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GWI and the New Player Experience


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Recently I went through Gateway Island as an alt account just to test and get an idea of exactly what it was and what it involved. This topic is just to compile the feedback I had as a returning player who did their best to perceive it from a new players point of view. Firstly I have to say that the island itself is good, and that the tutorial is hitting along a lot of the right tracks in terms of teaching the player to play, about puzzles and facets of the game. Where it stumbled is in the smoothness of the experience and the potential buy in.


One of the main things that new players encounter is the tool mechanics, though the tools have a much reduced cooldown to ensure that newbies don't spend all day collecting the required resources, however this emphasises the fact that the inventory menu doesn't refresh itself. While a refresh button is presented in the window it blends in with the text around it and is very easy to miss, and this is especially true on mobile devices. The first solution a player may find is simply refreshing the whole webpage, and not a good experience. If it is possible to make the countdown of time at least happen in real time, and the refresh button was made a slightly brighter orange, this would be remedied. Or better if the panel simply refreshed itself when hitting 0 seconds left, though I assume there are technical limitations with that?

AP Cost is an odd one here and has me somewhat confused. It seems that moving in the main handful of areas can be done even when on 0 AP, not sure whether this is a bug or intended. The other half of the areas however do require AP expenditure as per normal, except as you might imagine with only getting so few newbies the viscosity is usually around 20. Even with the Land Affinity bonus the usual AP for movement around the areas that cost it is roughly 18. Given a starter player has a bank of 200 and regens roughly 16 every 10 minutes this can get to be an issue especially since most new players will backtrack a lot as they try and put things together. This means they might start to get really excited about figuring things out... Only to find themselves out of AP and having to wait twenty minutes to move a single scene. It might be worth giving newbies more affinity for GWI to start with, or at least cap viscosity to being at max triple of the AP the scene would ordinarily cost to move to. IE if an arrow costs 1 to move, the max viscosity cost it can have would be 3, making the total cost 4. That would be much more palatable for the GWI, but probably its own discussion.

Active Days to get off the island... I get why it's there, really. But the island doesn't necessarily take that long to solve, or to exhaust the possible actions on it (depending on the player, of course). MD is a community game and GWI more often than not at this point in time is cut off from the community. Someone there can't interact with the majority of players, and without that MD loses some of its appeal. I don't see all too many players wanting to stay on the island for that amount of time because it is limiting. Left there you can't explore or necessarily find more puzzles and this is before you are able to see the deeper lore of MD... Though, suppose there may be a way off the island with less active days, not certain but the majority I've seen require it.

Finally - The Buy in. Back when I started MD you were greeted by the Story Mode, and it honestly inspired me. The story was the interweaving of lore and gave some snippet of how to think about the realm, it gave flavour and some rather odd context, the kind of thing that was utterly unique. That was what made me, personally, want to investigate and explore, it gave the curiosity to press on into the realm. That and the fascinating creatures and fights were my 'buy in', the point that I was invested enough to push through adversity or any of the rough parts of MD.
This seems to be missing in GWI. There is the introduction with a fair few interesting mentions of what is possible, but it's not really inspiring, just informative. Then the first thing you are greeted with are the tools and collection mechanics which seems like an odd choice. Don't get me wrong the tutorial is good (though the wait for the map was a bit too long), but it's not something that is going to draw people in which is what you need to start with. I'd suggest start with a mystery, some hinting at the lore and have the mystery progress with each step to exiting the island. Meet the creatures and combat second, with a shade in each location to optionally fight. Then the tools.
This way players can at least do something while waiting for things to process or AP to generate, because when most people start looking for a new browser based game, they're bored. Greeting them with a mystery and something to puzzle over as they go is not only more interesting, but also more authentic to at least how I see MD.


Anyway, thank you for reading my thoughts. GWI seems like a very good place to start, it just needs that buy in and polish. But the hard part is done, it's intuitive and easy to understand for those who do not leave early. At least by my own reckoning. Hopefully my perspective helps to some extent!

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