27 Jun, 2013, plamzi wrote in the 1st comment:
Votes: 0
Some context:

I just released a new free app version in the AppStore, which is driving a pretty wide variety of people to the game. Presumably, these are people who know this is an RPG MMO, have seen some screenshots of what it looks like, and have had the patience to wait for 100MB to download to their phone before firing up the game.

I'm now specifically interested in tracking the performance of the new app tutorial, about half of which you can see in this post. There's a lot that I can't show in screenshots, including ways to opt out/resume later/resume automatically/block newbies from wandering off or mucking up badly (big problem in an open-ended game of this complexity). Basically, for over 3 years now, I've been tinkering and looking for ways to ease the casual player drop into a very different GUI and a world that is loaded with options.

I don't yet have specific impressions of how the new tutorial compares to the old one, but I thought I'd share a session that is typical for what happens about 70-80% of the time. Maybe it belongs to the humor section, but I thought it may be of interest to people who are trying to market a MUD to non-mudders, or maybe even to mobile users, and wish to know more about the scope of the challenge.

Without further ado:

:A: Hanzo advanced to level 1.

:C: Hanzo [xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx] new player.

:R: Hanzo retrieving force-saved items and entering game (80000/0).
New player Hanzo entered the game.

wher Hanzo

Hanzo - [15205] The Halls Of Victory

snoop Hanzo

exec showOptions:off
exec showOptions:(q)
info|url|tutorial1.php|
exec showHeader

% l

R:In The Halls Of Fameland
EX:
West - Intersection To Adventure
C:Tarkan|1|Psion|55|3|guide| (q)(W)|
C:Hanzo|1|Assassin|1|1|hanzo|(B)|

% inventory

You are carrying:
O|Cull the Dragonet Hatchlings - Quest||
3x O|a red potion||
O|a bread||
O|a cup||

|

|

% kill guide
A flash of light fills the room, dispelling your violent magic!

|
% backstab guide
A flash of light fills the room, dispelling your violent magic!

R:In The Halls Of Fameland
EX:
West - Intersection To Adventure
C:Tarkan|1|Psion|55|3|guide| (q)(W)|
C:Hanzo|1|Assassin|1|1|hanzo|(B)|

% l

R:In The Halls Of Fameland
EX:
West - Intersection To Adventure
C:Tarkan|1|Psion|55|3|guide| (q)(W)|
C:Hanzo|1|Assassin|1|1|hanzo|(B)|

|

:C: Closing link to: Hanzo.
27 Jun, 2013, Lyanic wrote in the 2nd comment:
Votes: 0
It was supposed to be 'kick guide'…stupid newbie.
27 Jun, 2013, plamzi wrote in the 3rd comment:
Votes: 0
Some more context:
He basically never moved past the first screen of the tutorial (tutorial1.php). Each tutorial step either has some info and a big button saying 'NEXT' or else shows a big arrow pointing at exactly what you're supposed to tap to move on. The person didn't follow any of those visual clues, yet somehow figured out how to use commands, used a few that were blocked for a good reason, then left.
27 Jun, 2013, quixadhal wrote in the 4th comment:
Votes: 0
A good argument against having a seperate "mud school" or tutorial area. Clearly this person wanted to jump in and start killing stuff, and not being allowed to do so exceeded their attention span limit.
27 Jun, 2013, plamzi wrote in the 5th comment:
Votes: 0
quixadhal said:
A good argument against having a seperate "mud school" or tutorial area. Clearly this person wanted to jump in and start killing stuff, and not being allowed to do so exceeded their attention span limit.


I agree that this is the most likely explanation of what this person wanted but would giving them what they wanted make much of a difference? Dropping newbies in front of something they can kill is doable. But then, what next? In order to really begin to get into the game, they'd still have to be shown basics like how to navigate to their next target, use skills, run away from a fight, etc. It seems to me that a person with an attention span this short is not worth adapting the intro for, because if they don't quit at the first screen, they would quit at the second.

There was a time when the app dropped people directly into the low-level experience area. But this being a pretty uncommon interface/game for the average AppStore gamer, the results were much much worse than when we added a tutorial to cover the basics.

Right now, if someone connects to the game via telnet, they are just shown how to grab some newbie quests, and if they are a vet, they can strike out in any direction. But for people connecting via the app for the first time, I don't think that would work at all.
28 Jun, 2013, Idealiad wrote in the 6th comment:
Votes: 0
What this strikes home for me is if you want to track newbies, there should be an automatic transcript and summary of metrics based on that. One data point just isn't enough. For all we know this could have been Runter :).
28 Jun, 2013, plamzi wrote in the 7th comment:
Votes: 0
Idealiad said:
What this strikes home for me is if you want to track newbies, there should be an automatic transcript and summary of metrics based on that. One data point just isn't enough.


That's true. A lot of key actions are registered in the database and I look up usage stats with queries as needed. But that's a lot less fun to share :)
28 Jun, 2013, Runter wrote in the 8th comment:
Votes: 0
Idealiad said:
What this strikes home for me is if you want to track newbies, there should be an automatic transcript and summary of metrics based on that. One data point just isn't enough. For all we know this could have been Runter :).


Okay, okay. You caught me.
28 Jun, 2013, Runter wrote in the 9th comment:
Votes: 0
I do think there was a hint in here. He logged in and wanted to attack something immediately. I suspect had his attack worked, and he was rewarded for it, he likely would have continued on longer. That's the real goal, hook them long enough to get interested in your game. Make it exciting and rewarding to learn by trial and error. That's my 2 cents.

That's not to say you can't also have a tutorial, documents, mud school, guides to help people, etc. Those things just don't appeal to everyone, especially if they find the most enjoyable part of a game the trial and error process.
28 Jun, 2013, plamzi wrote in the 10th comment:
Votes: 0
Runter said:
I do think there was a hint in here. He logged in and wanted to attack something immediately. I suspect had his attack worked, and he was rewarded for it, he likely would have continued on longer. That's the real goal, hook them long enough to get interested in your game. Make it exciting and rewarding to learn by trial and error. That's my 2 cents.

That's not to say you can't also have a tutorial, documents, mud school, guides to help people, etc. Those things just don't appeal to everyone, especially if they find the most enjoyable part of a game the trial and error process.


I think the point of a tutorial (or intro sequence) can't simply be to hook people long enough to finish the tutorial. The point is to tease the game's strengths, of course, but also to teach a person just enough about the game so they would want to continue learning. A tutorial has to fit the world of the game it is for, and in this particular world, some NPC's have a 'talk' option, and others have a 'kill' option, for a good reason.

I understand that this person, and other like him, are most likely coming from a long series of "dumb" mobile MMO's where you could attack everything the linear progression put in front of you. And I can certainly make the tutorial look like such a game. But then after they are done with the tutorial, it will not have taught them enough to play the real game. They're likely to quit then, and the net result will be that other folks, who would have actually completed a tutorial representative of the gameplay, may quit too, when the game suddenly turns on them.

As an aside, this person was clearly not enjoying the trial and error process. If they were, they would try something else when they got the first error, and they would get much further. (It is completely possible to master the UI with just trial and error, as long as you pay attention to the error messages.) What in fact I see happening in many sessions is that some people come with abovesaid baggage from other games, and they get frustrated when they come across a game that doesn't let them kill everything it puts in front of them. This is not even the most extreme case. There are people who complete the tutorial, then face a quest-giver in the city, spam 100 kill attempts, and then quit…

I'm designing my next mobile game from scratch, and it will give people like this exactly what they expect. Because the game itself will let them attack everything, so will the tutorial. Hopefully, this will remove one huge obstacle (out of many) to converting casual mobile players.
28 Jun, 2013, Runter wrote in the 11th comment:
Votes: 0
Dismiss it at your own peril. You can't handwave it away with "they're coming from dumb games" or "if they enjoy trial and error then they should have enjoyed not knowing what to do" and keep credibility of trying to address this problem. This single case could have had any number of reasons for why he quit and never came back, and it's statistically insignificant what the player did. but based on my many years of running a mud and seeing similar patterns it's my view that people quit games without giving it a real try when they 1. Don't know what to do. or 2. Don't find it immediately engaging.
28 Jun, 2013, quixadhal wrote in the 12th comment:
Votes: 0
This reminds of one of the recent changes to World of Warcraft. The starter areas in WoW were all designed to teach newbies the basics of gameplay gradually. When you appeared in the world, you had your newbie gear and were standing withing eyesight of the first quest-giver NPC. You could choose to go do that quest, or just wander off and start hacking at things, as you pleased.

All the NPC's near to these starting areas were non-aggressive, and pretty much fodder. They wandered around, but would make no moves to flee, attack, join in to help their fellows, etc. As you wandered further away within the same starter zone, they started becoming aggressive, and they also started to help one another or flee to get help. The quests would lead you out into these areas as you leveled up, but nothing stopped you from just going there on your own.

By the time you got done with the starter area, you had learned how pretty much every non-dungeon encounter would work. This was a good thing, and some of the zones were very well designed to teach you this.

In Cataclysm, they decided too many dumb players were crying over actually dying in the starter zones when they tried to run through them and pulled half the map… so their solution? Make ALL NPC's non-aggro in those zones.

The result of this is that newbies no longer gradually learn how to deal with sneaking around aggro mobs to complete quest objectives. They no longer learn how to kite things while avoiding running into other aggressive packs. And worst of all, many of the starter quests are now trivialized into "fetch me a spoon" quests. One of the harder quests in the Dranae starting zone was to obtain a battle plan from the leader of a blood elf camp. There were patrols of guards, sentrys, and other things that meant you should learn how to watch movement patterns to run between the patrols, and sneak past the guards, etc…. now, you just jog up to the leader, kill him, loot… run back. *yawn*

What am I getting at here?

Nobody likes being forced to do a tutorial. Nobody likes "mud schools". People who are true newbies might choose to follow the directions because they don't know what they're doing, but anyone who's ever played ANY similar game just wants to get out and explore to see if the game is any fun.

While I'm sure your game is different, and you think new players need to learn how things work, all those kinds of things really should be optional. If a player wants to burn their fingers, you should let them discover that the fire is hot on their own, not shutter the flame behind a giant steel wall that keeps all the heat and light away from them.

By all means, do everything you can to try and convince them to do the breadcrumb quests, read the rules, learn how to play smart… but if they really want to do things the hard way, you should let them. It is, after all, a game that they are choosing to play for their own enjoyment.
28 Jun, 2013, Rarva.Riendf wrote in the 13th comment:
Votes: 0
>% backstab guide
>A flash of light fills the room, dispelling your violent magic!

Backstab is a violent magic ?
28 Jun, 2013, plamzi wrote in the 14th comment:
Votes: 0
Runter said:
Dismiss it at your own peril. You can't handwave it away with "they're coming from dumb games" or "if they enjoy trial and error then they should have enjoyed not knowing what to do" and keep credibility of trying to address this problem. This single case could have had any number of reasons for why he quit and never came back, and it's statistically insignificant what the player did. but based on my many years of running a mud and seeing similar patterns it's my view that people quit games without giving it a real try when they 1. Don't know what to do. or 2. Don't find it immediately engaging.


I'm not dismissing it at all. As you can see, I'm here thinking about it, and I've been tweaking the intro for years. I'm probably going to try putting a self-respawning killable mob to the first room, just to see how it changes the dynamic for visitors like this one. But I'll try to do it in a way that leaves the main tutorial story intact. The idea of the current tutorial is to hand-hold the player through their first quest, which is very simple and involves plenty of killing, but also teaches how to use the command menu / get a quest, then move around the world to find your target. It's as basic as it gets, and the killing comes in the first minute, if you just follow the big arrows.

My earlier point was that putting a fight sequence at the very beginning doesn't address the real issue here, which is that the game is not casual enough for people who expect to be able to attack everyone in sight, always, and either win, or else lose without being penalized. I know that is one of the main bottlenecks not just from observing newbie behavior, but also because I ask those who stick around long enough to chat about it. You can't put a band-aid on something as fundamental as that.

The game is now more casual than it was 3 years back, by orders of magnitude, but it is by no means casual in the context of the AppStore. At some point, I realized that no intro can obscure that fact for very long. If you have a chess game (by certain standards :), you can't have an intro that teaches people checkers–the pieces just don't move that way.

quixadhal said:
While I'm sure your game is different, and you think new players need to learn how things work, all those kinds of things really should be optional.


The latest app tutorial *is* optional. There are a number of ways to leave it, including an opt-out button on the very first screen, which is one of the options this person didn't choose.

There used to be two ways to opt out. One was to skip completely, and the other was to postpone (but if you don't wander into the newbie area, it will never kick off again). I removed the complete skip in the first few steps because I saw a lot of people skipping, then just idling out in the first room for lack of ideas on what to do next.

So, that's one of the things already in place. Having an optional tutorial in the case of my app just brings a new set of problems. The core issue there is that a lot of people assume on entering the game that they will just be able to figure it out, and most of them really can't.

quixadhal said:
If a player wants to burn their fingers, you should let them discover that the fire is hot on their own, not shutter the flame behind a giant steel wall that keeps all the heat and light away from them.


This was the case for everyone for several months when we first launched. No tutorial at all. Newbies were dropped in the city and were dying by the hundreds in the hands of cityguards when they tried to attack innocent citizens that the guards were scripted to protect. Hardly anyone that died ever came back. Conversion rate was much worse than what it was after the first app tutorial was added.

I can see how the "hard knocks" approach can be valid in a MUD that caters to MUD vets and doesn't particularly care about marketing itself as casual or growing its player base, but in this day and age, a game that wants to have a more general appeal can't afford to drop newbies in with no hand-holding whatsoever (unless the game itself is super-easy).
28 Jun, 2013, Idealiad wrote in the 15th comment:
Votes: 0
That's not what quix was saying with the WoW example though. You should still have the tutorial. But the opt-out should be in-game (IC if you will) and at the same designed to guide you back into the tutorial.
28 Jun, 2013, plamzi wrote in the 16th comment:
Votes: 0
quixadhal said:
Nobody likes being forced to do a tutorial. Nobody likes "mud schools". People who are true newbies might choose to follow the directions because they don't know what they're doing, but anyone who's ever played ANY similar game just wants to get out and explore to see if the game is any fun.


Just wanted to address another key point here. I absolutely agree that tutorials can be rendered entirely useless by the fact that the game follows a standard/genre closely. Given that for most MUDs, the "newbie" is most likely to be a vet of 15+ years of mudding, what is the point of teaching them where to type what?

But that's not the case when a game UI is non-standard, and where you can't expect your players to come with a bunch of applicable prior experience.

When people talk about "intuitive" UI, what they usually mean is a standard UI that follows an established structure so closely that you just "kind of know" what each thing does. That's the ideal situation you want to be in as a UI designer. I would have loved to have followed a standard when designing the Bedlam app UI.

Unfortunately, the closest I could come up with (besides the ubiquitous buttons, tabs, and scroll views inside submenus) was to use the CoverFlow horizontal scroll logic for displaying room entities. After that, it gets pretty hairy. There is really no standard for drag-drop actions in iOS, and they're absolutely necessary here. There is very little screen real estate, so a lot of things have to be contextual, which means you have to somehow inform the user that they are even there.

Bottom line is, there are situations when tutorials are more of a nuisance, and there are situations where they are necessary. In the latter case, it gets pretty tricky to figure out how to strike a balance between frustrating and informing.

And I'm happy that we're discussing that here.
28 Jun, 2013, plamzi wrote in the 17th comment:
Votes: 0
Idealiad said:
That's not what quix was saying with the WoW example though. You should still have the tutorial. But the opt-out should be in-game (IC if you will) and at the same designed to guide you back into the tutorial.


I'm not sure what you're getting at. I realize that's what he was saying. In this case, the opt-out *is* in-game, as I described it. It is on the very same screen that the person was looking at when they entered the game and tried to attack the newbie guide. And if someone chose to delay the tutorial rather than skip it entirely, it will kick in when they return to the newbie area (for which there are multiple guides on how to find it again).

So it can't be the lack of an opt-out that is driving this kind of behavior.

Here's what the first screen after entry looks like:




Rarva.Riendf said:
>% backstab guide
>A flash of light fills the room, dispelling your violent magic!

Backstab is a violent magic ?


I fixed this. He should have been blocked by a different logic that gave a better clue about why he can't attack. Thanks for pointing it out.
28 Jun, 2013, Idealiad wrote in the 18th comment:
Votes: 0
@plamzi, it was a response to your reply to quix's quote.

quixadhal said:
If a player wants to burn their fingers, you should let them discover that the fire is hot on their own [….]



plamzi said:
This was the case for everyone for several months when we first launched. No tutorial at all. [….] Conversion rate was much worse than what it was after the first app tutorial was added.

I can see how the "hard knocks" approach can be valid in a MUD that caters to MUD vets and doesn't particularly care about marketing itself as casual or growing its player base, but in this day and age, a game that wants to have a more general appeal can't afford to drop newbies in with no hand-holding whatsoever (unless the game itself is super-easy).


What quix wrote was in the context of his WoW example. But if you didn't actually interpret the example to mean there should be no tutorial, then let's move on.
28 Jun, 2013, plamzi wrote in the 19th comment:
Votes: 0
Idealiad said:
What quix wrote was in the context of his WoW example. But if you didn't actually interpret the example to mean there should be no tutorial, then let's move on.


I see what you mean. Yes, I think I misunderstood quix's point. He is pushing for an optional tutorial and is not against tutorials as such.
28 Jun, 2013, Rarva.Riendf wrote in the 20th comment:
Votes: 0
plamzi said:
I fixed this. He should have been blocked by a different logic that gave a better clue about why he can't attack. Thanks for pointing it out.


Np, I am pretty sure my own fight preventing logic has some flaws :) Should make a diagram one day :)
Random Picks
0.0/26