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On the learning curve in modern video games

Discussion in 'Game Design' started by eatsleepindie, Jul 16, 2018.

  1. eatsleepindie

    eatsleepindie

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    Is anyone else tired of starting a game and immediately being met with instructions on how to play? Maybe it's because I when I started gaming was entirely different (they came with manuals, made of paper, with illustrations and text that often served as their only piracy protection), but this assumption that I need to have my hand held from moment one until the end of level 4 (of 10) is getting tedious.

    You have choices as a developer: you can tell me immediately that I need to build a structure in order to produce something, or you can prompt an alert if I haven't done that in the first few minutes of gameplay; that is just one example in a very, very long list of ways that assisting a player on their learning curve can be accomplished without the equivalent of a college lecture.

    Warcraft II never held my hand. It gave me some story, threw me in the mix, and gave me some objectives that, by accomplishing them, taught me how to play the game. "Build some farms" was offered, not an arrow pointing out the exact button I need to click from the moment I enter the level. It never showed me how I can click a worker and assign him to chop down some trees; instead the first level just had some workers harvesting some trees and the functionality was implied. I picked up on it pretty quickly, no need for a prompt, any text, a blinking arrow, etc.

    I understand we need to appease the everyday person nowadays, and back in the day you were appealing more to a culture of "gamers": people who suffered through the trials and tribulations of IRQ channels and CONFIG.SYS files in an effort to get their Sound Blaster installed and working just to hear MIDI music, but it is now to the point where my daughter feels overwhelmed by the assumption that she has no idea how to play game when she starts playing it. I find it annoying because, during my childhood, part of the fun of gaming for me was the learning curve; something that ultimately ended as a career in game development, because I enjoyed that process - the puzzle. Super Mario Bros. didn't show a prompt telling me how kick a turtle; I made the effort to read the instruction book if I wanted to, or I grabbed the controller and found out, often times on accident.

    All of this leads to a lack of a sense of discovery. Maybe it's just me, but it seems gaming is heading more and more towards the notion that realism is what is most important, not the gameplay. That it's best to just cram everything the player needs to know in the first 15 minutes of gameplay so they can start focusing on these amazing graphics we've created, and it leaves the experience feeling very hollow for me.

    I'll be the first to admit, I don't game that much these days, and when I do I am reaching for ZORK II, not the latest shooter. And while I understand every game is not supposed to be a puzzle, I also feel that it's a disservice to the player to assume total ignorance on their part; to start offering helping hands when none has been requested. It's akin to a point I made in another thread in which I touch upon friends offering up unsolicited advice when all you needed was a confidant. Sometimes I just want to vent, and sometimes I just want to play a game, not take a course on mechanics.

    It can be as simple as one of those prompts that asks how much experience you have with this type of game, and turning off tutorials accordingly. Again, the list of ways to teach someone to play a game without forcing them through on-screen instruction booklets with animated icons is a lengthy one at the very least.

    Honestly, I think that is why rougue-likes have become popular (are they still, I can't keep up). Some of them are notoriously unforgiving with learning curves that only really offer instruction up in the form of your most recent failure. I think that, for the most part, we want to be left to our own devices and our style of play, and if we get stuck we all know how to use google. I doubt any of us need to be told that the right-mouse button is used in your game; we'll try it, you can rest assured on that, even without provocation. In fact, we'll probably try it on things you didn't even think of when you were developing it; we'll try everything you didn't think of when you were developing it.

    Here's my plea to the community as a whole: Let me screw up. Let me get to a point where I learn something and reach that crossroads where I can either 1) continue forward on my current save game with this new knowledge, or 2) start a new game and apply this new knowledge from the start. I'm not just there to explore the world in which your game takes place, I want to explore the game itself as well. I don't need a tour, and if I do I'll be sure to check the menu for a help section. This is supposed an experience in which I'm lost on this little island of code and graphics, learning how to survive on it, but with the added benefit of a reset button that I am not afforded in real life. That's the point: I can screw up without consequence. I don't need knee pads or a helmet here, please stop forcing me to read the safety instructions.

    Edit: several words because I suck at spelling sometimes
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2018
  2. neoshaman

    neoshaman

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    I detect a case of "get of my lawn" and "old man crying at the cloud".

    I understand the sentiment, I feel it too, but I do remember being young and have old men yelling at me to get of my lawn, so I remember a bit more than rose tinted glass. That is:
    - game were huge successful at 200k unit sold, now you are a player at 24M, 3M is a failure, and the biggest success are at 125M (fortnite)
    - game pad had less button, game had less control overall
    - you had a manual, you still has to read them, even if they don't gate you
    - there wasn't as much game offering then, you had a game and got stuck with it for a long time, no huge steam backlog
    - there was less diversity in genre too (but mechanics wise that's another thing, there was no convention)
    - most gamer were also tinkerer, the audience was more specialized and smaller
    - there was cheatcode and magazine, they were the tutorial to read
    - you could ask friend/sibling/family to show you stuff
    - game had demo sequence that show the game being played before or after the screen title, to show you what you could do
    - arcade game had animated sequence showing the button before play
    - a lot of game were simply badly design and had obscurity through incompetance
    - a lot of game were simplistic, so much that figuring the interface were the only complexity, I dare to say the only gameplay
    - game presentation were much more limited, elements stand out more by simple limitation of tech that force minimalist design
    - game were much more repetitive, due to storage limitation, palette swap communicate more effectively function than endless asset variation
    - game where shorter and enforced repeated play to pad length, you gotta learn the 3 moves through sheer recurrence
    - you didn't know better because that didn't exist, so it was all amazing at the time and you grew attach to those idiosyncrasies of the time (like me and most old timer)
     
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  3. eatsleepindie

    eatsleepindie

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    I disagree with the majority of this. To hit just a few points, this is not a case of remembering the past with nostalgia that twists the reality into a fairy tale; I play old school games to this day, and there are plenty out there that I haven't played and will discover. To say that the majority of them were designed badly and that bad design/obscurity was the challenge is ridiculous. I am nowhere near old enough to be complaining about children on my lawn and have no memories of old men being angry with me for trespassing on theirs.

    "You didn't know better," is perhaps my favorite point, since it is pretty much the point I was trying to make. I didn't know better because I hadn't played an RTS before. Now they are literally everywhere, and yet here I am, met with the same instructions on how to play as though they haven't existed since my childhood.

    You seem to be mistaking my post in which I am explaining how I dislike having my hand held in a video game for someone saying that video games used to be better, which was not what I was saying. Almost none of points you've made make much sense in the context of what I was saying; the fact that more people are playing video games could just as easily suggest that more of us have experience with them and don't require instruction as it could suggest that more people are playing games for the first time and require it.

    I also don't see how asking a friend or family member is different than asking google or opening the help window. If anything, it was more difficult for me to learn a game than it is now, and I was a lot younger and dumber, and I still got by just fine. Cheat codes have literally nothing to do with in-game instructions, nor does the fact that arcades existed, or really the majority of the points you've made. Fewer buttons? My keyboard has always had 101 keys, with the exception of windows keys and what-not.
     
  4. neoshaman

    neoshaman

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    You mistake my point too, I'm refering to only the quoted part, and it wasn't about distorted nostalgia, which I point at the last sentence, it's about attachement to thing like they were back in the day and not letting go when kids have a new context. What I listed was more a list of context, thing that don't necessarily apply to all games, but if you learn hadoken just by playing the game you are a liar :p Modern game are the way they are now because the context are different not because they are necessary. You basically blame game for your literacy of them, but they always need to have instruction, especially now they are "more" new player born everyday :D You grew up but they haven't yet.

    Obscurity was a given back then, we call them "secret", every games where chokeful of secret room, secret spot, etc ... You had to do dumb thing like jumping inside a hole that would normally kill you only to find a barrel, or destroy a wall 2 screen back with a barrel found near another destructible wall, I even found secret in mario 3 that were not documented in any walk through book I use to read. And puzzle had these nasty convoluted solution like using a rubber chicken to cross a chasm, or create a mustache with ducktapes and cat hair. Cheat code allowed you to bypass the normal way to play the game when you couldn't, until you figure out things, and you did because there is more games released in one day than there is snes and nes game combined. There is still game I can't google anything about them, not all games are guarantee to have a wiki, a community and be AAA, especially those damn mobile games.

    But it doesnt' matter, you defend your childhood ferociously, because that's where all your good memory are, there is only a a single first time, and it's precious, that's why it feels best.
     
  5. Joe-Censored

    Joe-Censored

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    I generally walk away from games that try to hand hold you for more than a couple minutes. It is especially bad on many mobile games, where they should expect you're only going to be playing for 10 minutes at a time, yet try to hand hold you for 30.
     
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  6. eatsleepindie

    eatsleepindie

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    I can count the good memories from my childhood on one hand. I actually got into gaming to escape the reality of my childhood. I also cannot shake this feeling that you are still missing the point. This isn't about a game's difficulty, or a game's secrets, or its cheat codes. Older games were given as reference point for comparison, not as an example of perfect execution.

    The entire point of my post was that current games hold people's hands much, much more than games from the past, to the point that I find it intrusive. It breaks my suspension of disbelief. It takes away challenge and, in the case of many mobile games, replaces that challenge with timers that only exist to make you feel as though you need to visit the store to find a sense of reward. Freemium games don't want there to be a challenge, that would get in the way of you spending money in their store. They want the game to be addictive so you get to the point where your sense of reward comes at a price. That is literally their entire business model. So they offer you a flashing arrow to make sure you get started as soon as possible; discovery means more time between customers and the checkout, and that hurts the bottom line.

    That's mobile, which in my opinion is a shining example of the worst of video games (there are a lot of exceptions, but as a whole this market is saturated with freemium, pay-to-win games that take advantage of people's addiction to all things mobile). What really bothers me is when this creeps into the rest of the industry the way it has, and devs who release games in the PC/console markets lean on those same "help" systems that they have become familiar with via the mobile markets.

    Example: Super Mario Bros, a game that the majority of us have played or are at least familiar with. First level, one of the first pipes; you can beat the level without ever trying to press down on the D pad to enter the pipe. If you were clever enough or the type to try and explore new ideas, then you might try going into the pipe. You might try 10 pipes before you finally find one that actually lets you enter it. That's discovery. That's trial and error, learning through experience, and you get a sense of reward that you would not have otherwise gotten had there been a giant flashing arrow pointing at said pipe. I remember playing as a child and trying every single pipe I came across because I knew that eventually I would find one that worked. Finally, to credit Nintendo and their design, at the end of the first level Mario walks up to a pipe himself (while the player doesn't have control), ducks, and enters it. At that point the player has two choices (the choices I referenced earlier): they can continue their game wondering what they may have missed by not trying all the pipes in that level before jumping on the flag post, or they can continue and try the pipes next time they play the level. That's replay value, not bad design.
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2018
  7. eatsleepindie

    eatsleepindie

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    And they now have the Windows 10 store, which at first glance looks incredibly similar to the mobile markets. I dread the thought of PC gaming moving more and more towards UWP.
     
  8. Vryken

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    I think this is part of the reason I enjoy sandbox games.
    You just get dropped into a world. No instructions, no goals, no idea what kind of things the world contains. All you can do is start exploring and learning.
     
  9. Kiwasi

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    These games still exist. AI Wars, Frozen Synapses, Factorio, Kerball Space Program, Dwarf Fortress. All of these games dropped you straight in. The expectation is you would need to go search in other places to figure out how to play. Or trial and error it until you got somewhere interesting.

    The thing is hand holding games have ultimately proven more popular in the market. Bigger budget games need more sales to sustain. So they have to do the things which are most popular.
     
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  10. neoshaman

    neoshaman

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    And I was only focusing on that quote, you can't blame new audience for not being like you and having different type of want. Oh and trial and error has been decided by the industry to be bad design. Again it's a matter of perspective, which is what I point, not invalidating your feeling, but you should not invalidate other people feelings too! Just play game aimed at you, avoid game made for a different audience in mind. OR Gave up all hope and adopt a cranky kong avatar.
     
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  11. eatsleepindie

    eatsleepindie

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    I am not trying to be difficult, but couldn't the same be said about Loot Boxes? They have proven popular in the market and generate sales to sustain the game. I realize that news articles make it seem like the entire industry is up in arms, but obviously a whole mess of players were buying them. I still buy them on Overwatch on the rare occasion I get to sit down and play a few rounds.
     
  12. AcidArrow

    AcidArrow

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    As a player:

    I don't know. I don't like hand holding either, but I don't think the game teaching you the controls to be hand holding. How you interface with the game is the most basic aspect of it and I don't think there's a lot of discovery to be had there. The discovery comes from exploring the mechanics.

    Or at least, if a game tells me I can press "A" to jump, I don't think it has ruined my sense of discovery :)

    As a developer:
    Okay, if I let you do that, will you promise not to send me an angry e-mail about how S***ty my game is and how frustrating it is to not know what to do?
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2018
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  13. eatsleepindie

    eatsleepindie

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    Controls are one thing. I get it, not every game is the same and someone's game might need to have some things explained. That's a necessity.

    I like the press "A" to jump part, because I immediately thought of Super Meat Boy. It provides instructions, but those instructions are just enough to leave you plenty of room to screw up. There is gameplay time, discovery time, trial and error time in between each set of instructions. It's weird because the game is very linear but doesn't feel like as you play, and I honestly think a big part of that is how well they executed the instructions. They really don't give you much more information than you could gain from looking at the controls window, but it never feels like a lesson; it is woven into the game as a whole so well that you hardly notice you are learning how to play and getting better as you do. It gives you enough information to make the level seem like it can be beaten, but once you get into it, you soon find out that those instructions only get you so far; there will be much more needed to get from point A to point B.

    The player also gets to dictate the speed at which they gain instruction, since the next set is not offered up until they beat the previous level, which almost makes the next set of instructions a reward in itself.

    Conversely, I recently tried an RTS (that I'll keep nameless since I am about to use it as an example of what I do not like) that all but played the first several levels for me. It was done under the guise of teaching me how to play, but I really hadn't learned anything. It's sort-of like give a man a fish, teach a man to fish. I am much more likely to remember where the build button is if I have to find the panel and then the button rather than having an arrow that points both out. The former ingrains it in memory, while the latter is easily forgotten and can often leave a player feeling about as lost as before the blinking arrow came up. You're not remembering where the buttons are, you're remembering where the arrow is that is no longer there was located.
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2018
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  14. Kiwasi

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    Sure. Loot boxes worked for funding. They also were declared illegal under gambling laws in several countries. They also produced a fair bit of consumer backlash too. Using them (or not) is a commercial decision game companies need to make based on the potential revenue and the risks. But I'm unsure how this is related to the point of this thread.
     
  15. eatsleepindie

    eatsleepindie

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    You're taking my use of loot boxes as an example and extrapolating that to the point it no longer fits the narrative. My point was not that loot boxes are good; the way what I said ties into the OP is that I was responding to someone saying that hand holding is good for business. So were loot boxes, at least until the customer backlash, but that doesn't mean that they are inherently good for gaming as a whole.

    If you were going to extrapolate what I said, then it would be that you cannot say something is beneficial simply because it generates revenue, which was what they had said in reply to what I said. Yes, hand holding sure pads the bottom line since it gets people spending money sooner (using freemium as an example here), but just because the industry is not outraged over it doesn't mean it makes for a better game, which was my original point.
     
  16. Kiwasi

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    Man you use a lot of words. I'm not sure I'm following you completely. A few thoughts anyway.

    Very few people actually care what is good for gaming as a whole. You can see this across the industry. Everyone is concerned about what is good for their own game and their own bottom line. The industry is simply a reflection of the meta that comes out of everyone's own self interest. That's the way free markets work. You can see the same sort of pattern across most industries.

    Even better games is a relative term. What you consider a better game is different from what I consider a better game.

    Hand holding does tend to increase the marketability of a game. It upsets experienced players a little bit, and opens the game up massively for new players. At any given point there are more new gamers then experienced ones, so the trade off is worth it.

    Ultimately if you want to change the industry, you need to convince people to pay for games without hand holding. These games do exist. Spend your money on them, and encourage other people to do the same.
     
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  17. neoshaman

    neoshaman

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    And anyone who has experience in the broader market know it's a catch 22:
    This happen a lot when you start being a game dev more than a gamer
     
  18. BIGTIMEMASTER

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    Much ado over nothing.

    Know your audience. That's all.
     
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  19. newjerseyrunner

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    I think it's all about audience.

    Big AAA games are going after the largest audience and most of the populous has a low attention span and don't want to take the time going through a finely crafted tutorial, they want plain and simple: this button shoots, this is how you double jump, these are your tools, go! That works for most games because you want the players to get right into it.

    There are plenty of games with great tutorials that don't feel like tutorials though. It's pretty much a staple of the Metroidvania games and platforms. They trap you in a room and force you to figure out how to get out. Developers for games like that expect you to experiment and if you can't figure it out, it's the 21st century, they know we have Youtube walkthroughs.
     
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  20. imaginaryhuman

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    A game that has instructions on how to play does not understand how to teach you how to play, so it substitutes for it with a silly embedded instruction manual, which totally takes you out of the game. In the old days you would NEVER see anything of this sort. The game itself would be set up so that you would learn automatically without even knowing it. Instruction manuals in games is in my opinion a total fail, unless you are trying to appeal to a really super casual audience perhaps who need a bit more hand-holding. The game experience should teach you all you need to know. If the user interface is not intuitive and needs all kinds of tutorial crap just to learn it, it's a design fail.
     
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  21. AcidArrow

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    In the old days we had external, physical manuals though.

    And intuitive means "like all other games", something that stops working once the common practices change and doesn't work at all for someone that is new to games.
     
  22. Kiwasi

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    Untrue. There are a few old games that were well crafted enough to not need tutorials. Just like there are a few modern games. But for the most part this is rare.
     
  23. imaginaryhuman

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    Really. Not sure what you think 'old' is then. I came from the Amiga days and almost no games had this kind of stuff in them. You just learn as you go.
     
  24. imaginaryhuman

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    No intuitive does not mean its like other games. It means the user interface is so well designed that you barely even need to think in order to instantly understand what you need to do and how to do it. Thus it is "intuitive", not that you're drawing upon the past or out of habit.

    One of the really big areas that I see a lot of games failing nowadays is in the usability department... just badly designed menus, poor controls, things not laid out in a proper hierarchy, too much noise, too much happening at once, bad font choices, lack of contrast, all that stuff which goes into making the game easy to "read".
     
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  25. neoshaman

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    NO in "ye old days" resist contact with actual playtest :D


    - I have seen player being stuck in a game and giving up, because the game tells them insistently to not do something, every gamer know it mean DO the things ...
    - I have seen player getting in a room, seeing it's empty and never coming back to inspect it ever, and getting stucks, every gamer know it's a hint there is a secret.
    - Seeing new player trying sonic pains me, they call the game broken at the first slopes teaching you the specifics of the game, because they want to move forward, but jumping on the slopes send in the direction of the normal to the slopes, which is the core mechanics and challenge of the game, then the game explicitly build sequences to teach you rolling to build speed and counter enemy without loosing speed (the double pipes sequence in sonic notablay) yet they completely overlook that and tells the game view is too small and you can't react to enemy!

    The truth is that it takes a certain type of personality to get around those teaching moment, not everyone understand there is even something to figure out! Gamer develop an intuitive sense that you are expected to pay attention and learn from these moment. If it's not spelled out, they don't get it.

    - User interface in game are crappy and full of obscure convention, as a gamer I know that:
    - the down face button is jump,
    - the left one is context action, or melee
    - the right trigger is shooting
    - right sticks is for looking
    - left sticks is for moving around
    And if it's jumble up, I just press every button to figure out the right mapping as I expect the same core function relative to the presention (ie action character game will have a head (looking around and camera control), feet (moving, jumping and navigation option), hand (fighting, interaction, power) lay out, and they are the high frequency mundane action, which can jump start me toward the specific quirk of the game that are lower frequency in use. I have a complete mental model that is completely arbitrary. There is nothing that scream B button is for jump, when looking at a gamepad, now combining all button together? Heck I still see people playing mario without using the run button at all! And I can decode all sorts of arbitrary représentation in the GUI, I grew up with them as they were added.

    But it's also because I grew up with the incremental addition, it make sense to me, I learn them incrementally not all at once.

    Ex: Old action games had only move and jump and fighting, then extra button was added, then 3d happen, the extra sticks was added, then these convention cohere by genre. The first time I played a 3d analog game I couldn't walk straight (mario 64) and there was no complex camera control yet. Then I had to go through learning how to aim a camera properly, nowaday, I can look around while maintaining the same walking direction.

    It's intuitive, because we were introduce to each aspects gradually, and separately, we had to master them separately in game where the concept where so novel they were build to explore the interface.

    The thing is that analysis like the youtube video sequelitis about how megaman X teach you how to play work only if you have some exposition to game prior to single the quirk by having expectation of how a game work.

    Yet a lot of new gamer who grew up on these interfaces decode them just fine, and lambaste ye old game for not having them. Lack of contrast is routinely defended by these new gamer who don't want their game to turn too kiddy (up until the recent wave of new new gamer who put fortnite and overwatch to the front). I can't fathom fortnite control, and BOTW put the upper faceplate button as jump, which drove me crazy among many other "genre" breaking lay out that always trips me out, but new player goobled it up and made massive tricks video using them.

    All interface need to be learn, just like speaking, writing and reading is a second nature now, but you had to struggle to learn to do it. I mean it's like saying why people need instructions to learn english, you learn it on your own! Which I did and my english was super broken for a long time, but not everybody is me, and it's arguably not the most efficient way to do it! Trust me, learning english with a manual takes you out of the experience anytime! :p
     
  26. AcidArrow

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    Never had an Amiga. I had an Amstrad CPC though. They had manuals.

    Also, I would hardly call the games from those eras as intuitive or well designed.

    About intuitiveness, let’s just agree to disagree. IMO most people when they talk about intuitiveness it’s usually “it’s like other games I played” and that’s why you don’t need to think about it.
     
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  27. BIGTIMEMASTER

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    There's only so many buttons on a controller. You press each one to learn what it does. Button mapping is only a small fraction of intuitive game design.

    Intuitive game design means player looks at screen, and the first thing they want to do is what the game also wants them to do. i.e. Player begins in a valley and see's a mountain where the bad guy flew off to with the princess. Player knows he's got to get there.

    Then, when the first obstacle to doing that thing arises, players first instinct to surmount the obstacle is what the game expects, and delivers another obstacle to foil players first attempt. Then, after a quick observation of the scene, players second most likely attempt to surmount the new obstacle is what the game expects, and player wins. i.e. a bunch of minions pop out from behind trees. Player slashes them with his sword, but instead of dying they split into more minions. Player immediately realizes not to slice these guys with his sword. Player looks around and sees a big cliff. Player knows that the minions follow after him, so he runs to the cliff and sure enough finds a tree branch on the other side he can jump to. He does that, and the minions ffall down the cliff. Player smiles, feeling like he figured out something and is very clever. None of this requires HUD or words.

    *much later in the game, revisiting that initial cliff, all the squashed minions have coalesced into a super boss that rises out from the canyon and smashes the player. First turd enemies become semi-final boss. Classic gaming irony.***

    Rinse and repeat. It boils down to knowing the audience. How they think, react, what they expect, etc. How much setbacks can they face before giving up, becoming frustrated, etc.
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2018
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  28. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner

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    I agree very strongly with BIGTIMEMASTER's post. The game is supposed to teach you how to do things by trial and error, so trials should be simple and errors not very catostrophic.

    The original Super Mario probably had one of the best designed tutorial levels ever in 1-1. You start on the right side of the screen with no enemies. There is only one thing to do: move left. The player figures out basic movement, then sees the first question block. It entices you to hit it, which gives you a coin, rewarding you for figuring out how to jump. If you get close enough to this block to hit it though, you'll trigger the first Goompa. It's obviously an enemy because it looks angry and it's coming right at you. If must learn jump in order to get past this enemy, if you can't you'll restart, which is fast because you've not gone anywhere yet. The first question block is perfectly set up to be in your way if you attempt to jump over the goompa though, so you get redirected down onto it, which teaches you that this is how you dispatch enemies. The next question block has a mushroom. You just saw an enemy mushroom so you may be confused, but because of how Mario works, you're pretty much trapped in it's path, so you'll almost certiainly hit it, which teaches you powerups.

    Next, you'll get some practice jumping over pits with bottoms so as not to kill you and let you practice jumping. But then comes a pipe that is too high to jump over. You have to figure out that your speed affects how high you can jump. This is not obvious at first, and it goes beyond button mapping because it's not a special button, or even a button combo (run + jump will not make you jump higher if you aren't actually moving.)

    But that's it. Almost everything you need to know to beat Mario is taught to you in the first three or four screens and you never even realized you were being taught.
     
  29. neoshaman

    neoshaman

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    I'll just say playtest and cry

    Even my oldest memory was the exact opposite of that initial scene every body talk about:
    - I have seen many players give up at the first goomba, they couldn't figure out how to jump over it.
    - As a kid, it took me long to caught that first mushroom, I hit the block, then jump again, then the mushroom change direction and goes out of screen, every analysis tells you how that mushroom is unmissable, calling bull!
    - When I played zelda 1, I had no idea what to do, but I like wandering where other would just toss up
    - Having nothing else to do is a huge factor of why my younger self had time to figure out obscure stuff, that's why video games was frown as a nerd past time
    - I have seen player not understanding how to talk to villager in rpg, which mean there is concept like correct positioning, facing and which button to press, and understand how the interaction proceed, like you need to push the button to make it progress and not wait, and then the text is full of gamey assumptions you have to decode, because you must understand the structure of the game.

    I was singling out control as main UI roadblocks
    - knowing you have to chase the evil kidnapper mean you know how to move
    - knowing how to fight mean you understand the health system of the game, and you are coordinate enough (or even understand you have to coordinate the many action), ie understand facing, timing, tells, hitbox, etc ...
    Pushing the button to know which action they do is non trivial, there is a pile of convention on how these action proceed, are conveyed and how their effects are feedback to player.

    Even literate gamer are at lost when you shift the convention under their feet. Motion control became waggling (ie simulate a button through movement) because hardcore gamer has no concept of body as interface and couldn't rely on muscle memory mastery and prior literacy ... Wii fit plus has a brilliant assortment of minigames that explore in depth motion control with new convention and abstraction, none was reused by anyone as noone had the literacy necessary to process them. And you can't be more intuitive than motion, it's literally one less abstraction, if you skate you simply skate (you don't need to know there is a button b for pointing, you point and that's it). Worse some of these new convention could have been reuse to get better UI for current control too.

    In the end it's know your audience, simple as that. Design for the minimum literacy needed.
     
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  30. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    Who are these people? Three year old's?

    You can't get much simpler than that and still be a game. Anything more simple than that and you might as well be designing for Coco the gorilla.
     
  31. MattCoding

    MattCoding

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    Now that's what I am talking about, clean, minimal and well thought out design that is effortless to use and doesn't keep stopping the flow of the game. How do things like 'press X to collect ammo' ever end up in AAA games like Wolfenstein.

    This is something I was trying to achieve in my little game. BimbleBorn has no tutorial, map, inventory or quest markers, so the player has to discover my tiny world and its game mechanics. At first I had so many instructions, glowing markers, buttons and menus all over the place. So I gradually cut it back, maybe too far, but hopefully it's intuitive and fun!

    And ... check out these lovely 'kind words' from game design legend Raph Koster
    https://twitter.com/raphkoster/status/1019683082545213440
     
  32. AcidArrow

    AcidArrow

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    I feel like everyone's talking about slightly different things.

    There are definitely good and bad ways to do a tutorial (or "teach the player how the game works"). But are some people really against simple unobtrusive button prompts the first time a player needs to do an action?

    Screen Shot 2018-07-26 at 06.34.18.png Screen Shot 2018-07-26 at 06.56.08.png

    For example: I see this in a lot of platformers, you are presented with an obstacle and on top of it is the button that is assigned to jump. I think that's fine. It's unobtrusive, it doesn't get in the way, it doesn't stop the game. At worst, I guess it can be viewed as patronising? Maybe the ideal way would be to only show the prompt if the player takes more than a few seconds to get over the obstacle?

    But I don't know, I feel like some people are complaining that the pack of spaghetti they bought has instructions for how to cook it, instead of making cooking spaghetti more intuitive ;)

    Do you remember that story about Everybody's Gone to the Rapture? The controls couldn't be simpler. You just move around in first person and they had a run button. Problem is, they didn't have a "tutorial" teaching you about the run button. Result is: a lot of people never knew the game had a way to run and it was slammed on launch for being too slow to move around, even in reviews.

    And just to clarify: I'm not saying there aren't any games that over do it. And I generally dislike tutorials that completely stop the game just to show you a thing (although even there, if it's somewhat short I generally tolerate it).

    I also dislike waypoints, since they generally make me completely ignore the level design and just go towards the beam of light I'm supposed to go. I like games that let me figure out stuff. I just think that simply interfacing with the game is not some sort of great discovery that I am robbed of by the game telling me, in an unobtrusive way, that I can press "A" to jump.
     
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  33. Antony-Blackett

    Antony-Blackett

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    Hand holding design is purely metrics driven on mobile. Retention and ultimately revenue are directly related back to how good the tutorial is.

    An interesting anecdote though. When we made Mini Golf Matchup we found that a tutorial boosted retention and revenue just as you might expect it would compared to no tutorial at all (being a very casual game). But unsurprisingly we got a few complaints from people that wanted to skip the tutorial (old players returning to the game after re-installing). We decided to add a skip button to the tutorial, anyone who wanted to could opt to skip the whole thing. Retention and revenue increased some more! Go figure.
     
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  34. neoshaman

    neoshaman

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    Watch the famous "dan takahashi" video, it's a more common occurrence that you think. Also putting the player in direct threat at the beginning is like a cardinal design sin.
     
  35. hippocoder

    hippocoder

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    Sure.

    Sounds good, I might do that. Not kidding.


    It's likely I'll have some help going on somewhere, but I don't see why it all has to be one thing or another. Just do what you feel like.
     
  36. neoshaman

    neoshaman

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    It's really just an audience issue, some people WANT their "hand hold" basic instructions to start, other like to find stuff on their own, even though they will pester the dev for not notifying them one essential option is essential to complete the game decently.



    addendum:
    Mario never teach the run button, and I had many people not understanding why the game was so praise because the control where too weighty and slow... they never used the run button because pushing it have no effect at all (it's a coordination function, you need to use it in context while using other control). The only reason child me know the run button is because I was shown how to play by someone who read the manual (as much as ragely rip the pad in my hand to show me the "proper way") ... I never use mario as lesson in good design ever.
     
  37. hippocoder

    hippocoder

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    The old games are a terrible example to use for modern design. They're the prototypes of today and can and should be very much improved on.
     
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  38. AcidArrow

    AcidArrow

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    A side anecdote:

    One of my most fun experiences in gaming was when I first played the Guild Wars 1 beta.

    I don't know if something went wrong, or if that's how it was supposed to go, but as soon as I logged in in that game, it put me directly into an instanced mission with a bunch of people. (something about escorting a prince)

    So as soon as stuff loaded, the NPC came and said "follow me" and started going on his way. Me and the other people (I think we were like 4-5?), were struggling and panicking to figure out how to do stuff in the game and weirdly it was really fun. So as soon someone found how something worked or how to do something, they told the rest of the team.

    We barely beat the mission (in retrospect it was a really easy one), but the rush of trying to figure out the controls and mechanics really fast and cooperating was pretty exhilarating. I still have fond memories of that.
     
  39. angrypenguin

    angrypenguin

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    Where does this "barely even need[ing] to think" arise from, though? Yes, you're absolutely right that you can wreck usability quite apart from a person's prior experience and knowledge. No argument there. But isn't that beside the point?

    I recently gave a PS4 controller to someone who'd never used one before. How much sense do you think it made to them? Why the flippin' heck does "X" mean confirm and "O" mean cancel?!?

    Elsewhere, back when games started using WASD controls plenty of people didn't like it. It was quite reasonable, too. It makes sense that the forward pointing arrow moves you forwards. Why would you want to put that on a button labelled "W", instead?

    And thinking more broadly, to anyone who's been around since the 90s the floppy disk makes perfect sense as a "Save" symbol. But to young people... what even is that thing?

    The answers? On a PS4 controller X and O are the two buttons closest to your thumb and confirm is always on the left. WASD is in a comfortable spot right amongst a bunch of other keys commonly used for games before we had to free our right hand up for the mouse. And "save" used to almost always involve some data being written to a floppy disk.

    All of those things are "intuitive" only because of background knowledge, experience and context that we often don't even realise we have.

    As such, I find in my play testing that things go far more smoothly if, wherever possible, I just implement existing expectations exactly as they already are. This directly means that if I'm implementing something similar to a thing other games have then it should darn well control similarly, too. Then my players will try controlling it as they already expect it to be, and it will work, and then we get to move on to whatever is unique in my game straight away. Otherwise they have to backpedal and re-learn something that they already learned differently before, and at that point their experience with my game is that it's an awkward version of something they've seen before. That's no good for either of us.

    So sure, being "intuitive" might not linquistically mean "it's like other games", but pragmatically speaking that's what it often boils down to. Being different is good, if there's some purpose to the difference.
     
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  40. neoshaman

    neoshaman

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    Also X and O are inverted in japan
     
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