Waypoint Weeklies: Beginnings, Hooks, and Openers

I’m finally watching Fargo and the way the opening episode of each season sets so many seemingly disparate elements on a collision course with each other is spectacular.

While it’s cliché the opening scene of A New Hope is a masterpiece. In five minutes you know the stakes, have been introduced to several main characters, and understand their relationships as well as the general power structure of the world. Many speculative fiction stories take too much time introducing their worlds. Star Wars has the confidence to just throw you straight in and trust that you will keep up.

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I remember loving the original Homeworld opening sequence with the mothership launching and choral music playing and I think that has stuck with me but I just rewatched it and it did nothing for me. I think at the time when I played it my PC was far from powerful and the graphics must have blown me away. I was probably a lot easier to impress back then especially with respect to visuals.

The other one that stands out is the opening of Baldur’s Gate II which is seared in my brain. I played a demo of that game from a magazine CD before playing any other Infinity engine game, so the combination of the spell effects, Irenicus’ voice actor (shout out to David Warner aka that bad dude from the Titanic), and then the initial dungeon area really left an impression on me. There was so much possibility in the world building and the game engine that my brain filled in, because you’re dropped in to the middle of the story, and without the previous game as background, and not being able to afford the full game until much later, that demo grew to have a kind of outsized effect for me.

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I’ll be honest, before your answer, I couldn’t imagine starting a crpg in the middle, but thinking about it more, I’d maybe like to see an actual game do this? I don’t know how to actually execute on this in a way that doesn’t leave the player confused, but at least starting a crpg with like, a level 7 party, already familiar with each other and with background story, in the middle of some quest(and the game doesn’t undo it all metroid style) could be interesting? Or maybe just more games beginning with an extended in media res intro

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I’m just saying it was pretty cool when the Doom Guy cocked his shotgun to the beat of the music at the start of 2016.

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I’m going to have to go with Yakuza 0! I feel like I’m always talking about this game, but that’s because it’s so good! It gets bonus points because it has TWO great beginnings! Our introductions to Kiryu and Majima are both excellent in how they start in media res with an action scene and then slow down and focus on characterization and personal stakes. Kiryu hangs out with his bestie, singing karaoke and eating ramen, after brutally beating a man in a grimy alley. Majima returns to his empty apartment, under constant surveillance, after expertly handling a handsy drunkard at his ritzy cabaret. In both cases there’s a bit of spectacle before slower, more grounded story telling that really helps you understand the characters you will be embodying. Both sequences are great, and it’s a testament to the devs that they trust that players won’t get bored without constant forward action on the plot!

I think the Elders Scrolls games have good openings too! There’s no meandering cutscenes full of context-less proper nouns and dry exposition like so many fantasy games. You just start, you’re in a bad situation, and you need to escape. All the lore is there later if you want it. There’s a lot to criticize in those games, but their openings are good!

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meandering cutscenes full of context-less proper nouns and dry exposition

This pretty much describes the opening FMV cutscene of TES II Daggerfall. It’s fantastic!

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It’s not quite the same, but Dragon Age II has that fake intro where Varric is making up a story about how awesome Hawke is (and you play a snippet of his exaggerated version of you while he narrates it); and Persona 5 does this with an intro sequence which is actually set several months after the “start of the plot” (and then undoes it by flashing back to how everything started once the opening sequence is over).
Those are more in the way of in media res intros with a bit of “see what you could get if you work hard in the rest of the game” though, rather than committing to the whole thing.

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I’m not going to say it’s great on its own merit because it’s not but in the context of the prequels the opening of Episode 3 is relatively good? There’s a nice little space battle, cool visuals, a better infiltration of a spaceship than TPM, a better lightsabre duel with Count Dooku than AOTC and one of the most memeable line readings in the entire series from Palpatine.

A fun 20 minutes.

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this is more generalized, but show me something emotional happening devoid of context in the opening, and i guarantee i’ll be bawling when it happens again ‘for real’. i might not even end up liking the thing! its kinda a cheap trick at this point. but i will feel things about it

Finally have some time to put thought into the answer of my own question.

As absolutely tried and flawed as the LotR universe is, I remember reading the opening lines to The Hobbit when I was in grade school and being absolutely enraptured by the concept of it. What is introduced as this tiny house in the hollow of a hill gets spread out to something that seems labyrinthine, but it’s described in such a cozy way. Little baby me, reading this book under my blankets with a flashlight, was absolutely in love with the place I pictured. In part because reading under your blankets is actually very hot and unpleasant.

In terms of games, the opening I can remember most easily off the top of my head is Portal 2. While the gradual sense of unease in Portal is kind of a hallmark of that game for me, Portal 2 has an opening sequence that blows Portal out of the water. The strange feelings I got while I progressed through the decrepit facility, only to come face to face with GLaDOS and end up bringing her back from the dead? Pretty good, imo.

I don’t actually watch a lot of TV or movies, so I’m gonna skip out on those. ;>>

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As a young child I thought this intro was the pinnacle of human achievement in entertainment.