Hicks: That’s the Grenade Launcher. I don’t think you want to mess with that.
Ripley: You started this. Show me everything. I can handle myself
Yup, that’s another Aliens reference from me. And once again, the link to my article is tenuous, but still just about admissible.
Now that we’re greenlit on Steam, we know without question that we’re going to be completing and releasing Fragmental. While obviously fantastic, this brings with it the realisation that as well as the core gameplay that we’ve been enjoying working on so much for the bulk of the time so far, we’re also going to have to implement all the other less sexy stuff. Like Menus, Settings screens, Localisation, Tutorials…
Learning can be fun.
Of those examples, both myself and Dave are working on the tutorials, and to be honest they are far more difficult to create than any of the normal or survival levels. They’re also traditionally more of a pain in the arse, as the focus has to be more on teaching the player a skill rather than just existing for fun, and even worse, as a designer you are fully aware that a large proportion of the players will play through your carefully crafted tutorial experience exactly once, or worse still, never. In production speak, not much bang for your buck. Tutorials are just generally not fun. Except for Far Cry: Blood Dragon. Well played there Ubisoft.
That said, for every hardcore player that will immediately just ‘get’ your game, there will be a player who likes to be led through a game’s systems and features, so they are armed with as much knowledge as possible before they are thrown into the action. So, tutorials are in.
Principles and Goals
The core principle we’re working to is that everything in this game must be fun. If it’s not, either we find a way to make it fun, or it’s out. With the tutorials, we’re multi-purposing – initially it will be a teaching tool, eventually turning into a set of single player challenges through repeated play. While this two-pronged approach provides more value to the content, it makes the job of creating it that much harder. Imagine this scenario: You create the obvious route through the level to introduce a beginner to each mechanic you want to teach them. Then you add sneaky little routes / firing angles for the best players to use in a speed run. Then you notice you’ve broken the original route by doing this. Trying to juggle these different routes through a single map requires a lot more up front planning, and even then a whole lot of tweaking and playtesting. We all want to create that perfect Mario Raceway (Mario Kart 64) with its hard to achieve wall jump shortcut, or going back further, plotting the exact path through Green Hill Zone 1 (Sonic the Hedgehog) to try to get that elusive 27 second run. I’m not saying we’re in the same league as Miyamoto-san, Naka-san or Yasuhara-san, but hey, why not shoot for the moon.
Each weapon will have its own single-map tutorial, where only that weapon is available and the player must destroy a number of targets, set up in such a way as to introduce the player to the specific firing mechanism and features of that weapon. As soon as a tutorial starts, a timer will start, and it’s this that will be the motivation for the challenge. Medals will be awarded for completing a tutorial map under set threshold times, and we might also add in the best times of Ruffian staff (QA will probably win all of these as usual) as a further target to beat.
As a starting point, some general guidelines were set to standardize the tutorials. Without these, given there are two of us working on them, we would run the risk of creating a mish-mash of different things, with little commonality between them. The initial plan was:
- Best times to complete should be under 5 seconds (for the elite players)
- No longer than 60 seconds to complete for the least skilled players
- Shots should teach the player the different mechanics of each weapon. Even the easy ones
- One map for each weapon
- Try to create ‘red herring’ routes to coax players away from the fastest possible route
- Perfect route should be clever enough to make players think they’ve broken the level and beaten the designers
Once we get into creating levels for the more ‘exotic’ weapons, these guidelines may need relaxed slightly, but for now this is our plan of attack.
King of the world baby!
Killing each other has been the main pastime over the last few months in the Ruffibunker (see a photo from a previous blog to understand why it’s affectionately called that), however I’m starting to see a shift towards high score bragging rights as we add each of these tutorials. Shouts of 6.3 seconds, followed by retorts of 6.2 are now fairly common throughout the day, then someone finds a new approach and suddenly its 5.4! After a while of this, if the designer of that level is currently not the best at it, tiny modifications are made to invalidate all times for that map. A metaphorical “fuck this shit” table flipping moment. Naming no names though.
<cough> Dave </cough>
At the moment, the signs are good that this tutorial / challenge mode can provide a good dose of fun away from the main multiplayer aspect of Fragmental.
I’ve just noticed I used the word tutorial 11 times in this article. That seems far too many. Damn, 12 now.