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Posted on Wednesday, July 9 2008 @ 16:28:48 Eastern
I'm not a fan of the term "double edged sword." In my eyes, it's something people say to sound poignant when they don't really don't have anything to say. There isn't a single goddamn thing that isn't a double edged sword. Everything has a cost and a benefit. Now, you probably think I wouldn't chose to use a phrase which I've deemed idiotic to kick off my own article, but that's where you're wrong! This piece is going to be an uphill mountain trek and, like any good expedition, we're starting at the bottom. Don't worry; we'll hit that summit eventually!
Of all the blades that cut in both directions, hype is possibly the most prevalent in the gaming industry. While many hyped games have risen to multi-million unit selling glory, just as many have earned endless scorn for not being that they "should" have. With that in mind, does holding a sword mean you're going to end up cutting your own arms off? Of course not! A trained swordsman will know to always remove the arms of others rather than his own. It's just a matter of knowledge and training. Hype works in a very similar manner.
Through the surprise success of BioShock, hype has been shown to serve a game's interests without necessarily leaving it armless. In this case, we had a game that the masses were largely unaware of until it was marketed heavily shortly before release. The timing of the hype in combination with the timing of the release and, ultimately, the release of a great game all coalesced to deliver a title that grappled victory with both arms. Underplaying, control and delivery. Looking at BioShock, those seem to be important pieces to a well oiled hype machine.
Not all games are graced with those techniques or the other possible advantages BioShock may have had, though. One game that jumps to mind in this context is Too Human. There are many things stacked against this game from the beginning, from an ever shifting direction over the past ten years of development, to poor reception at a certain electronic expo, and whatever lawsuits you can fit in between. As more information is released about Too Human and Dennis Dyack, Silicon Knights' President and the stalwart defender of Too Human, challenges more and more internet trolls to give his game a fair shake, I wonder if Too Human might end up too physically impaired to tie its own shoes.
While most of the complaints stem from the goofy animations that might have you thinking they added some "juggling" combat to World of Warcraft, or the supposedly ham handed handling of the story presentation, my biggest concern is multiplayer. I can't count how many times this game has been compared to Diablo and Phantasy Star Online. Sure, the multiplayer is free like Diablo and action-flavored like PSO, but there are a couple differences; actually, between two and six differences. Too Human has two player co-op. For some reason, I'm one of few people who seem to be taking much umbrage with this.
Crackdown had two player co-op, but it was a real action game! Jumping looked like jumping rather than jerkily levitating to robot-height in order to deliver some janky MMO combat animations to a tall enemy's face. In a game based on loot collecting, constant character dressing and, in some cases, using skills to aid a friend, is one companion enough? Will showing off your epic loot to one friend at a time justify grinding through barren rooms filled with scuttling robots for however many hours?
These questions can't be answered until the game comes out, but they're worth asking. The problem here isn't that Dyack's game isn't going to make all my dreams come true, but that Dyack seems to believe it is. I believe, given enough time, he'd eventually try to convince me that Too Human will slice, dice and cut a bajillion fries, but only if I order now.
Every time he jumps in view of the public eye, it's to issue a retort, offer an explanation or to generally defend his intellectual property from those grumpy folks on the internet. Each time he does this, it forges another blade with one of its edges precariously teetering in Dyack's direction. Whether or not his opus delivers, despite the shifting sands he's built it on, will determine who ends up on the chopping block.