Once upon a time I wrote a post on why I loved SWTOR's original three cinematic trailers, especially "Hope". This is not that post. Instead, this is the post about why I continue to be disappointed by the trailers that Bioware has been releasing ever since launch - and no, it's not because they don't have awesome cinematics courtesy of Blur Studios.
This post was inspired by Xam Xam's latest weekly roundup, in which she mentions the new "Choose Your Path" trailer, which many fans found decidedly underwhelming (which wasn't helped by the fact that Bioware's social media advertised it as something new and exciting beforehand).
The thing that continues to throw me every time Bioware releases another one of those trailers is how poor these trailers are at telling any kind of story. I get that films and games are different media, but still... for a company that has based its whole reputation on making games with intriguing stories, this just makes no sense.
Let's talk briefly about what I think a good MMO trailer needs to be like. It feels odd that I have to use Blizzard as an example here, but I really loved their trailer for patch 2.3 (back in the day...), called "The Gods of Zul'Aman":
Basically this patch was about a new raid. How could they have made this a bad trailer? Easily, for example by just showing random scenes of people fighting the new bosses. (And they did actually make a pretty disappointing trailer like that for patch 3.2, but I digress...)
Instead, they made it awesome by:
- having a cool voiceover,
- telling a coherent story,
- making the story emotionally engaging in some way (you can't help but feel for Zul'jin when he gets his eye cut out),
- and finally, making sure that this story is relatively straightforward to understand even for a layperson.
Now, for comparison, let's look at one of Bioware's recent trailers for SWTOR as an example of what I continue to find lacking there. Let's take the "Revan Returns" trailer:
It has some nice voice snippets alright, but the story... just doesn't make a whole lot of sense. We're being told that we have to fight Revan, but there is zero explanation as to why. We get a lot of disjointed shots of fighting, but the whole thing doesn't really come together in any meaningful way. In fact - and I hope the KOTOR fans will be able to forgive me for this, but based on this trailer we don't even know who Revan is. That kind of thing can't just be taken for granted, at least not if you're trying to advertise to Star Wars fans in general - which you should, as that's a much bigger group than just the people who have played KOTOR.
I'm not saying that we need a lengthy backstory for every trailer, but you know, even something short and simple would do: something about how he used to be a hero of the Republic (maybe include a snippet from the Jedi prisoner storyline here) and then a line from the Legacy of the Rakata flashpoint, like the bit where a Republic character can ask him why he betrayed the Republic. Boom! Instant story! A former hero of the Republic has now betrayed it and is posing a threat to both Republic and Empire... but to what end? Instant intrigue! Instead we got: "We need to fight this Revan guy because... reasons. Look, blasters and lightsabers!"
As an example of how this kind of thing can be done well in the context of SWTOR, I present you this fan-made "unofficial trailer" for the Imperial agent storyline from 2011:
Honestly, just rewatching this makes me want to roll another agent right now. The pacing, the choice of music, the carefully chosen quotes that introduce the idea of what an Imperial agent is and which then lead you towards moments that give you the chills... I wish we could see that kind of work from Bioware too. I feel that they aren't really doing their own game justice with the trailers they are releasing right now.