T51bwinterized talks about the differences between movies and games when it comes to introductions, especially in terms of interactivity.
In the previous part of this series on H-game introductions, I talked about common introduction types. Want to know what I didn’t talk about so much? How exactly starting a movie or a book is different from starting a video game — especially a hentai game.
Now then, what needs to be said about the difference between the beginning of movies and the beginning of games?
Winter’s Advice: You can just start a game like a fucking movie.
They aren’t always much too different. Would you really say that the intro cinematic to games like Dark Souls or Fallout couldn’t have been the first scene in a movie?
Though, this should really be only done with games that have a heavy narrative focus. In games where narrative is the focus you can make your introduction an extended cut scene or narrative sequence that you could find in a book or movie. Narrative focus here means it’s driven by the writing and the artwork to a notable extent.
Take note. Almost all hentai games are highly narrative focused. This is the most important point I’m going to make in this article. The role almost all hentai scenes fill in games are equivalent to non-hentai narrative sequences in other games.
There is the rare, odd porn game where you literally play a sex scene, but it’s honestly not something I’ve ever seen be done effectively. Some games, such as training sims, offer ways of adding a gameplay purpose to sex, but those games rarely have you play out the act itself beyond a few cursory choices. It’s not hard to imagine taking something like Slave Maker, and re-flavoring it as a livestock raising simulator with the exact same mechanics. The easier it is to change while keeping the same mechanics, the more likely it is that it is narrative content.
Hell, why do you think visual novels, perhaps the most narrative focused genre that could plausibility be called gaming, tend to be so popular for H-games? In short most hentai scenes basically are narrative scenes, so most hentai games are narrative focused games — just sexier ones.
That means that means things like cutscenes tend to be perfectly good ways of starting H-games. If a good way to start an H-game is with sexual content, and your sexual content is included via narrative cutscenes, then in this case a good way to start your H-game is with a narrative cutscenes. This should be especially obvious in cases where the story and setting are inherently sexual. That first bit of Snow Daze, where Jason imagines his family members as his sex slaves? That was obviously just one large narrative segment, because that game does a good job integrating sex into the narrative.
If that’s where you land, then you should look back at Part 2 where I talk about some narrative focused introduction styles. Just because it’s never a bad idea doesn’t mean it’s always the BEST idea. How else can you start a game?
Winter’s advice: Interactivity should be proportional to narrative focus versus gameplay focus
Video games are not movies. This should be obvious to everyone. They’re interactive and as a result the best way to start a game is often just as interactive.
The simplest form is just taking a linear story sequence that might as well be a cutscene, and disguising it with bits of interactivity. Minor gameplay elements like walking down corridors or being in rooms with only one possible action allow you to make narrative openings less obvious. The best example is Mass Effect 2, whose whole first segment involves the player walking around in a preordained path while things happen around them. It’s a marvelous sequence, but it’s not really an interactive sequence at all. If your goal is limited interactivity, be careful to limit player action to simple things like movement and starting conversations. No one wants to repeat Call of Duty’s “Press F to Mourn.”
Oftentimes, the larger story itself is interactive in H-games. That can range from small story effecting choices, like picking to fuck that bunny girl whore over that cat girl whore, or it can massive story defining choices that utterly change the game. There is good reason to put either or both into your introduction, since giving the player choices early means they feel empowered sooner.
However, those come with trade-offs. If you have a small meaningless choice that doesn’t matter, it might get it into your player’s head that choices are just cosmetic, especially if you don’t dispel that with any larger choices in the first hour. Starting with a large dramatic choice that will define your game experience from that point (example: choosing a faction of some sort, or even sometimes choosing player gender) is certainly a better way of hooking in players. Though, it comes with two big downsides. The first is simply that those kind of dramatic choices are often pushed back further into the narrative in order to give the players more information. We want big choices, but we don’t want to go in blind to those choices. The second is that the earlier in the game there is branching story paths, the more content the developer has to make. A big, meaningful, player narrative decision in the first five minutes of a game can expand the content you need to make by multiple times if not handled deftly.
I also want to point out here that choices don’t have to be binary and telegraphed. When you pick a player race in the first five minutes, you are making a narrative choice. If a game starts you off outside of a large, walled-off city, and you decide to say “fuck that shit” and go the other direction, that too can be a narrative choice. Any situation where the player has the power to alter the course and flow of the narrative can be considered a choice.
Winter’s Advice: If you have a good setting, then let players bathe in it.
Video games, as a medium, allow for types of beginnings that don’t make the slightest bit of sense in the context of other mediums. In video games, settings are oftentimes a more prominent element of narrative, because players have much more leeway to examine it and interact with it then movies or books do. In a good video game, a player can spend hours of play time examining or going deeper into minor elements of the setting. Part of player agency is exploration.
That means, that in most cases, the actual setting of your game is going to make up a larger and more notable element of the narrative than in other mediums — and that’s an opportunity.
Something you can do could be to start your game with a specific setting. Don’t bother with a cutscene or an explanation, just place your player in a particularly striking environment and let them work at it. It could be because particularly interesting people are around, or maybe the area the player starts out in is particularly interesting. Maybe scene one is set on a beach where clearly a plane crash happened. As the player explores the environment, who they are and what happened to them will become increasingly more obvious.
The obvious weak point of this idea is that if the area where the player starts out is really not that interesting, then the player basically just doesn’t get an intro. You have better be fucking sure that you are starting off on a good foot, or you’re throwing out the entire intro. This also is not a great way of introducing the player character. It will basically only work when your main character is just a blank slate. Thankfully, that describes about half the main characters in our medium, so that’s fine. Lastly, it needs to be at least a partially structured environment. If you throw me into the middle of a fucking city and tell me to figure shit out with zero guidance, I’m going to be confused and furious.
Then why do it? Because, there is a good chance your setting is going to be among the most interesting pieces of your narrative, and the idea of doing your hook with an environment is just damn cool. The Bioshock series, for example frequently uses at least elements of this opening, at least as far as the light houses are concerned. It’s damn effective stuff. The other reason is that it lets you get to gameplay sooner. Let’s talk about that, now.
Winter’s Advice: The more gameplay focused your game, the sooner we should get gameplay.
Suppose your game isn’t quite so narrative focused. Perhaps you’ve found a way to integrate sex into combat, or you’re playing something like a training sim, or even sex is just a secondary focus of your game. If your gameplay reigns supreme and your narrative content is just there to support it, what then?
Well, then you start with gameplay, obviously.
If that’s the inherently interesting segment of play, then every minute you waste in the beginning where gameplay isn’t happening raises all sorts of questions. Now, I don’t recommend jumping into gameplay minute one, second one. Having context for gameplay normally makes it more interesting and more powerful. But, if your narrative is simply not one of the main draws, you should have gameplay at least within the first five minutes of play, unless you have a good reason otherwise.
This is often a place where developers love to put sequences where the player controls a stronger version of their character, since it serves as a way of promising players powers and abilities they may get later. To this, games often resort to tricks like In Medias Res — which I mentioned in my previous segment. However, doing so may make your game’s first gameplay segments confusing, especially when most games use that space as a tutorial to help new players pick up your game.
I’m going to end this article here, because I ran rather long. If you had to boil down my message to one sentence, it would be this: The way to decide how much interactivity to put into the first few minutes of your game is by asking first how important the porn is to your game overall, and second how integrated the porn is to gameplay.
Next time I’m going to dig deeper into a few specific issues. The role of elements like title screens, difference in pacing between video games and movies, and specific problems related to crowdfunded games that use a Patreon model. After that, we’ll move into the final segment, where I will take a pre-existing H-game, analyze its intro, and then offer suggestions on how to make it work better. If you are interested in having your game analyzed, let me know at T51bwinterizedlg@gmail.com.
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Image Credits: Four Elements Trainer by MITY, Snow Daze by Outbreak Games, Free Cities by FCDev, AloneXP by Crouler, Noxian Nights by Hreinn Games, and Soldier’s Life by Pyorgara.