6 Rules for Enjoying Hype (and some cool videos from GW2 and Clone Wars)

Some people just don’t deserve hype.

Here we are, stuck in the doldrums of the MMO year and going through the motions in games or expansions where the shine has long since worn off. You’d think that injecting some optimism and excitement about upcoming games would be welcomed with open arms, right?

But some players (and bloggers) seem to take it personally every time their expectations are raised and then shattered on the jagged rocks of a cruel reality that may ship with bugs and not offer some random class/ race option on which the player had set her heart.  This is precisely NOT the way in which to enjoy well presented hype. It’s a thrill ride, a trailer, an insight into the hopes and imaginations of the artists and producers. That’s all it is. Not a promise graven in stone.  Sometimes it’s more fun to go along with the ride and then – just like a rollercoaster – enjoy the inevitable emotional fall through the floor later on.

Film style trailers have become a big part of game advertising. They range from gorgeous high budget “artists impressions” that bear no resemblance to the game, all the way through to Bioware style mini-documentaries about how some part of the game was made. I think the Mythic crew have a lot to be proud of in the way that their regular videocasts used to promote different aspects of Warhammer Online and why fans might be excited about them before that game was released. It has obviously had an effect on the rest of the industry.

A couple of trailers released this week did a particularly good job of capturing my imagination:

  • Guild Wars 2 Manifesto – manifesto implies some actual promises and debate and the GW2 team don’t disappoint. It is also gorgeous. The game looks as though it’ll be great, although I don’t quite understand (from the voiceover) how if you love MMOs you’ll love it, and if you hate MMOs you’ll love it too.
  • Star Wars Clone Wars – this is SOE’s Free Realms style Star Wars game that is launching next month. This trailer sold me on it and I’m definitely going to check the game out. It just looks FUN.

But what happens when hype seems to promise something that no real world game can deliver? Whose fault is it really if people are disappointed when they see the real thing and it fails to live up to their hopes? It’s our fault. We are not naive little flowers. We know how the media works. We know how advertising works. We know that trailers intended to sell you on an idea and a setting may not be 100% game accurate.

So here are some basic guidelines to help you enjoy the hype for what it is, and not let the hype ruin your experience in the game when you see it later on.

  1. Enjoy playing the game in your head. Trailers are meant to be inspiring and to encourage you to imagine how the game world might be. If one catches your imagination then enjoy the ride.
  2. But play the game in front of you when/ if it arrives. You can choose to either look for the fun in the game you have, or complain about all the ways in which it fails to match the game in your head.  For example, people who complain because hunters in LOTRO don’t have pets, ignoring the fact that there is another ranged class which does have pets that they could also play. Sometimes you have to either say, “No this is not the game for me, I must have a bow class with a pet,” or “OK, I can change my concept a bit.”
  3. Don’t take the trailer too literally. Just because you thought you saw a blurry shot of an elf with a broadsword doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to play elf fighters as PCs. A dev team may also not be able to implement everything exactly the way they would have wanted it when the trailer was released. It’s not a guarantee.
  4. Take the trailer literally. Don’t assume that it implies something which the narrator didn’t say or show. For example, Gordon wonders how much instancing will be used in GW2 to let players feel that they affect the world around them. We don’t know the answer to that yet (although he’s probably right), as the trailer didn’t touch on it.
  5. Enjoy the emotional journey. We’re fans. This is our hobby. Getting worked up about trailers and arguing the minutae of minor lore details is what we do. If you read general MMO blogs you’ll notice that a lot of bloggers position themselves quite early on in the hype cycle as either fans or cynics. That’s the most fun way to ride the hype out. (I’m a huge Bioware fan, for the record. They won my heart with DAO and I can’t wait to play a smuggler in SWTOR. So I’m not going to post anything too dismissive of that here.)
  6. But don’t take it personally if you later change your mind. It’s OK to hype a game and then find, when you actually see it, that you don’t enjoy playing it much at all. Laugh and move on, on to the next wave of hype.

What we might be playing after WoW

Larisa posts about the heart and soul of branding and the kind of work the WoW guys are doing to keep an old brand alive  (I never actually thought marketing people cared about anything but now I’m going to feel bad about every time I’ve passed up an aging brand in favour of something new).

I did momentarily feel a pang of sympathy, but I do struggle to see WoW as any kind of underdog in any sense at all. But for all that, I think future studies will centre on the amazing job that Blizzard have done to keep the game new and fresh and appealing. There are so many things to love about Wrath and despite the bum notes (like the whole of patch 3.2) Blizzard do know how to make fun games.

Sadly, my sympathetic side lasted all of about 5 minutes … which was the time it took me to go check out the Guild Wars 2 trailer. SHINY. Armoured bears and giant robots? Sign me up please. And again I stab Blizzard’s  poor marketing peons in the heart  with my shallow, fickle and feckless consumerist ways. (Sorry, Larisa.) If you weren’t excited yet, Ravious@Kill Ten Rats discusses some of the ways in which the Guild Wars 2 team plan to change questing and make it a more dynamic and involving experience. I do wonder why they’re so obsessed with using ships as bridges though, Isembard Kingdom Brunel might have had a word or two to say about that.

Here’s a more expansive Eurogamer article about the game and what lies in store for players.

And if that wasn’t enough, I then spotted the Final Fantasy XIV trailer. FFXIVcore.com snagged an interview with Square Enix at Gamescom this week to talk to them some more about their plans. Nothing really revolutionary here (other than running on a PS3) but they’re clear on their target market. It’s to be a PvE game, subscription based, with plenty of content for both casual and hardcore players that builds on what they learned with FFXI.

So that’s at least two games coming down the pipeline that might appeal to people who enjoy WoW at the moment. The Everquest team have also been dropping hints that they are working on a next generation version of Everquest, plus of course there’s whatever secret MMO project Blizzard are working on.

I can’t remember a time when I’ve been so upbeat about what the future holds for MMOs. And this is discounting all the free to play games in production, and the non-fantasy games, and the FPS or fighter type MMOs.

As far as other games go, Hudson has a collection of  gameplay trailers and videos debuted at Gamescom this week and it reads like a list of ‘Games Spinks might want to play’ so I’m hyped. (and not a single WW2 shooter among them.) How about you?