May 29, 2019

Imagine the start of the Harry Potter movie being a scene in which you have Harry (spoilers ahead!) battling Voldemort in an epic battle outside Hogwarts. It would probably leave you with a lot of questions and an evident lack of contextual knowledge to fully appreciate what’s going on. The odds are high on what you could possibly do next: stop watching and even maybe write a bad review on this unfortunate experience.

It’s the same thing with a video game in which a player would be dropped into a full experience without any knowledge or context. It’s likely that the player wouldn’t stand there very long trying to figure out what to do. Furthermore, the tremendous selection of available games would probably make the playing session even shorter if it’s too difficult to understand the game. That’s why it’s primordial to have an onboarding experience for your game. But what makes a great first-time user experience (FTUE)? Let us walk you through it.


This timing is the cornerstone of the user’s experience. In the first 10 minutes of gameplay, we want to: grab the player’s attention and elevate the expectations, teach him or her the “How to Play” and most importantly create enough hype, excitement, and understanding of the game so that they want to come back. As said previously, there are so many games available in the market, either mobile games or pc/console games. The first 10 minutes must be planned wisely so that the player doesn’t jump immediately to another game.

But let’s be clear: Nobody will install your game with the intention of going through your totally fun onboarding, but…great FTUE will potentially result in players continuing to play it after their first use and… that’s the goal.


Onboarding must be planned on three levels. Those must be defined early in the gaming development process. Defining it early facilitates the integration into the big picture of your game and it also ensures you’re not forgetting it. That would lead to a rushed and ineffective first-time experience or even worse no FTUE at all.


    Little Lords of Twilight (BKOM Studios) – Narrative & Visual Hooks

    The purpose of the hook is to get the player excited enough about the game to get through the second phase: the tutorial. Different hook types can be planned and introduced into an onboarding:

    • Mechanical: the mechanics of the game create moments that players crave, but be sure that the player lives while using these mechanics for the first time.
    • Narrative: the story and the lore of the game create wonderment and burst the interest to learn more about it.
    • Visual: the visual environment and the characters created for the game are pristine, incredibly attractive and stand out compared to what is available on the market.

    Charm King (PlayQ Inc.) – Tutorial

    Hardcore players will tell you that they don’t want/need a tutorial…but unfortunately, they will likely let go of your game if they don’t quickly understand how it’s played. So, the first step is to know your players. What kind of player do you want for your game knowing that not only these players will eventually play it? And remember, you’re not your players.

    What’s important is that through the tutorial, the player must not learn every aspect of the game but instead learn everything that will be needed in their first hour of play. The tutorial must be fun and integrated with the context of the game. Players understand better when they play the game instead of going through multiple slides of tutorial content.


    Clash Royale (Supercell) – Reward after training match

    Rewarding the player makes them feel good and excited about what’s to come. A small win is a positive outcome which is a springboard for future efforts. So, planning immediate and long-term rewards is primordial to a perfect onboarding experience.

What needs to be remembered is that FTUE must be planned upstream instead of an after-thought. The later often results in a poor tutorial damaging the overall experience. Crafting a good onboarding experience is the first step in making sure your users fall in love with your game.

Our team of experts, here at BKOM Studios, always follow these rules while planning first-time user experience for our games and our clients’ games. Be sure that working with us is working with the best tool set of expertise put into action for the benefit of the first-time experience of your players.


The new player experience – Hooks, Tutorials, Rewards (YouTube) – Extra Credits

Tutorials that don’t talk down to you – Context Sensitive Design (YouTube) – Extra Credits

8 best practices when designing mobile app onboarding flow – Queble Technologies

User onboarding: 9 steps to perfecting your onboarding process – Jory MacKay (Planio Blog)

User onboarding best practices – Ty Magnin (Appcues Blog)

How video games improve your interaction design – Zack Rutherford (TNW)

Portal2 taught me everything I know about onboarding – Matt Hackett

3 fundamental user onboarding lessons from classic Nintendo games – Jackson Noel (Appcues Blog)

Steve Perron