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Marketing 101

May 26th, 2008 by Troy Goodfellow · 6 Comments · Industry

RPS has linked to a video from Creative Assembly, a video mostly about motion capture animation for the dueling movies in Empire: Total War. Characters can settle their disputes by dressing up and stabbing the other guy. The duel movies are, I suppose, the Empire equivalent of the assassination or spying movies in Medieval 2.

How many of you watched these movies more than twice and how many of you just clicked the mouse to move on the result?

While guys fencing in motion capture suits looks vaguely amusing for a few seconds, that part of the video tells us nothing about the game. Zero. Talking head lead designer James Russell tells us that the map will span from America to India, and we learn that the Sharpe movies are part of the inspiration for the battle bits. We learn nothing about the economy, how ranged battles will differ from what we’ve seen before, if there are any literary or historical influences. In short, this video does nothing for me at all.

I love a good swordfight, even when they are in not so good movies. But sword fight animations that I will see twice are not going to sell me on whether or not this next generation of the Total War series lives up to the entry titles in the first two generations.

But these guys aren’t idiots, so they already know that I am a poor target audience in any case. It’s not like I’m on some knife’s edge about whether or not I’ll buy Empire. Motion capture suits are a not so subtle message to the masses of gamers who might not buy Empire or who might wait for a price drop or gold pack.

The message? “We spent a lot of a money on this.” Whenever a big CGI filled blockbuster movie is released, there are often network specials devoted to The Making Of Spectacultron: Things Go Boom and these specials are filled with dudes in tennis ball outfits bouncing around in front of blue/green screens, all to demonstrate that the directors and producers are spending top dollar on the latest computer gizmos to make Tom Hanks look less creepy this time around.

Rome was the same way. As I noted in my over long essay about the game, Creative Assembly did a great job marketing the game with television programs and spectacle filled movies that focused on fireballing onagers and rampaging elephants. From my vantage point, all these could do was whet an appetite I already had.

But Rome was a huge commercial success largely because this marketing reached beyond the usual strategy gaming world and grabbed the imagination of people who might otherwise not have given the game a second look. This video has that sort of “look what we are doing” vibe to it that Rome did. There are few strategy developers out there who have such a clear idea of how to market what they are doing to a mass audience.

Admittedly, few games have these sorts of stupid videos in them, but there are other ways to market a game that require little more than an imaginative idea and a nice score. I thought the CivAnon stuff that Firaxis did for Civ 4, for example, was brilliant.


6 Comments so far ↓

  • Alan Au

    I hope the focus on paired duels doesn’t mean they’ve forsaken the large-scale engagements, which were part of the appeal of the previous Total War games.

    Oh, also, that second link could use some HTML cleanup.

  • Alan Au

    Speaking of pre-generated animations, that reminds me of Dawn of War, where several melee animations were pre-scripted. This generally looked very good, except that it also meant that the units were “invulnerable” for the duration while they played out the script.

  • FhnuZoag

    I’m pretty sure these are not assassination-esque animations, but rather paired animations for use in battle. (like in Dawn of War) (Otherwise it wouldn’t make sense to show the variety of weapons that they use. No one’s going to an assassination or a duel where they try to club the other guy over the head with a rifle.)

  • Troy

    The rifle duel is clearly a battle animation, but the dueling is dueling. The video shows outlines of a carriage arriving with one of the participants, not exactly the sort of thing that would happen at Austerlitz.

  • andrei.dumitrescu

    Well, I also got the impression that it was more about battle duels that anything else. I can get that some of them will be recycled for use in mini-movies, but the emphasis seems on the battle moves…

  • steve

    Bungie/Microsoft contracted with Stan Winston studios to produce that Halo diorama, which probably cost them a few million bucks.

    The CivAnon thing was, indeed, brilliant.