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Why Games Need to Spend More Time On Their Introduction

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Something that I have been thinking about a lot lately is game introductions. No, I’m not talking about how a video game is revealed. I’m talking about when you first start up a single player game and are introduced to the main characters, storyline, and setting. The hook, as you may call it. I recently revisited Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor after watching Andy Gilleand’s feature length movie on it and I realized the game’s main storyline really could have been so much more.

Shadow of Mordor is a wonderful title, but as I pointed out in my review of the game last year, I was really hoping for some more developed characters. Talion is an interesting character in his own right, but in a game that’s all about vengeance, I really wished I had gotten to spend more time getting to know his family. But, alas, Monolith took the route that so many developers take nowadays and threw us right into the action. And who can blame them? That’s what we like, right?

Part of this is most likely due to most of the introduction of the game being a cutscene with some interactive moments. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Developers should really start thinking about making more interactive introductory moments to their games that aren’t action fueled, and set up what’s to come later in the game. Don’t introduce us to characters that we’re supposed to give a darn about, and then remove them from the game within the first fifteen minutes.

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Even with The Last of Us, as good as that introduction was, I wish we had been able to spend more time getting to know Joel’s daughter as her (SPOILER) death would have been a lot more impactful. It’s telling when I can’t even remember her name without looking her up while writing this article (it’s Sarah by the way). The way the scene was crafted was impactful, obviously, but I believe it was more so because of what had happened, not who it happened to.

We got to spend a little more time with Tess than we did Sarah, and that made her death a bit more impactful, or at least it did for me. I’m willing to assume most of you probably feel the same way when you go back and think about it.

Going back to Shadow of Mordor, again, I can’t even remember Talion’s wife’s name, or even his son’s for that matter. Yet, our quest for vengeance was to avenge them. While playing the game, my “quest” for vengeance more so came from the War Chief’s that kept murdering me over and over again. I couldn’t have given half a damn about tracking down Talion’s family’s killer, honestly. That’s sort of a backhanded comment in its own right, but it only proves my point that Monolith could have done so much more to make Shadow of Mordor’s story a much more engaging experience.

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Of course, Shadow of Mordor isn’t the only game to do this. I’d say the vast majority of single player action titles shove us into the action much too quickly, in my opinion. The quality of games, and games writing, has definitely been improving over the past few years, so I hope more developers really take a step back and think about how they can make their narrative “focused” action games, actually narrative focused. Give us more time with the characters that we’re supposed to care about, give us more time to get immersed in the world you’ve built, and give us that emotional connection that keeps us engaged with who or what we’re fighting for.

 

 

Nick Calandra
OnlySP founder and former site owner.

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4 Comments

  1. In my opinion, they need to keep introductions short and sweet. I hate being bombarded with information at the beginning of a game.

    Maybe I’m just less capable than others when it comes to absorbing all that information in such a short amount of time but games like Mass Effect 1 had the right idea.

    A short paragraph of star wars like text, then some mysterious chatter in the background as it shows us our protagonist staring out of his ship’s window.
    The rest you learn as you go along. It really helped that the story was interesting too (starts with the mysteriousness of Specters), etc.

  2. I am with E71. I think games need to start off with action that gets the player curious. “Why am I running away from massive gun fire and things blowing up left and right?” “Why am I trapped in this room with someone aggressively pounding on the door?” Games with an introduction like Skyrim (sitting in a horse-drawn wagon listening to 5 minutes of conversation, then create your character then following a path where you can’t due as long as you follow the NPC) bore me and I wish I could just press START and move past it. I am pretty sure I am not alone here when I say, if you don’ give us anything interesting in the first 30 seconds the game boots up, players are going to want to skip it.

    1. Well, I think you both kinda missed my point. Games can certainly throw you into the action right away, but they can also have substance as well. Action games that have more than one central character, or stories on a quest for vengeance ordeal, should allow you to connect more with the characters, get attached to them etc.

      One of the games that I think does this VERY well is Enslaved: Odyssey to The West.

  3. I liked how Dragon Age: Origins handled its introduction. The “Origin” stories let the player see a bit of what the main character’s life would have been like before the main events of the game start while introducing the player to how the game works at the same time.

    I guess not everyone felt that way since the Origin stories weren’t used again in later games. Dragon Age II had a short prologue section instead. The third game just throws the player straight into combat not long after the first cutscene.

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