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Weekly Journal - Tutorials and our last journal
Before we dive into this topic we have a small announcement: today marks the end of our retrospective journals, and regular Friday updates, as we move into the big picture marketing campaign for the release of We Happy Few!
For 2.5 years we’ve been writing weekly journals, every Friday, to share the development process behind We Happy Few: what the team has been working on, why we are making the decisions we’re making, and describing the evolution of the game. Open development was the name of the game: to help Kickstarter backers (initially) and then the wider community to keep in touch, but also to help provide a behind the scenes look at how games get made.
As we approach the release of the game, things have been getting hectic here in the studio. The last few months before a launch are the busiest time for a studio, both in development and in marketing. We wound up our regular development weeklies a couple of months back, as we started focusing on bugs, and now it is time to finish up with the retrospectives as well. This will be the last regular Friday update, effectively saying goodbye to the weekly journals we’ve been posting since July 2015!
Fret not, we are not abandoning you! We are still here answering questions, chatting about the game and posting announcements. However, we will soon enter our final marketing and media campaign phase, which means among other things, a lot of traveling to meet with the press and showcase the game, and less time to write. If you don’t already know all you want to know about the history of We Happy Few , feel free to reach out! We will remain as active as ever on social media and the forums. We’ll still write the occasional blog post, as we go through the usual marketing phase most games do, but we’re also going to get started with the usual fun things like trailers, or even story and character teasers (maybe soon? ;) ).
Thank you for being here with us every week since 2015.
Tutorials: Or, why you must tailor your introductions to your audience
For the last retrospective, we will touch on the topic of tutorials!
As most of you will know, the simple concept behind tutorials is “to teach players how to play the game”. However, what this means can vary wildly, and is one of the most challenging aspects of game development, because every one of you reading plays games in different ways. Creating tutorials that teach everyone what they need to do, while not treating the player like an idiot, has been one of the biggest focuses of game development for the last 15 years, and has seen tremendous growth in the subtlety of tutorials.
A developer needs to tailor their tutorials to the game, its audience, and how you thematically want to present them. A simple game with a hardcore audience won’t need to be taught “press the D pad to move”, and can get stuck in. A more involved game, with complicated mechanics, will need much more information. And while the games vary in scope, so do your audience - someone who has played a hundred games has a very different understanding to someone who is sitting down with a controller for the first time.
One of the concepts we’ve tried to live by is to introduce what players need to know, with a little bit of flavour, but not tell them exactly what to do. To do this, we’ve been to multiple conventions (and collected information on people playing the demo), had Kickstarter and Early Access / Game Preview feedback, and run a large number of internal playtests. This field in games development is known as “User Research”, and is an important part of reducing frustration in people playing your game.
If you’ve played the early versions of We Happy Few, then you will know very well that tutorials were not on our priority list. In fact, we didn’t want any! We wanted players to learn the harsh reality of our world the hard way - through repeated failure, like all roguelikes. Our first tutorials weren’t even in the game - at PAX East 2015 we brought along controller cards showing how the controls worked, but otherwise left it up to the player. Other than that, it was all about experimentation.
However, this was short lived: we first noticed this at PAX East 2015, where a lot of players were drawn in by our art style but had never played a survival game. They became frustrated very quickly, and we realised that we would need to make changes and adapt.