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Saturday, 24 September 2016

How to ruin games with hype

Gaming should be a fun pastime, a relaxing form of entertainment we can immerse ourselves in, alone or with friends, turning a bunch of codes and textures into a beautiful experience. It's a separate art from film, it has a limitless potential for development and creativity, for a much more immersive experience, with an active engagement from the player. The educational and even therapeutic value of games have already been proven, yet still this medium is far from being explored at its full potential, a potential anyone can be able to understand right now, for the worst thing is held back by is the technological limitation. However, that's not gaming's worst enemy, but greed is.
What does hype have to do with greed? Greed comes in many shapes, but hype has the unfortunate ability to attract all sorts of greedy.

The greed of a gamer
You see something new, or something you think it's new, because you don't really understand the programming behind a game (although, let's be honest, you pretend to), and you love it. Oh, you do. So much so that you film yourself crying while watching the reveal trailer and post it on the internet so everyone can see what a sensible and gullible dork you are. You have barely seen a trailer or a small gameplay teaser, obviously scripted to all hell. But you don't care, you'll beg for more, and when wiser people will tell you that there isn't more and that you shouldn't be so optimistic about something you barely have any idea about, you base your "facts" on what the developer said in that brief presentation. Two years later, the devs finally come out of their lairs again to show what they've worked for so long on and how the game progressed. It's... the same thing, but old somehow. What happened? Oh, yeah, it's still in development, we shouldn't comment about the obvious things we see, no one is allowed to make assumptions that this game may probably not be as good as it's advertised, and maybe all of this is a beautiful lie. Months later, a release date is suddenly made public. The beta is awful, the bugs are just beyond repair, but it's still in development, you hold on to your optimism. The game is rushed simply because it's getting old and some of us are losing interest, better things are have come and gone. The game is a buggy mess, everyone is shouting how awful it is, how the developer lied, and they're rightfully asking for refunds. But not you. No, you still think the game is good. With a sad grin on your face, instead of playing the damn thing, you take on every comment and review that has negative things to say about this game, no matter how much sense they make. And you will continue to defend this disappointment until a new, or something you think it's new, appears on the horizon. The history repeats itself, but...

The greed of a developer
You start by advertising an innovating video game experience, either be it virtual reality or a huge, Universe-sized sandbox, it needs to be fresh and appealing, something to get people excited. You need to get everyone's attention with interesting features you've only barely planned, but have just a vague idea of how you want to implement them. If you don't have it in the game, just make a scripted event, but it has to illustrate exactly what you're trying to do, even if it's very hard to be done with the engine in real time. Don't worry, you'll take the time and figure it out. Or do you? You already gained the attention of a big publisher and that one wants a piece of the cake, they'll at least pay for the marketing. Slowly, the publisher will push a release date, because you can't profit off of their generosity forever. Besides, you may have promised too much for too long, and it's kinda getting old. Let's face it, you've got nothing new to show for and you more than likely shouldn't have made your game announced as soon as you did. You have no choice now but to hurry development and yet you clearly have no time to create everything you promised, no matter how many times you delay it. Meanwhile, people are starting to get suspicious or to lose interest. Finally, all you can do is release a buggy mess of a product and hope for the best. Reviews are flooding with negativity. Most of the customers are complaining. No damage control helps, and the publisher calls you out on your bullcrap. You'll work a lot of precious time to fix a game you're not gonna profit too much from, your integrity as a developer is hurt, your reputation so tarnished you may go bankrupt or no matter what you create, no matter how good, you'll never be able to sell anything ever again. you could take the risk, but...

There's a lesson to learn, I can only hope you learn it.