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  • Reflections On Tutorial Design In Puzzledorf

    - Stuart Burfield

  • Positive Reinforcement

    Back on the subject of positive reinforcement. There's several things that happen to reinforce the correct actions to players, to let them know they are doing the right thing.

    Looking back at Tutorial 1. When you stand next to something that you can move, it gets a little bit brighter and flashes. For the colour blind mode, that means either a coloured shape or a black and white shape, which can still visibly flash.

    Next, when you push the red block onto the red cross, there's a bright, happy sound effect and a particle explosion, making the player feel good which also reinforces that they did the right action. This positive feeling, then, helps to teach the rules without words.

    Also, after pushing the red block on the red cross, the block stops animating and stays a bright whitish red - it no longer flashes. This helps to drive home that the block has finished moving and you no longer need to interact with it.

    After pushing the red block on to the cross, the blue block will then also start flashing, hinting to the player that you can push the blue block as well. Then, after getting the blue block on the blue cross, the puzzle is solved, triggering a super happy sound effect and even bigger particle explosion, reinforcing to the player that this is how you win the game.

    And of course everywhere these experiences occur, and not just in the tutorials - the flashing animations, particle explosions, bright and happy sound effects - reinforces the correct way to play the game.


    So far as my play testing is concerned, the end result was successful. Gamers and non-gamers alike were able to play the game and follow what was going on, with a high number of players pushing through to finish the game.


    Here's my takeaway:

    • A lot of people, for one reason or another, will skip tutorials if they can, or otherwise blaze through them without reading any text
    • Teaching through experiences, not text, is better for making sure players learn what you want them to know
    • Creating little testing playgrounds, where failure is either impossible or has little consequence, is a good way to set up experiential teaching
    • Experiential teaching seems to be better for onboarding a wide audience of players, and people seem to have more fun in the process
    • Using visual and audio cues to positively reinforce correct actions helps teach players how to play, as well as making them feel good
    • Consider ways players can be reminded of the controls later in the game, in case they forget, which often seems to happen to players unfamiliar with a genre
    • When play testing, do not help the player, because you won't be there to help your customers. Instead, watch, observe, then modify if necessary and repeat


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