Articles & Editorials: Is Hype to be Believed?

Hype is the core of every media representation… but how far can a company go before the hype generated is moved from reality into fantasy?

Take, for example C&C Renegade… the concept was good, the thought of a 3D C&C world was jaw dropping, the teasers and trailers were mouth watering and the way Renegade was represented was shockingly excellent. Once all thrown together created a hype which made this game sound (at least to the C&C fan) a Quake 3 beater!

Yet when the Beta was released the testers involved were a little taken back by Renegade’s slower pace, the huge amount of bugs, the lack of any sound or music and worst of all perhaps, the shamefully terrible net-code which caused cringe fully awful lag. Yet almost all testers we’re convinced, it was hopefully going to get better. And to almost every C&C fan it did! Which was great, because it meant that it created a really good multiplayer online experience! Plus most off-line and online magazines made Renegade a big hit as well as the C&C fan-sites which praised the game strongly.

But were all the people who praised Command & Conquer: Renegade victims of Westwood‘s and Electronic Arts‘ heavy handed hype machine? Were those who thought they were neutral drawn in so strongly that even if the game was rubbish, their fanatical approach in conjunction with the strength of the hype made by the developers and publishers, enough to sway them easily?

Magazines in the United Kingdom would probably think so. Renegade was not welcome onto the hard drives of many a magazine reviewer. PC Gamer UK gave Renegade a crushing blow to the head with 47%, and in PC Zone Renegade did slightly better achieving a somewhat honest 73%. Other magazines give scores in and around those percentages, as well as the odd 6 out of 10 making an appearance. But what was shocking about a lot of the negative observations PC Gamer UK made, were that a lot of them were based on fact than opinion!! But did once again hype, or pure patriotism to Command & Conquer make us choose to ignore these stumbling blocks?

A quick look at sales would probably tell us a different story.. C&C Renegade faired well amongst the C&C community, with many C&C fans choosing to buy the game regardless of what magazines, or even the hype said… But for those turning their eyes to C&C for the first time, Renegade was shyed away from by many. This caused sales of Renegade to be somewhat lower than expected. Maybe it was the lack of hype amongst those who never heard of C&C, or maybe the magazine reviews swayed the more neutral of players. No matter what we may think the fact is that C&C: Renegade was Westwood‘s 2nd lowest selling game in many countries after the somewhat dismal C&C: Sole Survivor. Thus meaning the abandonment of a Renegade expansion pack, and a possible C&C: Renegade 2.

Many companies do want the best sales from their games, and whether these sales come about or not is based on hype.. Generals biggest selling point is undoubtedly it’s SAGE engine, which believe it or not, doesn’t seem to be striking the ball home in the Generals Beta Multiplayer Testing. Single player (in my opinion) will be where this game sells. I believe the multiplayer has stayed the same due to the selling point being the way the SAGE engine works in conjunction with the cinematics and it’s storyline.. Perhaps expect this game to be like the First Person shooter… Half Life. Where the multiplayer was pretty sub-standard in comparison to other first person shooters, but the single player shines through with a very strong storyline and impressive scripting in all areas.

But is hype enough now when we consider what’s in C&C Generals? Alot of it has been done before in previous Real Time Strategy and C&C games. (As our CNCNZ.com staff member Area pointed out in the CNCNZ.com Forums):

“The Ion Cannon (US Particle Cannon), the big bad red army versus the cripple yet defiant United States with a Small Counter part which disturbs the two superpowers. Sound Familiar? *Cough* Yuri’s Revenge, *Cough*…”

As well as the whole interface and concept of building which was invented by the makers of the infamous Warcraft series!

Hype could make us believe that the interface concept is all new, there is an interface bar along the bottom (so has Warcraft 3). There are units that build buildings and base defences (so has Warcraft 3), There are hero units (so has Warcraft 3), erm… do I need to continue? But I will give Electronic Arts Pacific their due, they are trying to evolve an RTS genre which really has very little room for revolution. With all the concepts in the world, every RTS is going to clone each other in some way. But we are seeing new features such as the SAGE engine, which will give us a greater interaction with the game world we’re in. Plus we will hope see an improved and greatly modified version of the Matrix style 360 degree spins that we first saw in a specific unofficial C&C: Generals video… As well as new single and multiplay concepts that mean gaining medals and rank, is more important than the winning itself. Plus many more concepts that at present, are being kept under wraps until Generals is released on February 11th.

But when it comes to the crunch, hype is only as good as the title it is trying to sell. In this case, C&C fan-sites need the hype and quality of the game to co-exist perfectly. The reasons are all too clear to see. Since Red Alert 2, the community, as well as C&C fan-sites, like CNCNZ.com have faced a slump. This slump is not concerning visitors so much, but more the interest in Command & Conquer itself. Community forums seem to be a lot quieter than normal, even in high periods where the latest C&C games are soon released onto the shelves. Staff commitment is at an all time low, as more and more webmasters are finding that they are the only ones seemingly doing the work on their sites. Even new blood in the form of younger, newer C&C fans, as well as knowledgeable people, are hard to find. Even myself and Sonic are finding problems recruiting talented staff for our websites.

When we look at hype overall, it is a huge topic to cover. It has so many good and bad uses, and all the time, it is either with us or against us. Yet can we believe it when alot of the time we are disappointed when we don’t see a unit or structure we’ve been dying to use in a game? Or when we realise that all we’re playing is a recycled clone of a past C&C clone?

The C&C: Generals hype machine is huge, especially when you take a look at all the features, bells and whistles we’ve been shown so far. As well as the interviews, promises (a big part of hype) and countless other slips of the tongue that have been made… our expectations are very high for most of us. But will C&C: Generals be another Renegade? Or will it be like RA2 and be the next fashion craze and “must have” of the gaming industry? We’ll just have to wait and see… or like hype would tell us… Yes! Of course it will!

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