Hype vs Lies

August 29, 2016 by Tim

It seems a number of people would rather see me classify No Man’s Sky’s hype as outright lies instead, but I don’t necessarily agree with that.

Someone went and collected a list of features that were apparently shown but did not arrive in the retail release. The problem is, most of this stuff was shown off a year or two ago. Game development is a long and complex process, often truncated by deadlines, financial constraints and technological limitations.

While I have no doubt that in some interview at some point in the history of man, a developer has outright lied about including a feature in their game, that is simply not the status quo.

At the point when all of these features were talked about, I have no doubt they were on the task board. They were being worked on, or were at least in the design doc, and ended up being cut due to one of the reasons I listed above (time, financial, technological). That doesn’t make it a lie.

Peter Molyneaux is notorious for not delivering on features he’s touted. But I wouldn’t call him a liar. At the time when he’s talking about those features, he likely fully believes and intends to put them in the game. But a lot can change in a year or two of development.

This particular flavor of hype is a symptom of the larger problem I discussed in the post above; developers talking about the game they’re working on too soon. Early on in development, they’re talking about a ton of features they want to/plan to add, and the community takes this as gospel truth, whereas everyone (us and them) should be more honest/aware that development is a fluid process. Developers likely only have a solid idea of what will and will not make it into release a few months before the game goes gold.

If a game has gone gold, and then a developer promises a feature is in the game and it isn’t, I’d call that a lie. But 1-2 years prior to release? That’s overenthusiams/overhyping, not villainous lying as I’ve seen people suggesting.

I’m not defending the practice of showing off the game too early; I still believe they shouldn’t announce games until they’re within the final year to launch. And the responsibility for the game’s perception still lies with the developer (ideally they might announce “hey, fyi, we had to cut this feature” but that’ll be negative press so why would they do that), but I think it should be called as it is, which I don’t believe should be categorized as harshly as “lying”, which suggests malicious or devious intent.

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