Firstly let’s differentiate teaser from the trailer. It is shorter, usually not more than one minute long. It reveals less of the play or no play at all. Often it uses material that will not show up in the final game. The teaser is out there just to let the audience know that something is coming up and to create a buzz in the community. The teaser doesn’t have to go into details, doesn’t have to reveal the plot, the gameplay, just needs to be entertaining.
Now that said let’s see what a good teaser has to incorporate.
Determine genre for your teaser
You’re making a short video piece, so when thinking about the genre you can put aside the fact that your game is shooter, arcade or puzzle, you rather figure out will the teaser be horror, action, drama or something else. When your teaser rolls off the only thing that will outlive it is its aftertaste. Depending on genre and its language the same situation can look funny or make you shiver. When you conform your concept to a particular visual grammar you’re lowering chances that you’ll miss the point. Audience likes to know how to feel about the imagery that is presented and you have to make that easy for them, otherwise they’ll stay indifferent. Of course, game genre and teaser genre in many cases coincide so if you’re making a football game teaser your first idea could be to stay in the sports zone and make it look like TV broadcast or something. But really great effects emerge if you successfully blend together two genres. For example, imagine ruthless shooter game teaser with a romantic ending. Sound design is of great importance here. It is the easiest way to set the atmosphere. But there are also other powerful means that can enhance desired effect such as color grading, camera movement and rhythm.
Set your focus
Always keep in mind the game and its spirit. Don’t set false expectations. Your teaser might look incredible but if you drifted far from game some may consider that as cheating. Choose a feature of the game that you want to expose. Choose one message you’d like to send through. Go for one particular visual effect that is somehow of significance for the game. You cannot have it all. Try to filter out unimportant stuff and leave only the things that support your idea. Great Serbian poet Dusko Radovic said once “If I haven’t tried to please them all I would have pleased a whole lot of them.” Go straight to the climax, no time to maneuver too much. You have a great shot, bring it on instantly. It takes two seconds for someone to make the first impression on the content he is viewing. If you make an enemy in those two seconds it’s all uphill from there on. With teasers, less is more. The moment you feel that the audience is beginning to grasp what they think they came for is the moment you should brutally end. You mustn’t give them everything, let them want more. Intrigue them, engage them, and even annoy them, that’s how you’ll stay in their mind.
Ignore all advice
Ignore all previously said and go for your hunch. If you have that inner voice and enough confidence to listen to it then go for it. You’ll either fail big time or you’ll discover something of value. In any case, no one will deny you authenticity. Dare to be boring, mix apples and oranges, go for the unexpected, surprise yourself. It’s all about making your own rules these days. Even if you’re master of the craft it’s not enough to do everything by the book. You have to put in some of your personal craze. The gaming community is a demanding audience but they’ll forgive all the imperfections and inconsistencies when they recognize you’re the dude with the attitude.