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Punx

Ways to start off a game...?

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What are some interesting ways to do the introduction to a game? A quick-paced action sequence? A slow, jazz filled walk down the city streets? or a thorough background of the story?

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If I were to make a game involving a psycho killer in a big city (I''m thinking of Snoop Dogg in Bones, though I never saw that movie; the preview was cool) I would get a "camera" scrolling diagonally to the right and down, slowly, as it''s raining and the streets are soking wet. A car drives by, and we hear the engine and everything with the water splashing onto the sidewalk. And then the rain stops. We hear some drops continue to drip, as a man just appears. Dark, long, leather jacket and fedora hat. Then we hear him speak, sounds as loud from there, -+50 feet away, as he would be two feet away...

Ooooooooohhh (shivers). Creepy, huh? I love creativity.

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You can open with a cinema sequence, which is a good way to describe the background of what''s going on, and the setting. The one thing to keep in mind is to make sure the sequence isn''t too long. Because any more than 5 minutes without a chance to play can start to be frusterating. If you have a lot of things that need to be done, you can always break them up into multiple sequences. Run a couple minutes of script, then let the player play a bit, then run some more script. A few cases that over did the opening sequence are Baldur''s Gate 2, and Grandia 2. While I love both the games, Starting a new game is an excersize in "can I play yet? Yeah yeah yeah, blah blah blah, I know this allready."

Another option is the action sequence. Drop the player in the midst of a pitched battle. Typically with these, losing should be either impossible, or irrelevant. After all, there''s no guarentee that the player knows what he''s doing. With this you have to be careful to provide some direction, otherwise (As has been the case with several of my games) things will start up, and the player will sit at the keyboard for a minute or two wondering what they''re supposed to be doing.

Hmm... Training sequences are always a good way. Introduce some of the other people in the world as mentors and allies while making sure the player gets a grasp on how the game works. This also has the bonuses of having the ability to drop a little lecturing into the game without it seeming too out of place.


Typically you want to introduce the main character, introduce the starting setting, introduce the basic forms of gameplay, and give the person who bought the game some re-assurance that the game will be good.

With that in mind, a long background probablly isn''t the way to go in most cases. When I unwrap a game I want to see some cool stuff and I want to be kicking butt and I want both now.

So, if I were to do something, I''d probablly open with a scripted sequence that could be skipped by hitting a button. Dramatic music would be playing, and we''d be introduced to some of the NPC''s of the game, and shown part of the events that lead to the beginning and reasons for the game. Then I''d transition from that to a sequence with the main character, preparing for another day. You''d go through some of the basic gameplay elements as the features of a day, then open with another sequence, bringing the introduction scene together with the character''s location.

Hope that was the sort of stuff you were looking for.

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This entirely depends on the type of story you want to tell. What the overall atmosphere of the game is and how strong of a motivator the story will be in getting the gamer to actually beat the game.

Regardless of any of that, the first factor you want to strike the gamer is that of intrigue. They gamer must be curious enough in where the story is going to actually get through it. Many game writers can''t even get this far. Not really knowing how to truly start a story, they just throw together a bunch of cliches and hope the audience associates it with a prior game they''ve played. Nice try, but lame.

A key here is doing something unique and interesting. You can choose to have your opening be a boss battle, or some characters training, but that''s just boring and overused. If you want your game to have a story, you must show the gamer right off the bat that your game, in fact, DOES have a story. Have somebody DOING something. It doesn''t even have to be something important.

However, it''s also important not to make the opening of the game dull. I''ve played many games that tried to develop a whole backstory for the game in about three minutes, going on an on about crap I didn''t care about. Essentially, convey that your game DOES have a story, but don''t make it too obvious that you want to convey that it have a story. Moderation, essentially. Let the facts of the story fall into place slowly and smoothly.

Overall, I can''t tell you how to do an intro to a game. Depends on the type of story you want to tell. All we can give you is advice.

If you do want some ideas, though, I''d suggest watching a few old films(old meaning pre 1970 films) to see how they start. See how they draw the audience in and note the elements which interest you. As much as I hate to admit it, visual storytelling is always a key when you start up a story. Significant amounts of dialogue must come later, when you''ve already obtained the gamer''s attention. Start off with something interesting that visually represents your story as a whole. That''s what I try doing anyway.

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I think you need a pre-game sequence where the player trains in the skills he has to use. Ok you can set the atmosphere and have it going really well - the player is attacked by a street thug and spends the next 10 mins trying to work out the combat commands - NO!! all your moody atmosphere has gone.

First take him to a training school. You could make that part of the story. Ok someone wants to go for it then give him a button that says "skip school - go game start," but have the school there.

Then introduce the game proper. You can have the long slow lead in, or the quick action start - but if the player is fumbling around to try and wield a weapon or whatever all your storytelling skill is shot.

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quote:
Original post by ThoughtBubble
Another option is the action sequence. Drop the player in the midst of a pitched battle. Typically with these, losing should be either impossible, or irrelevant. After all, there''s no guarentee that the player knows what he''s doing. With this you have to be careful to provide some direction, otherwise (As has been the case with several of my games) things will start up, and the player will sit at the keyboard for a minute or two wondering what they''re supposed to be doing.

Hmm... Training sequences are always a good way. Introduce some of the other people in the world as mentors and allies while making sure the player gets a grasp on how the game works. This also has the bonuses of having the ability to drop a little lecturing into the game without it seeming too out of place.



It could be interesting to try and combine these two. Drop the player into a pitched battle - well, ok, maybe not pitched - have the player be attacked by, say, a gang of theives. If they successfully fight them off, then you know you''ve got a (probably) experienced player on your hands, and you can let them get on with things. If they lose, you have some dialog with another character where you get enrolled into the ''training school.'' Of course, if you win the fight, you can still enroll too.


Superpig
- saving pigs from untimely fates
- sleeps in a ham-mock at www.thebinaryrefinery.cjb.net

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heck, you could even take a cue from ff. drop them into the castle. have them to people which tell tyou that the king is expecting you. handle his job which pushes the story forward, then after completion give a little prolouge.

more insteresting (used in some scfi movies) start the game near the end. have the sequence the player goes through last about 5-15 mins of gameplay. dont explain anything, and actually use the same setup that would be in the game as if the player went from the begining. you can then flashback to the start of the story to show how things happen. while the player will be playing through the same 5-15mins towards the end again (or maybe make it the middle or 75% mark), they will feel more of a sense of understanding. they will have a better idea of what clues to look for because they will be trying to figure out what the heck was going on. this however requires a very good writer, and a story that leads it self to such an opening (ie rpg, adventure ).

ff had the school idea. absically in each town their would be training centers which explained battles and such gicing tips and how to use the interface. many were quite humorously introduced. nothing was forced upong the player, and they could skip the school completely.

the key is, keep a min to dialouge at start unless its interesting. dont go through trouble explaining every detail about the world. let the player learn that stuff as they play the game.

for a really interesting approach to an intro sequence and story in a game (be forewarned the game is quite difficult) is bangai-o for dreamcast (i forget what the n64 versions was called). its quite humourous and really brings you into the world, even if most of the game dont make mcuh sense. its fun.

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I like the effect of being thrown into some situation from the get go like FF7(over used example I know, but hey). For some reason as the player, I feel important immediately and take up my role as the character. Of course, it seems like this also would depend on the type of game or feeling you are trying to convay. Obviously if it''s like Silent Hill, then you should''t go about it in a Street Fighter alpha sort of way.(Choppy animated introduction with bad music).

peace

-Sage13

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I start my game off with a quick backstory sequence. The main character, who hasn''t really been introduced, is going with the rest of his unit to investigate an abandoned warehouse (yes, it''s been done a lot, but it works). A freak accident causes the rest of his unit to die, but he survives. That''s more or less the entire intro. This really ties into the rest of the game as the conspiracies unravel. It''s definitely a good way to start off a game, but make sure that if you do something like this that you don''t ignore it for the rest of the game.

Eternity is relentless

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Match the pace of the intro to the pace of the game. If the game is an action/shooter then use a slam-bang intro. Explosions and FX are good.

If your game is an adventure, then provide setting or mood (or even a brief backstory). Keep it at a slower pace.

A good intro: HOMM III. It's a TBS game. The intro was short. It featured a battle that showed off many of the individual units in the game. Excellent representation of the game and it left the player interested in the variety of units.

A decent intro: Outcast. The intro was long, but introduced what was going on pretty well, and it matched the long, quest-based nature of the game.

A bad intro: Arcanum. The intro was an air battle with exploding zepplins, very exciting. But the game was a slow paced, setting heavy rpg. The intro didn't fit.


[edit - I originally wrote Avernum, I mean Arcanum, the steampunk RPG]

[edited by - JSwing on May 20, 2002 11:02:38 PM]

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Yes, HOMM III was good, as was Total Annihilation. Both showed off the ''lay of the land.''

Uplink, by Introversion Software (http://www.introversion.co.uk/), had an interesting start. It''s a game where you hack a virtual ''internet,'' and get paid for it. It''s kinda hard to explain the intro, so go watch it.

Uplink is a really good example of linking the user interface into the story. Another situation would be, for example, if the player was ''remote controlling'' a robot. I mean, c''mon, a marine in the heat of battle doesn''t see a little meter saying ''100%'' in the corner of his eye. But if the existence of the UI can be explained, it really helps to make the game immersive. In essence, you turn the UI - something which naturally hinders the realism of the situation - into part of the illusion. It''s hard to do well, but if you can do it, it''s great.

Superpig
- saving pigs from untimely fates
- sleeps in a ham-mock at www.thebinaryrefinery.cjb.net

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