In Pixeljima there is a mechanic of collecting stars. Feedback from playtesting revealed at least one player who did not find it obvious that stars should be collected. After some time, they did work this out, but they said it would have been nice to be told.
The concept we came up with for tutorials was to have a "flight manual" appear on screen, open to a page with a tutorial message. The tutorial messages use as least text as possible, from zero to one word. For example, the collect tutorial looks like the picture to the right.
We worked through the other key concepts of the game and came up with this list:
- "Red Planes" should be shot to drop a POW, and POW's should be collected to increase fire-power
- "Medals" should be collected to restore health
- The Douglas SBD Dauntless has a rear gunner turret, and we wanted to communicate the arc of fire.
- Later in the game, when bomb upgrades are unlocked, the player has a target reticle. This needs to be placed over ground targets, like factories, in order to trigger dropping bombs.
- Two of the aircraft can upgrade to have a radar. We want to show that the colours indicate different aircraft types.
The Red Planes tutorial image is shown here, to the left.
Each message only appears once, and appears contextually, just as each concept becomes relevant to the player.
The tutorial messages are experimental, and we haven't had enough testing and feedback yet to know how effective they are.
Also, for this first MVP (Minimum Viable Product) version, we didn't create a mechanism to re-set the tutorial messages, or a help area where the player could page through the flight manual - but both of these are on our ideas list.
Our hope is that by providing a minimum of hints early on in a players experience, we can eliminate some unknown and/or frustration, and increase retention.
A reasonable amount of play is required to understand and appreciate the game progression mechanics (collecting stars to rank up, and buy upgrades; achieving certain levels with certain planes to unlock others; working towards achieving medals and achievements; competing on the score leader board with others). We don't have tutorial messages for these meta-game concepts. Perhaps we should?
It would be great to hear your experiences around creation of tutorials in mobile games - please feel free to leave a comment.
By Stephen McIntyre