The Call of Duty Approach to Interactive Fiction Tutorials


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Interactive Fiction (IF) has a somewhat deserved reputation for being hard to get into if you’re not already familiar with the medium’s conventions. Facing just a blinking cursor with no or few initial instructions, together with often unhelpful error messages, requires more than the usual amount of effort from the player to climb the initial steep slope of the learning curve.

Developers of modern AAA titles like Call of Duty on the other hand can’t afford to exclude any players from buying the game so they have spent considerable effort to make the treshold to enter as low as possible. Could their techniques be adapted to text-based games, making them easier to learn and play for a wider audience?

In this presentation we’ll take a look at some of the methods IF has historically used to educate players and the methods AAA first person shooters employ, and discuss what IF and other indie games could learn from them. We’ll also see demonstrations of some of the latest advancements in user interface technology that make these techniques possible.

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The Call of Duty Approach to Interactive Fiction Tutorials

  1. 1. THE APPROACH  TO  INTERACTIVE FICTION  TUTORIALS Juhana  Leinonen Presentation  at  No  Show  Conference  2013-­09-­14
  2. 2. Juhana  Leinonen Finnish  software  developer Plays  Call  of  Duty Avid  Interactive  Fiction  enthusiast
  3. 3. Some  of  my  work   vorple-­
  4. 4. What  is  IF? (in  the  context  of  this  talk) At End Of Road You are standing at the end of a road before a small brick building. Around you is a forest. A small stream flows out of the building and down a gully. >ENTER BUILDING Inside Building You are inside a building, a well house for a large spring. There are some keys on the ground here. >TAKE KEYS Taken. >
  5. 5. Playing  IF  is  more  intuitive  than playing  Call  of  Duty. ...if  the  author  does  it  right.
  6. 6. <verb> LOOK WAIT JUMP <verb>  <noun> TAKE  KEY OPEN  DOOR PUSH  BUTTON <verb>  <noun>  <preposition>  <noun> UNLOCK  DOOR  WITH  KEY GIVE  CARROT  TO  RABBIT ASK  CAPTAIN  ABOUT  VOYAGE
  7. 7. to  play  IF The  Puzzle  Box  approach "Learning  how  to  play  is  the  game." 0:27
  8. 8. The  Gatekeeper  approach Finding  out  how  to  play  requires  some  effort,  so  only the  genuinely  interested  enter  the  community The  target  audience  is  the  existing  community 0:26
  9. 9. The  Self-­Deception  approach "You  can  type  in  anything  and  the  game  will understand!" The  assumption  is  that  the  parser  is  so  good  that  there is  no  need  for  instructions Which  is  obviously  not  true.
  10. 10. The  Better  Error  Messages approach When  the  player  makes  a  mistake,  guide  them  with  a helpful  error  message The  biggest  problem:  you  need  to  make  a  mistake before  you  get  assistance
  11. 11. The  Manual  approach Give  the  player  separate  instructions
  12. 12. The  Tutorial  Game  approach Make  a  game  specifically  designed  to  teach  how  to play  IF Notable  example:  The  Dreamhold  by  Andrew  Plotkin De  facto  tutorial  game:  Lost  Pig by  Admiral  Jota
  13. 13. games  use Boot  Camp 9:37
  14. 14. The  first  barrier  is  easy  to  overcome 14:58
  15. 15. The  current  goal  is  always  obvious
  16. 16. The  player  is  rewarded  for  desired behavior
  17. 17. Gameplay  is  completely  transparent
  18. 18. Be  lenient  with  mistakes
  19. 19. Tell  the  player  how  it  works!
  20. 20. Tell  the  player  what  to  do!
  21. 21. Tell  the  player  where  the  limits  are!
  22. 22. CoD (Cloak  of  Darkness)
  23. 23. Areas  requiring  more  research Biggest  problems  newcomers  are  facing? Effectiveness  of  tutorials? Analysis  of  gameplay  transcripts
  24. 24. For  further  discussion  +Juhana Juhana Leinonen Follow  @JuhanaIF 87 followers Videos  from  Get  Lamp  by  Jason  Scott,  Call  of  Duty  by  Activision  (fair  use) Screenshots  from  Call  of  Duty  (fair  use) Tweets Follow @JuhanaIF Juhana Leinonen @JuhanaIF 31 Aug Screwdriver set was missing one piece, but it wasn't the one I needed. Help, I might be stuck in some weird parallel universe Juhana Leinonen @JuhanaIF 23 Aug Doesn't really matter who the next Batman is. The presence of Superman already taints the whole concept. Expand Meredith Yayanos @Theremina 19 Aug The Mako Mori Test: 'Pacific Rim' inspires a Bechdel Test alternative… Retweeted by Juhana Leinonen Show Summary