General Category > AVWW Brainstorming

Brainstorming How To Introduce EP and Missions to new (or existing) players.

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So, the game isn't even out of beta yet, and we already have a fragmented playerbase.  We have many players who "know how to play," but haven't played in the last couple of months and so find that their knowledge of the game is worse than out of date -- it's downright wrong, making things more confusing and difficult than if they had never played the game at all.

And then there's the issue of introducing the larger game to new players in general, too.  The intro mission is great for getting the base mechanics down, but I don't think that we should be trying to introduce strategic concepts like EP or tiers or missions in the intro mission.  For a couple of reasons: first, it wouldn't help existing players coming back to the game; secondly, people can skip the intro mission and if they're competent at Metroidvania games they can probably figure most stuff out; third, doing that sort of info dump on players out of context (they wouldn't be able to use that knowledge about EP and missions for a while, in other words) tends to cause mental exhaustion and frustration.

But not explaining it at all leads to things like this:

So!  Before we can move into beta phase 3 for this game, we really need to solve this issue or we're going to wind up shooting ourselves in the foot in a big way.

The concepts that I think need to be gotten across are really simple:

--- Quote ---1. Enemy Progress (EP) going up is bad: the tier of enemies goes up, making them much harder, and the continent gets closer to destruction.

2. Completing missions increases EP, so be careful with that.

3. To make yourself more powerful, you'll need crafting materials that you can get from free-roaming exploration and from completing missions.

4. If you want to craft something that you don't have the resources for, consult the reference info window to learn where to find that material.

5. If you let the enemy tier get to 2 or higher when you only have tier 1 spells, you're going to be in for a world of pain.  So plan ahead!

6. Oh yeah, I guess we should also mention that new materials, spells, enemies, and other objects can be unlocked by completing various objectives.
--- End quote ---

This is something I'm only starting to think about, but to some extent Keith and I are a bit close to the problem -- making training materials for something you know intimately is always a challenge, though doable.  So I'd definitely appreciate any thoughts that folks have on the matter -- not really for more tutorials, but for ways that the game itself could introduce these concepts.

One idea: Perhaps after completing a mission, there's a popup that explains about EP.  And perhaps it keeps reminding you about that sort of thing every time you complete a mission until you unlock some number of tier 2 spells on your first continent.  That would be mildly annoying for a while, but also a good thing to keep reminding people and quick to click through if need be.

Another idea: Perhaps there needs to be some sort of brief "your most pressing objectives are currently summarized as" that shows up whenever you bring up the escape menu.  It could show to the right of the player portrait, and we could have a settings option for experienced players to turn that off if they find it getting in the way of their normal visibility of the chunk when in that menu.  This idea has a certain amount of appeal to me, because it's something that players would naturally encounter as they are saving the game or exiting or doing any number of other things.  It would be a way of providing needed direction and guidance for some players (either because of their personality, or because they are new to the current state of it), while at the same time not requiring any style of play.


I'm thinking things like your EP creeping up should be normally indicated by the relevant display on your GUI flashing red, pulsing a bit, giving off a +x floaty number or some other affectation which is both eye-catching and unobtrusive. For current objectives, I think you pretty much nailed it in your suggestion above.

As for the rest, it seems to me the norm here would be to have some sort of NPC - an Ilari, one would assume - in your starting settlement who stopped you on your way out and explained, very briefly, what the hell you were expected to do next. Real basic stuff, at that point: just a line or two, covering some of the bits in 3, 4 and 6. The window displayed when conversing with this Ilari should be distinctive in some way: a fancy portrait, fancy edges or something.

Then, add pop-ups of that very same window for just the first occasions on which more salient information might be given: you've just completed a mission, so it pops up to tell you about 1 and 2, very briefly; you've just unlocked a new spell, so it pops up to remind you about how to craft it; you try to craft something for which you don't have resources, so it pops up to tell you about 4 again; everything's about to go up to tier 2, so it pops up to warn you what that might mean; you've gone up a tier, so a brief message about that to remind you; etc.

Once you've seen them all once, many of those things might have other indicators in the GUI but would never show you the pop-ups again.

Then you could add a button in the settings which resets the tutorial messages so that they come up at the relevant triggers once more, in case you've been a way a while and want a reminder.

Also, integrate it a little with the lore - so an Ilari isn't telling you about missions, it's intimating why it might need you to help repopulate; and EP isn't just an arbitrary number, it's the Ilari's way of monitoring the stability of reality; stuff like that. It'll make the tutorial text far more interesting to read, and far less like a tutorial at all.

I think those are all really solid ideas -- thanks for that!

So i guess i am alone when i suggest that you make a tutorial companion "thing" that follows us and mentions these things as they are important and relevant and then how zebramatt detailed...

You could make it something like a portable ilari construct with an attitude or whatever ;)

AS i am one of those with "totally wrong idea about the game" right now i would prefer the "catching up with mechanics" was part of the gameplay (after the tutorial mission)

This also has another importance, with showing you can do companion characters you can "spoiler" that companions are possible which will be all the better when they are then implemented ;P

As side-effect, you could also use the "training dog" as a sort of message and info delivery without breaking 4th wall all the time, which is what tutorial boxes are.

The best tutorials are those you enjoy playing.

This isn't just about missions and EP obviously, for just these 2 things you can always just assume we know it (and mention it in the intro mission)

I don't have any great suggestions off the top of my head, but a few things to mention about tutorials that may (not) help. In general, infodumps are pretty bad. I don't foresee that happening, so no worries there. Probably the worst sort of tutorial is one that just asks you read pages of instructions and then lets you loose to be totally confused when you run up against those things in the game world an hour or so later. (And with no easy access to the tutorial at that point to figure out what the heck is going on) Far too many games do this, and it drives me crazy.

On the other end of the scale, what I like best is an in-game tutorial that introduces a concept slowly, lets you play around and get comfortable with it in an environment that's similar to a real in-game environment and then moves on to layer new concepts on top of that. The best of the best are those that don't even introduce a UI element until you need it. You just get led along learning one thing and then another at your own pace, until you realize that you're looking at a screen that may be chock full of intricate details and you're comprehending it all like an expert without even noticing what was happening. And then someone comes by and looks over your shoulder and boggles at how you can have any idea what's going on. I know I've played games like this before, although I can't think of an example right now.

But as for games that introduce concepts slowly, one of the best examples is the original Portal. You hardly notice it, but almost all of that game is a tutorial. You get introduced to a concept, then there's a sort of easy test to verify that you really learned it, and then later you have to recall and use it with little or no prompting. You never realize that this is happening, but if you go back and play through with this in mind you'll see it clearly. World of Warcraft did it pretty well too, actually. Start a new mage and you have attack options of either hitting things with a stick, or shooting a fireball. Then you level up a time or two and now you have one more spell, and so on. The leveling curve and the slow addition of new skills ensure that by the time you reach top level you're easily able to utilize 50+ different abilities that all interact in different ways without ever feeling overwhelmed.

Now as for how all this could actually be implemented in this particular situation... I'm not so sure. Perhaps you could stretch the tutorial to sort-of cover the entire first continent. Once you get past the initial tutorial area, offer suggestions about what to do next, then allow free roaming and only pop up pertinent information when the player stumbles across it. And then once you actually beat your first overlord you'll know pretty much all you need to know. Of course, I have no idea if this is easily implemented or if I'm asking for some kind of massive effort. :D


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