Monday, 18 April 2011

Why I made a graphics-only trailer of Proun

I just released a new trailer of Proun! I am really happy with the atmosphere in this one, so have a look and enjoy! Be sure to turn up the volume and set to full screen for the optimal Proun Trailer Experience (tm):

(The beautifully brooding music I used for this trailer was created by Igorski. You should really check out the other weird, atmospheric music on his website.)

As you can see, this trailer has a pretty different approach to the previous trailers: it is entirely in slow motion and doesn't show the player's vehicle. Quite an odd choice, really, so why did I go this way?

For starters, I was inspired by a recent trailer of Fez, a beautiful indie pixel game* that is currently in development. I love the atmosphere in this trailer, which shows slowly rotating landscapes with atmospheric music, and I figured something similar would work nicely for Proun as well.

However, there is quite a bit more to it.

Proun is a game, not just a piece of graphics. Proun's graphics are very readable and do not distract from the gameplay, so I think the gameplay and graphics complement each other well. However, they also hide each other: when you are looking at the graphics, you will probably bump into an obstacle. And when you are racing really well, you will probably be so focused on avoiding obstacles, that you will not notice the artwork. Lots of people have told me that they didn't even notice the beautiful graphics until they watched someone else play. So I wanted to make a trailer without the gameplay, to let the graphics really shine, just for once.

Since Proun is a racing game, it also needs some information for the player. What lap are you in, what position are you placed, how is your time? Interfaces almost always distract from the actual game world. They are often pretty much a necessary evil in any game, usually to inform or enable the player**. In Proun, the graphics are all about minimalism: creating as strong an image as possible with very few elements. All those necessary numbers in the interface totally break with Proun's simplicity. So in this new trailer, I liked being able to for once leave out all the gameplay elements, making the graphics stronger.

Finally, why is the player's vehicle not there in this trailer? Where is The Big Ball At The Centre Of The Screen? Well: since it is always there, it would make the entire trailer very uniform. In a previous blogpost, I talked about designing the camera movement to prevent motion sickness. Tying the camera to the ball works really well, but results in a ball that is always at the exact centre of the screen, at the exact same size, and always pulling the player's eyes towards it. Leaving it out here, allows the player's eyes to drift around the screen more easily.

So, a lot of deliberate thinking went into designing this trailer. I hope it worked and resulted in some powerful imagery! ^_^

*"Beautiful indie pixel game" should be read as “a beautiful game that is developed by an indie pixel", not as “a pixel game that is developed by a beautiful indie." I deny having any kind of opinion whatsoever on whether Phil Fish is beautiful or not.

**Although in really old games, the interface was sometime also used to make the playing field smaller on the screen and thus achieve acceptable framerates, as Peter Molineux recently explained in this talk about the classical game Populous.


  1. Wow, really stunning trailer. Really lets the graphical beauty speak for itself without the distracting HUD and the ball. Very good decision I think.

    And as said before: You did a really good job with this minimalistic but yet beautiful and colourful game!

  2. hey, nice game. i played the beta and i like it. But, the road cable can't be more thick? when i try to run against line obstacle in first map i never know if i will hit the line. And the graphic of friction can be more nice to see if something come before to show that i getting close, like a shadow or reflection.
    i hope that feedback is helpfull.
    nice game, keep the great work.

  3. Hi, looks incredible-- one comment: in the gameplay trailer the ball is too big, and too static; you kind of get this sense of motion then suddenly it's interrupted by the static image of the ball, it looks like everything is kind of moving around it instead of moving 3-d into it..

    Making it smaller, or having more of a 'movement' animation on it, or more shadows from the levels moving across the ball might do something. It also seems a bit too big, maybe it needs to be smaller, but closer to the camera, or partially transparent..?

    Anyway just some random thoughts, good luck and fantastic job so far! :-)

  4. The reason the ball is so static, is that it is an anchor for the brain. It really helps against motion sickness. Since there is no up or down and the view is constantly rotating, this is kind of necessary.

    Shadows from the levels on the ball is a really interesting idea, I have that on a couple of spots, but I think I could so that in a lot more cases. Problem is that it is quite a bit of handwork, because I need to position the shadow volumes by hand...

  5. Looks adorable Joost. Great work.

    The problem regarding a graphics only video, i do not completely get though. Why not make the video start out slow like this one with graphics and a nice ambient sound and then a bit further it fades out (the music as well) and some joost skills are shown in a nice piece of rapid gameplay. This has 2 benefits. The current trailer is a bit too short for my personal feeling and it misses out on the gameplay aspect perhaps. The fading combined with a faster sound will make it clear to the viewer that a transition from a slow start to fast gameplay will be made.

    Nonetheless a pretty trailer.