Look At This Pretty Hypothetical: Downgrades From Video Game Trailers

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You know, it isn’t a complicated concept to just market a game for what it is. I’ve already made a little post about my issues with hyping up releases by bombarding the market with the name and logos to the point I can still taste it in my breath. Surely the marketing department of multi million dollar companies creating games that themselves cost millions to make would have a more competent method to get the word spread other than resort to how a child acquires their parents attention. One thing that baffles me is the display of content that is either doubtful whether or not it can be stable on the intended system or worse, content that won’t even be in the final product.

Games get a lot of cut content, I can’t stress enough how many ideas get left on the cutting room floor during game development. It is perfectly reasonable to show off content that won’t be in the final game. However, when that content is a large part of your selling point, you have have a grave error in judgement. Never ship without the USP or Unique Selling Point, the very reason people were looking forward to your game. I have that particular issue with Early Access games on Steam as well. Some of them are completely void of the main selling point and ask you to pay for an idea, something that isn’t even concrete at that point. Those that do provide the core concept, even in a skeletal form, garner my praise.

Basic trailers may have a few moments or areas that are cut in the final game, this is a fact. However, there is a lack of openness about these trials and tribulations I feel damages customers trust in the companies. If I am selling you something and content disappears from what i was showing off in the beginning, I will tell you outright and explain the mindset behind the decision. Why more companies aren’t very open about their development is astounding, I expect it might at least become slightly more prevalent after the past few years of gamers being yanked about by misleading marketing and silent developers. Even if everything goes to hell I don’t feel like it wounds me as much when I was made fully aware of the processes that lead up to this point.

Watch Dogs has become rather synonymous with the whole issue about games not being as good as they were shown. The games E3 trailer was very good looking, it is expected to be the result of a high end PC yes but there is at least the means to get the game to that level if your rig is powerful enough. When the final product was released on PC the highest settings weren’t what the game was promised as, I believe that you shouldn’t neuter a games performance to have a standard on all platforms, do the best with what you have or waste effort making something fantastic. That in fact might be part of the problem of bloating game development budgets, among other things: building the product at too high a level than what the intended platforms can even handle.

I understand there is a very strong desire to show off how amazing your creation looks or how amazing it is going to be when it is finished. I was having a chat with a friend about Dark Souls 2 issue with the trailers compared to the end product and she was adamant they were just messing with her. The deal with Dark Souls 2 is not of a game being “butchered” for console release or anything, it was simply promoting an experimental product.

The new lighting engine among other things were the aspects of Dark Souls 2 that FROM SOFTWARE seemed very happy to flaunt. The issue in the end was that the elements they showed off weren’t tested to see if they could run effectively in the full game. They were experimentations, ventures of the artists and creationist minds that prove to be so beneficial to the franchise. Unfortunately they had multiple issues with frame rate and the game was to the point of being unplayable and broken as it was on the PS3 and the 360 although why the game was the same on the PC is an oddity. Within the last few months leading up to the release the only solution they had was to scrap the lighting engine. What bugs me the most isn’t the downgrade or lack of PC options for that system, it is the clear lack of testing that went into seeing how well the engine worked on the platforms alongside the fact that this untested engine was being shown to us. This isn’t concept art or potential creations, this is a fully implemented system that is central to the gameplay change and has a massive atmospheric impact.

When did we find all this out? After the game came out of course, following questions as to why the final product isn’t what we were sold. This sort of silence about an issue or a massive alteration to the full game is simply unacceptable. The PR department must have had a fun day going on forums and telling people why the final product isn’t at all like the marketing suggested. Honestly I have some fears for their next game Bloodbourne if this is the way they communicate with their customers.

Showing off experimentations rather than tried and true creations, pulling back the quality of the game to create some sort of equal quality among all the platforms, tightening of lips far beyond the point where it might have been deemed as “just something that is hard to work around”. Among other things Ubisoft has annihilated any consumer faith in their capabilities as both a company and a game developer, some of that which could have been circumvented with a mentality of open honesty to their fans. I don’t like being lied to, however I feel like it wouldn’t be lying if they just came and told me what is going on. Is there some sort of secret code of silence about game development should the indies rise up and topple the industry? Hm, actually a lot of indies are very friendly and open about their development being that they rely on the word of mouth of a few fans to get any profit more often than not. Perhaps something to think about for the big bad companies who don’t even have the decency to say anything till the problem gets found. Kinda sinister when you think about it.

What do you think is needed to get companies to own up about issues or changes during development? It is assumed all trailers come from high end PCs, perhaps there should be trailers for lower or middle spec machines? Do you feel like there is too much hush hush about the workings of games? Thanks for the read and I’ll see you later.

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  1. #1 by CM30 on March 22, 2015 - 12:43 pm

    Perhaps a bit late to comment on this, but I have to wonder if any of these cases come down to the developers simply not understanding the limitations of the hardware or what not until the time they actually begin making the full game.

    Maybe these are less trailers and more ‘best guesses’ of what the company thinks might be possible with the idea. Maybe they actually were running on hardware, and then the team realised they couldn’t actually keep up a consistent frame rate or something and toned it down accordingly.

    That said, it doesn’t really excuse the issue. Don’t try and market things you can’t actually do/haven’t really thought about. Or that haven’t been confirmed to work on real hardware.

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  2. #2 by shipwreckshark on December 23, 2014 - 7:01 pm

    E3 trailers end up being so disappointing when you play the final product. That’s my issue with the new gen systems; they claim to bring about this new design that could never accomplish with the 3 and the 360, but they are not that much advance yet. Usually when a first game trailer is released I start assuming the majority of it is a cut scene to avoid getting my hopes up too high.

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  3. #3 by Quijano on December 17, 2014 - 9:04 pm

    Solid post. You say that it is assumed that all trailers come from high end PCs. I actually never thought of it that way until the Watch Dogs debacle. I always just assumed that trailers came from working console demos.

    Sadly, the stuff you point out seems pretty much to be an industry-wide thing as far as AAA development is concerned. And their recent practices of putting an embargo on reviews make it all even worse.

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  4. #4 by Andy Primm on December 16, 2014 - 5:01 pm

    My biggest problem with trailers is when they show pre-rendered cutscenes and almost no gameplay. It seems like every newly announced game does this, and the crowd at E3 always cheers wildly.

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    • #5 by Prof.mcstevie on December 16, 2014 - 5:05 pm

      Maybe they mistake it for some sort of movie of the game. Wouldn’t be surprised to see movie renditions of Final Fantasy games, already have Advent Children.

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  5. #6 by Matt on December 16, 2014 - 3:56 pm

    I understand why some people would feel deceived by trailers like that, but it is all part of marketing. It is not very different from movie trailers that are able to turn even the most lousy flick into something interesting.

    Thankfully, for us gamers, there are endless sources with actual gameplay footage to help us avoid those traps.

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    • #7 by Prof.mcstevie on December 16, 2014 - 4:39 pm

      Well actually most trailers are pretty close to the final product, it is just recently there has been a continuous run of poor marketing decisions selling us things that aren’t ready yet or worse removing it entirely from the systems that could handle it.

      We shouldn’t have to be wary that a product isn’t what we were shown when what we are shown should be well thought out and any changes should be vocalised. I don’t know about you but there are far too many games out there I could be interested in to cross examine every time one is released.

      Liked by 1 person

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