I’ve looked at the tutorials and initial user experience of a few games now, trying to understand how they have attempted to guide and teach the player as well as the level of success. This is my first tutorial article on a Facebook game, which wasn’t something that I’d planned until I played the wretched game.
I’ll be straight up with you, I’ve no idea how to play this game. I’ve completed the tutorial twice now and both times I finished, thought “huh? what now?” then closed it. I know that I should put more effort and enthusiasm into playing these games if I am to learn how they work, fail or do things a little different but with Backyard Monsters I was so unbelievably disinterested. This comes down to one thing really, the tutorial. As with most tutorials it guides you through placing a few buildings, claiming rewards etc however there isn’t the same song and dance as you would get in say CityVille.
Now I’m not one for flashy-happy-colourful popups and I don’t feel the need to celebrate clicking on a building twice to complete it, but there is another reason why the over exuberant messages come in use. They provide multiple layers of information to the player, for example “Lets go build a farm so that we can grow some crops!” can be followed by “Wow well done! You can build different types of farms but first lets plants some seeds.”, which is providing regular information to the player and due to the “in your face” presentation, it is very easy to take in.
Where Backyard Monsters differs is partly in its presentation. A small white box in the lower left hand corner provides you with your instructions. Due to the colouring and location, it is rather dull and all too easy to miss or ignore. You are then also given an indicator where to click, which is much more distinctive and apparent. As a result you can find yourself just clicking on everything that the hand is pointing to. This means that the player does not process or understand their actions and has very little appreciation for what they are doing and how it ties in to the game. By the end of the tutorial they may have encountered many of the tasks but they are unlikely to have a real understanding of what they have done.
A redeeming quality is the use of quests to learn about new buildings and areas of the game. Effectively it is a checklist tutorial, showing you a wide range of actions that can be performed at your leisure. Without the quests going into any details, you can figure out the gist of what to do.
What I can take from this is that it is essential that you do not remove the requirement for a player to still think during the tutorial. The purpose of actions should be made obvious with indicators on where to click displayed after the player has been informed on what they are doing. Holding a player’s hand can be a very good approach, especially for social games, but it should be to guide them and coach them, not provide an order of buttons to click.
Completion: Tutorial, twice