So let’s talk about anticipation today. For my entire life, I’ve been one who always eagerly anticipates upcoming events with great glee, sometimes to the point where I spend far too much time thinking about them. When I was a kid, I used to plan our family vacations in my head — what I’d pack, what I’d do on what days, etc., — extensively. I’d even look forward to going back to school and start obsessing over classes and new gear and whatnot.
Through all of this, I’ve learned one overriding fact: When you’re anticipating something heavily, what actually will happen will always be different in some way than how you imagine it. It doesn’t mean it’ll be worse (or better), just different. Like my wedding day — no matter how I imagined it would be, the reality of it was far different (and insanely quick). Great day, but there’s no way that what I imagined, even with a lot of advance knowledge and planning, would be reflected in real life.
See where I’m going with this on a MMO blog? We anticipate upcoming titles, we take what information devs feed us, and we imagine a lot. It’s not a bad thing — it’s even part of the fun. It’s just that when we see the game in actuality and get our hands on it, it can be a jarring transition between what we envisioned and what actually is. This is why some caution you not to buy into the hype, or to keep your expectations in check, and so on. It’s not to say that you shouldn’t anticipate something, just that you should resist building it up into the be-all, end-all experience in your head.
So when a company releases first-look gameplay, I’m used to seeing a lot of disgruntled folks who are feeling the bumps of this transition. Heck, I’ve felt it myself, especially when I finally got into the WAR beta after anticipating it for so long.
We were talking in chat last night about the released footage someone took of the GW2 demo. Not the best quality of video, to be sure, but it’s already caused a lot of discussion ranging from “DOOOOM!” to “AWESOME!” in those awaiting ArenaNet’s next title.
Me? Generally I liked it. I agree that the outlines are a bit distracting, but it looks and sounds great overall. But I was talking to a friend who was just dismayed by it — she’d been following and combing over all of the GW2 preview info with an unmatched fervor, and this video did not stack up to expectations. The damage numbers were too big, the UI not minimalistic enough, and the notification of events happening nearby was “immersion-breaking”. There’s just a ton of buildup behind this game, and perhaps it’s better that ArenaNet start showing off the actual game before people start thinking of it as perfect and all things to all gamers. Still, that transition between the imagination/PR and actuality can be a rough ride.
On a bit of a different tack, there’s the recently-released space combat trailer for TOR (this is more of a trailer that uses gameplay snippets rather than uninterrupted play). This stirred up a lot of controversy as well. For the longest time, nobody knew if BioWare was even thinking of a space part of the game, nevermind space combat. Then word came out that it would happen, and people instantly brought to bear a crapton of expectations before BioWare could even lay out the details. Then BioWare tells them it’s going to be an instanced “tunnel shooter” that takes place at hotspots in the game, and people flip their lids.
This I get less than the GW2 thing. First of all, BioWare never promised space combat of the SWG/X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter free-form variety. People just assumed, mostly because we want everything. It’s not a case where they can get mad at BioWare for going back on their promises, but instead getting mad that BioWare wasn’t creating the exact game features they imagined. I think that puts BioWare in an impossible position to please.
And I also don’t get why this is a horrible way to handle this part of the game. Remember, we didn’t even know if there was going to be space combat, so I thought that however we got it was better than not getting it at all, but apparently I’m a fool for thinking so according to some comments I’ve read (“I’d rather be dead and buried than BioWare release anything other than a full-fledge flight simulator!”). Okay, maybe you just don’t like on-the-rails/tunnel shooters — if you don’t, that’s your preference, and that’s fine. But I get the feeling that people are more mad what BioWare didn’t do than how they’re doing it, if that makes sense.
It’s like a spoiled kid at Christmas — give him an unexpected gift, and he just stomps his feet and tells you that you could’ve spent more, you could’ve done better. There’s no pleasing that kid. You kind of want to slap that kid around with a fish, even.
Anyway, there’s a lot to analyze in these trailers, if one is so inclined, just be careful to acknowledge that this marks one of the points where imagination and reality merge. It’s better to yield to traffic than get in a wreck over it.