Getting players to notice basic instructions?

galdon Posts: 239Member
So, this is becoming an increasing problem for the game I'm working on. It's mostly a visual novel so the primary way that the game interacts with the player to tell them what to do is by literally telling them what to do. In plain text. Right there on the screen. You would think that would make this easy, but something does not seem to be working. 

In several parts of the game, I have put reminders on mechanics; such as the first time a party member leaves the party then is available again, I put instructions on how to add them back to the party. In the monster taming quest line, I put instructions on how to turn off monster fleeing, yet I regularly get asked how to do both of those things in comments. 

Clearly, they have to be reading the text; but it's almost like as soon as the dialogue shifts from characters speaking to each other to anything related to game mechanics players will just skip it without reading, then act confused when they don't know about certain mechanics they were told about. 

I've considered having the game demonstrate visually, but I feel like that might hurt pacing and slow things down for the players who do read everything. Are there any other ways that I could get players to not tune out instructions they need to read in order to use basic game functions?


  • PyrianPyrian Posts: 267Member
    First, rein in your expectations. You will never ever completely solve this problem. I've watched people play multiple full games of Tetris without ever realizing they could rotate the bricks (makes it a lot harder, lol). I had someone - I think on this forum - complain to me about being unable to complete Glade Raid's tutorial mission after they literally turned off the tutorial, and clicking through the "Are you sure" confirmation to do so. At the end of the day, a game presents challenges that the player has to overcome, and no matter what you do, some people just won't.

    That being said... The sad truth is that text is rather unreliable as a teaching mechanism. Showing is the next step up the ladder. Doing is much more reliable. Doing repeatedly with a little time in between, even better. So, if you want to get the best chance that a user will grasp a game mechanic, you should visually demonstrate where and how to do it (I like big flashing arrows to flashing circles/lines), and then impede or even prevent progress until the "challenge" is overcome. For best results, repeat the action later (perhaps as part of another tutorial).
  • TaciturnTaciturn Posts: 35Member
    Expect little to nothing from the player. Best case scenario the players will figure out your game using their own intuition, not because of their merits, but rather because it was set up to be so obvious even a chimp could do it. Of course, this isn't realistically obtainable for all gameplay types but it's something to think about.
  • lightlight Posts: 270Member
    Game literacy;
    If you follow existing conventions and make things intuitive people won't need as much 'splaining to, and it's better that way. Even if you tell players something through text and they read it, they're unlikely to remember if it's complicated, and if it isn't complicated there's less point in telling them.

    Also it's better to have referencable information I as a player can access of my own volition rather than to have it tossed on me how ever many times, and then I'm less likely to pay attention and don't have access to the information when I need it. Essentially you've had to create this kind of reference outside of the game by answering people's questions (if that's how you responded).
    Ana - Davey Wreden - Niles - Catwoman - Thwomp - Zazu
  • galdon Posts: 239Member
    Thanks for the replies.

    I am trying to avoid stopping the game's flow to force the player to act out simple mechanics like simply pushing a single button in the menu, as most players don't seem to have an issue with it. But there are just enough people who do have a problem that I feel like something needs to be done to draw more attention to the menu that they can't so easily ignore. 

    I have considered putting a reference guide inside the game that has the game mechanics in it... but it seems likely they wouldn't be able to find that either. I think the menu is a fairly intuitive button; it comes up when you press Enter, which for a flash game that can't use the escape key is the most common menu button I am familiar with. 
  • lightlight Posts: 270Member
    edited March 2
    I wouldn't have guessed pressing enter would bring up the menu but then again I haven't played flash games much since about middle school*. Maybe a [Enter] (Menu) or just [Enter] watermark down in the corner would tip people off.

    Edit: *I might have found the problem.
    Post edited by light on
    Ana - Davey Wreden - Niles - Catwoman - Thwomp - Zazu
  • galdon Posts: 239Member
    Sorry about the slow response. Started working on the next update and have been doing little else but writing code for days then remembered I had a thread I should pay attention to. X___X;

    Enter is, for flash games, fairly standard I think. Unless things have changed recently. I recall the ESC key not being usable in flash at one point because it was used by browsers and would cause a conflict, but I don't actually know how commonly ESC is used by browsers now. xD It apparently does nothing in the browser I use. 

    Not sure about a watermark; having text with instructions floating permanently on the screen, to me, feels kind of sloppy. I only really ever see it done in games that are in an alpha build and haven't actually made a UI yet. 
  • vlademir1vlademir1 Posts: 401Member
    Like Pyrian said above, there isn't ever a perfect solution, but this should cull the majority of the problems I'd think.

    Have a dedicated key to force open the appropriate tutorial instructions whenever these topics come up and use a flashing icon (say on for 1 sec, off 5 sec then repeat a dozen times or so) in an unobtrusive corner showing what key to press (similar to these).  Then have an options menu item to turn those reminders off.  You see this kind of thing in even AAA games, so most people should get it after a bit and it only interrupts game flow for those who need it to do so
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