As we’re making so many improvements and upgrades to Combat Cards right now (yes, alongside fixing bugs – don’t panic!), I thought I’d take a second look at one of the most difficult areas of free-to-play game design, the FTUE.
I’ve talked about the First Time User Experience before, but to recap, it’s basically everything players see and do in their very first session with the game. The FTUE is always an enormous pain for developers, because it needs to meet two opposing briefs – explain what’s going on in enough detail that new players get it, but also be fast and ‘hands off’ enough that experienced players don’t get bored.
We have a very light FTUE in Combat Cards right now (and I’ll explain why that is in a moment), mostly using pop-ups to explain game rules and features as you first encounter them. This is considered quite a blunt way of running a FTUE, but we’ve kept it very light and basic for the simple reason that most Warhammer 40,000 players don’t need anything more complex.
What I mean by that is we feel one of the keys to our game’s success is how authentic we’ve tried to make it – that this is genuinely a game made by 40K fans for 40K fans.
And as those 40K fans are enjoying the game so much, we’ve taken the decision to continue to focus all our features and updates towards that audience (as opposed to widening our aim to ensure our game suits ‘card game players’ or a mainstream ‘casual audience’).
Our playtest research has shown that one of the reasons 40K fans ‘get’ our game is because they already have a lot of built in knowledge they can apply. For example, they know who the various factions are and that killing the opponent’s Warlord is a good move. As a result, a grand FTUE which carefully explains every step would be too slow for this audience, frustrating them when they just want to get on and play.
Having said all that, in our desire to just get out of players’ way we may have gone too far in the other direction, leaving players missing some context which is specific to our game. For example, what the bars beside the attack buttons are telling you. This may seem obvious to you, but for anyone who doesn’t understand, the game must seem full of arbitrary damage amounts and cards randomly dying.
So we’ll be spending some time looking at how we can keep the FTUE as light as possible while adding some more context, then watching the data to see if the changes have had a positive or negative outcome. Because while it may seem obvious to explain as much as possible to new players, the end result can often be bored players frantically tapping buttons to just make all the tutorials go away so they can play.
As an aside – this is why we took the approach of forcing all the game’s pop-ups to have a minimum timer (as in, you can’t close them until a few seconds have passed). Why would we do this? Surely players should be able to close a tutorial pop-up as soon as they’ve read it? Turns out the answer is ‘nope’. If you let people instantly close a pop-up then A) they’ll do that approximately one pico-second after the pop-up appears, and B) they’ll spend the rest of the game confused about what’s happening and why. So if you find yourself frantically tapping to close a tutorial pop-up the instant it appears, YOU are the reason players aren’t allowed to do that! It is, as my granny used to say, harsh but fair.
Of course none of this will affect players that have already worked through the FTUE – you won’t see any of the changes. But it feels like a good time to make at least a few improvements to the FTUE as worldwide launch will expose a huge number of new players to the game, and as I’ve mentioned before, ensuring new players keep flowing into the game is important for making sure there’s always someone to battle against.
If you have any comments, questions or suggestions on how you would introduce a game like Combat Cards to new players, then feel free to leave a comment, get in touch through [email protected] or our Facebook page.