + Design: What makes great promotional imagery

#4 Post by Mythee » Wed Oct 19, 2016 9:46 pm

The promotional images that have the most appeal/pull to me are always those who are the most artistically fascinating/detailed.

Which is why Shelter looks the best to me up there.

But I like anything with a lot of motion in it, and fresh perspectives, too. Stuff that makes the eyes wander and linger over an image.

Stuff like 'MC surrounded by screaming/whatevs other forces/characters' I've seen too much of, so it's lost its novelty. Not an attention grabbing composition to me- but sometimes if other aspects are eye-catching enough like all of them being lizardpeople or the art style being really unique/rare, my eyes might not glaze over.

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Re: Marketing + Design: What makes great promotional imagery

#5 Post by Rossfellow » Wed Oct 19, 2016 9:53 pm

Oh no, oh no, don't get me started on this. This subject makes me nerd the hell out!

To me, there's another thing that can sell a game/VN/anime just as well as its cover image, if not better. It's the Promotional Video. That thing is an art medium that has sold me so many things that either turn out great or "meh", but the point is that it sells.

Back in 2011 I had an argument with an old acquaintance of mine about the power of well-put-together promotional videos. To test this, we tried to get our group of friends (most of them weren't into anime) to watch Puella Magi Madoka Magica. At the time, there were only six episodes, and the popularity was still slow to rise. We had to sell them the halfway one-cour series somehow.

His approach was pretty straightforward. He told everyone that he was watching an anime and that it's good. He describes the premise, the talents involved (Directed by Akiyuki Shinbo, Written by Gen Urobuchi, designs by Ume Aoki, and music by Yuki Kajiura), showed them the main website and the Official Trailer.

Unfortunately, despite his efforts, they were only slightly impressed, not interested enough to actually start watching the show.

Then I gave it a try. I started similarly. I said that I was watching an anime and that I thought it was good. Then I linked a Fan-made Trailer.

The next week, everyone was talking about the latest episode.

So what gives? What's the difference?

I think SundownKid is onto something here. It's usually not enough for a VN to just have a well-drawn cover. That cover has to somehow express the tone, atmosphere, and signature of the work, and that's a tall order. It requires a really keen directorial eye combined with the talent of the artists involved. The same can be said for Promotional Videos. So you better sharpen those page composition and video editing skills.

__________________________

BONUS! In 2015, a friend tried to get me to play The Secret World. He described it to me and linked me the main website. It looked interesting, but it wasn't strong enough to make me actually want to buy the game. Then he linked me This.

If you'd like I can also share the games whose premise and PVs interested me but they turned out to be bland(to me, anyways). Attractive promos are a double-edged sword.
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Re: Marketing + Design: What makes great promotional imagery

#6 Post by morinoir » Wed Oct 19, 2016 10:18 pm

I don't know who Porter Robinson is, but if I have to choose between those 3 posters, the 'Shelter' is definitely my number 1 choice. I feel those poster tells us more about the story and the universe than the rest. What I first notice from 'Legend of Rune' are handsome boys + no girl + fancy clothes = BL game in fantasy setting, and from 'Episcava' one boy in school uniform surrounded by cute girls in fancy clothes = a harem game about a boy who get inside a fantasy world. I might be wrong about the actual theme for those two, but that's what I get from one glance of the posters. Those two are definitely eye-cather for younger audience, but they're just not for me.

I think what matter when you choose to show your characters on the promotional poster/cover art is that the artwork quality on the poster should balance the actual artwork in the game. I've seen sooo many VN with great cover art (pretty/handsome character with nice render) but get dissapointed when I see the in-game artwork OTL..

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Re: Marketing + Design: What makes great promotional imagery

#7 Post by RedOwl » Thu Oct 20, 2016 12:24 am

Thank you everyone, for your input so far!! It's really fascinating to hear opinions on this, what kinds of things work and don't work for you, and how you interpret the examples I posted.
Mythee wrote: But I like anything with a lot of motion in it, and fresh perspectives, too. Stuff that makes the eyes wander and linger over an image.
Oooh, I like this! Love the motion and complexity. Very interesting.
Mythee wrote: Stuff like 'MC surrounded by screaming/whatevs other forces/characters' I've seen too much of, so it's lost its novelty. Not an attention grabbing composition to me- but sometimes if other aspects are eye-catching enough like all of them being lizardpeople or the art style being really unique/rare, my eyes might not glaze over.
SundownKid wrote:Personally, I feel like the Episcava poster that you mentioned is not an incredibly effective marketing image. It shows these people, but doesn't base them in any sort of universe, so they're sort of just there.
morinoir wrote:I don't know who Porter Robinson is, but if I have to choose between those 3 posters, the 'Shelter' is definitely my number 1 choice. I feel those poster tells us more about the story and the universe than the rest. What I first notice from 'Legend of Rune' are handsome boys + no girl + fancy clothes = BL game in fantasy setting, and from 'Episcava' one boy in school uniform surrounded by cute girls in fancy clothes = a harem game about a boy who get inside a fantasy world. I might be wrong about the actual theme for those two, but that's what I get from one glance of the posters. Those two are definitely eye-cather for younger audience, but they're just not for me.
Yeah, not to be down on the two examples of this trope that I posted, but I did have a feeling that this design is getting pretty tired. Or maybe it's just more suited for a very particular theme/audience, and is over-used generally? Not sure.
Rossfellow wrote: Back in 2011 I had an argument with an old acquaintance of mine about the power of well-put-together promotional videos. To test this, we tried to get our group of friends (most of them weren't into anime) to watch Puella Magi Madoka Magica. At the time, there were only six episodes, and the popularity was still slow to rise. We had to sell them the halfway one-cour series somehow.

His approach was pretty straightforward. He told everyone that he was watching an anime and that it's good. He describes the premise, the talents involved (Directed by Akiyuki Shinbo, Written by Gen Urobuchi, designs by Ume Aoki, and music by Yuki Kajiura), showed them the main website and the Official Trailer.

Unfortunately, despite his efforts, they were only slightly impressed, not interested enough to actually start watching the show.

Then I gave it a try. I started similarly. I said that I was watching an anime and that I thought it was good. Then I linked a Fan-made Trailer.

The next week, everyone was talking about the latest episode.
Just watched both videos - and wow! :shock: The difference is incredible. The official trailer is - frankly - boring. I wanted to stop watching it about a third of the way through (although I continued for the sake of "science"). None of the emotional impact of the story came across at all. The fan-made trailer was excellent. It had all the basic info of the official trailer, but told in a much more exciting way that really showed off the world, the environment, the angst, the emotional journey, etc. Awesome comparison!!
Rossfellow wrote:BONUS! In 2015, a friend tried to get me to play The Secret World. He described it to me and linked me the main website. It looked interesting, but it wasn't strong enough to make me actually want to buy the game. Then he linked me This.
Interesting. That trailer isn't as enticing to me as the fan-made Madoka one - but then again, it might just not be my cup of tea. However, I can see that it's really good at showcasing what seems like quite the impressive breadth of the world/game and the sorts of things that can happen in that world. Also, the music is excellent at setting the tone - as you say, trailers are more impactful than single images - and I think music/sound probably has a large part to play in that difference.
Rossfellow wrote:If you'd like I can also share the games whose premise and PVs interested me but they turned out to be bland(to me, anyways). Attractive promos are a double-edged sword.
Please do! That would also be interesting to hear. After all, I think marketers/indie game makers should strive for accurate marketing, not just effective marketing - and part of that is making sure the "promises" you give your audience are actually kept, in the content itself. Not meaning to accuse or anything - "broken promises" in creative content are all-too unintentionally common.
morinoir wrote: I think what matter when you choose to show your characters on the promotional poster/cover art is that the artwork quality on the poster should balance the actual artwork in the game. I've seen sooo many VN with great cover art (pretty/handsome character with nice render) but get dissapointed when I see the in-game artwork OTL..
Perfect example of a "broken promise," right here! I hate when that sort of thing happens, too.
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Re: Marketing + Design: What makes great promotional imagery

#8 Post by Kuiper » Thu Oct 20, 2016 6:29 am

For an interesting article on this subject, here is a post from one of Valve's artists describing the process for designing the Left 4 Dead box art. Their early cover designs were focused on more "literal" images, which depicted four human heroes facing off against a horde of zombies, but they eventually settled on a much more abstract design that focused more on the "zombies" angle, with the iconic image of a hand with four fingers.


@Rossfellow, I might be mis-remembering here (or simply parroting apocrypha), but my understanding is that the initial marketing around Madoka was actually intentionally deceptive (presenting it more as a traditional, by-the-numbers magical girl show), even going as far to leave Urobuchi's name out of the credits, though most of that went out the window once the series got a few episodes into its initial broadcast.

And on the subject of trailers, if you want a lesson on how to convey a completely different tone for a story, check out the various "recut" trailers that people have made for various series, like this one that presents Harry Potter as a teen comedy film, or Mrs. Doubtfire recut as a psychological thriller.
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Re: Marketing + Design: What makes great promotional imagery

#9 Post by RedOwl » Thu Oct 20, 2016 1:51 pm

Kuiper wrote:For an interesting article on this subject, here is a post from one of Valve's artists describing the process for designing the Left 4 Dead box art. Their early cover designs were focused on more "literal" images, which depicted four human heroes facing off against a horde of zombies, but they eventually settled on a much more abstract design that focused more on the "zombies" angle, with the iconic image of a hand with four fingers.
Great article! Thanks for sharing. That's a really good observation about the scale between "literal" and "abstract." I think it's a really good question to ask ourselves when designing promotional material - how much do we need to "tell" the story, and how far should we go towards "showing" with something more abstract - which might be less clear, but also might be more eye-catching and/or memorable.

For those who might not want to click through to the article, here's where the Left 4 Dead team started and ended up:

"Typical" Game box art style:
Image

"Iconic" final design:
Image
Kuiper wrote:@Rossfellow, I might be mis-remembering here (or simply parroting apocrypha), but my understanding is that the initial marketing around Madoka was actually intentionally deceptive (presenting it more as a traditional, by-the-numbers magical girl show), even going as far to leave Urobuchi's name out of the credits, though most of that went out the window once the series got a few episodes into its initial broadcast.
Hmmm, I'm not sure how I feel about that sort of thing. Sort of like "rogue marketing"? Marketing which is intentionally misleading or vague with the goal of surprising the audience later on? It's interesting to hear that they may have been making that design choice intentionally - however, I don't think it was particularly wise or successful. And I think that's probably true in most cases. Though it does remind me of the whole red bull thing (I think that's the right brand?) - where they initially focused on keeping the product a bit of a mystery and relying on word of mouth rather than any normal marketing routes - in order to enhance the aura of prestige... ? So, I guess counter intuitive marketing strategies can sometimes work. But in general? Hmmm... yeah probably not.
Kuiper wrote:And on the subject of trailers, if you want a lesson on how to convey a completely different tone for a story, check out the various "recut" trailers that people have made for various series, like this one that presents Harry Potter as a teen comedy film, or Mrs. Doubtfire recut as a psychological thriller.
Haha, those are fun! They also seriously highlight the importance of sound design in trailers. It's also interesting to note that while the people who made these trailers did an excellent job, the color scheme/lighting design remains a bit incongruent - HP still seems a little too brown/dull for a lovecom, and Doubtfire just a little too natural looking for a horror...

Edited to add:
I added a few "classic" box art examples to the first post of this thread (and below). I think these are interesting to consider - especially in contrast/relation to typical visual novel promo art (which usually features characters more heavily than these do). These covers were taken from this web page: 50 Greatest Video Game Covers

Image

Image

Image

Image
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Re: Marketing + Design: What makes great promotional imagery

#10 Post by Kuiper » Thu Oct 20, 2016 10:14 pm

RedOwl wrote:
Kuiper wrote:@Rossfellow, I might be mis-remembering here (or simply parroting apocrypha), but my understanding is that the initial marketing around Madoka was actually intentionally deceptive (presenting it more as a traditional, by-the-numbers magical girl show), even going as far to leave Urobuchi's name out of the credits, though most of that went out the window once the series got a few episodes into its initial broadcast.
Hmmm, I'm not sure how I feel about that sort of thing. Sort of like "rogue marketing"? Marketing which is intentionally misleading or vague with the goal of surprising the audience later on? It's interesting to hear that they may have been making that design choice intentionally - however, I don't think it was particularly wise or successful. And I think that's probably true in most cases.
I think there are different degrees to which you can "deceive" audiences. Subtly misleading them can be okay (and this can be necessary if you want to pull off a "twist"), but I think in most cases you don't want them to get something completely different than what they signed up for.

For example, I Am Not A Serial Killer (both the movie and the book that it's based on) are marketed as crime stories.
However, the story's "twist" is that partway through the story, it's revealed that the "serial killer" is actually a supernatural being.
All of the promotion (like the trailer for the movie, and the cover for the book) conceal the fact that the story has those elements, and some people wind up being frustrated by the "genre shift," as they thought they were going to get something resembling a "true crime" story and instead got something different. However, I Am Not A Serial Killer is always a horror film, and the core emotion of the story from start to finish is still psychological terror. So it's a genre shift, but it's not as if the movie starts off as a rom-com and then ends up being a horror movie.



Since you posted Diablo 3's cover art, it seems worthwhile to bring up the point that it's not exactly the first game to use the "close up face, glowing red eyes":

Image

I bring this specifically because in discussions of video game cover art, it can be common for people to post "collage" images like this and say, "Look at all these unoriginal, uninspired covers that copy the same basic design!" However, I think the other part of it is that cliches become cliches for a reason: people wouldn't bother to copy it if it wasn't reasonably effective. I think that these designs tend to achieve their desired effect, but the problem becomes that when everyone does it, then it fails to do its job of allowing the title to "stick out" among the myriad other titles that are sitting on the shelf. For example, there are scientific reasons to emphasize orange and blue/teal in design, but when everybody shares the same philosophy, you end up with a wall of movie posters that looks like this:

Image

Or a shelf of video games that looks like this:

Image

Are these bad cover designs? Not really. In fact, part of the issue is that, by certain metrics, they are good designs. The problem is that when everyone is following the same rubric for for "good design" and only cares about a few specific metrics, trying to come up with something that scores well on that rubric will give you something that looks like everyone else.

The upshot of this is that it's really hard to come up with cover art that is truly "unique." And I think that's okay. It only really becomes an issue when everyone is doing the same thing. And trends change over time, and what was "overwrought" ten years ago might come across as striking when compared to today's selection. So if the worst thing you can say about a cover design is "hey, there are a bunch of video games from the mid 00's that use a similar design," maybe that's not such a bad thing.
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Re: Marketing + Design: What makes great promotional imagery

#11 Post by Rossfellow » Fri Oct 21, 2016 9:01 pm

I wanna add this as an honorable mention for a pretty striking cover for a VN(?)

Image
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Re: Marketing + Design: What makes great promotional imagery

#12 Post by Rossfellow » Fri Oct 21, 2016 10:38 pm

Okay, as promised, examples of games that sold me with solid trailers/OP even if their core content was disappointing.

GOD EATER
Animated short: Prologue
OP

It's Ufotable. That animation studio can make -anything- look great. Ufotable's involvement in this game immediately made me pick it up, but unfortunately the game itself got ruined by my own expectations. God Eater as a game is.... Decent. It's okay. But when you are competing in a niche genre alongside titles like Monster Hunter and Toukiden, being decent is one of the worst things you can be.

Black Rock Shooter the Game
Trailer
OP

Again, Ufotable! The game itself has so much focus on visuals and design that the gameplay felt more like an afterthought. While this is the coolest incarnation Black Rock Shooter in my opinion, it leaves a lot to be desired.

Corpse Party: Blood Drive
Trailer
OP

I was pretty damn hyped for this game. Not only was it a successor to the excellent Book of Shadows (one of the tiny handful of notable horror JVNs to make it to NA), but its prologue back in Book of Shadows set up the intrigue very well too. Too bad actually playing the game was a sloooooog. It's a high budget flop.

Kishin Hishou Demonbane
Trailer and OP.

I really enjoyed the first Demonbane. It was everything I didn't think I would get in a JVN--- Lovecraftian lore AND old school Super Robot mecha-- And yet there it was. The art was a bit rough around the edges, considering it was released in 2003 (it's the spiritual predecessor of Fate/Stay Night, predating it by 3 years) but its one of my favorite VNs.

Then this came around. It's a sequel made for the PS2 and wow--- Look at all those updated visuals! And I get to be in control of Demonbane now! This is going to be awesome!

...Or so I thought. This disappointing sequel is why we'll never see a reboot of Demonbane again. Meanwhile, Fate is being milked for the umpteenth time. You're a lost gem, Demonbane. Rest in peace.
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Re: Marketing + Design: What makes great promotional imagery

#13 Post by RedOwl » Sat Oct 22, 2016 12:17 pm

Kuiper wrote:I think there are different degrees to which you can "deceive" audiences. Subtly misleading them can be okay (and this can be necessary if you want to pull off a "twist"), but I think in most cases you don't want them to get something completely different than what they signed up for.
That's a good point - theres definitely a (blurry) line between outright "deceitful" marketing, and attempting to conceal plot twists. This is actually particularly relevant to me personally at the moment - my game has a couple twists which we obviously won't be mentioning at all upfront. So it's definitely a challenge to convey an accurate picture of the game while keeping the surprises hidden.
Kuiper wrote:The upshot of this is that it's really hard to come up with cover art that is truly "unique." And I think that's okay. It only really becomes an issue when everyone is doing the same thing. And trends change over time, and what was "overwrought" ten years ago might come across as striking when compared to today's selection. So if the worst thing you can say about a cover design is "hey, there are a bunch of video games from the mid 00's that use a similar design," maybe that's not such a bad thing.
I agree with you there. I think the "trick" to this may be to find a way to use design tropes that already obviously work, while doing all you can to make them "unique" to your game specifically. For example, while the four "glowing red eyes" examples are obviously using the same general design, the Fear cover kind of stands out to me as they've set things up slightly differently to suit their message (with the two figures in there as well).
Rossfellow wrote:I wanna add this as an honorable mention for a pretty striking cover for a VN(?)
Woah, definitely striking. It got my attention, at least. Not sure I love it (there's something uncomfortable, design-wise, about the two head images above one another, I feel)...

@Rossfellow - thanks for posting those! I haven't had a chance to check them all out yet (I will later today). But, what I've learned so far: dang, Ufotable! You are too good. :shock:
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Re: Marketing + Design: What makes great promotional imagery

#14 Post by Kuiper » Sat Oct 22, 2016 6:39 pm

(Content warning: some of these video links contain violence and gore and stuff.)

If we're talking video game trailers, Dead Island's trailer is pretty famous both for generating massive amounts of hype when it dropped, and also being incredibly misrepresentative of the actual game. The poignant trailer sets you up for an intimate story with intense emotional beats, and it instead turned out to be a by-the-numbers action game.

For a cinematic trailer that's both really effective on its own and also effectively conveys what the game is and what it's about, I really liked the "Power" trailer for Saints Row 3.


However, since this is mostly a game dev/visual novel dev forum, I think it's useful to center the discussion on things that we can implement for the things that we're working on, and cinematic trailers are out of reach for a lot of us. Most visual novel developers don't have the production budget--or even the assets--to support something like this. What's the alternative?

I've always been a big fan of trailers that just show you the game. Battlefield's multiplayer trailers are usually great about this; this Battlefield 3 trailer is basically just a montage of gameplay clips recorded during the game's playtesting sessions, and the video footage isn't edited in any way (you can see the HUD and everything). Some of the more recent Battlefield multiplayer trailers have been cut with more cinematic shots, but they still preserve the feeling of an actual gameplay session. I think this approach is great because because it surfaces the real appeal of Battlefield, which is the wonderful unscripted moments that come about when you mash a bunch of gameplay systems against each other. Sometimes you just point your gun at people and shoot them, and sometimes you drive a quad bike off of a skyscraper as it explodes and collide with a helicopter in mid-air. Battlefield is a series that has always been about the chaos of the battlefield, and the trailers emphasize this.

Things get a bit trickier if you're trying to do the same thing for a narrative-driven game like a visual novel. You can capture an amazing "Battlefield moment" in a 5-second gameplay clip, but oftentimes the best moments in visual novels are things that play poorly in trailer form, because the great moments in visual novels are story climaxes, and the feeling of that apex is completely lost if you didn't get to see everything building up to it.

How do game studios for narrative games like Telltale do their trailers? Well, they tend to play up the cinematic angle, as seen in the latest Walking Dead season 3 teaser. Some of the trailers for individual episodes do get to do the "gameplay clips compiled into a 90-second montage" (like this one for Game of Thrones episode 1, but Telltale has several advantages over visual novels in that the games are already full of cinematic shots and dramatic voice over that can be mined for trailer footage. But what do you do if nothing about your gameplay is cinematic? How do you convey the "feel" of the game through video?

In my mind, no trailer does this better than Long Live the Queen. What is the game about? It's about developing Princess Elodie's traits and personality based on what you think will help her survive until her coronation, and failing a bunch as you watch her die in a dozen different macabre and darkly humorous ways. And the trailer conveys that perfectly. It's also worth noting that while most visual novels don't have climaxes or "moments" that show well without context, LLTQ does have some of those in the form of its morbidly adorable death CGs, and the trailer features these pretty prominently. Another similar trailer with fairly low-fi visuals that explains what the game is about through voice over is Democracy 3, which emphasizes that it's all about dealing with a bunch of competing interests as you try to navigate the world of politics and governance. One of the projects I'm working on (Idol Manager) recently faced the question of how to do a trailer, and LLTQ and Democracy 3 were two big sources of inspiration for how to approach it. In the end, we decided to do a combination of narrative voice over and end by interspersing a visual montage with several "bullet points" about the game, and this was the resulting trailer for Idol Manager.
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Re: Marketing + Design: What makes great promotional imagery

#15 Post by RedOwl » Sun Oct 23, 2016 2:31 pm

@Kuiper - thanks for your insightful post and the links to all those trailers!

It seems that one of the marks of truly excellent promotional material is the ability to "convert" people who wouldn't normally be interested in that genre or kind of content. By this rubric, the most successful trailers you posted, Kuiper, are the last three (LLTQ, Democracy and Idol Manager) - which is great news for us indies, because they are also the simplest. terra0nova and I watched all the trailers you linked, and we were actually somewhat unimpressed with the first trailers, even though they were cinematic, complex, etc. - mainly because we just don't care much about those types of games. We weren't "converted." And, if you were to simply described the premises of the last three to us, we probably wouldn't care much about them, either (especially not Democracy - eww politics). However! The LLTQ and Democracy trailers both made us laugh! And, all three hit that gaming nerve of "here's what you are going to do in this game - can you be awesome at it?" - that feeling of just wanting to try it because it sounds like an interesting challenge, you know?

So, I think these last three are great reference if you have something where there's actually gameplay - however I am still curious about what makes great promotional material for a more classic VN (without much gameplay) - if you can't do the Ufotable/"mega awesome cinematic sequences" thing - and you can't showcase gameplay... but, somehow, you want to get the "feel" of the story across in an interesting way... Hmmm
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