As many of you know, I am a gamer. I am proud of that fact because not only is it my hobby, but also my job as I am a video game journalist. But every once in a while something happens in that arena that clicks in my brain and makes me say, I need to write this up at ReelSEO. This, is one of those times thanks to Robot Entertainment’s latest marketing project for the upcoming Orcs Must Die!

This is not the first time that annotations have been used in this sort of choose-your-own-adventure way, but it is quite possibly one of the best uses of them, because it serves a purpose. I had been tracking Orcs Must Die! from Robot Entertainment for quite some time, but I had never really gotten excited about it, until today. Today was the day that they showed me exactly what the game entailed, what the gameplay was like and how it would feel to play it. They did not do it with a demo, which is a popular way among games, no, they did it with an interactive video series.

When you begin the YouTube video, you are in the third-person gameplay view and they are showing you the path that the Orcs will take and where you must kill them. Yes, the game is a third-person variation on desktop tower defense, and it’s brilliant. But enough talk, let me show you what they did. Go ahead, play around with that a bit, I’ll wait.

Alright, so like I said, it’s nothing massively innovative in the use of the YouTube annotations, but it is definitely an awesome way to show off the gameplay of Orcs Must Die! So once I was done playing around with it, I decided to show it to all of you.

I was immediately struck by two things, first, how it felt like I was playing the game and secondly, how cool the game actually was. That second thing is generally something you would only get from a demo and almost never get from some other form of marketing, no matter how much gameplay video you push out to the masses.

So I contacted Robot Entertainment to ask about the choose-your-own-path Orcs Must Die! video project. Here’s what I got back.

Choose the Path YouTube Video Project Statistics:

  • 3 hours and 24 minutes of recorded gameplay
  • 121 minutes of gameplay footage actually used across all of the final videos
  • 226 gigabytes of video
  • 1.85 gigabytes of audio narration
  • 63 completely unique videos (not a single video or narrative is repeated throughout)
  • 32 possible pathways to complete the demo.

Don’t believe that? Then look at this.

Yeah, they even made a workflow chart for it. They had too! Look how complex it gets around Wave 4 or 5. Now, they had to be quite meticulous in their planning and each one pretty much required a complete play through of the level. Check out this planning stage map of the level on their whiteboard.

Here are some notes from their blog post about the project:

This was our basic placement chart. We labelled the major areas for trap placement. This ensured that we were generally putting traps down in the same places as we progressed. For example, on Wave 1 you choose to Fight, then Wave 2 you choose Spring Traps, then on Wave 3 you choose Fight again. At the end of the wave, you have a choice between Spike Traps and Spring Traps. This meant we needed two playthroughs of the level that went Fight, Springs, Fight and then had different Wave 4 playthroughs. We would assign trap placements to various areas on the chart above. In this example, the fighting could happen wherever it needed to, but we had to ensure that the Spring Traps in Wave 2 were placed in “Zone 2” both times for consistency across the playthrough. This way, regardless of your choice at Wave 4, you’d still see those Spring Traps in about the same area that you originally placed them . It was a crazy, glorious ballet of coordination, recording, and editing.

I love it when there is convergence in my divergent coverage areas. This went even further, it not only got my work brain thinking, but it also got my gamer brain thinking. I now want to play this game, and that is exactly what they were hoping to do with this project, so I am glad to let them know, it worked.

See how far online video has come as a marketing tool? This uses everything I have been talking about lately: creativity, innovation, interaction – on video – and interesting content. They have definitely achieved what they set out to do. This is an excellent way to get gamers into the game, without giving them the game. It’s the perfect use of online video on their part, in my opinion.