Guess I should qualify the previous post with a couple comments:

While not falling into a complete cynical cycle, I’m a lot more wary right now about how MMO companies promote pre-launched products.  It’s funny that we see them doing the same thing over and over, for different games:

  1. Highlighting some excellent, interesting, innovative new feature and showing it off like there’s no tomorrow.
  2. Insinuating that this is just the “tip of the iceberg” for this feature, and that the rest of it in the game is just as polished, in-depth and fun.
  3. Which isn’t true.
  4. But readers buy into this assumption, and let their mind run wild over the possibilities — creating even more hype in their minds.
  5. And when the game launches, cold, hard truth is dumped over their heads and mopey disillusionment follows.

When you don’t give people all of the information and facts, they make stuff up to compensate.  It’s an old marketing rule, and it always works against us.

Geez, how many times have we seen this up to this point?  Warhammer touted their PQs so strongly you thought they were the second coming — but they were careful to only show the beginning zone PQs that were polished and scripted extensively.  WoW’s inscription system.  Vanguard’s diplomacy system.  Tabula Rasa’s “ethical parables”.

It’s fun to spot the devs pulling this trick, because you see it when they repeat the same example for each and every interview they do.  “Characters take physical damage in this game, which you can see,” they’ll say.  “For example, here the character gets a cut across their arm — and it shows a red slash that stays for a while!  Awesome, right?”

And in every subsequent interview — the same cut, the same arm, the same explanation.  It’s misleading, because you assume that there’s dozens and dozens of similar effects, whereas you can be guaranteed of just one at this point.  They might not even have any others in the game.

Wow… that DOES sound cynical… but I think it’s the truth.

4 thoughts on “P.S.

  1. Hiryu02 April 29, 2009 / 2:02 pm

    While a tad cynical, I would also say that it will ever be the case that players will be exposed to some early feature or content, and since they may not have any other info or context to what they have just seen, they will naturally use their imagination to fill in the rest of the “features” around the single feature they have just seen.

    And so, when the game finally goes live, the feature will almost always never live up to the amazing design that we all built up around it in our heads.

    In short, our imaginations will always far surpass any feature any dev can put in their game.

  2. Vort April 29, 2009 / 3:09 pm

    Yep and after you’ve been burned a couple of times. You become more and more apprehensive toward buying that next gen MMO.

    In the end they (Devs) may only be hurting themselves.

  3. Leper April 29, 2009 / 6:39 pm

    This type of disjointed feature promotion isn’t unique to MMOs either. A couple of quick examples include Oblivion’s much vaunted Radiant AI system (pointless and indistinguishable from simple scripting) and Bioshock’s morality choices (repeated black and white decision with two possible outcomes).

    Its disappointing for gamers when developers talk up these new features, then deliver a product doesn’t live up to their own hype. If developers are going to repeatedly hype features, these features should extensively work in their game.

  4. BVD April 30, 2009 / 7:53 am

    I have to wonder about the business model for these MMO companies… other than some games like WoW, who have the support / marketing / expertise / funding of a company like Blizzard behind it, perhaps hype is a *necessity* to get the initial payback the company needs to fund future modifications and features.

    I can’t remember all the Warhammer hype that well at the moment, but I do remember expecting a lot (LOT) more than was delivered. I’m willing to take some of the responsibility for buying into the hype, or because I went all fan-boy and expected Mythic to deliver the sun & moon. However, when a company promises “WAR is everywhere”, releases a product where WAR is nowhere because of empty servers, then combines said servers only to start to see them crash because their coding / hardware is crap… well, I’m sorry, but I think Mythic is squarely to blame on that one and deserves a swift kick to the perneum.

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