This week we’re digging deeeeep into videogame design, looking at something called the FTUE. Besides sounding like a comedy sneeze, this is an area that’s important for all games, but absolutely critical for free-to-play games like Combat Cards.
Strictly speaking, the First Time User Experience (FTUE) refers to the player’s very first moments with a game, but the definition has been stretched by the industry to refer to ‘the beginning of the game.’
Your FTUE dictates which game rules and features are exposed to new players (or held back until later), which gameplay is experienced first, and most importantly, the tutorials used to introduce all of that stuff.
Before we talk about Combat Cards’ FTUE, why is this important anyway? To answer that, we need to take a quick detour to Psychologytown (population = everyone).
To massively oversimplify – people feel that things we invest effort or money into are more valuable to us than things which we get for free.
This means that if you’ve spent £40 on a game you’ll be more likely to stick around while it introduces itself, establishes its world, and teaches you how to play than if that exact same game was free. The fact that you’ve invested money into getting the game means that if you immediately give up on it then you wasted the cash – and having to admit we made a bad choice is mentally ‘painful’ to us.
But with games which are free to download and play – like Combat Cards – you haven’t invested anything in them, so the game has to try much harder to immediately grab you, otherwise you can delete it guilt free.
This is why you see long (and frankly often boring,) introductions in paid for games, whereas trying that in a free-to-play game gets you uninstalled before the gameplay even begins.
Games – like most creative works – are usually a compromise. When you’re making them you have to balance your artistic vision with budget, time, prospective audience, and most importantly – which features you thought were most important, versus which ones the players are actually enjoying the most.
All this means you don’t usually try to ‘lock down’ areas of the game too quickly. It’s better to build a first-pass version that you can test and get feedback on, then improve or change it. Therefore the initial FTUE we built into Combat Cards was deliberately light, because we knew we’d revisit and improve it.
With incredibly valuable feedback from our closed beta testers and people playing through the FTUE at Insomnia (written about here), we’ve built up a list of areas to focus on improving. We’ve also been able to see which areas of the game players instantly ‘get’, meaning we can just get out of their way and let them play.
I bring all this up because we’re spending a lot of time looking at Combat Cards’ FTUE right now, but it’s something we’ll be thinking about and tweaking throughout the game’s lifetime.
Which means that if there’s a part of the game that’s not making sense or just hasn’t been explained clearly to you, then it’s absolutely worth letting us know. We watch a lot of abstract stats to try and work out how to improve the FTUE, but there’s nothing better than actual player feedback.
I hope that deep dive into videogame design wasn’t too technical / boring – we’ll be back to actual Warhammer 40,000 content next week!