Client: Insomniac Games
Project: Ratchet & Clank (PS4)
The camera tutorial ensures the player is 1) Made aware of the camera controls and 2) Allows them to change the controls (invert, etc) if they wish before they start their adventure. If you've ever played with controls that felt backwards and how frustrating that is then you know how important a camera tutorial can be.
If a game has a strong narrative, like Ratchet & Clank (R&C), then one should try and weave the camera tutorial into a part of the narrative to make it feel less forced which ultimately provides for a better player experience. In the case of R&C there is a feature length movie that was coming out around the same time as the game. The game and the movie will share narrative elements and it's important that players who watch the movie and play the game experience this connection. If someone only plays the game it still works, they just won't get the extra elements.
I knew the player would start the game in the garage and after watching some early cuts of the movie I knew Ratchet would wreck Mr. Micron's ship at the movie's start. Using Mr. Micron's ship for the camera tutorial therefor felt appropriate as a narrative tie in for the camera tutorial.
In general, the problem with camera tutorial's and tutorial's in general is that player's simply don't like to be interrupted and told what to do. The camera is an integral part of Ratchet & Clank though and thus a tutorial needs to be forced upon the player at the start in the least annoying way possible.
The player base for Ratchet & Clank is very diverse in regards to age range, gaming experience and gender. Below are a tiny sample of the types of players you will find playing Ratchet & Clank.
While brainstorming different ideas for the camera tutorial it was discovered that we would need to incorporate a boltcrank in order to freeze the player in place to allow them to focus on the camera tutorial. I did something similar in Ratchet & Clank Into The Nexus, when the gravity turns off the player floats upwards and is unable to move around which allows them to focus on the camera tutorial.
Bolt Crank Setup
In the R&C scenario the player gets control of their character after watching a cutscene in which they are told by Grim, the mechanic, to get on a Bolt Crank. This task serves a couple purposes. It introduces the player to the move controls and also (possibly) to camera controls should the player use the right thumbstick.
Since the Bolt Crank is placed in front of the player they simply need to run over and activate it. The player is also taught that the Bolt Crank is an important mechanic which causes important things happen. In this case it lowers the ship's wing into place for the camera tutorial. It also allowed me to freeze the player in place, which isn't ideal, but necessary in this scenario to force the player to only focus on the camera tutorial since players have a tendency to wonder off.
When the player lowers the ship into place the camera tutorial begins.
We were happy with the camera tutorial in Ratchet & Clank Into the Nexus so I used this as a base for the camera tutorial in the Ratchet & Clank remake so that took care of the setup. While watching early releases of the motion picture of Ratchet & Clank I was inspired by the start of the movie where Ratchet wrecks a customers ship and decided to incorporate this aspect into the game to provide a nice narrative element should players watch the movie and play the game.
Camera Tutorial Design
I did a quick initial sketch to get a sense of where the lights will be placed on the ship and the order in which the player will look at them.
Next I took my sketch into Photoshop and did a quick motion study to test what the timing of the blinking and switching of the lights might be.
During the prototyping phase I conducted playtests with team members and stake holders (Leads, Creative Directors, etc.) to get valuable feedback and make adjustments to light placement, light and audio timing, etc.
The final version behaves much like the sketched ideas. In the final version though the lights turn off after they turn green to remove them from the player's attention so they only need to focus on the next light.
VIDEO OF FINAL PRODUCT
Below is video footage from a Let's Play video on YouTube that shows the player, Blitzkriegsler, playing through the camera training tutorial.