Games that use different interaction styles require different ways to learn. A gamer needs to know what would happen if the joystick was moved completely to one side – would a cursor move to a direction at a constant rate, or move really fast? So one of the challenges with providing unfamiliar interaction styles is making sure the user understands how to use them.
While I had no trouble using most of Okami’s brush techniques, I had the most trouble with one particular gesture. This is the ‘vine’ gesture, which involves connecting my character to a flower.
The method of teaching me this was one of imitation. First, a red outline would highlight how to do it, and then I would imitate it.The red outline looked like a straight line, with a curvy loop at the two ends connecting my character and the flower.
I tried it, and after failing quite a bit, I learned that I could draw a straight line that starts with the flower and runs through my character, and goes back up to draw another line through the character. I was somewhat getting it in the practice sessions, though I ran into problems when I had to do it for critical dodging maneuvers for the boss.
Then, I had to connect a hook to a flower. I did the same gesture four times with mild success before going into a boss battle where the gesture was key to beating it. During th boss battle, I had even much worse luck with the gesture. After much problems with connecting the hook to a flower in the middle of a boss fight, I found that a straight line between the hook and flower was all that was needed to connect those objects together, differeing from th character-flower gesture I interpreted.
In other words, I found the same gesture that had the same result didn’t work when it was supposed to. While I probably missed something at the moment, the lesson is still there for game designers wanting to explore novel interaction styles: make sure your users understand them through much repetition.