Saturday, December 8, 2007

Culdcept Saga: A little confusing at first play

I downloaded the Culdcept Saga demo last night and played a bit of it. It had a learn as you play tutorial, but I found that there was a bit too much reading and not enough teaching (and reinforcing) of concepts. Compounding the frustration was that I seemed to lose every battle and in the end was decimated by my computer opponent.

See, for learning to occur there needs to be a feedback loop between the presentation of information, a player's actions, and game mechanism reinforcement based on the rules being taught. Ideally this will start out with simple, concrete applications and then move to more abstract concepts as the player masters the simpler pieces.

I think Culdcept's tutorial also failed because it didn't try and structure the user experience in any meaningful way other than having a (probably) limited deck of cards and an easy AI opponent. Lots of things can be done in this kind of game (like we did in Catan!) in order to help make it a more positive learning experience.

  • Stacking the deck: The deck of cards (for both me and AI) can be stacked in a way to maximize learning opportunities
  • Fixing the dice: This can also be done to maximize conflicts of interest and demonstrate key concepts in controlled, concrete fashion.
  • Neutering the AI: Making the AI forgiving in ways that allows the player to not screw himself. For instance, the first few combat encounters could have the AI send the *wrong* kind of counter at the player so the player could learn how counters work while winning a combat round instead of always losing. We did this in Rise of Nations where in the early game we'd detect what units the player was presenting and sending the paper to whatever scissors the player had created. This gave the tension (and excitement) of combat, but let the player weather the storm and keep learning about the interface and core economic and military components of the game.

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