Mark One is a game that I have been working on for the last few months. It’s a top down Sci-Fi shooter game, heavily influenced by Doom, with twin stick shooter elements. In this post I’m going to talk about the tutorial level of the game and how important it’s for the players. But before we dive into that, in case you want to support my development you can help me by wishlisting the game on Steam in the following link

Identifying issues from the beta version

When I first side-loaded the game in Steam I included a tutorial level which would launch once the player would click the “New Game” option. Ideally a tutorial level has to teach every core mechanic and aspect of the game to new players. Players who didn’t understand or didn’t learn the core mechanics of the game usually get stuck along the way since they find it “too difficult” (based on the feedback that I have received from various beta testers).

After asking the testers why they found the game too difficult I identified the following issues:

  • Players didn’t understand they could generate ammo without relying to ammo drops
  • Players didn’t realise that during dash they were immune to any damage
  • Players didn’t understand they could get back up to full HP using their “Sonic Punch” skill.

The root of this problem was the poorly designed tutorial level. Even though decals were placed all around the level explaining the mechanics the player didn’t notice them or didn’t read them at all. This resulted in poor experience overall.

First implementation of the tutorial level

On the screenshot above, you can notice how decals are placed all over the place however they’re not going into depth on what’s going on. At this point, the only thing that the player has to do it to get back up to full HP in order for the door to open up. This doesn’t go into depth of the mechanics at all.

Resolving identified issues

In order to resolve the issues mentioned above I decided that a complete overhaul of the tutorial level was in order. To tackle all the issues above I redesigned the level and included several small rooms that each one of them having a different objective. Only after completing the objective the player is able to move to the next room.

New tutorial level. Red highlighted areas describe the objective of each room. Yellow highlighted area is a portal which is hidden in the game by default and gets activated once the player completes the level.

So after implementing the level above I felt like I needed to include an additional system to make sure that the players can understand the mechanics betters. So I wondered, what should I do in order to clarify things further? Apparently, Doom devs had already provided the answer to that question:

Doom Eternal Marauder Tutorial

Doom contains tutorial elements throughout their gameplay. For example, a window similar to the one above pops up each time the player has to know about new mechanics or about information the they need to know in order to proceed and surpass the problem they’re currently facing. The frame above the description contains a video that plays on a loop until the player dismisses the tutorial from the screen to get back to playing the game.

Since I find that this system works best for my case as well, I implemented it for Mark One as well. Here are some short videos from some tutorials that appear in the revamped tutorial level

Dash tutorial
Ammo tutorial
Sonic Punch tutorial

Thanks for reading this! What additional systems should I implement in order for the tutorials to be clearer and provide a better user experience overall? Let me know in the comments below. Until next time!