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Reflections on tutorial design in Puzzledorf

This text was initially posted here on my blog.

Tutorial design is one thing that varies throughout many video games. Some video games deal with it higher than others, and the necessities themselves are going to fluctuate relying on the style, complexity and supposed viewers of the sport.

For Puzzledorf, I needed it to be as accessible to as extensive an viewers as potential. To attain this, I used plenty of non-gamers for a bottom line in my play testing, however then additionally balanced it with extra skilled players, each followers of the puzzle style and those that by no means play puzzle video games. The top consequence was that the sport was enjoyable to a broad vary of individuals, each players and non-gamers, puzzle followers and non-puzzle followers, which to be trustworthy actually shocked me.

Strictly talking, so far as advertising and marketing is anxious, my major target market is Puzzle and Sokoban gamers. However since play testing confirmed it has the potential to have a large secondary viewers, that plenty of non-puzzle players loved it, I felt it was tremendous essential to get the on-boarding course of proper, that means the tutorials and the way I introduce new gamers to the principles of the sport. My objectives:

  • Be certain anybody can simply be taught the principles and controls of the sport
  • Don’t alienate new gamers
  • Don’t bore skilled gamers with a protracted and drawn out tutorial stuffed with pointless info
  • Be certain gamers be taught the principles correctly, however rapidly

I’m going to replicate upon how I tried to resolve this.

Earlier than persevering with, I realise you would make tutorials optionally available, and which will work for some video games. Nevertheless, I opted in opposition to this, since I needed to achieve the widest potential viewers. Play testing confirmed it was essential to have tutorials.

Keep in mind the sport additionally has color blind choices.

All through the method, fixed play testing was needed to verify the tutorials have been efficient. My technique was:

  • Put somebody in entrance of the sport
  • Make them play from the beginning
  • See how lengthy it takes them to be taught the principles of the sport
  • In the event that they ask for assist, refuse, as a result of I gained’t be there to assist prospects later
  • Check with a wide range of participant sorts as mentioned within the intro

By means of utilizing this course of, I used to be in a position to refine which methodologies have been working, and which weren’t. However first, a visit again to the previous.

I’ve made puzzle video games earlier than. I made a bunch of small experimental video games utilizing Puzzle Script and one for cell, which taught me quite a bit. My greatest take away was this:

“Most individuals gained’t learn textual content in tutorials. They are going to mindlessly zip by means of it and assume they will determine it out on their very own.”

The irony was, after having accomplished the tutorial, folks would then ask me questions which have been coated within the tutorial, as a result of they didn’t learn it. Typically they forgot the idea of “Undo” or “Restart”, which result in feedback like, “I like the sport, however it could be good if you happen to didn’t need to restart the entire puzzle every time,” at which level I gently reminded them they will use “Undo” to redo one transfer (sure, again then I defined issues, which didn’t assist the sport).

The cell sport tutorial was very guided, utilizing textual content at particular factors to elucidate each the controls and the principles. I don’t assume a single younger individual learn the directions. One or two older “non-gamers” did. I got here to the next conclusion:

“If I need to attain the widest potential viewers, with a puzzle sport, try to take away textual content utterly from the tutorial.”

These have been experiences particular to a block-pushing puzzle sport. Individuals’s willingness to learn tutorials for a extra advanced sport like an RPG might be fairly completely different.

The very fact folks acquired caught confirmed I wanted tutorials, however the best way to make them really helpful, in order that gamers didn’t simply skip by means of and miss all of the essential info?

I made a decision to try to haven’t any textual content – besides to elucidate the controls. One factor I realized:

“If gamers get caught, they’re extra more likely to learn and search for assist.”

Strictly talking, the tutorial for Puzzledorf has no textual content. The controls are displayed as a static picture within the higher left nook, however they are often hidden and proven with a key press, and are current in all ranges. I’ve it current throughout all ranges as a result of it’s fairly frequent for folks to blitz the primary 2 or 3 ranges, get caught, then overlook the best way to undo / restart. This was the only resolution that saved folks stumbling round pause menus. Some gamers additionally wouldn’t understand to go searching for directions within the pause menu, so this served everybody.

Apart from that, there is no such thing as a textual content. As an alternative, I opted to show by means of design.

So the best way to educate the participant by means of design? The thought was this:

“Current them with experiential studying – experiences that educate the principles of the sport by demonstration, not clarification.”

I figured the only resolution was to design introductory puzzles that demonstrated the principles of the sport, taught early puzzle fixing methods, and have been not possible to fail (or a minimum of practically not possible).

My resolution was to create a guided path that the participant should observe. Since there is just one option to go, they’re compelled to push the block to proceed forwards. It’s mainly not possible to fail.

In Tutorial 1, the participant is compelled to push the purple block onto the purple cross. There may be nowhere else to go.

Then, the one different place to go is down, the place the blue block is. To complete the extent, they need to push the blue block round a nook. With out realising it, I’m instructing an essential method: the best way to push blocks round corners.

Pushing blocks round corners could sound easy, however play testing confirmed simply how many individuals battle to see a couple of transfer forward at first. Coming at blocks from completely different angles is a very powerful facet of the sport, and by instructing it in a small approach within the tutorial, this ensures {that a} wider viewers is able to studying the sport. This one method branches out into all others, and is step one in instructing folks to see a couple of transfer forward.

Within the tutorial, there’s no option to by chance go the fallacious approach until the participant goes backwards. Moreover, they’re studying one in all Puzzledorf’s different distinctive parts: that completely different colored blocks have to go to completely different locations.

Tutorial 2 (above) follows the identical premise as Tutorial 1, providing just one option to go. It introduces a brand new factor – the white boulder. These are distinctive parts to Puzzledorf – obstacles that haven’t any particular vacation spot, you simply need to push them out of the best way. Tutorial 2 then teaches the participant a number of issues:

  • You may’t push two blocks on the identical time (if you happen to try to go up, you may’t)
  • It’s a must to stroll across the white boulder to push it, reinforcing about coming at blocks from completely different angles
  • The one approach ahead is to push the white block out of the best way, and because it goes right into a nook, it helps drive house the concept all you must do is transfer it, not put it someplace particular
  • Then you may push the purple block on the purple cross, fixing the puzzle, which once more reinforces that white boulders are simply obstacles

I take advantage of optimistic reinforcement to additional drive house all of those ideas, which I’ll talk about additional down.

It’s additionally value noting that each Tutorial 1 and a pair of require only a tiny little bit of thought effort – you must realise to stroll across the blue block and white boulder, to push from one other angle. It’s a small factor, and fairly easy, however the truth that folks need to cease and assume for a second helps cease the tutorial from being boring and makes folks listen.

Subsequent I need to rapidly have a look at stage 1. It’s not strictly a part of the tutorial, but it surely leads on from the tutorial and exhibits the development of instructing by means of experiential play. Instructing by means of design doesn’t cease with the tutorials – I steadily make issues tougher by slowly introducing new varieties of issues and new puzzle fixing methods. I try to assist nudge the participant with considerate design, to assist them develop of their abilities, ensuring they’ve realized one method earlier than I introduce one other.

Degree 1 is the primary stage with a fail state. For those who push the white block all the best way as much as the highest, you “fail” the extent and need to both restart or undo. Most individuals determine the answer out fairly rapidly, and it reinforces the ideas from the tutorials.

  • The white boulder doesn’t have to go anyplace, but it surely’s in your approach
  • For those who push the white boulder in opposition to a wall or in a nook, you may’t pull it, you must undo
  • It’s a must to transfer the white boulder and stroll across the stage to get to the opposite aspect of the purple block to push it

That final level is essential. The entire sport requires gamers interested by the correct path to strategy every block from, which frequently entails pushing one block this manner, after which one other block a unique approach.

By having a easy fail state in stage one, and reinforcing a few of these earlier ideas, gamers proceed to be taught by means of expertise, somewhat than me telling them what to do, and I see gamers be taught in a short time this manner.

Again with regards to optimistic reinforcement. There’s a number of issues that occur to strengthen the right actions to gamers, to allow them to know they’re doing the correct factor.

Wanting again at Tutorial 1. Once you stand subsequent to one thing which you could transfer, it will get somewhat bit brighter and flashes. For the color blind mode, meaning both a colored form or a black and white form, which may nonetheless visibly flash.

Subsequent, if you push the purple block onto the purple cross, there’s a vivid, blissful sound impact and a particle explosion, making the participant really feel good which additionally reinforces that they did the correct motion. This optimistic feeling, then, helps to show the principles with out phrases.

Additionally, after pushing the purple block on the purple cross, the block stops animating and stays a vivid whitish purple – it not flashes. This helps to drive house that the block has completed shifting and also you not have to work together with it.

After pushing the purple block on to the cross, the blue block will then additionally begin flashing, hinting to the participant which you could push the blue block as effectively. Then, after getting the blue block on the blue cross, the puzzle is solved, triggering an excellent blissful sound impact and even larger particle explosion, reinforcing to the participant that that is the way you win the sport.

And naturally in every single place these experiences happen, and never simply within the tutorials – the flashing animations, particle explosions, vivid and blissful sound results – reinforces the right option to play the sport.

As far as my play testing is anxious, the top consequence was profitable. Players and non-gamers alike have been in a position to play the sport and observe what was happening, with a excessive variety of gamers pushing by means of to complete the sport.

Right here’s my takeaway:

  • Lots of people, for one purpose or one other, will skip tutorials if they will, or in any other case blaze by means of them with out studying any textual content
  • Instructing by means of experiences, not textual content, is best for ensuring gamers be taught what you need them to know
  • Creating little testing playgrounds, the place failure is both not possible or has little consequence, is an effective option to arrange experiential instructing
  • Experiential instructing appears to be higher for onboarding a large viewers of gamers, and folks appear to have extra enjoyable within the course of
  • Utilizing visible and audio cues to positively reinforce right actions helps educate gamers the best way to play, in addition to making them really feel good
  • Think about methods gamers may be reminded of the controls later within the sport, in case they overlook, which frequently appears to occur to gamers unfamiliar with a style
  • When play testing, don’t assist the participant, since you gained’t be there to assist your prospects. As an alternative, watch, observe, then modify if needed and repeat

If you wish to be taught extra about Puzzledorf, you may verify the website or try my blog.

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