Thursday, 26 March 2015

Making a trailer

So we put a trailer together for ROO. It took a couple of days to do and was a lot of fun. But why is this news-worthy? Well, apart from the fact that Roo is a fun game and shouting about it increases the chances of someone else having some fun (which is always a good thing) - I actually used some new video editing techniques in putting the trailer together which might be interesting for some people to read about.

Putting a trailer together looks really simple - and ROO being a very simple game, appears that it should be a very easy thing to do. Well, in a way it was a lot easier than putting a trailer for perhaps a movie or a show. (I've not edited a movie or show trailer - but after editing the London Part Deux game jam video, I can only imagine the difficulty involved).

Even though ROO is a simple and fun game, it's not enough to just capture footage and slap it into a video. When you consider it, you have more time in-game to enjoy the everything the game has to offer but only a tiny amount of time in a trailer video to show the goods and hook a potential player.

Before I start, I'll admit - I'm not an expert (watching the trailer will attest to that) but as with most Indy developers, I don't have a marketing department (or a budget for that matter) to give the task to, who can spend their considerable skills and experience putting something amazing together.

Unfortunately, until Songbird-Creations becomes somewhat bigger, everything is in-house by those who wear many many hats.

So this Trailer, how was it made?

Well, just like any other task in game development, you need to have the right tools for the job. I'll be putting some articles together over the coming months describing the tools we use and why we use them. But for video editing, we use Adobe After Effects.

Now, Adobe After Effects is a professional level tool which can accomplish a devastatingly overwhelming number of things. It's so powerful that most people will only ever scratch the surface of its potential and it used to have a price tag to match - which was normally sidestepped by pirates - however, through some amazing vision, Adobe have licensed their entire suite of software on a subscription basis, so it's not expensive any more. So there's no longer any justification in pirating (to learn it) and you get the added bonus of Photoshop and Illustrator (amongst others) included too.

The trailer is broken down into 4 main sections.

  • Introduction,
  • Story hook
  • Gameplay 
  • Call to Action.


The introduction shows our company logo and the Game's title. This is important to get right as it's the first thing the viewer sees. It has to get them interested enough to want to watch the rest. Viewers have a lot of content they can watch instead, so a video has to be worth it and someone making a video has to respect that time.

So I open up with the Songbird creations logo, some clouds and a Balloon. This is supposed to set up the viewer with the company signature and they follow the balloon towards the game's title when it appears. The balloon appears in the game in the distance. The balloon itself is from a game which was never completed which starred a cartoon version of my Wife, meaning that She's in every game I make in some way - kind-of like Stan Lee in all Marvel movies.

The screen then changes to show something similar to the in-game titles. All of this should only take a few seconds.

Story Hook

Then we need to get the viewer right into the story. ROO! has a very simple story where little Timmy has fallen down a well (again!) and it's up to Roo to get help. To do this, I wanted to have a scene I could move around in. This meant setting up a 3D scene so that I could have proper Parallax backgrounds to add a sense of depth to it. I could have done this by panning from left to right in a 2D scene, but it would have actually meant more work. After Effects has everything you need to manipulate a 3D scene; you can place cameras, manipulate them with dummy objects, alter their positions, rotations (and pretty much any property they have) all smoothly using key frames.

So I built the scene using real assets from the game and animated the camera to tell the story. 
Roo and Timmy are in the outback (although Timmy is never shown) Timmy sees a well, and falls in - the camera pans and zooms in on the well. Following the splash, the camera quickly pans to Roo who looks suitably concerned.
Cue the game!


This is the part where we let the potential player know what the game is all about, what to expect and why they should play the game. ROO! is a very simple game, it starts out easy enough and gets progressively more difficult as it becomes faster and have less time to react. Eventually the player will succumb as their reactions become less able to dodge the oncoming obstacles - ROO moves at a fair lick of speed when he gets going.
The game is a mobile game for the most part, so to get the footage, I recorded the PC version using Fraps and ran through the game many times. My hope was to get a high enough score to show the game running a breakneck speed as well as record some amusing failures. The resulting movie file was 7.8gb - I'd have to edit it... a lot.

Roo is a game which can't really be shown off in static images, they don't do it any justice so hopefully the video does the trick. I cut several failures back to back for laughs, then did a run as far as I could get. The entire section is about 50 seconds long and basically shows the game in it's entirety. It sounds a little sad when said like that, but it's strange how something so simple can keep people engrossed for so long.

At the end of the gameplay section, is the Noooo section which normally greets every failure.

Call to Action

A trailer is after-all a marketing video so there needs to be something which informs the potential customer where to go next to find out more and potentially buy the game. 

On this part of the video I wanted to show where the customer could get the game from - in this case the Google Play store as well as the Amazon App store. Later we'll have the App Store, Windows store and quite probably the OUYA market place. As these become available, we'll have to upload other videos - potentially replacing this one.

I didn't want to put a Coming Soon part on the video as I wanted it to be Factual, to 'close the deal' right now. When we're on the other stores, we'll be factual about that too.

The entire video is just short of 1:27 and is accompanied with the opening titles music for the game.

Although it is tricky, I tried to keep as much of the video in time with the music to keep them from feeling disconnected. I even make the Google Play and Amazon store logos dance to the music towards the end of the video.

As I said, putting a trailer together is Marketing, you have to try to get people interested in your product. Without marketing, a game is a fun programming exercise. If you want people to play your game, you need to let them know about it and a trailer is a good starting point.

Have fun

Monday, 16 March 2015

Roo's getting an update soon.

ROO has only been out for a week

and we're already getting a serious update ready. This isn't to fix bugs in the code, this is to improve the graphics.

ROO's graphics are nice and cute and simple, but compared to some other games out there, they could do with a bit of a refresh.

So we've given Roo a bit of an update with new textures all round. Even Roo himself has had the artist's brush with some nicer shading and even different facial expressions.

We've updated the way the ground looked because, the outback doesn't look that green - but it's also not a barren desert.

We haven't finished completely on the graphical update, there's still testing to do - we need to make sure that it looks good across a variety of form factors and resolutions.

Depending on testing, we should have this update ready for the weekend. So look out for that.

Before that though, You can still check out ROO on the Google play store and support us :-)

In other news...


We submitted ROO to the Amazon App store today. So we should have ROO available on your Kindle Fire soon. This is exciting news as it opens an entirely different store front to us.

We may have to tweak a few things to get through their testing/approval process, so it may be that the Amazon build contains the new updates off the bat.


ROO is still as fun to play as it was when we first made it. This to me is a great sign, the game has a soul and this shows through in the gameplay.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Roo is on the loose.

Watch out everyone, there's a Roo on the loose.

So late last night, Dean and I released our endless runner game "ROO" to an unsuspecting Google Play store. The world held it's breath as the app went from pending to published and then continued to breath normally, as it had done previously - oblivious to the event which had occurred. Apparently it wasn't the world holding it's breath, it was us.

The next morning with the world much in the same state as it was the night before, I worked on a patch to correct some defects in the achievement award system and to fix a scenario where Roo could fall into a ravine and not die. I uploaded the patch, went to my phone to get the update and...  no update!

Eek! Google informed me on the screen that the update is pending and could take several hours; Which got me wondering.. what happens if the update is urgent? I'm guessing that this delay is partly down to whatever CDN system they have to support the world's app demands and partly as a measure to ensure that developers go through the alpha, beta and prod development cycles - only promoting to the next level when the testing merits it - which is fair enough.

Eventually, the update became available and I felt confident enough to tell people about the game. The last thing I wanted was that people downloaded the game to their device only to find that it didn't work for them. Thankfully it works well on everything it's come across so far.

After making the public announcement, the installs began to trickle in. Hopefully, this will enable us to put more time into the game later on because nothing tells a developer that their time is well spent updating something than happy customers telling them so.

We've had some feedback too about the game and the gameplay, all of it useful.

However I'm going to hold off implementing any feedback for the time being though, it's far too tempting to dive right in and make changes quickly without first considering how it will impact the game. It carries a massive risk of changing something which alters the fun. I could end up making it a less fun experience while trying to improve something.

So far the word is that the game is fun and addictive, I'm going to leave it there.. and in any case, someone's getting close to beating my score - I can't have that now can I? :-D

Good old Roo! Click his little face to get the game :-)


We're released an update to ROO, it fixes a couple of problems we found after we published.

The achievements were not being properly awarded and it was possible to make ROO fall forever without changing the game state.

Still, the update is pending now, so hopefully within the next few hours, it'll be ready.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

And We're up! Roo is Live... the world goes crazy

Roo is on the play store.

It's been a lot of work, and I wager that there'll be more work ahead once the public get their hands on the game; but it's live on the Google Play store.

From that Friday evening where we didn't even have a concept to finished and published game has been a journey of surprises. Some good, some less so - but all of them part of the learning experience.

You can check out ROO on the Google play store go buy it for £1 and support us :-)

So what's next? 

Well, we're going to see how ROO! is received and if it gets any traction, ROO may get some more love - if it gets a lot of interest, we may even make a sequel. One thing is for sure though, we'll be making more games this year.

We have another game jam coming up this month. Just like last time, we have no idea what the concept will be; Only this time around, we have another programmer and a graphical designer.

The other programmer is also a certified pilot and the artist works in fashion - so it should be an interesting mixture.

My best score is around 1700 meters. If you can get further than that, I'd love to hear about it.
I'll be putting a video up on Youtube soon, stay tuned.