How now, hype?

anti-hype, guild wars 2, melmoth, mmo 12 Comments »

Good hype is announcing player classes and races, world details, lore and specific game mechanics as they are actually implemented in the game.

Bad hype is making claims and then having to qualify your rhetoric and reel in player’s reasonable expectations based on what you specifically told them.

I’m just using Guild Wars 2 as an example because it’s of the moment. I’m genuinely excited about the game for other reasons, and for me Guild Wars 2 will always have a get-out clause in the fact that they aren’t intending to charge a subscription in the traditional sense, which lends a certain weight to their argument that they’re going about things differently.

Personally I have to balance that excitement against the Mythic example though, where a company with a previously excellent game with a healthy fan-base made big claims about taking MMOs to the next level, about creating a game for the players, with videos and blog posts – from developers and designers understandably passionate about the field of MMOs and their game – that talked about game mechanics and design revolutions that just never saw the light of day or, when they were actually implemented, were illuminated under a very different light to that which the hype had painted them.

It sounds like a familiar story now, and although I think Guild Wars 2 is going to be a good game, I do wonder whether it can live up to the expectations that are being set within the gaming community by ArenaNet’s manifesto. If they can live up to everything they have claimed, Guild Wars 2 will be a great game, but if they don’t, and it turns out merely to be a good game, I worry that the damage done by the negative backlash will be worse for them than if they had simply promoted the game through good hype. Good hype is the less dramatic, less flashy way to promote a game, for certain, but it develops no less a loyalty in the fan-base and general community, and most importantly, is more likely to develop sympathy and support for your game when it runs into the inevitable MMO launch issues, instead of the implosion of vitriol that is often reserved for games that claim greatness and fail to even approach the simple standard of competence that was set so many years ago by World of Warcraft. WoW isn’t greatness, it is simply the standard, the benchmark of entry, if you claim greatness for yourself.

Why do I rail against the bad hype? Because it destroys games and companies. It is bad for me as a player and fan of the genre, it is bad for the genre itself, it is bad for these companies and the people who have poured their heart and soul into their game. I hate it because it is marketing-driven rhetoric of the worst kind, it is the essence of the developer/designer passion filtered through the disingenuous half-truths of advertising, by committees in boardrooms who wouldn’t know an MMO if it was force-fed to them one experience point at a time. Bad hype is trying to generate current World of Warcraft levels of subscriptions at the launch of the game. Not even World of Warcraft did that.

It is big business come to the small rural town, paving over the fields, driving out all the shop owners and pasting up twenty foot tall billboards telling you that your boobs aren’t big enough, your car isn’t fast enough and that your sofa could be doing so much for you than being a comfortable place to sit, and that big business has a solution to all these problems you never knew you had until they arrived.

I’ll tell you why, however, that despite the ghosts in their hype machine I still have hope that Guild Wars 2 will be the great game that the designers and developers are telling us about. Ignore all the marketing pizazz and watch the part where Ree Soesbee delivers the following line

“The most important thing in any game should be the player. We have built a game for them.”

and watch her face. Either she deserves an Oscar for her acting performance, or that is the face of a game designer who believes passionately in what she says as she is saying it, no rhetoric, no grand analogies or sophisms, just a plain statement delivered in a manner that, to me, says “and I vow we will prove this to you”.

I hope so, because the good hype – races, classes, world design – that they’ve delivered so far has me fantastically excited about their game. The bad hype makes me equally as nervous and cynical, however.

Posted by Melmoth at 11:41 am

Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.

anti-hype, zoso 5 Comments »

I went to see Inception recently; reviews were almost universally positive (including, most crucially, from Mark Kermode), there were many glowing tweets about it, but I came out feeling a bit dissatisfied. It was definitely a good film with visually stunning sequences, combining pacey action with a lot more depth than the average summer blockbuster, but didn’t quite have that extra something that would have elevated it to the point where the only way of encapsulating a response to it in a textual format would be “ZOMGZ!!!1!1!!!”

It might not help that for the first ten minutes of the film I thought Leonardo DiCaprio had a weirdly Oedipal thing going on, calling his wife “ma”, but it turned out her name was Mal. Mostly, though, I think it was just that after such a big build-up, very little could live up to those expectations. By way of contrast a new series, Sherlock, started on the BBC, and knowing nothing more about it than it was a modern updating of Sherlock Holmes I really enjoyed the first episode. Course it’s hard to tell how much is the film or programme itself and how much is the associated expectations, but I’m fairly sure had I gone to see Inception totally cold there wouldn’t be that niggling hint of dissatisfaction. It’s a bit like how if somebody gave you £10 you’d be totally happy (if slightly puzzled as to why someone’s just handing out money), but if it was a coin toss and they said “heads I give you £10, tails I give you £50″ and it came down heads, the pleasure at getting £10 would be offset slightly by a feeling that you’ve somehow missed out (plus even more puzzlement at why someone is handing out money in a weirdly random fashion).

From a marketing perspective, though, you have to at least get people aware your film exists, and then interested enough to see it in a crowded market, and on the balance sheet one sale with a slight sense of disappointment is preferable to no sale because your film sounded a bit rubbish, hence quotes on posters like “Hilarious! The funniest comedy of all time ever! I ruptured my spleen in nine places from laughing so much!” as opposed to “Y’know, it’s all right, if you haven’t got anything better to do give it a go, it’s moderately amusing in a couple of places.”

That’s why I’m not eagerly devouring every scrap of information about Guild Wars 2, Star Wars: The Old Republic or other forthcoming MMOGs. I’m not going out of my way to avoid news, I’ll skim headlines as they crop up in Google Reader (I was pleased to see an announcement about space combat in The Old Republic, that was my favourite bit of Star Wars Galaxies for the few weeks I tried it), but with the fluid nature of game development, where features can be added, removed or changed at almost any point, there’s no sense in getting too excited months or years before vague release dates which have a habit of getting delayed anyway. I generally find that applying a light dusting of cynicism to pre-release hype and being pleasantly surprised by a game to be more satisfying than buying into THE MOST ASTOUNDING GAMING EVENT IN HISTORY and finding it’s a Yet Another Diku-esque Grind.

Plus you get to say “I told you so” a lot more…

Posted by Zoso at 9:58 am

Hype²

anti-hype, ccp, melmoth, ommoen 4 Comments »

In a recent press release CCP announced the forthcoming announcement of their forthcoming MMO.

A CCP insider told our KiaSA reporter in an exclusively fabricated interview, that CCP had high hopes for the forthcoming announcement and that Hilmar Pètursson, Chief Executive Officer of CCP, would deliver a highly polished AAA speech.

In fact, it’s claims like this that make this one of the most significant announcements this week about a forthcoming announcement to announce a forthcoming MMO.

Rumours also have it that Blizzard are preparing an announcement to announce that they will soon be announcing an announcement revealing the date for their forthcoming announcement about an announcement detailing an all new announcement that will announce to players around the world just what announcements they can expect to see announced in the third quarter of 2009. World of Warcraft forums exploded with joy and speculation at just what the announced announcement would announce. Blizzard was unavailable for comment, but they did release an entirely fabricated press release to our KiaSA reporter which simply said “Got hype? Coming soon. 2009″.

More on this news story and others, as we make it up.

Reporting live for Oh MMO Emo News, I’m Melmoth Melmothson.

Posted by Melmoth at 6:06 pm

If you need me.

anti-hype, games, melmoth 3 Comments »

I’ll be hiding around the back of the blog, trying to avoid the hype enema that you Earth people call E3.

Posted by Melmoth at 3:28 pm

In the meantime…

anti-hype, melmoth, mmo, rant Comments Off

Until I switch back to being an MMO-loving fuzzy bunny, I’ll continue with the somewhat Grinch-like observations.

Dear old Ragnar Tørnquist has another interview, this time on Rock, Paper, Shotgun. And bless me, there’s some Class A hype in there, hype so strong that there are special government task forces set up to deal with an outbreak. There really should be a Misuse of Hype Act declared in the UK.

Funcom’s contemporary dark fantasy, The Secret World, is an MMO with a cliffhanger ending. So says its creator, Ragnar Tørnquist. In fact, it’s claims like this that make this one of the most significant MMOs currently in development.

Yes, right. Well. Give me five minutes, and an interview with a hype waiter, and I’m sure I can tout a bunch of features and make some ‘claims’ for the MMO that I’m ‘working on’ which will make it the most significant MMO currently in development. IN MY MIND.

RPS: Can you just explain the classless progression idea?

Tørnquist: We wanted to make a game system that was at home in the modern world. This isn’t a medieval fantasy world in which you can be born a baker and die a baker – it’s based in the modern world around us. We wanted to give people freedom to be what they want to be, and play how they want to play. You can read into that the idea that we’re reaching for the moon, but it has some important basic ideas: players will have a sort of deck of cards which will say how their character is going to be. They will be able to shuffle that deck to change how they play as they go along, they’re going to open up more options for that deck as they go a long. It’s much more dynamic than other such games, you won’t get stuck as the tank or the healer, and you should be able to contribute to the process and to the party no matter who you are. Clothes aren’t going to have stats – you can choose whether you want to wear sneakers and a T-shirt, or if you want full goth outfit, or a dress and high heels. All those things are possible, and they’re not going to effect how your character plays.

I mean, is it really just me that reads these articles with “A sort of deck of cards“, “you should be able to contribute” and “You can read into that the idea that we’re reaching for the moon” and thinks, these are all just design goals and not actual features yet? Do alarm bells ring for anyone else? You don’t actually have this thing implemented, it’s what you want to implement, and if you have implemented it, you certainly haven’t tried it on a server with a hundred plus non-developers to see if it actually works, at which point it’s too late to do anything other than rip it out and shove-in a token class system to cover the MMO checklist.

Grind – Check
Token character customisation – Check
Compulsory segregation of player population by continent, server type or colour of the moon at the time of subscription – Check
Classes – Check

It’s an MMO all right!

It reminds me of the last mistake I made in believing a developer’s hype: Mr Barnett’s “Bears, bears, bears” video, where he told us all that ‘we wouldn’t have to wade through an area full of bears and then be asked to kill 10 bears, the ones we had killed would already count!’. And what was actually implemented in Warhammer Online? The Kill Collector, an NPC glued to each quest hub who gives you a bit of extra XP for having had to wade through a bunch of bears to do some other quests. And who is standing next to Mr Kill Collector? Why it’s Mr Go And Kill Me Ten Bears, who is totally oblivious to the fact that Mr Kill Collector is rewarding you for killing bears, because you hadn’t got the Let’s All Jolly Well Trot Off And Kill Some Fucking Bears quest yet.

Anyway, go read the interview. Zoso says it’s Quite Interesting, and I’m sure I agree that the game sounds interesting from a design perspective.

It’s the touting of features with absolutely no game evidence of them whatsoever that I object to. Anyone can say “well we want it to have this and that and the other”, why don’t you tell us what you’ve actually got? Better yet, tell us what you’ve tried that didn’t work and why. Teach us. Inform us. Respect us.

Feed us information, not fantasy so thick that even your game world couldn’t sustain it.

Posted by Melmoth at 3:39 pm

Keep it secret, keep it safe.

anti-hype, melmoth, mmo 13 Comments »

More exciting MMO news, Massively has the scoop on the latest astonishing game to be revealed to the world before it really should have been. This time it’s Funcom’s The Secret World. Here are some quotes from the article with a little KiaSA commentary:

If you’ve been waiting for a chance to see what lies beyond the curtain and fall into the elegantly dark setting of The Secret World, then get ready

For the hype machine to start lumbering its way out of the dank cavernous pit where it has slumbered for an age, in search of human hope to feed upon and sate its hunger?

for your first glimpse of what lurks beyond.

Same difference.

At the GDC we got the chance to sit down and discuss The Secret World with Funcom and lay our

Hands?

eyes

Oh.

on a

Close to final copy of the game, that’s been through several testing stages and is almost ready to be previewed by the general public in what we’ll all laughingly refer to as a ‘beta test’?

few cinematics of the game.

Oh.

While we were unable to get our hands around

The developers’ necks for starting the hype with nothing more than a CGI screenshot of some virtual boobs wrapped in a tight vest accompanied by some hand waving marketing waffle that would make the OnLive people jealous?

a playable version of the title,

Ah.

we were treated to many of the game’s basics and concepts. This may not be the tidal wave of information, but it is a start to the flow of The Secret World’s river of fresh ideas.

Translation: “FEED THEM TO THE HYPE BEAST!”

[...] First and foremost, TSW will be an action/adventure styled MMO appearing on both the PC

and some random console – probably the 360 because it’s from Microsoft, as is Windows, so how hard could a port be – to show that they’re hip with the gaming fraternity, even though we all know that it’ll just hit the PC and be “Coming soon” to the console for the next ten years, assuming the game lasts that long.

and Xbox 360.

Bingo. By the way, how’s that Age of Conan port for the Xbox 360 coming along, Funcom?

There is no release date yet, although there are internal milestones that the team is attempting to stick to.

Translation: “We have no idea when this is going to be out, we only came up with the idea yesterday. Geoff has a few design goals written on the back of a cigarette packet, and we got Clive down in graphics to whip-up a CGI video to show to the Hype Waiters [*]. We’ll have some forums soon too, to allow speculation about anything and everything to do with the game, so that there will be maximum disappointment when, funnily enough, the game turns out to be nothing like the wild and unrealistic designs of a bunch of rabid fans.”

The concept of TSW was officially started in 2002, but was unofficially created by Ragnar in the late ’90s.

Honestly, they’ve been working on it for years. Tens of years. Almost, TOO MANY years, for something that they can’t show us any game-play for. Now, let’s all sing the Tabula Rasa song.

The idea was to take

White Wolf’s World of Darkness and make an MMO that was exactly like it, but with a different name?

our universe and overlay it on a world of contemporary dark fantasy. A game with urban locations that takes place in today’s world with fantastic qualities that include the stuff of legends and myth.

Meh, close enough.

Bored now. You can read the rest at Massively. Then I’d recommended a steaming hot bath and an all-over body scrub with carborundum grit and methylated spirit, in order to get yourself clean.

[*] Hype Waiters: People who serve hype to consumers.

Posted by Melmoth at 4:27 pm
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