Mr Ritson is a motion graphics designer and editor with a passion to capture the heartbeat of a video game and display it through an alternative launch trailer. His fine sense of beauty and remarkable grasp on the various aspects of the game enables him to deliver a trailer that sweeps the viewer into the world he experienced.
Take a look at the BioShock Infinite alternative launch trailer to see how Ritson transforms a video game trailer into a cinematic experience.
Where does your interest in gaming come from?
I can honestly say there wasn’t much of an outside influence growing up. I spent most of my youth appreciating games from afar or going to the arcade. I never owned a console until I was fourteen, It wasn’t until I got hold of games like Metal Gear Solid that I learned to appreciate how powerful a narrative could be implemented into a game. It was at that point I would say that my interest peaked. The second I started caring about the characters I was playing, I’d start making up scenarios in my head or try to make the game play more cinematic, as if I was directing these great action epics. That said I also used to play the shit out of games about robots, starfighters, wizards and shooty things going boom.
Why make alternative game launch trailers?
It’s all for fun. I make trailers for video games out of a love of their stories and to just make people aware of how powerful they can be. It’s hard in conversation to tell someone “Hey, you know The Walking Dead game was probably the most gut-wrenching, emotional experience I’ve had with a story, let alone a video game” without them looking at you funny and asking you to not disturb the customers again. So if I pull out my phone, hand them that thing I made and say “Look, watch this, see if you like it” I feel better about communicating that idea.
The challenge of making the trailers is a fun process that gets addictive too. Like a giant puzzle you get to put your own stamp on at the end. Also I won’t deny that eventually i’d like to work in games, and that these are somewhat a litmus test of my own narrative abilities.
Take a look at The Walking Dead alternative trailer. From the first note Ritson expertly captures the gut-wrenching heartache that became the signature emotion of the series.
How do you select a game to make a trailer about?
Stories first. If I’m hooked on something that by the time I finish playing it there's this need to scratch an itch, then I’ll re-play it, capture it, and start editing an ‘ALT’. Besides the four I’ve done already I’m working on ones for The Witcher 2, Batman: Arkham City, and The Last of Us. They all function in a similar way, they all use high end cinematics, it’s all 3rd person perspective and it’s very traditional in respect to pacing.
I cut the trailers as if they were movies, so those elements serve that purpose. There’s also a few technical boundaries to overcome such as HUD’s, static or gameplay cameras or user controlled situations that can never really compete with a set-piece. It’s why I can’t make a trailer for everything in that style as much as I’d like to, but I see that as a limitation of film rather than one of games.
How do you go about selecting the elements that go into a trailer?
I have a few ground rules with all of the trailers I make. Firstly is to not show obvious gameplay. So nothing with a HUD on it, none of myself actually playing the game terribly, and definitely nothing with an indicator (a health bar, a QTE) that’ll draw you out of the experience. The idea is to tell a narrative as if it were scripted and as if it were a movie. Folks are smart enough to imagine how the gameplay elements are structured from there. I don’t need to show ‘x’ power being used to show seven dudes being turned into a fine red mist as that doesn't serve the story at that point in time. Leave that for the gameplay trailers which are out there in abundance.
The second is to focus entirely on the central relationships within the game, and the characters. That is core aspect to getting anyone to care for your story. There are other things like internal and external conflict, timing and story beats, or being hyper-aware to spoilers and other such things that all go into it.
The Halo 4 alternative launch trailer boldly displays the bond between Master Chief and Cortana, thereby drawing the focusing from action to story.
What are the ingredients to make an exceptional game trailer?
Tone is important and needs to be established early and then maintained. Be aware of your audience - enough to make you analyse your work but never enough to overrule your gut feelings. Focus on story, people don’t give video game stories enough credit but often times they can be exceptional, so drop the easy out of showing the gameplay and go for the feels. Finally a kick ass tune that is relevant to all of the above and ties it all together nicely helps, A LOT.
Name a few of your favorite game trailers
There’s a few, Mass Effect 2’s Launch Trailer, SWTOR’s Revenge trailer, The new Payday trailer was excellent. I loved the Cave Johnson Portal 2 trailers. Borderlands 2 - WUBWUB Trailer. Ah there’s so many - Dead Space 2 had a good launch trailer. Bioshock’s CG trailer, and the Lamb of Columbia Trailer. The three character trailers for GTAV! Lots, basically.
Ritson's Mass Effect 3 alternative launch trailer succeeds in capturing the desperation of a world doomed for destruction by a superior race.
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I hope we see a lot more from the talented Mr Ritson! It was a tremendous honor to be the first person to interview him.
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