One theme I keep returning to in Magicka is how the core design of the initial levels is set up to encourage experimentation. Enjoying Magicka requires a very specific mentality different from a lot of other games. Progression is based on experimenting with inventing new spells.
This is a huge issue for level designers. In most games you can just teach the player exactly how to perform each task that they need to bypass your level. Deus Ex even has a training course right at the start of the game, where new players are taught how to do everything from move bodies to disarming explosives.
While Magicka has something similar for learning the basic use of each element, its designers can’t teach you how to make a wall of volcanoes. The more time you spend telling players exactly what to do, the more complacent you make them. They expect to be told the instructions, which makes them more reluctant to experiment.
In my first video on Magicka, I criticized the tutorial heavily for its out-of-the-way instructions on how to bypass obstacles. I talked about how the players often miss the instructions, focused on their objectives in the center of the screen, and that I’ve had to point them out to struggling players in the tutorial. It seems like a straightforward mistake.
It actually may have been brilliant. Obvious instructions may have made the tutorial smoother, but they also may have made players complacent. With this out-of-the-way placement of the step-by-step instructions, while the most important information on each element was sensible placed in the center of the screen, players get into a habit of fiddling with the game first. The instructions hang unnoticed in the corner until desperate players are searching every pixel of the screen for some hint.