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First Five Minutes: How Tutorials Make or Break Your Social Game
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First Five Minutes: How Tutorials Make or Break Your Social Game

April 21, 2010 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 4 Next

Tutorials analyzed: The three minute standard

The tutorials chosen for a closer analysis have been seen and interacted with by million's of eyeballs, so dissecting them should tell us something worthwhile about tutorial design.

I screen-recorded my play of the tutorials for documentation and further analysis. For instance, the state that the player is left into is quite hard to identify without a possibility to return to analyze the tutorial -- yet in terms of retaining the player after the tutorial is completed, the end state and the incentives it leaves the player with are crucial.

The following table breaks down the flow of six games that frequent the ten most popular social games according to

As the times spent in different sections, and the tutorial as a whole, depend on the pace with which the player responds to the instructions, the times presented in the article cannot represent exact values.

Yet, it can be presumed that they stay within rough margins of what constitutes an average tutorial playthrough, and therefore the axis of time is broken down to scale of minutes. This should be enough for our purposes.

The table shows that each game has a tutorial that can be completed in less than four minutes. Some of the games do sprinkle additional feature introductions or mini-tutorials to the game flow after the initial tutorial, but in these cases, the player has already advanced from the superficial involvement of the tutorial to a stronger commitment for repeated play.

The number of steps during each minute is also included in the table. In theory, each step introduces another chance to lose a player, i.e. making your funnel contract. Presumably it is here that games fair better than other applications. Without exception, the first minute presents the most steps in the games analyzed. The first minute is taxing the player's attention the most, but then the tutorials ease from the core mechanics to handling resources through buying and selling, the social features, etc.

The table also gives a fairly accurate picture of the core mechanics of popular social games: Avatar creation and customization, social mechanics, such as assigning friends, planting, feeding, cleaning buying, and selling.

The differences in tutorials are not very notable -- as with other aspects of social game development at present, features are copied and conventions are established rapidly based on successful solutions made by other developers. Therefore, the differences that can be identified in the tutorials are only slight variations in approach. Only one of the six games, Happy Aquarium, uses a non-player character as an interface agent in the tutorial.

Harold, the interface agent in Happy Aquarium.

Article Start Previous Page 3 of 4 Next

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