“Hype” – a tiny word that has the potential to literally “make” or “break” anything when it comes to entertainment. It’s a word used to describe something that’s being widely discussed and has thousands upon thousands of individuals eagerly waiting for its release *cough* No Man’s Sky *cough*. This word holds so much value and power that if the end product does not live up to the consumer/fan expectations it, in some cases, may literally mean the end for the developer who has made it.
“Hype Leads To Hurt”
We see people getting “hyped” for so many things nowadays. Movies, T.V shows, premiers, smartphones, tablets, etc. But probably the most vocal of these groups are gamers. We gamers care about our games, and we want them to be good. We’ve lived our lives playing as these incredible characters in these wondrous worlds, built and created by the imaginative minds of developers we adore. We invest our time and money to be engrossed and immersed into a hobby that we all love. And as each console generation passes, we have witnessed these developers grow and build upon those incredible franchises whilst creating all new and unique ones. We’ve witnessed new developers come into the arena and wow us with their new ideas on the medium. Each generation we’ve witnessed our childhood dreams come true. Whether it be through graphics, storytelling, or all new ways to play games. We’ve grown with this now omnipresent industry and can see where it’s going. And it’s beautiful.
Having said that, we have now become greedy. We have seen what developers can do with games such as, The Witcher 3. Giving us a massive, beautiful open world with an array of things to do and places to explore. But we still want more. And as soon as a game doesn’t deliver, we get filled with disappointment and even hate. This may be the developers fault; teasing us with launch trailers, cinematic trailers, gameplay trailers that show off the perfect “vertical slice” of the game; coupling all of that with graphical/gameplay jargon and spewing marketing action words to grasp our interest. Now I understand that with high budget development, developers need to market their product well to have it sell, but do they at times go a bit too far, garnering “hype” that will eventually disappoint? Or do we as a group simply fall into the trap and begin to demand/expect too much?
I swear I’m going to start writing about No Man’s Sky soon. But before I do, I want to get two more examples out of the way. Fallout 4 is a game that had everybody going nuts ever since it’s announcement. It was easily 2015’s most hyped game. Heck it was probably the most hyped game in years. So much so that fans and non fans alike were expecting “perfection.” Actually, they knew it was going to be perfection. If you hypothetically asked any fan of the series the simple question, “What if it sucks?” you wouldn’t have time to blink as your head would be dangling from your shoulders. Fans could not fathom a world in which there was a possibility that their precious game could not be as great as they’d expect it to be. They were so adamant in their belief that this game would truly be revolutionary. And one thing is for diehard fans of the series to react such a way, but gamers who’ve never even played a Bethesda game, let alone a Fallout game, shared the exact same thought process. That’s scary. You cannot do that to yourself. You cannot expect anything to be “perfect.” That amount of hype is only going to end in disappointment. I did the same with The Last of Us and regret doing so. This leads into my second point, which is Half Life 3. This diehard and quite
narrow-minded expectation that many gamers, myself included, have is what drives a developer like Valve to not make a third installment to their impeccable series. Half Life was revolutionary, and easily one of the greatest games of all time, which the sequel then solidified the franchise as an icon. And it has been rumoured for almost a decade that a third game was in the works. But after all this time and speculation, the demand and expectation has simply gone too far. If Valve do decide to release Half Life 3, it better be the work of God at this point. It better not only blow us away, but redefine gaming. That’s pressure that even an experienced and well known company like Valve simply cannot have on their shoulders. Especially seeing how their work in the online muliplayer arena alongside Steam is keeping them more than afloat. Half Life was never stellar in regards to sales, so why should the company invest their time and effort to make a “perfect” game when they know that it’s not going to sell on the GTA and Skyrim level? Is it even worth it at this point? I think they should, simply to make the fans happy, but again, that’s just me being greedy.
So let’s finally move on to the reason you clicked this article, No Man’s Sky. Hello Games is an independent game developer that has a team of under 20 people that are currently creating a game in which you, the player, play as a space explorer, and have the ability to travel to over 500 quintillion life sized planets, that are all procedurally generated to each have different life forms, ecology, weather patterns, and everything else that makes each planet unique, in a vast and open universe…So, I’m clearly joking right? Well, no. This is actually happening. Sean Murray and his team of under 20 people are literally creating a universe and throwing players in it to explore. How the (insert expletive) is this possible?! This is almost too good to be true. I mean seriously. Being a lover of space travel, this plucks all the right chords in the 8 year old in me. No Man’s Sky is my Fallout. If someone came to me and said, “What if it sucks?” then I’d be the one pulling out the machete. There is no game that has me more hyped than this game. June 2016 simply cannot come fast enough. Just the thought of this game gets me giddy. And gamers all around the world share my sunny disposition, and all have their eyes on this gem until it’s release.
But let’s be the games writer that I am and shatter my childlike shell and bring out the cold cynicism.
The ‘Vertical Slice’
Let’s take a step back for a minute here. Every game that ever comes out is prefaced by an assortment of marketing and media exposure. Like I listed above, there’s cinematic trailers, gameplay trailers, tone trailers, character trailers, Let’s Play’s, Developer interviews, conferences like E3 and Gamescom in which the devs play the game for a few minutes, the whole shabang. And in each of these showings, we see what the game does. It’s sad that there is no more mystery when you pick up a game anymore due to all of this, but that’s a whole different article. The point is, we know what the game is. The developers show what is called a Vertical Slice. Which simply means a portion of the game in which we see almost every facet of the game. A perfect example of this is Naughty Dogs showing of Uncharted: A Thief’s End during this years’ E3. We saw everything from Nate simply walking through pedestrians, to shooting and punching bad guys, to traversing and platform his way through a bullet-ridden town, to driving. It showed every aspect of what the game is. So, what have we seen from No Man’s Sky? Well…not much, really. I mean, we’ve seen Mr. Murray traveling between and walking around around different planets, shooting his laser at green objects to extract resources. We’ve seen how you can name your own planet/creatures. We’ve seen the ship and how you get around in space. We’ve seen a handful of planets and how different each of them are to the other in terms of ecology and creatures. And…that’s it. Now Sean Murray has gone out to say that he wants there to be a sense of mystery. He doesn’t want to show off everything that the game has to offer, nor does he want to talk about it. It’s a game based on exploration and discovery. And listen, I’m all for that. But, as a curious gamer and a writer, I just can’t help but wonder, “what else is there to do?” It sounds so greedy of me to even wonder this because it’s like they’re giving me an entire friggin universe and I’m here worried that there won’t be enough to do. But, I can’t help it, I do wonder. I’m sure I’ll be in complete awe during my first handful of planets; admiring the scenery, the creatures, I might even stop and smell the flowers. But after a dozen hours of doing that, that itch will begin to start irritating. I’ll begin wanting to do more and begin wondering, “Is this all there is?” which is again a ridiculous thing to say seeing how I would still have a few hundred more quintillion planets to explore; but it’s not about quantity. Even if the planets are rich and alive, I don’t want them to be vapid. And I’m saying this as if I know what the game is going to be, but I don’t, I’m simply speculating. And it just worries me further because although I completely agree about not oversharing your game to keep that sense of mystery, it’s not like Sean Murray is shying away from promoting his game. The guy was on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert playing the game for crying out loud. And what did he demonstrate? The same stuff we’ve been seeing; walking around different planets, naming animals, and collecting resources. And again, the planets look gorgeous, but there simply has to be more to it than that, otherwise it simply becomes more of a tech demo honestly.
“…We need to help ground people so they understand what kind of game it is.”
Murray has actually even come forward and has said that he is shutting himself off from Social Media and doesn’t want to market the game the way he has been and wants to only focus on the game itself. In an interview with Eurogamer, he said,
We’re just trying to represent it, we think that is exciting, the game is exciting. Hype, for me, is that other thing, which is like an unattainable level of excitement. An excitement that will ultimately end in hurt.
In terms of showing [No Man’s Sky], initially we want to show how different it is from other games, but now we need to help ground people so they understand what kind of game it is.
That last statement is the one that worries me. Before they wanted to show how different the game is, and now it’s about them helping consumers “understand” what type of game it is. It just seems like he’s back-pedalling out of fear due to the immense pressure set forth by gamers. And although I completely understand that, and his wanting to under-play the hype for the game until release and focus more on the development of the game just so that it doesn’t get to that Fallout level, it just seems that even he’s beginning to worry about his game.
All of this hype and speculation has both made me worried and crazy. The child in me wants to continue to be giddy and excited, while the cynical writer in me wants to analyze, speculate, and worry. Both of these elements combined is only going to lead to a massive crash, and possible disappointment when I actually play the game. Even if the game turns out to be amazing, I feel that because I spent so much of my time researching and analyzing the game, I’ll forget to do the thing that’s most important, have fun. At the end of the day, I’m playing a game that allows me to travel through space and explore literally an endless number of life sized planets. That. Is. Incredible. Even if you can’t do anything else and get bored after 12 hours, it shouldn’t matter, because just the fact that an indie developer gave you the ability to do something like that with the graphical prowess of the new consoles, is unreal. So let’s stop these unrealistic expectations that are fuelled by hype and simply enjoy the game for what it is.