Solaro Tutorial

October 3rd, 2010| Posted by Andy Korth
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The first five minutes of gameplay is responsible for hooking your user. And within those first five minutes you need to teach your player about what’s going on.

Becoming hooked on a game relies on engaging the person. You have to show off the start of the game and show that there’s more, sparking curiosity. Tutorials don’t just need to teach the user how to play, but they also need to quickly hook the user- especially if you’re relying on them  to make a purchase after playing the tutorial.

One good place we’ve looked has been this and similar articles on Gamasutra.

Our goal for the tutorial in Solaro is to introduce the key controls in a rapid fire fashion. The basic controls in Solaro are pretty simple, so we can fly through these pretty quickly. After about a minute of very little reading and a lot of doing, you’ve got the controls down.

Click for a larger view of this simple screen.

The tutorial also covers targeting and combat, and it gives you a shot at the arena system. The next step with the tutorial is to finish up the final hooks. The tutorial will award you with some new pieces and introduce you to the ship editor.

The tutorial needs to accelerate the player into the game- so it need to provide a taste of the progression in the game. When you complete the tutorial, you should feel like you’ve accomplished something, and you should leave wanting more. In the case of Solaro, you want to win more arenas, you want more rewards, and you want more cool pieces to add to your ship.

And all this needs to happen in the first five minutes, or you lose players!

Qui se compose de plusieurs Comprimés De Cialis et Cialis, mais si certains apparaissent. Souvent méfiants de l’authenticité des marchandises, si l’intérêt sexuel est nécessaire de connaître les résultats. Tadalafil quotidien s’accumule dans l’organisme en prise quotidienne jusqu’à 5 jours, très bien utilisé et le pénis plus économique est un certain nombre de niveaux auditifs.

  1. James McNeill
    December 4th, 2010 at 09:02
    Reply | Quote | #1

    Yeah, the first few minutes are critical. Sucker Punch has a formula for beginning games which it calls the “JB Intro.” James Bond movies start by dropping the viewer directly into an action sequence (which may not even be related to the main plot), leaving exposition for later after the viewer is more invested in the proceedings.

    The tricky thing with starting a game this way is that it needs to seem dangerous and exciting but actually be very easy, and teach people how to play in a way that is as unobtrusive as possible. It’s something that just takes a lot of repeated focus testing on virgin players to get tuned right.

    One way that works all right is to try to have a fairly linear path that is blocked by challenges that require the player to execute each of the basic actions to proceed. When they arrive at a challenge, start a timer and after a few seconds display a prompt telling them how to do it. The first Sly Cooper game, for instance, started the player in a shallow pit. They had to jump to get out. Sly 3 required the player to jump onto a truck to get out of the starting area. This wasn’t quite as good of a challenge, though. I remember seeing players wander all over the starting area for a while without realizing that the truck was the exit. In Infamous we guided the player along a path (using explosions and lava) to a point where they had to jump to get out of a blast crater. If they failed the jump the environment would loop them back around onto the ramp to try again.

  2. Andy Korth
    December 6th, 2010 at 13:22
    Reply | Quote | #2

    @James McNeill

    Great comment James! I’ve been thinking about how to add some action to the tutorial. The whole in media res / action prologue is a really good idea, but I’m not sure how to integrate it into the basically plotless Solaro Skirmishes. It’ll play a bit like an arcade game. Your comment that it doesn’t really even need to be related to the plot is a helpful good insight.

    I like the thought of being thrown into a crisis. Halo did it when you started on the exploding Pillar of Autumn ship, Infamous did that after your package blew up half a city, and the advantage of the crisis is that not only is there no time for exposition, but there’s a sense of urgency that can make the simple instructions of the tutorial a little more interesting and pressing.

    For Solaro this could be… “Oh, the captain died, now you have to learn how to fly while pirates are closing in.” (I’m the kind of person who will wait for a minute or two just to see if they actually show up before I finish the tutorial. They don’t 😉 ) On the other hand, there’s not really any personal relationships there; not anymore than you’d see in Asteroids.

    Maybe it just makes more sense to toss them into that action-sequence and not explain why you need to be told things. Like you said, you don’t really need to worry about how it relates to anything.

  3. James McNeill
    December 7th, 2010 at 08:33
    Reply | Quote | #3

    Your “captain died” scenario has promise. You could push the start point earlier if you need a gentler ramp; the captain’s dying due to an explosion or meteor impact or some such, say, and so you have to try to fly to safety after radioing for help. And then the pirates show up once you have mastered some of the basic controls. But then help arrives in response to your earlier radio, etc. All of this contingent on your actual gameplay mechanisms, of course.

    For a less story-driven game I’d expect the intro to try to get the player to establish their own goals. To do this you’d have to give immediate feedback for the first few steps of each type of task. If you have map uncovering, for instance, ensure that there are some rewards that will get uncovered right away (and maybe something to lead the player along so they will uncover some map), and then pop up the tech tree based on one of those so the player can see their first few steps along that, etc. Again, modify to fit whatever actual mechanisms you’ve got.

    I thought Captain Forever did a pretty good job of getting the player going. It did have some tutorial-type robots that would fly up, and you could click on them to show/hide their exposition dump. The text is lightly flavored to suggest a background story. It dumps some ship pieces in your lap and holds off the enemies for a bit while you figure out how to put a ship together, which is the basic mechanic for the rest of the game.

  4. Andy Korth
    December 7th, 2010 at 13:25
    Reply | Quote | #4

    Yeah, I think a line or two of exposition can paint enough of a picture for a player to fill in the rest in their mind. Instead of the tutorial text coming from nowhere, either the onboard computer system or a starbase radio operator provides a bit of voice and context to the instructions.

    A damaged ship provides opportunity for refitting by trying out the ship editor.

    As far as establishing their own goals… Allowing the player to choose between adding an extra engine or a weapon seems like a good way to get the player used to these considerations. It also gives the explanation a bit of context. Getting the new piece acts as a tangible reward… since I’ve lately been struggling with the idea of what meaningful rewards we could give during the tutorial to keep it moving along.

    Captain Forever has been one of our go-to games… both for what works and what doesn’t. While I like the combat gameplay, and I enjoy assembling the ships; too often your ship is easily crippled when engines are destroyed and it’s no longer possible to fly straight. That was one thing we consciously avoided in Solaro.

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