Majotori is a narrative trivia game, which means there’s a lot of text and little to no visual action. The game is near to impossible to sell with a traditional trailer. You can’t show what the game is about with a couple of video cuts and you can’t show a static screen with a question for 10 seconds and expect the viewer to read it and feel engaged. The only way to properly portray the virtues of the game is to show people playing and reading the text out loud so the viewer doesn’t have to read it.
Since I have basic video editing skills, I considered doing it myself, but I’m from Spain and I didn’t have any friends that could speak English well enough. I contacted a professional trailer maker for indies and he told me that a “live trailer” (a trailer with people playing and reacting to the game) would be around $2000, an amount of money that I can’t afford.
What I needed was basically a bunch of voice actors that have the tools to properly record their voice and gameplay video, and can work with me over the internet. For free.
Luckily, small youtubers exist.
Looking for a place where I could recruit a group of youtubers interested in helping me without having to manually track and contact unknown youtubers directly from youtube, I found the r/youtubers subreddit.
I made the post explaining the situation and asking for interested people to send me their email address and a link to their channel. I figured that youtubers with small channels would be more than happy to be featured in a trailer, and sure enough, in a couple of days I had gathered 13 people excited to participate.
I finished some details for the beta build of the game and a week later I send them an email with a download link and a series of simple instructions they needed to follow, the most important one being to turn the game music off so I could properly edit the cuts. Others included playing at least 3 rounds with 2 different characters, optionally going to the settings menu and changing the frequency of some questions so I could show the existence of that feature, briefly stating their opinion of the game at the end of the video, and telling me which name would they like to be credited as.
Out of those 13 volunteers, only 2 were female, so for the sake of diversity I later contacted 2 other female youtubers and asked them directly if they would like to participate.
A week later, only 3 of the original 13 had sent me their video, so I contacted the rest of them again.
Yet another week later, I still didn’t have even half the videos and I was running out of time, so I contacted them yet again saying that I need the video within a week.
When the deadline arrived, 11 out of the 15 total youtubers had sent me their videos, so I went with that.
What went wrong:
· 4 of the youtubers who offered to collaborate didn’t make it in time.
· 2 of them warned me along the way that they might not make it due to work.
· The other 2 claimed that they would send me the video, but eventually never did.
· 2 of the youtubers didn’t turn the music off, so their videos were unusable.
· Most of the videos had some kind of technical problem, ranging from unsynchronized audio to a yellow tint over the game footage. I think only one of them followed every direction, including telling me their credit name, which oddly enough, only he did. I defaulted to their channel names for the rest.
· In general, they weren’t as responsive as one would expect. Half of them promised they would send me their video “tomorrow” or “this weekend”, but then sent nothing, not even an email excusing themselves, leaving me in an awkward situation, not knowing if they had have some sort of problem or they just forgot, or if they had plans to do it another day.
· I wasn’t sure something worthwhile would come out of it until the end.
What went right:
· They were all really nice and kind. Even with the lack of responsiveness, there was no attitude problem or fighting of any kind, and they all owned their mistakes.
· It was a win-win. I got my $0 trailer and they were more than happy to be featured in it. Some of them even reused their video as a let’s play for their channel.
· The trailer turned out to be better than I initially expected!
· I made some new friends and contacts along the way.
· Give youtubers a short deadline to deliver the video so you have time to contact more people to replace those who don’t make it. That will also free you from having to go chasing them around for weeks.
· If your instructions are scattered through paragraphs of text, they will read them once, then forget half of them. Add a bolded list of bullet points at the end of you email repeating every instruction you want them to follow so they can check all of them with a quick look at the email right before recording.
· It’s OK to be strict with your requests. They are freely agreeing to work with you, so it’s their responsibility to follow your instructions to provide a video you can work with.
· Be nice and professional. If someone isn’t answering your emails, just politely recontact them until they do. Don’t assume they are ignoring you or give them a bad answer if they didn’t follow your instructions. They don’t owe you anything and you should be grateful they intended to help in the first place.
· This is a gamble that could go wrong or not reach your expectations. A professional service should still be your default option if you can afford it.
If you are an indie dev with a low budget and a game that would benefit from a live trailer, I recommend trying this yourself. It’s a great opportunity for small channels that struggle to be relevant, and if all goes well, you’ll end up with a cool trailer that will cost you nothing more than the time invested in it.