You would imagine that getting to play The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim for the first time is an enormous pleasure, but let me tell you a secret: it is not.
It probably will be for you, of course, because you will get to take your time playing with the character creator, running your fingers through the long grass and listening to water rushing downriver before you even have to think about following one of those tempting icons that keeps flashing up on your compass.
It wasn't unusual for people playing Oblivion to log well over 100 hours, and if you want to get the most out of Bethesda Game Studios' unique RPGs, you need that sort of time to do so. These are games where you create your own stories through exploration as much as you rely on the script, and you can't do that in a weekend or even a month of Sundays.
Meanwhile, at QuakeCon 2011, I get around 60 minutes to make sense of Skyrim. What follows is inevitably closer to panic than pleasure.
The best I can really do is to pick one path and see where it goes, so as soon as I exit the character creator - decked out as a smart but sexy male Khajiit cat warrior - I grab a fireball spell in one hand and a war axe in the other and make a beeline for the nearest mountain.
It's not a long climb to the summit, but it's eventful enough. One of the first things that happens is I run into some bandits protecting a small tower outpost on the mountain road. My left hand's effectively a flamethrower and I drench them in magic, finishing them with the axe if they get too close.
Switching magic out for a shield for a bit of variety, I block a couple of blows and respond with a flurry of slashes that send blood flying and culminate in a neat axe-through-skull finishing animation. These contextual finishers pop up a few times in the next hour and they always look snazzy.
Naturally I loot all my victims down to their underwear as I climb the inside of the tower, and before long I'm moving slowly and being told I need to dump some gear or else I'm never gonna dance again.
RPGs send you into menus more than almost any other game genre, so it's weird that more thought doesn't go into inventory design, but as I play around with powers, weapons and items to lighten my load it becomes clear that Skyrim is a welcome exception.
Its nested menus are accessed almost as smoothly as iPad page swipes, and navigating them is quick and clean. You can set favourites, equip items to either hand, and examine things in detail.
More than once during my brief hands-on I have to rotate an object to look for a clue to a puzzle, or read a document, and it's all done without going to a different screen or do anything more complex than wiggling sticks and hitting a face button.
It's easy to imagine that a system like this in Oblivion or Fallout could have shaved hours off the average player's actual game-time. As it is, it saves valuable seconds in my hands-on, and seconds are my currency today, so thank you to whomever at Bethesda designed the inventory.
Resuming the path, I move up into falling snow as the wind intensifies and drifts thicken around me, eventually clambering over stone steps towards a big wooden door in the side of the mountain.
I've kind of been here before - in my haste to just pick a direction and explore, I've wound up following a similar path to the one Todd Howard chose when I saw Skyrim in April. But whereas Howard showed us what he tells me was "a greatest hits of that dungeon", I get to examine it in detail.
If it's representative of the average quest, the Bleak Falls Barrow is hugely promising, rich in varied combat, booby traps, puzzles and lore.
There are bandits to eavesdrop on and sneak around - the Khajiit are especially good sneakers, so I huddle in shadow and draw a longbow on the nattering bad guys from a few feet away. Later there are the skeletal draguar, who employ magic as well as swords and axes, and there's a mini boss fight with a giant spider.
There are door switches rigged to banks of arrows that need to be disarmed by observing your surroundings and rotating totems like tumblers in a lock, and there are pressure plates and levers that activate spike doors and swinging blades, which are great for making short work of draguar as their numbers increase.
All the while your individual attributes continue to rise through use and you level up. With each level you can stare up to the heavens and the constellations of perks above you and, after deciding whether to increase Magicka, Health or Stamina, choose the upgrade you want.
You don't have to bank perks immediately though - if you are trawling through the constellations and spot a perk you want that requires a higher attribute value than one you have at the moment (Destruction 40 vs. your current Destruction 21, for example), you can simply wait until you've met that requirement.
Navigating the dungeon is no trouble. Skyrim's overworld map is in 3D and gives you unambiguous top-down 2D layouts for dungeons, but despite its name Bleak Falls is colourful and diverse - caves filled with running water sparkle with iridescence, the spider's lair is warmed by lattices of bright and intricate webbing, while burning torches illuminate the dusty catacombs and send flickering soft shadows cascading over the time-hewn curves of stone stairways.
And even within these linear confines, there is a sense of exploration - a mixture of adventure and archeology, manipulating picks to break through the locks on treasure chests and emerging with some arcane relic, or rummaging through your inventory for a golden claw with markings similar to the cylinders on a stone door.
It isn't long before, much to everyone in the room's frustration, Bethesda Softworks VP Pete Hines tells us all to stop playing. I look around and the guy next to me is in a tavern talking to someone about local politics. Over on another bank of consoles I can see someone hacking through a forest.
Speaking to Hines afterwards, he tells me that there were 13 players in the room and all 13 had done totally different things. He says that one of the things he loves about these games is that even when they are finished and he's spent a year or more picking through them for work, he can still take them home, play them and have new experiences.
There were a couple of lock-ups in this alpha build for other journalists, but I didn't encounter any bugs myself. Hines says that some quirks, like a rock floating a foot in the air, are probably inevitable in a game with such a dizzyingly broad spectrum of possible actions, but they are working hard to get better at quality assurance - and in particular to make sure the number of bugs that actually halt your progress is as close to zero as reasonably possible.
The small scale of our playtest means that there's about a billion things I haven't done. I haven't really had a proper conversation with an NPC yet. I haven't taken on any actual quests. I haven't fought a dragon (in fact they're turned off in this build, as are the dragon "shouts" that act as further combat modifiers).
To be honest, it feels like all I've really had a chance to do is run up a hill and then burrow to the bottom of it.
What's really promising, though - apart from all the other things that are inherently wonderful and exciting about a new Elder Scrolls adventure - is that all the important layers of artifice, whether it's inventory management, combat controls, pathfinding or even just texture quality and level geometry, are already so harmoniously attuned to immersing you in Skyrim that it's possible to pick it up from scratch and feel completely at home an hour later.
Bethesda hasn't let anyone play Skyrim before - something game director Todd Howard is keen to point out. "I'm f***ing terrified," he announces before we first turn on our screens and pick up the pads.
The fact is though that he could show it to us another dozen times in the same conditions and we'd find another dozen experiences to catalogue. November can't roll around soon enough.