I have an HTML game I built with Phaser 3, and I can't decide what to do with the controls. I've changed them several times, and now I feel like I've hit a sweet spot between usability and fun. However, I still see people struggle.
The game involves a boy with a slingshot that can be pulled back and fired to knock the enemy's head off. There are two virtual buttons on both side of the screen that are tapped to turn the character. I'm considering having the character turn automatically, so that the slingshot is the only mechanic involved and the game can be picked up and played without instructions. However, I feel like this will destroy the whole point of being fast to turn and shoot the enemy.
Should simple games require instructions, or is usability more important?
this can be a very general question and depends on game design. most of players hate hints and tutorials but most of the time its needed to add the pace of learning in the game. you have to find the best way to introduce your game to the player. sometimes a cheetsheet in loadings is enough some times you have to give the data step by step. think about your design
Are you test player having trouble discovering the controls or using them?
If they have trouble discovering them, you can add a prompt that explains them. To make it unintrusive for players that don't need it, you can have it appear if the player stays there doing nothing.
Which, brings me to the next thing: probably all your game needs is a practice/creative/free mode, where players feel free to experiment with the controls without any pressure. That will get them used to the controls in the case that the trobule is using them and not discovering them.
While a game can do well without instructions or tutorials, they could help you reach more people (because not everybody is kin on experimenting without an example or guidance).
Usually I would say that you should let the player configure the controls. However, I recognize that that does not make sense for every game and input device. With that said, consider if you need sensitivity options.
There is also an argument for allowing for a simpler control scheme which will allow players who struggle to beat the game (a kind of assist mode, you can let the player know that it is not the intended way to play, yet it can allow them to enjoy the game anyway if they are having trouble). And this can be implemented without a lose of depth if the full controls are required to get highscores.