[0.17.0/0.17.1] Tutorial feedback and thoughts

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[0.17.0/0.17.1] Tutorial feedback and thoughts

Post by Rahbek »

I hope this is the right place for my collection of thoughts (probably a lot and a bit mixed):

First of let me say there is a lot I liked about it, but allow me to focus on the things I want to give some constructive criticism about. I plan on playing a few more times through it but due to my job I know that my initial feedback is likely the most valuable:

From what it felt like to me I assume your aim with the new tutorial was to take a somewhat hands-off approach and only give tips when the player appears stuck.
In principle this is a somewhat novel approach and I like it. Plus in my eyes it makes sense for a game like factorio where a lot of the longterm enjoyment (of easily a few hundred hours or more) can be found when continuously tinkering and tweaking your own creations through infinite iterations and finding new solutions.
So I am inclined to like that approach however in a game as complicated as factorio, the consequence is that the player can at times seem a bit lost or rather thrown into it without clear goals.

On another note your Compilatron is quite a cute companion but I feel like its potential was partially lost or missed.
At least that’s what it felt like to me playing through the tutorial. Mostly this comes down to the script/narrative but there is some other aspects that might improve or better utilise its potential.
I realise that you likely want to avoid giving the players pre-established builds and approaches to the challenges they need to solve. So a balance needs to be reached between interaction with the player and letting them find their own solutions.

From an emotional perspective I felt a bit disconnected to what I was doing in the tutorial. Compared to the old tutorial mini-campaign it felt to me like there was no narrative which explained the setting and my overarching goal as well as introducing the player to the world of factorio. At least I felt it was lacking and did not draw me in.
The same I felt about the Compilation - Who/what is it?, Why is it/we here?, What is my relationship to it?, …

It felt like I was playing a rough draft that was focused on demonstrating the new tutorial mechanics rather than storytelling to make the player feel intrigued to invest his time. Because of that it has a ton of unused potential when it comes to making the player feel more drawn into the game and connected to what is happening, as well as emotionally invested in why you do what you do and why you need to do it. For example even the biter threat felt a bit more like a constructed device that simply “happened” and I missed an explanation for why it was happening. E.g. explaining that they get angered by pollution (story-wise they could initially be lured in from the pollution of the crash and then later again by the new base and its pollution)

My suggestion:
My suggestion is to incorporate the Compilatron a bit more into the narrative of the game without telling the player what to do step by step - think a bit along the lines of the Companion Cube in Portal (I’m sure everyone knows that game?) You’re always glad he is around and often useful when you get stuck but the player still has to figure out things themselves as it is powerless without the players interaction.

This could be achieved through a few steps:
- Have him introduce the setting of the game (“hey we crash landed and survived!”) and himself to the player with the goal to form a more emotional bond through the first hours of the game. This is gonna make the player feel a bit more at home and invested emotionally.
- Story-wise he could still maintain and justify a mostly hands-off approach by e.g. explaining he sustained some damage during the crash (would open up the task of repairing/restoring functionality for more bonding). Also if he is planned to be part of the full campaign he could “reset/re-boot” after its full repairs at the end of the tutorial which would allow him to re-introduce himself and the setting again in the campaign without breaking continuity.
- This would allow him to guide the player through the initial survival needs while explaining only mechanics and having the player figure out themselves what to do and how to do it. E.g. tell the player in the beginning that the Compilatron will try to help if he senses you got stuck (say for example he needs to conserve energy and wants the player to try to manage without the additional help if possible)
- The basic smelter setup that gets build by the compilation could alternatively be placed as ghosts by him and for the player to build? That or have it integrated better through narrative why it suddenly goes about building things for you. (Came a bit as a surprise to me) While I get why it felt also a bit like things were taken out of my hands without explanation.

Let’s talk mechanics and such:
- The expanding area feature I absolutely love! It reminds me a bit of a similar approach by e.g. Stronghold 2. Keeping your base and progressing like this is quite enjoyable. However this also means you draw all your shitty setups with you. Which brings me to the next point:
- Splitters and Underground Belts - since the tutorial does not include them (which in my eyes are very essential tools) this gets a bit annoying. As someone who knows they exist I was frustrated by the lack there of. A fresh player (friend) who I had play through the mission wanted better solutions than long belts and weaving them around quite early in the mission (“isn’t there a better way to do this?”). Unless you already have specific ideas on how to introduce them later (e.g. in conjunction with the idea of a centralised smelting area as a suggestion for the player to think efficiently and to keep developing better setups and the idea of tearing down and building new) I would love to see them part of the tutorial.
- There is more than three areas that display tasks and vital information to the player: - task list (top left), Compilatron “speech bubbles”, popups in menus and the research bar (once you get to that). Unless I missed something it only says it in the top right that you need to press T. That area had previously not displayed any information and is not where a player looks for information on how to start research (both me trying to play with fresh eyes and my friend stumbled over that each time we played through that part). Especially the info panel (below the tasks on the left) could use a bit more visual cues when new info is added if you want the player to notice these. Especially if they explain mechanics.
- UI scale (mostly really typography) seems a bit small by default on my screen (13" 1440x900 - macbook air from late 2013)

Lastly some random thoughts I wrote down while playing through the new tutorial mission:
- Compilatron takes too long to move on from "hey use WASD" - feels like it got stuck before moving on. I know the balance is hard between people new to gaming and people familiar with how other games work…
- Generally it seems occasionally just standing there before 15-20 seconds later telling you what to do. Makes you feel a bit lost. The top left is never properly introduced as the place to look for guidance.
- suggest adding an introduction to zooming.
- maybe make the initial area to move out of a bit bigger (or start zoomed in closer if you also do the next thing)
- he moves a bit rapid (feels a bit out of place compared to the speed of other things in the game e.g. the player. maybe a bit stronger acceleration curve might make it feel more realistic? when he moves from the first loot structure to the second he takes a bit wiggly route - feels more natural there OR let you upgrade the speed later (if necessary for moving bigger distances + more bonding / warm fuzzy feelings towards your companion. e.g. when you get a car in the campaign?) The whole tutorial felt a bit rushed - not wrong to take some speed out of things even by just slowing down the companion a bit.
- what's the point of moving back to the initial position before telling the player to also mine the "scrap metal" ? feels pointless and rather like an error in the script (like defaulting to that position because of an error before moving on to the next task)
- your companion is suddenly quiet when you get tasked to build a stone furnace - takes a while for him to give the next message (open the inventory)
- if you stand where the compilation needs to go he'll get stuck driving circles around you and trying to push you (but can't)
- stone ore might not be spotted right away by new players. Color difference on the ground is not as strong as e.g. iron vs ground. (make use a similar area marker as with the WASD task)
- reverse the order of the tasks for the burner drill - else you'll start from the bottom which feels weird and unintuitive
- does he show you were you find iron? (need to double check)
- moves to second assembler before the first "feed here" task is done
- does it show you were to find copper? (need to double check)
- did not have enough resources for making two assemblers when tasked to make circuits. Recipe switching seems overly complicated (bug/mistake?) else explain to the player the need to switch recipes. Otherwise feels like you’ve done something wrong. (You want to re-inforce positive feelings in the first hours of the game!)
- biter swarm is quite box-ey when it moves (big rectangle of enemies - make it move more like a real pack)
- there seems a stuck bug top left of your base when they attack (forgot to take a Screenshot).
- attack alarm (compared to the original) doesn't sound threatening or like danger. Didn’t notice for a while.
- formatting error at “prepare for more attacks (missing line break between tasks)
- doesn’t give a warning about attacks from the right hand side. Those came as a surprise to me and I had to scramble to set up defences there too.
- no warning about how big the waves are gonna be once you select “ready” and join your companion on the cliff. Player easily can be mistaken two turrets will be fine. (Again more narrative/dialog with the Compilatron could take place here explaining the imminent danger and warning the player to set up proper defenses)
- wave difficulty ramps up rather quickly - e.g. aimed output of 25(?) magazines/minute is not enough to defend biter attacks on slow play. You will be overrun due to lack of ammunition.
- definitely could use undergrounds/splitters earlier. Lets you create more efficient setups more early for complicated things. e.g. route materials to two ammo assemblers in the east and west of the base.
- below the concrete (north west electric furnace setup after beating the mission) is grass… seems odd.
- Could run through bases without being attacked after mission completed. Are they set to friendly? Why?

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