In order to captivate your players, you’ll need a fantastic on-boarding experience. Nah, that’s too tame. Let’s try that again. In order to captivate your players, you’ll need an OVERWHELMINGLY FANTASTIC on-boarding experience that will blow the player’s mind twenty times over. You’re competing with a bazillion other games competing for the same attention. This is your first introduction to the player and it’s your first chance to impress them — don’t let them down.
Do NOT skimp here. If you have some amazing features such as a “Stealth Shield” or “Beast Mode” don’t make your player wait too long in order to discover it. All of these features and more should be easy to discover within the first five minutes if not immediately. Players have short attention spans, so make sure your game stands out as soon as possible.
Remember to keep your lines of readable text short and straight to the point. If you have a story-line, give some basic details, but make it quick. The last thing the player wants to do is real a novel before they play your game. Your ideal player should be pumped and ready to go in seconds. You can include intermittent tips and tricks as a safety, but on-boarding is where the magic happens. It’s where your player decides if they have downloaded a game that is worth playing.
A short tutorial process does not work for all games, however. Games such as collectible card games games may require a longer on-boarding process since the intrinsic details of the game are so complex. In any case, it is a good idea to reward your players immediately following a tutorial. Tutorials should feel refreshing, not draining. Additionally, you can use a goal or task-orientated system for teaching your player how to do certain things. Set achievements that are visible from within the game in order to nudge players towards doing the right things.
Your main goal in the on-boarding stage is to keep your player engaged. If your on-boarding stage does not clearly illustrate your game as something unique and fun to play, then your player will probably leave right at that moment and get a Steam refund.
Actionable Takeaways: In game design, don't make the common mistake of waiting too long to reveal your game’s unique selling points. Keep tutorials short. Think that’s short enough? Wrong. SHORTER. Keep players engaged during the first 5 minutes to hook them. Not sure how or where to start? Show your game to 10 different people and have them tell you their honest thoughts. Don’t let the first 5 minutes convince the player that your game isn’t worth playing.