And… Cut

I’ve discussed before that one of the coolest things about making games is how many different skill sets it takes. It turns out, being indie requires even more. Not only do you have to conceive of and create a game, you have to be able to sell it.

In today’s world of instant media, one of the most important ways to communicate your projects is through video. This is especially true for Kickstarter projects. More and more begin every day, and the quickest way to filter out the hopeless ones and tune in to the promising ones is to briefly check out their videos. Is the video professional looking? Does the presenter come across as informed and confident? Would you trust that person with your money? Does the product look like it works?

Over the past week, I’ve studied up on film making (something I don’t have a whole lot of experience with), and worked on a script for the Corporate America Kickstarter video. And this weekend, I spent a long and very fun Saturday filming the video with some of my friends.

As some of you probably know, the Kickstarter is going up in less than two weeks! It’s a very exciting and nerve wracking prospect. And it’s also time to get serious and head into the home stretch.

Today, I really wanted to have a preview of the video ready for you. I thought I would have a short preview of the video ready for you. Unfortunately, the computer gods were not kind to me, and I’ve been suffering through mind numbing file type compatibility issues since I tried to start editing the video. Nothing like some intellectual property issues getting in the way of any forward progress, am I right?

So, today, you will not get any sneak previews of the video. Instead, I’ll explain what the video will be like and share some of the experience of filming it.

What’s in a Film?

The objective of a Kickstarter video is to communicate to potential supporters what you’re trying to do with your project (in this case, get a really cool game made) and to convince them that you know what you’re doing. Of course, in order to do that, you really have to make a video that stands out and is entertaining. You can’t expect anyone to watch a video for more than a few minutes, so you have to pack a lot into a small amount of time, or else make it ridiculously fun to watch.

Now, for those of you who have had a chance to play Corporate America, you know that the game is really fun. It leads to all sorts of hilarious discussions and tense game situations. If you’ve experienced that yourself, or even heard other people laughing as they play the game, you know it’s a ton of fun.

The problem is that it doesn’t sound all that fun when I explain it. “Oh yeah, it’s a game about some, um, corporations. There’s one deck of business cards with silly names, and then there’s a consumption deck that’s kind of like advertising, and then someone gets to be president and pass legislation!” Bankers and politicians don’t have quite the same immediate appeal as wizards and warriors or aliens and space ships.

The stars of the show, Dan, Eric, Sam, and Will, take a much deserved break during shooting.

I knew going into the video that showing the game was the best way to communicate how great it is, so I wanted to make sure to fit that into the video prominently. I tried recording actual gameplay footage, but it quickly became apparent that it would be difficult to capture the best gameplay moments this way, and almost impossible to tell a coherent story with actual gameplay footage. So, I did what any reasonable game designer would do: I invited a few of my friends over to dress up in silly costumes and pretend to play Corporate America as exaggerated business stereotypes (Texas oil tycoon, Wall Street power broker, etc).

I’ve worked with many first time game designers (and have been one), and one mistake they consistently make is scoping their games unrealistically. They create huge expansive worlds, epic weaving story lines, huge lists of features and mini-games and the like, expecting to fit it all in a single game they have a few months to make.

Well, I’m probably a little guilty of being overambitious with this video.

I’ve worked on movies before, but very few and not recently. I studied up on film making, but that’s no substitute for actual experience. I’ve talked before about having to wear many different hats as an independent game designer… well to make this movie, I’ve had to about double the number, acting as a script writer, director, cameraman, editor, and of course actor!

I’m not saying the movie won’t be entertaining. Believe me… it’s entertaining. It’s just not going to quite be Hollywood quality. But I’m a game designer, not film maker, right?

Post Production

So, filming was a ton of fun with a bunch of good friends. Editing has been a nightmare.

Mike was not only the cameraman for much of the filming, he was also the musician and helped me write the screenplay. Plus, he offered his computer when editing woes were giving me severe depression! What a guy!

The camera I ended up using saved the footage in a proprietary format that wasn’t usable by many programs I tried using. (Intellectual property rights exploitation–one of the many reasons I think Crapple is a very fitting name for the company.) I wasn’t able to upgrade my preferred video editor to the pro version, which could handle that file type, because my bank was being over-protective. When I finally did upgrade, my computer didn’t have the hardware needed to handle so many movie clips at once.

Thankfully, my good friend Mike came to the rescue, allowing me to borrow his old mac which has allowed me to make some forward progress on the editing. I’m hoping to have a first version of the video ready in the near future!

And One More Thing…

Before I go, I just wanted to mention that example presidential hats came in yesterday! Woo!

It really doesn’t get much more stylish than this.

I will be experimenting with patches in the near future, so they’re a little plain at the moment… but they still look pretty stylish to me!

That’s it for today… stay tuned for more Kickstarter preparation updates in the near future!

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