The Weight of Expectation

The Weight of Expectation

I hate to sound like an old man, but our music charts are populated with an ever rising amount of commercially produced rubbish. 4 piece bands and true rock has given way to slick pretty boys screeching their way through dainty love ballads, and wonderbra-fueled girl groups determined to enforce a radical ideal of female superiority. Bring back Bruce Springsteen.

As most of you forumites will know, I'm a pretty obsessive fan of the one and only Bruce. Lyrically and musically he's superb - And even after almost 30 years in the industry he still creates quality music that everyone can associate with. In 1975 however, he was a distinctly unknown artist. Two albums had been written and released, and while Rolling Stone magazine loved them, they hadn't created much a stir in the music world. In 1975 however, "Born to Run" was released. At a stroke, Springsteen became the God of Stadium rock - A title he arguably still holds today.

What does this have to do with Republic? Well we'll come to that.

So after 2 paragraphs that focused primarily on rock history, we're getting closer to the crunch. At the beginning of 1975, Bruce Springsteen was just another struggling Jersey musician. By the end of it, he had completed one of the purest rock and roll albums of all time. There was absolutely no expectation on his shoulders, and yet crafted a masterpiece. 2 years later however, he released "Darkness on the Edge of Town". With the weight of an army of fans eager for another album, Springsteen created another classic album.

Republic: The Revolution has as much expectation resting on it as Darkness did. After 5 long years of development, the world finally gets to play the game on the 27th June. What I'm anxious to understand is what role this expectation will play in the sales of Republic. Personally, I'm just not sure, but I'd like to throw around some thoughts on the subject.

In a highly scientific test, I inquired to one of my friends who shares my obsession with games: "You know Republic right?" Predictably, his response was "You mean the Republic that's been delayed for the last 3 years?". Alarmingly, that's very much the way that Republic is seen in the public eye: A game that's been delayed so frequently many people question whether it would come out at all. It's not so much Famous as Infamous. Such things can be both good and bad for a game, and there are countless examples of classic titles coming out of nowhere, and of big-budget games and sequels that simply aren't up to scratch. I hate to keep bringing this quotation up, but it's one that is so directly relevant:

" it's clear that it's going to be a top ten in our top-100 games, or turn into a running joke"

Perhaps the classic example of a hideously expensive game biting the dust is the "great" Daikatana. For those of you unfamiliar with the story, imagine a game that went through half a dozen lead programmers, 30 million dollars, and yet still arrived 2 years behind schedule. Then imagine that game only selling 10,000 copies. Often referred to as "Romero's Folly", the history of the ill-fated Daikatana is as much a tale of woe and tragedy as it is a lesson of how not to create a game. It really goes to prove that inflated budgets and creative genius don't automatically create a great game. It is a story that is eerily similar to Republic's. Daikatana was built up before release as "Revolutionary" and "The title that redefines gaming". In the end, it was, if you pardon my French, Shite.

Daikatana is remembered as being an atrocious game because it was marketed as being a great game. There was a huge expectation on it to be the next Quake, which only grew and grew as it was delayed time and time again. When it was released as a bug-ridden mess, it received a critical panning, as was forever doomed to be remembered as an over-budgeted piece of crap. It wasn't the expectation that made Daikatana a bad game; but it was the expectation that was responsible for everyone's disappointment.

There's a nice depressing story to get you worried before the release of Republic. Did I mention there's no out of house beta test? Now before everyone gets panicky, let's turn our attention to titles that had huge amounts of expectation on them, and still delivered.

Quake II is a classic example of this. The original Quake was a definitive moment in gaming; a technological milestone who's impact was massive. The game wasn't bad either - Internet polygonal deathmatch, and the emergence of the first true mod teams were something that people lapped up. So when the sequel came, it was anticipated more than any other gaming title before it.

Unlike Daikatana however, Quake II excelled in every way - Countless features that were radically ahead of its time - and so many that it's pointless to try and list them here. I had the hopes and dreams of thousands of games on it; and it delivered perfectly. The expectation placed on Quake II benefited the sales of it immensely - It was eagerly awaited, and so when critical acclamation came in, hundreds of thousands leapt to buy it. Once more, Expectation didn't make Quake II the defining moment that it was, but it greatly assisted in boosting it's popularity, and did a lot to help get players into the fledging arena of online gaming.

So what for Republic?

Well, it's taken 5 years and approximately 126,000 man hours to craft Republic; and we're now a mere 2 weeks from release. Demis' labour of love is now ready to sink or swim - And I believe that the fate of Elixir Studios itself is dependant on Republic. It took Ion Storm years to recover from Daikatana, but in today's tough industry, a single crippling title could topple the company itself. Republic is the Elixir of Elixir. Boom Boom.

So a dodgy pun brings this slightly bloated article to a close. As Jimi Hendrix squeals out the last notes of the Stars on Stripes in WinAmp, and draws my hands away from the keyboard to play the air guitar, I'm left to think: Have Elixir sown the seeds of their own downfall by building up a ridiculous amount of hype, Or have they been giving publicity to a title which will genuinely change the face of gaming forever?

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