How to make a perfect tutorial? Tips from PopCap

Plants vs. Zombies has accomplished a feat – interested the casual audience in a strategic game. At GDC 2012, its creator told how he managed it. 

According to George Fan, the author of Plants vs. Zombies, the secret of the game’s success was an unobtrusive tutorial. 

If the tutorial is not done well, other elements of the game are unlikely to interest players like my mom,” notes Feng. 

To help developers, he formulated 10 rules to follow when creating a training mode. 

1. The tutorial should be part of the game

When developing, we try to make sure that the player does not feel that he is in training mode at all,” says Feng. Most players immediately want to get involved in the game, so if they understand that they need to learn something first, then most likely they will quickly lose interest in the game. 

I came to the conclusion that the game should not have a section at all, which will be called a tutorial. Of course, at its core, people like to learn, but sometimes it’s better to cheat, because these days we can easily include a tutorial in the game. So, ideally, you should tell the players about the rules of the game so that they don’t even know that they are being taught this,” he sums up. 

2. It is better to force the player to “do” something than to “read”.

“The ideal way for any player to learn is to perform an action in the game,” says Feng. Of course, the text allows you to reveal a lot of moments, but it does not bring the user comparable to the action of pleasure. 

On the example of the first level of Plants vs. Zombies, this is clearly visible: the player immediately understands that plants shoot from left to right, i.e. in the direction from which the zombies are coming. So, at the first level, the user learns everything that is necessary to know about the basic mechanics of the game, personally “touching” everything. 

Players learn everything about the game just by playing, we don’t need to tell them anything in detail,” concludes Feng.

3. Stretch the training for the whole game

According to George Feng, PopCap realized that there was no need to tell users everything about the game at once. Learning its basics is much more effective if it is stretched over a long number of missions. 

For example, in Plants vs. Zombies, the player learned about some aspects of the game – including something as important as money – only after the tenth level. PopCap decided to tell about difficult moments (including Zen Garden mode) only towards the end of the game. 

So, according to Feng, the players, first of all, are more interested in the gaming experience, with the receipt of which they have a desire to learn something new in the game. 

4. Just make the player do something

Sometimes it’s enough for a player to do something in the game to understand its mechanics. “After seeing the result of his action, he usually understands its essence,” says Feng. 

In Plants vs. Zombies, the developers very simply told the players about how money is collected. They simply placed a coin with an arrow above it on the playing field. As soon as the player clicked on the coin, it became clear to him how to take various items from the field (not only money). 

In order for the player to perform any other action, it was enough to make one or another icon blink. 

5. Use fewer words

“There should be a maximum of eight words on the screen at any moment of the game,” says Feng. “I sometimes break this rule myself, but it’s still better to stick to it.”

The maximum that should be written is something like “Click on the bag of seeds to take it.” It’s short, it’s simple, players will easily understand this phrase. 

Such phrases are very likely to be read by players, and commands are easily implemented,” notes Feng.

To be continued…

Write a comment...
Related news