I had a bit of a think about Conquest’s design today, and I think I might have to look at restructuring the start of the game a little bit.
Right now, I’m going through 3 screens and 5+ minutes before I reach the first enemy encounter. Considering that this is a small game anyway - that’s kind of a lot!
Regardless of how long the player’s relative attention span is, the first few minutes of the game should accurately sum up what the game is about, and what will be expected of the player. That means giving the player control as soon as possible, and demonstrating what kind of gameplay mechanics they can expect from the game.
An example of a great game where this was done poorly? Persona 4. Persona 4 may be one of my favourite RPGs and games of all time, but that doesn't excuse it from a really slow start which gives players a bad impression of what the game is about.
I recommend anyone who hasn't played this game to pick it up and give it a shot. But just know that the first three hours of the game are dedicated to exposition. Three hours before you’ll reach any sort of proper combat, and another hour or so before the game really opens up and lets you explore. That’s not great!
Contrast this to many older jRPGs where the player was thrown into the action straight off the bat. Super Mario RPG - where the player is immediately thrown into Bowser’s castle to fight through a series of mooks before battling the king of Koopas himself.
While I’m focusing on RPGs here because they’re relevant to my own game, it’s not like this isn't an issue with other genres too. Recent Zelda games, Skyward Sword and Twilight Princess, each took several hours before any action really started. Link to the Past and the original NES Zelda games wasted no time in this respect, dropping you right into a dangerous world while still being given enough necessary backstory. It was a nice balance.