In his 80-scored Surviving Mars review, Fraser concluded that "managing a burgeoning colony never stops being compelling" despite at times being "a lot of hard work". With so much going on, city-builders can overwhelm—which, following player feedback, is why Haemimont Games rolled out a five-part tutorial system in last week's Curiosity update.
"Before launch, we thought to ourselves: nobody wants to play a tutorial," the developer's CEO Gabriel Dobrev tells me when asked why Surviving Mars shipped without a tutorial. "People would rather jump straight into the game, right? We decided then to build this elaborate game system that gives you a guide at any moment, which tells players what the next best step is.
"This works well, it gives people a clue, but what I think is missing there—and this is why people wanted a tutorial—is to help players understand the bigger picture. What is the goal here? Sure, the next step might be that I need more power, but where is this going?"
Surviving Mars' Curiosity update adds several new domes, a Colony Control Centre UI tool that helps players later in the game, and a new Infobar that provides an overview of resources and research progress. Each branch of the new five-part tutorial system focuses on specific areas, and while they're designed to be played in order, each is self-contained allowing players to cherry pick as they see fit.
Dobrev explains that at its core, Surviving Mars is about balancing the way it scales from an empty map to managing thousands of citizens and drones. "It's a big, huge mess, by that point," he says. "It's impossible to control every single person—but initially you start with a few, where it is possible. We needed to balance those opposites and that's where the tutorial came in.
"On the tutorial question: we made a mistake. A straight, honest to god mistake. To us, the game did not seem that complex because we know it. We decided that, okay, we will do this elaborate system and people will gradually learn it as they go. In the end, it wasn't exactly like that.
"But that's something we've learned from, and that's something that's very good about Paradox and reflects our thinking as well—that we'll keep listening to players and keep improving the game. The launch is just the beginning."