Author Topic: Tutorials....  (Read 1475 times)

Offline Misery

  • Global Moderator
  • Core Member Mark V
  • *****
  • Posts: 4,099
Tutorials....
« on: August 31, 2016, 12:05:32 AM »
Okay, so this is one I've been thinking about, and that hasn't really been mentioned here.  Which is the need for better tutorials, and possibly ones of a specific type.

One thing I have heard MANY times from people that are interested in the game is that the game just looks too daunting, it looks "hard" because of complexity, and they heard somewhere that it barely explains itself.  They have the assumption that it's way beyond their ability to handle.  Even those that have bought the game often say that they've only really tried it once, got bloody baffled by it, and didn't go back to it because of the sheer time required to learn even the basics to the point where they can REALLY use those basics.   Even I had this issue... I bought the game, but it was about 2 years before it "clicked" and I finally really dove into it.  And even then, it was like learning Dwarf Fortress all over again due to the lack of explanations.   And Dwarf Fortress took me 50 freaking tutorial videos to learn.  50.

With this new one, I think that really, REALLY needs to not be the case.

One huge problem with the original tutorial is that after a certain time it just sort of.... cuts off.  Abruptly.  It teaches a little bit about the game, in a slightly confusing way, and then it just says "Okay, well, have fun, try not to die!".    It doesn't really help the player learn anything beyond the absolute most basic concepts.   And considering the style of the thing, even if it did, it'd probably make them that much more confusing.

And really, making the game easier to get into is certainly important for sales, as many people have mentioned.  But usually all that's mentioned alongside this is the interface, but my thoughts are that the interface means a whole lot of nothing if the player cant even understand the mechanics whatsoever.  If they feel too overwhelmed by the sheer number of unlearned things.

So I'm making this topic here to see what some of you might think about the way the tutorials were, and how you personally learned the game, and what your experience was of it.

For me, that super abrupt cut-off at the end of it was just... very jarring.  It left me with a sense of "Okay, I SORT of know what to do in a general sense, but there's so many advanced things that are baffling, and the AI isn't even putting up a fight right now... how am I supposed to even really grasp what the basics can be used for in a real fight with it?".   The reason why I was able to learn the game in the end is because by that point, I'd already learned Dwarf Fortress, and became thusly very determined about AI War.  I figured... I learned DF, SURELY I can learn this game, and I'm bloody well going to.   But we all know that a great many players will simply give up before they reach that point or come anywhere near it.   A lot of games these days, even very simple ones, will go to extreme lengths to explain EVERYTHING.  Even things like "how to jump" in a platformer.  I don't think it needs to be dumbed down THAT much, but you get the idea.   Hell, even in Starward Rogue, where a lot of things are frankly self-explanatory, I watched players get confused by simple things over and over and over and over and over that seemed like they should be REALLY obvious with just the tiniest bit of experimentation.   Which is another thing:  Players tend not to experiment much these days, when learning the basics of a particular mechanic or game element.  They EXPECT that element to be shown off and explained to them, regardless of what it is.


My thoughts are that not only does this need to have an expanded and more streamlined tutorial, but it needs to have more than one (and yes, I know that technically what is there is divided into multiple pieces, but to me they're all part of one single tutorial that's all about the basics).  For example, have another tutorial that's kinda similar to the first, but EXPANDS upon those basics, partly by putting the player into a game where the AI is actually going to DO stuff.  Show the player how these basics might be applied in truly dangerous situations.   Have other separate ones that can help them learn some of the advanced units and mechanics.  Things like, say, hacking, are going to confuse the hell out of people, even if you make the interface better or streamline the mechanic.  Even when I'd learned the game and really started in on it, something like hacking took me quite awhile to really "grasp".  It's very different from other things in the game, and it was quite hard to get even a basic understanding of how to even approach it, or what some of the strategic ramifications might be from it.    I know to some of you these things might seem obvious, but I'm going into this myself because I'm *not* an expert at this type of game.  I had a hard time with it, and many others will as well, so something that might seem pretty easy might actually not be.   

And then there's other things... explaining some of the more confusing units in the game (of which there are many) and showing the player some situations that show off how useful those things can be would help too.  Even after quite a large number of hours in the game, there's still some things that I frankly find kinda baffling, in a "what the hell do I DO with this thing?  What is it for?" manner.   Keep in mind also that while yes, there can be strategy guides and such for a game like this, a lot of players absolutely expect to find this info inside the game itself.  They don't want to have to look elsewhere.   There was a time when people would have expected to have to do that, but those days are long since over.

I know this sort of thing could be quite a bit of effort, but again, I think it's important.   For any sort of product, game or otherwise, you increase the possible userbase by making the product as easy to mentally grasp as possible.   Right now, not only AI War but Arcen games in general simply do not do this.


But anyway, I'm curious to see what some of you guys experienced while learning this particular game.  Many of you are likely to have had very different experiences than I did, I'd bet.  But whatever those experiences are, they might provide some useful insight.



Offline chemical_art

  • Core Member Mark IV
  • *****
  • Posts: 3,946
  • Fabulous
Re: Tutorials....
« Reply #1 on: August 31, 2016, 12:16:24 AM »
I have wrote about this, and agree entirely that the whole tutorial needs to be gutted.

The tutorial can be approached in several ways, but one I think is a "thematic" one in which there are a TON of the existing journal method that explain what to do from minute 1 to "victory". It is not a dry journal method, but one that both guides a player to victory and also subjects them to the lore of the game. I have heard nothing but positive things about journals, and think they are an intricate part of the game.

The idea of "advanced" journey ideas is interesting, but I only worry about it because for the average player if tutorials are divided between "basic" and "advanced" then most strategy players will assume "hey, I have played RTS / GSG / <genre> before, so I know [basic] strategy" as it is. Except AI Wars is not any strategy game. So no matter of "hey, we mean it! This is not your normal strategy game!" they will not listen. You start throwing advanced topics at them they get overwhelmed and bored.

It is for this exact reason I purpose calling the tutorial "thematic". You are not talking down to players in saying they need a tutorial. You are instead presenting the story in a way that also explains how to play. It accomplishes several goals at once.
Life is short. Have fun.

Offline Draco18s

  • Resident Velociraptor
  • Core Member Mark V
  • *****
  • Posts: 4,059
Re: Tutorials....
« Reply #2 on: August 31, 2016, 12:33:08 AM »
How about a micro-campaign the way a standard RTS has several connected maps with story sown in between?  A couple of 20 planet galaxies that ramp up in difficulty as you go, introducing new mechanics slowly.  And of course, fully voiced (I'm sure some community members could manage to be halfway decent).  Text tutorials are so laborious and annoying to play.  Seriously, the only thing worse is clicking "tutorial" and being presented with a video off YouTube (I'm looking at you Natural Selection 2: why no, watching someone play well does not actually inform me as to what the god damn hotkeys are so I can actually use my abilities*).

*Yes, I had this problem with the gorge.  I could. Not. Figure. Out. Half. Its. Abilities.  I could cycle between them and press the button the UI told me was the key to use to do whatever, only to have nothing happen.

Offline Cinth

  • Core Member Mark II
  • *****
  • Posts: 2,527
  • Resident Zombie
Re: Tutorials....
« Reply #3 on: August 31, 2016, 12:46:23 AM »
I like the micro campaign idea there.  It doesn't even need to be 20 planets for each.  Just long enough to teach a few ideas and move on.  Though each needs to build on the previous sets.
Quote from: keith.lamothe
Opened your save. My computer wept. Switched to the ST planet and ship icons filled my screen, so I zoomed out. Game told me that it _was_ totally zoomed out. You could seriously walk from one end of the inner grav well to the other without getting your feet cold.

Offline chemical_art

  • Core Member Mark IV
  • *****
  • Posts: 3,946
  • Fabulous
Re: Tutorials....
« Reply #4 on: August 31, 2016, 12:46:41 AM »
How about a micro-campaign the way a standard RTS has several connected maps with story sown in between?  A couple of 20 planet galaxies that ramp up in difficulty as you go, introducing new mechanics slowly.  And of course, fully voiced (I'm sure some community members could manage to be halfway decent).  Text tutorials are so laborious and annoying to play.  Seriously, the only thing worse is clicking "tutorial" and being presented with a video off YouTube (I'm looking at you Natural Selection 2: why no, watching someone play well does not actually inform me as to what the god damn hotkeys are so I can actually use my abilities*).

*Yes, I had this problem with the gorge.  I could. Not. Figure. Out. Half. Its. Abilities.  I could cycle between them and press the button the UI told me was the key to use to do whatever, only to have nothing happen.

For me, the tutorial / campaign has to mimic the original game as much as possible. If you break it up to several maps, are you going to develop the architecture to remember the previous tech choices? The individual AI choices? The game gets fragmented fast, so either force a static campaign where both sides are locked in (not at all how the game really works) or you have to start each segment from scratch (which is not how the game works, either).

I feel like it has to be all in one shot. A standard campaign does not afford the luxury of changing strategies mid game, the tutorial should not. I am going to present the awful idea then that if certain techs HAVE to be researched then

1) The game should be reworked, so such techs are needed
2) The core needed units for these niche units are fullfilled upon completing objectives

This...is wildly flying in an new direction, but I will address it directly tonight so we can talk about it later:

The bomber unit is too powerful.

If we want to tie the bomber to a separate group unique from K, fine. But otherwise we have to make it so that for both the AI and player it is not the end all and be all of clearing defenses.
Life is short. Have fun.

Offline Cinth

  • Core Member Mark II
  • *****
  • Posts: 2,527
  • Resident Zombie
Re: Tutorials....
« Reply #5 on: August 31, 2016, 12:57:00 AM »
This...is wildly flying in an new direction, but I will address it directly tonight so we can talk about it later:

The bomber unit is too powerful.

If we want to tie the bomber to a separate group unique from K, fine. But otherwise we have to make it so that for both the AI and player it is not the end all and be all of clearing defenses.

I know derailing threads is a common occurrence here and usually not a major concern, but for right now, I'm going to ask that we don't and start a new thread just for the sake of keeping these a bit more organized.  /Mod hat off
Quote from: keith.lamothe
Opened your save. My computer wept. Switched to the ST planet and ship icons filled my screen, so I zoomed out. Game told me that it _was_ totally zoomed out. You could seriously walk from one end of the inner grav well to the other without getting your feet cold.

Offline kasnavada

  • Hero Member Mark II
  • *****
  • Posts: 911
Re: Tutorials....
« Reply #6 on: August 31, 2016, 02:03:18 AM »
What is needed is that you don't need to understand 75% of how the game works before starting a game.

The tutorial and game design should make it so the first (low-diff, obviously) game can be winnable by someone that hasn't played the game before.

Currently I feel it's not AI war's case.

Offline Mánagarmr

  • Core Member Mark V
  • *****
  • Posts: 4,270
  • if (isInRange(target)) { kill(target); }
Re: Tutorials....
« Reply #7 on: August 31, 2016, 03:07:39 AM »
As much as I'd love making new tutorial videos for AIW2, I don't see a Youtube video as a sensible replacement for an in-game tutorial, no matter how great.
Click here to get started with Mantis for Suggestions and Bug Reports.

Thank you for contributing to making the game better!

Offline Pumpkin

  • Hero Member Mark III
  • *****
  • Posts: 1,195
  • Neinzul Gardener Enclave
Re: Tutorials....
« Reply #8 on: August 31, 2016, 03:57:57 AM »
The need for a tutorial is clear. I'll try to get constructive.

I feel a tutorial must be engaging. I will take Darksiders (1) as an example; despite my wide and deep uninterest into action games, its tutorial was something I truly loved as a player and admired as a designer. It show the core of the game in an epic and impossible-to-lose setting. Many RTS tutorials make the mistake to focus on controls and UI right from the start, and while this is needed, it is done in a very arid setting. When I click tutorial in a new RTS game, I know I'm in for half an hour of controls and assisted "click X to do Y. Good, you did it!"

What I wish for a RTS tutorial, is a showcase. Show me a great battle! I want action! I want lore! Controls will come if they are intuitive enough.

So, let's get started. How would I design a "tutorial" for a RTS (any RTS, for what it's worth)? First, I'll call it "first campaign" or "introduction story" or something. Then, as someone else said in that thread, I'll take the steps of a 10-hours game and shrink it into half an hour, so it will start with one planet, it will show some attacks, captures, defenses, and ends with one homeworld assault. Journals will give "quests" and "how to", just like the current tutorial.

Firstest action: the player will select a group of ships and send them into an AI fleet. Lore: you're a Resistence Leader or something and have a group of ships, (automatically) moving in a planet with a Human OCStation (maybe some human cities for the theme) and a force field, and an AI fleet bashing it (no bomber, the station is not in real danger). The player is tasked with: select your fleet and move toward the bad AI fleet attacking the good Human city (lore: "Quick! Help us!"). AI get crunched, you saved the city. Yay! Journal Entry with human saying "thank you, you saved us from the AI" and more backstory "you know the AI nearly exterminated us, right?" (Now, the player know (1) how to move a fleet and (2) AI bad, Humans good.)

Then the player gets a space dock and is tasked to refleet: put it on loop, select ships to be built, watch how the cap works. Then a quick explanation of the V-click, an AI wave come, the ships automatically move to intercept and the looses are automatically rebuilt. "See, kid, that's macromanagement" says the journal entry.

Then the player is tasked with capturing the nearby planet (lore say: we need to capture more metal and technology in order to survive). Wormhole move explanation, galactic map explanation, then discovery of an AI planet. The player now have two different kinds of ships and the planet is defended by two different Guard Posts. The journal entry (Langstrom?) explains this is dangerous AI technology but it has its weakness. Quick introduction of hull bonuses (and yes, ammo/bonuses need more coherency) and the player must attack the right GPost with his right Ship type.

Then the player is told about OCStations: "They control a planet. You want to replace the AI OCS with a Human OCS. First blow the AI one, then take this free colony ship (you don't need to build it for now) and place yours." Then a little blabla about construction and defense: the player is tasked with building turrets between its OCStation and the (lone) hostile wormhole, and put its fleet in FRD. An AI wave comes in and get crushed. Congratulations.

The player now knows the very basics of the game but he experimented them one at a time, the more interesting (fleet move and fight) first.

Then the lore expands: Humans want to cut the Core AI from their galaxy and thus they must assassinate the two commanders. But the Core might notice and send more resources to these commanders. So this is an assassination game, not a conquest game. The player is presented with scout, capture choices, AIP, CSG, etc, which is a big part of the game. I won't detail it because it needs to be more refined than what I can come up with right now. But overall, the players must understand he has choices to make and each choice has consequences.

Advanced, separated tutorials introduction missions might tackle advanced territory planning and defense, hacking, raiding, etc.

The lore progressively came from "Humans, nearly extinct, must defend against AI to survive" then "Expand to get more resources/technologies" and finally "Assassinate the AI without it notice to save mankind", but not everything at once.

What do you think?
Please excuse my english: I'm not a native speaker. Don't hesitate to correct me.
Pumpkin>> Do I need another cure about paranoia on top of overexcitement?
Mal>> We play AI War, enthusiasm and paranoia are both required!

Offline Misery

  • Global Moderator
  • Core Member Mark V
  • *****
  • Posts: 4,099
Re: Tutorials....
« Reply #9 on: August 31, 2016, 04:10:25 AM »
How about a micro-campaign the way a standard RTS has several connected maps with story sown in between?  A couple of 20 planet galaxies that ramp up in difficulty as you go, introducing new mechanics slowly.  And of course, fully voiced (I'm sure some community members could manage to be halfway decent).  Text tutorials are so laborious and annoying to play.  Seriously, the only thing worse is clicking "tutorial" and being presented with a video off YouTube (I'm looking at you Natural Selection 2: why no, watching someone play well does not actually inform me as to what the god damn hotkeys are so I can actually use my abilities*).

*Yes, I had this problem with the gorge.  I could. Not. Figure. Out. Half. Its. Abilities.  I could cycle between them and press the button the UI told me was the key to use to do whatever, only to have nothing happen.

For me, the tutorial / campaign has to mimic the original game as much as possible. If you break it up to several maps, are you going to develop the architecture to remember the previous tech choices? The individual AI choices? The game gets fragmented fast, so either force a static campaign where both sides are locked in (not at all how the game really works) or you have to start each segment from scratch (which is not how the game works, either).

I feel like it has to be all in one shot. A standard campaign does not afford the luxury of changing strategies mid game, the tutorial should not. I am going to present the awful idea then that if certain techs HAVE to be researched then

1) The game should be reworked, so such techs are needed
2) The core needed units for these niche units are fullfilled upon completing objectives

This...is wildly flying in an new direction, but I will address it directly tonight so we can talk about it later:

The bomber unit is too powerful.

If we want to tie the bomber to a separate group unique from K, fine. But otherwise we have to make it so that for both the AI and player it is not the end all and be all of clearing defenses.


Hmm, you have a really good point with all of this.   You're right, this isn't something that should be divided.

Though, that does bring up one concern: The tutorial being too long.    However, at the same time.... AI War is a LONG game.  A single run takes many hours.  If the tutorial is designed enough to play like a real run, perhaps that's not actually a problem at all.   

The current tutorial, on the other hand, DID feel bizarrely long to me (even if it really isn't) but then it also does a very bad job of showing the "feel" or potential of the actual game.


Quote
What I wish for a RTS tutorial, is a showcase. Show me a great battle! I want action! I want lore!

Aye, that's another very good point.  The current tutorial... and basically every RTS (or even turn-base strategy) tutorial ever does not do this.  RTS game tutorials give you like, 3 and a half soldiers and tells you to have them fire at a crash test dummy.  That's not very exciting.   Particularly for a game like this... a big part of AI War is having 10 squillion units clashing on screen.  That'd definitely be a good thing to work in here, yes indeed.  Both from the "attack this planet" and "defend your own" standpoint.  As opposed to the AI throwing like 5 rather sleepy bombers at you.


The lore stuff I'll not comment on, I'm definitely not the right one to give feedback about that part.  But I do see the appeal that players would find in it.

Offline Pumpkin

  • Hero Member Mark III
  • *****
  • Posts: 1,195
  • Neinzul Gardener Enclave
Re: Tutorials....
« Reply #10 on: August 31, 2016, 04:13:04 AM »
Quote
What I wish for a RTS tutorial, is a showcase. Show me a great battle! I want action! I want lore!

Aye, that's another very good point.  The current tutorial... and basically every RTS (or even turn-base strategy) tutorial ever does not do this.  RTS game tutorials give you like, 3 and a half soldiers and tells you to have them fire at a crash test dummy.  That's not very exciting.   Particularly for a game like this... a big part of AI War is having 10 squillion units clashing on screen.  That'd definitely be a good thing to work in here, yes indeed.  Both from the "attack this planet" and "defend your own" standpoint.  As opposed to the AI throwing like 5 rather sleepy bombers at you.
Yep, let's crank things up. Let says several hundreds or AI ships (no bombers) bashing a Human MkV FField and the player comes in with several hundreds of units to save the day.
Please excuse my english: I'm not a native speaker. Don't hesitate to correct me.
Pumpkin>> Do I need another cure about paranoia on top of overexcitement?
Mal>> We play AI War, enthusiasm and paranoia are both required!

Offline x4000

  • Chris Park, Arcen Games Founder and Lead Designer
  • Administrator
  • Zenith Council Member Mark III
  • *****
  • Posts: 31,086
Re: Tutorials....
« Reply #11 on: August 31, 2016, 09:11:12 AM »
One thing that is going to be the goal here is making the tutorials xml-based so they can be created by anyone.  So if there are 50 youtube videos that someone created, well, they could just as easily make a micro campaign and a bunch of text and whatever.

Not to say that we're abdicating responsibility on the tutorials, but it does democratize it some, and allow for some of the crowdsourcing that some people clearly felt compelled by in the first game given all the youtube videos that were made for the game.

THAT said, my first focus at the moment is making it so that you don't have to understand so much in order to play at a basic level.
Have ideas or bug reports for one of our games?  Mantis for Suggestions and Bug Reports. Thanks for helping to make our games better!

Offline kasnavada

  • Hero Member Mark II
  • *****
  • Posts: 911
Re: Tutorials....
« Reply #12 on: August 31, 2016, 09:14:02 AM »
THAT said, my first focus at the moment is making it so that you don't have to understand so much in order to play at a basic level.

That.

Offline x4000

  • Chris Park, Arcen Games Founder and Lead Designer
  • Administrator
  • Zenith Council Member Mark III
  • *****
  • Posts: 31,086
Re: Tutorials....
« Reply #13 on: August 31, 2016, 09:15:35 AM »
THAT said, my first focus at the moment is making it so that you don't have to understand so much in order to play at a basic level.

That.

Oops.  I meant to end that sentence with "as kasnavada said."
Have ideas or bug reports for one of our games?  Mantis for Suggestions and Bug Reports. Thanks for helping to make our games better!

Offline Lavenders2

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 8
Re: Tutorials....
« Reply #14 on: September 01, 2016, 08:23:00 AM »
I thought about this for a bit and I have some ideas:

My experience with learning this game was interesting (I still am!) but I feel like the game takes a very "hands off" approach with learning. The game gives you the very basics and leaves you to find out the rest. Worse still, the game doesn't even tell you how to use the tools that would allow you to learn the game yourself (although the interface really doesn't help support this method of learning). As a result, I was sort of forced to just start multiple games and try things over and over again, because the tutorial didn't give me an environment to do that, and a real game of AI war isn't really designed to be something you try multiple different things until it works, because sometimes trying the wrong things will lose you the game.

My biggest problem by far is that the game just doesn't give you a proper learning environment. In my experience there are two kinds of learners:
- Explorative learner: The guy who learns by doing things himself and seeing how the game responds.
* The problem: Exploring a certain concept when it isn't appropriate to do so can lose you a game, trying new things in a game that lasts for 10+ hours isn't a fun experience, especially when trying something new 7 hours in loses you the game

- Modelling learner: Not really sure what to call it, but this is the guy who learns by watching someone else do it first correctly (or even incorrectly), and then replicating it to see if they get the same result.
* The problem: There is no method in AI War that allows you to just watch it happen first before trying it yourself. If I want to learn how to gate raid, I just have to try it myself first. I can't see how its done, or what kind of effect it has until I do it.

In other words, to learn something in AI war you have to try it firsthand without seeing it done, but doing so is actually counter-productive to the flow of the game, because explorative learning in a game as tight as AI war can cause you to lose.

My idea of what a tutorial in AI war would be like goes something like this:
Make a tutorial where you have an AI partner with you. He can be scripted to do the same thing every time, or whatever. Let's go back to the gate raid example. The game would explain to you what a gate raid is, why you would even bother doing it, and how to actually do one. The game would then tell you that your AI partner is about to do one, and tell you how to watch it (by clicking on the planet he is gate raiding or whatever). However, also give the player the option to just try doing a gate raid themselves, and also give them the option to repeat it as many times as they like until they are satisfied. If they chose to watch the AI guy, the game would say something like "This is a gate raid, notice how AI is doing x and y. They do x and y because it accomplishes z." Once they have watched it happen, they will be told to do one themselves, again giving them the option to do it as many times as they like until they are happy, just like the person who chose not to watch the AI.
This allows those who want to experiment to do it straight away, and those who want to see how its done can do so with an actual example. The option to repeat the task allows the player to become comfortable with the task in isolation of other tasks.

In my opinion, if you do this, then the final tutorial where you play an actual game will be easier, because all the tasks that make up a game of AI war have become isolated, and the player has actually learnt how to do them.