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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Uncanny Valley 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.
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.
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.
Awakening (early 2012). Overall: 2/10. Sells the game: 5/10.
This one is awful, it's wretched, it's horrid. I was accused of forgetting this video. I didn't forget about it. I blocked it out. The concept could have been
good as a new player introduction video, but the execution? Shudder. Avoid.
Fanfest Cinematic 2012 (early 2012). Overall: 8/10. Sells the game: ?/10.
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".
Inferno Trailer (mid 2012). Overall: 4/10. Sells the game: 3/10.
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!