From the moment we decided to create a Kickstarter campaign for Mask of the Rose, we knew we needed a bespoke campaign video. We’d already made an announcement trailer for Mask of The Rose, but this wasn’t enough for a Kickstarter campaign. The trailer is quite brief, doesn’t show in-game screens, and it’s mostly in-universe; there’s no-one from the team talking about what the project is or why you might consider backing it.
For Sunless Skies, it was straightforward to devise a campaign video that featured members of the team. We worked with videographers who could capture “talking heads” interviews in the office, which were then interspersed with gameplay and concept footage.
The pandemic upended that. By the time we were planning the video, we had decided to permanently give up our physical office and the team are now dispersed, working at home. Coronavirus restrictions would prevent us from involving professional videographers or gathering the team for a big recording session. We explored filming at home but decided against it. The biggest barrier to recording high-quality video is lighting; it requires specialist equipment and knowhow to light people well and consistently, especially across different interiors. In this video, we couldn’t rely on cutting back to a developer speaking.
What could we use instead? We had already started working on a vertical slice of the game and we certainly wanted to present some in-game footage. That couldn’t be all of it though – watching minutes of Griz and Archie talking would get repetitive fast, and wouldn’t always be relevant to the voiceover. We’d have to think harder about what material would illustrate the topics we wanted to cover in the video, so we put our heads together and made a list, including:
- Art from Fallen London, to show the wider universe and how Mask of the Rose builds and evolves on the art style.
- Concept art from Mask of the Rose, useful where we want to focus on individual characters.
- Assets from the trailer, such as an animated map.
- Title cards to introduce each speaker. Including static photography allowed us to put a face to a voice, even though we couldn’t use video footage.
- We did want to try and include some moving footage of the developers, so hit on the idea of recording a Zoom call of the Failbetter team waving to the camera to close the video, hoping that the viewer would forgive the lower quality moment in the context of the pandemic!
- “Behind the scenes” screen capture and timelapses showing how art is created for the game.
- Source photography to illustrate art inspirations.
- Footage of previous games and Kickstarter campaigns to show our history with crowdfunding.
- Screen captures from Discord and fan art, to raise a glass to the Fallen London community! Thankfully, several artists were kind enough to lend us their images, which you can find out about here.
Parallel to this, we were thinking about the structure of the video and what we wanted to convey. This was a very iterative process. It began with Sara and Hannah (communications) drafting a high-level skeleton – who would appear, in what order, what questions we wanted to answer and what visuals we might use to illustrate each section. After contributions from writing, business, art and production, we were ready to record the voiceovers. We used an “interview” format – the audio you hear in the video is of Sara asking us the questions on the cards. The voiceover is semi-improvised – we had decided what key points we wanted to hit in advance but answered without a script.
Recording the voiceovers was a relay race! The British postal service was creaking under the weight of the pandemic, Christmas, and Brexit, so we were on the clock to ship our podcasting microphone between the participants. Thankfully, a well-bribed Rattus Faber kept the equipment moving and we finished the recordings in a fortnight.
The campaign video really started to take shape in the edit, which Toby, our senior artist, did in-house for the first time. We had more answers and longer recordings than would fit into a comfortable three minutes, so we had to be quite brutal about paring each section down.
We ended up including less footage of the vertical slice in the video than we’d planned. In such a text heavy game, it often looked a bit distracting to have the characters talking in text form while the voiceover was saying something different. We pulled it back so the lines the characters were speaking related to the point the developer was making. We also slowed the speed the player was progressing the text, so only one or two written lines appeared in each clip. Our “B-roll” footage list gave us the right visuals to bed the beats in between game footage.
While the circumstances weren’t ideal, we were quite happy with the way the video turned out and how closely the visuals match up with the audio; we’re developing our in-house capabilities in video production, and will benefit from many of the lessons we learnt in the future – including when we’re ready to assemble the launch trailer for Mask of the Rose.
You can learn more about Mask of the Rose and watch the video on Kickstarter.