“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”
Like many hokey things your mom has said to you, this is very much accurate. And in games, it’s doubly accurate. One thing that pops out constantly with even great games is that the opening drags relentlessly, and you have to get through a bunch of what amounts to digital paperwork before you can get to playing the game. Recent replaying of “Assassin’s Creed II” have been a painful reminder that even great games can botch their openings.
So, as a public service, we thought we’d detail how, exactly, modern video games can improve their openings.
#5) For Sequels, Don’t Assume The Audience Has Played the First Game
Because, no matter how big a hit your game was, they probably haven’t. Or if they have, they probably barely remember the plot.
It’s really bizarre how many otherwise well-written games work on this assumption. Even the best-selling franchises rarely reach more than a sixth of any console’s user base; that’s a lot of people who haven’t played your game and may pick it up. Either it’s corporate mandate to make people want to fill in the plot holes, or it’s lazy, but either way, make sequels a bit more self-contained.
#4) Keep Cutscenes Few, Short, and Skippable
There’s a reason many games have started making cutscenes playable or a string of quicktime events: sitting on the couch watching pre-rendered footage is aggravating when you just want to play the game. And way, way too many games have opening cutscenes that drag on for five minutes or more.
Some games are smart about it: for example, “Max Payne 3″ uses its short cutscenes as cover for loading times. Once the area’s loading, you can skip the scene. Others, though, seem to really want to show how much money they had for CGI. That’s nice, but let us play the game.
#3) If You’re Going to Have a Tutorial, Make It Clear What Needs to Be Done
“InFamous” is a great example of a tutorial: it’s simple, it’s direct, it’s clear, and it’s short.
It’s really amazing how many game tutorials will either withhold useful information like how the controls work, or stick you in a room with no explanation of what you should do, and then refuses to let you leave until you figure it out. Both are terrible approaches, but common, and baffling.