Game Design Talk: Video Games With Slow Starts

I’m currently in the process of playing The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Zelda games have been the subject of much debate in terms of game design, but today I’d like to focus on one particular aspect of the game. The first 90 minutes to two hours of that game are slow. Painfully slow. As a Zelda fan, I’m willing to ‘tough it out’ through the intro piece of the game for the sweet, meaty filling, but it shouldn’t ever have to be this way for any game.

Zelda apologists may think I’m picking on this game or this series specifically, which I’m not. There are a ton of games out there with painfully slow and boring starts. I stopped playing Assassin’s Creed: Revelations ultimately because it started off slow, even though I’ve liked every other game in the series. Though I haven’t played it myself, I’ve heard a number of Final Fantasy XIII fans say that it gets better after 20 hours of gameplay. Really!? People are expected to play a game for 20 hours before it gets good?!

I understand that a game has to do a lot of things at the start. It has to set up the fiction. It also has to teach players how to play the game. However, I feel like a lot of games don’t respect the player’s time. I feel like a lot of games treat their players as if they’ll devote 100% of their time to that one game. The reality is, we as gamers have a lot of games to choose from. If your game doesn’t provide some sort of payoff right away, we can just go play something else that will get to the fun parts faster.

What games have you played that have slow starts? Do you usually give the slow starting games the benefit of the doubt and play through them? Or are you more likely to just drop them completely? Let’s discuss in the comments!

2 thoughts on “Game Design Talk: Video Games With Slow Starts

  1. jsicktheslick February 5, 2012 / 5:40 PM

    I’m more likely to stop the game if it starts out slow. I never put more than two hours into the new Prince of Persia game because it started out slow.
    But what would you prefer: games that start slow but pick up, or games that drag on as the progress?
    Also, it seems like some older games don’t even bother to teach you their controls and just expect you to know.

    • Jett February 6, 2012 / 7:32 PM

      Thanks for the comment!

      I’d prefer games that drag on as they progress. If it drags on, at least it made a great first impression to keep me going. If it’s slow, it’s really hard to find the motivation to keep going if I can immediately play another game that has a great start instead.

      Older games totally did that for a number of reasons, primarily cause game design and gamers were in a very different place back then.

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