First Impressions, Again and Again

*Note, this post starts with War Thunder and branches out. IF you play MMO’s in general, this post is still for you…) One of the things that struck me, as I found myself playing War Thunder’s ground forces yet again last week, is how differently the aesthetic of the game is. And you can see it right from the very start. Here is what the beginning of a match in WoT looks like for me:

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And here is what the beginning of a match in WT Ground Forces looks like for me:

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Do you see it? Granted in the first picture, I’m using a mod, so the names are a little more colorful than normal, but in that picture only three of the fifteen tanks on my team made it beyond prototype/testing. Everything about it, from camera angles to UI screams: this is a game!

But in the second picture, my team of twelve includeas all historical, battle tested vehicles, and in this battle – all from one nation, Germany. Its harder to tell because of the lighting, but the second picture includes my Jagdpanzer IV L/70A, a Jagdpanzer 38t, and a pair of Tiger I’s. And everything about it, from the minimal UI, to the models, screams: this…is…tanks!

And that’s the first impression you get, every time. It definitely sets a different level of expectations in your head as to how this is going to go down and how you should play it. And for me, that’s part of what brings me back. And, also, that is something unique about games – that intro music, that loading screen? Those are very important things for your Dev team to work on. Because they set the stage for everything else in the game.

I still remember the theme music, loading screen, and menu select sounds from EQOA. Same with EQ2. Even SWTOR, with all the baggage I have with that game, stirs something in me when the powering up sound effect tells you the launcher is ready for log in. Its a first impression that keeps giving, over and over again.

Even as Bhagpuss wrestles with the changes that are inherent to a living game over a long period of time, we can say that these first impressions are part of what combats the ennui or the growing distance with a game. They are part of what sets fire to the blood and conjures the ghosts of gaming past.

When I thought last year about where I might want to return to for a visit in 2014, I can tell you its not coincidence that the atmosphere of those games I pondered is what made them my main choice. They were games where I could get a fresh hit of that first impression all over again.

Maybe this is the essence of nostalgia. Or maybe its something everone has known all along and I’ve just now figured out. But whatever it is, it can be a powerful draw for me. And right now, its drawing me into something that, a year ago, I really didn’t think I would be interested in.

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