Good Robot: The Lost Trailer

By Shamus
on Apr 12, 2016
Filed under:
Good Robot

56 comments

So sometimes ideas don’t pan out. This is one of those cases:


Link (YouTube)

Looking at the feedback on YouTube, I can see there’s a divide between, “This joke totally made sense to me” and “This was awkward and dumb”. Maybe that would be tolerable for an early teaser, but when it comes to a launch trailer you want clarity and a wide appeal.

A common complaint was that the stock footage of robots conflicted with the in-game footage. That’s true, although I don’t know how that could be fixed. For the first half of the trailer you need slow-paced shots. There’s only so many slow pans you can do over the Good Robot, and there’s no way you can fill 40 seconds with that. The game doesn’t have a supporting cast or dialog scenes, which is what you’d use for the slow build in the first half of the trailer.

Maybe that should have clued me in that this idea was flawed and unworkable, but… I dunno. I’ve had a lot of projects that began with a single fun idea and were fuzzy on the details. DM of the Rings is a good example of something that began half-formed and then came together later during production. Sometimes when you’ve got an idea you have to run it up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes.

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From the Archives:

  1. Retsam says:

    I hope “We removed the Three Laws and passed the savings on to you!” ended up in the game somewhere, because that’s a great line.

    • evileeyore says:

      Yes, classic Shamus/Rutskarn comedy.

    • KingJosh says:

      I was waiting for this post ever since I saw the video last night, specifically to praise this line! It was BEAUTIFUL!!

    • tzeneth says:

      Best line in the entire trailer. I liked Rutskarn in this. The beginning of the trailer just didn’t click for me. The comedy part worked better but then again, I love me some good comedy bits.

      • BenD says:

        Except the whole thing is the comedy part. I’ll agree that the part that is voiced over by Atlantic Accent Sleazeball Car Salesman Rutskarn is funnier than the part voiced over by Orwellian Authority Loudspeaker Rutskarn. But both parts are comedic.

        To be fair, though, I only found the first part to be comedic because I sit in a real sweet spot of understanding author intent. I suspect that in that first part, if you don’t have all of the following points going for you, you won’t recognize it as comedy.

        – Have seen lots of overdramatic shot-fade-shot-fade-shot with voiceover trailers.
        – Know that you are not in fact seeing a trailer for an overdramatic explosion-based movie.
        – Understand that you’re hearing Rutskarn’s voice. Er, a Rutskarn voice.
        – Have some background with the comedic effects of Rutskarn’s voice antics, thus recognize that something funny is probably happening, or intended.

  2. evileeyore says:

    Excellent trailer. The world is poorer place that it wasn’t used.

    In fact… if this weren’t a Bullet-Hell game (or if I enjoyed Bullet-Hells instead of hating them), your trailer would have intrigued me enough to pick it up without needing further any further information. Mostly as I’d have hoped the game held the same sense of humor.

    Like I picked up Dead Island on the expectation the trailer was a glimpse into the theme of the game…

  3. David says:

    I think this would have been a fine trailer if you dumped the “slow build-up” part, and just went with the shooty-shooty stuff at the end with Rutskarn talking about robots.

    • baseless_research says:

      This. Also the “fade to black” pieces between each scene were too long by far – which is weird considering they’re only half a second long.

      Actually that should be part of the escalation: as the trailer goes on the scenes should follow each other more rapidly.

      • Nawyria says:

        I wanted to comment this aswell. For the first few transitions after the crescendo the scene stays the same for just a second or two too long after Rutskarn stops talking. I think if you were to trim these sections so that they cut off as soon as the voiceover stops the comparison to movie trailers would fare a bit better.

        • Smiley_Face says:

          Agreed. These sorts of trailers have a very specific pacing about them; it’s all about building the tension, and when there’s an 8 second shot when there should be a 5 second shot, or what should be a 3 second shot becomes 5 seconds with NO NARRATION at the end of it, that breaks the rhythm and pulls the viewer out.

          As you point out, the placement of the voiceover is also important – it’s important that the voiceover always last until – and occasionally over – each shot, and it shouldn’t be so closely synchronized with the beginning of the shot. Every time a new shot happens, it monopolizes the viewer’s attention until they adjust to it – you don’t need the voiceover there, because it’ll just distract, which kills tension. Instead, you need the voiceover at the end of the shot, so that viewers who have already figured out what’s going on onscreen keep engaged.

          I think that this could be pretty effectively recut into something similar, but much more effective.

      • I’m not a fan of fade to black and back again.
        One of the earlier trailers for Good Robot had black and white text cards so the footage faded from gameplay to text card and back to gameplay which is really jarring and uncomfortable (at least to my eyes).

        In this lost trailer the fade out could probably have been slower and a quick fade in been added, this would have allowed a “dark crossfade” to occur which is much more comfortable to look at but still allows the cue/timing to be retained. It would also be perceived as being faster even though the pace it the same.

    • Tizzy says:

      I think it’s because the two halves are not quite as connected as Shamus and Rutskarn intended initially.

      The first half works great as a send up of movie trailers ( though it would work even better with the voice of Morgan Freeman… And NOT Gordon Freeman as I almost wrote!)

      But the running commentary of the second half, easily my favorite part of the whole trailer, breaks the parallel with movie trailer.

      This may be why some viewers didn’t get the joke.

  4. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I found it funny.

  5. Mersadeon says:

    “We removed the three laws and passed the savings unto you!” Is a damn good joke.

    Personally, I really like the trailer and it would have worked for me, but I can see where it may not have worked for others. I actually kinda liked the “non-game-footage”, I’ve seen some other games do that basically for comedic effect.

  6. Chris says:

    I thought it was funny, robot stills and all. The pacing was a little rough and didn’t quite hit the crescendo (faster cuts and more frantic action clips near the end would have helped immensely), but it’s nothing that couldn’t be cleaned up with a little editing. I assume that it would have gotten a bit more polish if you had decided to move forward with it.

    Did anyone else find Rutskarn a little hard to hear/understand in spots? I think I might have a little hearing loss at upper frequencies, and the old-timey newsreel processing shoved his voice right into my dead spot.

    • Yerushalmi says:

      I agree on the editing.

      I see exactly what Shamus was going for and estimate a 30% chance that I would have gotten the joke without the introduction.

      The build-up could have been better, and improving it would’ve communicated the joke very well. The first game-footage shots that appear during the “slow” half of the trailer are far too busy, which ruins the pacing. The first appearance of game footage needed to be the Good Robot in an empty corridor, preferably presented in such a way that it’s not immediately obvious that this footage is any less “stock” than the footage surrounding it. The second appearance should be the Good Robot blowing up a single, weak enemy; the third should be a one-on-four battle; and from then on you need rapid cuts of dodging, boss fights, and explosions.

      This also would’ve worked better as a teaser trailer, about thirty seconds shorter than it was, to make the joke more ‘punchy’. But then we would’ve lost some of the excellent quotes (like everyone else, I think the “removed the three laws” joke is brilliant).

  7. Guile says:

    I got a small chuckle out of “BUILD… MORE… ROBOTS!”

  8. Decius says:

    I find the practice of implying something that a game doesn’t have (in this case, an engaging story wherin there is doubt or a twist about whether the protagonist is the good robot or not) to be abhorrent. Not making this the ‘official launch trailer’ was a good idea, and the world is a richer place for this trailer existing, because it is hilarious.

  9. WWWebb says:

    I get what you were going for, but the stock robot footage didn’t cut it. You needed a montage of classic, mixed-morality robot images (Metropolis, Forbidden Planet, the Jetsons, Terminator, etc.). Maybe even cut in some quotes from Agent Smith for the narration.

    As a parody, someone else could make that trailer. As a beneficial owner of the product being advertised, Shamus probably can’t.

  10. Not bad, really. I have the feeling that it’s the sound design (not composition, mind) and pacing of the cuts is what makes it fall a bit short.

    Shamus, if you read this, I’d love to take a shot at remastering this trailer. Hit me up via mail if you’re OK with this, please. If not, that’s fine too, of course :)

  11. Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

    Put me down for both funny and a little awkward. I’m not sure it would have occurred to me that you were directly mocking the trailer format so much as simply using it and injecting juxtaposing comedy. Its pretty almost a cliche for comedy trailers to mock the dramatic trailer format as opposed to using the standard comedy trailer format.

    I think you nearly have it though. Considering that you’re still kind of new at composing music and trailers, I’d say keep trying. You’re close.

  12. False Lord Zalzabar says:

    I personally found it hilarious and I thought it worked out pretty well. Although the warranty TOS stuff at the end was a little incongruous

  13. Benjamin Hilton says:

    I think had I seen this trailer in a vacuum I would have found it really funny, but then been super disappointed when rutskarn wasn’t actually narrating the game.

  14. Majkkani_Hand says:

    I think it ALMOST worked (and I enjoyed watching it), but there were two things for me that made it not quite click:

    In the build-up portion, having action sequences of the Good Robot seemed out of place. They weren’t “slow” enough to fit the music or the slow stock scenes. For me, more stock footage or even the same footage (or better, GR footage with no shooting) run at half-speed might have worked better. I did actually quite like the stock robot footage, though–I thought that worked well.

    Then, in the end-portion, it’s a little too jokey to play off those drama tropes for me–I feel like those sales-patter lines (while absolutely hilarious) seemed like they belonged to another trailer–they’re just not quiiiiite tied in with the earlier part, enough. Different voice, or dramatic shift to money-grubbing, or not dramatic enough of a shift–I can’t quite pin down what’s wrong here, but something seems off. Don’t you love it when that happens? :P

    Anyway, in spite of that, I do really like the music and it’s still funny as hell. I can see why you didn’t use it, but I’m glad I got to see it anyway.

    • Xeorm says:

      Aye, I’d agree there. It’s funny, and has the bits that go mostly together. The music is well done, etc.

      But it doesn’t all fit. Rather than looking like a parody of the classic format, it more looks like you’re trying for that format and then failing. Which looks to me to make it pretty awkward.

      Plus, Rutskarn needed to get bigger and more crescendo-y as the end bit went on. Maybe add some echo. It seems like a decent idea for a trailer, but it’s good you ended up with what you did.

  15. gyfrmabrd says:

    Worked for me. Thanks for putting it out there.

  16. Well it made ME laugh. But I’m a HUUUUUGE dork.

  17. Kestrellius says:

    Hm. It didn’t really work for me. Too bad; I wanted it to…

    However, the warranty stuff at the end was gold. I feel like you could have made a whole trailer out of that, just as narration in that sort of sterile female voice they use for that kind of thing, over gameplay footage.

  18. Primogenitor says:

    For the in-game footage, it would have been another layered gag to end every clip with Good Robot being blown apart. Would fit the roguelike aspect too.

  19. Chris Robertson says:

    I found enough amusement in it to copy the two disclaimer screens here as replies to this comment. I faithfully copied any typos that I found, and maybe added a few of my own…

    • Chris Robertson says:

      LIMITED LIABILITY DISCLAIMER

      By using out QUALITY ROBOTS you agree to the following terms of service:

      We are not liable for any deaths caused by our QUALITY ROBOTS. Or injuries. Or injuries that lead to deaths. Or injuries that seem like they might lead to death, but then you pull through at the last minute, in spite of our QUALITY ROBOTS and their ongoing efforts to kill you.

      We are note liable for the destruction caused by out QUALITY ROBOTS, even if some of the destruction includes other QUALITY ROBOTS that would otherwise be covered under out standard warranty. We shall not be held liable for the destruction of homes, neighborhoods, suburban towns, counties, major metropolitan areas, city-states, countries, continents, species, planets, or stable long-term relationships.

      If you do not address to these terms and limitations then please inform your QUALITY ROBOT immediately. To avoid enraging the QUALITY ROBOT, please do so gently and in a calm voice. Do not make any sudden moves afterwards. Allow the QUALITY ROBOT time to adjust, and accept that rejection is a painful and deeply personal experience for robots.

      If you fail to re-negotiate the terms with the robot, we shall not be held liable for any damage it does in response to your heartless betrayal.

      WARRANTY

      Thank you for choosing our QUALITY ROBOTS. Please note that their warranty will be rendered null and void if you do not follow not follow the proper guidelines for handling your robot.

      This robot is equipped with SECU-RAM brand part protection, which prevents the use of unauthorized replacement parts. Any attempt to circumvent or disable this system in order to avoid paying the monthly maintenance subscription will void this warranty and may also cause the robot you recognize you as a threat. (See limited liability disclaimer.)

      Never replace the factory-issue weaponry with alternate weapons. Never attempt to disarm your robot. This may make it feel threatened.

      Always promptly provide your robot with ammunition before it runs out. Failing to do so may be seen by the robot as an attempt to disarm it.

      Use only genuine QUALITY ROBOT brand replacement ammunition.

      The robot may periodically need to recalibrate its weapon systems. Please take cover during these operations, and keep pets, children, and pregnant women out of the line of fire. For additional protection, consider buying one of our quality “Secret Service” brand of self-aware bullet-shields, designed to jump in the path of incoming fire.

    • Chris Robertson says:

      WARRANTY

      Thank you for choosing our QUALITY ROBOTS. Please note that their warranty will be rendered null and void if you do not follow the proper guidelines for handling your robot.

      This robot is equipped with SECU-RAM brand part protection, which prevents the use of unauthorized replacement parts. Any attempt to circumvent or disable this system in order to avoid paying the monthly maintenance subscription will void this warranty and may also cause the robot you recognize you as a threat. (See limited liability disclaimer.)

      Never replace the factory-issue weaponry with alternate weapons. Never attempt to disarm your robot. This may make it feel threatened.

      Always promptly provide your robot with ammunition before it runs out. Failing to do so may be seen by the robot as an attempt to disarm it.

      Use only genuine QUALITY ROBOT brand replacement ammunition.

      The robot may periodically need to recalibrate its weapon systems. Please take cover during these operations, and keep pets, children, and pregnant women out of the line of fire. For additional protection, consider buying one of our quality “Secret Service” brand of self-aware bullet-shields, designed to jump in the path of incoming fire.

      USER GUIDE

      1. DO NOT MOCK robots. Robots are not as sophisticated as human beings. They are less able to understand satire and their egos are far more fragile.

      2. AVOID BORING TASKS. While your QUALITY ROBOT is designed to be a tireless, hard-working companion, it may also become bored if assigned menial tasks. Try to assign your robot interesting, fulfilling tasks that challenge it.

      3. AVOID DIFFICULT TASKS. While robots enjoy rewarding tasks, they are often programmed with a crippling fear of failure, which can, over time, manifest as anger displacement and projection.

      4. AVOID CRITICISM during the early shakeout period. Too much criticism may make a robot give up entirely.

      5. AVOID MAKING DISCOURAGING REMARKS. Robots are not people. Please do not bring this up. They do not take it well.

      6. AVOID USING THE PROPRIETARY ACTIVATION PHRASES known only to QUALITY ROBOT employees.

  20. Rutskarn as the “trailer narrator” did not work too well, someone with a more rumbly/bassy voice would work better.

    Rutskarn as the “Vault-Tech salesman”, I mean “Robot salesman” works pretty darn well and is a character I hope Rutskarn gets to revisit some day.

  21. Hey Shamus! If you plan to do a Postmortem for Good Robot, maybe post it on Gamasutra? (contact them and tell them you wish to give them a timed post postmortem exclusive of a week maybe two before you post it on your own site). Gamasutra gets some more original content and you get a bump for the game.

  22. ehlijen says:

    It was a neat idea (and the jokes were good), but I think one thing the game is missing that would have made this work is a greater variety in visuals to show off for the second half.

    It absolutely has enough to work as a game, but to someone who hasn’t played it yet, the ingame shots all look very samey because the differences don’t really mean much to them yet.

    This contrasts poorly with the variety of stock footage you’ve chosen and makes the game seem limited in depth, which isn’t a good thing in a trailer.

    Definitely something great for the bonus content edition, but probably a good choice you didn’t use it to make first impressions.

  23. Vidar says:

    Shamus, though I recall you stating that you nixed the idea of voice acting in the game, I can’t help but think it would be hilarious to have Rutskarn’s “Salesman” clips run when you buy upgrades. Perhaps something to think about when you guys start making Gooder Robots.

    • kaypy says:

      This is frustratingly close to the edge of moddability.

      Assuming the soundbytes could be obtained sans music, it would be pretty simple to make a version of shop.ogg looped out to a few minutes and with a quote over the start.

      The problem is that the shop music definition is global and not on a per shop basis, so every shop would have the same quote, which would get old fast.

      When I first started thinking it through, I misremembered the music as being specified in the machines.xml. If that had been the case, it would just be a matter of adding a few extra versions of the shops with quote-oggs and scattering them in the game.

      Hmm. The levels have their own music definitions, so you could add quotes there, but it wouldn’t work so well:
      The music resets on shopping, so that would give you a double dose of quote.
      You stay in the levels a long time, so unless you make a really long music loop, it would likely repeat.
      If you try to move the quote later in the track to get around the shop problem, you would get random Rutskarn in the middle of a firefight.

  24. Daimbert says:

    I think the big issue why the joke doesn’t really work is that from the start it really, really looks like a parody of the big movie trailer, and so we never really get the juxtaposition. This comes from the initial dialogue — which is TOO overwrought — and how it’s stated. The second part works better because at that point we’ve abandoned all pretense; the words are just too ridiculous to be anything but parody. But, at first, we can’t tell if the words are parody, or are just a poor attempt at writing a dramatic trailer. It’s not dramatic enough, then, to carry the juxtaposition, but also isn’t clearly parody enough to distinguish it from bad writing.

    But, yes, the jokes in the second part are really good, especially the three laws one.

  25. Cuthalion says:

    I thought it was pretty funny. The real-world footage at the start surprised me, but the faux-seriousness of it for what I already knew was a cartoon robot game made me laugh immediately.

    Edit: I’m seeing people say they thought the second part of the trailer worked better. I actually disagree. The first part worked for me, then it started to overstay its welcome before transitioning to the second part, then the second part had difficulty keeping up the BIGness of the style it was lampooning. Although Rutskarn did do a good job sounding like two people.

  26. Zak McKracken says:

    I kind-of-liked the whole thing, though some parts work better than others.
    I think the contrast between high-budget action trailer and colourfull shmup gameplay could have been more accentuated but that may have required a lot more work for the first bit: Rutskarn’s voice is pretty versatile but not quite convincing for a AAA cinema trailer narrator. The footage is slowed-down 30 fps shots — that would need to be better quality, and more, shorter scenes with a little more relevance to the “machines take over” scenario. And I’m thinking there could have been a clearer break between the serious pseudo-deep first part and the action scenes. Possibly also a change in the music towards a more comedic tone.

    … I would not, however, suggest that you should have spent more time on the trailer than you already have, so this was very likely as good as it got without hiring an expensive voice and spending a lot more time … and by that measure, it’s pretty cool.

    I do hope that the “salesman” sound bites from Rutskarn appear somewhere else at some point. Those work really really well.

  27. Hermocrates says:

    I think it just needed more INCEPTION horns.

  28. Eric says:

    It’s a “so close, but so far” thing.

    I think the trailer could have been funny if it had a little bit more high-impact, cut with a better sense of comedic timing and quicker pace, and had a (sorry) more impressively generic score.

    Also, Ruts’ voice acting was okay but the recording let it down. This really needed a “movie trailer guy voice” with a glossy pro-quality recording, instead of Ruts through what sounds like a rather poor quality mic with tons of reverb effects on top.

    One point of reference: see the “Honest Game Trailers” guys on YouTube. They’ve practically turned this type of thing into an art.

    (I have written/recorded/cut/edited several trailers for games. It’s not easy and I’m not that great at it. It’s why I try to stay as far away from comedy as possible – ’cause it’s hard :P)

    • Christopher Kerr says:

      I think the stock footage is what really breaks it, but the alternative is far too expensive – full cinematic animation in an artstyle recognisably similar to the game. But since Good Robot doesn’t have cutscenes to borrow that material from, there’s no affordable way to produce such a trailer.

  29. Xaos says:

    KILL THE LAWYERBOTS!

  30. Trix2000 says:

    It’s interesting and I like the jokes (and most everything past and including “BUILD. MORE. ROBOTS!”), but I feel like it didn’t quite hold together well enough. I’m not sure if it was a matter of timing, composition, or whatever, but it didn’t quite click for me.

    I could see it working well with some revisions, but I’m not surprised it kind-of fell flat as-is. But it’s not a bad idea at all, and I’m actually a bit curious what it could look like improved.

  31. lostclause says:

    I liked it, a bit tighter execution and I think it could have really worked. I can see the point about awkwardness and I think that’s mostly due to the editing (i.e. holding too long on shots when the tempo increased, too long between lines)

  32. JackTheStripperDD7 says:

    Hearing Rutskarn deliver the lines makes me want to hear them in the game whenever you try to buy something, instead of just the text. It helps break the usual monotony of any game, like Borderlands’ vending machines

  33. Feriority says:

    I like the concept a lot, and I liked Rutskarn’s robot salesman bit for the “now we’re amped up” part, but the buildup felt kind of flat; I think to get the payoff for the epic bit being silly instead of dramatic, you need to play up the buildup as dramatic anyway. Also, the music for the last part is still a little too relaxed; it should be loud and fast and crashy if you really want to ape the trailer style.

    I really do like the idea though – I think with a little tweaking this could have been an amazing trailer.

  34. Alex says:

    “This joke totally made sense to me” and “This was awkward and dumb”.

    I found the trailer to be neither particularly funny nor particularly awkward. I was like “ok, it’s a trailer”. From reading the other comments I guess this is because irony ist _really_ hard to get right.

  35. Slothfulcobra says:

    It seems like if you really wanted to make the joke, you should’ve done more of a tonal shift once you show the actual game, or maybe have the narration be dumber to contrast more with the seriousness of the music. As it is, it seems more like a standard boilerplate trailer, since the aesthetic of Good Robot isn’t really goofy enough on its own to be a punchline.

  36. Grescheks says:

    “I’m no John Williams”. Yeah, definitely not John Williams.

    If anything, your trailer music is much more Hans Zimmer. :P

  37. Dork Angel says:

    First part was okay but the second part definitely made me laugh. I think I detect a Fallout influence in the second bit. :)

  38. Victor says:

    I may be in the minority, but I definitely think this should have ended up on the Steam page.

  39. Pinkhair says:

    I think it would have been reasonably easy to reuse your game assets to create ‘assembly line’ footage in the style of the game engine. Anyone who’s played Factorio could tell you how compelling watching a well designed 2d factory assembling things can be. That, and some edits of the pacing, would probably have made it feel a lot less awkward.

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