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[PATV] Wednesday, September 19, 2012 - Extra Credits Season 5, Ep. 5: Starting Off Right

DogDog Registered User, Administrator, Vanilla Staff admin
edited September 2012 in The Penny Arcade Hub

image[PATV] Wednesday, September 19, 2012 - Extra Credits Season 5, Ep. 5: Starting Off Right

This week, we talk about the crucial "first five minutes" of a game.
Miel continues to be way too talented. Check out her stuff!
Come discuss this topic in the forums!

Read the full story here

Dog on


  • r3d5r3d5 Registered User new member

  • ZimondZimond Registered User regular
    A great spectical example i think was Grid : Race Driver.
    The Intro where you descent from space to earth right on the Racetrack... and then you think : "whoa, shit i have to drive already"

  • the_chapthe_chap Registered User new member
    edited September 2012
    I think Uncharted 2 deserves a mention as well. Great intro that throws you onto a wrecked train hanging off the edge of a cliff.

    the_chap on
  • SzabuSzabu Registered User regular
    edited September 2012

    Szabu on
  • EgoGoneEgoGone Registered User regular
    Squee James cracked me up.

  • AlcasteAlcaste Registered User regular
    I never played Half-Life, so I picked up Black Mesa. The first five minutes (after the train ride) just... I don't really want to play it anymore. I got super lost, and now I get one shotted by lasers while waiting to get a weapon.

    I dunno. I was a Dark Forces II person back in those days, and the level design was just so much *better*

  • Mr.SplinterMr.Splinter Registered User new member
    Holy shit great art this week. I mean we always get good art, but today was just inspired. Miel could not have made it easier for us to understand this episode.

  • Urban CohortUrban Cohort Registered User new member
    Oh, a Red5 artist did the art this week?

  • Huttj509Huttj509 Registered User regular
    @Alcaste Originally, there would be some lines like "you're wanted in the reaction chamber," and over on the wall is colored lines directing to different parts of the facility, with the first instance clearly labeled. Something that was rather novel at the time Half-life came out was the way the NPCs reacted to you; you walk in, and people nod or at least recognize your presence in a casual way. For a lot of people, it helped draw into the world, and make it feel like a normal day at the office. I suspect this was part of the reason, in the story, Gordon was late that day, so many NPCs would have reason to comment "Late again? They're already waiting in _______."

    I think Black Mesa may have cut some of the instances of that in order to put in fan-jokes (the ponytail comment, for example, Gordon's (never seen in normal play) model had a small ponytail at the nape of the neck). This was amusing for previous fans, but may have lost just enough of the encouraged direction for totally new players.

    Also, the pacing may have been changed. As I remember the original, there was a first encounter with a headcrab you generally ran from ("WTF is this thing!"), THEN you got the crowbar and could fight headcrabs, THEN you encountered the headcrab zombies (no flare-section, which I found boring waiting for the security officer to shoot stuff with me only having picked up flares to use). The laser section you refer to was still there. I recall it causing me MUCH frustration as I got used to moving and crouching the first time I played.

    Heck, the playable FPS tram ride was novel for the time. Let you get used to moving, show off the scenery you'll be working through, and shows NPCs doing normal stuff to draw you into the world, while the voiceover places the setting as a highly classified underground facility. In addition, your view wasn't constrained during this ride. You could look anywhere you liked, leading to it feeling less like an intro cutscene, and more like you were in that tram.

  • dr-schreaberdr-schreaber Registered User regular
    gotta say, the art this week is especially awesome!

  • ThalesnmThalesnm Registered User regular
    Someone show this to the developers of Monster Hunter. Monster Hunter takes HOURS to show why it's fun.

  • nadrewodnadrewod Registered User new member
    Not sure if anyone will agree with me here, but Borderlands 1 and 2 both used the first 5 minutes for a mixture of narrative (a animation introducing Pandora and the in-game-engine cinematic introducing the PCs) and spectacle (in BL1, having a bus run over the horrifying skag like it was an armadillo, and in BL2, having a 4-person car hogtie a skag just before getting run over by the train the PCs were on, where we actually got to see them in action before you got to choose). Both also had great songs ("Ain't no Rest for the Wicked" in BL1, and "Short Change Hero" in BL2) that made the players want to stay and listen (like "I don't want to set the world on Fire" and others 40s-50s songs did in Fallout 3 and New Vegas).

  • nadrewodnadrewod Registered User new member
    Also, I like today's art and the art schedule. 2 on-team artists allows for both to have lighter workloads even when there are no guest artists, but with guest artists, we get unique art and the on-team artists get a few extra weeks to work on the art for their next episode.

  • Casey ReeceCasey Reece Registered User regular
    I think Chrono Trigger deftly dodges the "five minute" rule in terms of narrative (having needed to go through the fair - and possibly exploring it for a good fifteen minutes to an hour before progressing forward) alongside mechanics (you don't get into the real heart of how awesome the RPG turn-based battle system is going to be, or how brilliantly it's going to be orchestrated that early on), but subsequently changes it into the "five second" rule in terms of spectacle. Just that, it does something even more with it. It seems to turn the term "spectacle" itself right on its head.

    Best represented perhaps in how the little details brought forth such impact. Not so much in the grandiosity of huge cities, or scenes of graphically steroid-injected fire on water, but on the beauty of the smallest of touches. The light coming through the window in your room when your Mom opens the blinds. Moving your eyes to how finely crafted every single object in it was. The lushness of the sound-scape you were about to transcend with the open guitar strings resonating at first pluck (waking you into this world), and the sounds of cheers and balloons flying up from the fair-grounds as you got your first camera shot of the world at large.

    It seemed less an invitation to be bedazzled at the epic or representation of scale for the events that were about to unfold, but an invitation to appreciate even the most subtle of details, because they will have been hand-crafted by masters to bring about a world you could only have wished for in your wildest dreams.

    Even more interesting, it did it by almost breaking that fourth wall, simply in terms of presentation. Giving the the 2D RPG fan as souped-up, gloriously vibrant, and finely detailed world he or she could ever want. It almost seemed to scream, "You like RPGs? Well this is RPG crack!" Not trying to make you believe that yes, you were in another world, but shocking your senses into realizing, "This is everything I could ever want another world to be! I don't have to be convinced to join this, I'll stand gladly outside its gate asking to be let in." It seemed to understand that by this point in time, this late in the lifespan of the Super Nintendo, you weren't buying a game from Square by mistake. That you liked your RPGs - that you wanted your RPGs - and if this isn't just every dream-like stereo-type of RPG awesomeness rolled into a collective unit you could have ever felt just too greedy to want in the same place, well Square is giving it to you anyway, and more!

    Doesn't seem so much a case of breaking the rule set you put forth (which, for the most part, is brilliantly true), but seems like a most noteworthy exception nonetheless.

  • FramlingFramling FaceHead Geebs has bad ideas.Registered User regular
    Huttj509 wrote: »
    Heck, the playable FPS tram ride was novel for the time. Let you get used to moving, show off the scenery you'll be working through, and shows NPCs doing normal stuff to draw you into the world, while the voiceover places the setting as a highly classified underground facility. In addition, your view wasn't constrained during this ride. You could look anywhere you liked, leading to it feeling less like an intro cutscene, and more like you were in that tram.

    This was why I will forever remember the intro to Half-Life as one of the most incredible gaming experiences of my life. Up until Half-Life, I'd played plenty of FPSs, and they would all follow the same general pattern: levels. You start at the starting point of the level, you shoot a bunch of monsters or nazis or whatever, and you get to the end. Then it probably tells you what percentage of the monsters you killed, how long it took you, maybe gives you some kind of score. Then a loading screen, and boom, start of the next level. An ambitiously narrative game might include some kind of text linking the levels together, or mission briefings or something.

    But then Half-Life comes along, and just throws all of that shit out the window. There's no cutscenes, there's no interruption in the flow. The maps load with almost no perceptible loading time, and carry your state across transitions. No levels, no timer, no points. There's just you, and the Black Mesa Research Facility. That alone made it the most realistic game I had ever played. It was the first game (that I encountered, at any rate) to eschew the notion of even being a game in favor of being an experience, a story in which you are the protagonist.

    It almost makes me sad. I don't think I've ever had another game absorb me the way Half-Life did; I don't know if it's even possible anymore. The experience was perfectly tailored to the state of the medium at the time, and changed the entire medium as a result. I wonder if that's not a moment that can never come again.

    you're = you are
    your = belonging to you

    their = belonging to them
    there = not here
    they're = they are
  • Wildcard608Wildcard608 Registered User regular
    I don't have much to say. It was a really good episode this week and I agree.

  • dodge83dodge83 Registered User regular
    yeah its important to show people that have brought your game that its worth the money they saved and spent on it.

    I don't often buy games these days that start with spectacle alone as it never answers the question i am asking myself was this worth my money?

    Its also true that people will just stop playing a game if they don't enjoy the first 5-15 minutes and it will take something special to get them to come back to it.
    Take binary domain on the PC for example, the port was so bad playing on the keyboard i stopped playing it within the 1st half an hour and it wasn't until I got an Xbox 360 controller for windows did i consider trying it again.
    I did enjoy the game in the end and with the controller i really enjoyed the first 15 minutes and beat the game 3 times.
    They made the game right but just didn't port it well resulting in a very frustrating first 15 minutes.

  • AfbeeAfbee Registered User regular
  • BluWolverineBluWolverine Registered User new member
    Does anyone else think that it's really stupid to how the first few minutes of a game can basically set the standard for your decisions of a game? I mean the intro to Bioshock was great, but if that game tanked or didn't turn out the way it did I wouldn't have felt disappointed because the first few minutes generated so much false and baseless expectations.

  • Sonny_69Sonny_69 Registered User regular
    nice musics at the end... oh yeah, and the episode wasnt bad either ;)

  • AlcasteAlcaste Registered User regular
    @Huttj509 Yeah, the intro tram ride was great. The thing is it took me FOREVER to find the locker room. From what I saw, it was an unlabelled door that had a very similar texture to doors that I couldn't go into. I literally explored the entire (accessible) facility four times before getting there.

    I'll be giving it another chance for sure, but my 'first five (forty)' was really, really offputting. I still appreciate a lot of the 'for the time' stuff, don't get me wrong, but I've been spoiled by how accessible things have been over the last few years.

  • CovarrCovarr Registered User regular
    Aww, no examples of intros done wrong? No excessively long exposition dumps for things the player doesn't need to know right away, and probably doesn't even need to know at all? (A Link to the Past comes to mind, but the Zelda series is frequently guilty of this). There's nothing quite like a game that spends too much time trying to get you excited about its narrative even though it doesn't really have much narrative.

  • RK5000RK5000 Registered User new member
    The into to Mirror's Edge, dayumn!

  • GodEmperorLetoIIGodEmperorLetoII Registered User regular
    Dark Souls and Demon's Souls <3

  • jlwiza1jlwiza1 Registered User regular
    maybe its my extreme bias towards sotc but, that is a game that still makes you go wow.. in spectacle remember jumping on to the huge flying thing?!!, mechanics climbing up this gargantuan beast, mystery of what happens to wander.. too good..

  • TradgerTradger Registered User new member
    No mention of Borderlands, one of the most gripping and spectacular opening cut-scene that have ever been made?

    Everything about it was perfect. The music, the visuals, the strong characterization... It was the PERFECT way to introduce the player to the characters and the world.

  • cadmiumcadmium IS Manager - Spokane Symphony/Fox Theater Spokane WARegistered User regular
    How soon we forget...

    Yes, all of the games you mentioned are wonderful and show your thesis well... but have we all forgotten the sense of mystery, awe, wonder, and depth. Have we dulled our eyes to the spectacle of scenery and the diversity of life? Have we committed to amnesia the ache and longing for the next iteration of the book? Was the end truly written?

    In the first 3 minutes, you were flung into a story. You had no idea what was going on, no function as to mechanics. Yet, intuition sought its course and mechanics became reflex and instinct. The mind was your playground, thought its mechanic and the world was one we longed to live in. The ability to write things into existence, the dream hoped for. A Language so complete, worlds created. Books so real, things lived in their very pages. soon we forget Myst.

  • TiagoR2TiagoR2 Registered User regular
    So, how much is Harmonix paying you guys? I mean, two outro references to rockband in a row?

  • teknoarcanistteknoarcanist Registered User regular
    So glad to hear Dark Souls namedropped.

  • vaendrylvaendryl Registered User regular
    FF7 was named for it's wow factor but it actually does everything that was mentioned in this episode. it's about as 'in medias res' as you could possibly get. it introduces battles straight away and you're off to blow up a m.f. reactor just like that, complete with a boss.
    10 hours later, after completing midgar which was a huge ordeal on it's own... then you get a prologue! and it's not even the true prologue!

    anyway. The narrative is awesome right from the get-go and keeps being awesome. It also showcases it's mechanics (in a battle) right after you take 2 steps. it's true you're not really 'doing' anything cool (apart from blowing up a reactor!) but hey, it's an RPG. racing on a bike swatting dudes with your huge sword comes later.

    I just kinda feel ff7 was passed over a little too quickly, and I never understood why every single ff after that takes so god damned long to show you actual action. (FF8 especially)

  • GoToHellDaveGoToHellDave Registered User regular
    We are trying something a bit different with our game to hook people in can you let me know what you think?;list=UUN8Ux_TpjiQ8Sx6nCILWaMw&amp;index=0&amp;feature=plcp


  • Hams ShmacHams Shmac Registered User regular
    Guild Wars 2's introduction sequences are great examples of utilizing several of the tools mentioned.

  • graavigalagraavigala Registered User new member
    I just love your shows. You make it look like its "joke" with your cute cartoons (which are awesome!) but its all 100% facts. Yours is one of the best gameshows I watch. Keep up the good work!

  • TheSpyderTheSpyder Registered User regular
    I like the guest artist for this episode, unlike some other episodes... this artist doesnt seem to rely on 4chan gag images to make her point. Good work!

  • Justin L.Justin L. Registered User new member
    I enjoyed the artist again this week. But there wasn't a "Games" flag at the end sequence :[

  • regeditregedit Registered User new member
    I think there is a significant thing being overlooked here: your intro should be dependent on your game style.

    You can get away with the long build-up intro in games like FFT because the gameplay itself is methodical and story driven. Likewise something like the Metal Gear games or many other RPG's where the cutscenes are a nontricial part of the draw. But what drives me nuts is when a long long cutscene is used to preface a shooter or other twitch driven game.

    If I've popped in an action game, that's what I want: action. The delay introduced by a long introductory cutscene to a story that's most likely utterly ludicrous, idiotic, contrived and unengaging--all it does is irritate me. If your game is hack and slash, get to the hacking and slashing immediately. Even if you have a good story, I don't give a flying fuck about it until you've sated the edge of the bloodlust that attracted me to your game in the first place.

  • rainbowhyphenrainbowhyphen Registered User regular
    cadmium: I, for one, could never forget Myst.

  • klipklip Registered User new member
    seems like borderlands 2 says that your going to be getting stronger in the intro with having not having a gun right from the start

  • Kaden JahuskKaden Jahusk Registered User new member
    Borderlands seems to address all 3, the mystery of the vault (narrator), the spectacle of the world (desert, train, tundra, etc.), and the mechanics, each class uses their unique abilities when they fight the robots:
    commando uses his turret
    siren uses her telekinesis thing
    assassin uses his hologram

  • GuitarGuySvenGuitarGuySven Registered User new member
    The intro that got me the hardest right away was Saints Row 3. I'd never played any of the other saints rows and really don't typically like sandbox games, but I picked this one up used because I heard a very positive review from someone I trust. That intro really had the full combo. First you come in with interesting enough characters, 2 actual mobsters complaining about their tag along actor that's researching a part. Then there's a funny self aware action sequence leading into the spectacle of riding the vault through the air while having a shoot out with the choppers. Then there's the mystery of getting captured and BOOM mission ends.

    Now you know the game is organized into missions and have some idea of what you're going to be playing and are given the opportunity to create your character or pick from defaults. In my opinion default characters are a must!

    Maybe it's not your kind of game, but I think everyone should give Saints Row 3 a look and play at least through the 4th mission where you parachute into the penthouse (which is the BEST mission IMO)

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