So I became a victim (again) of the plethora of titles that Steam had on sale for the weekend. This time, around I purchased, what I have heard so much about – Deus Ex.
The first thing I noticed when I played Deus Ex for the first time was the graphics, it was a nostalgia trip back, to say the least, but as far as the tutorials go I was quite happy with the setup.
First off you are greeted with basic instructions and a simple task such as open the door. It is not just the simplicity of the instructions that make this tutorial well designed, but the actual level design. It is simplistic in terms of asset distribution, just enough to give you a sense of the environment, but not too much to cause a distraction and encourage exploration. This helps in maintaining your focus on your objective regardless of how simple or complex it may be.
As you progress further along the tutorial levels you encounter new items such as the crowbar, lock pick, various weapons and so on and so forth. As you get exposed to each of these items there is a small task in which you must utilise them to understand their functionality. With the crowbar it is smash a couple of boxes to uncover an item, an item of which you need to use in order to exit a particular testing area in order to progress onto the next one. Each task is designed and set up to lead the player down a directed path through a sequential chain of events.
Little anecdotes about previous users of the Hazmat suit, while you enter a room with potentially life threatening radioactive water, help to illustrate and identify the potential problems associated with environmental hazards later on in the main game; as well as allowing you to also locate the suit in question. (inconspicuously hidden off to the side)
All content within each tutorial level is only relevant to what is currently happening, there is no information that does not directly affect the situation at hand. As a result, there is a smooth transition from one testing area to the next without being overloaded with the diverse number of skills you need to acquire and master.
In transition between testing areas you are required to surrender your items and weapons from the previous testing area. It is so that there is “no cheating” and because “rules are rules”. Valid enough for the scenario, you continue on.
The learning process within these testing areas is further aided with the use of simple on screen dialogue boxes both when you are learning about an objective, item, to when you are identifying whether or not you need healing and what extent certain parts of your body have been damaged.
Feedback and reinforcement is direct and simple to the likes of “good work” when you do something right and thus ultimately allowing you to progress. However, when you get something wrong and you get scorned, you get told to try again and to be more observant.
Whilst I have not finished the tutorial levels as of posting this, what I have observed so far has been rewarding. In comparison to Civilization V there is a clear differentiation in aesthetics, however what I like most about Deus Ex is the simplistic level design, minimal hud components and each task within the tutorial testing areas is the sole focus and in turn the level design and aesthetics reflect this. With Civilization V, simplicity is harder to achieve with the levels so rich in information as well as being so expansive. Both of the games segmented approach to skill building is what I find the most useful when trying to understand each aspect of the skills required and gasping the game mechanics. Perhaps a distilled balance of these properties can be used when creating educational games.