It is a big week for Lumena development. You know the development of a game is wrapping up when our attention shifts to teaching players how to play. Mechanically, Lumena is a simple game. One of the simplest games we have made. But, we don’t want to frustrate the player trying to understand how to play the game. No, the frustration needs to come once they understand the goals and can’t reach them!
We are taking a two pronged approach to instructing players. The first approach to is to communicate the mechanics as simple as we can through our marketing materials. We boiled the mechanics down to a few bite-sized ideas in the screenshots. We further repeated these ideas in the game’s description text.
“Lumena is a no-nonsense rhythm game with an original electronic soundtrack from Modbom.
Playing Lumena is EASY. Fling the colored disc toward a matching colored light.
Succeeding at Lumena is… NOT EASY. You’ve been warned.”
This is a good start. People will be able to make an informed buying decision. If they take the time to look at the screenshots, we’re pretty confident they will know how to play. But, people have short attention spans a tendency to skim on screens. Also, there may be a gap in time between buying and opening up the game for the first time. Explaining the game in the marketing is a great start, but not enough on its own.
The second prong is the in game tutorial. This is a delicate matter. We don’t want to insult players’ intelligence by holding their hands. When designing games we picture our players as intelligent and experienced. As gamers we despise being forced to endure long tutorials. But we appreciate the act of discovering things on our own. That might not describe ever gamer, but we lean in that direction and imagine our customers being like minded.
Lumena is a minimal game. This fact underscores our need to keep our teaching small. The big principle being show rather than tell. We only use words as a last resort. Lets walk through our in game instructions.
1) Game board fades in
2) There is a delay then the disc animates in. The delay focuses the player’s attention on the disc.
3) Disc pulses to further draw attention and communicate the ability to touch.
4) An indicator animates toward light panel over and over again hinting at the desired action.
5) After five seconds the word “Fling” fades in. (This is our last resort.)
We’re confident that this two pronged approach will work. A lot of time and attention went into making it as simple as we could. As with most design—complexity is easy, but simplicity is hard.