"I have a constant fear that something's always near." -Iron Maiden
Whether you’re trapped in a dark elevator shaft, cornered near an air duct, or just plain surrounded by zombies, only a handful of game designers have stimulated that dark-fearing, claustrophobic child within all of us. Scaring your audience is one of the hardest things to do as a designer – gamers are a giddy bunch: constantly giggling at twitching corpse glitches and missing limbs, the task itself is a scarier prospect than the execution. The games that truly frighten us don’t need the fanciest graphics, but that doesn’t make it any easier to accomplish.
It's a phrase I picked up while working as a test technician at a large computing company, but was most often spoken with sarcastic undertones. A phrase coined with the intent of mocking heedless higher-ups exhibiting a careless disregard for bugs found during the test cycle. Unfortunately, the same words can be applied to any gaming company – but most often the larger, corporate types: “ship it!”
EA unceasingly flaunts defective titles as a prime example of what not to do, expressly with the company's recent manifestation of a 'ship it now, fix it later' mentality. If a particular game design concept is in vogue, provided that clever marketing reinforces it, hype will naturally ascend to a point where the gaming populace wants it now. Just as no rock star would deny an audience his presence, no large publishing conglomerate would withhold a game of such desire. There are exclusions to this statement – most prominently Blizzard, known for their tongue-in-cheek “it'll be done when it's done” release dates, but not everyone is so immune to the entrancing allure of money (usually in the form of millions). This post will examine the reasoning behind far-too-early releases, and more importantly, how you can protect yourself from becoming the owner of a shiny $50 coaster.
You are on a gaming website, reading an article about gamers, and likely admiring the box art on the left side of the screen (made you look). You are a gamer, a part of a special breed and a member of a unique subculture. We're outfitted with our own language, often varying between the hardcore and the forumites; our own traditions, including April fools site overhauls, t-bagging, griefing, and rick-rolling; we even have a code, sort of the unspoken laws of the Internet: don't hack, don't speak of piracy on official forums, don't spam friends when they scrim, and depending on what platform you game on, for some unfortunate reason, flame all who speak of competing consoles. But what does it actually mean to be a 'gamer'?
Dreamhack 2004 - Source: Wikipedia.org
The picture you are looking at (left) represents a leading contributor to Crytek's marketing expenses. If you are anywhere near the E3 convention center, you don't need us to tell you that the Crysis 2 poster spans 1/3 the height of the entire structure. That's one high-res render.
The streets of New York have been susceptible to Crytek's teaser trailers, Crysis 2's beta has been in discussion, and now we have posters the size of a house. Or two. All eyes have certainly turned to Crytek, a familiar feeling to the launch of the original Crysis, but will the sequel stand as more than just an over-used benchmarking tool?
I have my doubts. More importantly, what can we learn about industry hype through games like Crysis and Spore?
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