Helping Players Discover What RoboCo Can Do

Helping Players Discover What RoboCo Can Do

Like any powerful tool, RoboCo has a lot of different actions that a user could take when editing a robot. This makes it challenging for the user to discover all the actions that are possible, and to remember all those actions once they’ve first discovered them. As developers, we want to make that as easy as we can.

Here’s a few different strategies we use throughout RoboCo to make actions more discoverable and easier to remember. For this blog, we’re going to focus more on what we’re doing on the desktop side. On the VR side, our next round of discoverability improvements is coming in the future, so we may write about the VR equivalents to these at a later date.

Introductory Tutorial

Goal: Help players discover the basics of how to play

We want players to get to the fun part of RoboCo – designing robots to solve challenges – as quickly as possible, which is why we’ve started our campaign with the Sandwich Server challenge. The first time you start this challenge, you’ll be greeted with our introductory tutorial that gets you moving the camera, attaching parts, and driving a basic robot around. We tried to keep this tutorial short and snappy. The better a job we are doing of distributing information throughout the game, the less front-loaded this tutorial will need to be.

Following Conventions

Goal: Help players discover by experimentation

When using new software, you might try a command even before you know if it will work, like Ctrl + Z to undo. When you do this, it’s because many pieces of software that you tried in the past followed the same convention, until you began to expect it as a user.

While developing actions in RoboCo, we consider if there’s an existing convention for the action we have in mind: a keyboard shortcut, an icon, a gesture such as box select. If there is, we try to follow it. At times this gets tricky because every piece of software is a little different and needs to be internally consistent, not just match the conventions of other similar software. But most of the time, following conventions steers us in a good direction.

Conventions aren’t so universal that they can eliminate the need to teach, though. If we take a random software tool and match it to a random user, it’s very likely there will be at least a few actions that the user didn’t know were supported, or that were assigned to a different command than the user expected based on other software they had used. So we also employ our other strategies.

HUD Tips (NEW!)

Goal: Help players discover common shortcuts and gesture-based actions

RoboCo has context-sensitive tips that appear on the HUD to make you aware of the most immediately relevant shortcuts and gesture-based actions, like holding Ctrl and dragging a part with the left mouse button to detach it. You’ll see a different set of tips in the HUD depending on what parts (if any) you currently have selected and what tool you are using (like the Joint tool vs. the Paint tool).

As with many such helper visuals, you can turn these HUD tips off if you don’t want to see them.

“Right-Click for More…” is always the last tip, to help you discover our next feature, the context menu.

Context Menu (NEW!)

Goal: Help players discover less-common but powerful actions

The context menu is a good way to discover less common actions (and their associated shortcuts) that could not all fit in the HUD tips. It also gives a way to carry out more actions with just the mouse.

For bonus points, it decreases the mouse cursor travel distance needed for certain actions like opening the Properties for a part. Humans value every little bit of efficiency!

Loading Screen Tips (NEW!)

Goal: Help players discover tips on how to play more effectively

We tend to use loading screen tips more for general gameplay advice rather than discoverability of controls, but it’s still a handy way to drip feed information to players at a time when you would otherwise be idle.

Help Panel

Goal: Help players become a power user or re-discover things they missed

One of our older features for teaching on desktop is our help panel, accessed from the ‘?’ button at the top of the screen. We assume many of you players will never open this, but if you do, we want it to contain useful information that might save you from replaying a tutorial, or that will help you become a power user who knows about every quality of life affordance that we made available.

And lastly…

RoboRepair Tutorials (NEW!)


Oh, what? What are these?

Just a tease for now. We’ll have a blog dedicated specifically to them in the future!

And that’s it for this week’s devblog! What HUD tips and tricks do you find most helpful? Make sure to let us know in the comments, online, or in our Discord! Next week, we’ll look at the new alignment guidelines our developers have recently implemented!

For the latest news on RoboCo, follow us on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Tik Tok! You can also connect with other community members and us by joining our official Discord and Reddit!

Don’t forget to add RoboCo to your Steam Wishlist!