Saturday, October 10, 2009

Signposts: New feature on Probation

Protonaut seriously needs a tutorial overhaul, and I've been thinking about how to best accomplish this. I originally envisioned putting "signposts" in the game, with static text on them - then the tutorial would be one big level with a lot of help along the way.

Before I had a chance to put in the signposts, I did a few tests - some people couldn't beat my tutorial level! It was long, too difficult, and not very rewarding. An utter failure!

The signposts never made it in (instead opting for an "introduction" paragraph), and I broke the levels up into 10 easier (and more fulfilling) chunks. After launch, the complaints I get were - retrospectively - obvious: You now only get tutorial text at level launch, before it becomes relevant or obvious as to what it means. You cannot recall the tutorial text except by dying or restarting. A lot of folks took the tutorial text box as a "standard dialogue" and simply closed it.

One thing that really irks me is when players don't read, and close the box that says "PRESS Z TO JUMP - THIS IS CONFIGURABLE IN OPTIONS" then complain that they can't figure out how to jump or that Z is a stupid choice. Of course, I would do the same thing if it wasn't my game, so yes: You, Sir Kettle, are black.

So, here is my proposed solution: an in-game signpost. You can test it here, though the text isn't modifiable at this point (I need Greg to whip me up an interface to do so). I'm really interested to know what you think! Chime in with any thoughts or ideas. Here are some features:
  • The intro-box will remain for two reasons: Need the Click-on-level-load to capture keyboard focus, and it gives level designers a place to put a little backstory up if they so desire it.
  • The signpost text appears on touch only - thereby not "giving away" level elements or cluttering the screen.
  • The signpost trigger box is sizeable any way the level designer wishes. As the text appears from the center of the box, this allows for some creative control on where text appears.
  • The text fades out at a variable length, dependent on the 200WPM average that people read at.
  • Linebreaks work and the resultant text box auto-resizes to fit.
  • The signposts keep track of how often they have been touched, which can be recalled with the %COUNT% variable. This can eventually tie into a badge or victory condition (in the distant future) - allowing for laps counters or other more creative ventures.
  • The signposts respect your keyboard control configuration with the %LEFT%, %JUMP%, %RESET%, etc. variables.
  • The signpost trigger box is not yet art-ed up, art is not final :)
Again, try it out here, and let me know what you think!


  1. I think in-game messages are always a good idea, as it allows the player to receive meta-information without breaking the flow of play.

    If you want my 2 cents on how it looks, I'm still not in love with the way they creep up slowly like that. Maybe it would be better if they flowed upward out of an gradient alpha mask and stopped, and then faded away when get far away enough. The red color works though.

  2. Yeah I was toying around with a few visual styles - I think you'll like the next example I post. :)