[001] Ease Players In (Cascading Information Theory)

stoicstoic Member, Kickstarter Alpha Backer ES2 Posts: 20
Category: Game Design
Severity: High

Though I know this is just a prototype and I'm sure you have plans to change this, I feel this needs to be stated because of how important it is: it would be very helpful to new players if you could ease them into the game. I believe this is a high importance item because the first few minutes of a game can make or break a player's willingness to stick with it or not. A game that is too complex or frustrating early may cause some players to give up, resulting not only in a lost sale (if they opt for a refund, say on Steam for example) and lost future sales (Expansions, DLC, etc.), but also the loss of sales from others if the player writes an unfavorable review. I feel it's also important to state because although Everspace 1 did this to some extent, you should really make sure you do even more so in this game, especially since it is correspondingly more complex.

All this means it that you should design the game such that the first few missions very slowly introduce players to different aspects of the game, going so far as to disable and hide other aspects until the player reaches certain progression points. Though the exact implementation details can vary (i.e. precisely which aspects you introduce first, and whether you want to call it "Pilot Training School" or just be part of the first "real" mission), you could for example start with something like this:

  1. Start the player off with no UI visible and show the "Show Controls" button on the screen in a corner somewhere with the text "Show Controls" so the player knows how to quickly view the control scheme, unless for some reason you aren't able to map a key to it (i.e. on a console perhaps?) in which case simply indicate that the controls can be viewed and modified in the options and show a key for that instead. Ideally, one would be able to change the controls from the "Show Controls" screen but that's a lower-priority item. You should also write at the bottom of the "Show Controls" screen that the control scheme can be modified in the Options menu and show the currently bound key for opening the menu.
  2. Have the player move forward/backward, turn left/right, strafe left/right, strafe up/down, roll left/right. Have the player navigate to a series of specific points in a level, untimed.
  3. Introduce boost and show the energy bar. Have the player press the boost key successfully, and then have the player reach 3 different points (locations) in space (timed, but very generous — only those who did not boost at all could fail it).

This is just the barebones starting point, but I would make sure to cover virtually every aspect of the game at some point, including picking up items, targeting other objects/ships, navigating the shop menu, etc. If you do it well, it will feel like part of the game and not like a separate tutorial. It should be designed such that skilled players will breeze through it without feeling like they were slowed down, and inexperienced players will be able to go at their own pace without feeling rushed or that you dumped a huge amount of complex information on them. Every time a new aspect of the game is introduced you should explain it. There is so much in the prototype I do not understand, and this is coming from someone who not only played the first Everspace, but is a veteran gamer with nearly 3 decades of gaming experience. If I don't know what things are, chances are most of your playerbase won't either.

At the same time, if you want the player to figure something out for themselves (which is always at the risk of causing frustration) you should make that very clear. For example, the shadow creature thing I found more frustrating than enjoyable, and even now that I understand how they work (don't take them into sunlight), I don't think they have a real place in the game. This is not to say that you can't make them work, but you should give them some sort of backstory. What is this thing, and why do you have to join it with another shadow creature?

I would also make sure to start the player off in an area with fewer debris fragments and other things to reduce confusion. Gradually add those back in as the player progresses.


  • ROCKFISH_HCKROCKFISH_HCK Moderator Posts: 579
    Thanks for your suggestions! We will have an introduction which serves as a tutorial and gradually explain things that are new to the player. We won't explain "virtually every aspect of the game" though. It's a fine line, I know. I don't agree with you on the "figuring out for themselves" aspect. Players will need to find stuff out, they have to try and fail or don't understand now but understand later. In case of the shadow creatures: There most likely will be some kind of backstory but we won't tell the player to avoid sunlight when he picks one up the first time. Where would be the fun on finding out how it works?
  • stoicstoic Member, Kickstarter Alpha Backer ES2 Posts: 20
    Thanks for getting back to me. Yeah I understand, there definitely can be some fun in figuring some things out. :) I would personally restrict that to gameplay elements and not UI elements though, because even people who enjoy solving puzzles typically don't like struggling to figure out an unintuitive interface. Just my 2 cents anyways. :)
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