Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Integrating the manual into the game 2 (Penguin Diner vs Diner Dash)

Penguin Diner is an example of how NOT to present rules.

Penguin Diner is a simpler version of Diner Dash and yet, thanks to it loading us with all the rules before the game begins, it feels far more overwhelming.

Both follow the same general principles - customers are seated, orders are taken, food brought and finally money/dirty dishes taken.

Diner Dash employs a tutorial level - customers enter and a single instruction is given. As each step is completed, the previous instruction disappears and a new one enters. Completing each step is simply a matter of following the instructions on the screen - ensuring they can't be forgotten before having been completed - but this does nothing to limit the complexity of later levels, when familiar toys are mixed in at greater amounts and speeds.

Compare this to Penguin Diner - all instructions are given at the start of the game. If you forget what to do, you must muddle your way through. Even if you don't, you may fear you forgot the details (there's not even a way to refer to the rules between levels or when pausing the game).

Again, the moral of the story is to break down instructions into small portions and only give new instructions when appropriate. These aren't board games, after all so why feel compelled to give instructions all together in a non-interactive manner at the start of the game?

Text becomes more relevant when we immediately go on to practise those skills or explore those rules. By giving us instructions that may not become relevant for a few stages, you risk confusing players needlessly (and confusion about the rules certainly isn't the appeal of these games).

Penguin Diner doesn't suffer as greatly since it's a clone of an existing game and most the rules are familiar to the audience. But would Diner Dash have been a success if it weren't for the tutorial?

No comments: