Tutorial Design – Casual Mobile Game

I’m working on a casual mobile game in order to get a better sense of the unique design challenges associated with that genre and platform. Although I’ve already decided to make some significant mechanic changes, I decided that it would be worth examining the user experience for the original tutorial I created. This blog will break down the process of how I introduce players to various important concepts of the game as well as acknowledging some ways that I’ve already identified in order to improve the experience. Some sections I have not yet recognized where I can improve, so feel free to leave a comment with your own ideas! I suggest you watch the video of the tutorial first in order to get a sense of what each step looks like in action.

Address the Goal:

What I did:

I begin with a basic instruction to tap the screen in order to progress the dialogue. The guest addresses that the core goal of the game is to make burritos for customers. Each ingredient is highlighted as the guest speaks in order to identify what you need to make burritos.

How to Improve:

Eventually the highlights should be animated rather than static. This helps ensure that the player’s eyes are temporarily drawn to the appropriate ingredient.

Add Ingredients:

What I did:

The guest explains that you must click and drag in order to put ingredients on the tortilla. You are restricted from clicking anything else until you successfully click/drag the specific ingredient being asked for.

How to improve:

I may include a gesture animation showing the click/drag process.

Fold the Burrito:

What I did:

The guest explains that the burrito must be clicked on 5 times in order to fold it. Again, you are restricted from clicking other things until the burrito has been clicked on all 5 times.

How I can improve:

I’m not sure yet.

Feed the Guest:

What I did:

The guest tells the player to click and drag the burrito to them. Nothing else can be clicked until this happens. Once you do this, the tip counter starts flickering, the value gets updated to reflect your success and the guest explains that you goal is to get tips by quickly serving burritos to guests.

How I can improve:

I’m not sure yet.

Multiple Guests:

What I did:

New guests begin to show up. This indicates that the game will consist of serving multiple guests at a time. Each ingredient is briefly highlighted as a reminder that players are supposed to repeat the process of adding ingredients to the burrito. Once all three guests show up players can begin making burritos for them.

How I can improve:

I’m not sure yet.

You’re on a Timer:

What I did:

After feeding any two of the three guests, one disappears before you can begin building the third burrito. This guest explains that they are leaving due to the amount of time it is taking to serve them. The timer flashes in order to identify where the player looks in order to keep track of the in game time.

How I can improve:

I’m not sure yet. Perhaps explain what the total shift length tends to be. While the time limit is identified right before you begin the main game, it may need to come here as well.

Extra Ingredients:

What I did:

A new guest asks for extra salsa. Once salsa is identified as the extra ingredient, the salsa icon appears over her a head. She explains that you can add more servings by clicking and holding on the appropriate ingredient tray. Nothing else can be clicked on besides salsa at this time. The bulbs appear rotating around the cursor. These bulbs indicate how many servings you have. The rate at which the bulbs spawn will increases the longer you hold down on the salsa.

How I can improve:

I don’t know for sure yet, but players may need an explanation that the bulbs indicate the number of servings. I will probably change the bulbs to salsa icons. Players may also not initially hold down until they spill. I haven’t encountered this yet, but some players may repeatedly try to drag the salsa onto the burrito before they have seen the ingredients spill. Hopefully they will learn though, since the tutorial will not progress until they have spilt the salsa.

Can’t Add Ingredients Forever:

What I did:

As the player holds down on the salsa tray for too long, all the bulbs disappear and the guest explains that holding down too long results in a spill. After this you must start collecting that ingredient all over again.

How I can improve:

I can add an actual splattering animation.

Try it Again:

What I did:

Hopefully the player now understands that their goal is to quickly make burritos. Burritos contain at least one serving of each ingredient. The icon above the guests head indicates that they want extra of that specified ingredient. Getting them extra will result in a better tip but if you hold down too long you will spill. You are timed while all of this happens.

The guest will challenge you to complete the task of making them a burrito with extra salsa as quickly as possible. I chose to have the timer count up from zero during the tutorial so that players are fully aware of exactly how many seconds it took them to make the burrito. If I chose to have the timer count down (the way the game is normally played), players would have to do the subtraction in their heads to determine how long it takes them to make a burrito. I decided that having the tutorial timer count up would make the process of guessing how long they should take to make a burrito more intuitive.

Additionally, while you are holding down on the salsa, the guest will tell you that she needs “more than that” after two servings have been added. When five servings have been added she says she won’t want any less than that. While it is possible to serve the burrito to her with as little as one serving of salsa, this dialogue is intended to remind the player that their tips increase as they add more servings.

How I can improve:

I’m not sure yet if having the tutorial timer count up while the main game timer counts down is actually as intuitive as I predict.

Also, I currently have the messages associated with two and five servings appear every time the player reaches these values while holding down on the salsa tray, even if they’ve added 5+ servings to the burrito already. My reasoning is that players can practice getting 5+ servings before spilling this way. When the message changes they will have a clearer idea of when they’ve hit the goal of 5+ servings. However, this may prove confusing to some players after more testing.

Get Ready to Play:

What I did:

After putting together a burrito you get a tip and are declared ready to play the actual game. Your goal is identified as getting as many tips as possible within 60 seconds.

How I can improve:

I’m not sure yet.

Conclusion:

With the testing I’ve done so far, this has proved to be a clear and effective tutorial. Hopefully this helps you think about how to break tutorials into significant ideas and mechanics that you need to introduce to your player and how to represent those steps thematically. Of course there’s always room for improvement, so leave a comment if you’ve got any ideas!

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Card Game Tweaks: Cribbage

Cribbage is a fantastic card game. Between choosing cards for the crib and pegging, it allows for a healthy dose of strategizing around the random cards that are dealt. It’s been a staple of my family gatherings my entire life. With that in mind, it’s easy to consider cribbage a finished game with no room for improvement. Of course, that didn’t stop me from tweaking it and looking for improvements!

A refresher on the crib mechanic

In the original two-player version of the game, each player is dealt six cards. Each person chooses two of those cards to put in the “crib”. The recipient of the crib alternates each turn. Whoever gets the crib on any given turn gets to count the points from that crib as if it were a second hand. Each player always knows the two cards they added to the crib and how those cards may help the crib owner that turn.

cribbageOriginal-01

Since you’re essentially giving two cards to your opponent every other turn, I decided that this could be the makings of a sabotage mechanic. I decided to use that as the basis for my tweaks.

How did I add a sabotage mechanic?

In this version, three piles of four cards are dealt. One full hand for each person as well as one full crib hand. Each person grabs a hand.

cribbage1-01

Next, the crib is divided into two sets of two cards. Each person looks at the two crib cards available to them.

cribbage2-01

Each player must choose one card from their hand to replace with one of the crib cards they can see. After both players have swapped their card, the crib is handed over to the appropriate player.

cribbage3-01

What was I hoping for?

I wanted to shift the players’ mindset from one that has to give up cards to their opponent to one that gets to sabotage their opponent. Since the two crib cards you can see are dealt directly to the crib rather than to you, you do not feel a sense of ownership over those cards as you do in regular cribbage.

In regular cribbage, players have a tendency to give away the two cards that have the lowest impact on the score of their hand. When they are giving away statistically valuable cards, the player feels that they are giving away points.

In this version, players have the chance to take statistically valuable cards from your opponent while exchanging them with statistically less valuable cards. This essentially allows you to sabotage the value of their crib. However, while you do this, you still must consider how the exchange will affect the value of your hand.

I also wanted to add a greater sense of risk to the game, even when the crib was your own. The usual tendency remains to put cards in the crib that have the lowest impact on your primary hand. However, since you must exchange a card, the possibility exists that you will be forced to give up a card that maximizes the value of your hand.

Conclusion

I got exactly what I was hoping for! There was a bit of an adjustment period when dealing out the cards, but players got over that quickly enough. Players expressed an appreciation for the feeling of “taking” cards from the opponent’s crib as opposed to “giving away” two cards to their opponent.

While there were a few situations where players had to make exchanges that lowered the maximum point value of their hand, this seemed to be treated the same way as any risk that inherently comes with a game that utilizes random card drawing.

The players were already very familiar with the original game so they found this to be a refreshing variation. Additionally, no flaws were identified.

I’m happy with the results and intend to treat this as a valid variation of the game. Now, I’ve got to introduce it to someone who’s never played cribbage before!