Sometimes you get the feeling that a series creator is having a little too much fun messing with their audience's collective heads.
This is a creator who loves to mess around with their audience, keeping them hanging for as long as humanly possible. They'll hint, contradict themselves, be deliberately vague and occasionally outright mock the Epileptic Trees offered... only to prove said Epileptic Trees right at the very moment the majority of the fandom gives up on them. It only really counts as a meta-trope though - all stories aim to keep their audience guessing, but this creator does so outside the story itself, be it in interviews, on a blog or at conventions. Shrug of God is their language of choice.
There's a fine line to walk here. This tactic can create genuine suspense, since the creator is so unpredictable. Or it can annoy the fans, and make them feel like they're being unfairly toyed with by a superior being, perhaps leading to cries of Small Name, Big Ego. However, it can also be a reaction to Fan Dumb: if the creator makes a concrete statement which is then ignored in favour of speculation, they might decide "screw it" and play along. The creator's pedigree can make this trope more or less effective - if you've sunk the ship or eliminated main characters before now, there's every chance you'll do it again... but then, if you make a habit of it, people will stop finding it suspenseful and simply give up on caring for your characters, knowing you're likely to Kill'Em All or stick them with a Downer Ending.
Tends to be most popular in webcomics, since they're one of the few remaining mediums that can genuinely be kept under wraps, spoiler-free.
Ship Tease is a specific variety of this trope, as is The Walrus Was Paul. Differs from Shrug of God since there is definitely a deliberate tactic being employed, and it isn't always in response to fans' questions - in fact, you get the feeling the the fans are being provoked into asking questions. Compare Lying Creator for when the author is deliberately misleading fans, and Trolling Creator, when this gets outright malicious.
- An unofficial motto of the Bee Train fandom actually is "[Kouichi] Mashimo is a huge tease".
- Ken Akamatsu loves doing this, especially in Mahou Sensei Negima. It's still impossible to tell it's a Harem Series, a subversion thereof, a Double Subversion, a parody, or whatever. Then there's the massive amount of Ship Tease in the story, much of which seems to exist solely to mess with the heads of the readers. Especially Negi/Asuna. Naturally Asuna seems to be Negi's aunt.
- The best/worst example: In one interview during the Magic World arc, he stated that Zazie's true form would be revealed in the final arc. Soon after, Zazie shows up in Mundus Magicus, creating an enormous stir among the fans, who believed that the end of the manga was imminent. Then shortly after that it turns out that it's actually her sister. There's no way he didn't plan that. (And anyway, that statement doesn't mean The Reveal can't also happen before the final arc...)
- Except now Negmia is over 100 chapters too early. Now Akamatsu is teasing us with a sequel PROBABLY being on the way.
- The writers of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha are memetic for their Ship Tease with Nanoha and Fate. Despite their relationship sliding to the bleeding edge between subtext and text, there still hasn't been an official Word of God or onscreen kiss to seal the deal, and the fan question on their relationship is inevitably answered with the Shrug of God.
- Technically there have been a few Word of Gay's. but none by the writers.
- Hi, Hideaki Anno, we're looking at you! Not only in the original series, Rebuild of Evangelion is practically one huge fan-tease in itself.
- Oh, Hidekaz Himaruya. The whole Axis Powers Hetalia Christmas 2010 Event was proof of how he likes interacting with the Hetalia fandom, both in Japan and the West.
- And he did it again, for April Fools' Day 2011. And he regularly takes requests on his website for things people want him to sketch, even if such things are completely nonsensical and could never be considered canon.
- And it reached epic levels for Hetaween 2011 with his Fan Nickname becoming "Himapapatrollking" and many people becoming convinced that he was secretly watching their posts about the event with how he suddenly introduced new characters without warning, brought back One-Scene Wonder characters, and still found time to mercilessly tease fans by deliberately avoiding showing the face of said new characters.
- Eiichiro Oda of One Piece fame certainly has some interesting answers when fans ask him questions, just to screw around with them. Given Oda's sense of humor and the generally odd nature of the One Piece world, it's sometimes hard to tell when his answers are serious and when they're just jokes.
- Kunihiko Ikuhara and Revolutionary Girl Utena - see especially the car girl incident and Miki's goddamned stopwatch.
- When asked if a particular plot point had some deeper meaning, the writer of Star Driver was quoted as saying "Everything is double--no, triple marinated with meaning!"
- The editors of DC Comics (notably their boss, Dan Didio) purposely misled fans that the 2005 Crisis Crossover series, Infinite Crisis, would get rid of the Darker and Edgier approach the company had taken with its characters in recent years. Writer Mark Waid himself said that was the point (though he got censored later). The story itself directly hints at this since the main characters were in fact trying to change reality back to its previous, nicer state (altered during Crisis on Infinite Earths); but it was all a Bait and Switch, as those same characters turn out to be responsible (both directly and indirectly) for all the tragic events, and the series ends in a bloody battle.
- The author behind Renegade draws an inordinate amount of pleasure from toying with the readers, offering periodic bits of Word of God and copious amounts of shrugs. One of his favorite non-answers in the discussion thread on Spacebattles.com is to respond to someone's question or comment with a picture of David Xanatos with a smug grin on his face. The deliberate vagueness of the picture (Am I on the right track? Am I completely wrong? Does he know something I don't? GAAAAAAAAH!) just makes it worse.
- This trope could apply to genre expectations as well as to fans of a series. If you look at the message board for any mystery, no matter how wild a twist it employs, there are always jaded fans who say "I saw the ending coming a mile away". A Perfect Getaway is written with great situational awareness regarding this tendency, and gives no indication as to which of three possible directions the film is going to go. Then it has multiple screenwriter characters, who lampshade the whole thing by discussing red herrings, while awash in them.
- Rob Zombie was fond of putting phony trailers in his movies, which appeared to advertise a movie that he never intended to make. For example, Grindhouse was an Anthology movie which had five phony trailers, one before each actual story. The most notable was likely Werewolf Women of the SS, which seemed to involve female Nazi Super Soldiers in Dominatrix gear. He even got Nicholas Cage himself to make a cameo in that one, as Fu Manchu. (Yes, It Makes Just As Much Sense in Context, but this is Rob Zombie we're talking about.) Fans of Zombie shouldn't get their hopes up, however, as he has confirmed it will not be a real movie.
- Machete, on the other hand, was another phony trailer, which did indeed become a real movie later.
- Jim Butcher, author of The Dresden Files, is this. It's like crack for wizar... ur, authors. After the ending of "Changes" where Harry apparently died at the end he very promptly stated on his website that the next book will be called Ghost Story. Yeah, while his many fans are consumed with debate over whether Harry is dead or not. Not to mention whether or not he'll be back in some form or another.
- Of course, he also said that Harry is D-E-D Dead, so it isn't that much of a tease.
- Christopher Paolini regularly drops hints and "spoilers" regarding his future books. For example, before Brisingr came out, he stated that Eragon would meet a god, a terrifying new enemy that laughs will appear, and a character will become pregnant. He's currently doing similar things while working on Book IV, including dropping random details like, "I just wrote about a duel to the death," or "Eragon is chained up, bloody, with his shirt off, and in a dungeon."
- Vicky Holmes of the Warrior Cats series.
- Bryan Davis absolutely loves to interact with his fans, and is almost the patron saint of Exact Words. This results in a LOT of teaasing of the fans. The thing is, most of the fans love it.
- Similarly, J. K. Rowling had quite a bit of fun in her interviews over Harry Potter, dropping teases such as tantalizing paragraphs and details from the long-awaited fifth book. These interview details were picked over as cleanly as any line in the books themselves when it came to plotting out the events of book seven. She was also quick to stamp out erroneous rumors (Mark Evans? Harry Potter and the Green Flame Torch, anyone?)
- Eoin "Trollfer" Colfer. Don't take anything he says in his interviews about a future book as final word. His hints are worth more than straight answers.
- Considering Cassandra Clare's posts on Tumblr, she is most certainly this. She deliberately gives out little snippets from her unreleased books that she knows will mess with her fans' heads.
- Joss Whedon is notorious for this.
- Darlton. Their podcasts are infuriatingly hilarious.
- Russell T. Davies traditionally drops random words from upcoming Doctor Who stories in his Doctor Who Magazine column, some of which could (he knows) spur on Epileptic Trees-type theories. (This apart from his outright lying about future stories)
- Most notably, "The Next Doctor". The title was revealed around the time David Tennant was confirmed to be leaving the show, and fandom began guessing who the next Doctor would be, with the production team treating it as if the episode would be introducing the new actor. As it turned out, the eponymous character wasn't the Doctor's next incarnation at all, the ruse being explained away halfway through the episode.
- The cliffhangers at the end of "Last of the Time Lords" the Titanic crashes through the wall of the TARDIS and "The Stolen Earth" the Doctor begins regenerating were both easily and effortlessly resolved within the first minute of the following episode, seemingly designed specifically to whip the audience into a frenzy in the meantime.
- Absolutely everything about the episode "The Doctor's Daughter", beginning with the title and ending with the... ending.
- Steven Moffat, in charge of Doctor Who and Sherlock, outright says he routinely lies about things, encourages people to give out fake spoilers, and is generally good at trolling the fandoms.
- From his Twitter: "Apparently I "confirmed" a romantic relationship between Sherlock and Irene Adler. Despite my 140 character limit can I be very clear that I"
- On the subject of the Sherlock series 2 cliffhanger: "We're going to be complete bastards about it."
- Shane Brennan, the current showrunner over at NCIS only seems to talk to the media if he wants to stir up shipping drama in the fandom.
- Dan Schneider became this when he joined the internet fandom a season into the airing of iCarly. He's heavily pushed his 2 current shows iCarly and Victorious online and they have some of the best tie-in websites of any media, television or otherwise. He become aware of fandom and the almost exclusive Shipping focus. He then turned what was a relatively non-explosive online community into a Sam/Freddie vs Carly/Freddie Ship War that rivalled anything Nick had ever seen including Kaatang/Zutara. The usual method was inserting lines into his blogs referencing whatever pairing was not the focus of the episode.
- He did it so often and blatantly that the Carly/Freddie fans turned on him when they recognized it being done to them. A blog hyping the 5 episode Sam/Freddie arc included a list of various potential 'what if' scenarios. A day later entries were added to tease the Carly/Freddie pairing trying to tease Carly/Freddie who had systematically torn apart the viability and premise of the Sam/Freddie. It went down like a lead balloon, causing more of a backlash with those fans angered by the apparent destruction of the realistic and previously canon Carly/Freddie relationship and being pandered and teased by a creator who didn't even bother to give the pairing closure before launching into the over-hyped Seddie arc.
- With the launch of new show Victorious he remained pretty low key on the teasing. Then the Jade/Tori fandom exploded. Now he can't stop teasing them.
- Orbital's second album, Orbital 2, opens with a quote sampled from Star Trek—the same quote that opened their first album, Orbital. This was done to make folks listening to the second album think, briefly, that they had somehow bought a mispressing of the first album. The intro on the very next track is muffled, scratchy, and repetitive—so that people listening to the album on vinyl would think that their brand-new copy is already damaged.
- Sound Horizon's Revo has gone on record saying that he sometimes puts something in a song simply because he knows that the fans will drive themselves crazy trying to figure out what it means.
Revo: I’m even plotting to make you all suspicious and go “Maybe there’s something more to this?”.
- Greg Farshtey, the main writer for Bionicle, is technically not a Lying Creator, but he exploits Exact Words at every opportunity he can, and then turns around and points out "I never said that". This has eventually led to a highly suspicious fandom that picks apart everything he says for even the slightest hint of ambiguity.
- Oh Bungie, you've teased us with a reveal just made a few days ago. You teased us SINCE 2000! Actually, a whole bunch of them. And never trust a thing they say. They are not working on Halo 3. They are not working on another Halo game after Halo 3. Halo: Reach is definitely the last Halo game ever. Right.
- They've at least stopped teasing for the time being by announcing at E3 2011 that they planned on making a total of 10 Halo games, with the tenth being a reboot of Halo: CE.
- Hideo Kojima not only teases the audience, he openly mocks their pain. See the Metal Gear Solid entry in Fan Disservice for details.
- ZUN, creator of Touhou, is known by the fanbase as its biggest troll.
- Valve are infamous for trolling their fans, particularly when there's a Team Fortress 2 update on the way. (Not to mention that they still refuse to actually confirm or deny any details of the Pyro's gender and nationality.)
- Going to ask Valve on whether or not episode 3 for Half-Life 2 (or Half-Life 3) will ever be produced? Expect answers of every kind that does not include a yes or no.
- Ryukishi07, author of the When They Cry mystery series, reportedly monitors online forums for popular fan theories so he can brutally smash them or set them up as gigantic red herrings in the next installment.
- Square Enix and the much anticipated Final Fantasy VII remake. SE loves to tease the idea of the remake only to debunk again and again.
- Final Fantasy Versus XIII is their latest game they love to do this for. Imposing questions about the game will elicit a response completely unrelated to Versus XIII.
- Ed Boon, co-creator and current executive producer of the Mortal Kombat series, seems to be this if one checks his Twitter updates. For example, several fans wonder why the latest game (Mortal Kombat (2011)) doesn't include the purple ninja Rain (the game almost exclusively includes the characters from the original trilogy). One fan proclaims, "RAIN!!!!" on Boon's Twitter, requesting Rain to be added as DLC. Boon's reply? This. Klassic.
- Street Fighter IV producer Yoshinori Ono has been accused of trolling the fans. He personally declares it part of his job to troll.
- Suda51's old game The Silver Case has been in development for a remake for the DS for several years. Early 2010 he showed off the DS port on an internet livestream, proving that it works... but there's no release date.
- The devs of Katawa Shoujo have said that at this point, they don't even know when they're teasing and when they're not. (For instance, their remark that the never-seen principal is a masked wrestler is both a joke, and canon, and it will continue to be canon until and unless he appears in the finished game and turns out not to be a masked wrestler.)
- He doesn't turn up in the finished game, and so can be assumed to be a masked wrestler.
- BioWare seems to be milking the fan reaction to the Gainax Ending of Mass Effect 3.
- Friendly Hostility fans have been kept on tenterhooks as the comic approaches its finale, since the status of Fox and Collin's relationship, which has, until now, been unshakeable is far from certain. Reading the commentary may result in seasickness as Fuhr keeps the audience swinging from one conclusion to another. A good example of creator pedigree comes into play here - Fuhr previously sunk the ship of Cy and Skids in Boy Meets Boy, and has issued firm statments that certain members of the cast specifically Skids and Tybalt will never see the others again.
- While F.H. was resolved in its Bittersweet Ending, sequel Other People's Business looks set to remove the "sweet" part of "bittersweet" entirely, as Fuhr strongly implies that Collin ended up married to the comic's resident hitman. Is there any concrete statement confirming this? Watching the fans working themselves into a frenzy as everyone tries to suss it out, the answer remains "Hell, no."
- Confirmed. Leon/Collin shippers rejoiced, Fox/Collin advocates wept and followed the author's advice to declare "Alternate Universe".
- Tom Siddell, of Gunnerkrigg Court, is very good at this, and can be rather acerbic with it as well. The recent City Face short demonstrates this rather nicely.
- Fred Gallagher of Megatokyo does this from time to time. Miho in particular was a figure of mystery for a long time.
- Randy K. Milholland of Something*Positive is known to do this. An example is his admittance that the continual Ship Tease between characters Davan and Pee Jee would never actually lead to anything, the result of an early promise he made to the woman that Pee Jee was based on, but he decided to "play with" the readership concerning the pairing.
- Brian Clevinger, creator of Eight Bit Theater and Atomic Robo is one of those few Teasing Creators who actually are unfairly toying with their readership, but is still pretty beloved because he makes it funny. In this case, it's less Ship Teasing and more 'changing the plot if you even try to guess what's going on, and hell why not have an Anticlimax instead of an awesome fight'. His most common quote is this:
"My favourite joke is the one played on the reader."
- Once, he attempted what was perhaps his biggest joke on the readers at the time, when he appeared to end the entire comic on a horrible anticlimax, expecting to get a ton of hate mail and rile up his fans. This backfired when he got a ton of mail sincerely thanking him for the years of great comics, and assuring him that the anticlamix was horrible, and thus, the perfect ending for the particular comic. He appreciated the irony; his favorite joke, a joke on the reader, whipped right back around and became a joke on HIM.
- Aeire, author of Queen of Wands, was notorious for this. Mostly avoiding regular boyfriends for Kestrel (the main character), the strip introduced many handsome, charming or interesting male characters for the sole purpose of getting the fanbase to Ship them with her.
- When told of an Epileptic Tree, the author of Keychain of Creation will state that it is true, no matter how ridiculous it sounds, even if it contradicts established fact.
- He probably delegates fitting these Epileptic Trees in the weave of Creation to Pattern Spiders. He has been known to employ them at least on one account to retroactively vanish an Essence Cannon from the character, so...
- Andrew Hussie has something of a widespread reputation with this, especially the farther things get in Homestuck.
"I think I ruined a solid year's worth of perfectly good shipping with recent revelations. WHOOPSEE DAISEE"
- Misfile has been having this bad, lately. There are numerous places where we get a big build up to the resolution of a major subplot or the potential for some character development, when either someone barges in and interrupts the moment (Book ten was full of this), Emily drops the conversation (Can't remember any other character doing this), or the conversation suddenly changes. When this scene ended, a lot of fans were not happy.
- Red vs. Blue fans often suspect Rooster Teeth (the producing company) of doing this. Fortunately, thus far annoyance has never outweighed addiction, and the balance of humor remains excellent.
- The Venture Brothers writers Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick love to mess with the fans. They have claimed that third season Scrappies, The Murderous Moppets, will be getting more screentime in the next season just to spite the fans who don't like them (which is the exact opposite of what happens in season 4, as so far one of their few roles is The Monarch telling them to quit bothering everyone). They also throw in Brick Joke references to episodes that nobody (including themselves) likes all that much and threaten (hilariously) to kill off popular characters. Oh, and the episode commentary for the first episode of season three spoils all of the twists in the season finale because, according to them, nobody should listen to the commentary before watching the episodes.
- Doc Hammer actually made it his personal mission to spoil the end of season 3 in every episode commentary for said season. In the first episode, he did it accidentally, then he decided that if you listen to the commentaries before finishing the season you deserve what you get.
- It's hard to decide if the people working on My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic are this or Trolling Creator. The fans have been working themselves into an absolute tizzy over season 2, and what do they send us? A picture of a single scene with Twilight reading a book. SPOILERZ GUIS!
- Then, just for extra Trolliness, when the fandom exploded over that picture, they posted another picture. What can you see in the background of the second picture? The post of the first picture. Yeah.
- A recent commercial showing previews of the fall lineup includes literally 2 seconds worth of footage from the show, including a bit with Princess Celestia that has fans wildly speculating as to the circumstances of the particular scene.
- The producers of the 2011 reboot of ThunderCats love getting in touch with their fans and screwing with their heads. They set up the Crew of Omens blog to field questions, showcase fanart, and share, coplays with their viewers and answer almost every question with a sly "maybe" and a wink. To be fair they also feature previews of the newest episodes and behind-the-scenes stuff fans normally would only get to see on a DVD box set.