Author Topic: The first hour: Tutorial, UI, gameplay  (Read 4467 times)


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The first hour: Tutorial, UI, gameplay
on: May 15, 2017, 12:33:28 PM
Hi guys! The game's pretty cool. So cool, that it is a shame that some aspects cause too much friction when trying to get the hang of it for the first time. Here are some thoughts on that first hour of Raiders I wanted to share!

*An innovative game needs a good tutorial*
This game is a blast. It innovates in so many aspects, it introduces so many new elements that... that we don't know. Really. The information is introduced to the player very quickly and with little time or tolerance for the player to assimilate everything.

When a feature is newly introduced, specially features rarely seen before in the FPS/action genre, we players need space, time and forgiveness. We need to test them. We need to try the action for a while, and when we are happy, move forward at our own pace. We don't need a challenge to try the feature because understanding it IS the challenge.

*The tutorial needs to be to the point*
I think players don't need an unnecesarily complicated jump in the first 10 seconds of the game (which indeed is easy, but it is not trivial). I think in general we don't even need to know how to jump so early. I need to move. I need to fire. What's next? You need to melee, because that's how you get ammo for your gun. If the concepts are introduced one by one in a sensible order, I can puzzle the pieces together.

*The tutorial needs to be forgiving*
We are busy learning things. Even if you are a hardcore GoW player, Raiders is still a sufficiently different game to need time to adjust and get a good grasp of the controls. The tutorial puts you in scenes where you are far from safe and have to solve a situation, but that is not a challenge. That's two challenges: we are still getting used to the controls. We need a safe environment to repeat the actions again and again until we are comfortable. In this environment, Health, Ammunition enemies spawning out of my sight and other stuff that could endanger me should not be a concern.

That's why the tutorial should not have lives, at least during the very first moments. Also, in some parts, the tutorial puts you very close to enemies that will kill you if you just move a second in the wrong direction. They will even kill you if you wait for a few seconds without moving. I should not hurry when understanding the controls. I want to play with them for a bit and then do my thing.

*The tutorial needs to advance at my own pace*
I think we players should decide when we are ready to continue onto the next "lesson" within the tutorial. If I finish an explanation with a lot of text that requires me to read and press buttons without understanding very well what I'm doing (because I don't have yet the full picture and thus cannot puzzle all the pieces together yet), I expect to have time to practice that thing as much as I want. Also, if I want to repeat a lesson I'll want it in the exact same configuration: No enemies spawning in my back, no time limit, repeat as much as I want.

*UI minimalism*
The UI is minimalist. It tries to condense a lot of information in little space. This has great advantages and makes for an elegant experience. Nevertheless, Raiders is a game with a LOT of bars, icons, status and notifications. It is also not the same from one character to the next, which adds even more variables to the problem. Raiders already requires the full attention of the player, and thus, being a bit more explicit at times might facilitate greatly the experience.

The problem of minimalism, is that it occludes information under the premise of elegance. It is more difficult to understand what's important and what's urgent, and both things are not the same. I have seen this problem solved in neat ways in some games, and they do it like this:

*When I think UI should be explicit*
Raiders is a game about moving in the space and attacking things, mainly shooting or melee. That's the core. If there is one status that is impeding me from doing one of those things, I should have immediate, very-explicit feedback about it in the screen. I don't think we need minimalism in this case. As a player, my main concern is 1. to understand what's happening and 2. how can I solve it. As long as you present me with that info in the screen, I'm happy.

For example, the empty-ammo icon is very confusing. It is not totally obvious, and it appears close to other displays. Furthermore, some characters have already some non-canonical shooting (for example, Konstantine has to "warm up" his gun) so when you see the empty-ammo icon you might be distracted and not know if it's something you are doing wrong with the character or something else. Also, there is little to no explicit warning that you are running low on ammo. When this costs you a life, the frustration maximises.

So I would put these gameplay-critical warnings very explicitly, even with text if necessary.

*Cluttered UI? Hierarchy*
But there are other important, not-urgent messages that the player needs to be aware of. Altered status, enemy/mission information, a lot of other things. This information is presented a bit randomly in the screen. I think the general UI philosophy was to keep things relevant to the source of the problem, so if I have a skill that has delay, it will appear in the cursor or in the target, and so.

The problem with this is that, in Raiders, it is really easy to clutter the screen with too much info, rendering this approach useless. Hierarchy could be a solution to this. Putting certain "types" of information always in the same area or panel in the screen could help a lot with this. If I know I have an area in the screen where the cooldowns appears, whenever I'm doing something that requires time my instinct would be to look at that area. The screen declutters a bit. If everything related to my character appears in the left of the screen, whenever I see a certain icon or warning text I will immediately know it's related to me and my status. Things like that.

It is not super clear what's a button and what is not. Some buttons have pictures and text over them. Others are very small, like the buttons for selecting the mission and chapters. Some buttons are in an polygonal grid, like the character selection, but other buttons are in a table (like the mission chapter selection) and others are in the border of the screen with a transparent background ala Starcraft, like the Matchmaking/Solo button. I can also pan the screen when moving the mouse or controller, moving the full interface with it.

With the effort put in the minimalism and tidiness in the gameplay HUD, the menu looks like it follows a different design philosophy.

Overall, I ENJOYED A LOT the game. That's why I wanted to share this thoughts with you, because such a cool game, I think, deserves a nice first impression! Keep up the good work!

Kid Dracula

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Re: The first hour: Tutorial, UI, gameplay
Reply #1 on: May 16, 2017, 04:03:32 PM
Thanks for your valuable feedback!