Monday, October 16, 2006

In-game tutorials checklist

Love them? Hate them? Any good examples? Any advice?

You see, because a game is not so simple as I would like to be, I have to design a tutorial stage. I will:

  • Break it down to digestive bits.
  • Make it skippable.
  • Reward the player by the end of it.
  • Teach about every needed verb.

Am I forgetting something? That's never been my strong subject.


Corvus said...

Depending on the style of game, here are a few things I find work well for tutorials...

1) Break it up into short gameplay tips individually accessable from the main or pause menus. This works best for platform style games which add features as you progress. March of the Minis 2 does this, alerting you when new tutorials are available for the level you're about to enter.

2) Integrate the tutorial as an overlay into the main gameplay, designing the introductory level to give players a little time with each element before progressing. Allow players to turn off the tutorial boxes and simply play through the level. Role playing games tend to do this with the opening areas.

3) If there's a narrative involved in this game, the tutorial level can simply take the form of the opening chapter, which tends to be about orientation anyway.

If you'd like some more detailed feedback, feel free to fire off an NDA and rough draft to corvus[dot]elrod[at]gmail[ot]com. I'll happily help out!

Chico Queiroz said...

Wow, that´s in-depth help. Thanks so much, Corvus!

About your tips:
1) HUm... Maybe I need a Help button, then. I was trying to avoid it, but looks lite it will be necessary... Thanks for that tip.

2) You´re right... I think I was rushing too much with each instruction... But that´s because I fear there won´t be so much for the player to do before progressing... I´ll see how I can solve this...

3) Too little narrative involved... and since the game is not structured around levels, the idea of an opening chapter, I am afraid, would confuse the player ...

Again, thank you so much. I will contact you again, if I´m in trouble.


Chris said...

Something I thought was clever was the way in 1080 Avalanche the "tutorial" was hidden in the menu. On the pause screen there was an option reading "Pro Tips" which was basically the tutorial in text and images for the whole game.

This was an unobtrusive way of dealing with the issue, and worked rather well. It's only suitable for a game that the player can immediately work out the basics of how to play, but just need some help with the specifics.

And if you do write a tutorial, try to use the fewest number of words possible - and always, always, always blind test the tutorial on at least 2-5 different people to check that it makes sense and isn't too annoying!

Best wishes!

Chico Queiroz said...

Thanks for the input, Chris!

It seems I will have to find space to fit in a Help/Tutorial Screen... I guess that can be done... ruining my lay-out...

And thanks for the tip on keeping it short. I hope that doesn't make it too dry, though.


Kevin said...

Good tactics from the Mario Bros serie:

Integrate it in the level design. In super mario world (SNES), it's special blocks that you hit just like any normal block (so it doesnt distract from the gameplay) that speaks out the tutorials. In Mario 64 it's wood panels that you can read as you go. That way, tutorial are totally optionnal and unobstrusive.

Also from the Mario series, at the beginning of most level, when there is new gameplay elements in the level, they are introduced in the first screen in a non lethal way (like a platform that falls when you step on it but placed over solid ground). This lets the player try it out before risking it's life to learn.

I'm not too found of menu based tutorial since they tend to distract from the magic circle of the game.


Chico Queiroz said...

Hello Kevin, Thanks for the tips.
The ´special bock´ idea is not bad at all..

Maybe I should have made clear that´s a casual game I´m talking about (although much more complex than tile-matching). In this case, checking the in-game menu is not exactly so harmful to the Magic Circle. It could harm the game pace, though.

You gave me a lot to consider! Thank you so much, you all.

I´ll start another case when moving to the "missions" bit. :)

Copyright, Chico Queiroz