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Indie game, indie trailer

Showing your work is incredibly important in this industry. A trailer can be your calling card. Putting together a nice-looking trailer can help showing the features of a game, without the need of having the game finished. Because of this, we wanted to to set up a trailer for Okhlos.

We had already made a few videos, but we wanted something fancy for our first “official trailer”. It ended up being much more work than we expected. However, we feel that we learned a lot, and that it might be a good idea to share some tips based on the insight we gained while making a gameplay trailer.

First of all, a little disclaimer. I’m no pro at video editing, so this probably will be totally useless for anyone who has some experience in the subject. These tips are aimed mainly at anyone with no professional experience who wants to make a trailer, much like our case.

Disclaimer aside, here we go. At first, you might think that making a gameplay trailer is easy, because you only  have to show gameplay, but trust me on this one, it’s not so simple.

 

Planning

One of the things we learned, is that carefully planning what you want to show will save you lots of time. We established which were the cool parts that we wanted to show to the world, and we made a list out of them.

Well, any kind of list is good enough.

Then, you have to set up the narrative of the trailer, and the order in which each segment will be shown. That will take you some time but it’s important to have the pace and climax of the trailer clearly lined out.

Setting the pace was kind of easy, because we had the track made by @ashellinthepit, so we could work having the course set by the track. It was a good kind of restriction, because it gave us a very solid structure.

 

Footage, footage, and some more footage

You might think that recording a few play sessions is enough, but you need LOTS of footage.

We knew which things we wanted to show, but in order to have some variety (keep in mind that at the moment of making the trailer we only had the first level completed) we had to take multiple captures of each feature throughout different playthroughs. Changing the how the level looks and having a different mob also helped to make each segment feel different.

So,  be ready to record A LOT of footage. We made 61 video captures. We had 20gb or 10 minutes worth of videos JUST for this trailer. We knew the length of the trailer (45 secs approximately) because of the track. And I think having footage worth 10 times the length you are aiming for, is a good ratio.

Morale of the story, you need to make multiple recordings of each feature. You will need them in the editing room.

 

Embrace the editor

Having drafts of each segment, we noticed that there were a few things that we didn’t have implemented at the time. Also, assembling different kinds of mobs we wanted to show would have taken too much time if we did it playing the game. In this context, using Unity really helped us a lot. We could simply threw out things in the scene and capture them on video.

This is an unnecessary wide screenshot, but is cool to show the behind the scenes.

So, being able to edit the game in whatever way we needed, on runtime, was really helpful while making the trailer.

The only problem was that, as of version 3.5.7, Unity doesn’t allow you to display the editor view in fullscreen. So, all the footage we captured this way, had to be scaled in the video editor. For this, I recommend recording always with the window at the exactly same size, and in the same position, so when you apply the cut, you can save the numbers and do it automatically.

 

How to record

To capture video we use Fraps, which is a super cool program to do it. It’s proved to be really helpful but there other things you should know while capturing video:

  • Keep in mind that recording video is a very intensive task for your machine, so try to do it in the more powerful machine you could find. We captured the video in my computer, which is the most powerful computer we have in the office.
  • Ideally you want to have two HDDs. One, were the SO and the game are, and another in which you output the data recorded. Fraps its not so good when it’s reading and writing the same HDD
  • Something very importante, is taking the time to carefully rename each segment you record. When you have 60+ videos called Okhlos2014-[...].avi, you don’t want to have to decipher the thumbnail, or having to open each video to see what’s in there. Rename every capture you take, with a declarative name, like why you recorded that segment.
  • Also, try to keep the segments short . It’s better to have thousands of little files, than two or three incredible large files. You will have to edit the clip on the editing software anyways, but if you are editing and find out that you will definitely not use a clip, its easier to erase it.

Aside from this, an amazing thing I found out, (a little late maybe), is that the awesome VLC, not only is an awesome player, but also EDITS videos! This was an amazing finding, because it allowed me to remove long movies from the video project and instead use smaller ones.

You have to enable advanced controls, and there you have it! You can transform larger videos in smaller ones! It looks something like this:

You have to press rec to start recording, and again to stop recording. This will generate a video in “My documents” folder (I didn’t spend much time trying to change the output folder).

So, in short, using VLC will save you lots of time, and a more malleable video project.

 

The Software

Finally, a few notes on the software I used to edit the video.

As I’m no video editor professional, I went for the easier choice, which is to use Adobe Premiere. It’s pretty straightforward, and once you get the hang of it, it’s really easy to manage clips. I can imagine that there are more professional software for this, but Premiere gives you all the tools you might need for an indie trailer.

Having a multiple monitors setup, really helps previewing the work, while arranging the timeline, or your files.

Another thing I learned using premiere is that pressing Enter really improves the fps of the preview window. What it does is still a mystery to me, it has something to do with a render, and it will take a lot of space from your HDD. My educated guess is that renders everything in the preview size, for better handling.

On a final note on the software issue, something that really helped me a lot is to have some configuration guidelines for youtube videos.

So, here you are. The important parts are H.264 in format. VBR on Bitrate, and the target resolution to be 1920×1080 (at least for 1080p on Youtube). Previously, Youtube didn’t support more than 30fps, but as for now, they can reproduce 60fps. Also, it’s very likely that you will be making more than one video, so save these settings into a preset for future projects.

 

Audio

As I said before, the audio was made by Gordon, who is our musician and sfx guy. At first we thought that the track alone would be enough for our first trailer, and it was an invaluable aid to set the timing, but once we had the trailer, Gordon offered to add some SFX.

Adding sound effects really boosted the experience of the trailer. You can really notice the difference between one and another. So, if you have a musician, don’t hesitate on using him/her for the trailer.

Now, If you don’t have one yet, but you want to show your work, you can always search for a creative commons track. Besides that, is important to turn off any music (final or placeholders) that you might have in the game. If you have sfx integrated, try to capture the video with the audio, and lower the audio volume of the clips.

 

Now, do it again

What might be absurd in any other context, in art it’s a very common thing.  Iterate.

The thing that most helped the trailer, was to do it twice. I made an early version of the trailer, from which I learned a lot, but I did it very quickly. I finished the first trailer in almost a day.

This is how the first version looked . We changed the name for Gameplay video because it was no trailer. Also, we uploaded the video, but we didn’t share it, or make fuzz about it. Once I had the video, I shared it with a few acquaintances. This provided me lots of feedback for the final version, but what I found more interesting was seeing what each person thought was the most important part in Okhlos. Some wanted to show large mobs, others absurdly non practical camera zooms. Every person had a different view of what Okhlos was, and thanks to the trailer, we could explore some of those requests and boost expectation of the viewers on some weird psychological level. [Dubious][Citation needed]

With all this feedback, I remade the trailer. I captured everything I needed again, and we made a lot of changes from the original idea.

Remaking the trailer from scratch might sound dumb, but in this day and age, a good trailer is your packaging. So spend all the time you might need working on it. If you are more organized than I am, you might not need to recapture video, but you will most definitely have to make more than a version of your trailer and iterate on it.

 

Taking all that into consideration, here is a look at our new trailer. You might not think it is the best trailer the industry had seen, but all the advice given will definitely help you show your work in a cooler way.

 

 

 

 

 

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New trailer, E3, PAX, and stuff

This week, we introduce our new trailer!

I actually don’t know the first thing about video editing, but with persistence, and the invaluable help of @ashellinthepit, we made it! Enjoy!

 

 

Besides from the trailer, there were two major events this week: The E3 and the PAX 2014 deadline!

I don’t want to get into too much detail about the E3, because it had a lot of coverage, but anyone who was following it will have noticed that there were certain  features common to almost every game presented throughout the conferences, features that each and every person that stood on the stage highlighted over and over again.  Oddly, Okhlos has  all of those features:

  • Okhlos runs at 60fps (mostly)
  • Okhlos runs at 1920×1080 (1080p), and if you run in windowed mode, you can even set higher resolutions!
  • Once, we even made Okhlos run at 5760×1080! (Three monitors!)
  • Okhlos has a dedicated server, where we manage the SVN, and commit the changes we make! We promise that is dedicated and exclusive, because no one else can use it except for us!
  • Okhlos is very social, because we tweet and post in Facebook a lot about the game!
  • Okhlos has asimmetrical gameplay. If you play Okhlos with a person next to you, the experience of each one of you will be totally different!
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Today’s changes: changelog added

Greetings, everyone!

After countless hours of hard work (we literally don’t keep track of the working hours), we’ve reached an internal goal version: 0.3.2. And, since this is technically a dev blog, we will take the opportunity to start posting a changelog.  What is  a changelong? Basically it is a record of all the changes that took place from version to version, which is useful to show what we have been working on, and it also to help us keep track of the changes in each version. So, for this and future changelogs, it will go like this:

 

WHAT’S NEW in 0.3.2?

-New GUI

Now the GUI is pixel perfect. It is not finished yet, but is looking much cooler!

-Pause screen improved

The pause screen is a very important part of the game. It helps you keep track of your mob’s units, it shows your heroes and the amount of each kind of unit. So we put some more work into it, moving forward with the major overhaul we started in version 0.3.0.

Also, we updated pretty much every other window of the game. The “game over” screen, for example, now shows you some stats, and the config window is almost fully functional.

-Help window (temporary)

Until now we had been sending a few versions of the game, along with an attached .png that briefly explains how to play. In this version, you can access a little window with the basics of the game by pressing the universal F1 (Thanks @danielben for the idea).

-New destroyed buildings, improved fx

Well, that. The previous destroyed buildings where not cool. After some playthroughs with the new ones, we realized these are not perfect either, but with a little more work, they will end up pretty cool! The particle effects we use to show damage have also been highly improved and they are almost final.

-Difficulty!

Okhlos 0.2 was incredible easy. To be fair, we hadn’t focus on difficulty or adjusting numbers until this version, and we only did it very lightly now, but you can feel that Okhlos is much more challenging than before!

-New units!

Now, the Prophetai summon little minions who have melee attacks. The Hosioi are still here but they are an altogether different unit. We also improved the animations of the Gryphons, and we call them MechaGryphons (technically, I call it that way).

-New Heroes!

We added a few more heroes! Heroes are on of the most fun parts of Okhlos so far, and in the upcoming version we will be adding LOTS of them! Also, we’ve adjusted some of their prices, so that it is now harder to buy many of them at one time.

-Units don’t have backs

Until now, when units moved away from the camera, they showed their backs. We are changing this, so that they always face the camera. Only the units in the mob, mind you, not the enemies, they will still show you their backs (they are that rude). You might think that is not cool to do this, but we think we can take the liberty, and in this way you will have a better reading of your units.

FIXES

-Minor optimizations

By default, the sprite system that we are using keeps animations running all the time, even when the sprites are not being rendered. We have lots of animated sprites throughout the levels, like the grass or the trees, so we were spending precious milliseconds animating hundreds of these that where outside the screen. However, we couldn’t simply set all sprites to stop animating while outside the field of view because we have objects which behavior depends on animation triggers.  For example, the Prophetai only summon their minions when the summon animations reaches a certain frame, that works as a trigger. The solution we came up was adding a new property to animated sprites that lets us set if we want them to continue animating outside of the screen or not.

Asides from this, we set the quality settings of the build to a lower level, with fewer camera effects and lower resolution textures. Thankfully, you can hardly tell the difference.

-Bug fixing?

There are lots of bugs. Totally expected in this stage of the project. Sebastian destroyed his fingers solving lots of bugs, so now you can totally reach the end of the game. Before this bug fixing, it was very usual to not be able to finish a single city. I keep telling him to program without putting bugs, but he does not listen to me.

 

SCREENS

(Click on them for the full pixel art glory)

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Race to 0.3

Hey there!

First of all, we are extremely happy for the response and feedback all of you gave us last week. It means the world to us, and the feedback was really useful. For the ones who don’t know what I’m talking about, last week we presented different versions for the Argos Panoptes and the aegis shield. And a lot of you reached us out via web, Twitter, Facebook, TIG and IndieDB. So we are really thankful to all of you! We still don’t know which versions are the winners, but we are gonna ask you your opinions again soon!

And now, for this week update, we are planning the 0.3 version of Okhlos! What does this mean? Here is what we have planned for this version:

 

HUD

We’ve made a HUGE GUI change. We were using a very old version of NGUI, and we decided to update to a newer one. That brought us a lot of headaches and extra work. It really gave us lots of problem. So for this version we are hoping to close the sad chapter of updating from a 1.2x to a 3.4x (trust me on this one: never a good idea).

Besides that, we were using  2x sprites in the hud and windows (we talked about this a few updates ago). Now, the 2x sprites are only for the mob portraits. The rest of the HUD is much smaller and less invasive.

Finally, we were doing a lot of mockups of some old windows.

 

HEROES

In this version, we introduce two new types of heroes: The psychic and the troubadour.

The Psychic basically spawns a force field to prevent projectiles.

This is quite useful against projectile thrower enemies. Not so much against melee enemies, though… Also, they don’t attack: they are too  focused on creating force fields with their minds.

 

The other hero type is a buffer. The troubadour will sing, boosting the stats of nearby units. As the Psychics, they don’t attack. You can’t play the lyre and punch something at the same time!

 

MUSIC

Gordon, the newest addition to the team, started composing the Apollo track, and it is wonderful. We want to do some dynamics things with the music and the mob gauge, but for this version the stage track and maybe some other low priority sound will do.

 

ENEMIES

We finally settled a lot of things regarding the enemies in Okhlos. We have a good number of enemies, and very cool behaviors. Now we have to put them on the stage, animate them, and tweak them.

For this version, we are gonna wrap up the Apollo enemies, which went through a lot of changes.

Apollo needed some changes also. So this version he will be a little bit smarter than before.

 

FX

Finally, we needed to tweak a lot the building’s destruction. We implemented this feature some time ago, but we hadn’t had the chance to try them out. So, for this version, we are aiming to create a a permanency effect by leaving some dust particles for a while after a building is destroyed.

By the way, now destroyed buildings leave these beautiful ruins.

 

So that’s what we have in our hands right now! Luckily, we will have it a week or so. Unfortunately, it will be for internal use and press only :S

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Decisions, decisions…

Hey there!

We are trying something new here … or at least, we haven’t done before.  Here is the thing, we have to make some choices, we have several variants of this item and this enemy, and we can’t decide which ones are the best. So we are hoping that you could help us deciding!

Click in the image for the full size!

 

The first image, shows the Aegis shield. This is a legendary shield that will boost your defense A LOT for a few seconds. The main problem with the original version, was that it looked very much like a coin, and people didn’t get that was a shield, so that’s why we are trying these new ones. As you can see, we have five options to choose from: A, B, C, D and E.

 

Secondly, we have the Argos Panoptes, an enemy from the later stages of the game. This guy’s main feature  is that it has one hundred eyes. And as we as the Hecantochires turned out really cool, and they are like in the same level, we want something as cool for Argos (we haven’t revealed the Hecantochires yet, by the way, we are saving them for later). Also, you can see here that we have six options, all the way from A to F.

 

Well, that’s about it. We would love to receive some feedback from you guys. Which one is your favorite Aegis? The mighty A? The impervious D? Or perhaps the wondrous E? And what about our buddy Argos, which version do you like the most?  Reach us out by any medium available (comments, posts, Twitter, Facebook) and tell us!

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