Revamping the New Player Experience
When the Fallen Earth development team decided to revisit new player content and events just after launch for Patch 1.1.0, it was a big question mark on a roadmap to fun. The game launched with a tutorial, meant to give players a taste of upper-level play while teaching them basic game mechanics before jumping into a sandbox-style experience. Instead, some players noted that at the end of the tutorial, they felt like they had been pushed out into a wide-open world full of choices--and it was overwhelming. But how would the developers balance the desire for more of an introduction without sacrificing the "challenge" they worked so hard to inspire?
Initially, the developers worked to create a dramatic, story-driven tutorial that would teach basic game mechanics while introducing players to the plot of Fallen Earth. Some things, such as crafting and harvesting, weren't explained in the tutorial because it slowed down the experience and broke pace with the rest of the narrative. It was also important to create an experience in which players could focus on mechanics instead of getting distracted by group play. Lastly, players mounted an ATV and rode out of Hoover Dam in the tutorial without really knowing much about vehicles or how they work.
The result? Some players enjoyed the solo instance of the tutorial, but felt abandoned when they moved immediately to a world full of choices. They lacked understanding about vehicles and mounts. And they felt unequipped to handle crafting, which is a huge component of the game (players can make 95 percent of game items).
When the developers revisited the tutorial and the new player experience, the goal was to introduce new content in a way that wouldn't diminish the challenge of MMOs that many veteran players enjoy. They began to envision the process as a funnel, where the solo instance of the tutorial was the small end. The content they wanted to add would provide a few more choices and serve as a buffer between the solo instance and the unlimited choices players would face when they entered the world. And with an additional 30-45 minutes of game play, players would get enough practice on the game mechanics to feel more confident when moving into such a wide-open space.
The new content brings players into their chosen starter town at Level 1, just after completing the tutorial. Players have a mission automatically placed in their logs to speak with the LifeNet Operator there. The Operator will offer players a choice of receiving additional training or skipping training. If they opt out of training, they will be leveled up as usual. The choice allows players completing training missions to enjoy a streamlined experience and easily continue with normal gameplay in their starter town as soon as they complete the training.
The Operator offers to create an attachment for the clone collar that all players wear in the game which will provide a long-lasting but temporary health boost. The player is sent to scavenge through some spare LifeNet parts. After being introduced to scavenging, the player can choose to accept other missions for additional training and a crash course in attributes, mutations, use of AP and character builds. Upon returning to the Operator, who has been at work on the attachment for the collar, the player finds one vital piece has been stolen. He engages in a bounty hunter mission to find the thief, kill him and return with the missing part. As part of this mission, the player encounters the first horse bridle, leading to some additional experience with mounts and the garage system, before returning to the Operator to complete a few more tasks. The added play time helps acquaint players with more challenging missions (such as the bounty hunter mission) by providing a training ground before entering world.
The new player content also gave the developers a chance to explain some things that would have slowed the dramatic pace of the tutorial. The basics of crafting and harvesting were introduced, and players have a chance to learn more about vehicles, mounts and the garage system.
Patch 1.1.0 also provided the opportunity to evaluate town events (public events in which players can accept missions to affect and progress the series of events). The events needed streamlining: cosmetic fixes, structural changes and significant revamps. The developers specifically tackled Clinton FARM, Oilville, Embry Crossroads, Boneclaw, St. Sebastian's and Bankers Hole.
Many of the finale events were also revisited. Players found Town Event Finale missions confusing because they suggested that an attack would be immediate. The development team made changes, splitting Town Event Finale missions into two types. First, players get a mission from the Town Event Manager that shows current scores in the event while they remain on the town's server. Once all the category scores are maxed, this mission succeeds and chains to another mission. The second mission succeeds or fails based on whether any NPCs survive the attack.
Evaluating the new player experience and town events is another exercise in the developer's log. Feedback and comments from players continually help refine the process and push the game to be more engaging, accessible and fun for all involved.
Check out more new player experience screenshots, here.