January 25, 2013

Reigning in the Hype Train

I am sure many have seen the recent TESO trailer, and as far as trailers go, you have to say it looks amazing. In fact, my mind’s eye sat there and tried to actually price it, and I can only guess that trailer alone cost a few million dollars to create. One can probably surmise the type of game play they are aiming at for the game, but one can also look at and guess what levels of the trailer are just flash and not actual game play. After all, the concept of people running along siege bridges and such that way just seems, boggling on a gaming scale, let alone an MMO scale. Trailers like these often leave me face palming because of the fact they do elements that obviously will not be in the game.

This alone brings up the not so quiet part of my mind about hype. Now, let’s not get anything confused here, this trailer is all about hyping the game up. A lot of flashy elements and such and as others, such as Taugrim, have already dissected, some of the potential game play elements are demonstrated in the trailer, but you also have to consider what to strip out.

Now, hype from a lone stand point is something you do want to build for a game but it has to be tempered. Otherwise you risk the burden of over hyping something, which a lot of games these days suffer from; i.e. someone creating shoes too big for them to fill. While it’s nearly impossible to temper people’s expectations of what will happen, as much as you want to hype your product up you should also set a baseline of what really to expect, otherwise you run the risk of hitting that same problem a lot of other games, MMOs in particular, always run into that they hype themselves up so much and people just are left bewildered by what is actually delivered.

I can understand that there are just some things not ready to be talked about because they are still finalizing designs and trying to figure out, once and for all, if the work they are doing will be possible, but developers should at least be forthcoming about what is currently possible in their game as it stands and let people be pleasantly surprised if something is added above and beyond what they have currently created. Take for instance, one of the more recent MMOs said it had action combat that wasn’t about standing still and trading hits with opponents on the field of battle like the big named competitor on the market. However, once the game was played many people found that said game was indeed just trading blows between enemies with just longer animations creating a flimsy illusion of action style combat. In other words, they hyped that up so much that it turned out flat and they didn’t clarify what they were talking about.

I don’t fault companies for trying to hype up their product, after all, if they don’t get their name out there they won’t get as many sales, but they still need to ground their hype otherwise the proverbial backlash when all your promises you made were just hot air or thinly disguised illusions results in a negative backlash that will cost you in the end. So the end result is very much a required tempering of what is and what isn’t a proper way to hype up your game. Be responsible with your hype and don’t over reach it, be forthcoming about what you know works, and be transparent about how it works. Don’t try to sell your systems as “different” from the competitor because it looks flashier. People will notice, and when people see this they will call you on it.

But this isn’t just on the developers shoulders. This also relies on the players shoulders to. A lot of players have a tendency to over hype their favorite product as well. Many have a tendency to make up stories about what is actually going to happen in the game, so much so that the hype train actually invents new things that are going on instead of actually being about what the game is. Try to keep yourself grounded on what has actually been said, otherwise the backlash to your favorite game will be just as bad as all the other backlash that has been going on.

As far as I am concerned, TESO is the first fantasy based MMO I have actually been interested in in a long time. But I am being cautious, because a lot of what the developers are saying are things I’ve heard before. Especially about the way they describe the crafting system, which for me is a very important part of MMOs that just has never been paid more attention than basic lip service. It’s a wait and see thing, but I know I will be a part of the Ebonheart Pact if I like what I see.


  1. Honestly the first reaction I had to this trailer, myself, was annoyance. I think it was a summing up of a lot of simmering frustration with the entire AAA MMO scene lately, which seems obsessed with all the wrong things (like expensive CGI trailers) rather than making a well-realized game.

    Secondary is the fact that when TESO was announced, lots of people were skeptical of it from the start, and so far as I've seen the devs seem to be playing coy about answering direct questions (like which engine they're using). It just makes people more suspicious and less tolerant of showy hype which tells you nothing about the game.

    1. That is very true. The very coy nature of the responses and the dodging tends to be baffling. This whole market cast of trade secrets with developers lately has been more than a bit annoying.