As I mentioned the other day, at the Party I got the opportunity to have a long conversation with CCP Prawn, who is EVE's Senior Cinematic Producer and just a really great guy to chat with. When I mentioned I'd written a blog post reviewing several years of EVE Online cinematics both in terms of how well I thought they succeeded and how well they "sell the game", he was really interested in seeing it and it prompted a conversation between us about the best and the not-so-best of the EVE cinematics.
"We're our own worst critics," he assured me before encouraging me to be honest with how I felt, so it was a really productive and fun conversation. In addition to discussing specific cinematics, he and I (and a couple of other EVE players that joined in) got into a bit of a philosophical debate about what elements should be included in a "good" cinematic.
Reviewing that post a couple of years later after that conversation inspires me to bring it up to date to the present. So here we go, EVE cinematic reviews since mid 2012. That starts with...
Retribution Trailer (late 2012). Overall: 6/10. Sells the game: 8/10.
Oh my God, the cheese! This trailer makes me laugh every time I watch it. It's fun and goofy but dear Heaven is it cheesy. Right from the get-go, the (admittedly excellent) music makes it clear that this is going to be a different sort of EVE trailer. "This is Vic," the narrator intones with mock seriousness and then regales us with a tale about as factually likely as a mermaid story. "Vic" decides to harass the "Kuhnst" corporation (Prawn assures me those names were no accidents and indeed were toned down from the originals). His bounty suffers. And he seems to care, hee! But artistically it's gorgeous and in terms of selling the game, it's a winner... so it's hard not to like it.
Battle for Caldari Prime (early 2013). Overall: 5/10. Sells the game: 7/10.
It takes a while for this one to get going but once the setup is done, this first kit-bash video combining both EVE Online and DUST 514 game play footage delivers. What it does better than other trailers is really show the possible interaction between the two games, making it clear that the EVE player is having a significant impact on the DUST player's game. In that way, it's more successful as a DUST trailer than an EVE trailer -- we never get a sense that there are more than a few small enemy ships killing a Caldari titan, for instance. But it's a decent first effort showing off the realities of "One Universe / One War".
EVE - Ten Year Commemoration (mid 2013). Overall: 1/10. Sells the game: 3/10.
Er... no. I'm just gonna forget I watched this one, k? To be fair, though, the video has a really difficult mission. How do you encapsulate (yes, I went there) a ten-year-old game and the thanks you want to express to your players for it? This one tries but there's no context to latch onto. Every time you try, it flashes to something else. Avoid.
EVE Universe: Origins Cinematic (mid 2013). Overall: 9/10. Sells the game: 9/10.
I and lots of others are big big fans of the game's previous introductory video, so replacing it is a risky play. And it pays off huge! In a little over three minutes, it lays out not only the historical lore of New Eden but a touch of the more modern lore as well. Graced with one of the better voice actors CCP has hired, the text is kept to a minimum, the invoked feelings of budding omnipotence to a maximum. I particularly like the image of the single distant rocket rising into space at the mid-point. The music is great, the tone is excellent, and the ending is perfection. Great stuff!
Odyssey Trailer (mid 2013). Overall: 4/10. Sells the game: 6/10.
This is another trailer that just makes me laugh. I've mentioned a few times how the devs sometimes like to make fun of or troll EVE players. This is a whole trailer that does so. "Unlike the pitiful cowards that don't go more than 10km from a station, you are a bad-ass," this trailer assures you. "Sure you might die," it continues, "But stop being such a wimp. It's only a frigate. So what if you lose it!" Hee! That said, the trailer as a whole never sparks. It's fun to watch once but overall it's a little dull and there's nothing in it that invites repeat viewings.
DUST 514: Fight Your Own War (mid 2013). Overall: 7/10. Sells the game: 10/10.
Even though this isn't an EVE Online trailer, I want to include it because it demonstrates something I'd love to see for EVE. The last full-on in-your-face "sells the game" cinematics we've seen for EVE were The Butterfly Effect and Causality... four years ago. There's nothing wrong with them and they both still work OK today, but I'd love to see something new. This DUST 514 cinematic does a terrific job of not only explaining what DUST is about but also draws hard lines differentiating DUST from competing shooters. It also brings up compelling reasons to play the game and puts the entire experience in context. It's slightly lacking artistically but in terms of selling the game? It's excellent!
Rubicon Trailer (late 2013). Overall: 4/10. Sells the game: 2/10.
Ugh, no. I really want to like this one... but I really don't. It rates the same as the previous Odyssey trailer for me but for a different reason. The Odyssey trailer is safe; this one is not. But while it's risky, it fails: the damn thing just doesn't make any sense! It tries to invoke an atmosphere of foreboding with the stern announcement from a talking cardboard face that exploration is bad, mkay? Then the trailer itself proves the talking cardboard face right: succeed at what you try to do in EVE, die anyway! Not the message we want to send to potential new players! That said, the visuals are quite good and this trailer includes the definitive view of sentry drones being launched.
Fanfest 2014 Prophecy Cinematic (mid 2014). Overall: 10/10. Sells the game: 8/10.
As I said just the other day, this isn't the best work the cinematic team has ever done, but it's definitely in the top three somewhere! It's moody and atmospheric, with great voice-over work. Interestingly, the trailer as a whole works better if you don't watch it in HD: the problems with the character models and some of the art are de-emphasized that way and the artistic feel of the whole is emphasized instead. Its strength is that it does an even better job than the Fanfest 2014 cinematic of showing off a future vision of what the EVE Universe might look like. But it's much more speculative than that one was and as a result, it has a much harder time selling the game. It'll be really interesting to revisit this one in three years or so.
Finally, there are a couple of cinematics from between 2007 and 2012 that I forgot to include in my first post on this subject, so here they are.
Empress Jamyl I Coronation (early 2009). Overall: 6/10. Sells the game: 5/10.
In between Empyrean Age and Quantum Rise was this short snippet teasing faction warfare. It's interesting mostly because it attempts to portray a wider universe uncaring of capsuleer affairs, something that few or no cinematics since then have tried to do. The Battle for Caldari Prime, for instance, included EVE players as a driving force in the story. Most trailers barely mention New Eden's non-capsuleer population at all except as adversaries. It's not something that I'd want to see every time, but occasionally? Yes!
Causality Cinematic (late 2010). Overall: 6/10. Sells the game: 9/10.
This one takes a while to get going and from an artistic standpoint it's about as basic as it comes. The narrative is riding on the voice-over, a long story of betrayal and revenge. It's quite interesting to compare this to The Butterfly Effect that I mentioned earlier. In that trailer, we're better people than we are. In this one, we're following our more destructive natures. The most interesting thing about this trailer is that it deliberately sells EVE Online as a means to find out about yourself, not about some character you might be playing in a game. "What will you do with that kind of power?" it asks. "Play the game and find out." It's hard or impossible to imagine another company selling their game this way.
I'm caught up! For the record, my top five favorite EVE cinematics since 2007 are: