It finally happened, I am out of topics for Blaugust for now. Fortunately I still have the links for topic prompts from last year’s Blaugust to look through and get some ideas.
One thing I am noticing is that the majority of the prompts are topics about us or our personal feelings about something. Which I can see why: it is pretty easy to write about something more personal. And although I don’t mind to write about myself I am also getting a bit tired of doing such personal topics one after another. Unless something changes I think that will be the nature of my posts until the end of Blaugust.
Also, please don’t take me wrong: I am really grateful for all the topic prompts people wrote last year. They are helping me a lot to get through these last days of the event after all. This was just a bit of a digression and frustration with myself. 🙂
Since the topic of hype has been popping up recently on the blogosphere I might as well talk about my personal experience with hype as a whole. If you want to see other people’s opinions on the subject there is this post by Krikket, of Nerd Girl Thoughts where she talks about why she won’t board the Hype Train. There is also this one by Belghast, of Tales of the Aggronaut, where he ponders what changed as he isn’t as hyped as much about upcoming game releases. If I forgot anyone I apologize and please add the link to the post in the comments.
This post will be also an expanded version of the comments I left in both of these blogs.
P.S.: This post will be more negative and full of snarky than my usual ones.
When the hype burned me
Back in the mythical age where the internet was a much more friendly place, where discussions were still mainly done in forums, one of the games I was really looking forward to was The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.
My only previous experience with the franchise was with a demo version of Daggerfall, back when I was a kid, and playing a ton of Morrowind. In fact it was Morrowind that made me so eager to play Oblivion. I mean, if a company made a game as good as Morrowind, certainly their next game could only be bigger and better than that, right?
Oh, how naive and innocent I was. Let me list all the things Oblivion promised to be better and how they failed miserably:
1. You can customize your character’s face instead of having to pick from pre-made head models
Except that they give you a potato face to work with. Also, changing one slider ends up affecting other sliders too. Sure, if you have a lot of patience you can create a character that looks human, maybe even a good looking character too. If you don’t have a lot of patience like me then you will just take the least ugly potato you can get and call it a day. At least you can play the game in first person and you don’t need to see your characters face.
Oh, wait, never mind that! Because every NPC not only have potato faces too, it looks like they were severely beaten with the ugly stick. So your only hope is that someone with a god-like amount of patience go through every NPC in the game to try to make them look better and release it as a mod. Fortunately there was someone who did it although I don’t have the link handy for it right now. But if you don’t want to play with mods, well, I hope you don’t mind looking at people who look horribly disfigured for long periods of time.
2. Every enemy’s level will auto-scale with you providing a constant challenge
This one sounds actually good on paper. On practice? Not so much. I mean part of the appeal of the fantasy genre is the power fantasy you get when you level up. Suddenly all of those enemies that gave you a tough time at the beginning aren’t a challenge anymore and you can now try to tackle bigger and badder enemies.
But with Oblivion’s leveling there isn’t any of that satisfaction. It is like “Congratulations! You just leveled up… and so did the rest of the world, including that dirty road bandit that tried to mug you a couple levels before”.
To add insult to the injury the loot also scaled to your level taking a lot of the incentive to risk poking your head into dungeons. One of the things I loved about Morrowind was checking some random cave or ruins just to see what was inside. Some times I would find some cool treasure, a piece of lore or even a random quest.
In Oblivion not only I had no loot incentive to do so, the dungeons looked the same-y and I very much doubt I’d find a random quest inside it. Although I’d love to be wrong about the last part.
3. You can have horses and ride around everywhere!
This is one I liked and granted, they delivered to a certain extend. By that I mean, yeah, horses were there, you could acquire them and indeed ride them everywhere. Except that in a fight they would immediately flee somewhere and it would be very easy to lose them. Not to mention that if you were mounted when an enemy decided to attack you they would still target your horse even when you unmounted and started to fight them.
Then they released the infamous “Horse Armour DLC” which made some think that kind of behavior was intentional to get people to buy the DLC. I never thought Bethesda was that nefarious though. My impression was more that they just were incompetent with the AI and their choices for DLC content was poorly thought out.
4. Every character will be voice-acted
Which again sounds great, even more so in a time when such a thing was still rare. Even more crazy for the time is that it would be done in an open-world game with a lot of characters.
The problem is there was only about a dozen or so voice actors and every member of the same race and same gender would have the same voice actor.
This led to some ridiculous situations like in a side-quest where there was a farmer who wanted you to help his two sons to protect their farm from goblins. There is a point in the quest where you accompany the two sons to the location and they talk to each other on the way. If you close your eyes and don’t see what is going on it feels like it is a person talking to themselves.
And there is more…
I could go on and on about every thing that sounded like a cool idea before the release and how badly it was implemented. But then this post would be much, much larger too. Suffice to say that this was a bitter lesson into hype and since then I tried to be a lot more careful about it.
I will also admit there were some other games that didn’t live up to the hype too. It is just that Oblivion was the worst offender and the only one I can clearly remember making me so bitter.
I am still not immune to the hype train
Despite all my bitterness I still get into the hype train from time to time. The difference is that I am a lot more picky and distrustful about it now.
Nowadays if I get into the hype there are a few things I try to take into consideration before I fully jump in.
The first is if it is a company I already know of and whose work I enjoy. This probably is still pretty dangerous though. I mean, just see what I wrote about Oblivion and Bethesda. But overall I still feel it is a good start, specially if it is a smaller company as they tend to be closer to their player base and better at listening to them.
I also try to see if there are any interviews or similar with the developers to see what they are trying to accomplish with the game, why they decided to make certain features the way they are and so on.
For example, when Divinity: Original Sin was still in the Kickstarter, a friend of mine mentioned the campaign and it made me curious enough to look more about it. Back then I knew nothing about Larian Studios or their previous games.
I found some interviews where they explained why their previous games turned the way it did, why they went to Kickstarter, what kind of game they wanted to do with Divinity: Original Sin, what were their inspirations, etc. Everything they said seemed grounded and interesting enough to make me back their Kickstarter campaign.
Plus it helped they were just going to Kickstarter to get enough funds to finish and give some extra polish to the game. Meaning that they weren’t selling the promise of a game, they already had one mostly completed. They just wanted to make sure they could finish it and give it the necessary finishing touches it deserved.
It turned out to be a good investment as Divinity: Original Sin became one of my favorite RPGs. I only have played the tutorial part of the sequel though but I plan to eventually play it properly and I am hoping that Baldur’s Gate 3 might be just as good as those two games. 🙂
The last thing I do is to look is into reviews of the game from sources whose tastes in games I know are similar to mine. This is a lot more tricky as it requires waiting either for the game to be released or pretty close to it.
If friends of mine end up purchasing the game I also ask their opinions as more often then not they end up buying it before I can.
But I am also finding myself caring less and less about the hype of a game too. I have so many games to play already that I am having to be very picky about what games to buy least I end up bankrupt. Even more so with so many great game releases in the last few years and the near future.
And the ones I am pretty sure I will buy I have been increasingly going as blind as I can. That was the case with Fire Emblem Three Houses and Judgment, for example. And it is kinda nice to go into a game knowing almost nothing about it and being surprised by what the game has to offer. 🙂
To sum up: I am getting more and more detached about the hype and when I do care about it then I try to make sure it is tempered by good information and common sense.