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At the beginning of Half Life 1, player is locked into watching an introductory film that can't be skipped and doesn't teach anything about game mechanics. Player can only move their camera around. A similar technique was applied in Deus Ex 4. Given that it's irritating not to be able to skip it on subsequent gameplays, what is the purpose of those?

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    \$\begingroup\$ It's worth noting, this is irritating for you. If 70% of users (for example) like this kind of narrative, then that's a reason to implement it. There are plenty of modern games that focus on narrative, that would suggest that a lot of users enjoy these kind of games, and this kind of functionality. This is coming from someone that absolutely skips all sorts of narrative any way I can. \$\endgroup\$
    – TomTsagk
    May 29, 2020 at 9:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ This can probably be generalised to "What's the purpose of unskippable cutscenes" (regardless of whether you would classify that as a cutscene). Although this has already been discussed in many places, e.g. on Quora. \$\endgroup\$ May 29, 2020 at 9:33

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First of all, remember that Half Life 1 was released back in 1998. It did a lot of things nobody ever tried before in the first person shooter genre, both in technology and narrative.

Yes, I know it's hard to believe if you look at HL1 from a 2020 perspective. But back then the graphics were a revolution. The standard back then was Quake (one).

But perhaps the most innovative part was to tell the story using ingame graphics and mechanics. Most games from that time broke the medium when they wanted to tell their story. They stopped the game and played a video, animated sequence or text. Telling the story while the player was in full control of their character was something entirely new. I remember reading various reviews back then where the first time they played the game they did not even realize at first that the train ride was not a pre-rendered video cutscene but in fact rendered in real-time.

So this train ride fulfilled various purposes

  • Introducing the player to the new graphical capabilities.
  • Introducing the player to the scenario. It told the player that they were in an underground science complex somewhere in the desert, all the various activities that went on it it and just how huge that complex was.
  • But most importantly, getting the player accustomed to this new style of telling the story . It immediately told the player:

"There will be phases like this in the game where we will just show you things. This is not Quake. You are not supposed to shoot anything that moves. Observe, think and then act".

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    \$\begingroup\$ I remember having shivers when seeing the Half Life intro for the first time. It was absolutely revolutionary for its time, setting the mood and establishing the setting and worldbuilding while building mystery/anticipation in a way I'd never seen in a first-person shooter before. It might look simplistic and restrictive to us now with the benefit of hindsight, but it was so much more immersive than the wall-of-text backstory or low-fi prerendered cutscene or just unexplained drop into the action that we were used to from contemporary titles, as Philipp says. \$\endgroup\$
    – DMGregory
    May 30, 2020 at 12:19

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