In a world where MMOs are now commonplace, it seems as though he who has the hippest hype wins. E3 was all about convincing the media that your game or toy was the latest and greatest thing to hit the electronics industry since Pac-man. The media, being the attention-fiends they are, ate it all up. Even Massively wasn't exempt from basking in the spoils of temporary celebrity. I mean, really, did we do a featured news story on Gaia? Yes -- one. But we did no less than ten articles featuring SWTOR coming out of E3. According to some, we're now "Massively: Your daily news about SWTOR and some of these other games over here."
So with all this hippity-hype everywhere, pouring from all the latest sites popping up and just longing to be the your best source of SWTOR news, how do you determine which is the best? What do you read? What do you ignore? Which is rumor? Which is truth? Who is that masked man? And did you find the Sith Inquisitor in the midriff top as cute as I did? I know, right?! The answers to these questions aren't easy. Sometimes you need a guide to help you through the hype, a hype(rspace) beacon, if you will. This Beacon is here help you calculate the jump. So strap yourself in, kid. It's going to be a bumpy ride.
It's probably best to begin this journey by asking where all the silly solicitation originates. Why is there all this hype out there? What is its motivation? Well it certainly doesn't come from SWTOR's staff, right? I mean, Producer Rich Vogel defends this position explicitly: "What we try to do is not talk about things that are not finalized yet because we don't want to over-hype things. That's kind of why people are frustrated because we haven't revealed a lot. A lot of people hype things that just don't come to fruition and get people very frustrated." Yup, your slip about crafting in that very same article caused no frustration at all. Thumbs up there, Rich. Thanks for saving us all. So if it's not Bioware's fault, whose fault is it? I'll give you a hint: it's everyone's fault, including Bioware.
Now I can't totally blame Bioware for all the hype; LucasArts lives on it. As a fan of the franchise, I'll go so far as to say that over the last few years, hype is all they've produced. Since the Dark Forces series of games (and truly even that should be included in this), LucasArts has not created an original game. Star Wars: Battlegrounds is Ages of Empires II with a facelift. KOTOR, god love it, was built on existing mechanics of the Star Wars PnP RPG. Even my beloved SWG is really just EQ that goes pew pew instead of thwong. It doesn't make them bad games, they are just built on hype of games that came before them.
What's a fan to do? I needz da newz! Personally, I'm of the mind that too much news is not good news. (Sorry, CNN.) People function best by digesting news in bite-sized nuggets. And if they are fed the same same thing over and over, eventually it's going to lose its flavor. So, if I may be so bold, I have a few pieces of advice to help feed you without causing you to choke on the hype.
First, get it from the source. If you don't get it directly from swtor.com, at least turn to a site that regularly pulls its news from there. Why? Let's get real here for a minute. If the word does not come from SWTOR's staff it just ain't true. My editor, Sera Brennan, cited me in Massively's Podcast as being dead-on when it came to what was in the Hope trailer, but no matter how right I was, it was still a guess. All that any website is going to be able to give you is a feeble fantasy, unless it pull its information directly from the source.
I care for the fans here. I really do. I don't want you to suffer from feature fallout. So many sites attempt to smite all your senses with articles followed by podcast followed by video interviews. AAH! Why don't we just jump out of the computer and grab the fan by the eyelids and force him into sensory overload? It seems one media type is trying desperately to snag the fan from the other media type. Oh, DarthHater has a cool speculation article? Well, so do we. Mos Eisley Radio's podcast just gained a hundred new followers? We can do better than that. TOROcast just did a wicked 30-minute video interview with Sean Dahlberg? Well, we got Deborah Shin! She's cuter. My suggestion to you, the fan: only follow one type of media per site. Although if Massively does written articles really well, then suddenly we come out with a SWTOR videocast, I would suggest at that point you drop all others and exclusively follow us because nobody does it better than Massively. *gloats and buffs his fingernails playfully.*
If the latest and greatest is your heart's desire, I would suggest Twitter. Install Tweetdeck or something similar that will allow you to set up columns just for searches. It will only take about an hour of following #swtor on a Friday for you to figure out that everyone is trying to get his piece of the pie, no matter how small the sliver is. But this will also teach you rather quickly who is really going to have the latest news, and who is just yanking your chain.
I would like to add one more thing to this list of dos and don'ts of following the hype. Your friend who knows a friend who works for the janitorial services of Bioware is wrong. First of all, we know Bioware are a bunch of nerds, so they don't have a use for janitorial services. They just stack their cans of Red Bull on top their cans of Rockstar from last week. Secondly, unless your friend's friend is a complete moron, he is not going to tell you this information. It's a breach of contract, and he will lose his job. In this economy, yeah, it's just not worth it. But I do advise that you keep him as your friend. He could be a source of endless entertainment.
Let me set your expectations a bit before you jump into the hype. This is a Bioware game. It will be built like a Bioware game. The main feature will be the same as that of other Bioware games. Bioware make awesome games, but they didn't make EVE or even SWG. If you wish to know what a Bioware game is like, play one! I suggest Mass Effect II or KOTOR. When SWTOR is finally released don't expect more out of it than what those two games give you. Bioware is going to go with what works before jumping into new territory, and those two games work!
A final note: do not read this article as a rant, unless it's all tongue-in-cheek. I have high hopes for SWTOR. I confess that I believe it will be a great game. I will probably play it until I die, even if it is the dreaded single-player game with an MMO interface. I have nearly 200 hours logged in Mass Effect II, for goodness sake! I believe you, too, will enjoy the game, if you just limit your hype-intake and let the Force flow through you!
(Daniel Erickson's not going to like that I didn't quote him this week...)