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Design Challenge! The First 15 Minutes

Find out what we're doing and thinking as we develop WolfQuest 3: Anniversary Edition and the Tower Fall expansion!

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Design Challenge! The First 15 Minutes

Postby loboLoco » Thu Mar 01, 2018 12:17 pm


https://youtu.be/jHs9MGKaYHI

The first 15 minutes of a game are critical: to establish the scenario, to teach the player how the core mechanics work, and to persuade them to keep playing the game.

Despite this, WolfQuest has always taken a rather relaxed attitude towards those first 15 minutes. The game just drops you into the role of a two-year-old dispersal wolf, and with a few tips, expects you to figure everything out. I’m sure that we’ve lost quite a few potential players because of this. Why is the game tutorial so minimal? The answer is the same as for so many things about the original game: constraints on time and budget.

But now with WolfQuest 3, we really need to design the first 15 minutes to be more engaging and much more effective at orienting the player and helping them learn how to play the game.
* The game maps are ten times larger — so it takes a lot longer just to wander around and find anything.
* The elk herds are more difficult to find, since their territory isn’t marked on the map, and players will only have floating scents to track them down.
* Similarly, stranger wolves (and potential mates) will similarly be harder to find (and more interesting and challenge to engage with, but more about that later.)

We’ve been playing commercial games and thinking about how to design these first 15 minutes, but we’d like to put this design challenge out to our community as well. How would YOU design it? From what you’ve seen of WolfQuest 3 so far — bigger maps, floating scents, more naturalistic (and thus less predictable) elk and other animal movements — how would you set up the initial interactions and challenges of the game to capture player’s interest and help them learn the game mechanics?

Remember that the game will begin in basically the same way: You’re a dispersal wolf looking to live on your own and find a mate. We are going to create a prologue about your earlier life (born into a pack, growing up, learning some basics) so we do not want this tutorial to focus on pups. (That wouldn’t be particularly useful to teach you how to hunt elk nor find a mate, but we do understand that you all want to play as pups and hope to add that at some point.) The challenge for long time players is to take a step back and imagine playing the game for the first time.

Describe your ideas in the comments or email us at info@wolfquest.org!
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Re: Design Challenge! The First 15 Minutes

Postby Goldenfallflower » Thu Mar 01, 2018 12:31 pm

Hm.. I'm not all that sure for the whole tutorial, but i think perhaps teaching the player to use the controls, specifically movement and scent. There could be an elk herd you can smell, and that would teach the player to hunt down prey? It's like 2.7, it could teach the player to pick out the weakest elk, drive it away from the herd, and attack. Then a coyote could come up to the now-dead elk, (possibly a pair of coyotes) and the player would find out to chase away the coyote(s) from the carcass. then the tutorial could go over some of the other buttons (Howling, eating,) and explain how to find a mate (this would be a good time to explain emotes)

Any ideas how to improve this idea would be nice :D
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Re: Design Challenge! The First 15 Minutes

Postby Echodextrous » Thu Mar 01, 2018 1:57 pm

Oh this is a tough question, perhaps you can implement something similar to the beginning of the game Skyrim, what I mean by that is the beginning of the game is always the same but it has a very strong "hook". In Skyrim; you begin as prisoner going to have your head removed and then the story takes off from there, there is some dialogue between characters to set the scenario and then the controls/tutorial are built in along the with the story. Perhaps in the beginning of WolfQuest 3 we can see something like that where it is a story driven, interactive scenario to get things moving, for example if the player starts off in front of an elk herd charging toward them and then a dialogue box pops up with something like "Quick! You are in danger of the stampede! To move out of harms way, press (insert controls here)", or something to that effect and then add a way-point for the player to reach before they are trampled and have the story and other controls/tutorials pick up from there as the player is presented with more challenges and more way-points. This is just a suggestion as I'm not sure what WolfQuest 3 is going to look like, but hopefully this helps to visualize the idea of an interactive, story driven beginning! I am excited to see what WolfQuest 3 has in store, keep up the excellent work! :)
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Re: Design Challenge! The First 15 Minutes

Postby Bettagirl150 » Thu Mar 01, 2018 3:03 pm

As I think about this, I can't help but think back to the gray wolf logo for each tutorial image pop-up. I know designing a character takes time and money, but I always imagined that gray wolf as sort of a guide. Maybe have a short tutorial where you follow a wolf character that looks kind of like the wolf in the logo. At each point to learn some mechanic, have a text pop-up come up explaining what to do and why. It might not be the most natural thing, but it gets the job done and brings to life the character that guided us in WolfQuest 2.7.
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Re: Design Challenge! The First 15 Minutes

Postby chickiefoo » Thu Mar 01, 2018 3:19 pm

Echodextrous wrote:Oh this is a tough question, perhaps you can implement something similar to the beginning of the game Skyrim, what I mean by that is the beginning of the game is always the same but it has a very strong "hook". In Skyrim; you begin as prisoner going to have your head removed and then the story takes off from there, there is some dialogue between characters to set the scenario and then the controls/tutorial are built in along the with the story. Perhaps in the beginning of WolfQuest 3 we can see something like that where it is a story driven, interactive scenario to get things moving, for example if the player starts off in front of an elk herd charging toward them and then a dialogue box pops up with something like "Quick! You are in danger of the stampede! To move out of harms way, press (insert controls here)", or something to that effect and then add a way-point for the player to reach before they are trampled and have the story and other controls/tutorials pick up from there as the player is presented with more challenges and more way-points. This is just a suggestion as I'm not sure what WolfQuest 3 is going to look like, but hopefully this helps to visualize the idea of an interactive, story driven beginning! I am excited to see what WolfQuest 3 has in store, keep up the excellent work! :)


Oh I was just thinking of Skyrim's opening! I agree that there should be some inciting event to throw you into the game and show you the controls as you need them to get through the event. Another excellent example other than Skyrim would be Shelter 2, a game where you play a mother lynx. In the opening of the game you are chased by wolves through a narrow path. Simple control instructions fade onto the screen when needed (the first one you learn is to run, then how to jump when there's an obstacle on your way, and etc), and then fade away when followed. Then once you escape the wolves (after learning all the important controls, some controls and game mechanics are left to be figured out through playing) you go to your den where you have your cubs and the game starts in earnest. I'm not sure what could chase you since wolves are apex predators, but something serious of that nature would be great imo.

EDIT:
I've thought this over again and came to the conclusion that personally I really just enjoy just being dropped in the game with minimal instruction. If there HAS to be an introduction like Skyrim/Shelter 2/etc (or something completely different?), that's okay too, as long as it's brief or optional. Of course there's a learning curve to just being dropped in the game but I think that's just part of the fun personally.
Last edited by chickiefoo on Thu Mar 08, 2018 2:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Design Challenge! The First 15 Minutes

Postby FallieWolf » Thu Mar 01, 2018 3:39 pm

You start as a pup scrambling to your feet as one of your pack mates have come to feed you and your siblings. (This is where you learn the basic controls for moving) You walk towards the food and take a bite. (Now you learn how to eat) After you have eaten your desired amount you sibling wants to play! (Here you can learn how to use emotes/actions) You decide to explore around your den unaware of the lurking dangers. A bear tries to take you but your pack was watching and came to your defence, scaring away the bear and taking you safely home. You lay down by your family exhausted from the days events, you sleep, (This is where you'll learn to lay down and sleep. Plus a time skip to when your around 3-4 months old)
You wake up and follow your pack mates out in a field. (Here you learn how to use your scent) Following your pack mates and the scent of elk you come across a grazing herd. The adults and you start a chase trying to pick out a weak cow or foal but you are too slow and retreat back into the bushes with some other younger wolves. When the hunt is done your pack howls trying to pin your location. (You learn how to howl) After howling back you use scent to find your pack and the carcass. (This is done your actually learning how to use scent view as it will be a vital part in the game. Once you reach the carcass and your family another time skip will happen.)
You are now a dispersal wolf near a carcass which has a pair of coyotes feeding off of it. You approach the carcass to fill your health (If your health isn't completely full it will give the player a reason to go for the carcass. This is also where you'll learn to bite.)
NOTES: if the game still has a compass and plays a critical part in the game it might be a good idea to add that in when your learning to use scents since wind direction is a big part of scent view and tracking in WQ 3.
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Re: Design Challenge! The First 15 Minutes

Postby glitchanova » Thu Mar 01, 2018 3:41 pm

The idea of Skyrim's opening is what I had in mind, but a bit more adapted to WolfQuest's game style. Since hunting is pretty much what's done in-game, when you're finished creating your wolf, you are thrown near an elk herd, not too close to find them in front of you, but far enough so you have to go through every control. And pretty much involving what Echodextrous and chickiefoo had previously explained. It'd be really interesting to see this in the game itself.
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Re: Design Challenge! The First 15 Minutes

Postby paperpaws » Thu Mar 01, 2018 3:45 pm

In a true homage to Skyrim, make sure that the beginning of the game contains inconveniently placed horses and game-breaking bugs.

Echodextrous wrote: Perhaps in the beginning of WolfQuest 3 we can see something like that where it is a story driven, interactive scenario to get things moving, for example if the player starts off in front of an elk herd charging toward them and then a dialogue box pops up with something like "Quick! You are in danger of the stampede! To move out of harms way, press (insert controls here)", or something to that effect and then add a way-point for the player to reach before they are trampled and have the story and other controls/tutorials pick up from there as the player is presented with more challenges and more way-points.

Shelter 2 indeed does something similar to this, and I quite like it. I'm not sure if a chase-scenario would be the way to go with WolfQuest, but I definitely like the idea of using a starting scenario to introduce some of the main game mechanics and controls as opposed to the system in place now where you have to open the controls and earn a PhD in knowing which key does what before you get the hang of it.

A scenario where you spend your last moments with your birth pack before dispersing would be neat (similar-ish to Spore, if anyone remembers), but I suppose that would be pretty development-intensive. I think a hunting scenario like glitchanova suggested would be the simpler way to go whilst staying true to the important mechanics and gameplay.
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Re: Design Challenge! The First 15 Minutes

Postby Black Burn » Thu Mar 01, 2018 3:46 pm

Hnmm, tough one, I remember when I first played the game, there was the lone elk and a random Bear, I left the bear alone because in other wolf games I played the Bears chased the wolf, so what if there was a pop up that explained what bears would do and how they will act. Same thing for other animals, like: coyotes will try to steal your food, or something like that. There could be pop-ups for the controls with a description of what that action would do and what might happen when you push it: if you howl, other wolves will hear you and hunt you down. I don't have to many ideas right now, but if I come up with anything else I'll see if I can post again, if that's okay, of coarse.
Keep up the amazing work WolfQuest Team!
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Re: Design Challenge! The First 15 Minutes

Postby Starbender2000 » Thu Mar 01, 2018 4:08 pm

I don't know about this, I rather like the hints and tips that will pop up and beginning screen, before it lets you do your own thing. I understand that the game will be complex, but if you do plan to give a tutorial make sure it is not extremely long and complicated, most players will instantly get aggravated and edgy when they just want to jump in, definitively make it simple to understand. And even so maybe just add a short beginning screen like the previous "two-year old wolf, a dispersal finding a mate." Then give small helpful tips along the way, like how messages pop up already in Slough creek and Amethyst mountain. And since the map will change and not actually have a wolf/ elk territories you definitely need to make sure the player gets the basics of tracking/ or sent view.

-All in all have the original message pop-up to guide the player then just have new tips and hints pop-up as well I think keeping the pop-up screen showing all controls and what they do should stay just update it to the game. And have a way to get back to this control-screen so the player can check controls if need be. This is pretty much just how the old game was run, but just make it more up-to date with things like "Water can help your wolf with a stamina boost message." But MOST IMPORTANT if you decide to do hints and tips pop-up screens, as well as tutorials MAKE IT OPTIONAL.

Thanks,
-StarBender2000 :wolf:

Edited: 3/5/2018 Lol I can tell there are alot of mixed feelings about this.
Last edited by Starbender2000 on Mon Mar 05, 2018 6:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Design Challenge! The First 15 Minutes

Postby resanfray » Thu Mar 01, 2018 4:21 pm

I’d say it’d Be really interesting if you started at an empty campsite and on the signs around the camp it shows you the basics as minimal drawings kinda talking about the wolves a human spectator might see, but it’s really a tutorial for you. And you can turn on scent view to “inspect” the sign and it will enable a pop up that tells you about the function.
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Re: Design Challenge! The First 15 Minutes

Postby Phasoli » Thu Mar 01, 2018 5:48 pm

When I played WolfQuest for the first time, I remember immediately being confused by the controls. I generally enjoyed the calm opening, learning things for myself as I tried new things. Perhaps to stimulate that in a new player, there can be recommendation blurbs that describe how to walk and attack. Perhaps, as mentioned before, no doubt, the player can begin near a hare and learn how to hunt through being guided by these blurbs. Perhaps even after the fifteen minute tutorial mark, there can still be small blurbs that suggest small missions, or provide hints and tips to enrich gameplay. I'm more of a relaxed player, so a jarring start to the game isn't exactly up my alley. All I can say is that this game keeps getting better and better! I'm loving how the devs stay involved with the community!
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Re: Design Challenge! The First 15 Minutes

Postby Arcturus221B » Thu Mar 01, 2018 6:04 pm

Starbender2000 wrote:I don't know about this, I rather like the hints and tips that will pop up and beginning screen, before it lets you do your own thing. I understand that the game will be complex, but if you do plan to give a tutorial make sure it is not extremely long and complicated, most players will instantly get aggravated and edgy when they just want to jump in, definitively make it simple to understand. And even so maybe just add a short beginning screen like the previous "two-year old wolf, a dispersal finding a mate." Then give small helpful tips along the way, like how messages pop up already in Slough creek and Amethyst mountain. And since the map will change and not actually have a wolf/ elk territories you definitely need to make sure the player gets the basics of tracking/ or sent view.

-All in all have the original message pop-up to guide the player then just have new tips and hints pop-up as well I think keeping the pop-up screen showing all controls and what they do should stay just update it to the game. And have a way to get back to this control-screen so the player can check controls if need be. This is pretty much just how the old game was run, but just make it more up-to date with things like "Water can help your wolf with a stamina boost message." But MOST IMPORTANT if you decide to do hints and tips pop-up screens, as well as tutorials MAKE IT OPTIONAL.

Thanks,
-StarBender2000 :wolf:


Amen to this. Something that always bothers me with a number of games is that you have to go through the tutorial phase every single time you start a new playthrough. Once you've played for a while you already know all that and going through the tutorial again and again will become tedious. Shelter 2 is a good example of this. Every time you start a new playthrough from the beginning, it'll treat you like a new player and show you all the controls once again as you play. (for example: if you get close to a jumpable rock for the first time during that playthrough, the game will pause and tell you to press spacebar, even if you already know that because you have played through the game multiple times already). That is really frustrating. I haven't found a way to turn it off (if that's even possible) so that is a massive issue I have with the otherwise enjoyable and beautiful game.

The tutorial/game tips should be simple and as short as possible while still showing basic functions, but it shouldn't explain every mechanic either. Part of the fun of playing a game for the first time is discovering for yourself how things work and what is possible and what is not, after all. So keep it to the essentials. But like StarBender200 said, make it optional!
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Re: Design Challenge! The First 15 Minutes

Postby noir_187 » Thu Mar 01, 2018 6:35 pm

I don't think the intro should be anything too long or complicated, otherwise that could make starting a new playthrough more tedious than it needs to be, but something to keep new players engaged without being too annoying and long-winded for returning players.

here's a way i could see it being like: the player (fully grown, beginning as a pup would make it more complicated than it needs to be imo) is on a hunt with some of their packmates (serving as an engaging way to teach the player how to track, hunt, and be mindful of wind direction, as well as teach them about hunger, stamina, and health). after the hunt, the wolves could return to the natal territory (which i think should be a separate cell from the main game world), allowing the player the opportunity to learn about social interactions. upon returning there could be a dialogue box that talks a bit about how your wolf is now an adult and wishes to form its own pack. but the player wouldn't have to do these things, they could just go straight to the territory's outskirts and it would trigger a prompt asking if the player is ready to leave their original pack. If the player selects no, they can linger a bit longer in the beginning area. If they select yes, this would send them into the main game world.

After that point, the player would learn about other animals, resting, etc on their own through playing the game and exploring the map.
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Re: Design Challenge! The First 15 Minutes

Postby TimberRaven » Thu Mar 01, 2018 7:42 pm

Yes, about the minimal, very small, undescriptive tutorial, I had misread it and went to get a mate the very first time I played. I didn't know I needed 800XP so getting a mate was impossible. So, about a week later, I finally got to read that part. :|
So I think you should open the game for the first time, and spend the first 15 minutes reading a very thoroughly-explained tutorial. Maybe even a gif or small video as a visual aid. Ok, that's a bit overkill... :lol:

I think after you read the tutorial, you'll have a few moments in the middle of a hunt with your mother and father and littermates, trying to mimic them and follow with the tutorial. Then, once you kill an elk, the true game will be loaded and you will appear on AM. :D
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