Friday, 21 February 2014

Post of the day: Tutorials

Games have changed a lot over the years. We went from extensive manuals, to in game tutorials to tutorials that you're allowed to skip or no tutorial at all. This article is based completely on my own opinions and in no way should be taken as actual rules.

Your game should not require a tutorial

By now we have clearly defined genres and clearly defined control schemes. For example if I'm in a first person game, I'll expect to walk with WASD (or I might try the arrow keys if WASD doesn't work). If I'm in an RPG or an MMO the movement can be also done with mouse clicks. However there are very few variations. Even when we're talking about inventory, quest log, skill sheet, etc management they should not be so complicated that I would need a full 20 minute tutorial to learn them. With very few exceptions a control scheme of a game should feel intuitive. You're in a game to enjoy a game world and not to spend hours trying to figure out how to walk.

The joy of being able to skip a tutorial.

Let's say I decided to play a realistic flight simulation game (one of those exceptions that I mentioned in the previous paragraph). Tutorial is most definitely a necessity. Let's say that that flight game had a campaign. I played trough it all and decided to play trough it again using the exact same plane that I was using before (maybe I just wanted to see if I can get a better score, or maybe I just wanted to enjoy myself this time without any challenge) and behold! The tutorial plays again! While the first time the tutorial was helpful and probably would be a welcome sight if I was returning to the game after months of not playing it, right now it annoys me. It's a series of repetitive tasks that I already know how to do. And here I am sitting, looking all grumpy, going trough 20-30 minutes of everything that I already know just so I could get into a game again.

The ability to repeat the tutorial 

Let's say that I am once again in a complex flight simulator and I started to lose my concentration on the game while in a tutorial. Maybe I was being talked to, maybe my dinner was burning, either way I did not pay attention to a few of the controls and now I have no idea what I'm doing. Repeatable tutorials! They're a blessing in this kind of situation.

Just move your tutorial onto the main menu

Best solution if you feel like your game needs a tutorial is to move it to the main menu. A person can just choose not to play it then and they can choose to replay it whenever they want. Example:

The whole game is a tutorial 

I'm referring to such games as for example Portal. As you go trough the game you're introduced to new mechanics slowly with mini tutorials. Whether it is good or not will depend on how well it is implemented. A game called Girls Like Robots does it with a lot of humour.

This way the tutorials of new mechanics are no longer annoying. They're amusing. They're part of the journey that you're on.

Pop up tutorials

While I have a lot against The Sims 3, one thing that it did right was the tutorials. When a player approaches a new mechanic a pop up shows up suggesting the player some help on understanding the mechanic. The player can accept, refuse or switch these pop ups off entirely.

You can also witness this kind of style of tutorial in Guild Wars 2:

How not to make a tutorial 

I absolutely love Assassin's Creed games, however the first one had one of the most annoying mandatory tutorial. Playing for the first time you would have been able to figure out what to do without this tutorial and if you're replaying this game these first minutes will make you grind your teeth. 

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