Get to the Fun Faster
Yesterday, I tried to play Singularity. I gave it my best attempt but I just couldn't do it. The game is supposedly about getting a glove that can manipulate time but I wouldn't know, because I never made it that far. I was looking forward to making new things old and old things new, turning enemies into babies, restoring structures to their former glory, and making people crumble to ash before my eyes. Unfortunately, the first 20 minutes of the game were so bad that I waved the white flag and gave up. The game played like the world's most generic shooter and a lot of the design decisions (like not being able to open doors on my own) pissed me off. I dropped Singularity in the mailbox and it's headed back to Gamefly as we speak.
I've talked before about jumping into the action of a game but it's also important for the game to throw the player into the fun right from the start. If your game happens to be about an awesome time manipulation device then you should give it to your players within the first few minutes. Think about games like Portal where the main character is playing with portals right from the start. It wouldn't have had the acclaim it did if there was a generic FPS to play through before ever touching a portal. Why do so many games wait so long to induce their "sweet" game mechanic? Players want awesome gameplay right away. They don't respond to a game that feels bland.
Ever find that a lot of people claim game x is amazing but when you play it you can't stand it? Often they'll say that you just need to give it more time before it really gets fun. That's not a valid excuse at all. Games are about gameplay. If they were about anything else they wouldn't be games, they would be music or books or movies or another form of media that we already have. If the player isn't having fun then they have every right to say that a game sucks. Developers should strive to make their games fun from start to finish. There is no reason players should have to wait to have fun with a game.