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Article - 'Introductions' by Guest

An item about Game Design posted on Jan 14, 2004

Blurb

The Drunken Zombie discusses introductions in games and compares different styles.

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Pleased to Meet You (Won’t You Guess My Name?)

Hey hey, the Drunken Zombie here, still. Now, before I inform you as to the meaning of this article, let me just say this:

“Let me please introduce myself, I’m a man of wealth and taste.” – Thank you Mr. Jagger.

Now, you may have assumed this article is about introductions to games. And if you did guess that, well congratulations, you’d be right.

There are many types of introductions and all have their pros and cons. However, it is important to choose a suitable introduction style for your game, because it is a very crucial part. Why? Because if the player finds the intro boring or too long, s/he isn’t going to play your game much longer. Why waste months of your life finishing a game and have no one play past the introduction sequence?

The first style I’ll discuss is the…

1. The Talk-A-Thon
This introduction style has very few pros. It is based upon the assumption that the player downloaded the game for an English lesson. The characters generally do very little, and talk very much. Often it’s about confusing concepts that the player cannot understand at that moment in the game. You have to remember, the player (almost) always knows nothing about your game’s history, so don’t overload them with useless information. It’s best to steer clear of this introduction, though it can work nicely if done correctly. However, I’ve yet to see an RM2k do this intro nicely.

2. The Precap
I invented the word precap because it suits this introduction style very nicely. Most people know what a recap is, well, a precap is pretty much the same thing, except before the game begins. That means, going through different short scenes showing all of the characters. There are problems with this, however. It takes away from the surprise of a bad guy joining you later, or secret characters. So, I suggest simply omitting the secret/side characters in the game. This introduction can probably be the best for a lazy person, because it can show some small back-story for each character without the creator having to write anything.

3. A Little Less Conversation, A Little More Action
This Elvis song is a good way of putting this intro style. There is often little speech but lots of action, i.e. explosions, people fighting, etc. If you have good spriting skills or are good at battle animations, then this introduction can be exciting but uninformative. The player will be enthralled in the action, but left out on the plot side. However, this type of intro probably would encourage the player to continue the game, and that is what we want, right?
4. I Got an A in World History!
Generally this is similar to the Talk-A-Thon, except there are often no characters on the screen. Most of the time, it’s pictures of the planet from space, or locations of the world displayed with pictures. Then, there is a transparent message box explaining the history of the world, leading up to where you begin playing. Another variation is having it explain vaguely what you do in the game, and then have you act it out. An okay introduction, but I personally wouldn’t use it.

5. A Blast From the Past
This style often shows a traumatic experience in a character’s life, such as watching the deaths of their parents, or whatever, leading them to do what they do. Often it’s the hero as a child, and he grows up to be a strong warrior to avenge the deaths… blah blah blah, everybody knows this cliché. The blast from the past style can be a good source of storyline if done correctly, too, such as cutting randomly, and only showing bits and pieces of info. I refer you to FFVII.

6. Back to the Future
A very similar introduction to number five, the back to the future style is a very good style. In my opinion, far superior to a blast from the past. It can show what the hero or another character has become, and build suspense as to why this happened. ‘A Blurred Line’ had this type of intro (I think…), and I enjoyed it thoroughly. It can, however, ruin the game’s plot twists if you reveal too much information in it. Instead of using some character’s names, try to use question marks to add confusion into the mix of hilarity. Uh, yes, hilarity.

7. A Picture Is Worth A Thousand… Uh…
Often overlooked, this type of intro can be excellent if you are even a little good at art. Generally, it shows images of various characters/monsters/events. It’s kind of a mix of several styles, except depending on pictures instead of characters. Not much can be said of this style, but it is recommended you try this type out if you can get the resources (pictures and suitable music.)

Okay, at this moment, this is all I can think up. Now it’s time for my Final Thought.

FINAL THOUGHT

Introductions can be a very important portion of your game. I’ve noted a few styles above, but this, of course, is just the tip of the iceberg. To get a fun and enthralling introduction you have to mix and try different styles to create some distance between your game and all the others. Remember, introductions are designed to make the player want to continue the game, so cut no corners when designing it.