Game Development Reference
We can turn training sequences into elastic challenges. That training
sequence in Call of Duty 4 isn't just for training—it's also a time trial.
Players get more points when they run it faster. So while a novice might
slowly pick his way through the course, an expert will ignore the training
aspect entirely and treat the course as a skill challenge. The novice gets the
lessons he needs, while the expert gets the challenge he craves.
But the best way to make training less intrusive is to skip it when
it's unnecessary. The trick is determining whether the player needs a
lesson or not. Some games let players skip training sequences voluntarily.
Others test players to determine which training to provide. Some games
even train adaptively—instead of teaching everything in linear order, they
detect when the player lacks a piece of knowledge and provide the lesson
on the spot. Regardless of method, though, the principle is the same: the
most invisible training is the unnecessary training that never happens.
emotional life suPPoRt
Even with good training, many players will spend the earliest parts of the
game below the game's skill barrier. For them, those first few minutes or
hours become a chore to finish before the real game starts. Many will give
up and never experience the game as intended.
To stop a player from giving up before they surmount the skill barrier, we
can keep their experience on life support using emotional triggers that
don't require skill.
When the player knows nothing, we can't build an experience around
solving puzzles, creating things, or defeating enemies because the player
doesn't have the skill to do these things. But there are other emotional
triggers which work regardless of skill. We can show the player sublime
art. We can introduce fascinating characters. We can let the player joke
with buddies. We can play music or do a tech demo. If we flood the early
experience with these low-skill emotional triggers, we can transform the
early learning stages from a painful chore into something like a semi-
interactive intro movie.
For example, board games do this naturally because they're played in
groups. When you're sitting around a table with friends, every mistake or
misplaced token becomes an occasion for friendly ribbing. A single-player
board game would be much less pleasant to learn because that early period
would resemble a library study session instead of a party.
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