On a recent Thursday evening, in a room on the eighth floor of a downtown Brooklyn office building, were several game developers. Laptops and monitors nearby, and sitting on a long white table, they were presenting their games Hunched over, five people were also playing a Tetris game and other developers’ games using Xbox one, PlayStation four controllers, as well as the original keyboard and mouse setup.
Held by New York University’s Department of Game Design at the Tisch School of the Arts, this was a weekly event titled, “Playtest Thursdays” On this evening, testers were trying out “The Hero Trap,”(working title) a work-in-progress video game by Nikita Mikros, game developer and Wen Zheng, programmer. The Hero Trap is a rouge like with procedural-generated game levels and, tile-based graphics.
Nikita Mikros, 48, is the founder and CEO of SMASHWORX and Tiny Mantis Entertainment located in Brooklyn. Meanwhile, his colleague, Wen Zheng, 28, is the lead programmer from Queens.
These testing sessions allow developers like Mikros and Zheng to let the community to test their game, “The Hero Trap” and also provide rational feedback to tune the game mechanics.
Throughout the process of video game development, developers have figured that players might actually not read the physical manual that is stored in the cases for a disc-based game. Usually, these manuals contain all the controls and general knowledge how of hot to go about playing the game. For developers, however, in-game tutorials have been more important and have been designed in games since the origin of gaming. These tutorials have been designed with cumulative consistency, to the point where it is more likely that games have at least one type of tutorial than none at all.
As games grew more complex, it also appeared that some game mechanics were really hard to get across with just words. In the modern video game industry, few games are even shipped with physical manuals or digital manuals at all, meaning that playing the game itself is the only place to learn how to play it.
Mikros states that tutorials are not absolute necessary and games should be tutorials themselves. According to Mikros, the rudimentary method of a tutorial is a game mechanic or section is brought to the players’ responsiveness, and the player is knowledgeable about it, conceivably with a demonstration.
Along with his colleague, Wen Zheng, the two believe that part of the fun of playing video games is letting the players figure out the game for themselves rather then relying on tutorials.
“I think it sort of depends on the game itself, what the tutorial covers and how complex it is in general,” said Mikros. One issue stated by Zheng that is players who have a lot of experience playing games adapt and figure things out quickly. However, Zheng notes that all players are not like this, and says, “Put in lengthy tutorials, people complain about them. Don’t put them in. People will mindlessly overlook even the simplest mechanics and complain endlessly at how badly explained the gameplay is.”
If players do not want to read manuals, or want tutorials, what is the best way for players to understand the game? Mikros says, “Even if the tutorials are optional people will just not read them, in favor of hoping to learn it as they go.” “Game developers can be respectful on the players by giving fate to players by giving them a little bit of information that I, the player, can figure things out for myself.” said Mikros.