Thursday, 17 February 2011

Exotic Paints

A Nice Pair! Wish You Were Here?
Who'd have thought somebody would have painted Pink Floyd album covers onto naked women?

Had to wave farewell to my comfort zone yesterday. In putting together our marketing materials, we discovered we needed a bit of blurb to go on our Big Fish page. I guess we'd assumed that the BF team handled this; but on closer inspection, it became evident that the standard and style of the blurbs are so varied that they could not come from a single source.

So we're already at step one: Study the other blurbs.

I took the first handful of CE blurbs from the current top 100 and compiled them in a Word doc and did a quick word count. Eighty words seemed the limit. (Don't know why this information isn't explicitly given to us, but hey.)
At this point, I had an idea for an experiment. I could safely assume that the Thirteenth Skull blurb would be excellent, and so I chose not to read it; I figured I'd study the others, decide what was good and bad, write my own copy, and then compare my copy to the Thirteenth Skull copy.
And that transpired to be a super idea, for reasons you'll witness anon.

So check 'em out: here are the blurbs I studied before composing my own, along with my immediate thoughts. And bear in mind that these blurbs are for the elite - the highest rated iHOGS (or HOPAs if you prefer) currently on the scene. I will do my best to mask my distaste, but I make no promises.

Welcome to a town where something that should not exist runs free; where a desperate wife will risk her beating heart to find her husband; and where a terrible secret lies buried behind an orphanage. Search for clues, solve puzzles, and unlock new areas as you visit spine-chilling locations, play stimulating mini-games and locate Hidden Objects. Stray Souls - A Dollhouse Mystery will take you to a dark and spooky world!

I kinda admired the poetic approach to this one - that's to say I appreciate the idea, but the execution is dire. Consider the context: The blurb appears on a page with screenshots and a video, and a genre description. Ergo, the latter half of this blurb is utterly redundant; half the copy could apply to absolutely any iHOG. What a waste of an opportunity. And the poeticisms are pretty darned dodgy: '...risk her beating heart'?
I went on a lengthy google search for advice on use of adjectives in marketing copy. The results were terribly inconclusive beyond a certain point, and any decent writer will be fine up until that certain point.
As you'll know, your verbs should be well-considered. A well-considered verb typically negates the need for an adverb: more often than not, adverbs point to poor writing, being indicative of poor choice of verb. Also, well-considered verbs can negate the need for adjectives, but not exclusively. Hem was rather outspoken about his distrust of adjectives; on that basis alone, it's worth considering their applications.

I read up on power adjectives in marketing copy. Opinion seems to be vehemently divided, but does appear to converge on the idea that, if you are intent on employing adjectives, they'd better be concise and clear and powerful. Their meaning should be irreproachable: one person's image of an old house potentially bears no resemblence to another person's image of an old house. There's also support for the idea of exotic adjectives, used extensively by paint manufacturers and restaurateurs (you are allowed to place an 'n' into that word, but it's considered incorrect by some. Apparently): Shangrila Silk and Delhi Bazaar and Peppermint Beach; pan-fried and deconstructed and triple-whipped and so forth.
Play a game of guess the paint colour! It's fun! And thought-provoking. Like strip scrabble.

So, let's check out the adjectives in that copy: desperate, beating, terrible, new, spine-chilling, stimulating, dark, and spooky. (I'll ignore Hidden and Stray.) That's eight, of which most clearly have far more interesting, mouth-watering alternatives. I'm sure you could think of twenty adjectives to urinate upon 'dark and spooky' in a flash! Heck, I'm sure my eleven-year-old son could.
Again, let's remember that these are the top dogs, and consider the respect given to writing in this industry.

Okay, fag break and then we can move on. Meet back here after these messages...

Called into a small city from the capitol, you have been put in charge of solving a string of mysterious murders! Around the same time as the murders, a wolf has been appearing around the town and spooking the townsfolk. With rumors of a werewolf swirling, it's up to you to get to the bottom of the mystery and set the record straight in Shadow Wolf Mysteries: Curse of the Full Moon!

Man, I'd really like to like 'swirling' rumors! Check out the repetition: mysterious and mystery; murders and murders; around and around; werewolf and wolf... this is first-pass stream of consciousness copy knocked out over a ham and pickle sandwich at noon. Right off the bat I'm thinking 'summoned' or 'invited' or any number of superior, cleaner verbs. Really no sense examining this further. Still, while we're here, let's look at those power adjectives: small, mysterious. Ho hum.

The time has come for Nelly and Tom to stop a potential catastrophe and save the world in Treasure Seekers: The Time has Come! With new powerful devices, such as the Ring of Time and the X-Glass, Nelly and Tom must go on their most exciting adventure yet! Is Totenkraft really as evil as they previously thought? Find out in this incredible Hidden Object Puzzle Adventure game!

'...To stop a potential catastrophe and save the world...'? That's scaredy cat tautology! For those of you who routinely follow the pro pub blogs, you'll recognise those dreaded rhetorical questions: 'Is Totenkraft really as evil as they previously thought?' Pubs hate that. Each day, they settle down to their slush pile and read the opening gambit: 'Have you ever wondered what your life would be like if you could read minds?' or 'What would you do if you discovered that your wife was a vampire?' The idea of drawing the reader into the narrative of a fictional world is great, but it requires a sophisticated touch. What's also interesting here is the mention of Totenkraft. It's meaningless to me. Is it a place? Some inanimate object? I'll make my point after the next attempt.

After crashing your car in the middle of nowhere, you stumble upon The Drowned Dead Hotel, a lonely forgotten structure leaning from a cliff. Beneath lies a dark and cold lake that used to be a lively town. What secrets are buried at the bottom of the muddy waters? Who are the mysterious inhabitants of the hotel? Dive into Phantasmat, an incredible Hidden Object Puzzle Adventure game, and get to the bottom of a long forgotten tragedy.

See? There it is again. Another place. All that real estate handed over to an inanimate thing. Strikes me as queer. You really think the player would identify with the plight of a building over the plight of a human being? The 'Fiddlesticks - I've crashed my car next to an abandoned hotel/mental asylum/cemetery' scenario is fast becoming cliché in the iHOG genre; however, given that these games can take a year or more to make, I'd put that down to some form of natural selection - at least, for the time being. I think this blurb wins the wtf? adjective award: lonely, forgotten, dark, cold, lively, muddy, mysterious, incredible, long forgotten. Quick - let's move on...

Okay, it's easy to dish it out eh? Here's what I came up with:

Deep in the English countryside, Edwina Margrave has returned to the cottage where her parents died, eager to speak with the one person who might shed light on the tragedy - the volatile landlady, Miss Thorn. But her shocking revelations are not what Edwina expected. Enlist the aid of the spirit world to solve devious puzzles, and evade the wrath of a disfigured beast as you embark on this heart-breaking adventure. Nobody escapes the curse of the Severed Heart.

I'm not altogether happy with it: I'd normally leave something like this overnight, and return with fresh eyes the morning after. However, time was against us.
I like my verbs, and I controlled the adjectives, selecting them with great care. But the rhythm of the adjectives in the penultimate line disturbs me: if you emphasise each adjective as you read - and I'm not sure if this actually happens in the mind or not - then the rhythm is too regular.
I wanted to focus immediately on the characters, and especially on Edwina's plight; then, I hastily bring in the reader (without recourse to the pronoun 'You'!), coddling her in a cloak crocheted from some of the things I figure she most appreciates (ghosts, puzzles, scares, mystery, jerking of tears); finally, I throw down the gauntlet, again without recourse to a pronoun or rhetoric.
There's no doubt in my mind that this is more successful in many ways than the preceding blurbs. That said, let's go see the Thirteenth Skull blurb! Take a deep breath now...

Shortly after moving into a creepy mansion in Louisiana, Sara Lawson is struck with tragedy when her husband mysteriously disappears. Sara's daughter, Magnolia, believes her father was kidnapped by the ghost of a vengeful pirate seeking to protect his lost fortune. With the locals terrified of the pirate's curse, you are the family's last hope. Only a Master Detective with incredible Hidden Object skills can locate Marcus Lawson in Mystery Case Files: 13th Skull!

Well lookee here! Characters at the heart of the blurb! I like. Set up the intrigue, slip into the goal, and finish with a gauntlet. I was pretty chuffed to see that I had reached such a similar set of conclusions as the MCF copywriter. I think my adjectives are better, but if adjectives bog the narrative down then that's a moot point. I think the MCF blurb is more polished than mine and I especially like the praising of the player - that's you, and you have incredible Hidden Object skills! You're great.

So, reflecting on this mini experiment, what's the verdict on adjectives? I'm really not sure; although I think it's safe to say choose them with care and don't use too many. Wahay!


esruel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
esruel said...

I couldn't resist:

Upon learning of the murders of her mother and father, Edwina Margrave journeys to the scene of her parents' deaths: an ancient stone cottage, deep within the wilds of the English countryside. But following the shocking revelations of the creepy housekeeper, the firebrand Miss Thorn, and the ghostly apparitions haunting the cottage and its overgrown grounds, Edwina soon realises that she cannot solve the riddle of her parents' murders alone. Only you can help her. Only you may save her. For no-one has ever managed to escape the Curse of the Severed Heart...

conic said...

si io vreau..