Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Tackling the tutorial mystery

One area we have been struggling with all of our games is the tutorial for new players. It's so easy to concentrate making the actual game and then add a tutorial as afterthought. When one knows the game inside out, it becomes hard to design the tutorial for players who see the game for the first time.

We are just beginning to grasp the importance of a good tutorial and all the challenges included in making one. The tutorial is the first thing a new player sees. Especially for free-to-play games, poor tutorial can easily kill even a good game. People generally hate learning rules and if the process is not fluent and fun, they simply quit and find something else to play. Optimally the tutorial feels like a natural part of the game flow and progresses by creating objectives to the player instead of a forced step by step process. The biggest challenge is that players often don't read the instructions. A good tutorial should be intuitive enough to direct the player to do right things without relying on text.

In the great tutorial mystery I was wondering why adding a tutorial to Permia - Duels did not improve our numbers. Looking back now, it's evident we did not do that good job with the tutorial: It is too long, feels forced and partly concentrates on teaching irrelevant details too early for a new player. In Pet Shows we improved by slicing the tutorial into pieces which are activated as the player progresses. Regardless, the first tutorial is too long and contains too much information by trying to teach all the mini games at once. Additionally it is lacking clear objectives.So how are we planning to solve these problems?

The answer for Pet Shows lies in understanding that the player does not need to have access to all of the mini games at once. While for a veteran player it might feel limiting to have only a couple to choose from, it's enough for first time player for whom everything is new. Locking some of the mini games at the beginning also creates natural objectives for the player to continue playing to get them unlocked. As added bonus the new flow allows easy way to add more mini games in the future. 

Another thing we have been underestimating are the achievements. By designing the flow correctly, the achievements can be powerful tools for teaching the game flow without a forced tutorial. For player they form objectives with a promise for rewards. Game instructions can be hidden inside the achievement descriptions and by fulfilling achievements players learn the game flow as a side product. Additionally the achievement rewards work as a feedback for the player for doing the right things. Conversely poorly designed achievements can distract the player and thus both the achievements and their presentation needs to be designed carefully to support the desired game flow.

So that's the plan and we have already started implementing the new tutorial flow for Pet Shows. Duels will follow later, after we finish the current graphics upgrade. I will get back to the subject later, when we know were we able to improve the new player experience for Pet Shows through these changes or not. If you have any ideas for the tutorials, please let us know!

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