"Help" or "Instructions"
I'd like a mini poll on this simple one. If you have a Help/Instructions page and you have a button to show it on the main menu (and on the in-game menu), should the button say "Help" or "Instructions"? I personally favour "Instructions".
Does anyone not put an instructions button on the main menu, preferring to hide it away in options or something?
Also is the current standard to show the instructions page when the player starts/resumes a game and to have a checkbox for "Show instructions at start" that they can untick. OR perhaps it should only show once for that profile then automatically switch off for that profile only?
Thanks in advance for your input.
Make instructions as accessible as possible. Showing at the start of a new game is probably a good way, and it's useful to keep them short and sweet, as nobody wants to spend several minutes studying what's going on before they can get to play =)
I've sometimes used help screens as something to show while loading (very handy if your load times are over a couple of seconds =)
thanks, yeah the instructions all fit on one page and don't have many words. Showing whilst loading is a good idea, but for now the loading times are under control.
You may also put a Hints on/off option in the main menu and show in-game help while it's activated.
Yeah I'd put that on the options page + have a little checkbox onthe hints to say "Show Hints" that can be unticked. This would only apply to the current profile of course. Also the hints will be coded to each only show once for the current profile, so unticking "Show Hints" will hide future ones. If the user switches hints back on, I wonder if it should only enable ones they haven't seen yet or if it should "reset" all hints including the ones they aready seen?...
Originally Posted by JoKa
I like 'Help'.
Originally Posted by Grey Alien
I think it is better to keep the main menu short & reduce the number of buttons on it. In my previous games I had a help button in the main menu. Too many buttons create some problems in positioning them, and could uglify the menu. It is not a problem always (or with clever design), of course. In my latest game, the help is tucked away in 'Options' button.
In my next game, I plan to have just 3 buttons: 'Play', 'Options', and 'Exit'.
You can go either way with the help page, as long as the users can access help from somewhere else (like the options menu) when they want to, It doesn't really matter. I went the latter way with my latest game.
Last edited by Pallav Nawani; 10-27-2006 at 08:32 PM.
Reason: some additions
interesting so you went the exact opposite of what I'm planning, maybe it doesn't make that much difference as long you do actually have a helo/instructions page...
"How to Play" is the most common configuration I've seen.
ahah a new possible options! I'm sure you've done an exhaustive survey...thanks.
I think you should just have a "?" icon and no words. And then have this help screen be page specific. The "?" icon is pretty convenient for localization.
yeah that's the thing. Help sounds more like Windows Help or an applicatio help where you expect it to be page specific when in fact, in my case (and in the case of most games) it's really a "How to Play" page that is the same no matter where you access it from.
So ? is pretty universal then except for languages with unusual scripts I guess...but then those languages must be fairly hard to localise? Especially if they are written vertically!
Strange... not long ago everyone here told me that no one reads the instructions or help. Ironic isn't it?
If I'm not mistaken, everyone said nobody would read it to learn the game. However, it's handy for reference and no program should be without documentation.
To me, instructions are what you read before you start playing and help is what you read once you get stuck, or for reference. So I like to use 'instructions' on the main menu, and 'help' for context sesitive in-game tips or things like details on using a level editor.
yeah I think a lot of people just play and then when they can't figure something out refer to the instructions. But if the instructions aren't very detailed and they didn't pay attention to the pop up hints earlier in the game, they could be stuffed.
"Tutorial" or "?" might also be good alternatives.
Amanda Fitch | Game Designer | Facebook | Amaranth Games, LLC
Our Games: Aveyond, A Gypsy's Tale, Grimm's Hatchery, Yummy Drink Factory
We always tried to avoid 'tutorial', because we found everyone avoids anything with that moniker like the plague!
'?' is a good suggestion - I could see that working well and getting the right message across.
We always use "Help" since it's a short word. And it translates very well in many languages with short words too.
I like the "?" icon idea, it could even be accessible everywhere in the game and the instructions screen could also come up with a keystroke like F1. Showing the instructions screen in the middle of a level would act like pause.
I also think "Help" is easier to understand for non-english speakers. Of course, "Instructions" is also a very common word and most people should get the meaning, but I think "Help" is understood by everybody.
But I also like the "How to Play" idea.
However, for our next game, I think we will make the first level a tutorial. So we won't need extra-Instructions inside our game because every object will be explained.
Also we might display some keys directly on screen, e.g. if you have three characters which you can always switch (imagine Maniac Mansion), it's a good idea to have their three faces displayed (you'll need that for status things anyway) and a small "F1", "F2" and "F3" beneath each (graphically designed as actual keys of your keyboard). So there's really no need to explain that separately anywhere (except for a external help file or help manual, of course).
EDIT: Another option is to do it arcade style. We did that in our game Gloomy Nights (www.gloomy-nights.de), if you leave the title screen a few seconds, the instructions will be shown automatically, using several screens.
But of course, it might be simply get overlooked. We were aware of this, though, because instructions in that game aren't really important. In that case, the "arcady instruction style" was more important to us (well but actually, we displayed the message "press any key to start - or wait for instructions" on our title screen, so that helps a little).
Last edited by ZeHa; 11-21-2006 at 08:45 AM.
Reason: an important adding of an alternative idea ;)