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Some thoughts on Second Trailers

The second time you make a trailer for your game can be a real gut check. Here's some suggestions to get you off to a great start.

Please slap me if I ever take this for granted: just a few hours ago Nintendo and PlayStation shared my second trailer for EarthNight.

I want to talk about so many things related to this wonder-project, but I’m gonna wipe away the dream-glow. I want to get something out there that could help other game makers: key insights for making second trailers. 

The first thing I learned about making second trailers is that whenever I’ve started a second trailer, I’ve always kinda always freaked-out a little. I’m pretty sure this is normal.

1. Stop freaking out

The first thing that enters my mind is, “How are we ever going to do something more-awesome than our last trailer?” As long as you realize this is part of the creative process, you’ll be able to power-through your existential dread, pick up your tools, and start drafting a plan. Just anticipate that gut-check. 

I put so much into my first Valfaris trailer for E3’s PC Gaming Show that I didn’t know if I had anything left. But my editing assistant’s eye lit-up when I told her we get to do a second Valfaris trailer. “You mean I get to spend more time staring at its rich color palettes? Hell yeah, we’re in!” Her adoration for the game’s beauty helped me get over myself. It reminded me what I loved about the game.

2. Fall in love with your game again

The neon green explosions of howling space-beast-flesh careen across a violet-magenta nebula: it not only gets me up in the morning. It also puts a slag-hot fire in my belly. The Valfaris Release Date trailer sorta made itself after I remembered how much I loved everything about the game.

It helps to remember that as a trailer-maker you’re the matchmaker, introducing two parties who will fall in love and get to spend countless happy moments together. Your love gets to open others up to a greater love.

Speaking of love and beauty, this takes me to another point. It doesn’t hurt that Valfaris was already beautiful. But every time I got a new build of it, the beauty only turned up way past eleven. This also made the second trailer much easier to work on, as I could just focus on showcasing that new hotness.

3. Show the beautiful new stuff!

Whatever you just finished building in your game, this is an opportunity to see how it stacks against all the other great stuff you created.  In our first Slay the Spire trailer (Early Access), we laid the foundation of the game’s setting — before inviting you into it.

For our second Slay the Spire trailer, I wanted to jump straight to the sweet new character, The Defect. This gave an opportunity to show-off some great new work Anailis Dorta did for the character. Then we launched into a lot of the other new components of the game, including how the project played differently having exited Early Access in version 1.0.

The newfound visual beauty was a major component, but also the way players play it. And stream it. So we leaned into showcasing how that new player-beauty informed the game as well. While that’s a deeper shift at large, it comes back to the pure and simple signposting that “there’s something new here!”

4. Use radically different “voices”

Consider what “voice” your first trailer had, and who might speak to that game experience differently if you heard it from their perspective. In Church in the Darkness, I took that concept literally. For my first Church in the Darkness trailer, we focused on the characters.

In their own words, they tell you why they gladly joined the (totally not-a-cult) creepy church community (cult). It’s pretty chill on the intensity-meter for a tense game about infiltrating a cult and trying to get your nephew out of it.

When we started the second trailer, the game’s director, Richard Rouse III, made the (right) call to lean into different characters’ voices — to shift from the angle of curious participants, to authoritarian cult leaders.

Ellen McLain and John Patrick Lowrie brought their A-list talent, to portray the married cult leaders in the game (which was particularly affecting as they are a real-life married couple). This framed the game in a new unsettling light, and really made the trailer feel like it’s own thing.

The key takeaway here: build your trailer audio in a radically different direction than your first trailer. In this case, we changed the voiceover. But coming back to EarthNight, we focused instead on the music.

5. Push your music in an unexplored direction

The first EarthNight – Switch Announcement needed to distinguish itself as an action game. Musically, this meant high-intensity. The beats pop and hiss with a sense that you’ve got to keep moving.

But for our brand new Release Date Trailer, Rich and the team suggested we lean into the aesthetic chill. This proved the best call to evoke a melancholic wanderlust.

This difference in musical framework introduces a different head-space for how you might enjoy the game. Perhaps the first trailer set the game up as a deep-dive game. But the second frames it as a chill daily-run game for when you’ve got ten minutes to spare on a subway ride home.

That’s not the only emotion the game maintains, but it’s one that can last with you that feels tonally different from the other trailer.  The second trailer can creates an impression for a slightly different head-space than the first trailer, and the song makes all the difference.

6. A second trailer is time to go crazy — to surprise!

In our first trailer for What the Golf, we combed backward and forward, making sure every single frame of animation made the game feel legible. We put every effort forward to make sure you understood what was happening.

We didn’t lose sight of that literacy for the second trailer, the launch trailer for WHAT THE GOLF?. In fact, we did it better, and faster — in ten seconds instead of thirty.

But as soon as you feel like it’s similar, we peel back the veil to invite you into greater (and crazier) depths. It’s time to subvert expectations.

This is a key secondary goal for that second trailer: try to surprise your established fan-base. Show them the craziest bits of your game. Maybe it’s a little harder to follow, but by now, it’s just about adding confidence that they’ll find undiscovered qualities inside.

7. Relax — You can do it!

The second trailer can be a freeing creative process once you lean into it. In many ways, it kind of creates itself, especially since you now know what your game is. You know how to showcase it to new audiences, now you can build-up those subversive surprises.

All you have left is to sit back and enjoy seeing how the world reacts to this crazy beautiful new creation you’ve spent years putting together! Well, that, and finish putting your game out there.

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