20 February 2012

BB33: Needs More Cut Scenes

This month's Blog Banter is pretty much posed by CCP and asks:

"We invite you to pour your heart (or guts) out and tell us what you think is good or bad with the current new player experience and what you think could be done about the problems."

Now, it has been some time since I managed to work my way though the new player tutorials. To be honest I'm not sure I ever worked my way through them all. I did try about a year ago to go all the way through them with a new character but very quickly wearied to the way they jar with the experience of playing the game. They upset the flow of starting a new character by appearing as a somewhat unimportant pop-up box somewhere on your screen. The relevance of the window appearing is not always obvious. Personally, It almost screams "close this window" at me.

The most enjoyable new player experience should teach you a large part of what you need to know without you ever realising you are learning anything. I still (vaguely) remember playing "Final Fantasy VII". As I recall. this starts off with you at a train station and no idea how to control anything or any attacks to encumber you, yet you are expected to get going. I can't even remember if they actually tell you how to move but those controls are at least obvious enough to get you moving. Gradually attacks and other concepts are introduced to you as you acquire skills. The speed this is handed to you is fairly rapid but lets you get to grips with the game play without being overwhelmed. Most importantly the learning process is never more important than the story.

A similar vein of progression is generally found in car racing games where the track layouts become increasingly technical at a reasonable rate of unlocking, letting you get to grips with the physics of whichever game you are playing. Once you have unlocked all the tracks you are generally still unlocking ever increasingly powerful cars, but as you are lapping now familiar tracks you are not overwhelmed. An example of how well this works is when you take a turn on a friends game who has unlocked all the tracks and powerful cars and you jump right into a 600 horsepower beast and drive like a complete tool who's never seen a corner before.

So here's what I think - proper educational cut scenes and lots of them. Start a new character with the new 'Awakening' video. When she asks "what are you waiting for pilot?" this should open a prompt where you choose which tutorial you want to go to next. While it may be wise to go through all tutorials there is no way it should be required. A prompt at this point lets a new player focus on their choice of game play style. This can also be used to give the new player an idea of the potential play styles available to them.

Which ever training option is chosen should then lead on to a new cut scene explaining some concept, then a chance to try what you've learned, then more cut scenes until the topic has been covered. The actor could walk you through a mock-up  of whichever controls are relevant using a screen they have available in their classroom. This would also be the perfect time to give out tips ("dirty pirates are dirty" or "hisec canflippers are impotent mummy's boys"). Basically, the more information that is relayed as if you are actually being taught it in practical situations by someone with expert knowledge the more immersive the experience will be.

It should always be possible to walk away and come back at a later date to partake in some further education. The best way to control this is have the tutorials tied to starter stations. To access them you need to talk to the right agent in the right station. If you do try to engage the tutorials from anywhere else this should simple set your autopilot to the correct system and instruct you to get moving. Hell, if the character is less than a month or two old why not just teleport them and their ship to the correct place?

Let's make the Federal Navy Academy and all the other starter corps actually behave like their name suggests and properly teach something for once.


  1. Although I wasn't overwhelmed by the Awakening actress' "can you hear me at the back?" theatrical dialogue delivery, I take your point. In order to preserve the suspension of disbelief and keep costs down, the proposed cutscenes could be made using Incarna/WiS art assets instead.

    As well as avoiding suspect acting turns, this would allow an infinite number of randomly generated characters to be used, which would be a lot less odd than every capsuleer being trained by the same woman.

    It would also make more use of the (expensive) Incarna art assets.

    1. I didn't particularly like the 'Awakening' video at all. It does fit in with the gist of what I was getting at. I agree that to use proper actors for the game tutorials would be way OTT though and the Incarna technology could work well.

      I've been playing Microsoft Flight and the few tutorials there are based on the concept of a co-pilot/tutor talking you through it. That could work well (with subtitles as well, of course) with the tutor highlighting controls of interest or even taking control of your ship from time to time.