In Game Tutorial

Questions, ideas, and general discussion of Outer Colony.

How necessary is it for Outer Colony to have an in-game tutorial?

I need an in-game tutorial to learn how to play.
2
50%
I've figured out the basics with the existing tutorial, but most people might need an in-game tutorial.
2
50%
I learned how to play with the existing tutorial, and an in-game tutorial isn't necessary.
0
No votes
 
Total votes: 4
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In Game Tutorial

Postby Administrator » Sat Dec 31, 2016 3:06 pm

This is a quick (but very important!) poll about everyone's experience getting started so far.

You guys have all done an amazing job figuring out OC so far, and I'm immensely encouraged by how far you've all gotten with the existing materials. Every time I get a screenshot of something you guys have done in-game, it really, really leaves me feeling great.

As you all know, playing Outer Colony is a bit more mechanically involved than playing a traditional RTS. It's just the nature of the beast. There's far more depth and there are far more things that you can do, so this naturally necessitates a much larger control scheme. Again, the invariable consequence here is a steeper learning curve. No matter what we do, the following holds true:

More Depth in Gameplay -> yields -> More Controls and Interfaces -> yields -> More Things to Learn in Order To Play the Game

This is fundamental, and it's a 100% OK part of Outer Colony. The goal has always been, however, to make the "More Controls and Interfaces" piece as intuitive and simple as possible, so that anyone who wants to play Outer Colony can learn its mechanics as easily as possible.

Again, I'm extremely encouraged by how far many of you guys have gotten into learning the interfaces via the existing tutorials. This is a very good sign that the controls themselves are pretty good!

However, almost everyone has gotten stuck at some point or taken a misstep in navigating the existing tutorial. We've improved it a lot, but most of you guys are probably more patient and dedicated than typical new players will be. With that in mind, do you think a fully guided, in-game tutorial would be a big help for getting started in Outer Colony?

I have not implemented one to this point, because it's going to be a significant pain to do, and I'm not exactly sure how I can pull it off. However, if it would help you guys and, by extension, help future players experience Outer Colony, it's something I'll find a way to do. A primary goal of the project is to make Outer Colony accessible to as many people as we can, and if I can double the number of people that can experience the game by building a guided tutorial into the game, I'll do it. If one spends two years building a game with (what I think are) neat mechanics, spending another couple of weeks to make sure that many people can learn it as easily as possible is a worthwhile endeavor.

Feel free to share your thoughts on learning Outer Colony so far, as I'd love to hear them, and thanks as always to you guys for the time you've put in as testers!
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Re: In Game Tutorial

Postby RetroPrincess » Sat Dec 31, 2016 7:41 pm

Hmmm I'm on the fence over this one.
I found some bits easy to pick up and other more complex ones like the mining and refinement much trickier.
I would say that if you can actually do an in game version, then videos on youtube with 'How to...' for people to dip in to in case the written isn't enough for them to visualise then that should do the trick (it would for me anyway)
Like you say, the complexity is the nature of the beast however I wouldn't want to see people stumble at the first hurdle particularly if they found written instructions more challenging to get their heads around than visuals.
I think that makes sense lol!
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Re: In Game Tutorial

Postby Administrator » Sun Jan 01, 2017 2:31 pm

RetroPrincess wrote:I would say that if you can actually do an in game version, then videos on youtube with 'How to...' for people to dip in to in case the written isn't enough for them to visualise then that should do the trick (it would for me anyway)

This is actually what I'm thinking of doing as I first figure out the design for the tutorials. I think there should be a pretty straightforward way for me to embed YouTube videos directly into the game, and players will be able to follow along with the videos as they play. The content will basically be identical to the current tutorial, it will just be presented as a series of videos in the game itself.

I wouldn't want to see people stumble at the first hurdle particularly if they found written instructions more challenging to get their heads around than visuals.

Exactly, I just don't want people to get stuck at the very beginning. There's so much fun to be had once you've figured everything out, so I need to just make sure that initial learning curve is shallowed out as much as practically possible.

I think in-game videos are going to be a big help, and I'm going to start investigating how to pull these off this morning.
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Re: In Game Tutorial

Postby Administrator » Sun Jan 01, 2017 5:23 pm

RetroPrincess wrote:I would say that if you can actually do an in game version, then videos on youtube with 'How to...' for people to dip in to in case the written isn't enough for them to visualise then that should do the trick (it would for me anyway)

I've knocked out the design work and implementation for embedding video guides this morning, and it's looking something like this (still a bit rough, but should give you an idea of the direction I'm going):



I'm going to present the user with an ordered list of videos, from start to finish, that cover all the topics in the existing getting started tutorial. Right now, farming is the only topic that appears in the list, and what's shown isn't even a proper tutorial video, but hopefully it gets the idea across. This way, users can watch me do something in a video, hear me talk about how to do it while I'm showing it, and so long as the tutorial video itself is well made, it'll all be clear. I will likely hire a voice actor / actress to do the official voice work for the final videos, too.

I think this ought to make things much easier on everyone.
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Re: In Game Tutorial

Postby Mitch » Sun Jan 01, 2017 11:00 pm

That video idea looks really good. I say keep on doing what you are doing and try to document and create a tutorial on all the features as you implement them to save you having to worry so much about creating documentation and tutorials in the future.
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Re: In Game Tutorial

Postby Brian » Tue Jan 03, 2017 2:23 am

Hey guys, just putting in my two cents...

I think omitting an in-game tutorial in a complicated simulation game is a deal breaker for most gamers. What are the virtues in *not* including one? We could just have an option to turn it off, like most games. I really don't think the game will have non-niche appeal with an immediate in game tutorial, it's just not an option to omit.

This is one of those moments where we have to ask, are we making a game we want to play, or are we making a game for everyone?
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Re: In Game Tutorial

Postby Gaberaham Lincoln » Tue Jan 03, 2017 3:27 am

What about tooltips? They can be pretty versatile, teach a player what they need to know, and can be disabled for more experienced players, and then reenabled for player's who have been away for a while. They can cover a variety of scenarios, like displaying one if your people are hungry that you can expand for advice on what to do, or same with an approaching threat, or when you have unpowered devices, or for when your population needs more sleeping space.

The biggest problem, of course, is that these need to be reasonable, so that nobody ends up with a million tooltips on screen at once, which I'm not sure how to handle. I think it might be a good direction, though, since a tutorial can only accomplish so much.
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Re: In Game Tutorial

Postby Administrator » Tue Jan 03, 2017 4:06 am

You guys are all incredibly helpful here, and I'm aiming to cut a release tomorrow with the first iteration of in-game tutorials. They're going to be very rough, but I'm excited to see what sort of feedback you all can provide.

Again, these are all immensely useful suggestions you've provided, and I'll post a proper response tomorrow, once I'm not falling asleep at the keys.

Keep your eyes open for the next release, though, and we'll continue to improve from here! It's only going to get better, and this sort of iterative improvement is how all good software comes to be.

This is one of those moments where we have to ask, are we making a game we want to play, or are we making a game for everyone?

Very well said, man. You're spot on with this, and I'll write a better answer tomorrow, but in short, the game is made for everyone who might possibly enjoy its mechanics. I don't want an insurmountable learning curve to turn people away, and accessibility has always been a primary objective. We'll shallow this learning curve out and make things as easy as practically possible, so that everyone who wants to experience Outer Colony can.
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Re: In Game Tutorial

Postby Administrator » Tue Jan 03, 2017 10:23 pm

Gaberaham Lincoln wrote:What about tooltips? They can be pretty versatile, teach a player what they need to know, and can be disabled for more experienced players, and then reenabled for player's who have been away for a while.

I'm all about tooltips, man, especially passive ones! Right now, we've got tooltips in a few places, like buttons on the toolbar. If you hover your mouse over the buttons, a tooltip will appear telling you what it does:
Image

I've also tried to put help buttons in as many interfaces as I can, to provide guidance about how the interface works. It's a bit like a tooltip, but again, it's always passive. Here's an example:
Image
If you're looking at the bureaucracy management dialog and asking yourself, "What the hell is the bureaucracy management dialog?", clicking the help button will take you directly to the corresponding tutorial page on the website, found here:
https://voyagergames.com/bureaucracy/

Now, while the text tutorials are really useful for in-depth information once someone has started playing, they're proving a bit less useful for new players who are just starting out.

I just cut a release for version 0.5.24 (you can see the patch notes here: http://forums.outercolony.com/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=30#p312), and the biggest addition in this version is the inclusion of video tutorials and a bundled tutorial world, where you can follow along exactly with the getting started video series.

If you want to follow the video series via YouTube in a browser, you can access the playlist here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ULSeENI ... ZzPm2eN7BL

You can also get to this playlist at any time by clicking the help menu at the top of Outer Colony's main interface, then selecting "Getting Started Tutorial - YouTube Playlist". You can also follow the tutorials directly in the game by selecting "Show In-Game Tutorial" from the help menu, like in the screenshot below:
Image

You can follow along with every click I make, showing how to build the tutorial colony, on the specific tutorial world, from beginning to end. Right now, there are about 2 dozen videos in the series, with each showing a tiny piece of functionality (per Brian's suggestion). My hope is that the videos will add a degree of clarity that's not necessarily attainable in the text, and will make everything a bit easier for brand new players to tackle. If you can watch everything I do while I narrate what I'm doing, this might be a bit more clear than the existing text tutorials.

If you guys would like to and can find the time, I'd love it if you could try the new video tutorial series out, and let me know how far you make it! If any of you can finish all 23 tutorials and reach the point that the tutorial colony is at, I will give you some kind of prize.

These videos are all really rough, and I've narrated them myself (my voice probably isn't ideal for this kind of thing), but I hope they get the idea across. Of final note, even though we've got 23 videos so far, these don't even scratch the surface of what you can do in Outer Colony. We just get through setting up the very basics so far, but if you guys find these videos useful, I'll continue producing them and getting into progressively more advanced features. If you can follow along with these, my aim is to eventually cover everything with video tutorials, just like these.
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Re: In Game Tutorial

Postby Administrator » Wed Jan 04, 2017 12:13 am

Brian wrote:What are the virtues in *not* including one? We could just have an option to turn it off, like most games.


Also, I did want to publicly address this question.

Building videos (or any other sort of tutorial) incurs a significant cost in terms of time and energy. The notion of a "mission" is foreign to Outer Colony, and trying to directly build any sort of mission / tutorial system that drives gameplay would be a massive undertaking. Offhand, I'm not even sure how I'd do it. Are there ways to make it happen? Of course. As an excellent coworker of mine used to say, "It's software - anything is possible."

If you give an organization a few trillion dollars and a hundred years, you could build a real terminator. But it's all about the cost that's incurred.

If the video tutorials prove effective, then I'll probably proceed with this solution for now. I can make the remaining few dozen videos in a week or so, and I can hire a voice actor to improve their quality for a cost that'll fit within our remaining budget.

If the videos prove less effective than what's acceptable, then we get into sketchy territory. Some kind of mission-type system has to be bolted on top of the game, and a series of these kinds of missions that really hold a player's hand through everything can be built. I'm positive it can be done, and the more I think about it, the more ideas I have about how to pull it off.

But this is an effort that would be measured in many man-weeks. Even hitting the problem like a madman, it's unlikely that I could realize an effective solution in less than a month of real time. And that's an ambitious estimate that I'd never be able to give if I were working for another outfit as a consultant.

Furthermore, every hour that I have to sink into a tutorial system incurs an opportunity cost. That's an hour where I could be building in more gameplay. That's an hour where I could be hiding more secrets. That's an hour where I could be optimizing pathfinding to support bigger colonies on older hardware. I can do a lot in a month, and I have to give up those possibilities if I have to build an elaborate, mission-driven tutorial system.

So, what's the real answer here? Like every decision managing a project, it comes down to cost-benefit analysis. Are the videos a good tutorial solution for our target audience? If so, we have a viable solution built now, and we can move forward. If not, then it's a matter of gritting my teeth, buckling down, and finding some other solution to the problem.

But there are major reasons for not spending all the required time and energy to build a more thoroughly integrated tutorial system, especially as development resources run low. Hopefully this answer makes sense, and we will shallow out the learning curve to a sufficient extent, whatever the cost, but I want to choose the right solution for this project under our current circumstances.

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