Content of the article: "A lot of games showcase their brilliance in the first 1-2 hours of playing – even the slow starters"
Recently I started exploring my Steam library much more in a quest to play games that I always had access to, but I've never gotten around to playing for whatever reason. That included tons of underappreciated indie games like Flame in the Flood and Rain World, point and clicks like the Deponia trilogy and more popular ones like LIMBO and Ori and the Blind Forest. And while playing the last one, I did notice something very interesting in terms of how I play all of these new games, my expectations for them and how early I can drop new games. I want to explore this mindset further.
I got no expectations when I booted up Ori. I've heard good things about it and that's it. It started with me being blown away by the art direction. I'm a first impressions guy, so that was an immediate bonus point in the game's favor. One of the first issues I've encountered is that despite the game looking fantastic, one of the most common questions I asked was "is this safe?" or "why is this not safe?". I think it's a piece of the background or a safe to land ground, but it turns out it's harmful or has no collision and I get killed. But that's one death, no biggie, so I pushed on, but the game never improved in terms of the moment to moment game play (juice). My attack is basically spam a button while you're close to a guy to kill him, so it's like the exact opposite of satisfying. The platforming is average, got my first upgrade, got a little further, found some of the hidden collectibles, got to the spirit tree or whatever and I stopped playing, playtime clocking in at 34 minutes. Didn't even get to the dash power up. Got no sense of wonder or excitement, just this constant feeling of "is that it?". I play tons of atmospheric, slower paced games, I love Oddworld, LIMBO, Rain World and others like it, but I was never given a good reason by Ori to stick around longer, despite those games doing this and more even in its early moments. The world of Ori just didn't click with me.
I try to be an inclusive guy and play most games, good or bad in order to hone my tastes and better understand games as an art form and source of entertainment, but if the game bores me to death and gives me very little at the beginning, I can't force myself to continue. I've heard tons of people praising this game (and others) to death, so there's an obligation to join the party – it's a terrible feeling when you're left out and misunderstood. I know there are tons of high quality, charming games and I want to play them all! But at the same time, I don't want to waste any more time than necessary. Even games that looked super unremarkable on the outset like Invisible Inc, The Swindle, Thumper, Enter the Gungeon (turn based strategy and slow paced, clunky art style, arcade game garbage, every pixel art indie game ever) still managed to pull me in with a good world or gameplay premise and at least one good element (strategy and tons of decisions, risk/reward and satisfaction, anxiety inducing audio/visuals, strong gameplay) in its early moments of play. The Swindle is a particularly unfortunate example, since it started getting exciting after about an hour of play and the early gameplay was very basic. I would drop this game much sooner if it didn't offer anything interesting early on, but the 100 day limit, constantly getting new tools and upgrades and little teases of gameplay were just enough for me to keep my attention for long enough to experience the thrill of perfect execution.
As a game designer, why would you spend so much time bumbling around for little reason even though you're so confident with what you're creating? Why won't you showcase at least a taste of the best your game has to offer early on to at least tease me that I'll get more? Cut on the bullshit and get to the point! I want to be excited or at least intrigued with the mystery, atmosphere or whatever you have in store for me. "It gets good later" is an argument that favors people with infinite free time on their hands and nothing better to do. I have a couple of hours spare daily in my work week and I want to be distracted for an hour or two. Take it or leave it.
I'm ready to have my mind changed with most games I play, but I don't pull punches. However if you're doing something great, I'm gonna praise it and that'll be great motivation to keep going, because I want to see more of it! Even if it gets bad later, at least I've experienced the good parts. I care enough to get this far, so bravo, mysterious game designers. I don't play games because they exist. I play games to be inspired. Just being "good" isn't good enough.
I'm curious about your experiences with new games. Are you sticking with your favorites? How often do you try new stuff? Are you just as unforgiving as me? How much time you give a new game and why? What do you look for in your games?
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