As a popular rap group once proclaimed, but Public Enemy tracks aside… why do we keep falling for the hype surrounding certain games?
I have no idea why, when talking about over hyped games, a picture of Peter Molyneux appears…
Anyway, it is reports on the most recently over hyped game; No Man’s Sky, that got me thinking about us gamers falling for the hype. No Man’s Sky is just the latest in a long line of games not delivering on what was promised, or as I call it, ‘The Peter Molyneux Effect”.
There he goes again, damn it!
With recent reports surrounding No Man’s Sky of refunds from Amazon, Steam and PSN and the game losing around 88% of its initial players since launch. No Man’s Sky is quickly becoming one of the most hated games ever. This all stems from promises and game features the developer; Hello Games, said would be included in the game just not being there (there are plenty of articles that point out the HUGE list of missing features), along with reports of massive bugs and game crashes. Simply put, No Man’s Sky has not lived up to the hype. But who is the blame here, us the consumer for believing what the developers told us, or the developers themselves for just not delivering on what they said?
A lot of people will blame us, the consumer for actually thinking that a developer would give us the game they said they would… which I don’t think is fair at all. We just go on what the developer has told us the game would contain, so its not our fault the game falls short is it? We can hardly be blamed for thinking that the developer was actually telling us the truth when in fact they have been outright lying. So why do we believe the developers when they tell us what a game will be like? Because most of the time, they deliver on their promises… unless its Peter Molyneux circa 2002 onward (more on this soon…).
But I don’t want to talk about; No Man’s Sky as everyone else is doing just that right now and its getting a little tedious now. What I do want to do it take a look at some of the most over hyped games and the many, many broken promises we as gamers have put up with over the years. Whether the games were good or not in themselves is irrelevant. This is purely about the game just not delivering on what it was being sold as.
Well, no point in beating around the bush. Lets get straight to the tippy top of over hyping with the main star of the show; Mr. Molyneux and the game that marked the beginning of the end.
Fable: Just for the record, I quite enjoyed Fable and Fable II… Fable III though? Meh. Before Fable became Fable, it was originally conceived and sold to us gamers by the hype master that is Peter Molyneux as a game called; Project Ego. This game was going to be immense and I found an archived interview with the Molyneux right here. Its a good read, but I’ll just cover some of the many things said to be in the game…
- You’ll become an idol to others. Kids will cut their hair like you and even get tattoos to match your own.
- But you aren’t the only hero in the world. There are other heroes, who are basically your rivals.
- Let’s say you are a mean cuss and one day you cut a kid. That cut will become a scar and if you return to that town twenty years later, that kid will have that same scar and a serious hate-on for you. Or maybe you’re more into plant mutilation. Carve your name in a tree and it will stay there through the years.
- If you make a habit of running away, your character will begin taking on the traits of a coward, with a pronounced facial tick to boot.
- How you interact with the world physically will shape your body accordingly. So, if you run a lot, your leg muscles will get stronger. Lift heavy objects or swing a big sword and your arm muscles will bulge.
- Hang out in the sun all day and your skin will tan. Spend too much time in the sun and your skin will wrinkle and age faster.
- Hide in the shadows, dodge a lot of attacks, sneak up on folks, and you will start to resemble a thief.
- Ego is filled with other heroes. And not all of them will be happy if you steal the spotlight. You may even find you have to defend yourself against a band of heroes looking to knock the rising star from his pedestal.
- Project Ego gives you the freedom to get married and have kids. It’s another one of the many options you get to choose.
- The weapons used in the game will be empowered by the gameplay. While you may still hunt for the ultimate sword of destruction, your own weapon can become legendary by your acts.
- People camping out in the wilderness and smoke from the campfire moved to the east, in the direction of the wind. – One cool area features tall stalks of grass nearly the height of the main character. And each blade moved with the breeze.
There you go, a nice list of some of the many features (and there are so many more) that Project Ego/Fable was being sold on and never appeared in the finished game, though variations of some of these did turn up in the sequels. Peter Molyneux hyped this game up to ridiculous levels, don’t believe me?
Peter Molyneux: “I reckon that Project Ego is going to be the greatest role-playing game of all time. Which is insane. I could say the second greatest, I could say quite good, I could say, hmmmm it’s quite nice, but I’m going to say greatest game of all time.”
As I said at the start, I quite liked Fable… but it most definitely was not the game that we were being told about and not even close to being “the greatest role-playing game of all time” either. This was the beginning of the downfall of a once revolutionary game designer. Peter Molyneux was a gaming legend in the 80s and 90s; Populous, Syndicate, Theme Park, Dungeon Keeper, Black & White as well as many other classic game titles he either developed or produced. And then Project Ego/Fable happened and massively under delivered. But that was not the end, this was just the start. Every game Molyneux had his name attached to from this point on was over hyped by him, including the Fable sequels.
Next up? The biggest disappointment in gaming from one of my all time favourite game characters.
Duke Nukem Forever: I kind of feel a little guilty doing this one, its just too easy of a target, but I just love the Duke Nukem character. The history of the development of Duke Nukem Forever is quite simply legendary. This sequel to the groundbreaking and popular Duke Nukem 3D from 1996 immediately went into development and was released in 2011, yes you read that right… 15 years of development for this sequel. The short story is, it was 15 years wasted. The longer story is… well, longer.
Original developers, 3D Realms started work on Duke Nukem Forever in 1997 and the game first publicly announced in April of that year. Even promotional material at the time stated the game would be released in 1998 and there was even gameplay footage shown at E3 that year too. 1998 came and went and still no Duke Nukem Forever, but we were promised it was coming soon. After this, several other release dates were announced over the years up to the space year of 2000 and still no game. In 2001 3D Realms just decided to say “when its done” in regards to an actual release, as this E3 footage from 2001 shows and yet, still no Duke Nukem Forever and everything went quiet for a while until 2007 when a teaser trailer was revealed and it seemed that Duke was still coming soon… but never did.
In 2009, 3D Realms began to downside their staff due to financial problems and they lost a lot of their main development team. But still they kept on hyping up the game (especially by George Broussard & Scott Miller, the creators of the Duke Nukem character) and promising it was still coming and how great it was going to be, in fact 3D Realms went as far to say the game was due to go gold (meaning the game was fully finished and is being mass produced for sale) soon and backed that up with final development pictures of the game.
Also in 2009, publisher Take-Two Interactive who held the publishing right to Duke Nukem Forever filed a lawsuit against 3D Realms due to the numerous delays and false starts over the game and by 2010 the lawsuit was finally settled. 3D Realms approached another game developer; Gearbox Software and asked them if they would be interesting in helping to complete Duke Nukem Forever, which they agreed to do and the game was then officially announced as coming soon (again) at the Penny Arcade Expo in 2010. Eventually, Gearbox Software purchased the Duke Nukem intellectual property from 3D Realms, took on the task of finishing the game on their own and the game was finally finished and released in 2011… and it met with mostly negative reviews and critical response.
Instead of a worthy and playable sequel to Duke Nukem 3D, we got a messy, badly designed and cookie cutter game that felt it would have been outdated in 1997, never mind 2011. This was not the game that was being talked about, nor was it the game those earlier 1997 & 2001 trailers showed. Everything George Broussard & Scott Miller said about the game, the features and gameplay mechanics, pretty much all of them were gone. Duke Nukem Forever almost killed off a great gaming icon, but it has been rumoured that Gearbox Software are making an all new Duke game from the ground up.
Yet there are some people who will defend the game stating that “its an old school game” and that is why people don’t like it. No, its a crap game that is why people don’t like it. You can revive and older First Person Shooter franchise, still maintain a lot of its charm and style but still have it be a good game in itself. Look at the recent reboots of Wolfenstien (2014) or Doom (2016) for proof.
Speaking of Wolfenstein & Doom…
Daikatana: Now this one is almost as infamous as Duke Nukem Forever, it just didn’t take 15 years of hype. John Romero was the co-founder of id Software, the same company that redefined and popularised the whole First Person Shooter sub genre. Their games; Wolfenstein 3D and Doom changed gaming forever and became huge hits around the world. John Romero wanted to create the ultimate First Person Shooter with his new game; Daikatana. Set in multiple time periods and locales including; 2455 AD: Japan, 1200 BC Greece, 560 AD: Norway and 2030 AD: San Francisco. The game was set to feature 24 levels split into 4 distinct time periods (see above), 25 weapons, and 64 different enemy types. The game was going to be HUGE, but for some stupid reason, John Romero originally set himself only a seven month development period to finish the game which began in April 1997 and set for release at Christmas of that year. Even more so, Romero didn’t develop this game with the people at id Software who brought us the mighty games; Wolfenstein 3D and Doom. No, he moved over to a new company he co-founded called; ION Storm and these guys were only just getting started and lacked experienced staff at the time.
At E3 in 1997, the game was shown to the public for the first time… and it looked outdated even for then. It was around 1997 when developers really started to get a grip on 3D gaming and game engines were being updated or even built from the ground up with 3D accelerated graphics, lighting effects, etc. The 3D gaming age was starting to bloom around this time and Daikatana was running on an outdated game engine. Even at this early stage, people saw the game just was not living up to what John Romero promised. The Christmas 1997 release date was quickly changed to March 1988 as Romero finally realised his vision was way behind what other developers were doing at the time. Time magazine even gave Romero and his game; Daikatana glowing coverage stating that: “Everything that game designer John Romero touches turns to gore and gold.”.
Early ads for Daikatana started to appear and were pretty damn forthright in their statements…
Stating that: “John Romero’s about to make you his bitch.”. This was when the hype for the game reached fever pitch. This was also when things started to turn sour. Negative news came out of ION Storm directly at the time with play testers highlighting how bad the game was, Romero had turned himself into the ‘rock star’ of game design and led a lavish life spending more time racing Ferrari cars than overseeing, directing and creating Daikatana, even most of the original development team quit to form a rival company called; Gathering of Developers. In November 1997, what was left of the Daikatana team received the source to the Quake II engine (which was THE best game engine for FPS back then) and very quickly realised just how outdated their work was and that a simple swap to a new game engine would just not be possible. So they had to scrap their entire previous work and begin the game from the ground up once more, this time using the Quake II engine. In fact what was originally scheduled to be a few weeks or months of work tuned into over a year as the switch to the new engine was not completed until January 1999. And yet through all of this, John Romero still kept on publicly talking about the game and stating how it was going to be the best FPS ever made… and we believed him, because he co-created Doom.
Daikatana made yet another appearance at E3 this time in 1999, in fact it made two. One was a pre-recorded bit of gameplay footage which looked pretty good to be honest. But the other appearance… not so great. It was reported that a live demo was also created so people could actually play the game for themselves, now I haven’t been able to find footage of this demo but it has been said that it was so bad that it could only run at about 12 frames per second… which is terrible, showing the difference between pre-recorded footage and actual live gameplay. Daikatana was looking so bad in fact that Eidos (the parent company of ION Storm) eventually just brought out ION Storm completely taking full control of the project. The game was finished and released in 2000, it was met with poor/average reviews.
The game John Romero was hyping up just was not the game that was released. In fact, Romero apologised for the game and especially the hype he created for it. He even apologised for the previously mentioned ad in an interview…
John Romero: “Up until that ad, I felt I had a great relationship with the gamer and the game development community and that ad changed everything. That stupid ad. I regret it and I apologise for it.”
From over hyped shooters to a disaster of an over hyped beat em’ up.
Rise of the Robots: In the early to mid 90s these kind of one on one beat em’ ups where everywhere and largely in thanks to a slightly popular game called Street Fighter II. The gaming world stood up and took notice when Street Fighter II fast became one of the biggest and most popular games ever. It didn’t take too long for developers to want to cash in on this phenomenon and numerous other fighting games were churned out. From successful games that turned into even more successful franchises like; Mortal Kombat, Fatal Fury, Art of Fighting and others. Then there were less successful attempts at cashing in on the Street Fighter II popularity and Rise of the Robots was one of them. This was a bad game, but it being bad is not why its in this article, its because it was hyped up to be the next big thing and a Street Fighter II beater.
Originally developed by Mirage for the Amiga and DOS. This game was under the creative control ex-Bitmap Brothers member Sean Griffiths and this is what he had to say about the game before it was released…
Sean Griffiths: “Using robots that fight and act unusually, with a very high level of artificial intelligence that has never been seen before. We’ll definitely have one over on Street Fighter II.”
Yes, he did just say that they have bettered the mighty Street Fighter II. Spoilers, any gamer that has ever picked up a controller knows of the Street Fighter series even if they are not a fan, they have heard of it. How many people remember Rise of the Robots?
It all sounded truly amazing when first being talked about, using Autodesk’s 3D Studio software to create amazing 3D rendered robots as characters, each robot took two months to render and would use over 100 frames of animation each. The development team even had to create new techniques to make the graphics look as amazing as they aimed for them to be. The AI was also being hyped up with Andy Clark (programmer for the Amiga version) talking about how each robot will have differing an unique characteristics and their AI will be based around various attributes like; strength, intelligence, speed and motivation and these separate attributes will affect how each robot acts and reacts even during mid fight and would even learn from their opponents. They even got the legendary guitarist of Queen, Brian May to score the game too, yet only one song from May was used… but that didn’t stop the publishers from advertising the game with “a soundtrack by Brian May.”
The game looked and sounded amazing, the guys at Mirage made sure we knew how great the game was going to be too. Top notch graphics, groundbreaking AI and a soundtrack from Brian May all meant this game would trounce all over that Street Fighter II thing. The game was being so hyped that it was too big a game for just the Amiga and DOS, so it was ported to pretty much every popular machine at the time including; SNES, Mega Drive, Game Gear, 3DO, Amiga CD32, and even the Phillips CD-i, it even made an appearance as an arcade cabinet.
The game had a multi million pound marketing campaign put behind it and was the biggest marketing campaign for a video game ever up to that point. A novel based on the game was even released and at the time, there were plans for a toy line, comics, an animated series and a full feature film. This game was HUGE and hyped up to be the best beat em’ up EVER! Everything was looking sublime and the release date of February 1994 was looking like Street Fighter II would soon be forgotten about… but the game’s release was delayed until November 1994 as Mirage said they wanted to continue to perfect the graphics and enhance the gameplay as much as possible. Sounding better and better.
Then when the game was released, it was met with pretty poor reviews. Yes it looked amazing for the time, but it had none of the depth of fighting that Street Fighter II possessed, the gameplay was clunky, shallow and dull. That amazing adaptive AI that was being hyped up? Well you could beat any opponent in the game by just using flying kicks. All that talk and hype was for nothing and Rise of the Robots was a critical and commercial flop… but that didn’t stop them making a sequel; Rise 2: Resurrection… which was also shit.
So there you go, over hyped games that failed to deliver on what was promised. No Man’s Sky is getting as lot of backlash right now, but we have been here before, many, many times before. There are plenty of other over hyped games that have been relased over the years and I’m sure there will be many more to come too. No Man’s Sky is in good (or bad) company.