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Racial Profiling

September 26th, 2006 by Troy Goodfellow · 2 Comments · Creative Assembly, Preview

Did you ever notice that most strategy game previews drip out information through “national profiles”? Today, IGN has posted Creative Assembly’s account of the Sicilians in Medieval 2: Total War. Age of Empires 3, Rise of Legends, any game that relies on distinctions between factions…all get this treatment.

As an amateur historian, I like this sort of thing. I get a focused description of one or two sides, they throw in some historical color and, if I’m lucky, they make a few mistakes that I can silently chortle over as I adjust my monocle and restuff my pipe, secure in the superiority of my historical knowledge.

But I’m beginning to wonder if they are really that informative. Look at the above linked description of Sicily. It is almost entirely a list of units with no game context provided. What is the cost of these units? How do they compare to neighboring forces in Italy and North Africa? Given their campaign objectives, does Sicily have a good location or will it become the picked bone of the Mediterranean? Are the units listed even unique? Do I really need to be told that they have peasants? There are no descriptions of the game, merely of one of a dozen possible players.

All corporate provided previews are, at their core, marketing. The game’s official site is also full of faction and unit descriptions. IGN doesn’t write these faction profiles; CA does. So for the website, it’s an easy call. With a game this close to completion, a preview should focus on what it’s going to be like to play the game; what players should keep in mind. But dripping out faction information guarantees a steady stream of eyeballs where the occasional insightful preview that really whets the appetite (like Jason Ocampo’s description of religion in Medieval 2) can only be done once.

Readers love previews. They also love to hate previews. And maybe we do need a little less reverence and a little more personality in our previews. But mostly I just want to learn about how the game plays. And telling me all the different kinds of guys in armor that I can build isn’t helping.


2 Comments so far ↓

  • baby arm

    To be honest, I would publish something like that if Creative Assembly handed it to me and said “Hey Jason, you want a completed MTW2 unit preview?” It’s mainly fluff, but it’s fluff that attracts a lot of TW fans to a site and would require little to no effort on my part. If nothing else, a number of people like to read those things just to see some new screens.

    On the other hand, I would never ever ever publish an “interview” with a game’s character.
    Very sad.

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