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Postmortem: The Chinese Room's Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
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Postmortem: The Chinese Room's Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs

May 23, 2014 Article Start Previous Page 7 of 7
 

This was very much a problem of balance from TCR's perspective. On the one hand, the creation of additional trailers or the release of other teaser media would have maintained interest and maintained the good will of patient fans. On the other hand, the creation of such media requires time, and with no dedicated marketing staff, this time would have been drawn from the core development team, thus causing further delays in the development and release of the actual game. Furthermore, releasing more media risked giving away too much of the game and thus spoiling the eventual enjoyment of it for players.

The initial trailer was purposely created for the sole purpose of being a trailer, and did not contain events intended to be present in the final game (although the area shown in the trailer exists, the events in the trailer to do not occur in the game). This was intended to get across the essence of the gameplay without spoiling an encounter in the final game. However this did not have the desired effect, with a number of players voicing their annoyance that this event was not in the final game. The second trailer similarly was intended to demonstrate the type of gameplay present in the game without using a specific scenario in the final game. It was felt that this trailer was representative of the encounters present in the game, however perhaps this was misjudged given the negative responses of a number of players.

The lack of dedicated marketing staff was certainly a problem for TCR, and it is likely that a more consistent drip-feed of media throughout development would have been a better strategy in keeping interest higher. However the reality of a small development team is that the game itself must come first, and further delays on an already doubled development time were deemed not acceptable in return for outputting more media.

The early release of a review copy to YouTube personality Pewdiepie was an unexpected decision by FG made without TCR's knowledge, and demonstrates the difference in aims for the game between the two companies. Pigs was intended from the outset to provide a different approach to gameplay than that offered by The Dark Descent and this style was far less conducive to the Let's Play audience, requiring direct engagement with the game itself in order to get the most back from the experience.

It was expected that Pigs would likely appeal to a smaller number of players seeking a deeper level of narrative engagement, rather than the likely wider appeal of The Dark Descent's more action-heavy gameplay. Thus, this marketing decision was a poor match for the game it was intended to market, as was demonstrated by the responses of the core Amnesia fan base, many of which were as confused by the decision as TCR were. Fortunately many players chose to avoid watching the early footage so as to avoid spoiling the game before they had bought it. However this marketing decision remains an odd decision by FG given the highly successful start to the marketing campaign through a more cryptic, cerebral channel in the form of the ARG.

Conclusion

Following in the footsteps of a game as widely recognized and respected as The Dark Descent was never going to be an easy task, and whatever game TCR produced it was evident that they could not please everyone.

The game that they created successfully carries with it their passion for storytelling, for environment and for atmosphere and through this the game has proven to be successful and well received by a large number of critics and players. The mechanical core of the game unfortunately failed to resemble a well-oiled machine, in spite of the best efforts of the development team. While Pigs may be a more forgiving game than TCR had intended, it is entirely possible that a more punishing version would have been poorly received by the very players that have enjoyed the version that was eventually released. In streamlining many of the mechanical elements of the game, the narrative was able to shine all the more brightly and instigate lots of heated and thought-provoking discussion amongst the player community.

Would the game have been better off removed from the branding of Amnesia and the inherent gameplay expectations that come with that name? This is a question that has been raised in a number of articles following its release. There is no way of answering that question with any degree of certainty. Indeed, as has been discussed in an interview with TCR's Dan Pinchbeck and Jessica Curry in The Guardian, many reviews stated that the removal of the word "Amnesia" from the title would have elevated the game's score. The expectation attached to a word, or to a franchise, is so powerful as to detract from the enjoyment of an experience that does not "fit" that franchise -- regardless in some cases of the individual merits of a particular game. This is apparent even in cases, such as Amnesia, where the prior "franchise" only consists of a single title.

This is very much conjecture of course, as there is no way of knowing how the game may have been received in its original format of We are the Pig. The game that was released has proven divisive but predominantly successful, and has clearly been well received by a great many players. Moreover, the game has generated a great amount of lively and passionate discussion that demonstrates how invested players are able to get in the game. What more can a developer really ask for than that?


Article Start Previous Page 7 of 7

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