"Captured In Engine".

It is these and similar phrases that have been part of the standard repertoire of publishers when it comes to trailers for their games. Most of the time these words are shown under the video and they should say "look here, we don't need a CGI! Everything is real with us, hand on it!"

But that's not how it is, even if the manufacturers of this world want to make us believe that in-engine videos are synonymous with gameplay trailers. Current culprit: Assassin's Creed Valhalla (buy now for € 59.99).

After a classic CGI trailer some time ago, which was also declared as such, a gameplay trailer for the assassin adventure was promised for the first game showcase for the Xbox Series X. The hype was great and when the video was shown as the finale after a series of different announcement videos, which in turn also showed everything, just no gameplay, there was a trailer of almost one minute – "Captured In Engine".

Gameplay versus CGI: enough false promises! - Column by Lukas Schmid (2)

Gameplay versus CGI: enough false promises! – Column by Lukas Schmid (2)

Source: Ubisoft

The shouting was great because it was pretty, but meaningless in terms of content and just showed NO gameplay. I don't want anyone to choke or fall off the chair because of the force of this knowledge, but a real gameplay trailer is characterized by the fact that it shows gameplay. In engine means that the material shown was calculated in the engine of the game. I know the next shocking epiphany.

Within this limitation, the developers can do what they want in their video: play around with controls, change lighting, create scenes and animations that will never be seen in the game and position the camera freely. This has about as much to do with the real gameplay as the McDonald's burger on the advertising poster with the product in the cardboard box: theoretically similar, only that the roaster of our meat roll (thankfully) not with glue, toothpicks, styrofoam and the soft focus messed around with our burger.

The trend towards the in-engine trailer was probably a direct reaction to the growing criticism of CGI videos a few years ago, which are even further away from what the final product will be; which in no way means that they will not continue to be used anyway. The most prominent example at present: Assassin's Creed: Valhalla.

We remember: In the past, that was until the end of the PS2 era, such a procedure was not really widespread, primarily because such elaborate we-show-nothing trailers would have been far too expensive at the time. Sure, even "real" gameplay videos are tricked to put the game in the best possible light, but ultimately what we see in gameplay videos is mostly what we get. And yes, there are evildoers here too, remember the first material about Watch Dogs or Alien: Colonial Marines. But these are rather exceptions.

You would not tolerate the truth!

Gameplay versus CGI: enough false promises! - Column by Lukas Schmid (3)

Gameplay versus CGI: enough false promises! – Column by Lukas Schmid (3)

Source: PC games hardware

The question is: why? Why not just show players what is and what to expect? I think it's because nowadays the focus is no longer on making a game palatable to people, but an idea: look, it's so cool to be a Viking! See, all of this you can do as a Viking, so apart from the fact that maybe, maybe, you probably won't be able to do it! And now: The Collector's Edition.

The more bombastic the first impression, the easier it is to attract potential buyers as a manufacturer. And once the pre-order has been placed, there is a high chance that the purchase will ultimately be made, even if the finished game does not do justice to the first material shown. If you go straight into battle with open gameplay cards, you have to put your pants down right from the start.

I'm building a bad reputation

Gameplay versus CGI: enough false promises! - Column by Lukas Schmid (4)

Gameplay versus CGI: enough false promises! – Column by Lukas Schmid (4)

Source: Ubisoft

However: I am convinced that in the end the manufacturers will cut their own flesh with such a strategy. After all, they make a promise with the works they have developed over many years and with a great deal of diligence and effort. If this promise is broken, it damages the reputation of the studio. And if players feel duped, they will remember that.

The bad reputation among many gamers of some companies is due not least to the fact that they always say, in principle, only half of what they need and show what would be necessary, caught in the constant fear that too much openness can put off potential customers and thus shareholders could disappoint.

And of course nobody is immune to a flop. The most motivated team of all time can work on a project for years and always show completely transparently what is happening to them – if the end result is bad or does not find a target group, the effort is still not rewarded.

With false gameplay promises on principle, the effort of everyone involved in the development is counteracted without need. Because no matter how good the game ultimately is, no matter how much passion it cost – it will never be the game that interested, but did not expect players familiar with the A to Z of the announcement trailer after the unveiling. So you will always leave a disappointed group, which in turn could lead to a bad reputation.

I personally would have liked a different direction for Assassin's Creed Valhalla, but I strongly believe that it will be a very good game. I am currently playing Assassin's Creed Odyssey and if the team manages to create a world that is half as beautiful for Valhalla, I will be satisfied with that alone. In order to know whether I am right with this positive assumption, I have to have seen the game first. I don't have it yet and when I see the in-engine trailer, I inevitably think "what do you have to hide?"

It's a shame for the developers, for everyone involved, for the players. And it is unnecessary. My appeal to the publishers of this world: trust the products of your studios, trust the people behind them. We are rapidly approaching the most potent generation of consoles to date and the games on it will certainly look impressive. And trust your fans; that they recognize a good game even if you don’t put CGI and in-engine honey around their mouths.

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