Level One: The Intro Stage

Am I so out of touch?

No, it’s the children who are wrong.

How would I apply the advice in this blog post to piloting a 747? Like so:

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“What are some popular complex business and task oriented apps that really do intro stages well?”

Trello does it pretty well…

For vi the intro stage is figuring out how to quit the program! But there’s also http://vim-adventures.com/
I agree with your point and analogy generally, but would say that docs still have a role. They’re like an “in-app purchase” after you’ve already been hooked by the intro stage and want to go beyond the basics. I think Kathy Sierra made similar points in her blog years ago. You need to give the user a serotonin/dopamine rush early on by making them feel like they kick ass.

Thank you for sharing this! I wish more people got it.

Also, not only are intro levels the new manuals, they’re also spread throughout the entire game – learning happens anytime there’s a gap between the player’s current proficiency and their potential.

/me sheepily raises hand.

…I do. I am the one guy in the whole world who reads the manual, yes the game manual, cover to cover before I do so much as insert the optical disk in the reader. Just last week I did when I bought Phantom Hourglass or WarCraft: Orc and Humans (though admittedly in these cases there is a game history aspect to it). My favorite was in the Rayman 3 manual when it starts getting familiar with the reader and mentions tips that it explicitly mentions are not given by the in-game trainer (“You will not have read this manual for nothing”). In fact, I was disappointed when I bought Ocarina of Time on the Virtual Console or Chrono Trigger on iPhone and there was no manual.

On another note, the foul language in the video (which I discovered in a comment of yours to http://blog.stackoverflow.com/2013/01/about-page-2-0-the-quickstartening/ , thank you very much for it) is too bad, because I think it ought to be taught in schools. In elementary school even.

Jeff, I imagine you could make the same argument for developer tools, frameworks, programming languages, etc. Yet I can’t help notice how much the documentation for some of those things has improved in the last few years. There are similar “intro stages” of various forms and plenty of interactive tutorials, but there are some useful things that I would probably never find without reading the documentation. I actually think there are some cases where you can get a lot more out of a couple hours of reading than you can by watching a Pluralsight course or just hacking away on your own. But everyone’s different, of course.

Trello is an app that does just one thing very well. So keeping an app focused on one task is a way to avoid requiring a manual and training. That seems like a different thing to an intro level though. That’s putting effort into what not to add and probably even removing new features because the “complexity cost” wasn’t worth it. (In fact surprising since that’s where they could monetise it, like a Dev specific version on top with story points etc) And how to measure the gut feel of complexity cost against sales & marketing demanding X features? Requires a hero product owner, and when they depart you get massive phones and computer jewellery.

Slack is more obvious in its intro mode, proactively encouraging you to turn down notifications once it gets noisy. But the bigger factor is less is more.

Think I get it now though. Intro Stage idea is keeping the app easy to get started and use. Boss Stage is making sure it works when they depend on it. :smile:

Other than pleasing your collector’s spirit, did you ever get anything good by reading the manual - considering the time cost? Story sharing time!

You might be interested in Alistair Cockburn’s earlier take: http://alistair.cockburn.us/Software+development+as+a+cooperative+game

I found for vi the best way to learn the basic controls is to play NetHack.

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So basically all newbie pilots should start off with a Wright Flyer simulation and work their way up to a 747?

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It is so interesting how game developers are all learning from each other when it comes to tutorials. I totally agree with the video when people over explain how to do something and how it gets annoying. I think that the future of things that involve technology will be bright with the “intro stage” method of teaching rather than boring the user by explaining in great detail.

I don’t think of it in terms of utility per time cost, especially given we’re talking about game manuals here. Sure, in some cases I got something out of it, but I read them simply as they are part of the package, and not just in the physical sense.

I remember this once, when I was a kid, I began reading the manual for Super NES’s SimCity, after I couldn’t figure out how to make my city into a megalopolis (the ultimate stage, with over 500k people).

It did help a lot when I tried to copy this picture of a megalopole, starting with the map which contained just a river:

I remember I found the map number (1 by 1 out of 1k possibilities, number 67 come to mind, but that wasn’t it) and finally managed to do it, after playing for 48 hours, counting the sleep time and leaving the console ON so the years would keep bringing income.

Granted, reading it didn’t help a bit! :stuck_out_tongue:

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How would you define play (as opposed to gaming)? My initial attempt at a generic definition of “gaming” would be “play in the context of a structured rule set,” which is, I think, exactly what Jeff is talking about here; after all, what is software but a structured rule set?

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Probably something seems to be lost or forgotten. That back then, when they delivered games in nice boxes with printed manuals. Those manuals were not just something done out of necessity but because it was a great opportunity to let gamers slide into the game.

Manuals were not only to explain where to click or which button to press. They were books and you read them even if you were not near you computer. They had images and art inside and some of them were telling a story. Or they were expanding the story you were playing.

I would say … Gamers were reading the manuals (books). And a reason why they are not doing it any longer, might be that they became boring and only concerning about clicks and key press.

I know I am in the minority, but I often read game manuals before playing. There are tricks that do not come easily through experimentation that are useful or even necessary to know to progress rather than struggle without a solution through that point. The games of today replace the manual of the past into the first level or a have a tutorial.

I don’t know Jeff, I think the point system has actually become a problem with Stack Overflow and comment sections in general. The last few times I’ve used SO to post questions and to answer other questions, the responses have been almost bully style remarks. So much so, that I’ve removed the answer to one question and removed another question altogether. It’s unfortunate, too, because I completely agree with the principals of SO and SE in general, but the use of ridicule/abuse of “I have more points than you” is chasing users away.

LIKE THIS step 5 should be a sad face in my opinion. :wink: