Read any gaming review and you will come across a number of design elements deemed crucial to the success of a game. You will hear about the graphics, soundtrack, gameplay, multiplayer capabilities, depth and emotional engagement of the plot, and so the list goes on. There is, however, another key factor that I would rate as more influential than even the sum of the above, and has visibly risen in importance courtesy of the tidal wave of hype surrounding the releases of games like EA’s Titanfall and Activision’s space-shooter Destiny.
Though it’s still fresh in many minds, here’s a quick summary of the many Destiny write-ups I’ve seen in the last fortnight since its release. The consensus amongst reviewers is that Destiny is an impressive technical achievement, boasting stunning visuals, fantastic soundtrack (including title song composed by Paul McCartney), slick game mechanics and reliable online play. With a development price tag of somewhere around US$500 million you would indeed hope that it ran like a dream. It has been suggested that the narrative and characterisation may not grab you by the heartstrings and whisk you away, but this is a shooter after all so perhaps this can be overlooked in the glow of such an otherwise polished product. Future expansions and patches may address this and other complaints anyway, as is the way of things these days. [May 2015: Having now spent a good few hours in the Destiny universe myself, I would agree with all of these sentiments. This game is smooth! The long term expansion plan for Destiny is also well underway and will continue to enhance its overall vitality.]
Similarly to the build-up accompanying Titanfall prior to its release back in March, Destiny rode a massive wave of publicity incorporating just about every form of media imaginable. Interviews and previews supported the swathe of advertisements online, on the sides of buses and on free-to-air TV, creating the expectation that Destiny would arrive as a defining work of epic single and multiplayer adventure. It was aiming for the stars and sure to deliver. And here’s where the frequent and most disappointing criticism of a technically strong game seems to have its root: planet-sized expectations and hype. Goals and direction are of course an integral part of any development process, but would games like Titanfall, The Elder Scrolls Online and Destiny have left a stronger, more positive imprint were they not entering the world inflated, or possibly burdened, by certain public expectations? And for that matter would a game like Minecraft that emerged without fanfare have carved the extraordinary path it did were it born from a long-term media campaign? Can small-developer/low budget productions even be compared with the work of ‘Hollywood’ game studios?
If you have answers to these questions or any other comment, please post below!