Or maybe it is scaling the design? It’s something a lot of gamers see but take for granted because the game designer did it right so the player is having good fun.
I’ll fire off some examples – heavy bias leaning towards Bioware games because I’m thinking along the lines of CRPGs.
You start as a student or townsfolk in Candlesomething Keep. The beginning play revolves around establishing that Keep and the people in it. It’s used as a place to break ground for how the game will work, establish the environment or setting and foreshadowing what is going to come. Once you’re done there you’re cast out into the wilderness to explore and figure out what’s going on.
You can tell their designers learned a lot from previous games because they made it even better. Again, they start small (the Academy), grow into something bigger (City of Neverwinter) and then grow it even more.
It’s quite brilliant (and I realize it’s not unique to Bioware) and draws you into the game more.
You never start off small and stay small. You never start off big and get small. You grow outwards because the players have a lot to digest initially, and eventually they grow comfortable with what you’ve given them and need to view bigger things.
If you really want to suck them into the game, you go that route.