In a MMORPG a lot can happen in the first 5 minutes of play.Â ‘They’ say first impressions are everything and it’s true.Â I was shocked to realize, upon a further evaluation of the topic, just how important those first 5 minutes of play are for me.Â Â Maybe I’m weird, but I can tell within seconds whether or not the game has a feel of “quality” to it.Â All that I need to do is move my character around a little, talk to an NPC, or kill a single newbie mob for me to know a lot about a game (and sometimes even whether or not it will be a flop for me or a huge success.)Â It’s incredibly difficult for me to explain something that I’m not even sure I understand myself, but I’ll try.Â I’m going to list a few games and talk about the very first initial impressions I had – perhaps you’ll be able to understand and relate.
World of Warcraft – I felt as though my character were an extension of my thoughts.Â He moved through the world seamlessly.Â Fighting newbie mobs, talking to NPCs, and interacting with his environment felt natural.Â The game felt polished.Â It had an immediate and recognizable quality.
Lord of the Rings Online – My very first impression of the game was that it felt “wonky”.Â That’s the best word I can think of to describe my feelings.Â My character felt detached from his environment.Â Everything felt clunky and quite the opposite of WoW.Â In WoW everything felt effortless but in LOTRO it felt as though I had to break through barriers for everything, even walking.Â And I could recognize this within the first minute of play.
Pirates of the Burning Sea – This has been the most extreme case of failing to live up to what I have dubbed the “Expectations of the First 5 Minutes”.Â Move your character around the starting area, fight the pirates in the tutorial, and then sit back and think for a second about your experience.Â Does it feel… wrong.. somehow?Â That’s how it felt to me.
Those are just a few examples of recent games where I felt there was a very noticeable “feeling”.Â Â Maybe it’s intuition or insight that comes from playing a lot of games.Â But I want to think that it’s more than just a gut feeling.Â I think it goes beyond polish, although that absolutely must play some part.Â Perhaps the game engine is partially responsible.Â Maybe it’s the animations or the quality of the art direction.Â Maybe it’s the experience of coders putting everything together.Â If it were any of these alone then I would be able to explain it.Â What the heck is it?!
Perhaps it is coincidence but looking at the above examples and the time I spent playing them, there is a direct correlation.Â WoW “felt good” and I played for years.Â LOTRO felt “wonky” and I played for several months.Â PotBS felt “wrong” and I played for a month.Â Hindsight is 20/20 but I had these feelings the very second I began playing them.Â I often push this intuition aside because I’ve never been one to judge a book by its cover — but I’m starting to think I should.
My biggest fear lately is that I’ll get a bad feeling from one of the big MMOs on their way.Â If I log into Warhammer of Conan for the first time and don’t get that “feeling of quality” I might develop an ulcer.Â Never mind, I can’t think about the future or I will stress myself into an ulcer.
Do any of you share this sixth sense – this almost unexplainable intuition that tells you whether or not a game has quality?Â Â Am I crazy for thinking that I can simply walk my character around for a few minutes and pass judgment?Â Or, am I just stating something very obvious that everyone out there already knows?Â Please enlighten me.