開發者以多款遊戲的實際案例談4種有效的遊戲教程設計

原作者:Darran Jamieson 譯者ciel chen

沒有人喜歡所謂的遊戲教程。我們每次買遊戲來玩基本都直接跳過這一步,因爲我們懶得花時間看那麼多菜單和流程圖——然而,我們得懂怎麼玩啊,得知道每個遊戲的新規則呀——總之,如果每個遊戲都一樣,那我們還玩其他遊戲幹嘛?

也就是我們想讓我們的遊戲教程儘快地結束對不對?重點來了,遊戲最開始的前幾分鐘直接決定了玩家對遊戲的整體印象和體驗。AAA級遊戲會有更大的迴旋餘地,但是如果你做的是手遊或者頁遊,那你得儘可能快地讓玩家嚐到遊戲的甜頭才行;否則他們就去玩別的去了。
好了,也就是說,教程還是要有的,但是我們不想讓玩家坐在那裏聽一堂無聊的遊戲運作課程……這可是個難搞的問題。解決方法在於我們要怎麼構建我們的教程:我們可以把它做的好玩點嗎?還是說,我們把它融入到遊戲中成爲遊戲內容的一部分?
遊戲教程可以分爲三類:非交互式,交互式以及被動式。讓我們依次來看看這幾個類型。

非交互式遊戲內置教程

The entire game tutorial(from tutsplus.com)

The entire game tutorial(from tutsplus.com)

無交互式內置遊戲教程其實從某些程度上來說是老式遊戲設計的遺物。下圖是《Infected》的內容,這是我和我的團隊幾年前做的遊戲。

整個遊戲教程基礎就是這張圖了;我們回憶了一下,發現這是一個巨大的設計缺陷。當看到人們真正玩遊戲的時候,他們會點擊這張圖片,然後短暫性呆滯掉,接着他們會繼續點“開始(star)”。我們的大部分玩家,都無法理解遊戲到底是怎麼玩的。

George Fan是超讚遊戲《植物大戰殭屍》的創作者,他遵從着“屏幕裏的字不能超過8個”的準則——因爲大部分玩家能集中注意力的時間很短暫,所以他們是無法消化吸收大量信息的。

然而非交互式遊戲教程也未必就那麼壞,他們基本總是衝破了“八字”限制。如果我們需要深入這個設計缺陷,我們可以總結爲以下:

教程內容宜少不宜多

這在遊戲內置教程設計中真的是頭號規則。玩家應該全程瞭解遊戲中發生的事件:如果你給玩家200個組合絕招和特殊攻擊,那他們很可能只能記住其中兩三個,然後就靠這兩三個絕招招式玩下來整個遊戲。然而如果你“有技巧地指導”玩家——每次只引入一個概念——那麼他們就會有很多機會掌握每一個本領。

我們之前大體地談過這個想法,就是在把成就作爲遊戲教程輔助——迫使玩家用基礎武器來過一個關卡可能會有損遊戲整體的“趣味等級”,但是如果把這個過程作爲一個成就來讓玩家選擇性地完成,這就可以鼓舞玩家(尤其是那些在遊戲中已經很有能力的玩家)去嘗試新的遊戲策略。

任何一種等級或者獎勵制度都可以用在這裏,比如星級評定啊或者A+到F的排名啊之類的。就是“玩很爛的”玩家都可以秦公司能夠完成,而那些迷戀難度更高的挑戰的玩家會得到更高的分數。這也讓喜歡挑戰百分百完成度的超級玩家有了目標,同時那些休閒玩家也可以在不被困難關卡難倒的情況下享受遊戲的樂趣。

《超級食肉男孩》(Super Meat Boy )就把遊戲的前六個關卡都納入了“教程內容”——第一關是教你基本內容:左移右移和跳躍。第二關是教翻牆。第三關教衝刺。一旦玩家明白了這些基礎內容,遊戲就開始引入像旋風刀、平臺撞裂、滾動這類操作的關卡。

 Super Meat Boy(from tutsplus.com)

Super Meat Boy(from tutsplus.com)

遊戲的第一關。你知道怎麼走怎麼跳躍了是麼?那你很棒棒噢。

事實上,《超級食肉男孩》第一關想不通過都難。遊戲使用了一種通常被叫做“noob cave(新手洞穴)”的技巧。玩家的起點基本上處在一個不可能失敗的位置——他們在到達他們可能會掛掉的關卡之前,要先有所進步才行。這讓玩家有機會去了解遊戲機制,並且不需要有敵人攻擊或者時間耗光的壓迫感。

這個“新人洞穴”技巧從某種程度上來說,就是我們植入《Infected》的技巧:儘管 《Infected》很有可能讓你在第一關就輸掉,你得花點功夫才能贏。玩家在遊戲開始已經得到了很關鍵的開局優勢(是敵人數量的兩倍)),並且這裏幾乎沒有存在人工智能。在高等級時,人工智能纔會通過運算來移動,但是在第一關,人工只能完全是胡亂走的(在遊戲規則之內的)。這意味着即使玩家不知道怎麼玩,還是有很大機會可以贏的。(當然有些玩家還是輸了,不過他們的整體表現上比在我們遊戲的第一版好很多,當時我們只是簡單地把讓他們扔給了很厲害的AI對戰,他們輸得可慘了。)

把“新手洞穴”放置到遊戲的方法有很多,但是其中比較有效的就是創造一個交互式遊戲教程:在一些遊戲機制鎖定起來的遊戲小節裏,玩家只能操作固定的動作來通關。這讓玩家不僅“玩”到了遊戲,還不用冒着失敗和無聊的風險。

交互式遊戲內置教程

讓玩家在遊戲內置教程中進行交互是一種很好的遊戲機制指導辦法。比起簡單地告訴玩家遊戲怎麼運作的,讓他們去執行所需的行動更容易讓他們留下來。然而你可以給玩家100次指令,但是讓他們去執行操作會讓他們更容易記住和理解。

上圖來自《Highrise Heroes》,這是讓玩家如何投入到教程中的一個很好演示。儘管那比只簡單地展示出一個單詞是如何工作的會簡單得多,但讓他們通過實際完成一個單詞的鍵入會讓他們在繼續遊戲之前更好地理解這個操作。玩家在顯示出他們能夠完成基礎的遊戲內容之前,是無法接觸到“完整的”遊戲的。因爲你迫使玩家去執行這些操作,你就可以確保玩家只有搞定了這個任務纔有能力繼續遊戲。

這裏有一點唯一不好的就是,如果玩家已經熟悉過了遊戲,他們會覺得這種強制性遊戲教程很煩人。這一點缺陷可以通過讓玩家跳過教程(不管他們之前有沒有玩過遊戲)來避免。而Steambirds的創始人Moores則說過他是如何製作不可跳過的遊戲教程把玩家留存率從60%上升到了95%。

背景式遊戲內置教程

背景式遊戲內置教程讓玩家可以直接進入遊戲。雖然玩家可以通過“新手洞穴”這個方法進行遊戲,但背景式內置教程讓他們能夠(希望如此)以更快的節奏完成,從而更快進入到“遊戲正題內容”。
這裏是例子:

在遊戲《VVVVVV》中,玩家從這裏開始——一個安全的地帶,他們可以練習控制。

VVVVVV(from tutsplus.com)

VVVVVV(from tutsplus.com)

這是《VVVVVV》的初始畫面,用了一個小小的彈幕來告訴玩家怎麼左移右移。隨着玩家能夠完全地掌握操作,他們唯一能操作的星斗就是移動到下一個畫面,這裏他們會被告知如何“跳躍”來越過障礙。從那之後,他們就基本掌握了遊戲玩法——儘管這裏移動和跳躍可以放在同一個房間裏來掌握,不過把它們分開能確保玩家掌握了每一項技能而不會被大量的文本所淹沒。

背景式教程和交互式教程之間的區別是很微妙的,因爲他們都可以使用類似的教程風格。主要區別還是——背景式教程可以無需任何努力就跳過:所有的東西不過是合併到了背景裏了而已。

《我的女友是殭屍》是一個超好玩的FLASH遊戲。你可以玩看看,要注意,遊戲會在主菜單還沒出現就讓你開始操作遊戲。

交互式或者背景式的教程是我們應該使用在《Infected》中的。整個教程可以通過三個步驟來學習(如何移動,如何跳躍,如何捕捉),所以如果我們做的是交互式或背景式教程,遊戲的玩法就不會有重大的損失。雖然我們知道這個問題,但是教程是我們開發的末尾事項之一,所以這時好的設計在完成遊戲的過程中只能佔據第二的位置。

無內置教程

你是怎麼從水龍頭裏弄涼水的?一般來說,你把把手轉到右邊就好了。那你是如何擰緊螺絲的?順時針轉就好了。這些都是沒有說明書的——我們是本身就知道它們怎麼用的,或者說我們從小就知道了,因爲這些工具(通常)都以同樣的方式使用,所以我們的生活中,這種知識得到了加強。

遊戲的運作也是有這種原則的。作爲資深玩家,我們自動就會知道我們要在遊戲裏蒐集金幣還有升級,而非遊戲玩家本身可能是無法理解這些目標的,因此,讓這些目標儘可能明顯是當務之急。(即使你以前沒玩過橫板平攤遊戲,你也知道跳到火坑裏不會有好結果的。)
一個玩家通常可以一眼就分辨出“好”和“壞”的區別,而不需要真的去死來作爲試錯方法。宮本茂曾經說過他是如何決定在馬里奧中使用硬幣的原因:

“所以,我就想,什麼是每個人看到了都會想‘我超想要那個!’的,我們就想,‘是了,肯定是錢。’”

《植物大戰殭屍》用的是“植物”和“殭屍”主題,這有助於在沒有任何解釋說明的情況下指導玩家:玩家指導植物不會動,而殭屍動得很慢。與其去找一個無聊的“炮塔和士兵”的遊戲主題,植物大戰殭屍的主題就有趣可愛得多,並且還能傳授重要的知識。

 Plants vs Zombies(from tutsplus.com)

Plants vs Zombies(from tutsplus.com)

說實在的,要弄清楚這裏大概發生了什麼並不難。

因爲玩家都很“瞭解”遊戲怎麼玩,我們不用老解釋所有內容。當你把玩家扔到一款遊戲裏的時候,想象什麼都不告訴他們——讓他們自己發現玩法。如果他們一動不動地站着,就給他們點提示(“試試移動控制桿來行走!”),但是記住,玩家通常會嘗試執行基本的命令——因爲遊戲“基本規則”差不多都是統一的,這意味着我們可以假設玩家對遊戲是有點熟悉的;然而,這也意味着,如果你要對這些基本規則做出改變是件很危險的事。

一些初出茅廬的遊戲設計師認爲,“正常模式”的做事方法是錯的,因此他們喜歡忽略既定的規則一意孤行。實時戰略類型遊戲在過去就經歷很多這方面的挫折,雖然今天的遊戲都傾向使用相當標準化的控制系統(左鍵選擇,右鍵移動或攻擊)——而老式遊戲的一致性就非常小了,它們還會時常變換鼠標左右鍵的控制,或者試着將多個命令綁到一個鍵上。如果你現在玩一款老遊戲,那種奇怪的控制可能會讓你很彆扭,因爲我們學習的是不同的控制設定。

實施“明顯的”控制是《Infected》的可取之處:當玩家可能不想讀教程的時候,按一下棋子就馬上可以顯示出玩家可以做出的移動,通過玩家視覺上的反應,讓他們點擊可以做出“正確”移動的地方,這讓玩家會繼續對控制系統進行探索。我們遊戲的最初版本是沒有這部分提示部分的,後來我們發現,添加了這個小圖形之後,遊戲變得更好理解,玩家也更知道要怎麼操作這個遊戲了,並且不需要刪減任何其他內容。

在《Infected》中,你選擇一個棋子之後,標明的區域告訴你哪些是你可以移動的位置。

如果你想改變傳統遊戲操作模式,你要有一個很好的理由才行。《超凡塊魂(Katamari Damacy)》同時使用了兩個拇指杆控制移動,而不是傳統的一個控制移動,另一個移動鏡頭的操作方式。儘管這可能在一開始會造成一些混亂,然而遊戲的簡單性就意味着這個操作系統運作得特別好。

無獨有偶,頁遊《過勞死上班族自殺》實際上是要求玩家自殺的遊戲,經常的死法就是跳到尖刺上。然而遊戲的反向主題(遊戲邦注:死掉纔算贏),這是一個“非標準式”的遊戲行爲,玩家的目標卻總是非常明確。

遊戲總是會改變和發展的,但是重要的是要明白當你做出改變時——不論是在控制方面還是遊戲目標方面——都不應該讓玩家需要“從頭開始學習”。

持續的學習與試驗

值得注意的是,不提供給玩家明確的指令實際上可以通過試驗來鼓勵玩家玩遊戲。在《塞爾達傳說》系列遊戲中,玩家玩家不斷地尋找新的物品和裝備,並且需要學習如何使用它們。比起坐着看冗長的解釋“水煙槍:學習如何使用你的新武器”,遊戲只是把玩家關在一個封閉的房間裏然後說“搞定它”——儘管這個“謎題”通常都非常清楚,玩家基本都能馬上就掌握。

這些空間基本都是“noob caves(新手洞穴)”:儘管在遊戲中途發現的這些空間,但是這些空間提供了一個安全的環境能讓玩家能探索他們的新玩具是如何使用的。一旦玩家瞭解了這些新玩具的玩法,他們就要被重新扔回到遊戲主線世界了,在那裏他們要繼續過五關斬六怪。在遊戲的最後,玩家已經非常熟悉他們的新武器了,這讓他們進行武器之間的轉換來解決多層面難題變成了第二本能。

《塞爾達》系列遊戲處理遊戲內置教程的方法也值得我們注意:對於《塞爾達》而言,遊戲本身就是教程。可能除了最後的地牢,玩家永遠都是處在學習之中的;這種“涓滴式教程”是塞爾達系列的最大優點之一。比起一開始就給出了所有的教程,玩家在解鎖遊戲的過程中慢慢學習,所以他們永遠不會覺得內容過多,並且總能解鎖新的玩具來使用。

還是《植物大戰殭屍》,它也是有效地使用了“涓滴式教程”:在每一個關卡,玩家解鎖新的植物(有時候是新的場地),並且必須學會如何使用這些植物(或場地)來打敗殭屍大軍。因此遊戲始終都不會給玩家灌入過多的內容,而是持續地提供新鮮的內容來讓玩家玩。因爲玩家要在每種武器上花些時間,這鼓勵了玩家來選擇最有效用的植物,而不是把開始使用的那類武器在整個遊戲中從頭用到尾。

別把玩家嚇跑了

所有的這些都是在說:別把玩家嚇跑了,但也別讓他們無聊到想走人啊喂。這似乎是個在明顯不過的提議了,然而很少有遊戲(包括AAA級遊戲)能真的理解這點的重要性。

常見的例子——一次次再犯的錯誤:要求玩家註冊後玩。如果你想讓一個玩家上鉤,不要讓他們填寫表格,填寫他們的出生日期,他們的電子郵件地址,等等,你只需要給他們一個訪客帳號,讓他們玩就好了。如果他們覺得好玩,他們就會想要註冊一個“完整版”的賬戶了。(《Tagpro》是一款多人在線遊戲,它在這點上做得很好:選擇一個服務器,點擊訪客試玩,你就可以開始遊戲了。)

做複雜的遊戲當然也好,但是開發者要意識到人類的記憶力並不是那麼好,注意力集中期也很短暫,在一大堆文字面前也不會表現出很好的學習能力。如果你以前沒玩過這些遊戲,試試玩玩《十字軍之王》、《歐陸風雲》、《矮人要塞》、或者甚至是《文明》系列遊戲。如果沒人示範給你怎麼玩這些遊戲,那麼你就會發現這些遊戲的實際操作是非常令人畏懼的。雖然這些都是非常棒的遊戲,但它們總會有特定的“小衆”特質——不是因爲他們有學習曲線,而是因爲他們有學習的懸崖般的跳線,只有意志力最堅定的人才能玩得下去。
總結

記住:試着讓你的教程好玩起來,別讓它成了單調乏味的死板流程。每個遊戲都是不同的,所以要在一個特定的遊戲類型中實現這些所有想法可能是很困難的——但是如果你可以讓遊戲的第一個五分鐘非常有趣,你也許就能吸引到陪你的遊戲走到最後的玩家。

本文由遊戲邦編譯,轉載請註明來源,或諮詢微信zhengjintiao

We all hate in-game tutorials. When we buy a game, we want to jump straight into the action, not spend ages reading through menus and flowcharts of moves. But we need to know how to play. We need to understand the new rules of each game—after all, if every game were the same, why would we need other games?

And because computer games are so complex, there’s much more to a tutorial than just “use arrow keys and space to shoot”. There’s how we interact, our objectives, how the world reacts to us: all this needs to be imparted to the player, and preferably without sitting them down and specifically having to say “spikes are bad”.

So we want to get our tutorial out of the way as quickly as possible, right? The thing is, the first few minutes of a game can make or break a player’s experience. Triple-A games have a little bit more leeway, but if you’re making a mobile or web game then you need to get the player into the meat of the game as soon as possible to ensure they’re having fun; otherwise, they’ll just find something else to play.

OK, so we need to make a tutorial, but we don’t want the player to sit through a boring lesson on how the game works… this is a conundrum. The solution lies in how we construct our tutorial: can we make it fun? In fact, can we make it part of the game?

Tutorials can be largely split into three types: non-interactive, interactive, and passive. We’ll look at each in turn.

Non-Interactive In-Game Tutorials

Non-interactive in-game tutorials are, in many ways, a leftover of old game design. The image below is from Infected, a game my team and I made several years back.

Infected tutorial image

The “tutorial” from our game, Infected.

The entire game tutorial is essentially this one image; in retrospect, it was a massive design flaw. When watched people actually play the game, they would hit that screen, their eyes would briefly glaze over, and they would hit Start. For most of our players, they were none the wiser on how the game actually worked.

George Fan, the creator of the fantastic Plants vs Zombies, goes by the rule that “there should be no more than eight words on the screen at any time”. Players generally have short attention spans, and are not looking to digest large quantities of information.

While non-interactive tutorials are not necessarily bad, they nearly always break this eight-word limit. If we were wanted to explore this design flaw, we could sum it up neatly as:

Don’t overwhelm the player.

This is really the first rule of in-game tutorial design. Players need to understand what’s going on at all times: if you give the player a list of 200 combo moves and special attacks, then chances are they’ll remember two or three and use those for the entire game. However, if you “trickle teach” the player—introduce one concept at a time—then they will have plenty of opportunity to get to grips with each ability.

Controller image

We’ve used this image before, but its still relevant.

We’ve actually talked briefly about this idea before, under the concept of using achievements as tutorial aids. Forcing the player to complete a level with only a basic weapon might damage the overall “fun level”, but giving players an achievement for doing it makes it optional, and encourages players (especially those who are already competent at the game) to try new strategies and tactics.

Any sort of rank or reward system can be used in this way, such as a star rating or an A+ to F ranking. “Bad” players can complete the level easily, whereas players who adhere to more difficult challenges are rewarded with higher scores. This also allows more hardcore gamers to aim for 100% completion, while casual gamers can still enjoy the game without getting stuck on a difficult level.

Super Meat Boy spreads its “tutorial” over the first half dozen levels. The first level teaches you the fundamentals: moving left and right and jumping. Level 2 teaches wall jumping. Level 3, sprinting. Once the player has understood these basic concepts, the game starts introducing concepts like spinning blades, disintegrating platforms, and scrolling levels.

super meat boy gameplay image

The first level of Super Meat Boy. Can you handle walking and jumping? Then you’re probably good.

The first level of Super Meat Boy, in fact, is incredibly difficult to fail at. The game uses a technique often referred to as a “noob cave”. Essentially, the player starts in a position from which it is impossible to fail—they need to make progress in order to get to a point where they can die. This gives the player a chance to get to grips with the game mechanics, without feeling under threat of enemies attacking or timers running out.

The “noob cave” technique is something we implemented in Infected to some degree: although it is possible to lose the first level, it requires some effort. The player is given a significant starting advantage (twice as many pieces as the enemy), and the AI is almost non-existent. At high levels, the AI will make calculated moves, but on the first level, the AI will move 100% randomly (within the rules of making a legal move). This means that even if the player has zero idea of how to play, they are still highly likely to win. (Of course some players still managed to lose, but the overall experience was significantly better for our players than our first version, where we simply threw them against an advanced AI that would crush them.)

There are a few ways to implement a “noob cave” in a game, but one effective way is to create an interactive tutorial: a section of the game with locked down mechanics where the player can only perform the actions required to win. This allows the player to “play” the game, without running the risk of losing and getting bored.

Interactive In-Game Tutorials

Allowing player interaction within an in-game tutorial is a good way to teach mechanics. Rather than simply telling the player how the game works, making them perform required actions results in better retention. While you can tell a player the instructions a hundred times, actually getting them to perform game actions will guarantee that they remember and understand.

Highrise heroes gameplay image

Forcing the player through the motions in Highrise Heroes

The above image, from Highrise Heroes, is an excellent demonstration of how to involve a player in a tutorial. Although it would be easier to simply display an image of how making a word works, forcing them to go through the actions of actually completing a word ensures they understand this concept before they proceed. The player is locked out of “full” gameplay until they have demonstrated their ability to complete this basic gameplay element. Because you force the player to perform the action, you can be sure that the player is unable to progress until they have mastered this task.

The only drawback with this style is that, if the player is already familiar with how the game works, they can find playing through obligatory tutorial levels tedious. This can be avoided by letting players skip through the tutorial levels—but be aware that some players will then skip the tutorial regardless of whether they’ve played the game before. Andy Moore, creator of Steambirds, has talked about how he went from a 60% to a 95% player retention rate after making the tutorial unskippable.

Background In-Game Tutorials

Background in-game tutorials allow the player direct access to gameplay. While the player can still progress through a “noob cave” area, they are able to (hopefully) do it at a faster pace, and thus get into the “proper game” faster.

Here’s an example:

VVVVVV gameplay image

In VVVVVV, the player starts here, in a safe area where they can work out the controls.

This is the first screen in VVVVVV, which uses a small pop-up to tell the player how to move left and right. As the player is completely boxed off, the only action they can perform is moving onto the second screen, where they are shown how to “jump” over obstacles. From there, they have essentially mastered gameplay—and although moving and jumping could fit into a single room, spacing them out ensures players have mastered each skill and aren’t overwhelmed by masses of text.

The difference between a background and an interactive tutorial can be subtle, as they can both use a similar style. The primary difference is that a background tutorial can be skipped by the player with no effort: everything merely merges into the background.

I saw her standing there gameplay image

I saw her standing there, a fantastic Flash game. Try it out, and notice that the game gets you playing even before the main menu has come up.

An interactive or background tutorial is something we should have used in Infected. The entire tutorial could have been taught in three moves (how to move, how to jump, and how to capture), so there wouldn’t have been a significant loss to gameplay if we’d implemented it. Although we were aware of the issue, the tutorial was one of the last things we developed, so good design took second place to just getting the game finished.

No In-Game Tutorial

How do you get cold water from a faucet? Generally, you turn the tap handle to the right. How do you tighten a screw? You turn it clockwise. These things don’t come with instruction manuals—we instinctively know how they work. Or rather, we learn how they work at an early age, and since they (generally) all work in the same way, that knowledge is reinforced throughout our lives.

Games operate on this principle as well. As veteran gamers, we automatically know that we want to collect coins and gain upgrades. Non-gamers might not understand these things automatically, so it’s important to make these things as obvious as possible. (Even if you haven’t played a platform game before, it’s fairly obvious that jumping into fire is not a good idea.)

A player should generally be able to identify the difference between “good” and “bad” objects at a glance, without having to use death as a trial and error discovery method. Shigeru Miyamoto once talked about how he decided why coins specifically were used in Mario:

“Thus, when we were thinking about something that anybody would look at and go ‘I definitely want that!’, we thought, ‘Yep, it’s gotta be money.’”

Plants vs Zombies’ use of “plant” and “zombie” themes helps teach the players without any explanation at all: players know that plants don’t move around, and that zombies are slow moving. Rather than going for a boring “turrets vs soliders” theme, the Plants vs Zombies theme allows the game to be interesting and cutesy, and still impart vital knowledge.

Plants vs Zombies image

Honestly, it’s really not that hard to work out the basics of whats going on here.

Since players will often “know” how a game plays, we don’t always have to explain everything. When you throw a player into a game, consider telling them nothing—let them figure things out for themselves. If they stand around motionless, then give them a few hints (“try moving the control stick to walk!”), but remember that players will generally try to perform basic commands themselves. Because the “basic rules” of gameplay tend to be universal, this means we can assume the player has some familiarity with them; however, it also means that it’s incredibly dangerous to make changes to those basic rules.

Some fledgling games designers decide that doing things “the normal way” is the wrong way, and ignore established rules. The real-time strategy (RTS) genre has suffered from this in the past: while today’s games tend to use a fairly standardised control system (left click to select, right click to move or attack), older games had very little consistency, and would often switch the left/right mouse button controls, or try to bind multiple commands to a single button. If you play one of these old games today, then the bizarre controls can be very jarring, as we’ve since learned a different control set.

Implementing “obvious” controls was the saving grace of Infected: while the player may not have read the tutorial, clicking on a piece immediately highlighted moves the player could make. By giving the player a visual response that clicking on a piece was the “right” move, it let them continue exploring the control system. Our initial versions of the game did not have this highlighting, and we found that adding this minor graphical addition made gameplay much more accessible and obvious, without taking anything anything away.

Infected gameplay image

In Infected, after you select a piece, highlighted squares show you where you can move.

If you want to change traditional gameplay elements around, have a good reason. Katamari Damacy uses both thumbsticks to move, rather than the more traditional setup of using one thumbstick to move and the other to control the camera. While this may cause some intial confusion, the simplicity of the game means that this control system works exceptionally well.

In a similar vein, the web game Karoshi Suicide Salaryman actually demands that the player kill themselves, often by by jumping on spikes. While this is “non-standard” game behaviour due of the game’s reversed theme (die to win), the player’s objectives are always clear.

Games will always change and evolve, but it’s important to understand that when you change things—be it controls or game objectives—the player should not have to relearn everything.

Continual Learning and Experimenting

Its also interesting to note that not providing the player with explicit instructions can actually encourage gameplay through experimentation. In the Zelda series, the player is constantly finding new items and equipment, and must learn how they work. Rather than sitting through a lengthy explanation of “the hookshot: learning how to use your new weapon”, the game just dumps the player in a closed room and says “figure it out”—although the “puzzle” is generally so obvious that the player should be able to work things out instantly.

These rooms are basically noob caves: despite being found halfway through the game, they allow the player to explore how their new toy works within a safe environment. Once the player has worked out the intricacies of their new toy, they are thrown back into the game world, where they can continue puzzling and fighting monsters. By the end of the game, the player is so used to using their new weapons that switching between them to solve multi-tiered puzzles is second nature.

The way Zelda games handle in-game tutorials is also worth noting: for Zelda, the game is the tutorial. With perhaps the exception of the final dungeon, the player never really stops learning; this “trickle teaching” is one of the greatest strengths of the Zelda series. Rather than being given everything at the beginning, the player slowly unlocks the game, so they are never overwhelmed and are always unlocking cool new toys to use.

Plants vs Zombies, again, also uses trickle teaching effectively: in every level, the player unlocks a new plant (and sometimes new stages), and must learn how to use these to defeat the zombie army. The game never overwhelms the player, but always gives them something new to play with. Because the player gets to spend time with each weapon, it encourages the player to select the plants that are most effective, rather than finding a few plants they like at the start and sticking with them throughout the whole game.

Don’t Scare the Player Away

All of this really just says: don’t scare the player away, and don’t bore them away either. It seems like such obvious advice, but it’s remarkable how few games (including triple-A games) seem to be unable to understand this.

One common example of this, a mistake made time and time again, is requiring registration to play online. If you’re trying to get a player hooked, don’t make them wade through forms filling out their date of birth, their email address, and so on—just give them a guest account and let them play. If they enjoy the game, then they’re more likely to sign up for a “full” account. (Tagpro is a online, multiplayer game which does this fairly well: select a server, hit Play as Guest and you’re in.)

It’s fine to make complex games, but realise that humans have poor memories and short attention spans, and do not learn well by being presented with masses of text. If you’ve not played them before, try playing a game like Crusader Kings, Europa Universalis, Dwarf Fortress, or even Civilisation. If you haven’t been show how to play by someone else, it can be quite daunting to learn how the game actually works. And while these are all fantastic games, they will always have a certain “niche” quality—not because they have learning curves, but because they have learning cliffs, impassible to all but the most determined.

Remember: try make your tutorials fun, rather than a tedious slog. Every game is different, and it might be difficult to implement all of these ideas within a particular genre—but if you can make the first five minutes fun, you can probably hook the player to the end credits.(source:tuts plus  )