Onboarding is in fact the early player experience or in another way First User Experience (FTUE). That is an extremely important part of the game as it may affect how game attracts players and stick or do the opposite. Of course, it includes the tutorial as well as other dimensions of the game such as the development of the challenges, game mechanics, early rewards, game understanding and navigation. As the result, onboarding doesn’t constrain to the first 10 minutes of the game in the base layer it could span longer hours of gameplay. To summarize, the purpose of onboarding is creating an early game experience that is compelling and that will get the player excited about returning to the game. Also, helping the game told a story or transmit a game narrative.
But sometimes, we can deal with the horrible examples of FTUE, for example, when a player gets stuck in first tutorials forever with no escape from there. The only option to leave is complying with the objectives, but those objectives aren’t clear or achievable for the player at this stage.
In this article, I want to share my thoughts about the very common mistakes that I have seen and used to troubleshoot and resolve.
Progressing by stages
It’s very important to start with the some basic, minimal, but important things progressing with the rest of the game parts explaining other bits step by step. There are games which can ask you to do something complected from the beginning without telling how to do that or explain anyway. As the rough example of that, imagine a game asking a player to avoid obstacles without even explaining the base usage of the controllers (character or cart manipulation) prior to start. For me, that smells similar to explaining equation before telling how to sum 2+2.
Clarity of explanations and engagement
Depends on the target audience UX designer should adjust away how and when certain things being explained in the game such as controllers or game mechanics etc. There are some games that failed to explain things well enough and many players have no idea how to play even beyond FTUE. For example, a game trying to explain how to drift but not doing this well, due to the drift being a sequence of actions, not just one button and there is no track mark-up showing the appropriate location for drifting.
It’s important to keep a player engaged rather than feel being lectured. Many games are complicated, and it takes some amount of time explaining the rules and objectives. It’s always nice when FTUE is part of the game and integrally built-in to the gameplay. What is the even more important — the FTUE could be used to convey the narrative and create an atmosphere of the game. For example, a very common mistake takes place with players doing something in the game for a while without having any objectives to learn and these actions are not connected to the game mechanics. Or quite offer player experience a numerous amount of the pop-ups with copy about the game and how to play, sometimes unnecessary.
Nevertheless, I strongly believe that the best plan for the FTUE is making it a part of the design strategy at the beginning rather than leaving it to the parallel universe, making it like a separate feature of the game.