Welcome to Jester's Trek.
I'm your host, Jester. I've been an EVE Online player for about six years. One of my four mains is Ripard Teg, pictured at left. Sadly, I've succumbed to "bittervet" disease, but I'm wandering the New Eden landscape (and from time to time, the MMO landscape) in search of a cure.
You can follow along, if you want...

Saturday, October 6, 2012

I'll be seeing you

So, my alliance-mates and I were chatting the other night and the conversation turned to EVE trailers for past expansions.  That caused me to trot out my belief that the guys that make these trailers have really lost their mojo lately.  As I said in that post, after going with a couple of riskier trailers that didn't really succeed, the trailer team seems to have lost their confidence and gone with basic, uninspired trailers the last few outings.  There's nothing wrong with them per se, but they're kinda dull and they don't do the main job a trailer is supposed to do, which is sell the product.

That inspired me to go out and have a look at EVE's modern trailers over the last five years and re-watch them.  And after doing so, I thought it'd be fun to review the ten or so most recent trailers and why I think they're successful (or not).  Along the way, I'll mention a few of the "sell the game!" videos the team has made as well.  Let's start with:

Trinity Trailer (late 2007).  Overall: 9/10.  Sells the game: 10/10.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=maMjjUr6zIQ
This trailer will probably always have a special place for me.  Before this trailer, I was aware of EVE.  But this trailer and another related video (in a second) were probably what moved me from knowing about the game because some friends were playing it to actually reading up on EVE and deciding to try it.  "This is actual game play footage" the trailer essentially says at the top, then wows you with the visuals.  Does it need voice acting?  Does it need to give you a list of buzz-words?  It does not.  It glues your eyes to the screen, then simply states "The biggest expansion... ever."  The epic choral music chosen in this trailer gives me goose-bumps to this day, five years later.  This trailer practically screams "Buy me!  I'm awesome!"  A home run.

Empyrean Age Teaser #1 (early 2008).  Overall: 10/10.  Sells the game: 7/10.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uSHdIsIOrsc
Not a trailer, but this 48 second teaser was what closed escrow on EVE for me.  It's arguably the finest 48 seconds the trailer team has ever done, and still gives me chills.  It looks a tiny bit primitive by today's standards but that doesn't matter because the plot of this teaser is fantastic.  The first time I undocked from the Ishukone station in Malkalen, my heart skipped a few beats because I wasn't entirely sure what I was looking at.  This teaser is so good that it was used as television advertising for EVE Online on the Sci-Fi Channel in the U.S. that year.

Empyrean Age Trailer (early 2008).  Overall: 6/10.  Sells the game: 6/10.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PKdTJjDnYzE
It's a pity that that the trailer itself doesn't succeed nearly as well.  It scores a lot of points for atmosphere and epic scope.  But the dialogue is over-wrought and it's not really all that memorable or exciting.  The visuals are mostly pretty, but without context or story, what good are they?  As a result, I think a lot of people forget about this one and think of the Teaser as the Trailer.

Quantum Rise Trailer (late 2008).  Overall: 7/10.  Sells the game: 9/10.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKviRpvGXBs
It's very interesting to compare this one to the recent Inferno trailer.  The first 20 seconds of this trailer are "spreadsheets on-line" before all of that is kicked in the face... hard.  "The Scope" brief musical theme is something the trailer team should resurrect because that 2-second snippet of sound still produces a visceral reaction from me because of all the videos it was used in that year.  While the events of this trailer are slightly generic, what this trailer does better than most is sell the epic scope of New Eden.  And of course, "Military experts are calling this a cynosural field!" is an EVE meme to this day.

Apocrypha Trailer (early 2009).  Overall: 9/10.  Sells the game: 9/10.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q62Wk3xWH8g
Another trailer that doesn't need a voice-over or to even text to get the job done, and probably the best example ever of the trailer team's ability to sell a story visually and audibly rather than just put a lot of :words: on the screen.  This is also the best horror-inspired trailer the team's ever done and the homage to Homeworld's music included probably didn't hurt at all.  There's no explanations given or needed... the call of the unknown brought players into New Eden like no other expansion before or since.  And this trailer started that ball rolling.

The Butterfly Effect (mid 2009).  Overall: 8/10.  Sells the game: 10/10.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=08hmqyejCYU
The trailer team's first attempt to explicitly sell EVE Online and do nothing else knocks it out of the park.  Is it unrealistic?  Sure.  But that's part of its charm: in an ironic way, it's selling a version of EVE where we're all better people than we actually are.  ;-)  But sell EVE it does, and quite well.  If anyone needs to understand why you play EVE, this is a fine first video to show them.  It's no coincidence that this is one of the most-watched EVE videos ever made.  Only one "sell the game!" video the team did was better.

Dominion Trailer (late 2009).  Overall: 10/10.  Sells the game: 10/10.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDVEHE10nHc
This one made three unqualified successes in a row, and for my money, is the finest trailer ever made for an EVE Online expansion.  This one has it all: drama, epic scope, atmosphere, great visuals, an easy-to-understand story, and it sells the game like nobody's business.  Again, it's a little bit unrealistic.  A common complaint is that portrays EVE combat as more dynamic than it actually is.  But honestly, don't a lot of us romanticize fleet fights in this way after they're over?  I never get bored with watching this video and combined with "The Butterfly Effect" makes 2009 the best year ever for the trailer team.

Tyrannis Trailer (mid 2010).  Overall: 5/10.  Sells the game: 6/10.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ms95NKFnhCU
The first minute or so of this trailer leads you to believe that dynamic, epic events will be unfolding... and then it misses the mark.  Rather badly, unfortunately.  This is the first trailer that tried combining voice acting and atmosphere over substance and story; previous trailers had mixed these elements or stuck with one or the other.  The best part of the trailer starts about a minute in and ends 30 seconds later.  The rest fails much too far to the left and becomes professorial.  Space combat somehow becomes dull.  Also, why is it that every time the trailer team wants to reflect sov conflict in a trailer, it's always happening in eastern New Eden?

Incursion Trailer (late 2010).  Overall: 4/10.  Sells the game: 5/10.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ejX0Rym0NZw
Ugh.  There's a clear attempt to invoke the horror atmosphere of the Apocrypha trailer here that falls completely flat.  Then it drops the entire trailer straight into the Uncanny Valley.  Citizen Botox, some really poor voice acting, and dialogue that's either over-wrought or laughable soon turns this trailer into unintentional comedy.  I appreciate that this one was risky, but... no.  Avoid.

A Future Vision (early 2011).  Overall: 9/10.  Sells the game: 10/10.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=45mlVuLs_Nw
The Uncanny Valley mates with a poor initial voice-over and for the first 15 seconds it looks like a repeat of the Incursion trailer... but happily the off-spring is murdered in its crib by the two male voice actors (who are both excellent) and the action element, which is stunningly portrayed.  And for two minutes, we have the best "sell the game!" video ever done by CCP.  A lot of people scoffed about whether CCP could actually pull off this vision.  And those people have, I hope, been convinced in the year since that what's shown here is doable.  The baby born in the first 15 seconds shambles out of its grave for the end but by that time, it's forgotten.  A masterwork.

I Was There (mid 2011).  Overall: 4/10.  Sells the game: 7/10.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OSxSyv4LC1c
This one features most of the sins of the previous 18 months's trailers in one convenient package: over-wrought dialogue, poor voice acting, unrealistic story elements, a toe dipped into the Uncanny Valley, and an attempt at atmosphere that falls flat.  Mostly, you'll want to watch this video so that you can understand the many, many well-done parodies of it that were made in late 2011.  Still and somewhat ironically, this second-in-a-row "sell the game!" video does a pretty good job on that score mostly by trying to make EVE combat look dynamic.  In the real EVE, that Ares pilot would have been popped 70km away from his objective by a tweaker with five tracking mods fitted.  ;-)  Another risky video that doesn't work in the end.

Crucible Trailer (late 2011).  Overall: 7/10.  Sells the game: 8/10.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HrrVDV_NsNo
All of those risky trailers falling flat probably led to this: the Crucible trailer, which is workmanlike, serviceable, and dumps voice-overs or actors entirely... but also lacks atmosphere or story of any kind.  Made during a time where every risky gamble CCP made lost, and made in support of an expansion that was quickly put together to mollify the existing player base, this trailer does its job of drawing those players back in.  But it's overly safe and overly reliant on buzz-words over real substance.  But it's not objectionable and a lot of people like it for the modern music.

Fanfest Cinematic 2012 (early 2012).  Overall: 8/10.  Sells the game: ?/10.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GI53ydJaus8
Before I can rate this one on "selling the game", you have to ask "which game?"  There are only very brief shots of space-ships; this "sell the game!" video is mostly selling "New Eden" as a concept rather than either EVE Online or DUST 514.  That said, it succeeds quite handily on its merits.  Moody and atmospheric, after reading all of the above I think you'd agree that this is an excellent homage to the old-school EVE Online trailers of 2008 and early 2009.  That snippet of Homeworld music is even back.  The Uncanny Valley is avoided and the story is quite well done!  This isn't an EVE trailer as such, but I'd love to see something like this for Retribution.  It nicely destroys any memory of the previous "sell the game!" video, "Awakening", which is horrid.

Inferno Trailer (mid 2012).  Overall: 4/10.  Sells the game: 3/10.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kED11aGobUk
The Crucible trailer makes its triumphant retur-- no.  I'm kidding.  This is not nearly as good as the Crucible trailer.  Filled with buzz-words, over-wrought voice-acting, and opening with "spreadsheets on-line", this is arguably the worst trailer ever made for an EVE Online expansion.  It does nearly nothing to sell the game, lacks atmosphere or story, and the music... oi.  A lot of people like the thumping bass line but that combined with the rapid cuts just gives me a headache.  And why is it every time a super-cap gets its face kicked in in an EVE trailer, it's an Erebus?

Wow.  That was longer than I expected.  Still, I think I've shown in quite a lot of detail why I feel the trailer team has lost its mojo.  There's no question: they're capable of putting together fantastic videos.  But their last unqualified success in a trailer was three years ago in 2009.  I'd really love to see something well-done and atmospheric for the Retribution trailer, which we should be seeing any time now.

Knock my socks off, guys!  I'll be watching!

32 comments:

  1. You forgot the Awakening trailer:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uc0Xx3MZ4I4

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    1. No, I didn't forget. I blocked it out.

      (It's mentioned in the Fanfest Cinematic review, and for the record, Awakening is AWFUL.)

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  2. Definitely agree that Dominion is a beautiful trailer and also a tough one to top. I think it portrays both the culmination of a planned operation and the multinational aspect of Eve, allowing for one to have a personal endearment to the trailer.

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  3. Why do you criticize the Incursion, Future Vision, and I Was There trailers for uncanny valley issues but give the 2012 Fanfest video a pass? From what I can see they're using all the same avatar technology.

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    1. The characters are either covered in helmets or mostly viewed at a distance. That diminishes the effect quite a bit.

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    2. I think this might be showing of your age a bit, Jester. As someone a little more than half your age, the uncanny-valley effect really doesn't bother met at all in any of these trailers. I think this might be a product of the two different times we've grown up in. I'm pretty used to 3D characters interacting in their own worlds having grown up with stuff like this.

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    3. Yeah, I don't see the uncanny valley here at all - and besides, the Fanfest video features quite a few closeups of Jamyl, the Amarr scientist guy, and the arguing CONCORD guys.

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  4. Um Jester... I need to vent here. This is the first time I've err disagreed with you fully. Every single rating you've given these trailers I'd completely flip-flop. All I can say is that I guess our styles of trailers and completely different.

    I absolutely HATE every video you,ve given a 10/10 and I've. Loved every single video you've (in my opinion) low balled.

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    1. Interesting! Honest curiosity: do you think that might have something to do with the different ways in which we play the game?

      Also, ping me sometime if you see me online and you have a few minutes. Would like to catch up with what's going in Incursions (assuming you're still running them).

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    2. I agree - a complete flip-flop on Jester's ratings on the videos.

      If the Trinity trailer was the only one for Eve, I would have never played. However, I watched the Inferno trailer over and over and resubscribed because of it.

      There is no better QoTW that tells the true story of Eve than "If the price is right, I will set the universe on fire"

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  5. Are you forgetting all the Ragnaroks that are killed in trailers? Empyrean Age and the Fanfest 2012 trailer come to mind. I think there's one more there somewhere.

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  6. Surprised this one wasn't on the list: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uc0Xx3MZ4I4&feature=BFa&list=PLF614A7A6461E61E1

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    1. See above. I didn't forget. I blocked it out. Overall: 2/10. Sells the game: 5/10. The CONCEPT could have been good as a new player introduction video, but the execution? Shudder.

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  7. It isn't hard to figure out.

    Eve Online is an MMO *spaceship* game.

    If you want to sell it, show spaceships - lots of spaceships - doing what you mostly do in the game, which is blowing each other up. That is why the Dominion trailer rocks.

    Over-acted voice overs are so unnecessary - in any trailer.

    And, lose those stupid text popup annotations at the end of the Inferno trailer, which mean absolutely nothing to anyone who isn't already playing the game.

    If I were making a trailer, I'd start with a 1-on-1 battle, escalating into a gang-vs-gang battle, escalating into a fleet-vs-fleet battle.

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    1. I'd argue the Butterfly Effect trailer shows there's a level deeper than "lol explosions" that can be explored in trailers. The social aspect of EVE can really come out in trailers and Dominion proves this. I think a fabulous trailer could be made out of a real player fight. I've seen RnK videos and TEST propaganda videos. If CCP could get some cameras on a real player battle and shoot a trailer from that we could see a novel trailer.

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    2. Doing what people mostly do in the game?

      3 minutes of spreadsheets will surely bringt a lot of new players to Eve.

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  8. You (and the countless bittevets) are unjust with "I was there" trailer. Your mockery and parodies made the rest of the trailers lifeless, boring, "safe".

    Sure, "I was there" is biased as it shows one of the few frig hulls that made it to provide a warpin and not the one of the many who got popped. But shouldn't an ad be biased?

    Otherwise it wasn't at all unrealistic: a huge fleet ran into a hopeless looking strategic situation but with a good call the FC turned it and they won.

    Look at a recent example: GQ2S-8 (http://www.evenews24.com/2012/10/05/battle-report-rol-vs-pandemic-legion-test-gq2s-8-brawl)
    The HBC shield fleet jumped into a camped gate. Ships were popped left and right but held the field, making the careless SoCo ignore that some of the ships were not drakes but bombers who warped off, warped back and with one run killed or seriously damaged half their fleet, making the survivors easy Drake food.

    Sure, as a bittervet you can analyze it and see it as obvious, inevitable, call the surviving HBC ships simply lucky (as they are, those who were called primary mostly died due to good logi jamming on SoCo part). Or simply ignore it all and tell the obvious truth that "TEST Alliance can blob it anytime, they won before they undocked".

    But try to forget the metagame and see as a pilot who is still in a "woot spaceships" phase. As a newbie or a non-player that you are literally in the "wall of gunfire", seeing friendlies pop left and right and then "bang" and the enemy fleet turns into a field of wreckage and you won!

    I know that this is how a newbie would see it, because I don't have to imagine. I am a newbie who literally never PvP-ed before.

    And I was there: http://greedygoblin.blogspot.com/2012/10/my-first-pvp-in-eve.html

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  9. I would like a return to classical music for the trailers.

    The music set a tone. The chorals, strings, horns, and timpani's from the early trailers left me with a visceral sense of, "This is going to be epic.". Dubstep isn't Eve. It doesn't sell the idea of Eve, it doesn't make me want to play Eve. It's fun to watch then instantly forgettable.

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    1. Yeah I agree wholeheartedly! There's so much variation in moods that you can get with symphonic or instrumental music, and that allows them to make a musical score that ramps up with the story. You can't really do that with dubstep.

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  10. I would have thought 'Causality' would be on this list.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uGplrpWvz0I&feature=share&list=PLF614A7A6461E61E1

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    1. I was also surprised by the omission of Causality. I rather enjoyed that one, although it was quite similar to the Butterly Effect.

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    2. This is 100% my fav of all the EVE videos. Though it's not tied to a specific expansion, it's the one I use to sell other players on and to just explain the game to people.

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  11. EVE Online: Causality is missing definatly.

    And anyway I have to disagree on Incursions (works for me, as it gave me a chill after fighting in some of the events, shame the expansion itself was boring, actually that trailer even made my wife sign up on eve)

    Inferno trailer made me sign up again btw.

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  12. Great post Jester. An interesting departure from the usual posts here. I agree with much of your assessment of the various trailers (and their current lackluster state).

    One I'm surprised didn't make your list though is Eve Never Fades. It's the trailer that really sold me on Eve: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e5LdPf2J_hs

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  13. I like the tyrannis and incursion trailer, and hate the butterfly effect (which is really to far from reality).
    For the rest... I agree with you.

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  14. Dominion is indeed the bees knees. Anything with Russians speaking is legit. My first Eve video for the most part was RNK's Clarion 3; pretty good video for a newbie to watch

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  15. As you point out, we had pretty much this discussion around your post in May. I don't disagree that recent offerings have shown the marks of what's been going on in EVE's and CCP's meta, but I'm not so sure that's a bad thing. Context matters when assessing what trailers are for. Crucible was about retaining existing players and encouraging lapsed players to return after the anger and burnout of the Summer of Rage. Its content and delivery were well calculated and appropriate for the times. It reassured us that we were in the safe hands of people who were focused on delivering Ships in Space, gave us some nice new toys and some eye-candy, used actual players for clips ("See, they work with us") and presented no disturbing "vision" for people to disagree over.[1]

    That's a different spec than for Trinity--"my" trailer back when I started EVE--which was "Big, beautiful sandbox (with a cool new engine)". Epic, emotion-rousing music and a tiny text script that tugged at the Carl Sagan fan in so many of us: "This universe of wonder... | Is reborn | The biggest expansion ever | And all of it is yours". The first and last lines there are jewels, evocative and multi-layered. The visuals gave a sense of scale that I haven't had since. So there's this beautiful universe which is mine (for a reasonable monthly fee) and I can explore it and find stuff to do in it. Cool! Then there was the game's opening sequence which (back then) gave a potted EVE history, told us that the fates of empires and hopes of worlds rested on the strength of our wings, and urged us to "Take control of the destiny that is rightfully yours". ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v-C79U7otis ) It was excellent for communicating both the wonder and the potential of the sandbox, and conditioning this customer to assume that part of the point of the thing was to make your own fun and challenges within it.

    What would count as a mojo-ful trailer now?

    It sounds like you're using the trailers as indicators of CCP's corporate headspace and saying "Okay, CCP, I know that we gave you a hard time about the vision stuff before, but we actually need to feel some of that again now"? Is that a fair description?[3]

    How much of our current response is because we've changed? Among other things, we HedTFU and lost our sense of wonder.


    ========

    [1] To me it was about CCP saying "We will be sensible and work on things that matter to you. We will do things around the house that we've been neglecting. We won't run off with the cute new game idea across the way and leave you paying the bills while our attention is elsewhere".

    [2] The Apropcrypha equivalent suggested different ways to achieve greatness and exhorted us to "Dare to be bold, pilot!", which was also okay, although I did miss the sense of being part of the EVE story as well as part of the EVE-player story.

    [3] I came back from Fanfest with the sense that there was a vision for DUST, and some cool stuff technically going on in EVE, but an aching chasm where an EVE vision had once been.

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  16. The Incursion trailer was pretty good I thought... maybe because that was what sold me on Eve
    ~DarthNefarius

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  17. Nice compilation, but I would have other scores.
    You are too harsh, I liked ALL the trailers and some of those that you ranked really low too (Incursions for instance).

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  18. 'Causality' is 'Butterfly Efect' redux. More shiny but less awesome. A fairly common thing to happen since these ideas are not a novelty anymore. Also, the background music is a tad worse, and it keeps the same amount of UI spreadsheets and avatars!

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  19. Well I agree with your picks Jester, but how about your top 10 Eve Videos?

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  20. "Inferno Trailer

    Filled with buzz-words, over-wrought voice-acting, and opening with "spreadsheets on-line", this is arguably the worst trailer ever made for an EVE Online expansion. It does nearly nothing to sell the game, lacks atmosphere or story, and the music... oi. A lot of people like the thumping bass line but that combined with the rapid cuts just gives me a headache. And why is it every time a super-cap gets its face kicked in in an EVE trailer, it's an Erebus?"

    Buzzword and overwrought? No. The voice acting was done just right and it really aroused my attention when I first watched it. Atmosphere is definitely here and it doesn't necessarily need a story to be one of the best trailers. The subtle music made it even more epic right before we see the Gallente ships enter in close up view and the music opens up.

    You're right, the one that needs his face kicked is you and your 4/10 for what I call the most brilliant EVE Online trailer yet.

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