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The Significance of Introductions in Games

by Draven Jolicoeur on 06/18/20 10:19:00 am

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

Chances are if you’re interested in designing games in any capacity you’ve either seen or been responsible for pitching a game idea. 

The most frequent question you’ll take in these pitches usually Is a request to walk through a short introduction to your game.  

This allows the listener to get a clear-cut understanding of your game while also seeing how effectively you can communicate the critical elements to your players. 

This puts a considerable amount of pressure on the first 5 minutes of your game as it needs to convey a fair amount of information quickly and effectively. 

A good introduction should communicate the following things... 

1. The goal of your game 

2. The theme and setting 

3. Possibilities of the game state 

4. And should always include a hook, what players will find interesting or exciting that will keep them engaged. 

A great introduction will manage to seamlessly incorporate all these things whilst also teaching a player the ropes of your game. 

As a game designer often our first instinct is to fill these first 5 minutes with a tutorial covering the basic systems in the game while also introducing controls as a need for them arises.  

It is known to be much more effective for keeping players interested by creating handcrafted game openings that allow players to learn through a process of self-discovery.  

If the introduction to your game is compelling players will find a way to uncover the things, you’re trying to teach them on their own. 

Video I would argue is one of the more effective strategies for introducing players to your game as the medium is in line with the goal of an introduction providing large amounts of information quickly and effectively.  

Plenty of games use these introduction cutscenes or cinematics as a very impactful way of establishing player interest while also touching on the topics we talked about earlier.  

Additionally, games begin with handcrafted action sequences that allow the player to play out a cutscene often putting them in dangerous or interesting situations that give the opportunity to establish player interest while also teaching them how to play.  

The Last of Us is an example of an introduction that uses both methods to great effect to establish player interest while also communicating the crucial elements.  

The post-apocalyptic theme and setting are established early though high-quality communication of the events unfolding around the characters.   

Establishing this theme moves very quickly into a realistic and understandable player goal to survive and protect your family in your daughter and brother. 

With the consistent action and abrupt information establishing other elements serving as the interesting and compelling hook to keep the player engaged and moving forward.  

It could be argued that this introduction is rather long and does very little to touch on the mechanics and game space effectively however the introduction is so effective at keeping the player moving forward that it affords the designers more time to touch on other crucial elements.  

A good example of a shorter game introduction that touches on all the major forms of player communication comes from a sequel in Uncharted 2: Among Thieves.  

Uncharted 2 uses both video and a handcrafted parkour sequence in a compact and thrilling introduction. 

Thrown into an immediate life or death situation the player needs to use one of the main mechanics of the game to self-learn controls. 

After avoiding an almost certain death the player passes out displaying an amazing cutscene exploring the motivations, themes, and goals of the game. 

All of this is done in an extremely powerful 8-minutes. 

My personal favorite example of what I would argue is one of the most compelling video game introductions of all time comes from Bioshock. 

The entirety of BioShock's opening sequence acts as a persuasive hook.  

Before you even get the chance to understand who you are or why you’re special you find yourself gasping for air as the lights and fire surrounding you serve as an almost hypnotic trail leading you to the lighthouse. 

Traversing the lighthouse to the top feels so natural with every floor of the structure offering something curious only drawing you deeper in.  

And then as you travel deeper you begin to see the cracks as it becomes more and more clear that Andrew Ryans glorious city of Rapture has some unethical and darker problems that are waiting for you shine a light on them. 

The most important thing about an introduction in your game is that it keeps player playing, or else they won’t be able experience the wealth of great content and enjoyment that awaits them. 

By using the aspects that make your game great 

The goals, themes, settings, and possibilities and shining a spotlight on those elements in your introduction is the most effective way of creating a compelling introduction to your game that will ensure players keep on playing WHICH IS A SUREFIRE WAY OF KEEPING THOSE YOUR PITCHING TOO INTERESTED 

Budget is always a concern for those of us working with small teams and even smaller budgets and these triple A titles are very intimidating attempts for us but this method is still achievable using the same foundation. 

Older title examples of these introductions exist and can be replicated rather comfortably with today's tech. Look at Mech Warrior 2 and its introduction a game from 1995 that is still just as compelling through its use of these tools.  

And now it's time to hear from you guys, I know for a fact I missed hundreds of amazing examples of powerful introductions and would love to hear from you guys what makes a great video game introduction and even an example! 

Here is a video formatted version of the article if that is your preferred method! 

 


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