Associate game designer
First time users of Virtual Reality (VR) were struggling to grasp game mechanics and felt hesitant and unconfident in Argotian.
Applied user research to design an in-game tutorial ensuring Argotian users can play independently
Develop an incentive-based tutorial that fits in Argotian's context
Argotian is a VR language learning game made for the Oculus Go. It harnesses Artificial Intelligence (AI), so players can have free-flowing conversations to learn a language.
In the game, the player travels through space and tries to solve mysteries. The player speaks to AI characters to uncover clues while practicing a new language. They report their findings to "The Boss" who provides game instructions. There is an in-game robot, "Cambie", who follows the user around and provides help.
To understand the problems first-time players had with Argotian, we conducted interviews and observational research. New Argotian users often expressed frustration as they could not get through a session without asking for help on how to move around or speak to characters. They also felt the responsibility fell on them to reach for understanding rather than the game providing a clear toolkit for them to use. For more on the qualitative studies I conducted at Virtro, checkout the RESEARCH project.
I met with the associate game designer, Mark, for a whiteboard session where we evaluated the user requirements for an effective tutorial.
As a result of this whiteboard session, we chose The Boss character to deliver the tutorial. This supported the overall meeting conclusions, as roughly shown in the image above, that the tutorial needed to:
be incentivized - a proven learning method that enhances information retention, and
provide context to the game story to give the player understanding of their purpose and mission in the game.
I completed a rough sketch of the overall user flow to address issues raised by user research. After players log in, they spawn in a media room on the virtual spaceship. Immediately, the player is taught how to teleport. Once the player has teleported to the desired trigger spot in front of some computer screens, The Boss appears on the middle screen, and the tutorial begins. The Boss introduces the user to different game mechanics, such as teleporting, talking with characters, and changing the view (panning). The player must complete each lesson before moving on to the next.
The dev team and I met a number of times to develop these steps. The visual flow shown below prevented confusion while implementing these changes into the game software, Unity.
This flow demonstrates an overview of the tutorial while the video below shows an in-game shot.
Here is one example of a game mechanic being taught in the tutorial:
Summoning the Cambie helper menu
The Boss names the mechanic and its functionality
On one of the screens, a visual of a hand selecting a button on the controller is shown
A characterized version of Cambie appears on the screen, with the menu options splayed out
The hand selects the button again, and the menu closes
At this point, the Boss encourages the player to replicate the game mechanic
Once the player succeeds, Cambie appears and the game menu splays out
The player explores the different menu options
When they exit the menu, the tutorial continues
The following video excerpt is from a version of the tutorial based on my research and game design collaboration:
Once we modified the tutorial structure, through user research and development, there was a noticeable improvement in users grasping the game mechanics. Players that were younger still reported the content of the tutorial quite dry - perhaps it was not gamified enough.
Reflecting on the project, I would have preferred to conduct a tutorial specific before/after qualitative study to provide a clearer picture of how users' experiences shifted after changes were made.
This project taught me a lot about game design concepts and tested my user research skills. I found applying direct feedback from users to game design satisfying, and this feedback improved the core game mechanics.