Over Cloud 9's Blog

A boring record of whatever that comes in my mind

How to create the best tutorial for your game?


While I had been designing games for our company, I thought of doing a bit of research and finding the best tutorial for our games. But it turns out that it isn’t easy.

The first 5 minutes into the game: I have often heard from experienced developers that the first 5 minutes are very crucial in selling one’s game to the player. How gripping and engaging it is will decide whether the player will buy it or further play it or not. Now while there are a number of things that influence the conversion ratio, the tutorial plays a very important part too. If the player is unable to grasp the game controls or utilize it to his advantage, chances are high that he will abandon the game.

Now, there are various ways to teach the player about the whereabouts of the game play. Let us explore some games and their tutorials before we find the one which suits our needs.

1. The “Figure it out yourself” type: These sort of traditional games do not have any tutorial. Popular examples are Mario, Megaman, etc. Those games had very simple controls and the games visuals conveyed the idea as to what kind of game play it has. Player could immediately connect with the game and press various keys to figure out how to move or do anything with the character.

Pros: Simplicity, no annoying pop ups, player can immediately start the game.

Cons: New players who are not used to playing games might get frustrated. Figuring out which key press would work can become annoying if traditional move/shoot keys like W,A,S,D or arrow keys, space bars, etc are not employed in the game.

2. The “bare essential” type”: Games using traditional controls with a little bit of variety usually have a small, non intrusive, in- game tutorials depicted within the first level of the game. Examples are The Binding of Isaac, etc. The objective is to let the player play around and get into the game before the stuff gets serious.

Pros: Simple and straightforward instructions, no room for confusion.

Cons: None.

3. The “In-game help” type: For advanced games, this sort of tutorials come in handy. The game introduces the controls to the player by pointing out the clickable buttons on the User Interface, HUD, game area, etc. Examples are like Ranch Rush, Final Fantasy 13, etc.

Player is prompted to do certain actions in the first level to get accustomed with the controls. The game does not proceed if the player has not completed the action. Once that action is performed, another set of actions are introduced for the player to do. Some times, player is taught only a few actions for the basic controls and the advanced ones are taught in the later levels of the game when the situation arises.

Pros: Hand holding the player so that he doesn’t lose interest in figuring things out, rewarding him for performing correct actions, performing the controls makes player remember them.

Cons: If too many controls are taught without letting him practice, player might forget them. Linearity and predictability in game as player isn’t allowed to proceed until certain actions are completed.

4. The “advanced in-game help” type: This is an extended version of the above. Here the player is taught the actions all at once in the first level, step by step. But he is allowed to practise it for a couple of times before the next one is introduced. This is good for games with complex combos. Examples can be found in Devil May Cry 4, etc.

The tutorial information appears as one pop up and then a text or button is highlighted on the HUD. Player is prompted to perform that action using the buttons specified more than once. Until he is able to do that action that many number of times, he has to keep trying. Once that is done, the next action tutorial pop up shows up.

Pros: Practising it over and over again makes it easy to remember.

Cons: Inability to perform an action makes the game not proceed further which can be frustrating.

5. The “spoon feeding” type: This is by far the most annoying and ’shove-it-in-your- face’ type of tutorials with hundreds of pop up cropping in between the game. Examples can be found in Farmville or similar facebook games. A pop explains all the controls in one screenshot and expects player to remember the sequence. While getting it done correctly can be really helpful, hundreds of pop ups coming up while I am doing something can be very irritating.

Pros: You get an overall picture of the game objective along with the controls.

Cons: Annoying pop ups and too much information fed at once.

Now coming back to our discussion, most of these tutorials are sometimes overlapped with each other for optimizing user understanding. Familiar genres of games do not require elaborate tutorials as those genres are well known and played by the common gamers.

Choosing the best tutorial for your game-

  • Game complexity- How simple are your game controls? Does it require only four keys to play it or more? If the game uses a couple of traditional keys for controls, using tutorial type 1 or 2 is best. Putting too much obvious information in such games can take away the challenge and fun factor from it.
  • Levels/Modules/Parts- Does the first level/dungeon/part of the game uses all the game controls? Or does it requires only the basic moves from player? Introducing tutorial step by step does not overwhelm player with information and allows him time to get the feel of the game while mastering the basic movements. Introducing only the first few moves in the first level and gradually bringing them in other levels helps player learn things efficiently without losing focus from the game play.
  • Learning curve difficulty: How difficult are the controls to understand or manipulate? Does it require practise a number of times? Does the player lose if he is unable to use the controls efficiently? If the controls require complex combos, point 4 type of tutorial can be used.

For now, this is all I could think of. I might add some more pointers when I find any.


The good and ugly side of game designing


Recently while I was assigned to train some freshers on game design, it occurred to me how difficult it is to find people who have that “substance” crucial for design. I have gone through many resumes before and in general most freshers lack either direction or interest and sometimes both when they are applying for a game designer position. They concentrate on what they are going to ‘get’ than what they can ‘give back’ to the company. With right guidance, however, they might gear up to make some sense in the work they are doing.

The Talent: People might have different skills and can even be hard working and sincere…but at the end of the day not anyone can become a designer. The most important factor for any designer is the ability to come up with a unique idea at any given point- that is what differentiates him from anybody else. Discipline, GDD writing style/efficiency, understanding production, etc. can all come with experience or training. But it is important to have the innate ability to ‘think like a designer’ and to ideate any number of  possibilities. This article iterates that same point better than I could have ever explained.

Uniqueness: In today’s market, hardly a few unique titles become huge hits and then the rest that follows are clones of the same game with slightly tweaked art or feature. Making a copy of a game is not that difficult, it does not require much imagination. It is easy to build  something from a foundation (in this context: another game), but it is difficult to build something from scratch. Like Christopher in that article pointed out- “When you have to invent a genre to define your game you’ve done a good job…”

Risks of hiring a talented designer: Coming back to the point, finding good game designer is like finding diamonds in coal. They are difficult to find, difficult to  retain and difficult to manage within a team. People who think differently have their own idiosyncrasies- if they have come up with a solid design, they would be uncompromising in implementing it. They would refuse suggestions, openly complain if the design is not properly implemented and become impatient too soon and leave the company if things don’t go in their way. But the prize of all this headache is a wonderful product, a lifetime value to the company’s brand image if they are allowed creative freedom. When most companies are more focussed in the return on investment and would prefer making a clone of some popular game to make money out of it, hiring a good designer could actually be bad for both the company and the person. The visions of both would  clash only leaving behind bitter animosity instead of a good product. Hence,  it is important to understand the company’s goals before hiring such talents.

The difference between a clone and a genre: But now that I think of it, it is also important to understand the difference between a clone (e.g. Pyramid Run) and a game based on a genre. The differences are subtle and very difficult to differentiate. When we ask a candidate to submit a GDD on any idea during the hiring process, I try to concentrate more on how many unique features has he combined or added to a game of a particular genre. Not all time management games are same, even though sometimes they might look the same. Also, sometimes only having some unique features do not make the game fun. It is important to understand how does that unique feature add value to the ‘fun’ element of the game. I remember playing “Wedding Salon” where all the previously known features of a time management game have been wonderfully combined into fun game. Even though that is not a ‘unique’ game per say, it is still a good example of how well a design can be implemented even in known genres.

P.S: Now since game design is an abstract subject, anything I evaluate is again subject to my preferences, biases, etc which might differ from the industry standard.

Conclusion: So at the end of the day, even after considering all the above factors, we still land up with people who do not meet expectations. It is nobody’s fault, because judging one’s talent purely can happen only when you get to see that person perform in the job. People promise a lot of stuff during interviews, which they seldom deliver. So for now, I am still thinking about the various parameters an employer should consider while hiring a designer apart from their GDDs and interviews that could see through the fluff, cut the crap and give us a solid evidence of talent.


Finally- a 2D game engine that can build games for multiple platforms!


Yoyo games have released Game Maker Studio- a 2D game engine for noobs and professionals alike that can build games for any platform(PC, iOS, android, social, HTML5, etc) from a single code base. Now no worries about porting a game build on one platform to the others! Now you can create a game on any platform and build it for all the other platforms (except for consoles though).  What is even better that it is priced at only $99!

I had been waiting for a looooooooong time for something like this. While Unity 3D is a powerful game engine for making multi-platform games, it is primarily best for 3D game development. Making 2D games on Unity can become a big pain in the backside. Most 2D game engines do not support multiple platforms or are limited to a few. Also they are not noob friendly. They require some knowledge on programming, which means a developer with non-programming background cannot make games on his own on them. Read the rest of this entry »


2D games on iOS


Over Cloud 9 website is still running and will continue to run and I am very happy that players are stilling visiting my website. It’s been 2-3 weeks that I am working at my new company and for the first time designing games for iOS. We are basically developing 2D iPhone/iPad/iPod games on Coco (X-Code). And while this is happening, I was wondering about learning either one of the other 2D game engines like Moai SDK, Sparrow Framework, iSGL 3D, GameMaker and even Unity. I need to do some research before I pick any of them.

I had done some basic scripting and coding before, so exercising my programming habits might be of some help if I consider growth in the gaming industry. Now when I summarize my experience as an indie, I realize how much I have learnt in the past 2.5 years and how much I am yet to learn. I did game designing, development, marketing, sound and video editing and sometimes even art while making a game. Honestly speaking, all students who are thinking of taking up a career in gaming should develop and commercially market their own game during their final year as a internship project (obviously after seeking permission of their principal). This is because the exposure and the experience one gains by actually being on the market with other competitors is priceless!

Even though I am not making any games now, I still continue to grow and learn. I wanted to learn the scope of the iOS market and a general idea of development in it.  I think there is a lot that I can do if I can pick up a bit of programming. It is been long that I actually flex my engineering skills. ;) Anyway, I shall post links of the game I had designed for my new company once they go up on the Apple app store.


New Job


I joined a job last week as a Senior Game designer at Pune (India). I know this has disappointed some fellow developers, but I seriously needed a change. Financially my business was doing fair enough (33% increase in revenue every year) , but I did not want to work alone any more. I cannot make bigger and complicated games by myself, but I can do that with a team of professionals at a work place. :D I want to go out of my comfort zone and challenge myself to try something I haven’t done before.

Joining a job means I will not be able to make commercial games unless I leave it, but I can still make free games and put up games from other developers. The website will be still there, with newer games and walkthroughs from other developers being updated frequently like before.

So stay by my side friends. I am on a new path and I want to see where it leads me to.




Just before I start my monologue, I would like to thank Charlotte from Gamercast for publishing my interview on their website. It’s been long that I updated my blog. After “A Sirius Game’, my temptation to go back to 2D game development has been back. Now when I compare the time, cost and energy spent making 2D game to a 3D game, the former is much better from an indie’s perspective. And with the release of RPGMaker Vx Ace, there is some hope of reviving a bit of freshness in the old school RPG world.

This time I thought of dabbling a bit in Photoshop by myself so that I can cut the cost of art in development. More than cost, I would say time and quality. When all of your artwork is outsourced, it is difficult to keep track of submission deadlines by artists and the quality suffers a lot. Since I am not a pro artist or anything, I chose simple anime style art which is easy to create and cute to look at. So far, here is an example sprite I made two weeks back-

Compared to last year, this year I am more at peace of mind and in keeping with my objectives. But in spite of everything, I am introspecting a lot for the last 2-3 months. So far I have developed both 2D and 3D games for PC only, not for any other platform. My knowledge has become stagnant, a by-product of working alone most of the time. I want to learn development on newer platforms and newer engines, get newer challenges. My niche genre of old school rpgs are a safe bet for business purpose, but I want to grow out of my comfort zone. Honestly, I am bored.

My social life has become nil and self-teaching ever evolving new technologies in gaming seems tiring and boring. The problem with learning  a new game engine is during that time I cannot make newer games, which means business is slow. For a self sustaining indie, this is not a feasible option. I can still keep making RPGmaker games as I already have a website dedicated for it, but it is not satisfying me intellectually anymore. It is been long that I stood up to a challenge or pushed my creativity to an extreme. I need a change desperately. I had been playing around with Game Maker and Unity 3D for sometime now and GameMaker seems to be a good alternative for simple 2D games. I don’t know what I should be doing now. Should I carry on making RPG maker game and it will sustain my business easily? Or should I leave my safe zone of RPGmaker games and do a different genre of 2D game this time? Or should I focus more on learning Unity 3D so that I can explore android and iOS market? Or should I take up a day job so that I can learn and earn at the same time? I am procrastinating, unable to make up my mind…


A Sirius Game is out!


A Sirius Game has been released on 18th of January. I was busy doing marketing stuff, so could not update my blog. My testers had done a great job and I would thank all of them again :)

The sad thing is, I didn’t know that 18th was a blackout day of the internet due to SOPA and PIPA protests. The press releases didn’t see the light of the day in most websites. :(

So I will be sending out the promotional stuff again this week. Let’s see how it works out.


Siriusly almost there!


Aaaaaaaaand we are almost there! No siriusly! We thought that our game will be complete by November end, but the smaller tweaks and fixing is eating up a lot of time. I have been so busy that I could not even send newsletters this month. Hopefully by this week we shall be able to complete it and then start the beta testing. Beta testers who are interested can keep checking the newsletter, twitter or facebook where I will announce when the testing starts.

I am apprehending a small delay in between because I will be going home for a few days as my mom is not well. Overall, by December I am hoping to release my first 3D game- A Sirius Game. Here are a few in-game screenshots I thought of sharing. I would be happy to hear your feedback! :D

Click to enlarge-

I would also like to thank the artists who have let me use their beautiful artwork for the character backgrounds- thd777, Gurgur and pk87.

I have been thinking of releasing this game on Steam, though it is a difficult feat to accomplish. And I have a strategy for that- As per Steam’s FAQ, there are two ways to get accepted by Steam. And I am opting for the second one which is much safer and probable. Though I am not that big on game reviews, I need to get some really good reviews for my game from players and other eminent game websites and some decent sales to make them even consider my game. For that, it will take us a wait period of 3-6 months depending on how fast we get reviews. So lets see how things go, I shall keep my fingers crossed. :)


A Sirius Game


Seriously…we found a name for our game. Ship adventures game is now A Sirius Game, where Sirius is the name of the protagonist. And no, it has nothing to do with Sirius Black. ;)

By middle of November we plan to start the beta testing, which we shall mail to our newsletter subscriber and announce in our forums for tester sign up. Here’s a peek at the title image of the game -

And the loading screen of the game turned out really nice. The models, land, trees, etc in the image below are from the game. So I thought of putting it up too! :D

That’s it for now. Once we have completed the game, we shall be putting up the screenshots of it when we launch testing. Feel free to leave your feedback, we would be happy to hear from you.




Sitting in one place working whole day and no exercise has only made me fatter. :P Just thought of sharing the pictures of our current team members (includes Phantasm Games studios’s developer just beside me and his two awesome interns one on each side :D )-

Nothing much to share this month except that our game development is going on in the background and that newer obstacles are popping their heads out to delay our project. I am too tired of ranting :( *sigh*

Just to share some smiles-

pascal's joke

« Older Entries