Thursday, October 1, 2009

Trust, Brutal Legend (demo), and reminiscences

I loved Jade Empire and Mass Effect (except for the first 6-10 hours).

I loved Kingdom Hearts 2 (even though I disliked the original).

Will I love Brutal Legend even though I was left feeling kind of “meh” after playing the demo? I sometimes wonder how much weight I should truly put on the demo experience. The problem is that there are simply too many games out there to purchase – or even rent them all.

This problem is magnified when I think about games like the ones I list above – games where my first negative impressions were later transformed into very positive game play experiences.

These thoughts trouble me, especially because one of the core tenets of my business is that great games need to be approachable and fun from the first few moments of experience. Heck, that’s why I named my company “Initial Experience Consulting”. Yet, clearly I would have missed out on some great games had I dropped them after only a few hours of struggle.

So, the real question is: How do I determine whether I should invest several hours of drudgery into a game vs. move on to the next game if the first hour is not fun?

What I’m trying to talk about is the issue of developer trust. For instance, I trust that if I suffer through the first 6-10 hours of a Bioware console game that I will come to love it (except for Kotor). So, Bioware scores 2/3 for me.

Conversely, I struggled through the first 10+ hours of Morrowind, Oblivion, and Fallout 3 and only ended up enjoying the third one. So, Bethsoft scores 1/3 for me.

So, when it comes to Brutal Legend, I guess the main question is: What came before? As it turns out, I loved Psychonauts (except for the last boss battle sequence). [note: I know this is going to sound like heresy, but I haven’t played any of Mr. Schafer’s previous games]

And, if I remember correctly, it took a little while for me to warm up to the game. I wasn’t blown away in the first hour or so – but I was blown away by the amazing content that appeared later in the game.

This leads me to the reminiscences portion of this post. When I was working at Microsoft I tasked myself with playing Zelda Windwaker. It was pretty much my first Wii game and I hadn’t played any of the previous versions [note: again, heresy. I know] I started playing on a work machine with a work copy of the game. I struggled a bit and didn’t quite understand how people found the game fun at all.

Until hour 4. That’s when I checked the clock, realized I had 30 minutes before Best Buy closed, and scooped up a Wii and copy of the game and headed home for a late night gaming session.

In the case of Brutal Legend, I guess I’m just going to have to borrow a copy first and then purchase it only if it compels me in ways that the demo failed to do.

1 comment:

Anton said...

Relying on trust is a good method :)

Also, don't forget there's another side to the coin - games for which the demos are great, yet the full experience hardly adds anything more. As in "Prey", that you mentioned earlier - huge possibilities are shown in the demo, yet the full game mostly fails to take significant advantage of that potential.

With the abundance of games to play, and lack of time, I actually prefer to err on the side of not taking a game, rather than erring in taking a game that I won't enjoy.

Wonder how many people like that are out there. This puts even more emphasis on initial experience.