Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Dialing Down the Hype: Part 1

Alrighty, it's been awhile since I've done any sort of article write up. Scribblenauts has been RIPE with news and info lately and it's been hard to squeeze anything in. However, I've had the idea for this article for a couple of weeks now, and I think it's important enough to take the time and write it.

Readers, this is an intervention.

Scribblenauts? It won't be as good as you're expecting.

Now, it might be more than a little weird to hear that from the owner of a fan site. But even if you think I'm trolling, believe me, it's for our own good. Hype? It ruins games. It raises expectations to astronomical levels, and even if a game IS good, if it doesn't live up to the image people created in their minds, it will be seen as a failure. The best example I can give is Spore, a game cited as "revolutionary", which was met with a brief burst of activity before everyone decided they hated it. They didn't hate it, not really. They were just upset that it was a different game then they hyped it to be.

In an attempt to help us all be realistic I've decided to bring a semi-frequent feature to the site. Each time I plan on examining one flaw of Scribblenauts. Something to bring it down to earth. Or I might dispell some hopes or wishes people have for the game that we know just won't happen.

Without further rationalizing, let's get on with today's topic.

You're going to be seeing a lot of repeats. A lot of repeats.

Scribblenauts has a great tagline, doesn't it? Write anything, solve everything. It embodies the image of the game and really drives the point home that you really can write any object you can think of and it'll pop into the game.

Well...not exactly. See, though the game boasts "tens of thousands" of words, we can't help but wonder how many OBJECTS they point to.

For example, typing "Crate" and "Box" spawns the exact same object. Now that makes sense, right? You can count the differences between those two on one hand. But there are some repeats we already know that don't make a whole lot of sense. Take this for instance...

Prime Minister

all produce the same white skinned, gray hair individual with a suit.

We know that fact from various previews and videos we've seen. Now I guess you could argue (rather humorously) that you can ALSO count the differences between all those people on one hand...but social commentary aside, some gamers are bound to be disappointed. After all, us Americans know just how (stereotypically) different Republicans and Democrats are. The fact that we won't get to fiddle with that is a bummer.

But taking that further, we can make some pretty safe assumptions. I'm willing to be...


all point to this guy as well. Already we're seeing a possibility of a single object having close to a ten or so words all pointing back to it.

Now, again, some people might not think that's a big deal because there's not a whole lot that's TANGIBLY different about them. However, going further, we can find words that are barely linked together that point to the same object.

"Pot of Gold" doesn't give you a pot of gold. It simply gives you a gold bar. "Blood" doesn't give you blood. It gives you a bat (creature). "Treasure" doesn't give you mounds of riches or valuables. It gives you a single diamond. "Epic Fail" doesn't give you some hilarious internet meme object. It simply gives you a nuclear explosive, just like if you typed in "Nuke".

I think you see where I'm getting at here.

We're still going to be surprised at what objects ARE in the game. A lion is different than a tiger, and they're both different than a liger (yeah, that's in the game!). But I guarantee you're going to run into at least one object that's a repeat that you didn't expect. Imagine the guy who tries to make an epic fight between a Republican and a Democrat while the President cheers them on...only to realize he just spawned 3 copies of the same person.

One thing I definitely need to make clear: I don't blame 5TH Cell even a little bit for any of this. To even write this article is an exercise in nitpicking, and I know that. I don't seriously think these things detract from the game very much.

But some people - and with the hype train in full throttle, I'd warrant to say a lot of people - probably think that every word they type will map to a different and unique word. This will not always be the case, and I think we need to prepare ourselves for the possibility that one object can be shared across dozens of words, even if those words aren't closely related.


  1. Well said, and believe me, it needs to be said.
    Too many people expect too much from the game, it really shows, especially when some of them are asking for copyrighted objects to appear. :/

    I tried reigning back hype on some forums I visit, but it's still one of the games I'm most looking forward to in years, I must say. :3

  2. Thank you so much for this. I'm so hyped for this game I think that I'll be disappointed.Hopefully these will help me lol.

  3. I agree with the article, but I'm still hyped for Scribblenauts (though not overly so).

    JUST FOR FUN, I'm going to try to defend some of the words:

    Blood - THE GAME (lol) is E10+, so there is no blood, although why it spawns a bat I'm not sure...
    Pot of Gold - It probably just took out the 'extra words' (pot of) and just created a gold bar.
    Treasure - A diamond is a treasure.
    Epic Fail - Well, killing yourself is fail. And doing so with an explosion is (kind of) epic.

  4. Yeah, the nuke for epic fail works for me, and you should probably write "treasure chest" to get the results your askin for.

  5. Yep, I think it's better if everyone has realistic expectations for the game. It's quite hard to do that for a game that's pretty much unlike anything before, and so ambitious as well.

    Good call on the comparison with Spore, by the way. I have to say that I was massively disappointed with Spore, not because it was different from what I expected, but because it was notably inferior in many aspects to even the 2005 build that was first shown. It felt simply lobotomized to me, as a game. Which is a shame, because ironically, the game did deliver what it promised and more, technologically. It just wasn't a very good game per se. Which is, incidentally, what many people fear about Scribblenauts.

  6. I`ve been over hyping this game for a while now and this article did tone it down. Thank you.

  7. I think for all the repeats
    (also woodwurm and termite spawn the same thing)
    There are plenty original objects to fool around with.
    Watching some of the vids, like the necromancer picking up the Necronomicon and the effects of the Plutonium actually restore my faith in the title.

  8. I definitely agree with all you guys, and I'm glad you took the article in stride!

  9. I suspect most of the people following this blog have a pretty realistic idea of the game - but that that can't be said for some of the other message boards. That's why I like to know a lot about a game I am excited about. I don't have a problem with your post, I just think the people who need to read it may not see it.

    With the little bit of programming I have done, this game amazes me, and the repeat graphics don't take away from that.

    I hope the Republican and the Democrat are programmed to argue! I think they needed to keep the politicians vague to keep it better for selling in other countries, and possibly to keep themselves out of trouble in case of a political scandal.

    With Spore, I looked into it carefully before buying it, and was not surprised by the gameplay. What I was surprised with, was when Hello Kitty, in a ballet outfit, did a cute little dance, and a bunch of demons ran away from her screaming. I created the characters, but it was still a surprise. I'm expecting those kind of funny moments in Scribblenauts.

    However, she did eat one of the demons later, so they did have a good reason to be scared of her...

  10. That's what I was thinking! The thing about the people that need to see it not seeing it is definitely true. I was thinking that the second I started reading the article. But how can we spread the word? Oh Yeah! We're on the internet!!!