Cognitive resistance to rules and regulations

    At our university there were three teachers of matanalysis and analytical geometry. The first one gave us a textbook at lectures and hated everyone fiercely. The second proved everything himself and explained what he was doing. It was fun because sometimes we came to a standstill and returned. The third to the heap told stories and practical tasks for what he explained. Guess whose average group scores were better.

    I mean, in our world, any reading of instructions is a necessary measure. And if the user needs to read and understand something, it is better to submit information quickly, clearly and in relation to the real world.

    I’ll tell you how we simplify the understanding of the rules and instructions for board games. In general, the same set of mechanics is suitable for improving a number of interfaces, almost any technical texts, and in general things where the mind of an engineer-architect meets the mind of an exogenous user.

    Step-by-step confirmation

    The perfect learning game is when someone knows the rules. Because otherwise - the whole company sticks into them for half an hour. Most likely, you do not invite friends to read instructions. But in fact, with a new game this can happen. So let's start with the rule architecture.

    This is how it looks for the Mafia to simplify:

    “The host announces nightfall, everyone should close their eyes. Next, the leader announces the course of the characters in the order indicated below. The named character opens his eyes and performs actions corresponding to his role, after which he again falls asleep.
    The order of moves at night: 1. Mafia. 2. Doctor. 3. Confusion. 4. Commissioner
    Note: add. characters go to the queue specified in their description.
    After all the characters have fulfilled their role, the host announces the morning. ”

    Hard enough, right? Now look at this block of text. It is larger, but more understandable in terms of what to do.

    “Players take turns looking at their cards, then the facilitator announces nightfall. Night means that all players must close their eyes. The following actions take place on the first night:
    1. The mafia wakes up. All players with Mafia and Don Mafia cards open their eyes (or take off their masks). The mafia meets each other, with the leader, and with gestures agrees on the killings for the next three nights. This takes 60 seconds. This can be done by pointing to potential victims or by showing partners their number.
    The mafia falls asleep (closes his eyes or puts on a mask).
    2. The commissioner wakes up. The commissioner can obtain information from the facilitator on whether the player of his choice is a Mafia. For this, the commissioner points to the player ... "

    To start playing in the first case, you need to read all the rules. You can start playing in the second (at least in the training game) by reading the rules step by step.

    First person

    It's simple, someone specific reads the rules. Therefore, it is worth removing another barrier - a third party.

    It helps to read faster, because the reader is alone, and he is you.

    Grouping semantic blocks

    Open the instructions for the microwave. If you are not lucky, you will first wade through the jungle of prohibitions, and then you will find a description of each individual block and its possible states. For example, a description of what the same button does in different modes. This is the approach of an engineer who structured the information well. It is useful for reference books and engineering instructions, but it is completely unsuitable for a user familiar with your piece for a specific application.

    So we did one more thing:

    That is, it is more convenient to talk first about typical scenarios like “defrost chicken” or “warm pasta”, and only then do an engineering reference book for those who care about trifles and details. The first grouping according to the user scenario will close 95% of the minimum requirements and will be gratefully received. Because it’s simple and clear.

    For example, in the game “Boom” we do not explain why we need all the elements of the map interface, but just teach how to play the first game. The color of the stitches for the players at this moment is simply decorative. Already at the end of the rules, in the FAQ, we explain that you can play by numbers (as taught before), or by color, so that the complexity changes randomly. This modification of the rules is relevant in practice only after the company has played at least a couple of times.

    Decomposition of difficult places

    The rule: “Whoever gets the most coins wins” is enough to understand the essence of victory. Now imagine that a draw situation is rare enough, say, to happen in less than a percent of cases. And then - a complicated procedure: if suddenly the coins are the same for both your opponent and the opponent, then the following elements of comparison come into effect: “Then the one who built the castle first wins. If the castles were built at the same time, then the one with the most knights in the army wins. If the knights in the army are the same, the player who went second wins. ”

    Why should a player who has not yet faced a draw in coins know this? Let's endure this at the end of the rules!

    If you read the technical documentation, then you know how sometimes the description of all unnecessary situations and unlikely functions clutters the text and makes it difficult to understand a particular block. Therefore, we decided for ourselves - the main thing separately, exceptions - separately.


    Liveliness of language is an important principle of ease of understanding. Yes, yes, it’s me, including about the case when the plant’s productivity drops due to a ban on swearing: as long as you explain to your colleague what exactly is required, half a day will pass.

    See how it looks in the rules of one not yet released game:

    "3. Now you need to choose a quartermaster - the most honest pirate. It is advisable, without one leg, so as not to run away with the treasure. But if this is not in your company, the most responsible one will do. He will keep score on the laminated plate with a marker. At the beginning of the game, the pirates do not have gold. If you think about it, that's why they are pirates. ”

    You tie every piece of knowledge to game reality and give concrete examples due to this liveliness. Information is redundant, but it is this redundancy that guarantees understanding. Here is a simpler example from an engineering psychology reference:

    When to start

    Sometimes, if a person undertakes to read the instructions, he will read it to the end, although you can start practical experiments in the middle. It is worth highlighting the moment when you can start to do something, referring to a piece of paper directly in the rules. Because it’s more understandable.


    Or like this:
    “Carramba! Everything, now you roughly imagine a pirate life. You can start playing the first training game (in 4 islands) right now, reading the rules along the way. All real captains do just that. ”


    This is the laying of future training in an understandable and simple scenario. Something like a short pseudo-code describing the essence of the algorithm - and the real code is further.

    In this style, rules usually begin:
    “Mafia” is a salon-based team psychological turn-based role-playing game with a detective story, simulating the struggle between members of an organized minority who are informed about each other and an unorganized majority.

    Here's what we do:
    About the game
    Each turn you open a new pirate island. The task is to use your action cards so as to pick up the treasure before the rivals. A healthy pirate can visit about 12 islands in one year - therefore, after the tenth, the party ends and the filibusters go to the tavern to count the gold. Who has more coins - he won.
    Hence the goal of the game is to get as many coins as possible.

    Difficult - overboard!

    Since our main user, who reads the instructions, is casual (even if the game is mega-hardcore, it is almost casual anyway, because he plays the first time), you need to introduce it gradually into the game. As a study of a new programming language - first the basic syntax, then the "chips", then the functions of the main libraries.

    Here is the evolution of the rules of one of the games:

    Inline examples

    Everything, again, is simple. Previously, there was only one example (if you're lucky) - at the end of the rules. Now there are many small examples throughout the text, right next to the text. By the way, about the cat - this is what we lured the children into a scientific block about potential and kinetic energy. Not a single animal was injured, but, believe me, the learning process went much faster and more lively.

    Another example
    What if the character on the card is not familiar to you?
    To begin with, try to explain it by association, image, or try to explain a consonant word.

    Example. Vladimir Krasnoy Sunny can be explained as follows:
    - The light!
    - The sun!
    - So, the second part of the name is color!
    - Green?
    - Not!
    - Red?
    - Yes! Name - like Lenin!
    - Vladimir Krasnosolntsev?
    - Nearly. Remember!
    - Ahh, Vladimir the Red Sun!
    - Right.

    Example. Mine Reed can be explained like this:
    “I don’t know him, but the surname is similar to what they do with books.”
    - Read?
    - Yes. And now in English?
    - Reed!
    - Yes.
    - Uh ... Mine Reed?
    At the end of the first round, you can (and even need!) To look into the dictionary of characters and find out who the one you were so hard to explain was.


    Due to incomprehensible limitations, quite often instructions are made first with text and then with pictures. And rarely anyone tries to merge these two genres. Comics work better than just “see figure 1”. You can show and explain directly from the drawing. That's cool.


    Or even cooler, as we do in the short rules on the site:

    Agree, it’s easier to look at the picture and lay out the cards “like this” than to read half a page of the description of how this is done correctly.

    Self documenting

    One of the most important principles of a good interface is the lack of the need to read instructions. The puzzle is well-documented on a physical level (unless we have a very strong player in front of us). Insert the COM-connector into the LPT will not work (although one musician hammered). Turning over the cable of an old hard drive is also difficult, there is a plastic ledge. It is very difficult to take the scissors wrong and so on.

    Rules and instructions can and should be unloaded, bringing important things to the components themselves, both at the physical level and at the level of reminders.

    This is the first card, then it became even easier.

    Test batch

    Many games have a test batch, which is usually much shorter than the main one and much easier. She is a kind of analogue of a simplified demo version from the real world, such an educational mission.

    Now, look at the rules of "Space Truckers":

    I highlighted in green the piece that relates to the test flight. Once you have passed it, everything else is already, in fact, clarifying and adding depth to the game, a guide to exceptions.

    In the same Space Alert, the books are divided into two: 48 pages of basic rules and about 20 - the first flight, interspersed with the plot of the game. In printers you could see two books - a thick official manual and a quick start leaflet with basic things. Good practice.


    As it turns out in tests, things that are important for understanding should be duplicated. For an IT person, the only mention of something is enough. For an ordinary player - no, and it’s worth adding redundancy to make it easier.

    It was:
    7. Start a new move.

    It became:
    7. Urra! It's time to start the next move. Once again, it's simple:
    - Discover a new island.
    - Choose the actions for your pirate and put them in front of you open.
    - Together, open the action and see who has come to where.
    - Count the gold and record a new account.
    - Deal cards of action: first, one for each, then for those with less than four - up to four. And immediately change the first player.


    Another good practice has been adding metadata. For example, advice on tactics, adding information about when and when feedback is needed, information about where you can ask a question according to the rules, information about how to learn how to play the fastest, and so on.

    Why is all this necessary?

    We have several areas of work with such things. Firstly, we try to make our own rules for even very hardcore games. We do not change the “degree of hardcore” of the game itself, but we make learning easier. Secondly, at the seller’s school, we develop short rules for demonstrating games in the store (30 seconds for everything about everything), which cover the main features of the game. Thirdly, we try to teach animators so that they as quickly as possible and simply convey the rules to the game libraries.

    Well and, of course, for sales. The theoretical distribution scheme of the game looks like this (this is a geometric progression):

    In practice, for the same microorganisms, the progression does not work. Look, here is a graph of the theory of their reproduction almost according to Fibonacci and in the real world:

    The brain likes to save energy, and when there is a choice from a good old familiar game and a new incomprehensible one, he will try to persuade the carrier to an already familiar one. Roughly speaking, in our case the flatness of the dashed line of the graph depends on the entry threshold. The simpler the game, the higher this part of the curve, and the more it spreads.

    That's why we love it when you can learn the game quickly.

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