Game Design: Tutorial / Onboarding Design (By PopCap Games)

One of my favorite resources for game design ideas are the free talks at GDC Vault:

(Note:You have to sign in for some of the sponsored talks, and your information will be given to the sponsor)

In general, my favorite talks are from social & casual games developers like Zynga and PopCap. Here’s a GREAT talk by the creator of Plants vs. Zombies:

“How I Got My Mom To Play Through Plants Vs. Zombies”

It’s an AMAZING talk full of insights on game mechanics and balancing, but a big part of it is devoted to how to design the initial tutorial or first interaction of your game.

Here are some interesting ideas he proposed which I think are just FANTASTIC:

-“Instead of having the player read what they should do, have them DO what they should do!” - going so far as to suggest that we use flashing graphics or arrows pointing at what the player should tap, instead of actually saying “tap on this item” or something like that.

-“Use fewer words. There should be a maximum of 8 words on the screen at any given time”

-“Use visuals to teach” - In his case: “You should be able to look at a plant/zombie, and know what it does instantly”

-“Spread out the teaching of game mechanics” - In other words, don’t use a “tutorial” in the beginning, spread out the tutorial throughout the game! In fact, he suggests to make the first levels BE the tutorial, or even make the whole game one big tutorial!

Don’t teach everything all at once, the player will forget anyway.

I see most amateur android games failing in this regard and the tutorial gets very annoying, very fast, because you can’t understand the rules unless you actually play the game, and by the time you advance and reach that part of the game where you need to apply what you learned, you can’t even remember what the tutorial said…

Anyway, GREAT lessons in there, have a look! :stuck_out_tongue:

If nothing else, you should watch this talk to get an idea of the number of brain cycles burned to make a killer game. EVERYTHING is thought through again and again.

Nice talk!

If anyone wants to look at a game design loop, you can check out some source I found here:

It is a 2D game environment using Canvas for drawing with 2 separate threads for display and for game updates. Nothing spectacular, but maybe a little easier to understand than other source. It is also well organized and well written (at least as far as I can see).

You can check the Free Mit’s Game Design Course or here, another free Game Design Course of Ian Schreiber :smiley: