The project is finished! When this goes up the showcase will be going into its last day and I’ll be pretending to revise for a maths exam that lasts about 3 hours.
I figured I’d talk about the project as a whole, what I was trying to accomplish, and what the results were, because that might be interesting to some people!
What the hell was this project?
The project was to create a game that would teach the user how to play without the use of any tutorials or instructions. This spawned from me just sorta hating modern game design in which a lot of games just throw a bunch of information at the user at the beginning of the game and expect all of it to stick. I, at the very least, am a very impatient person with this sort of thing. If a giant box of text shows up my first instinct is to close it and not care, because I just want to play the game. As someone who wants to make games, and essentially wants to make games I want to play, I don’t want a giant wall of text explaining how to play, I’d rather just let the gameplay teach that instead.
So, that’s what this project did, it didn’t have any written instructions or tutorials, and when testing the game I just told people “just play the game”, and as it turns out, a lot of people know exactly what to do.
Here’s what I found:
The third level of the game had two things in it, a spiral path to the right, and coins to the left. Despite the path to the left being a dead end, and the path to the right leading to the exit (where the light is), every single person collected the coins first. People are instilled with this idea that they should collect everything in a level, and despite it being out of the way, they would still collect the coins.
Which brings us to the second point, the traps. Only one person decided to run straight into the black and yellow tiles to see what they’d do. Everyone else avoided them. This can be attributed to two things. One, the coins. As the previous observation showed, people instinctively collect coins, and since the coins are placed in the places without traps, the user would rather go collect them and at the same time, avoid the traps. This technique is seen a lot in old platform games, where coins are placed in places the designers want the player to go, or to hint at what they can do. Collectibles going towards a wall and then away from a wall going up? That probably means you can wall jump and collect all of those.
The other attribution of this is the design of the trap themselves. The yellow and black stripes are usually used as hazards, be it police tape of construction, and due to this association, it is usually used to denote a hazard the user must avoid.
Speaking of hazards, the enemies are next. The enemies are designed to be exactly that, enemies. The red design and the red light are meant to signify danger, which is a common use for red in society, such as red lights for stopping at traffic lights. In fact, due to this, almost everyone stopped at the enemy hear, and thought for a moment on what to do to get passed them.
Though as you can see, a higher percentage of people tested the enemies first here that the percentage of people that tested the traps. Unfortunately this technique doesn’t work on everyone, but it does show that the technique works on most.
However, people are idiots, and more people got caught by the enemies. Due to being bad at videogames, probably.
After people learned about the enemies and the traps, the two are put together. Half the people that played decided to find out what would happen if the enemies walked onto the traps, and tried to push the enemy onto the black and yellow tiles. When the users succeeded at this, the enemy fell down and was removed from the level. Some of the users who tried this didn’t actually know what the traps did at this stage, but still did it under the notion that the traps were a hazard.
I like this one, because this interaction was not hinted to in any way, rather, it was just the user’s curiosity and expectation that everything would work with each other. This interaction could have been shown a lot more by maybe seeing an enemy falling into a pit before you could get to them. I decided to see what would happen if I didn’t hint at it at all, and was rather surprised.
And finally, the twist of the game. The enemies were not, in fact, enemies. If you run into their light they start chasing you sure, but if they catch you, they just start talking to you. They warn you not to continue playing as if you go too far, you’ll get trapped inside. So in fact, whenever an enemy was chasing you, it was to tell you to turn back. As you can see, the majority of the players got the ‘stealth’ ending, which meant they avoided the enemies or continued on the path to be trapped. This means that the project did as intended, and successfully got across the notion to those players that the game was a stealth game, despite no tutorials or instructions to tell them that.
Well I hope you found that interesting! You can download the application in question here if you want to try it out yourself, or look at a bunch of my other games here. Thanks for reading!