It seems like every big game on the Hype Train ends up having at least some disappointments. The game is announced; the hype starts. Little tidbits of information are given out to tease fans, slowly increasing the hype. Then, the marketing starts building up even more hype. As the game’s release date comes, the hype becomes overpowering. Finally, the game is released, and everyone dives into it. So busy playing, the internet forums are quiet for a few days.
It’s at this point, a few days after release, that the disappointment begins to set in. Now some games are really, really good that there is very little disappointment. There is always some disappointment, though. Maybe the game has some annoying bugs, or maybe there are flaws in the game design. It could be neither of those, and your own subjective reasons, or personal preferences, cause you not to like something about the game. Starcraft 2 was an amazing game, but some people hated the online-only multiplayer. At the same time, other people didn’t have a problem at all. This is neither a bug nor a design flaw. The developers fully intended it to be that way. It is just that some people had a personal preference of playing over LAN.
Rogue Leader, what went wrong?
I never really noticed the Hype Train until I got the Gamecube with Rogue Leader on launch day. I had been following the Gamecube for years, ever since they showed the Mario-128 and Ganon vs Link tech demos. The same for Rogue Leader. From its first announcement, I kept up on all the previews. I sat there hours waiting for my slow 56k modem to download E3 videos of the game. I was just completely hyped up about it and the future with Gamecube. Release day came, I picked up Rogue Squadron, and had an absolute blast. I couldn’t see anything wrong with it, and I really felt “this is the best game ever”.
Now, fast forward one day later. I was already bored with Rogue Leader. “This is the best game ever.” had transformed into “I liked Rogue Squadron more.” At first I couldn’t understand why I was disappointed in the game, but after thinking about the game a little bit I found the two main reasons: the story and the missions.
As much as I loved the Star Wars movies, the core story, it was the expanded universe that I really loved. When I look back at all the Star Wars game I had loved the most over the years, they all had their own original story that expanded on the existing canon. X-Wing, Jedi Knight, Shadows of the Empire, and Rogue Squadron were my favorites. The games that followed the movies were definitely fun but always felt inferior to the movies to me. I would rather watch the movie than play a game about it, but add some original story to that existing world and I was hooked.
Rogue Squadron had an original story. It was made up of four chapters. Each chapter had a beginning and and end told through a series of missions. If you looked into the details you could see how they fit within the overall Star Wars world. This is what I loved. In contrast, Rogue Leader had bits and peaces of original story, but mostly just followed the events of the movies. The missions gave a little more background behind big events of the movies, but it was still very much tied to the movies. I wanted a mostly self-contained story in the Star Wars universe while still having a few connections to the movies. Rogue Squadron and my other favorite Star Wars games had this, but Rogue Leader did not.
My other disappointment was with the missions themselves. Both Rogue Squadron and Rogue Leader had lots of escort missions. Escorting is usually not much fun, but Rogue Squadron did a much better job making them interesting. You might start with an escort to certain point, and then, the mission transformed into a bombing run or all out attack. Some missions were the opposite where you started out on the attack, and only at the end you had to do a short escort to complete the mission. Rogue Leader escort missions were not like this. You were always chained to the ship or convoy on guard duty. You rarely got the option to just forget about defending and do your own thing. Attacking is almost always more fun than defending. Rogue Squadron made the defending more fun.
Another thing with the missions was the length. I remember many Rogue Squadron missions taking 30-40 minutes to complete. You would start off with a long escort fighting off TIE fighters and bombers. Eventually, you get to a safe area and go on a attack run. Another mission might have you escorting the whole time, but at certain stops you could go off and attack at your own pace. In Rogue Leader most missions only had one or two short phases. Destroy the Star Destroyer. Or Take out the TIE bombers followed by Take out the TIE interceptors. The missions were over in a flash. On the normal difficulty you could beat the whole game in just a few hours whereas Rogue Squadron took me multiple days to beat.
The Hype Train blinded me to these problems. I saw all the previews about the game and how amazing it would be but did not take the time to actually think about what I wanted in a Rogue Squadron sequel. Rogue Leader was still a good game. Just not perfect as the hype made it appear. Now, these are subjective reasons, but they still caused disappointment nonetheless. Based on this experience and similar experiences like it over the years with new games, I have come to the conclusion that this hype followed by disappointment is common in all of the big releases each year.
Skyrim, same ol’ same ol’
Just look at Skyrim for a recent example. This is mainly for the PC version, which was ported from the console version. Here are the four main complaints PC players have:
Bugs – This was given knowing Bethesda’s history. Every one of their games has had a lot of bugs at release. They will release a few patches to fix the major ones, but a large number of bugs will still be present. It will be left to modders to make unofficial patches just like they did for Morrowind and Oblivion. I have not heard of any game-breaking bugs that won’t fix themselves after a reload or restart, but pretty much everything else you can think of is there. Game crashes, getting stuck in the environment, mouse problems, quest bugs, and many more are all possibilities. Most of them are actually the same bugs we see in every Elder Scrolls game. This leaves a bad taste. It feels like Bethesda has not progressed over the years, that the same bugs reappear every release.
User Interface – The streamlined interface works well on consoles but doesn’t take advantage of the PC platform. The fonts and icons are generally too big than what’s needed for a three foot viewing distance with a PC monitor. The wasted space means there is more paging through the interface than necessary. The hotkeys are also limited with only eight total. This was the same in Oblivion, but there is no reason to have a limit on the PC version. It makes sense for a console with a gamepad, but not for the keyboard with so many keys available.
Mod Tools – The lack of mod tools (Creation Kit) at launch is a little disappointing for some. Some modders buy Elder Scrolls games solely for modding. They don’t actually play the vanilla game. They pickup the game and get straight to modding. They are like an artist with the game engine being their canvas. There are other players that refuse to play without mods. Their play experience is not as good as it could be if some early mods were getting out there. There are some graphics mods, but the modding capability will be limited until the Creation Kit is released.
Graphics – If you compare Skyrim to Oblivion, there is no question that Skyrim has better graphics. Still, the graphics are not up to par with what the latest PCs can handle. If you look at the history of the Elder Scrolls games, every single one has pushed the graphical boundaries of the time. Elder Scrolls has been known to be big on graphics. With each new Elder Scrolls release, you needed to build/buy a new computer, or at least upgrade your current computer if you wanted to max out the graphics. Skyrim is breaking that mold. Since it was made primarily for console, the graphics were designed to tax a five-year-old gaming computer. It is nice not having to build a new computer, but players expect amazing graphics from the Elder Scrolls series.
For me personally, the Bugs and User Interface are the big ones. I hate playing buggy games. I would rather wait until they patched up either by the developer or the game community. The good thing about waiting is the game will usually be at a lower price point by then. For the interface, I like to wait until a modder releases a better one. A modder made an awesome interface mod for Oblivion called DarnifedUI. It was so much better than the vanilla interface. I couldn’t imagine playing without it. I expect Skyrim to be similar to Oblivion with a Game of the Year edition out in a few years, and that’s when I will be picking it up.
These days, I generally avoid getting games on launch day. The hype puts my expectations way too high; the game can never meet them. I also have to face the fact that I just paid $60 for this disappointment and can’t buy another game for another two months due to my low gaming budget. There are, of course, some games you just know will be amazing like Blizzard or Valve games. Every other game I just sit back, watch the hype train go by, and do things my own way. I didn’t start doing this until 2003, but ever since I feel amazing not following the bandwagon. I get the games I want at good prices and on my own terms. I truly believe everyone should take control of their gaming this way, and not just buy the latest game because everyone is talking about it.