A Tale of Tutorials

Welcome back! This time on GameDev Breakdown we’re discussing the finer points of tutorials in games, and yes, whether or not they even have a rightful place in them. That idea may surprise you, unless you spend any time talking about development on Twitter where it’s become oddly commonplace.

This idea comes from a well-intentioned place. As games and players have matured, we’ve seen a lot of games with subtler, more innovative introductions. As seen in one of the tweets above, for some reason people who like attacking game designers like bringing up the introductory stage of Mega Man X.

I generally go out of my way not to criticize the work of other designers, but I would be very hesitant to set up an introductory stage like what Mega Man X features. For one thing, MMX seems to depend on the player having played previous games in the series and having some sense of what’s going on. It leaves players to experiment with what amounts to an unusually easy level, mashing buttons and experimenting with enemies and mechanics along the way. Even at that, I find the level visually confusing–quick, you just started, here comes some cars! Just kidding they can’t hurt you–and I don’t agree that players wouldn’t be better served by an optional scene with a few prompts to get newbies acclimated before dropping them into a proper stage.

Meanwhile, players in favor of sensible tutorials all pointed me at the same game: Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon.

Blood Dragon actually had the same challenge to overcome as Mega Man X: a unique game in a pre-existing series that still needs to onboard new players. To do this, Blood Dragon goes all the way in the opposite direction, interrupting players with nearly full-screen prompts every few seconds while the protagonist complains about the delay. Blood Dragon manages to roast an annoying trend in game tutorials (overdoing it) while using a tried and true method to teach players advanced FPS controls in a hurry.

This comparison is too simplistic, of course, and also doesn’t take into account the widely varied needs across other genres. Angry Birds doesn’t need too much handholding, but have you ever designed your own card game?

The resource we look at in this episode is the condensed result of a master’s project study on reactions to tutorials and introductory levels featured at Gamasutra.

Subscribe to GameDev Breakdown

Credits and subscription links here

Leave a Comment