By the time you read this, you will be only a couple of days away from being able to play Evil Genius Online (unless you’re a beta tester of course – you’re busy causing all sorts of nefarious activity already). Quite an exciting time for us on the EGO team and we’re looking forward to opening your Lair doors.
On the topic of new folks playing the game, it’s an ideal moment for me to chat briefly with you about First Time User Experience, or FTUE as it’s called by some. This is, without question, one of the –if not the – most important aspects when working on a game of this type. Let’s face it – there are a lot of games out there for people to play, and a lot of them free. Without an engaging or interesting first time experience, players will play your game for a few minutes and move on. Immediately showing them what your game is all about, why it will be so much fun and why they should stick around is absolutely key.
So, as much as the art lovers amongst the team would love to start you off with a glorious 10-minute cut scene elegantly introducing you to the subtleties of a complex plot, in reality what we want to do is get you involved in something fun as soon as possible. In our case, this meant having the player execute dangerous enemy spies who are trying to recover items they left behind when their agency abandoned your new Lair. From there your assistant Penny Foxworth gets you straight on the road to taking over the world (and squeezing each and every drop out of your hapless minions) by suggesting you investigate the leftover safes and suitcases lying around, and that perhaps a bit of money laundering might improve your funding somewhat. We want you to feel like an Evil Genius right off the bat.
Developing a great FTUE is not the work of a moment, however, and is a process of constant evolution. We’re not ashamed to admit that EGO originally started a little differently to what we’ve not settled on, and it was through a process of testing, discussion and some pretty long meetings that we improved it to what you will be playing. Entire desks were taken up by mission unlocking charts, concepts for characters were painted and repainted and the manner in which those characters spoke was written, discussed and re-written a few times too. Something that also helped a great deal was including the whole team in the thinking process; you don’t need to be a designer to have a light bulb moment after all!
At the same time, it’s also important to make sure the player understands the character of Penny quickly, as she will be a big part of their journey from an abandoned government silo to a jam-packed Lair full of incredibly evil technology and beyond that towards total world domination. It’s equally important for the player to know quickly that whilst Penny will keep them updated with tasks and evil opportunities, the person pulling the strings is the person clicking the mouse. The layout of a player’s Lair can be a very personal thing and we’re pleased to have seen a good deal of variety from our beta testers in set up and how they go about tackling the various challenges they are tasked with in this initial stage. So, perhaps think of Penny as an evil in-car navigation system; follow her word to the letter and you’ll get exactly where you want, but if you feel like taking a detour or another route to take in the scenery then you’re more than welcome!
On that note, I’ll bid you farewell for another week. The team are currently busily working on some great little tweaks and touches to make the game even more enjoyable for everyone, and I must get back to helping out. No rest for the wicked (or evil)!