Since the formation of the first government, citizens have been weary of what happens “behind the scenes” and often want to see through the veil of their officials. This is particularly prevalent in US society as we want to know every action the government is up to while creating a law or decision. To help with this, most meetings between our elected officials are televised so we can watch the outcome firsthand. However, there are quite a few more sensitive materials that the government keeps in hopes of not only protecting the people but also to prevent premature panic. It’s the idea that a person alone is smart but a group of people are often dumb and dangerous. This principle of selective transparency is how our representative democracy continues to operate and should be applied to game developers as well.
Game developers and publishers have been openly asked time and time again for both transparency while giving “no spoilers”. Even if the company refuses to comment, data miners just go and find everything they can from a demo to “out” the information that the developer was attempting to hide.
In the case of No Man’s Sky, Sean Murray attempted to be as transparent as he could by revealing so much information that we couldn’t believe it. He detailed plans for all kinds of things accompanied with videos, screenshots, and game design documents. However with that much transparency, our expectations became raised extremely high and people ran with it while singing his praises all the way till launch.
Now we sit here post launch and No Man’s Sky has suffered more blows to the head than Joe Frazier and they’ve shut up completely. It was fine to show the ideas they had as they continued to develop the game but during that process, there are many ideas that get scrapped, reworked, or pushed off for the integrity of the game. This is just how development works and unlike other companies, Sean decided to use that selective transparency in the wrong way. Instead he was completely transparent about features, got people excited, and chose not to address concerns once the game was released.
The reason so many people ask for transparency is because we want to feel included in the process. We want to know information and in our digital age, if we can’t google it then someone is obviously keeping secrets they shouldn’t. I don’t believe this is the case however since when you’re creating art, the process is extremely fluid and creators NEED the ability to change things without scrutiny from their fans. Take RE4 for instance. They revealed some art initially that was an interesting idea but had a design change and released a different game altogether. They chose not to constantly update everyone on that progress and instead, revealed a game that blew people away. That’s how transparency should be.
If it doesn’t hurt the player or fan in any way, then keeping some secrets about the game, its length, direction changes, etc is a smart way to go. Even further, not showing every single working prototype helps cut down on the expectations of the players. Transparency, as a word, is great but personally I hate it in my games. I don’t like knowing a game is coming in 5 years and knowing every single thing about it before I ever play it. Likewise, I don’t like being shown screens of a project in progress and end up with an Aliens: Colonial Marines. If I had my way, there would be little to no transparency outside of trailers and a release date before the game comes out. The magical thing about a game is grabbing it (with or without reading a review) and just enjoying the experience the developers have slaved over for years.
I don’t control this though so I’ll settle for devs using their brains before revealing everything about their title in one go. A great example of this would be with Nintendo and any of their first party games or hardware. Recently, they have talked a bit more about their games and even had a 1 hour demo for Zelda… but in reality, what else do we know about the game? They do an amazing job not showing anything until they’re basically done so we can pick up the game, a month, a year, or a decade later and experience exactly what they said.
Further, who knows what the NX is? Do you? Because I sure don’t. Even amidst thousands of leaks from different sources, we still can’t get a clear definition of what it is. The interviews with Nintendo have proven less than fruitful since everyone offers fairly generic answers that amount to, “It gon be gud.” Instead of having us expect a perfect machine or a certain type of machine, they’ve decided to forgo transparency until the expected reveal. A reveal which we still don’t have even close to an exact date on! I mean, that’s how you use selective transparency.
FFXV is technically spoiled for some people now since they revealed how the game is structured which is not something anyone really thinks about when talking about an rpg. However, the same team could reveal some backstory for the characters that we may not gleam from the game (which they did) and that is more than enough to sate our hunger for insider knowledge.
I hope both game developers and gamers alike can begin to understand the other side and see the dedication that we both put in. Developers take years working on a fluid project that morphs from one second to the next. Basically meaning, any info that leaks or they tell us can change in one click of a button. Gamers on the other hand are playing these games so knowing too much may make us not buy out of boredom, or simply get our expectations to a point that no matter what version of a game we get, we’ll feel completely disappointed.
Andron (or Ace as he likes to call himself) is the so called "Head Honcho" of Bombchu.com. He has a deep passion for video games primarily RPGs, Fighting or Adventure. When not gaming, he's furiously typing on his keyboard or coming up with new schemes.