Note: In advance, I apologize for any writing errors found here. It's 3:30am and I don't have a word processor on this computer and I'm too lazy to revise and redraft.
I am a bit behind the times when it comes to a lot of games, even MMOs. In fact, the only one I really keep up with is GW2. I practically orgasm every time I see a new video from them, usually within hours of it being released.
But enough about me.
What I'm really here to talk about is Blade and Soul, a new MMO by NCSoft. Just moments ago, I saw the teaser trailer at the official English website. Like I said. . . Just a tad behind the times when it comes to new game information.
The trailer was amazing to say the least, and the fact that it all appears to be in-game footage and not pre-rendered impresses me. ArenaNet has done the same thing with GW2 videos, and recieved as much or more praise from my lips.
Now animation is a big thing for me, and this is why I don't stick to a single MMO for very long. MMOs typically don't have good animation, or at least it's just a face to cover up the real mechanics at work. When I use Super-Gonna-Screw-You-Over Slash, two things happen. The mechanics and the show. The mechanics are what are really important, determining how much damage was dealt, aftercast time, recast time, etc. Show is just what makes it more relatable to us humans. An easy example -- while not an MMO -- is a pokemon battle on any of the gameboy games. You can even turn off battle animations if you don't want to waste time watching your Blastoise flood the screen and blast water at the enemy every time it uses Surf or Hydro Pump. Basically, MMOs would be playable without the animation. Ultimately, the animation means very little.
This is why when I see these "in-game" videos, knowing that they are not pre-rendered, cannot help but imagine how staged they are. I mean, it makes sense from a marketing standpoint. And on top of being staged, the videos are also edited to all hell. Then when I look closely at it, I see the same pugilism (Kung Fu Master class in Blade and Soul) animation nearly a dozen times in the entire movie. An is my character really going to fall when a massive chicken who looks like the final summon in Advent Children falls out of the sky? Will my character react like that? Will he show that much emotion when running for his life against a giant turkey? In a staged movie, sure. When I'm actually playing the game. . . That one I find harder to believe.
So I guess my biggest question is, "Why all the deception."
What do developers gain from these videos that don't really show us much of anything beside graphic capability and what the game could look like in a theoretical scenario? NCSoft especially should understand this after releasing Aion. You log in and it looks pretty, but what really matters in the game wasn't all there.
My only conclusion is that it all comes down to marketability. In film, when thinking in terms of marketing, movies have two properties. Marketability and playability. Marketability is when a film lends itself to being marketed well, such as Transformers 2, Toy Story 3, or the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy. Typically, summer blockbusters. Playability is when a film is very playable and actually sells itself by the simple good merits of the film. Examples would be cult classics such as Boondock Saints or Fight Club.
A movie can also have high values of both properties. 300 had a low production and marketing budget, but was very marketable even without the million dollar deals with Burger King and Wal-Mart. Also, the movie was very playable because it ran in the box office for a long time, and the numbers show that many people went to see it twice or more in theaters. It was simply that good. Another example would be Titanic, which ran for some obnoxious number of weeks. Batman: Dark Knight can be counted among films both marketable and playable.
How does this relate to MMOGs? Aion is like Transformers 2. It was extremely marketable at the get go and lots of people attended the initial month of play. Within that month, however, players dropped substantially. I remember WAR facing the same issues.
On the other hand, EVE Online is a very playable game. It tried to be marketable when it first released half a decade ago, but saw few subscribers at first. As time went on, CCP perfected their game and stuck with it. From what I read, subscriptions for EVE Online are at their highest. It's no WoW, for sure, but it has enjoyed a greater success than Vanguard, which was one of the most marketable MMOGs we've seen in awhile.
This concept of marketability versus playability is important especially for MMOG developers who rely on continued interest in their game as a means to support their company. I think all too often developers forget that the MMOG is not about the initial box sales, as it is with other games. The MMOG is about longevity and subscriber loyalty.
So this is all I ask of developers from my little rant. Do not, by the graces of whatever deity may be at large in your game, do not make crappy games then market them to us as something they aren't. Just show us the game with nothing veiled or beguiled. Believe in your own game so faithfully that you know it will market itself without any extra fluff. Level with us. Be honest with us. We're not stupid and we don't fall for tricks. Assuming so can only hurt both our wallets and yours.