Kotaku's Stephen Totilo bumped up against a familiar video game design issue while playing Sony's new God of War: Ascension for the PlayStation 3. Like most action games these days, Ascension makes the assumption that the player has never played a God of War game before despite it being the sixth game in the series. To that end, it holds the player's hand for a large part of the game and explains concepts and commands that are common knowledge and muscle memory to god-slaying veterans. These games cannot exclude new players by assuming that everyone who plays them have been around for the other installments, but all of the strict guidance and tutorializing grows old very quickly. Totilo sums up the issue with an interesting description:
The game is sick with whatever disease the new Zelda games have. Its developers feel obligated to spend a stupid number of hours early on starting you from zero and giving you your proverbial bow and bombs and boomerang. And, as with The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, it's only after you get past what amounts to newbie initiation that your move-set has enough new stuff in it (and enemies that compel you to use that stuff) that you get a sense of what Ascension is supposed to feel like. It feels like chaos, controlled.
"Sick with whatever disease the new Zelda games have" is a wonderful way to sum up this design issue, but I think we can do better with the terminology. Remember when a Zelda game would just turn the player loose in a clearing or a palace with several options to explore and little initial guidance? Players had to figure things out for themselves. The recent Zelda games all have starter areas that are designed to teach the player how Link can target enemies, pick up pots, swing a sword, toss a boomerang, and so on. Skyward Sword has Skyloft, Twilight Princess has Ordon Village, Ocarina of Time has Kokiri Forest, and The Wind Waker has the charmingly and appropriately named Outset Island which is why from here on I'm choosing to call this disease that Totilo mentions Outset Island Syndrome. I hope you'll all join me in using this phrase and officially making it a thing.