Xbox’s Outer Worlds 2 trailer that was released on 13 June 2021, is a tongue-in-cheek parody that mocks the tropes we see within game trailers. The trailer is made by Stockholm-based VFX studio Goodbye Kansas. The team shares their experience of working on the storyboard, creating alien plants, the environment and so on.
The trailer’s voice-over narrates, “now we see our hero but only the silhouette because the developers haven’t finished the design, or the story, or any gameplay that’s actually ready to show.” The trailer unironically ‘sets the scene’ of Outer Worlds 2 whilst alluding to the game being in the creative process.
The Goodbye Kansas team was provided with a script that poked fun at the games industry, the idea of a 360 degree Michael Bay shot around the monster, and a storyboard. The storyboard, given to them by the creative studio Buddha Jones who briefed them on the project, included the simple game elements of a monster, a troop of soldiers, a landscape, and a hero. The team was instructed to expand upon the storyboard, creating a visual identity for these key elements using their interpretation of the voice-over narration. With the outline from the parody voice-over in mind, Goodbye Kansas made the call to focus heavily on the details and stylization of each element.
“Outer Worlds do not have an earth environment; we needed to create a lot of the alien plants. For the last shot, we could not anticipate how much work it would take to fly through a canyon. We didn’t take any shortcuts. We wanted to provide familiarity and produce a classic trailer with over-the-top visuals. It had to look as impressive as all the other games trying to impress audiences,” VFX supervisor Kristian Zarins said.
Entrusted with a high level of creative freedom from Buddha Jones and encouraged to challenge their creative abilities, Goodbye Kansas took this creative project very seriously, despite the humorous overtones of the script.
“Even though we understood the humorous narrative, we had to take the visuals very seriously for the trailer to make sense. For us, the narration gave us a challenge, to make the most amazing monster and the most detailed one-take through the canyons. We had to take each aspect very seriously. The visuals and the narrative were fit for the Outer Worlds universe. It’s part of the IP for Outer Worlds, the ‘over the top-ness’. But the joke isn’t in the visuals, it’s more in the storytelling,” said Goodbye Kansas director Bengt-Anton Runsten.
Each member of the GBK team found an affinity with sections of the Outer Worlds 2 trailer. Zarins’ favorite was in the creation of the monster, the ability to add drama and detail to it without making iterations. For Runsten, he enjoyed the ability to create tension in the scene with soldiers when there was a cut of bullets being fired on the beat, a nice nod to Battlefield and Call of Duty trailers.
Goodbye Kansas’s expertise in creating realistic digital humans helped when understanding the expectations of the project.
On hearing the comedic narration, ‘suddenly and for no reason at all, people running’ Runsten commented, “I was able to instantly capture the vision from Buddha Jones, I read it and I instantly got the vision of what was being described and how to bring out the irony visually.”
Looking at this work as disruptive and subversive for the gaming industry, Goodbye Kansas felt proud to lend their abilities to create the visual effects for the Outer Worlds 2 trailer. The success of the unique trailer was made evident by YouTube creators who have since used the voiceover for their videos or gameplay.
“When we got the opportunity to do this trailer, it felt maybe not once in a lifetime, but maybe once in 15 years that you can do this kind of trailer because if you do it again, you’re no longer the first man on the block,” said Goodbye Kansas executive producer Jorgën Lilja.