Monday, 16 June 2014

Artix Entertainment review, Part 3.0

Previous section: Click here.
First part of the series: Click here.

June 2015 update: Click here. Poll included.

3.0 Celebrity Over-Endorsement
This section describes a problem that Artix Entertainment has run into in the last few years, the overuse of celebrities to promote only one game while neglecting almost all of their other works. It will also describe a few other examples of celebrities being used to promote video games.

Celebrity endorsement is the use of a superstar's fame to sell or advertise a product. The reasoning is that a recognizable star will have an easier time promoting a product to users compared to a publicity agent that has not yet worked their way into mass media. While celebrity endorsement can make a brand more famous, done wrongly, the celebrity in question appears to be inserted for the sake of star factor.

3.1 Neglecting other works
It is easy to make the assumption that Artix Entertainment's main game is AQWorlds, due to the huge amount of promotion that is included. However, it has gotten to the point that AE's other games appear to be forgotten. With the sole exception of Original AdventureQuest, the other games suffer from a lack of staff, a lack of updates, and a lack of guidance. The clearest example would be HeroSmash, which has not had any major storyline updates since late 2011.

MechQuest, DragonFable, and OverSoul are neglected to varying degrees as well. AE simply isn't large enough to conduct a virtual Broadway stage and keep its other games alive at the same time.

3.2 Schedule slips and quality interference
Celebrity events in AQWorlds have been quite frequent from 2010 to 2013. This is partly due to the informal contract that Voltaire Hernandez will hold a virtual performance every Friday the 13th. The celebrity events are often given plenty of fanfare via design notes, Twitter, and forum posts, and shoehorned into the game regardless of whether the event fits into the established canon of AQWorlds. The other AE games have only one or two celebrity cameos in minor roles.

Drakath, Chaos Champion
Discordia and Kimberly, Mythsong Lords

The first One Eyed Doll event was contrived in such a way that the lead singer, Kimberly Freeman, was the actual Chaos Lord (a minor villain serving Drakath, the main villain) of Mythsong (a musical land). The justification was that Drakath hypnotized Kimberly, and she hypnotized the Chaos Lord Discordia in turn. This sounds ridiculous to an outside viewer because Drakath and Discordia are fictional, but breaking the fourth wall and addressing the audience directly is fairly common in AE games, regardless of superstars' involvement.

Voltaire's latest Friday the 13th in September 2013 also suffered from a contrived ending. The event concerns Voltaire's treasure hunting attempts on an island cursed by Captain Von Poach. At the end of the event, the Captain is somehow cursed into becoming a female monster that Voltaire's teddy bear sidekick falls in love with. The nonsensical ending was apparently taken from Facebook suggestions for AQWorlds.

Some players of AQWorlds, including this author, believe that the excessive celebrity events in the last few years caused the main Chaos storyline to be delayed until June 2014. While AE did not mention how long it would take to finish the Chaos storyline, the increasing delay between each Chaos Lord after Discordia (sixth out of thirteen) began to put off players. The delays were filled with stories that either focused on Lore in general, or celebrities.

The recurring theme of the celebrities that appear in AQWorlds are musicians, and from the present music genres, the only genres that appear regularly are either heavy metal like One Eyed Doll, or Gothic cabaret like Voltaire. Occasionally, pop performers like They Might Be Giants or Jonathan Coulton appear, but they are rarities compared to AE's obsession with metal music. Considering that AQWorlds was not originally intended to be about heavy rock or a Disney-like musical, this is a drastic change.

One Eyed Doll has been shoehorned into the game again in AQWorlds' Halloween/Mogloween events. In October 2010, One Eyed Doll released a single titled, “You're a Vampire,” and the virtual performance of the single was “justified” by a vampire wanting to make the main town disappear into the mists. The single could easily have been placed ingame as a separate event, instead of being inserted into the main release. This is because Voltaire's early AQWorlds performances were also a simple stage setup where he just sang and played, instead of a full-blown series of quests dedicated to a song or a few songs.

A non-Gothic example of a shoehorned musical band is ArcAttack in Doomwood 2010. In one section of the game where the main character has to save Artix from Vordred, a bony monster that kills conventional paladins, ArcAttack makes a random appearance just to show off their method of music. ArcAttack uses electric shocks and records the noise that their machinery makes as music. There is very little reason why an electro-tech band should appear in the medieval world, and this band does not have much impact on the story besides making Vordred stronger for a short time.

Two more non-Gothic examples of celebrity musicals take place on Valentine's Day, both featuring Mia J. Park, a new musician. The first event was a Disneyfied version of Romeo and Juliet, who were reincarnated after the player breaks Mercutio's curse. The second was about a duel between suitors seeking the hand of King Alteon's eldest daughter in marriage.

Cysero states the following reason for having celebrities in AQWorlds:
The second reason that it's a big deal is that we get to help out some people that we really, honestly like. I don't know if you guys understand this but when we do these musical events, it's because WE like the bands. Voltaire, Jonathan Coulton, Paul & Storm, They Might Be Giants... these are all bands that a LOT of us really like. They don't pay us to get into the game. A lot of the time we don't even pay them. Often there is no money involved... just fun. It's an amazingly rare and super cool thing to be say that in this or any other industry. (AQWorlds Design Notes, October 24 2012)

AE also has been tricked by unscrupulous fame-seekers. According to this source, Ayi Jihu is actually not a genuine star. She has made use of her public relations as well as AE's relative naiveness about celebrities to get an appearance in AQWorlds. It is unknown whether AE had to pay a fee to get her to appear, but the staff do not wish to mention her after the controversy.

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