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The First Hour Experience: How the Initial Play can Engage (or Lose) New Players

The First Hour Experience: How the Initial Play can Engage (or Lose) New Players

Talk presented at the CHI Play 2014 conference. Initial slides by Gifford Cheung.

Thomas Zimmermann

October 21, 2014

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  1. The First Hour Experience How the Initial Play can Engage

    (or Lose) New Players Gifford Cheung The Information School, University of Washington Thomas Zimmermann Nachiappan Nagappan Microsoft Research, Redmond
  2. © Microsoft Corporation http://aka.ms/esegroup Thomas Debeauvais, Thomas Zimmermann, Nachiappan Nagappan,

    Kevin Carter, Ryan Cooper, Dan Greenawalt, Tyson Solberg: An Empirical Study of Driving Skill in Forza Motorsports 4. FDG 2014 Jeff Huang, Thomas Zimmermann, Nachiappan Nagappan, Charles Harrison, Bruce C. Phillips: Mastering the art of war: how patterns of gameplay influence skill in Halo. CHI 2013: 695-704 Emerson R. Murphy-Hill, Thomas Zimmermann, Nachiappan Nagappan: Cowboys, ankle sprains, and keepers of quality: how is video game development different from software development? ICSE 2014: 1-11
  3. © Microsoft Corporation the “initial experience” the “first time user

    experience” “tutorial time” the “5-5-5” (five seconds, minutes, hours) “the first 10 seconds, the first minute, the first ten minutes, the first hour” “setting the hook” also known as
  4. © Microsoft Corporation “If your game is abandoned in the

    first hour that’s a pretty low moment. It’s a complete rejection of the game play in all ways, you know, game play, narrative, style. … It’s a pretty catastrophic failure.” Designer C a Critical Hour
  5. © Microsoft Corporation What did we know so far? •

    Game Approachability Principles: allow practice of new skills/tools, good demonstrations of how to play, feedback, offering self-efficacy, scaffolding, clarity, and information – Desurvire and Wiberg, 2010. User Experience Design for Inexperienced Gamers: GAP -- Game Approachability Principles • Positive/negative reviews don’t affect the first 15 minutes of play – Livingstone et al., 2011, Influencing experience: the effects of reading game reviews on player experience • Achievement, enjoyment, and social interaction lead to continued motivation to play – Wu et al., 2010, Falling in love with online games: The uses and gratifications perspective • Are tutorials effective? For complex games like Foldit, yes. Restricted modes don’t help much. – Anderson et al., 2012, The impact of tutorials on games of varying complexity
  6. © Microsoft Corporation Player’s Perspective Genre Reviews Action 28 Modern

    First-Person Shooter 32 Sci-Fi First-Person Shooter 21 Modern Action Adventure 17 Role-Playing 16 Sci-Fi Shooter 16 Fantasy Action Adventure 10 Puzzle 9 Adventure 9 Rhythm / Music 7 Sports 6 Racing 5 2D Platformer 4 Shoot-'Em-Up 3 Strategy 3 Beat-'Em-Up 3 Driving 3 GT / Street Racing 3 Action Role-Playing 2 3D Platformer 2 Wrestling 2 Football 2 Snowboarding 2 2D Fighting 1 Sci-Fi Action Adventure 1 Modern Shooter 1 Historic First-Person Shooter 1 Rhythm / Dancing 1 Fantasy Online Role-Playing 1 Olympic Sports 1 212 Amazon reviews of Xbox 360 games Searching for keywords such as “first”, “hour”, “minute”, “start”
  7. © Microsoft Corporation First hour reviews 35 collected, 13 different

    authors 00 - I click New Game and the first hour of Call of Duty 4 begins. We're looking at a view of Eastern Europe. A voice over is introducing the situation and explaining everything that is going on in the area. The game zooms in to a U.K. training ground. I have control now, a man tells me to take a rifle from the table. He points me to a shooting range and I take aim. 01 - We conduct various aiming exercises. Looks like there's some auto aim built in when you look down the sight. 02 - I knife a watermelon. "Your fruit killing skills are remarkable!“ 03 - I follow my objective pointer and meet Captain Price. I have to run an obstacle course now. First hour review of Call of Duty 4
  8. © Microsoft Corporation 6 Game Industry Professionals • Designer A,

    B, C, • Tester A, B, and • User Researcher A • 10-20 years of experience, AAA titles • 3+ major game studios
  9. © Microsoft Corporation Methodology Grounded Theory • Open, Axial, Selective

    Analysis (Amazon + First hour reviews) • Invited an auditor to review the process and emergent categories for comprehensibility and closeness to data. • Used the interviews in part to check the findings (Selective)
  10. © Microsoft Corporation The First Experience Arc Expectations Specific Anticipations

    Experiences Momentary & Engaging Annoying, Frustrating, or Tedious Outcome Abandonment Continuing Exceptions Deal-breakers Holdouts
  11. © Microsoft Corporation Expectations Franchise, Genre, Predecessors Gaming community, “Everyone”,

    Friends, Buzz Trailers, Rentals, Demoes, Friend’s house Notable: Specific Anticipation
  12. © Microsoft Corporation Positive Experiences Engaging “hooked”, “engaged”, “interested”, “addicted”,

    “immersed” “cool”, “awesome”, “wow”, “exciting”, “fun”, “impressed”, “neat” Momentary
  13. © Microsoft Corporation Positive Experiences Engaging “hooked”, “engaged”, “interested”, “addicted”,

    “immersed” Condemned: Criminal Origins “I hit Y to reload my gun, only to realize that it doesn't actually get reloaded. Instead, my character checks the amount of rounds in the gun. According to the game, I'm limited to the ammunition that is found in weapons. Hmmm...I'm going to have to be a little bit more conservative with my ammo and quit hosing down these perps with a steady stream of lead. Very interesting game concept...” “cool”, “awesome”, “wow”, “exciting”, “fun”, “impressed”, “neat” Momentary
  14. © Microsoft Corporation Outcomes WHOLE & IN PART (Music, Narrative,

    Voice-Acting, Levels, Mini-games, etc.) Abandonment Continue
  15. © Microsoft Corporation Deal-breakers: Frustrations that supersede all positives. “An

    UNSKIPPABLE cut scene. Annoying. So, we continue playing and now there are UNSKIPPABLE cut scenes every few plays of the players taunting each other before the ball is hiked! Really? I needed to see his defenseman saying something foul to my running back RIGHT NOW! NO, I don't! We made it through the rest of the game some how and decided that it was one of the worst playing experiences of any game we've ever played. Reselling this ASAP! BTW, the football game play was actually pretty good. Running, throwing and fielding all seemed to work well. In fact, I would say that it worked better than Madden. Its such a shame that they made the rest of the game so unplayable.” (Blitz: The League, Amazon Review)
  16. © Microsoft Corporation Holdouts: Playing a game you hate Anticipated

    Elements “I can't stop before meeting some aliens, right?” (Crysis 2) A good game mechanic “Would I keep playing? I guess so. I really do like the combat system, which captures Captain America's acrobatic grace and power quite well, but the limited enemy variety is allowing that repetitious feeling to sink in. … I'll soldier on for a bit, but I don't expect to finish this fight.” (First hour review of Captain America: Super Soldier) Narrative Completionists (External) Social reasons (External)
  17. © Microsoft Corporation Figuring out the Game Acquiring the basic

    skills to play Understanding the point of the game Gateway to Attachment “once you get the hang of it you won't be able to pull yourself away” (Far Cry 3, Amazon Review ) Or to Disinterest “once the patterns were figured out, the enthusiasm died down quickly.” (Kung Fu Panda 2 Kinect, Amazon Review)
  18. © Microsoft Corporation From fun to real fun “You need

    to look at it and go, ‘Oh, that looks like it’s for me and that looks fun.’ Then when you actually play it, I as a designer either need to have lured you in with that and that is exactly what you get to do or I lure you in with that because you’re familiar with it. Then I transition you into the things that are actually more fun.” (Designer A)
  19. © Microsoft Corporation Costly Mistakes in Understanding …but wait, you

    *can* skip cut scenes. “yes cut scenes are annoying but all you gotta do is hit the B button on your Xbox controller” (Blitz: The League, Comment on the Amazon Review)
  20. © Microsoft Corporation FRUSTRATION Direction vs. Discovery DISCOVERED! Easter Eggs

    Beauty Player Abilities (“I can double jump!”) FUN DIRECTIONS, PLEASE. Lost Impasse Confusion Mistakes
  21. © Microsoft Corporation Player Agency Doing your homework “If you

    read all of the in-game instructions and you aren’t afraid to dig around in the menus, you’ll work through the learning curve quickly.” (Create, Amazon review) “At first it was hard to play and I got my butt handed to me, but that was because I just went straight into the match and tried it right away. Then i studied the controls and figured it out.” (WWE '13, Amazon Review) Death is expected and accepted. Players do not complain about dying but about the precision of the controls and slow loading times between deaths.
  22. © Microsoft Corporation Player Agency Skipping ahead Players take a

    direct route to the action, skipping tutorials, levels, and other decision branches. Adjusting to the game To improve their experience of the game, players tinker with the difficulty level.
  23. © Microsoft Corporation Intrigue trumps Enjoyment Inspire greater engagement, spark

    interest of a player, show strengths of gameplay to come. Be more than a momentary enjoyable experience. Existing design principles (where this prioritization is applied): – Unaffordable items in store – Initial taste of power Design the first hour to emphasize direction. Save room for discovery after the first hour.
  24. © Microsoft Corporation The First Experience Expectations Specific Anticipations Experiences

    Momentary & Engaging Annoying, Frustrating, or Tedious Outcome Abandonment Continuing Exceptions Deal-breakers Holdouts Acquisition of the basic skills to play Understanding the point of the game Player Agency http://aka.ms/esegroup