Alex’s Analysis – Waiting for the Day

posted by on 29th April 2012, at 4:47pm

Please note: This article is for people who have an active imagination that is powerful enough to make you lose focus during school lectures, but tame enough so that you’re not in a mental institute wrapped up in a straight-jacket reading this on a 6-inch monitor through a crack in the wall made with rapid scratchings of your fallen-out teeth. If you lack a good imagination altogether, I suggest immediate professional help brought upon by going outside, breathing in the fresh air, driving several dozen miles to an isolated spot of nature, and just sitting there in the grass for an hour wondering where the heck I’m going with this.

I’ll admit it. Nowadays, when I write an article, I just come up with a title and then see how long I can type about it for. Usually I’m lucky. Usually. Anyways, this one’s about the Runescape Behind the Scenes section and the expectations of their promises, so without further ado…

I’m sure the majority of you already have experienced this, but say you are going on a three-week trip somewhere on the other end of the Earth. This is something that’s been planned a few months in advance. Bills have been paid, stuff has been packed, and you are waiting for the day you go out to the airport and board that plane.

That is key. You are waiting to actually go on the trip. You are discussing what you’re going to do there with family and friends, and they speak in envious tongues at your opportunity. You haven’t actually gone yet. For now, forget about the airport and the plane. Heck, forget about where you’re going. You’re going somewhere that isn’t even in your country. Entirely different culture. You’re escaping your reality in the near, quickly upcoming future.

This is a big event for you. Maybe life-changing. Every day, you’re thinking of what might happen when you’re out there. You can imagine yourself getting a good tan and drinking sparkling punch, or you can think you’re probably going to meet this rich, famous person on the trip and become good acquaintances.

Can you imagine this happening? If so, then keep that thought process going for a bit. Otherwise, if you have gone on a trip before, try imagining things that you would do if you could go there again in about 2 weeks time. Otherwise, if you have no imagination and have not taken a trip… oh man, I feel for you, mate.

OK, just for that, I’ll try a simpler example that I know you guys have all experienced: waiting for a game to come out. You’ve seen some trailers, and maybe a couple fan-made splices (annoying sons of #%^@!…), but that’s about it. With each passing day, when you hear or even think of the name, you’re imagining: what’s it going to be like? It’s going to be better, cooler, more incredible than any other game you’ve ever played. Maybe you can dual-wield flamethrowers. Maybe you can jump off buildings and curb-stomp people on the street while you land. Maybe you can transform into a thousand different creatures, each with their own unique move-set. Maybe it will be much more free-world than even Just Cause 2. You dream of yourself playing the game and it’s all you’ve wanted and more!

It’s the same thing. That waiting and anticipation. You run over-the-top simulations in your head as to what it’s going to be like. And its these simulations… oh, all right. It’s these “daydreams” that ultimately define how good a game is to you.

Yes, you heard me. Not just up until the point that you play it, but when and after you actually play it. Story, graphics, gameplay, and concept hardly really matter with games. It’s expectation. Those online critics mess with games because it messes with their own expectations. They criticize the games because they expect a solid story, incredible artwork, and flawless integration… but they don’t get that as much as they want, so it officially sucks, and they have to go on hour-long rants as to every little negative detail, ranging from mere in-game plot-holes (again, lack of imagination?) to graphical blunders (how many of them were ever under the pressure of crunch-time, I wonder).

You expect to be able to fly like a dragon with a sky-sail, but you can only do a knuckles-glide. You expect everything you shoot a rocket launcher at to disintegrate and crumble to ash instead of leave a large black splat on its perfectly intact surface. You expect yourself to be able to perform full kata moves with a wii remote sword game instead of simply being able to swing directionally. It’s the difference between what you think should happen and what can happen.

And I get it! I do that myself all the time! …hold expectations, not hour-long rants, I mean. In fact, I do it so avidly that even some of the good games suck. But that doesn’t mean anything. I can have fun with “any” game out there. And I mean “any”. All I have to do is never actually play it.

In fact, the only reason I play a game is to “stop” having fun with it. Because after the game’s been played, the story has been told, and there’s nothing more to it. No more reason to daydream about it. All you can do now is wait for the next one, or even start daydreaming about what happens after. Especially if it ends in a cliff-hanger, to which the fun begins all over again! Sure it’s disappointing at first, but only for that moment before it gets exciting again. Good and bad at the same time.

Runescape does this sort of thing with Behind the Scenes. They make mention of what’s going to happen during the month with little more than a couple of slightly-descriptive paragraphs and maybe some sketch-art, but that’s it. Up until the point that they actually release the update, there’s controversy and ideas about what’s actually going to go down, and with that, people like me start daydreaming. Imagining what’s going to happen.

Depending on their choice of words and given impression towards the updates, I always imagine Runescape completely changing around so that if I miss it for a week, I won’t recognize it. Whole new dungeons and armours. New skills and ways to train. Brand new mini-game that will exceed Stealing Creation’s popularity.

Best example here is a new quest. That’s what gets you thinking. Runescape’s getting a new quest that has to do with building a double-barrelled multi-cannon and using it to fight against Bandos, who wants revenge from your last little incursion.

Of course, when the quest actually comes out, you simply run around getting building materials and congratulations, and then you set it up, and then after a cutscene of 4 guys getting blasted by it, Bandos calls a retreat and you win. Done. Kinda lame, eh?

But before that, what goes through my mind after I read the Behind the Scenes is that this quest involves one epic battle where your cannon’s in the centre of the masses, and you and a bunch of elite heroes are surrounding it, fighting back wave after wave of endless enemy while the device simply supports you. A general appears, most of your heroes go down, and in one final desperate attempt, you top off your cannon and just rush forward with everything you’ve got as though you’re one-iteming a PK clan.

Best part about it is that every day I think of it, I get a new idea. Maybe the cannon gets destroyed, and as a final tactic, you heave the barrels up yourself and fire it manually, unlocking a new weapon altogether. Or you shoot yourself out of the cannon (because you’ve done it before, of course) just to get to the final boss. Or I wind up building an entire wall of cannons that unleash full fury against the masses.

And that’s what makes a game fun for me. With the plot in place, as well as the characters already laid out, a lasting, easily relatable theme, some good ground artwork, and a little bit of emotion (all supplied by an already good foundation that is Runescape), I can let my mind run rampant on it. And because I’m expecting this crazy, epic fight, and I actually play the quest and there’s barely anything to it, I’m disappointed because it doesn’t live up to my expectations.

That’s the trick. We can’t complain that a game stinks, because in most cases it’s unjustifiable. Its our own expectations that ruins a game in exchange for the fun in waiting for the day it becomes available. Simply enjoy the moment.

Or, if you really want a game to be awesome, drop those expectations and either don’t think about it (best way to do this is avoid trailers, gameplay demos, and behind-the-scenes stuff) or pretend it’s actually going to stink (imagine yourself breaking the game in so many ways). That’s why it seems that there are hardly any good games out there; there’s all this built-up hype about them rather then them just being released when they are as a total and complete surprise, relying on words like “ground-breaking” to attract an audience.

Give it a try. You’ll see a big difference.

Until next time; cheers, cannoneers!

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