today I set down and tried to find all the things a new player might bump into playing the tutorial. Professionally I have quite a lot to do with software usability, so pardon me, if I am very nit-picky. I've read a lot of DStahl commiting to polishing the game and I think, the tutorial should be one of the thing to get an overhaul. After all, its in the demo and is supposed to draw new players to the game. I'll deconstruct the missions of the whole tutorial episode chronologically, mentioning what in my opinion should be changed, removed or added and (if not obvious) why.
I hope this finds its way into the game in some form or the other. Anyway it was a nice exercise
How to polish the Tutorial?
The following is based on the assumption, that the Tutorial is not thrown out altogether since the mission "Khitomer Accords" references it. Still using the Borg as Tutorial critters is quite anti-climatic, but that is the way things are right now.
Prelude to a Crysis
All controls are immediately visible. Introduce them as the mission progresses, and you need them. I.e. in the Mess Hall only introduce the Objectives Window.
The Library Computer does not tell you, what the Left Mouse Button is for. (aka, the most important interaction technique)
It should also be briefly mentioned, that holding down both mouse buttons will make you move into the direction the camera is looking at.
The player is supposed to remember, that after learning the controls she is supposed to go to the door.
Remove the second door, it can be misleading. The Mess Hall of a Miranda Class vessel should be fine with only one door.
When the user clicks the “X” of the Tips window, it’s gone! When the player does this the first time, she should be introduced to “Help” (which, by the way could use a more friendly interface like the C-Store)
When the user does not reach the door after 60 seconds, kindly remind her to head toward the red door.
The message from the Captain might irritate the player: Shall she move to the red door or to the bridge? Resolve this by restating at the end of the message, that the red door is the Turbolift to the bridge.
When I enter the Bridge, the first thing I notice, is a Borg Antiproton Beam shooting through the ceiling.
Introduce the Minimap and the mission contact icon here.
Half the consoles (or what the player might mistake as those) one cannot interact with. When I first played the tutorial, I ran to one of the wall panels. Since the flashing animation has a pretty slow cycle, players might miss them by running past them or when looking in another direction.
Again the bridge has two doors. People not so familiar with Trek are bound to head to the wrong one, as they do not understand the concept of a Turbolift.
The Transporter Room
The Turbolift directly offers you the Interaction of returning to the bridge. The Turbolift on the bridge however does not allow you to choose between the Mess Hall and the Transporter Room. Since there is no point in going back to the Bridge, this interaction should be removed for reasons of consistency and removing a possibility for error.
The Transporter Pad is not highlighted on the minimap using the circle otherwise indicating targets (like e.g. the Turbolift in the Mess Hall).
The initial task is somewhat silly. The player performs a scan, the doctor could and should have made himself ten times over while asking the player to do it. Even if that means throwing out an expensive piece of Zachery Quinto VO, give the player something more useful to do. E.g. get a pack of Hypos from another room, where the Holoemitters are broken and the EMH cannot go himself.
Also get the crewmen out of the room, who are operating the bio beds. These fellas should be fighting the Borg or help the doc. Since the player has a simple task to perform, get them out.
Use that opportunity to explain Hyposprays to the player and give a couple to her as reward for helping the doc.
Tell the user how to open and read the windowed version of the map to find the way to Auxiliary Control.
When the player operates one of the Transporter Consoles, only one or two Borg are beamed away. That’s really odd, since it does not help anyone if only a third of the Borg are dealt with (and it is not what Thelis asked you to do). The problem of course is this mission being a multiplayer instance. So not all Borg can be removed at once, because then there might be a time where a player enters the room and has to wait for the Borg to respawn. Since the players do not need to work together (and it does not make much sense, to let them all help the EMH etc.) this would be a good reason, to make the tutorial a Single Player instance up to “Assimilation” or “Line in the Sand”, where collaboration can pay off.
Using another Control panel to beam the Borg into space is contra-intuitive for anyone who has seen any Trek show. To make sense of the player running to the hallway, let her turn off an additional force field containing the breach. Then Thelis can beam in the Borg and everything makes sense (and besides an additional force field that the player can shut down, the mission scripting can pretty much stay the same).
Introduce the Action Bar and make the player recognize the Hyposprays he got earlier in the mission. Also introduce the player’s portrait with the indicators for Shields and Health.
Introduce the player to the fact, that a ground weapon has a limited range.
I’ve observed players not knowing what devices they should shoot. Telling the player about the Tab-Key to select targets would immediately solve the problem.
The devices should show on the Minimap.
The Borg Devices introduce two game elements not revisited later: Tactics to destroy explosive objects close to enemies and breakable objects. The turrets later in the game have to be destroyed anyway, it’s an almost unrecognizable side effect that they hurt nearby critters and the debris is much more subtle.
When the player destroys the last device, Commander Davis hails her. However there is a huge chance, the destruction of the device has just triggered a Borg Drone into attacking the player, forcing the player into deciding whether to take damage from the Borg or skipping hasty through the dialog. That would be no problem, if shooting the Devices and being attacked by the Drones would trigger “Alert Condition Red” and the call would respect that and wait until after the firefight.
The target circle for the Turbolift is just ridiculously large.
Trekkers might suspect that the Drones will not attack, before becoming a threat to them. Make a single Borg attack the player early in the Hall Way, so there is no mistake that these Borg mean business.
Most interestingly the Tutorial makes shield regeneration explicit, but does not mention health regeneration. The player might waste Hypos for no reason after reaching the checkpoint.
The layout of the Engineering blockade is just weird, confusing and hard to navigate/target in. The player should approach the barricade from behind, with Starfleet clearly on one side, and the Borg on the other. Give the player some clear line of sight to target the Borg and let the encounter have a definitive beginning and ending. Spawn only a limited number of Borg instead of a countdown at which end there is still an infinity stream of invaders spawning.
Again do not let Davis hail the player until she is in the clear
After receiving the mission reward, introduce the player to the Leveling Bar at the top of the screen.
Again, the area of the Transporter Pad is not targeted on the Minimap
The Price of Liberty
Again, remove unnecessary elements from the UI. Keep the Minimap, Healthindicator, Leveling Bar and Objectives Window. Introduce the speed slider (which is not on the “far left” as the tutorial states).
Tell the player she does not only move on a plane anymore.
Tell the player to follow the buoys in order to get to the Renown.
Make the amount of damaged probes on the map limited, so the player can have a feeling of accomplishment after defeating them.
After destroying two probes, introduce auto-fire
There are often targetable but not shootable Probes wedged in the debris
Again make the map solo and spawn exactly as many probes as have to be shoot down by the player.
Re-Introduce the Action Bar.
The tutorial wrongfully states, the number of officers at the bottom of the screen would be equivalent to the number of consoles on your ship.
Tell the player, how she can find out about the power of her BOs
This in my opinion would be the first map really well suited for introducing multi-player elements and the chat window.
Byarez tells the player to open the inventory to equip items. Better to tell them to open the Status window which automatically brings up the inventory as well.
Byarez does not tell the player to grab a gun and kit from the crates, the player has to find out by herself, either by being lucky and having the flashing crates in the camera’s line of sight or by reading it in the Objective Window.
Sprinting and evasive actions should not be introduced here, since the Borg do not throw grenades or attack the player at close range. It could be mentioned however in the first corridor of Deck 3 in “Khitomer Crisis” to evade the Borg in the hallway.
Explain to the player, she has to choose one of the transmitters (or better even: get rid of four transmitters, since this “multiple instances in one instance” concept is only used one more time in the next mission and never again)
Line in the Sand
Again, get rid of the multiple war zones. What happened to a friend was the following: He destroyed the sphere in one zone, flew around to find a Cube, blew it up and wondered why the mission would not finish. I first had to explain to him, that he had to kill both Borg ships in ONE target area. Since he did not remember the right one, he ended up blowing up Cubes over and over again until he found the right zone.
Introduce loot and make sure, each player can pick up something after killing the Cube.
I would agree to this, if you could skip the tutorial on alternate characters. The tutorial annoys "experienced" players as it is, you proposals would make it even worse. Don't get me wrong, your idea is great for a first time player, I still can remember my first time through the tutorial and it was painful.