Transcript of video: Creature in the Well — Is it my Genre?:
A game’s trailer should show the player if it’s their thing, their unique blend of genres. The only way to know if it captures that unique blend is to play the game deeply.
So after I play through a game I roll back through the trailer. I walk through the individual bits of how they capture the game’s unique genre elements. In the end you might find out if a game is your genre.
Welcome to Is It My Genre? — Episode 5: Creature in the Well
Creature In the Well is this brilliant, amazing game that has a trailer that just knocks everything out of the park. Most importantly it just nails genre. Let’s check it out!
Adam Volker in-trailer: Hello, I’m Adam Volker, a creative director at Flight School Studio. We are making a game called Creature In the Well, a small indie title you may not have heard of.
This particular trailer is really special because Creature In the Well had a lot of trailers — but this is the one that best effectively captures the genre. It does it through what I would call a metamodern kind of illumination into the game-making process.
This unique approach is about connecting with the game’s creators
It’s about the people who are making the game — but it’s about you as the player (and them trying to connect with you).
Adam Volker: In Creature In the Well you pay as Bot C, the last remaining engineer of the robot collective. Your goal is to save the town of Mirage from an unrelenting sandstorm by re-powering an ancient weather machine that has been dormant for centuries thanks to an ominous creature.
So he just explained the goal, the framework, the underlying structure of the game. It helps you to really understand what the game is in a way that you couldn’t in any other way.
Adam Volker: The game plays as a top down adventure hack-and-slash but it’s core mechanics are inspired by pinball, Breakout and other ball-related games. It’s weird, I know. Let me explain.
An overview helps you understand the genre explicitly
This part is really important because he explains first what the overarching framework of the goal is.
Then he explains what the core moment-to-moment kind of interactions with the game are — what the core mechanics of the game are. Then he’s like “…it’s a lot to take in.”
So we are going to explain that and that’s where things are heading next.
Adam Volker: In the game you explore sprawling dungeons room-by-room. Visualize each of them as a small circuit board. The puzzles challenge the player’s ability to catch, charge and shoot the ball quickly and accurately. Each time you hit a bumper with orbs you collect energy which is shown in the top left corner of the screen.
There’s one key UI moment that clarifies the overarching objective
I want to highlight especially this part where he calls attention to the top left corner of the screen and kind of darkens everything so you can see that you are ultimately working towards this goal in the top left corner.
Adam Volker: You will use this energy to unlock doors and upgrade your character to further progress the game.
Adam clarifies the player’s emotional experience
You are not going to emotionally fully connect with all of what he’s saying but you are understanding the emotional feel of what you are working towards in the game. This is establishing the framework and the core overarching ambitions of the player, which is crazy-effective at helping you understand what the experience is going to feel like as you play it.
Adam Volker: Creature In the Well contains eight handcrafted bespoke, super duper unique dungeons, each with their own theme and visual style.
One key trailer takeaway: showcase variety and scope
He steps away for a moment from the overarching genre and establishes the variety and the scope of the whole game. He says there are eight dungeons with a unique visual style and that they are handcrafted. They are not roguelike. There is a beginning and an end. When I played through the game I loved how I felt like I had a really substantive meaty game experience in five hours.
Adam Volker: No one has touched the machine in ages so the creature has had a lot of time to tinker and set traps for you to overcome. Some are action focused, challenging your reflexes. While others test your logic and puzzle solving abilities.
He touches here on the core genres’ action and puzzle-solving
This is important because he breaks-away to understand what is going on emotionally for the experience. You know that you are going to be tested in your response time and in your puzzle-solving.
Adam Volker: Sometimes even, the creature will attempt to stop you itself.
You only need to tease the idea of boss fights
This part is important because he is teasing, he doesn’t overtly express the nature of the boss fights but he does tease that there are really special boss fights at the end of each dungeon.
Adam Volker: Creature In the Well is full of secrets. Everything that you find gives you a glimpse into what happened to the machine. There are twelve cosmetic caves and sixteen different weapons, split into chargers and strikers. My personal favorite is the axe. It splits a single ball into multiple, allowing you to hit your targets more easily.
I love how he mentions the game has secrets
Just having that brief addressing-of-secrets tells you so much about what kind of game you are getting into.
There is no other way to do that in trailers other than to say “hey there’s lots of secrets in here” But the way that he says it and the way that he delivers that information feels very very natural.
It’s amazing when you can highlight and establish what special items you are going to be collecting throughout the game to give you a sense of fleshing out what tools I am going to be using in the game.
Then he calls out two special items and what they do and how they work. It’s not just “hey we’ve got a feature set here and we are talking about all the things that are our game.”
Here’s a sense of the scope of what you are getting into
Adam Volker: The hammer slows down time allowing to get your volleys timed just right. The dual blades equip you with an aim assist to line up the long distant shots flawlessly.
Adam Volker: In between your dungeoning you can visit the town of Mirage, the dusty desert outpost town at the heart of Creature In the Well. You will meet it’s kind spirited citizens like Danielle: a dragon, crocodile blacksmith that forged all the weapons and tools you find throughout the game.
Key pacing tip: Spend a moment of time out of the game’s core dungeon
It helps to really sense where you are going to be in the game, not just in the dungeons but having a moment of reprieve.
Adam Volker: If you bring her old cores from the dungeons she can upgrade your weapons and help you level up.
Again progression. Again genre.
Adam Volker: Back inside the mountain you will find Roger, a humble janitor, aspiring to be a scientist. It in fact was Roger’s great great great grandfrogger who built the machine in the first place, go figure.
Cute stuff contrasts the heavy stuff
If you have something cute in your game like that that offsets the rest of everything else, that intense action, that’s just great.
Adam Volker: Hopefully this clears up what we mean when we say made up words like pinbrawler or pinball-hack-and-slash.
Note Adam’s genre clarifications
It’s amazing when he clarifies that this is what the core genre of the game is when he says pinbrawler and pinball hack and slash. Those are just blanket terms to overwhelm you with information and quick distillation of what the experience is like. This trailer clarifies all of that with showing and telling and bringing great light to the whole thing.
Adam Volker: Thanks for spending some time with us to talk about the game Creature In the Well. I cannot wait for you all to get your hands on it.
Takeaway: authenticity is key to this trailer approach
I love so many things about this game trailer. The number one thing about it is that it tackles the game play video trailer in a way that feels authentic. It feels sincere. It feels like you come away understanding what is the scope, what is the spirit, what am I going to feel playing this game? I love a lot about it but that’s it for today.
That’s it for Is It My Genre? I’m M Joshua. You can find my work mjoshua.com and thanks for watching Is It My Genre? Bye Bye.
Find more episodes of ‘Is it My Genre?’ on M Joshua’s YouTube channel.