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Norman Barrows

tutorials

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i'm not sure what kind of tutorials i should used for Caveman (a FPSRPG).

 

right now it has a tutorial game, which takes you from character creation all the way through your first successful hunt.

 

the problem is its a complex game, and i have to throw a lot of stuff at the player all at once right at the beginning: basic movement controls, interacting with objects in the world, using the maps to travel cross-country automatically, places where water can be found, accelerated time, fatigue and resting, damage and healing (still need to add info about crippling and bleedout), etc.

 

it gives you a few moments to try basic movement and interacting with the world, then has you use the maps to find water. all the rest is thrown at the player once they start traveling cross country to find water. 

 

some other possible approaches:

 

lessons like in The SIMs.   the player selects a topic, and gets brief instructions about it. lessons are always available.

 

one time popup lessons like in Skyrim.   the first time the player needs to learn something, a one time dialog pops up, giving instructions.  dialogs can't be called back up.    dialogs can't be disabled if you already know how to play (at least in skyrim).

 

right now it uses timers to determine when to stop letting them play around with movement and selecting world objects.  they only get a few seconds. i was thinking it should do it until they hit ESC or something.  sound better?

 

it doesn't do a lot of hand holding, like "use wasd to walk to daddy" or "press E to use the toy".  should i hand hold the player through every little step of the process?

 

whats going to be the best kind of tutorial to use that:

1. is easy to implement, and 

2. will get the job done adequately.

 

in terms of game scope, imaging you were designing a tutorial for a game which combined Skyrim and the SIMs into one game. IE a fpsrpg like skyrim, but you can control an entire group of characters like a household in the sims, and you can interact with almost everything in the game world, like in the sims.

 

how would you do it? without it being a ton of work.

Edited by Norman Barrows

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Maybe have NPCs at the starting point offer to show you how to do this or that, and you can choose to take advantage of their guidance or not. This makes each step of the tutorial both optional and repeatable. Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time had a tutorial along these lines (except you had to actively seek out people for guidance, they weren't simply presented to you).

Or you might want to consider delaying the introduction of gameplay elements in order to avoid overwhelming a first-time player. Brutal Legend is the first game that comes to mind.

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Lately the fashion is for the early game to be the tutorial, but a downside to this is that you can't easily return to it.  This is kind of annoying when, say, work gets busy for a month or so, and I return to the game, and want a refresher, but I don't want to start a new game with all that entails just to go through the tutorial again.

 

For your game, I almost think "tutorial dreams" might be neat.  You start the game in a tutorial dream, and then wake up into the real world -- and subsequent times when you rest and it fades to black you just have a little note in the corner that says "Press X to have a tutorial dream" or whatever.

 

Or better yet, when you wake from the first one, someone says "You were really thrashing around there.  Were you having the crazy dream where someone is giving you instructions?  That's what happens when you eat blackapple before resting.  I wouldn't eat blackapple before resting again unless you want to relive that dream!"

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Make the UI intuitive (as in, dont make every button an obscure symbol with no tooltip), so, given an objective ("youre thirsty"), the player can easily click on some things and see some water-related stuff and hopefully figure it out.

 

Then you just need some such objectives (either explicit ones or implicit like that "youre thirsty" one) to motivate the player to explore their options.

 

Another thing you should do, is write some checks that activate when the player isnt doing something right (or looks like they have time to work with some advanced feature), and show a hint/mini-tutorial that introduces the concept and gives some advice on how to proceed. With option to never show again, of course (and option to override those decisions for a new game).

 

For example, if the code detects that the player is thirsty, you could show hint that lists possible sources of water (maybe even detect the best options nearby and list those).

 

It of course helps if the first game is in a scenario where everything is guaranteed to be somewhat easy (so the player doesnt have to go on a quest through your most complex features to get a drop of water...). Perhaps even throw in some 'cheats' like free resources to prevent failure when the player is still learning the basics (you could have it opt-out, so player can start playing 'for real' in the same world when they get the hang of it)

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Or you might want to consider delaying the introduction of gameplay elements in order to avoid overwhelming a first-time player.

 

it already does that.  the list above is just what you need to know to even get started. and getting lost should be on that list too.

 

you have to be able to move.

 

that means you need to know WASD and mouse, auto-travel, accelerated time. fatigue and resting, and getting lost.

 

games like skyrim and farcry dont have accelerated time, fatigue and resting, or getting lost. and they don't auto-travel, they teleport (fast travel), so you miss all the encounters on the way.

 

cross-country travel in Caveman is like continuous movement in skyrim, except the computer steers you to your goal, and you can accelerate time.

 

you have to know that water always passes close by the center of a map square (makes it easier to find). well - you don't HAVE to know that, but it helps.

 

i could lose the info about damage and healing (and crippling and bleedout) . if you die in the tutorial it just brings you back to life and continues.  it not unusual for the player to die more than once playing the tutorial. is unusual when they don't die at least once.

 

i could skip the cross-country travel part (and resting and fatigue, and getting lost, and accelerated time) and do it like skyrim, just mention its available.  but then the player is left in real time fps mode, and it ain't no measly 4 mile wide world like skyrim. the tutorial map is 250 miles wide. the real game world is 2500 miles wide.

 

some things i could just let them discover and figure out on their own. you automatically rest when tired. i could just let them discover that. but it also might be a bit confusing. imagine you were walking across skyrim. then all of a sudden a canned animation fired up, showing your character sitting down and taking 5. and it showed this for a while, like the mineing animation in skyrim, but even longer (especially if you don't tell them about accelerated time).  unlike skyrim which runs at 30x realtime, and the sims which runs at about 60x minumum, Caveman runs in true real time. 1 game second = 1 second in real life.  but you can accelerate time to skip past the dull stuff - like the movie "Click" with adam sandler and kate beckensale.

 

i was thinking about an NPC that gives you "basic training", but the whole NPC part is just window dressing. in the end its the dialogs and interactions that are the tutorial.

 

maybe i should split it up into a number of tutorials covering different aspects of gameplay: movement and exploration, combat, crafting, etc.   total war does this, with different tutorials for basic and advanced combat, province management, etc.  

Edited by Norman Barrows

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Lately the fashion is for the early game to be the tutorial, but a downside to this is that you can't easily return to it.

 

and you typically can't skip it if you already know how to play.

 

it implies an assumption on the part of the designers that the player will play the game once, the put it on the shelf and move on to the next game. probably a safe assumption if your game is the typical shooter fare with hard coded content, with just a passing nod to sandboxing, and thus about zero replayability.

 

the tutor will be the playable demo for the game with a hard coded map 1/100th the size of the full game, and only 6% of the monster types included.   so it really needs to be separate, even if separate tutorials weren't superior to ones incorporated into the start of a new game.

 

if the tutor were part of a new game, all full game content would be required in the demo. and that is a crack risk. they can't crack what ain't there.  so by not including all content in the demo, they can't crack the demo and turn it into the full game, no matter how hard they try.

 

one of the nice things about lessons in the sims is that you can refer to them at any time.  and you can lookup just what you want, you don't have to play through a two hour tutorial to get to the info near the end.

 

there's another good question: how long should a tutorial be?   right now its about 1-2 hours long.  but in playtesting, they spent 5 hours on the tutorial, they were having so much fun.

 

maybe if its more than an hour long it should be multiple tutorials.

 

what if clicking tutorial on the main menu gave you a menu of lessons: basic movement, cross-country travel, etc, etc. after completing a lesson, it took you back to the tutorials menu. the lessons would be listed in the order they should be learned. cancel would take you back to the main menu. this would be similar to the way it is now, but the tutorial would be split up into mini-lessons on specific topics.

 

as far as things like NPC teachers, tutorial dreams, etc, those are window dressing. time would be better spent on more game features. to hell with presentation - i want functionality and ease of implementation. its just a tutor for god's sake.

Edited by Norman Barrows

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Make the UI intuitive (as in, dont make every button an obscure symbol with no tooltip),

 

its pretty straight forward right now.  combine "E" to use from skyrim with interaction menus for selected objects from The SIMs.

the UI is minimal, with "idiot lights" for hungry, thirsty, injured etc. under normal circumstances there's no UI whatsoever, not even cross hairs.

 

if you're thirsty, all you have to do is go up to some water - any water - anywhere - and hit "E" to select it.  this gets you a menu of actions like drink, bathe, fill water skins, swim, gather reeds, etc.  the whole game works that way.  if you hit "E" with nothing in front of you, you get a menu of general actions that you can do anytime, anywhere, such as eat food you're carrying.

 

but one must remember this is a tutorial, not a game.  exploration and discovery should not be a part of it.   it should just tell you how to do stuff. not give you the opportunity to figure it out. that makes it a puzzle challenge, not a tutorial.  sure it might be fun for some, but for others (like me) its would be "just frickin TELL me and GET ON WITH IT!"

 

while the design of the UI is very conducive to "figure it out" gameplay, "figure it out" should not be part of the tutorial. "figure it out" should be for those who want to just dive right in and figure it out. the tutor should be for folks who want to learn how to play with a minimum of time invested.

 

back in the day, all games were complex, and came with a multi-hundred page manual. game scope and depth - and thus value - was judged by how many pounds the docs weighed.  its was common to spend a week learning how to play a game before you could even begin the first mission - at easiest difficulty level, and still die horribly many times.  in Faclon 4.0 gold, it typically took a week to just learn how to take off and .land on easiest difficulty level without crashing.  In the original version of the driver, the driving test mission that unlocks the main campaign took the typical player days to successfully complete ( i cheated and used my buddy's save game to get past).

 

now i find my patience for learning new games is much less.  i want to play, not learn, and definitely not a a slower pace than i'm capable of.  and  don't waste my time telling me things twice.

 

i think a lot has to do with how many responsibilities one has.  when you're young and have few responsibilities, games are a way to kill time. so spending an evening learning a game is not unreasonable. when you're older, with more responsibilities, and little or no time on your handd to kill, games are a way to take a break from the grind.  you only get two hours, you don't want to spend it on the tutotrial, only to get half way through (for the third time) before you have to crash to get up for work.

 

so it would seem that 

1. tutorials are necessary and proper for sufficiently complex games. i'll go with "extra credits" on that one.

2. tutorials that don't let the player learn at their own pace are bad.

3. "figure it out" is really gameplay, not instruction.

4. tutorials that don't let the player go back are bad.

5. tutorials that don't let the player skip ahead are bad.

6. fancy means of presenting info is window dressing - nice if you have the time - but its just fluff.

7. tutorials you can't turn off / quit / disable are bad.

8. long tutorials are bad?  everyone is attention-deficit these days it seems. more likely the faster pace of life these days gives everyone less time and therefore less patience.

 

 

 

 


Another thing you should do, is write some checks that activate when the player isnt doing something right

 

i was thinking of having an "advisor" that would suggest what your next course of action should be. it would be separate from the tutorial, and could be turned on/off at any time.

for presentation, perhaps a flashback to something your grandmother or grandfather, or tribal elder said years ago..

 

 

 


It of course helps if the first game is in a scenario where everything is guaranteed to be somewhat easy

 

tell me about it!  stone knives became cutting tools, which are not a weapon, so i had to add "make spear" to the end of the tutorial. i was testing it yesterday. the first thing is explore to find water.  the map is hard coded, but the frequency of terrain is the same as the full game. so there's the same amount of water on average as in the full game. i just happened to walk all the way to the north edge of the map without finding any water. made me consider surrounding the player's map square with water, so they'd find water quickly no matter what. or maybe just start them next to water and forget about exploring. they can do that when they play for real.

 

 

 


Perhaps even throw in some 'cheats' like free resources to prevent failure when the player is still learning the basics

 

like instant free resurrection on death in the tutorial? or ALT-F12 for the playtest menu in the full version (restore all stats, kill all bad guys, etc)? or left click maps to travel cross country, right click to teleport instantly?.    its got all that already.

Edited by Norman Barrows

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i'd definitely say the game is complex enough to warrant some sort of tutorial.

 

lessons like in The SIMs are looking pretty good.  player can access them at any time, learn just what they want, then get back to playing. they can go back, skip ahead, learn at their own pace, ignore the lessons all together, try to "figure it out" first, etc.  and lessons splits it up into individual subjects, instead of one long drawn out tutorial.

 

combined with an advisor it might just do the trick.

 

ok, but here's the important part... how to access the lessons.

 

the game (any game) fires up. the player has created a character, and is standing in the game world.   you need to tell them how to access the lessons.  the help menu is the obvious place to put lessons, as well as settings for the adviser. so you show a dialog that says "hit F1 at any time for help". this gets them the help menu, with lessons as an option. the lessons menu would list the various lessons (movement, combat, healing, etc).  help would also be on the in-game menu, which is accessed via the ESC key.

sound ok?

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postmortem:

 

i implemented lessons.

 

i implemented an adviser.

 

lessons are basically topics from the help file accessible from a help menu.   a help file viewer with search might be better. or maybe a hypertext document of some sort.   in games i've done in the past, i've had context sensitive help that opened the help file viewer (with search) and paged down to the topic in question.  gets you the benefits of both the help menu and the searchable help file, without the complexity of hypertext editing.

 

the adviser tells you what you ought to do next and basically how to do it. it runs once a second and checks numerous conditions like damage, food, water, whether you know where resources are, whether you have items in your possession, etc., then sets some display strings with text telling you what to do.  but doesn't hold your hand though the basics of movement and such. it analyzes the current situation and recommends a course of action, it does not guide you along the learning curve for the game.

 

so i turned off the tutor, and turned on the adviser. and gave it a try.

 

turns out, the lessons tell you how to do stuff, and the adviser tells you what to do, but what the player really needs is both.

 

so it looks like you need to tell the player what to do, and how to do it, and leave it on the screen until they do it, for every little thing. IE pretend they are the most complete idiots ever seen. so don't expect them to read the screen - users like to click. don't expect them to read and follow instructions - at least more than once short sentence - and you have to leave it on the screen. assume an attention span and short term memory of zero. assume they know absolutely nothing. i've seen playtesters who didn't know where ESC was.

 

so it looks like "press WASD to walk to daddy" and "press E to interact with the toy" are whats called for if you want a tutorial that will maximize your potential customer base.

and tell them every little step - assume nothing.  display what to do and how, and leave it on the screen until they do.   not sure about repeating yourself. probably a good idea. just cause you just told them how to pull up the world map two screens ago doesn't mean they remember.

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