Mission screen: why starting the game even before one line has been written?


#1

I discovered codecombat just today (I know where was I living?) and am thinking to use it teach coding to kids.

But I have a UX question: why the game is started in every mission even before one line of code has been written?
The game starts without the user even telling it to do so.
I think the current way things are done is not the best for many reasons.

One

The first contact with the site is a bit puzzling: why is the whole thing starting? Is there something expected from me ? Gosh, my hero is slayed and I can’t do anything about it !

The first impression is powerlessness which is the exact opposite of what programming does which is to give you power to make machines do your bidding.

Two
Because the default state for the puzzle area is failure, most of the time the area is dimmed making it uncomfortable to watch.
While paradoxically it will be the part of the screen that the coder will stare at most of times (especially if they are blocked).

Third
The first reflex to have when confronted to a problem (or new game mission) is to gather intel about the environment: I want to click on the spikes to understand what they do.
Or click the ogres (hey those guys are not friendly)
And I can’t becase the puzzle area is disabled


#2

Agreed. the first thing i do on every level is hit pause… Why not just start paused?


#3

Hey @name_is_carl, good points all around. There are a bunch of reasons why we play the level at the start, but the main one is this: if the code is in a state where it has already been run and the result is failure, we’ve found that players are much more likely to start coding to fix it. If it starts out paused in the beginning, often what we see is that players will stop and think about how to do it right the first time for a long time, often getting stuck doing that, when they’d solve the level much more quickly if they just started trying things. (If it’s already broken, they start trying to fix it faster instead of stopping to ponder forever.) So we actually don’t want most players trying to gather intel and click on everything too much, because they’d end up taking longer to get started.

I do agree that starting with the screen dimmed out isn’t the best. Surprisingly, in a ton of recent playtests with many hundreds of kids that we did lately, it’s like they didn’t even notice, which made us not think of it as too big an issue. But I would like to reduce the dimming on the first run sometime. (We do want it dimmed after subsequent runs so that you can focus on your code.)