Thursday, 31 January 2013

The Sky Is Falling! : GW2

Pai was ranting, quite rightly, about misleading CGI trailers for MMOs.  I feel the same way about over-excited press releases. It's "under-promise, over-deliver", guys! You're all getting it the wrong way round!

The opening of the first installment of GW2's new Living Story had hundreds of players running around Wayfarer's Foothills asking each other in Map chat "Where's the Event?". Being told that they were standing in the middle of it did little to calm an increasing atmosphere of irritation and disappointment.

To quote the Press Release:

"The sky falls and the ground shakes in the lands of the north. Charr and norn refugees crawl from the wreckage of their homes in the Wayfarer Foothills and Diessa Plateau, struggling to find shelter in the south. The call goes out for volunteers to assist the victims in this time of need, when earth and sky seem to have become the enemy…"

No it doesn't! No they don't! The earth and the sky are just the same as they always were except for some sporadic, localized blizzards, handily placed out of anyone's way. The refugees are walking along the same paths we've all been using, the ones that pass by the same lodges and settlements that are carrying on the same business they've been carrying on for months.

Exactly which homes have been wrecked? If the refugees are struggling to find shelter, why don't they stop in that big lodge over there where they have more ale than they know what to do with? Or maybe just nip across the border to Diessa and warm up with a beer and half a roast ox at Meatoberfest?

I begin to lose patience with Map chat
Why die of cold and exhaustion in the snow when not fifty yards away happy, laughing, joking Norns are drinking beer by a massive fire? Did anyone think this through? Doesn't look like it.

Bobby Stein, an ANet developer, eventually popped up on the forums to clarify:

"The Flame and Frost story content progresses over time. You will not see everything today, tomorrow, or even the next day. Expect subtle changes at first." 

Fine. I'm more than happy with that. It's a good approach. It might have worked better if you'd said that in the Press Release so we were out there looking for small, incremental, unspectacular changes, not The Apocalypse as advertised.

MMO players are horribly impatient these days and very hard to satisfy, let alone impress. Under-promise, over-deliver and you're in with a shot. Maybe someone'll try it one day.

4 comments:

  1. I think the problem is that a big part of the intended target audience is so used to the big words and loud announcements these days, that NOT having them is risking to be overlooked and not taken seriously from the start. of course quality speaks for itself eventually when mouth-to-mouth has run its course, but many MMO players actually want the in-your-face bombast cinematics and pathos. if somebody comes along modestly, everyone goes "what the hell is this, lol?"
    I've a feeling its a side-effect of being force-fed grand entries everywhere, be it in tv/radio commercials, cinema trailers, podcasts etc., hmm.

    Funny enough, while the new TESO trailer hits every exhausted cliché out there, I was relieved it was practically uncommented. I am so tired of a deep, male voice-actor (is it actually always the same dude??) telling you exactly what to expect and how to feel about an upcoming game or movie. at least all the trailer did was show you battle scenes....and a Assassin's Creed rip-off character.

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    1. Just in the last few minutes ANet put up a blog post going into a good deal more detail about what the "Living Story" is, how it works, what kind of content it contains and so on. It says things like "If you love interactive stories and find the inhabitants of Tyria interesting, then this content is for you." and "None of this is required content you need to play in order to level your character."

      That looks like damage-limitation and face-saving, coming after the fact. Had they put that blog up a few days before the patch it would have set an appropriate tone and gone some way to adjusting expectations to match what we got.

      MMO companies talk a fine game before launch but few set a high bar in their approach to and execution of publicity once they're out of the gate. I'm not sure quite why it's so hard for them to get all their various departments speaking in sync but few of them seem to be able to do it reliably.

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    2. They have said - but only in interview - that the January update will be a small update.
      But by saying that, they put hype on their february and march updates !
      We will see...

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    3. Ah yes, that whole "expansion-worth of content" thing. The January update was pretty substantial in itself, I thought, Living Story excepted, so the February one must be humungous. Because if it isn't...

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