A common belief amongst psychologists is that people make up a vast majority of their total opinion of a person in the first five seconds of meeting. It would also be fair to say that games are also subject to this nature-programmed degree of scrutiny.
We’ll stretch this test time slightly from five seconds to ten minutes and examine factors that are relevant to a player's enticement and enjoyment within the first ten minutes of gameplay.
Bear in mind that games reviewers are particularly sensitive to negativity in a game’s initial moments, and when games nowadays are mostly reviewed for an average of a handful of hours before the verdict goes to print, you’ll be able to appreciate why the functionality and enjoyment of a game’s beginnings is worthy of your focused attention.
Just as the 16-bit era was drawing to a close – thanks largely to Sony’s Playstation - a flood of titles appeared which promised ‘best ever graphics’ as their main unique selling point. This was largely because the title was made entirely using FMV technology. Such titles included Night Trap on Mega CD, Voyeur on Phillips CDi and Sewer Shark on 3DO.
This flood was met with initial awe and helped titles that relied on better graphics to sell rather well, but of course these fads eventually died out and as a result, the market was made aware that appealing visuals are not worth hinging a while game on for an engaging game experience, if the mechanics and play rules are at least not up to standard.
One thing developers learnt from this short-lived gold rush, is that enticing visuals are important, and the old adage of “graphics doesn’t matter”, was and is largely an idealistic and unrealistic view in regards to having your titles sell well.
In turn, marketers learnt that mechanics play a significant role and a game is more likely to sell if both graphics and mechanical design are well executed.
See the terminology on the following page, to understand terms that will be used throughout this analysis.
Touch Hurt Hazards: Hazards that take a hit-point from the player character when the hazard is touched.
PC: Player character – meaning the character whom the player controls.
Kill Zone: A bottomless pit or an area that upon entering will kill you instantly.
Boost: An object, which increases the level of whatever it’s boosting – speed or strength for instance.
Quota Token: A token or item which is part of a set. Once the set is complete, a reward is received. Types include:
Sub-Quota token: A token or item which is part of a sub-set. Once this set is complete, a reward in the form of a Quota Token is received.
A Beat: A word describing an on-rails navigational route that an enemy or platform takes – when you see an enemy walking back and forth on a platform for instance.
Current generation games: Games on PS2, GC, Xbox and Dreamcast.