Let People Be Excited For Games

Let People Be Excited For Games
Image: Elden Ring

The amount of cynicism and hot takes doing the rounds after Elden Ring footage leaked online is gravitating into an ugly, caustic morass that forgets why the hell people love video games in the first place. 

If you missed the news, the first skerrick of Elden Ring footage hit the internet this week. It’s the first bit of information on the Dark Souls/George R.R. Martin crossover since the game’s announcement in 2019, so naturally the internet had a mini-meltdown. And why not? The fandom for Dark Souls, and anything created by Hidetaka Miyazaki, is a powerful force. People still want PC ports of Bloodborne; Miyazaki’s Demon’s Souls is probably still the best next-gen exclusive on either console.

It helped re-popularise a genre and a style of more punishing, considered gameplay that people are deeply appreciative of. So, people rightly want more of that.

cyberpunk 2077
Image: Kotaku Australia

But as is customary after any game that triggers class-action lawsuits and gets pulled from sale, there’s been an all-too inevitable backlash circulating online. “Elden Ring is Becoming Gaming’s Biggest Roller Coaster,” one story reads. “Is the incredible pre-release hype for Elden Ring setting us up for another Cyberpunk 2077 scenario,” a subheading asks. Another draws a parallel between Elden Ring‘s anticipation and Death Stranding. Forums and social media have plenty of posts where any positivity or cheer for Elden Ring is met with immediate derision, pointers towards the drama and failure of not only Cyberpunk 2077, but games like Assassin’s Creed UnityNo Man’s Sky at launch, and so on. It’s not just this week either: “Elden Ring, Cyberpunk 2077 and the pitfalls of gaming hype,” another piece begins.

It pays to be cautious. No-one disputes that. But there’s something disingenuous about creators and outlets sanctimoniously telling people not to be excited, especially if that follows videos, stories and articles directly fuelling said excitement. The sentiment is deeply unfair on the developers too, who are effectively having their work — or lack of work, in Elden Ring’s case, because basically nothing has actually been announced– tarnished by association because of what happened somewhere else to another project they had no hand or influence in.

It’s easy to forget that hype isn’t worthless to the development process, either. For studios, the “hype train” often provides tangible feedback and information they can use to make their games better. Apart from the community building (or collective depression in Elden Ring‘s case), that energy spurs individual developers on. It might even help in recruitment drives, as seen recently with the excellent Black Myth: Wu Kong

If you have to work for a living, wouldn’t you want to work on something you’re excited for — and something others also draw obvious excitement from?

It’s why E3 Awards, things that seem like the most facile creations imaginable, have some value. It’s not because a vertical gameplay slice, which is often re-engineered or scrapped entirely before release, actually represents the Best Game of that year. It’s an appreciation of the vision and direction, an indication that says: “Yes, what you’re working on is cool, and we’d love to see more of it.” If you’ve just spent four, six, eight weeks doing absurd hours trying to make sure a game character doesn’t fall through the in-game world, or you’ve been constantly working on animations to avoid your game from being memed into oblivion, that small amount of validation can mean a lot.

diablo 4
Image: Diablo 4

That energy developers draw from the hype train — or at least one element of it — is something Blizzard developers spoke to me about this week. I asked each of the Diablo 4World of Warcraft and Hearthstone teams how they planned on coping without that surge a physical BlizzCon would usually provide.

“Getting to show By Three They Come at Blizzcon 2019 was an unforgettable experience of my life,” John Mueller, Diablo 4‘s art director, told me. “That moment, that anticipation, the people reacting and just freaking out when it comes through the blood curtain, that was pretty awesome.”

Not being in the room when that reveal happens is a very different experience. You can still follow metrics on social media, track posts on internal forums, and there’s still a physiological boost from that. But it’s not quite the same as the goosebumps you get when a crowd goes silent, or the unexpected reactions humans often have.

“I don’t think there’s anything that can replace the feeling of the fan who tells you, ‘I played the demo seven times.’ I literally had a guy … ‘I played your demo seven times.’,” Luis Barriga, Diablo 4‘s director, said in our BlizzCon interview. “I’m like, ‘Dude, you had all of this stuff to do at BlizzCon, and you played our demo [seven times]?’ He’s like, ‘Yeah, I love your demo, I played a different class, I went different places.'”

elden ring
Image: Elden Ring

The lesson is not to dampen the excitement. Hope, anticipation, enthusiasm: these are all positive vibes, not things that should be immediately squashed. We’d be better served as a community talking about how to channel that energy in the right way. We’ve all just been through 12 months of constant, collective trauma. Some communities and countries are still living through that trauma, not to mention its potential long-term effects on friends, family, loved ones. Hope gets us through these things, and if a video game is what people want — or need — to put their collective faith into, then so be it.

Instead, it’s better to remind everyone to be cautious. Stay excited. Just don’t preorder anything. The culture and expectations around preorders breeds an exceedingly toxic cycle that doesn’t benefit the consumer or the end product. Committing $60, $70, $80 or hundreds more for “limited” edition packs creates a mental state that’s fundamentally incompatible with the reality of development: Games change over time. Throwing down money before seeing the final version of a product emotionally ties you into a product that might not exist, potentially for a very good reason.

That’s what needs to be fixed more than anything else. But it’s still possible to remain excited in a healthy, productive way, and that’s the message creators, streamers, gaming websites and communities of all sorts should concentrate on. Excitement is good for the soul! But the solution is to channel that properly so people continue looking forward to things without falling for the trap of buying virtual pants or merch that inevitably disappoints.

Comments

  • Yeah, I was wondering about this as well. I’m not sure why people are having a go at Elden Ring when the core gameplay has always been the most important part of From Software’s games. Even if the story is complete junk, what the leaks have shown so far for the gameplay still looks fun (and let’s face it, how many people were even paying attention to the stories in Bloodborne, etc?). I could happily play what they’ve shown so far without there even being a story.

    While it pays to be cautious, From has far more experience with ARPGs than CDPR had with first person games. I’m struggling to see it be more of a problem than CP2077 in the gameplay department because of the experienced studio. There doesn’t seem to be much reason to not be cautiously optimistic or excited, unless you’re there for GRRM and only then would I suggest extreme caution due to his track record.

    • I don’t disagree, just wanted to say that the stories for Bloodborne and Darksouls were done differently than say, Sekiro and (judging from what we’ve seen) Elden Ring.
      They were left vague and spread out for players to find and speculate, it was and still is a big part of the experience for a lot of fans.

      Otherwise I’m very much in the same camp, it’s not like From Software is claiming to have reinvented the wheel, the most anyone should expect is their trademark From Software wheel with some new paint and R.R. Martin sitting on it.

      • Yep, we agree with each other. The stories for Bloodborne and Dark Souls were never in your face and so, coming from this company, I wouldn’t be at all bothered if Elden Ring’s story was similar to them or Sekiro or even more low key than either. The story for their first games was almost optional if you weren’t into lore and this isn’t a game where the story’s going to destroy the main event (gameplay, since everyone’s largely here for gameplay). CP2077 was panned for both story and gameplay not hitting home with everyone for reasons everyone knows already. Elden Ring can’t even be compared to CP2077 by the naysayers because they’re both very different games with different sets of expectations.

        I don’t think From Software’s going to have any of the CP2077 problems, because as you said, this is their standard formula with some new paint and we’re all here for the new paint job.

  • I get your point. But companies build hype by releasing teaser and even pre-teaser material years out from a project being ready. And then they end up being a victim of their own hype train. Cough*CD Project*cough.

    I love the Bethesda and Rock Star style sneaky 3-6 month out-from-release drops because the devs have time to have the game in a fit state to be released without that huge weight of expectation. I don’t think GTAV or Red Dead II sold any less units for taking this approach. And imagine the marketing budget you can pump back into development.

  • Everything a game you are hyped about is mentioned you should take a hard moment to look at the games that disappointed you.

    So often we forget that games are released over hyped, under sold and abandoned. This week EA put the final nail in Anthem… but people are still overhyped about the next dragon age. WHY?

    • I can only speak for myself, but my hopes have been raised by EA/Bioware dropping multiplayer, which has always been a bit of a rum fit in a single player MMO, and saying they are stepping back editorially.

      That won’t solve all the problems; Bioware’s reliance on things automagically coming together at the last-minute and its crunch culture still have the potential to produce a hot mess.

      But it’s a start. We may not get another ME2, but hopefully we won’t get another Anthemy mess, either.

  • I wasn’t disappointed in Cyberpunk at all. Its definitely high up in my favourite CRPGs. Then again, I both bought it on PC and I avoided the hype train because I wanted to discover the game as I played it. Result? 270 – 280 hours of fantastic fun.

    I only preorder things that I know I really want. Bloodlines 2 is a bit of a burn, give that I preordered when they announced it, and they’ve now stopped accepting more with all the drama thats been going on with it that sounds like its going to be a Mighty No 9 size train wreck. Now that is a game that has had so many red flags that I don’t see how anyone can be hyped about it anymore.

    • I wasn’t disappointed in the game CP2077 (PC GTX1080)… But I was disappointed in the hype.

      It was alluded to be this next gen masterpiece… and it was an average open world RPG, with systems over promised and under delivered.

  • I get what your saying Alex, but after the fucking horseshit thats gone on around Cyberpunk, i think its time the games media stop hyping everything up to insanse levels.

    I mean for godsakes, this Eden ring has had only 1 trailer and it was announced almost two years ago, yet last year at Not E3 there was no mention of it and every single site and fromsoft fan was up in arms about there being no news about it.
    This exact same shit happened every year with CDPR and Cyberpunk until we got that 2018 demonstration.

  • I’m looking squarely at Pokemon fans as another example of this. For everyone that’s excited about the new games, there’s someone else complaining about them.

  • Authors in varying places should be reminded of this every time they’re about to post another article on how, “X game doesn’t have the ‘correct’ political/social/whatever leaning, so we should condemn it!”

      • Is it? I’m extending the same concept to further aspects of gaming that can absolutely tarnish excitement or hope of potential players/consumers.

        How on earth this would not be eminently applicable to games journalists and websites who constantly talk shit about publishers, developers, etc, is utterly beyond me. Sometimes authors have very good reason to shine a light into the darkness, but sometimes the reasoning is little more than, “X company did something I personally dislike.” and you know it.

        Bad faith is every article that is almost entirely some author pushing their personal leanings, and/or condemning others, while using video games as the vehicle of delivery so they can claim it’s relevant to their job as a video game journalist.

        The most glaring example off the top of my head… This very website posted a notoriously bad PS5 review that was absolutely drenched in such nonsense by its end that was completely irrelevant to the review of the thing in question.

        So, ‘Rules for thee, but not for me’ much?

    • People should be reminded about this every time they are about to post something critical of developers for “virtue signalling” and/or “inserting politics into their games”.

  • I get hyped in my own quite way and disappointed much the same.

    And I agree that people can get hyped the way they like.

    The problem comes back to when people’s opinions differ. Those who are enjoying a thing (still hyped), have to trawl through all the shit posting by those who are hating on it (not hyped), to try share their positive experiences with others.

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