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New player experience in 0.5.3

I recently watched someone play Tic-tac-toe collection for the first time and noticed some issues with the new player experience. When the app loaded they immediately pressed the “Play Now” button on the Rumble announcement (without reading anything). Next they tried to tap somewhere to play, despite the fact that the instruction overlay was visible and it was the AI’s turn. Then they made a line and were confused about why the game continued. After working things out and completing the game, they wanted to see their results (since they weren’t first and this was a multiplayer game) but didn’t immediately work out how.

This is all a little disheartening, but not surprising. It goes to show the importance of user testing. Version 0.5.3 (which is currently in beta) includes fixes for some of these issues.

There is still more to do. I think having the first thing the player does is play a game on an large grid, with many players and that doesn’t end when someone gets a line is not ideal. On the other hand I do want to push the fact that the app does far more than just simple Tic-tac-toe.

A 1×1 grid

One of my goals with Tic-tac-toe Collection is to provide the user with lots of options. Some examples are board configurations and rules. A big problem with this is that most combinations don’t result in fun games.

Although I want these options to be available, I don’t want people choosing these settings by default since they will have rather pointless games. Some are obvious: a 1×1 grid for instance is pretty silly. There are some you might not realise immediately but make sense when you think about it, like more than two players on a 3×3 grid is unlikely to ever have a winner.

After that, it gets hazy. For instance when playing with two players and misère enabled (creating a line loses) on a board with an even width and height, the player going second can trivially force a win. For people who want to play seriously, this is bad. But for a casual player this is probably not a problem. How to force the win isn’t that obvious, and it’s at least as interesting as standard Tic-tac-toe.

Most of the games are probably a force win for one of the players. But that doesn’t mean the game should be disregarded. After all, 19×19 Gomoku is unlikely to ever be “solved” even though that too is probably a force win.

My solution is to try and highlight settings options that are popular (Standard Tic-tac-toe for example) or interesting (Rumble 6×6). For the moment that works, but over time as the number of good options increases, I’ll have to come up with something better…