Onboarding, also known as the First-Time User Experience (FTUE), comprises the first few minutes of gameplay that new players experience. The FTUE introduces the experience, interface and mechanics, and may include tutorials that teach players how to play. A FTUE's success is determined by how it accomplishes two metrics:
- Day 1 retention
- Onboarding goals
Day 1 Retention is gauged by the amount of players who make it through the FTUE, known as the Player Funnel. The funnel is widest at the top and narrowest at the bottom as fewer players complete each step. All experiences lose some amount of players along this path.
The onboarding experience aims to limit drop-off between steps and retain as many new players as possible to increase potential concurrent users, daily active users (DAU), and an experience's monetization potential. The Day 1 (D1) retention metric counts players who return the next day and measures onboarding success by gauging its impact on new players. Experiences with high D1 retention metrics often owe that success to effectively accomplishing their onboarding goals.
Although onboarding experiences are as varied as the experiences they introduce, many of the most successful ones follow these high-level practices:
- Teach the essentials
- Get to the fun quickly
- Leave players wanting more
For successful onboarding, players need to grasp controls for an experience's navigation and interaction. Displaying complex, unfamiliar controls on-screen or incorporating them in a tutorial can be beneficial.
Besides controls, onboarding should also impart knowledge of the experience's Core Loop, the necessary repetitive actions for progress that defines what the experience is. It's important that players understand both what they are expected to do and why they should do it.
New players typically decide their interest in an experience within minutes. To retain these players, it's vital to quickly demonstrate an experience's value, which is often determined by how "fun" it is, in order to convince the player to continue playing. Designing for fun is often done through the following:
- Game progression
- Social motivators
- Starter items and currency
Progression is felt by a player when they get better at the experience, gain access to new systems and content, and achieve their goals. A great way to facilitate this is through Player XP-Based leveling systems.
Player XP-based leveling systems allow players to earn experience points based on their activity, level up when they hit certain XP thresholds, and unlock rewards. Keeping thresholds low for a player's early levels allows them to level up quickly, receive rewards for their efforts, and feel the fun of progression early in the experience.
For many Roblox players, playing with others is part of the fun, whether they are joined in an experience by friends or interacting with strangers. These social players often prefer onboarding experiences that provide opportunities for collaboration and competition.
Starter Items and Currency
Providing free items like equipment and avatar customizations in the onboarding experience allows players to experience the fun of those systems early. The items can be low level and few in number, such that players will want to upgrade or exchange them quickly. The goal is to give players the opportunity to enjoy the utility or self-expression afforded by those items to encourage future playtime.
A similar approach can be used in experiences that utilize soft currencies. Soft currencies are the most commonly found currencies in free-to-play games. Players can earn them easily and they are widely available from rewards in the experience's core loop. Giving players a small amount of soft currency in the onboarding experience alongside a selection of purchasable items that they can afford, allows them to quickly engage with the monetization system and see the value of earning more currency.
For more on core loops, see Core Loops.
By the end of the onboarding experience, players should be aware of the full range of experiences that an experience offers. Even if they cannot access all of the systems and content yet, knowing that there are more challenges and rewards on the horizon encourages them to continue to invest their time in the game. Designing these two characteristics effectively keep players coming back:
- Moments of joy
Providing short, mid, and long-term goals help players conceptualize future play sessions and envision their future success. These goals can take a number of different forms: skill trees, season passes, quests, collections, and more. Surfacing these goals in highly visible places, either in the game-world or the UI, provides a frequent reminder to players of what they're working towards.
To learn how to accomplish this through season passes, see Season Pass Design.
Moments of Joy
Joy can be elicited in experiences during moments like leveling up, defeating a boss enemy, finding a rare item, or discovering a new region. Those moments can be made joyful and special through rewards, delightful animations, and visual or auditory effects that celebrate players' achievements. Ending the onboarding experience with intentionally designed moments leave players feeling accomplished and excited to return.