I had the honor of being selected to work the Ringling booth this year, demoing my VR thesis game Salamender. It was a valuable experience with several important takeaways, specifically about making an expo-floor game demo, which is arguably different than just making a prototype or a vertical slice of a game. I chose to spend a couple of days before GDC implementing a bulletproof, extremely granular and hand-hold-y tutorial, with big floating text that draws your attention to exactly what you need to be doing at any given moment and takes you to a satisfying success state in the fewest steps possible. I also included a Skip Tutorial button, for the cases where an experienced VR player came along and felt comfortable feeling the game out for themselves (and also to save my sanity while debugging and testing the game.)
For a bit I worried that the tutorial was too much, but I quickly came to realize that in an environment where you have exactly 3 to 5 minutes of someone’s attention, and you have people from wildly different backgrounds and skill levels playing your game, it’s entirely necessary. Instead of me having to stand there shouting into their ear when they get stuck, I eliminated all chances of them needing my help, barring extreme cases. This meant that not only was it a smoother and more enjoyable experience for the player (people are often embarrassed to admit they’re stuck/ask for help,) it also frees me up from the job of walking the player through the demo so I can be drumming up interest with passerbys or discussing the game with the people waiting to play it. If you’re going to take a demo to a place like GDC, especially if it’s something relatively new and unfamiliar like VR, it’s definitely worth it to invest some development time in a robust, foolproof tutorial.