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Topic: Honest review and tips fro development of Widelands from an outside person

WorldSavior
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Posted at: 2020-10-14, 19:28

king_of_nowhere wrote:

to make things worse, our very best player never shares his trade secrets, which may indeed be good for refining balance.

I thought the trade feature has not been implemented yet? Joking aside: I've already shared a lot of my insights.

GunChleoc wrote:

Tutorials - I know that there are the tutorials and that it needed a lot of work to make them but nearly everyone skips tutorials right away. Let's be honest, at least 95 % of players of Widelands have played S2.

Like Nordfriese, I have never played Settlers 2 in my life.

Me neither

kaputtnik wrote:

To split of economies with ports, you have to dismantle the connecting port(s). To have two distinct economies with shipping, you have to build a port, then build a warehouse, and then dismantle the port again.

No. It makes much more sense to simply cut some roads.


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ZADNE
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Posted at: 2020-10-15, 01:17

Before I start:

Nordfriese
May I ask which version you are using – I assume build21

Yes build21. And also I wasn't clear that evertime I was reffering to S2, I was actually reffering to the 10th Anniversary version of it (I've never played the old S2). From the gameplay side, they're nearly identical but some bugs were fixed in the 10A version, e. g. the invincible fields - you were right about the 10 minutes delay but it feels long, in S2 it is 5 minutes and that already feels long - but this isn't important at all.

Now I will try to clarify the important message I was trying tell you:

hessenfarmer
I can't understand why people always put "the game is hard to learn" and "I skipped the tutorials" in the same sentence

Because that's just how it is. Tutorials are old school way of teaching new players. Nowadays people just want to straight play. So instead of going through a rigid tutorial "do this and click on that", the player starts the first level of the game and only if he gets stuck, he gets a hint about what to do next. When he gets stuck, a short message with an arrow pops-up to tell them what to do. There shouldn't be any long paragraphs. If he doesn't get stuck and does what he's expected to do, he isn't bothered with any messages at all. So if a veteran starts playing the game from the beginning, he quickly slices through the first easy levels. The first levels of a game should teach the player while being as interesting as the actual game. He shouldn't be choosing between a boring tutorial or getting lost in the actual game. Tutorial and actual game have to blend together. Another way of explaining this is that the player should be rather overwatched by a guide that steps in only when required than to being told what to do.
In the context of Widelands it would mean that what you teach in the basic tutorial would be in the first barbarian mission. If you want to keep these separated, you can but there is still a lot improve in the tutorials to make them less boring and more straight forward.

Now I will be very specific and comment messages of the basic tutorial while comparing them with basic tutorial of S2. Striked text means that I would remove it. Check these in order now: this, this, this, this and this. I could be going on and on but I think you get it. Consider buying (downloading) S2:10thA and play their tutorial next Widelands'. You will see what I mean. They did the playtesting (that I wrote about in the previous post) for you, you can just utilize it.

You might be thinking that I'm freaking out over nothing. I don't think so because these are the exact differences between a quick or boring tutorial, between a player that skips the tutorial or a player that actually does the tutorial. You should use the same mindset while reworking the ingame wiki/pop-up messages too. Show just the important, cut everything else out. Keep it as intuitive as possible.
For example the 'Configure Economy' menu: so if it's tied to a graph of flags, it can't be in the bottom menu (like I proposed before) sinse there are global settings. So I suggest moving this menu to HQ/warehouses/ports. I understand your perspective but for new players I think it is more natural to set target quantities where they will be stored. Imagine it reallife: it makes more sense to talk about quantities that you want inside a warehouse while being inside it, not on a random road.

It turned out that most of my proposals have already been proposed but haven't been implemented. So that leads me to an assumption (which might be wrong) that you don't consider newbie-friendliness important. I can imagine that you have dozens of ideas/features to implement while being a small team of unpaid devs but I urge you to focus on new players. Every game that loses contact with new players will eventually get a toxic community of old veterans with no new players coming. I know you have not gotten that far at all but I have seen games die out like this (you can certainly think of some too) and usually it's too late before the developers realize this. It's a path of slow painful death. Also some of the new players might actually become developers one day, that's another reason to focus of new players' needs.

Sorry if I was too personal at the end here. Feel free to ignore all what I wrote.

P.S. This is probably the last post I write here. I've said all I had to say, it's up to you now.
Edited: 2020-10-15, 01:38

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GunChleoc
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Posted at: 2020-10-15, 08:18

Actually, a lot of what you wrote has been on my personal wish list for years. It just takes time. For example take this branch which is a prerequisite for hyperlinking the help pages. I got it almost working, but we were extremely short-handed on code reviews at the time, and somebody implemented copy/paste in the meantime, so I have to rework it again.

I have created an issue with your suggestions so they won't get lost: https://github.com/widelands/widelands/issues/4365

You are welcome to help implement those if you want - the tutorials are written in Lua, which is a lot easier to lean than C++.


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kaputtnik
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Posted at: 2020-10-15, 09:43
*ZADNE wrote:*

hessenfarmer
I can't understand why people always put "the game is hard to learn" and "I skipped the tutorials" in the same sentence

Because that's just how it is.


I agree.

Now I will be very specific and comment messages of the basic tutorial while comparing them with basic tutorial of S2. Striked text means that I would remove it. Check these in order now: this, this, this, this and this. I could be going on and on but I think you get it. Consider buying (downloading) S2:10thA and play their tutorial next Widelands'. You will see what I mean. They did the playtesting (that I wrote about in the previous post) for you, you can just utilize it.


Just a few days ago i've played some of the widelands tutorials again and my thoughts about them are exactly the same than yours. They are a boring and sometimes also illogical. Maybe we can move the tutorials to the campaigns section and do a big rework of them?

Anyway i feel comparing an open source game with a commercial game is a bit unfair. Every dev do his best to make the game better, but it's a big difference if a dev has an income form his work or do his work in his sparetime.

For example the 'Configure Economy' menu: so if it's tied to a graph of flags, it can't be in the bottom menu (like I proposed before) sinse there are global settings. So I suggest moving this menu to HQ/warehouses/ports. I understand your perspective but for new players I think it is more natural to set target quantities where they will be stored. Imagine it reallife: it makes more sense to talk about quantities that you want inside a warehouse while being inside it, not on a random road.


This was discussed several times in the past, but unfortunately without any consensus :-(

It turned out that most of my proposals have already been proposed but haven't been implemented. So that leads me to an assumption (which might be wrong) that you don't consider newbie-friendliness important. I can imagine that you have dozens of ideas/features to implement while being a small team of unpaid devs but I urge you to focus on new players. Every game that loses contact with new players will eventually get a toxic community of old veterans with no new players coming. I know you have not gotten that far at all but I have seen games die out like this (you can certainly think of some too) and usually it's too late before the developers realize this. It's a path of slow painful death. Also some of the new players might actually become developers one day, that's another reason to focus of new players' needs.


Well, the problem is, as you stated, unpaid devs. And i would add 'unguided' devs. Since this can be misunderstoud i want to explain it some more: Behind a commercial game there is a big plan, a guide when and how things will be implemented. And there is also a timetable when specific things should be ready. You have also hundrets of people working on a commercial project. This all does not apply to all(!) opensource projects: As a rule there are not many devs, there is no timetable, there is no big plan, no guide (so 'unguided'). All an opensource project has are a few active devs who do their work as best they can, and this is done freely. Sometime new devs come to a project, sometimes devs will go.

I would also love to have some sort of release focusing, where all the few devs concentrate to make a specific thing better, e.g. the help system, or some sort if ingame tutorial. But unfortuately this wouldn't work in an open source project, because the motivation to work on something is done by interest. So if a dev has no interest to work on feature xy, he will likely don't have the motivation to work on it. This is my personal observation as i am using open source software for years and trying to help the devs here and there.
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hessenfarmer
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Posted at: 2020-10-15, 09:59

ZADNE wrote:

Before I start: [quote="Nordfriese"]May I ask which version you are using – I assume build21[/quote] Yes build21. And also I wasn't clear that evertime I was reffering to S2, I was actually reffering to the 10th Anniversary version of it (I've never played the old S2). From the gameplay side, they're nearly identical but some bugs were fixed in the 10A version, e. g. the invincible fields - you were right about the 10 minutes delay but it feels long, in S2 it is 5 minutes and that already feels long - but this isn't important at all.

Just out of curiosity I don't get the part about the delay, please explain.

Now I will try to clarify [b]the important message I was trying tell you:[/b]

[quote="hessenfarmer"]I can't understand why people always put "the game is hard to learn" and "I skipped the tutorials" in the same sentence[/quote] Because that's just how it is. Tutorials are old school way of teaching new players. [b]Nowadays people just want to straight play.[/b]

Well, part of the problem might be that Widelands itself is kind of an old school game. face-wink.png Maybe you overread the smiley in my cited sentence as well. I just wanted to express that I don't see any other way of explaining a a game rather then in manuals which nobody wants to read or in tutorials. Both can be improved for sure as nobody is claimiung they are perfect.

So instead of going through a rigid tutorial "do this and click on that", the player starts the first level of the game and [b]only if he gets stuck, he gets a hint[/b] about what to do next. [b]When he gets stuck, a [u]short[/u] message with an [u]arrow[/u] pops-up[/b] to tell them what to do. There shouldn't be any long paragraphs. [b]If he doesn't get stuck[/b] and does what he's expected to do, [b]he isn't bothered with any messages at all.[/b] So if a veteran starts playing the game from the beginning, he quickly slices through the first easy levels. The [b]first levels[/b] of a game [b]should teach[/b] the player [b]while being as interesting as the actual game[/b]. He shouldn't be choosing between a boring tutorial or getting lost in the actual game. [b]Tutorial and actual game have to blend together.[/b] Another way of explaining this is that [b]the player should be rather overwatched by a guide[/b] that steps in only when required than to being told what to do.

Well, I would fully agree with that if widelands would know a concept of levels. As we don't have such concept but leave the player with the full options from the beginning there simply isn't a right way to do everything but there are multiple ways of doing things. So it would be very hard to overwatch if the player is doing good or wrong.

[b]In the context of Widelands it would mean[/b] that what you teach in the basic tutorial would be in the first barbarian mission. If you want to keep these separated, you can but there is still a lot improve in the tutorials to make them less boring and more straight forward.

Agreed about the part of room for improvement in the tutorials.
For the part of having them separated (they once were combined), the argument was, that a player with some experience in similar games might want to skip the tutorial to just start the camapign and doesn't want to be bothered with the basics of the game. Funny isn't it.

[b]Now I will be very specific[/b] and comment messages of the basic tutorial while comparing them with basic tutorial of S2. Striked text means that I would remove it. [b]Check these[/b] in order now: [url=https://i.ibb.co/YTncB8w/1.png]this[/url], [url=https://i.ibb.co/5x8Fr7k/2.png]this[/url], [url=https://i.ibb.co/DDgsnwG/3.png]this[/url], [url=https://i.ibb.co/b25R4jG/4.png]this[/url] and [url=https://i.ibb.co/vQgfgmh/5.png]this[/url]. I could be going on and on but I think you get it.

Yes please go on and do that for everything, you would change. Cause this would then have the highest chance of getting implemented as a quick guide which might accompany (or replace) the current tutorials. And this is not a matter of ingorance rather it is a just a matter of ressources.

[b]Consider buying[/b] ([s]downloading[/s]) [b]S2:10thA and play their tutorial next Widelands'. You will see what I mean.[/b] They did the playtesting (that I wrote about in the previous post) for you, you can just utilize it.

As part of the motivation (at least for me) to contribute toi Widelands is to keep it open and free and non-commercial I surely won't buy any other game to copy things from there. Personally I am not a friend of comparison to other games as reason for changes in widelands.

You might be thinking that I'm freaking out over nothing. I don't think so because [b]these are the exact differences between a quick or boring tutorial, between a player that skips the tutorial or a player that actually does the tutorial[/b]. You should use the same mindset while reworking the ingame wiki/pop-up messages too. [b]Show just the important, cut everything else out.[/b] Keep it as intuitive as possible.

I believe the problem here is to decide what is important. This is very subjective and we had a lot of discussions about it in the past. There are always other voices who ask for more detail in the in game encyclopedia to explain all the details. Intuition is different from playaer to player as well. So for you with your S2 experince something might seem intuitive which isn't for a complete beginner. So detailed and well argumented change proposals woulkd be best to improve this.

For example the 'Configure Economy' menu: so if it's tied to a graph of flags, it can't be in the bottom menu (like I proposed before) sinse there are global settings. So I suggest moving this menu to HQ/warehouses/ports. I understand your perspective but for new players I think it is more natural to set target quantities where they will be stored. Imagine it reallife: it makes more sense to talk about quantities that you want inside a warehouse while being inside it, not on a random road.

This is a two sided medal as well. Personally I do like to possibilty to access this from everywhere in my economy without the need to first go to my HQ or to a specific warehouse. Furthermore in the Warehouse you have different settings and the UI could be overloaded and become unintuitive for the rest. I think this has been discussed often here in the forums and there are pros and cons. So we decided in the past to keep it like it is.

It turned out that most of my proposals have already been proposed but haven't been implemented. So that leads me to an assumption (which might be wrong) that [b]you don't consider newbie-friendliness important[/b].

This is definitly wrong.

I can imagine that you have dozens of ideas/features to implement while being a small team of unpaid devs but [u][b]I urge you to focus on new players[/u]. Every game that loses contact with new players will eventually get a toxic community of old veterans with no new players coming.[/b] I know you have not gotten that far at all but I have seen games die out like this (you can certainly think of some too) and usually it's too late before the developers realize this. It's a path of slow painful death. Also some of the new players might actually become developers one day, that's another reason to focus of new players' needs.

I fully agree, however it is hard to determine these needs. Maybe we could start a poll but polls didn't have much participation in the past. So if you have any ideas how to determine this in a less subjective manner would be helpful.

Sorry if I was too personal at the end here. Feel free to ignore all what I wrote.

P.S. This is probably the last post I write here. I've said all I had to say, it's up to you now.

That would be a pity, cause we can only improve the game with active participation and contribution. And sharing thoughts and opinions here in the forums is one possibility to contribute.


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GunChleoc
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Posted at: 2020-10-16, 20:45

hessenfarmer wrote:

Well, I would fully agree with that if widelands would know a concept of levels. As we don't have such concept but leave the player with the full options from the beginning there simply isn't a right way to do everything but there are multiple ways of doing things. So it would be very hard to overwatch if the player is doing good or wrong.

I have an idea on how to solve this problem and I have created a branch with a concept https://github.com/widelands/widelands/pull/4369

Disregard the contents of the 3 objectives in it, they are just a quick copy/paste from Tutorial 1 to have something to test the code with.


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the-x
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Posted at: 2020-10-17, 15:17

ZADNE wrote:

[b]To summarize this[/b] whole review and point out the most important:[list] [] [u][b]Focus on new players[/b][/u] - Try to do same playtesting - Something as simple as watching a friend playing Widelands for the first time will do just fine. Or at least try to think more in the perspective of a new player. [] [u][b]Finish, polish, balance[/b][/u] - Instead of spawning another tribe, work on those that you already have. Some of the current tribes barely have a campaign or all their buildings look very similar. The building upgrades, worker XP... [/list]

This has been the longest review and forum post I have ever written. I am looking forward to discussion with you face-grin.png

I have spend not only hours but days redisigning the Trainingssites for exactly this purpose as well as the gameplay you will be confronted with in the beginning. Though this Lobby is dead and except Nordfriede, the-x, niektory and hessenfarmer nobody is really seriously working on these two topics you have listed above.

Here you can find the version for all 4 tribes: https://fil.email/6cir8mcW

Here i have tried an explaining video focussing on players that play the game the first time in multiplayer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xJNoAm3WdHM - this contains a lot of Ideas, development of widelands to make this game polished balanced and beginnerfriendly.


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hessenfarmer
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Posted at: 2020-10-17, 15:51

the-x wrote: Though this Lobby is dead

No clue how you come to this conclusion.

and except Nordfriede, the-x, niektory and hessenfarmer nobody is really seriously working on these two topics you have listed above.

This is simply not true. There are some more developers working on the topics the original Thread Starter talked about. Just to remember his main critics were about the wiki and the tutorials. And I don't see what the-x had contributed to the wiki or to the tutorials.
It is just bad discusion style to pretend untrue things to promote his own case.


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GunChleoc
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Posted at: 2020-10-19, 18:13

The OP has inspired me to do some coding so that we can do map and tribe-independent teaching. Doing this became possible due to some engine improvements I wrote this year with the aim of eventually making the AI code more flexible.

https://github.com/widelands/widelands/pull/4369

Screenshots (with 2 steps in the same message because the roadbuilding mode interferes in the scripting). Both the lumberjack's and the headquarters' building types were autodetected face-smile.png

Training wheels1

Training wheels2

The idea is to have small self-contained Lua scripts and a global config file to record the process. Advanced players can also switch this feature off.


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Nordfriese
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Posted at: 2020-10-19, 18:30

Very good face-smile.png

I'd suggest keeping the hints even more basic though, telling the player to hold down Ctrl is perhaps too much to start with


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