Wednesday, 7 May 2014

The great tutorial mystery

When Permia - Duels was first released, we did not have time to make a proper interactive tutorial for the game. Instead we had a three-slide slideshow explaining the basics, which was shown to the players before the first game. Later the beginning was improved slightly by forcing the first three games against a really easy computer opponent and showing only one slide before each game. Despite the slight changes, we did not have a proper tutorial until now.

As we constantly have more things to do than resources to do them, prioritizing is essential. Originally the tutorial was not among the top priorities and was thus neglected this long. But lot of the feedback we received indicated that the missing tutorial was a major problem for the game. A typical player feedback would say that the game felt much more complicated at the beginning than it actually is due the missing tutorial. Many of the game business veterans we have talked, have emphasized the importance of a good tutorial. Even publishers we talked named the missing tutorial as a major flaw in the game.

So we felt a bit stupid for neglecting such an important issue for so long and decided to fix the issue. The interactive tutorial explaining the basic game play was added in the last weeks update. The tutorial is by no means complete yet, as it only explains the basic game. We still have work to do to properly explain the rest of the game, namely the card development system. But back to the issue, what is the great mystery of the tutorial then?

When we make changes and add features to the game, we try to anticipate the effects and then measure if we were successful on improving the game or not through data and feedback. In the tutorial case the assumption was clear: All the signs indicated that the first contact with the game felt too complex for the players. Many did not clearly understand what to do at the beginning, got frustrated and quit playing due to that. Each such player could have potentially liked the game and continued playing if the beginning would have been more welcoming. So we should see an increase on the percentage of new players who continue playing past the couple of first games after adding the tutorial. Or a drop,  if the tutorial was poor and players get frustrated to it.

Now we have the data from the first week of having the new tutorial. So, did we see an increase or drop? The answer is neither and that is the mystery of the tutorial. The numbers are almost exactly similar before and after the adding the tutorial. At the moment we are more than slightly surprised by the result. We were all definitely expecting an effect, some smaller some larger, but at least something.

So what can we actually learn from this? The lesson is definitely not that tutorials are unimportant. But it might be that the importance of a tutorial is somewhat dependent on the type of the game in question. Permia - Duels is a strategic collectible card game, which has a bit of a niche appeal. Maybe making the game more easily approachable is still not enough to convince players who don't like the genre to begin with, while those that do are willing to learn the game anyway with or without the tutorial. The results might be completely different for a different game though. In a broader concept, this should remind us, that each game is unique and a common wisdom that is true for most might not automatically hold for this particular case.

Of course making the tutorial has not been a wasted effort. It should make it easier for new players to get in the game make the overall player experience better. We will also be adding the missing tutorial parts in the future and believe that despite the initial numbers, having a proper tutorial will benefit the game in the long run. But all that said we are still quite puzzled by the lack of any measurable effect of adding the tutorial. So if you have an insight to the mystery of the tutorial, please let us know!

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