Definition- Early impressions, by either trailer or demo, that impersonate or mis-represent game play, as to fool the gaming audience into believing something that isn’t true.
I explored in my last Muranica entry, a different take of format in my look at Theory vs Exeuction in video games. While I love playing video games, half of the thrill in their enjoyment, at least for me, is understanding them. I know people often misunderstand what kind of work that goes into them, or the complexities they are made up of. My TvE exploraiton was the beginning effort in looking at the ins and outs of what make video games tick. While in the entry, I went into basis of subject matter involving the distinction of successful video games, and their mi-guided brethren, today I look at a more isolated example of where video games go wrong.
Comprehending the very moment when “things go wrong”.
I had made written out a personal list of personal gaming phrases I believed to represent some of the dirtier tenants of game ethics, and one of the ones that I found was being explored by others more than myself was “Killzoned“….or “Being Killzoned“. As defined at the beginning of the article, the term “Killzoned” is pre-release gaming hype in media form that wildly exaggerates what’s on show. This could be due to a desperate grab at media attention, or an off focus sentiment of trying to dress up your game more than you should. Good intentions can lead to the same results as malicious ones, so we will not dwell on the speculative there fore, just the now within the element of “Being Killzoned”.
The origin of the term “Killzoned“, comes from a rather infamous E3 event involving Sony. Back in 2005, Sony was trying to hype how powerful the PS3 was, with a two minute trailer involving early footage of Killzone 2, with “real gameplay everybody’s seeing out there” on the PS3. The problem with the footage, to anyone paying attention, was that the game looked unreal.
As in, not real.
The problem with the footage, and which was identifiable to most gamers who had been around the block, is that the footage looked way too good to be true. The frames per second were too high (without any hiccups, mind you), the lighting effects seemed too dynamic, the camera angles too dramatic. What’s most evident of the mock up, is the complete lack of any gaming elements to speak of. No HUD showing us weapon statistics, or life bars hanging in the air for our convenience. No way points to show the audience what we were to hypothetically do next, and not any noticeable feedback to speak of (like getting damaged etc). The interesting dilemma of noticing the unreal, comes from the trailers complete lack of anything real enough.
Killzone 2’s trailer had a detachment from gaming reality, and went wrong by possessing no real flaw. We will never know if the decision was internal from Guerilla Games, or if Sony approached them with the idea to do the mock up, based on rough looking alpha build (or a non existing build) at that point. Whatever the motivation, the fallout from the showing was massive. The talk of the show (putting aside Nintendo’s reveal of “The Revolution, later renamed Wii), was how unbelievable Sony had been about their representation of KZ2. The game created more negative buzz than positive buzz, and the criticisms hurt the image of the game and the company more than anything else.
Hence, due to the controversy, and the infamy of the event, I came to coined the phrase “Killzoned“, to remind myself of the effortless downfall in pre-hype bullshit. A couple of points to bring up, after the fact. While Killzone 2 did look quite good on the Ps3, this was years into the life cycle of the system, after the devs had ample time to create the reality they proposed. To further remove any doubts of speculation, statements later produced by Guerilla Games in their admission of failure in creating a false premise can be seen here and here.
The first statement being issued before KZ2’s actual launch, is a bit more defensive in it’s approach of the media gaffe. This is likely due to the fact Killzone 2 had yet to be released. The defense sustaining from admitting fault before the game’s launch, which would have reignited bad press, and effected the bottom line. The second, statement, issued years later after KZ2’s money was already made, is a bit more frank. Guerilla Games went on to explain the situation in gaming relevant forums, and was quoted with “The hard part for us was like ‘Uh-oh. Now we will actually have to make that!’ But the good part is that that 2005 trailer shown at E3 created tremendous focus for the team.” Killzone 2 did turn out very well, from both a gameplay stand point and a graphical one. This helps to frame that “Being Killzoned“, isn’t a death knell, nor is it only performed by talent-less studios. Guerilla Games has gone on to do great work with the series, and has even improved on their own pre-hyping laurels, by showing a very impressive, and very real trailer of Killzone 4 during the Sony PS4 press conference this year.
It is worth it to point out, to any of the uninitiated, that neither KZ nor Sony set the trend for this, and aren’t the only one’s who do it. “Pre-rendered” cut scenes and movies at pre-showing press events are referred to as “smoke and mirrors”. These are elements or assets custom built for or from the game, and altered dramatically, to enhance what the games look like. The smoke and mirrors of an event like E3 can be so over used, the show floor can resemble more of a god damn carnival than of actual product demonstrations. The over-saturation of material and sensory over load helping to detract you from what’s really there.
“Being Killzoned” is something that is still happening, and will likely happen for the rest of gaming time. The specific reason I decided to stake a claim in this observation, was due to overwhelming evidence that the practice is alive and well, and may even be worsening in it’s execution. A recent read of Edge magazine had me quite thrilled with an article referring to a similar concept as “Bullshotting”. While not dealing with pre-rendered cut scenes or pre-hyper trailers, Edge Magazine helps to articulate the very same act companies mis-inform us, with dolled up and out of proportion screenshots and pre-release imagery. While never truly defined, “Bullshotting” has a very simple approach in vernacular, further extrapolating with “(Bullshots) being identifiable by their lighting…details emphasized…and exotic camera angles, depicting an activity that is unlikely devs would ever let you experience yourself.”
One of Edge’s examples was Halo 4. While the game does look amazing, there is a slight disconnect in cinematic visual quality, and real time game footage quality (for technological sanity purposes)
Don’t get me wrong, I still think Halo 4 was a blast to play, and that scene in the game was still very well done. I just act as a constant reminder that this thing is very common. So common, in fact, a mere hour after reading the article, I was reminded of the very same consistency I speak of at this moment.This time, involving the Elder Scrolls Online. Max Scoville was invited to a press only event, earlier build of the game. So while Zenimax Online isn’t trying to deceive the gaming public directly, the gaming press might be “Being Killzoned” as we speak. Max Scoville goes on to say “It (public footage) still isn’t conveying what it actually looks like…there showing some very controlled…yeah…” (See at 7:30 in the video). This is also aside from the reminder, that truly rampant examples of “Being Killzoned” are ever present, with the most recent offender being the much lauded and documented debacle that was the “Aliens: Colonial Marines Disaster”, probably best documented by D-Toid’s own Jim Sterling.
The truth of the matter remains, if we don’t approach these situations with caution, or don’t call them out when they are truly fictitious, we will all truly live in a virtual reality.
So what can we learn from all of this? Having adjusted expectations. I know the human mind wants to believe things that aren’t true, but the twisted delusion that takes us to nirvana is often just that, a perception, and not an actual journey. As someone who never wants to stop being excited about video games, I would never suggest others do the same. Just make sure not to take everything so blindly, or at face value. Use basic observation to reaffirm what may or may not be of the real, and focus on the real that exists, and realize there is still enjoyment of the real to be had.
And there’s plenty of real going around.