Tutorial: The Tutorial
With a little over a month of development time left for Primes Quest (tentative release is early July but it’ll be released when it’s released) we have begun piecing the last parts of the game and storyline together. One of the big issues still to be tackled is how to teach the user how to play the game.
This is something that differs from platform to platform and can truly make or break your game. If the tutorial isn’t descriptive enough then a user will soon lose interest before they reach the peak of the learning curve and actually start to enjoy all of your hard work and effort.
On the other hand if the tutorial is too long then the user can feel like the developer thinks they are a moron and are barely capable of breathing and walking at the same time. Thus we have begun to make a list of games and examples of different styles of tutorials from popular games.
Here are the three categories that we’ve managed to isolate:
#1 The Text walkthrough: These are usually the worst of the bunch. They require users to read a considerable amount of text. They have included poorly worded jokes and other nonsense that bore a user to sleep before they even start playing the game. We don’t feel that it will be the right fit due to the limited amount of time users has to play the game each session. Thus they are less likely to read something and will just skip the tutorial all together only to become lost. A prime example is NBA Jam for iOS. Please don’t do this style to your users… they won’t read them…
#2 The Tutorial Levels: This is a more dynamic way of teaching a player the mechanics by giving them levels tailored to educate them about the gameplay. These should be skip-able for more advanced users. I keep thinking back to a game like Thief: The Dark Project when it comes to this style of gameplay. The user went through a sort of training course to learn the mechanics of the game. Another is the Modern Warfare style of tutorial where they masked it as boot camp. They allow you to replay them as much as needed, with a reward/achievement system to encourage you to hone the skills before proceeding.
For a tip on what not to do check out the Trials 2: Tutorial Levels
#3 The Hybrid: This style is being used more frequently where the user is thrown right into the game and as they play they are subjected to new mechanics and a form of learn by doing approach is applied. Games like Cut The Rope and Angry Birds do a great job of easing the user into each additional mechanic. They provide unobtrusive instructions and the fact a user can still fail each level makes a great playground for them to try things out and get a feel for how to play. We think this will be our approach.
On top of my own Internet research (aka googling Game Tutorials) a few of us were lucky enough to sit in with our friends at TheTapLab who were discussing the tutorial for their new game Tap City 2 (currently in Beta). They started by trying to understand the users motivations and what goals they were setting out for the user to achieve. They strived to not to remove all exploration aspects of the game, as it is just as valuable to have a user discover mechanics for themselves rather then laying out the entire experience. Users need a sense of discovery to continue to fall in love with the game over and over again.
Primes Quest will take on an approach similar to the Hybrid in which we will allow users free range to roam around, but with little tips and pointers that don’t impede gameplay. Because after all if people are spending more time learning and less time playing, the game is going to suck.
This blog post doesn’t really follow the previous format, but I wanted to get these thoughts down as we continue to develop a way for users to dive right into Primes Quest. Now back to wire framing the tutorial.
Feel free to leave any suggestions/comments below.