Tutorial Torture

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I kinda like the method Assassin's creed uses. It teaches you the basics once, but because the main actions are context bound they show up in a little wheel in the top corner saying what they do at this particular moment. It's small enough to not notice and you can turn it off in the options once you've got the hang of it. If you come back to the game mid-way you can just turn it back on and there is enough information in that little diagram to not need a full tutorial again.

Zelda games are too long for me to finish in any realistic time frame these days. So when I was playing Twilight Princess there were huge gaps in between play, and I'd forget the many intricately detailed maneuvers you'd have to perform to defeat specific enemies.

It was very tedious for me, and to this day I've never finished it.

Just need to face the facts I don't have the time for certain games anymore.

You know this wouldn't be a problem if all games didn't have such shitty controls. Controls should be intuitive. And if you can't figure out what to do by looking at the game controller map in the controller configuration options then you are not old enough to be holding a game controller in the first place.

We have 3 fingers. That's what games should limit themselves to. Using items should be directly assigned to the remaining buttons with a macro system or selected from a menu if you've run out of buttons. The most complicated games out there can be done with 3 buttons. You shouldn't have to ever take your fingers off the movement controls for anything.

Just put under options a switch. Turn on or turn off the hints.

I don't understand why that is so complicated.

It's like everyone is aware and fully accept that there are people who are too stubborn to pull over and ask for directions when they are going into unfamiliar territory. So car makers try to force GPS in all the vehicles to always give directions. So every day, the road you have driven for the last ten years of your life to get to work and back home, is obnoxiously directed but the GPS.

Well, if I came back to a game after a long ass time and have forgotten the controls, I wouldn't mind replaying the tutorial.

I don't mean replay the first 40 mins of intro cutscenes and stuff I mean, there should be an option in the menu for example that just lets you replay the tutorial, or parts of the tutorial.

In metal gear solid 4 (I forget if 3 had this too) you could go to the menu and figure out how to do everything snake can do, from simple grabbing, to firing a gun, to interrogating people.

popups are alright I guess, but sometimes I want to know something different and a menu with some explanation of some of the mechanics I can use would be helpful, as long as it is only used for when the player wants to go back over stuff they are supposed to know but have forgotten rather than the main way the player learns about the mechanics.

I agree with most of what the article said, except for:

"We should not store the tutorial counters in the save file. We should allow for the fact that sometimes someone (the player's little brother, for example) might jump into the game in the middle. Or perhaps the player hasn't played a game in months and has forgotten everything."

It seems to me that we *should* store the information there, along with the time elapsed since the game was last loaded/saved. The fact that someone's little brother might start playing in the middle seems like a pretty fringe case -- why wouldn't he play on his own save, for instance? And even if he doesn't, how likely is it that he'll both know and use moves that the main player forgot?.

Now if it's been more than a few weeks since the game has been started up it probably makes sense to wipe the old tutorial counters and start anew. But there have been plenty of times when I've been stuck in a game and despite having no clue what to do I play the game for anywhere from a few minutes to an hour, then save after having gained more experience/money/items/whatever. If you make all your counters session-dependent, the player may never play long enough at a stretch to trigger the pertinent tutorial, especially for rarely used abilities (i.e., the ones most likely to be forgotten) that have a high tutorial counter threshold (because having a low threshold for rarely used abilities would be really annoying).

TLDR: Session-dependent tutorial counters would likely lead to over-spamming of known information and/or under-informing of needed information.

I think itīs kinda redundant to have on-screen button prompts, if you forget the controls you should try to press the buttons and see what happens, that might solve your problem^^.

Maybe the optimal solution would be: Press select for Controller Layout and a short summation of your abilites and how to execute them. I donīt really think games needs a lot more than that. I really hate the "press X to open" prompts, because it should be pretty damn obvious what you need to do. Back in the day you had an action button that you used on interactive stuff, that was pretty simple and easy to understand. Itīs only a problem in games that have silly controller layouts or inconsistent use of button prompts (open doors with x, unless itīs a triangular door, then itīs the Square button). If the layout is logical, the prompts will be a 100% unncecary.

-speaking of bad tutorials - and NWN has already been mentioned - Black & White comes to mind
WHY do i HAVE to play the first §&%#$ world over and over and over again, with all stupid (and sloooowly presented) hints for every effing single thing

-just always give me the option to switch off in-game hints (if you just HAD to implement those -.- )
-don't force a gameplay-tutorial on me, make them additional and not campaign-related (Planetside 2, for instance)
-don't treat me like i have an iq of a rock, because rocks don't play videogames. usually. i'm smart enough to hit escape and look up what button reload/crouch/not-die is bound to; really, game - honest!
-don't get mad at me if i don't do what you prompt onscreen (there are a few games out there that actually don't care whether i followed their instruction to switch from assault rifle to pistol or not)
-digital manuals accessible from within the game, plz?

I was recently playing God of War 2 HD. There is a section when you have to hit a switch to raise a pillar which has a grapple point on it. You then have to swing from point to point before the time limit runs out and the pillar drops again. I was on the last grapple point, about to swing on to solid ground when a pop up appeared; "press R1 to swing". Strange, considering I'd just demonstrated this ability, but no big deal. Until I realised that you have to press x to confirm you've seen the message. Until you do, Kratos will do nothing. Doing nothing also means he stopped swinging on the grapple point and fell to the floor, leaving me to repeat the section. Thanks tutorial message!

When I jump into a tank in Battlefield 3, it still reminds me of the keys needed to shoot and drive.
I got 7000 kills with that thing and 70 hours drive time, I think I know that by now.

I prefer the tutorial to be outside of the "main" game. Or else, just let us figure it out. STALKER made you trial by fire, Myth II had a funny single-player tutorial that explained the keys.

I useally go for the disable hints option and figure it out myself, most games start of easy anyway so you have room for error. Switching to another game after months though (continuing on a savegame) makes me want to grab the booklet for the controls and even then, there's the muscle memory and diffirent control schemes. And yet I won't use in-game help since a nice tutorial level (thats not part of the main campaign) isn't included most games nowadays.

KOMega:
Well, if I came back to a game after a long ass time and have forgotten the controls, I wouldn't mind replaying the tutorial.

I don't mean replay the first 40 mins of intro cutscenes and stuff I mean, there should be an option in the menu for example that just lets you replay the tutorial, or parts of the tutorial.

In metal gear solid 4 (I forget if 3 had this too) you could go to the menu and figure out how to do everything snake can do, from simple grabbing, to firing a gun, to interrogating people.

I'm pretty sure every MGS since 2 has had that feature, but MGS4 had it in the pause menu while 2 and 3 only had it in the main menu (and I think you had to go to options from the main menu to find it). If I ever make a game I'll try to put something like that in (I'm currently designing a sort of Fallout: New Vegas style game, although it has lots of additions in my spare time, if I ever actually make that I'll try to put the feature in).

Valderis:
The reason tutorials are annoying (and always have been) is because:

They are forced upon you when you start a new campaign/story/game as a sort of pre-mission or first mission/level.
These pre or first levels are usually insulting your intelligence and patience, are long winded, and do not instruct you in an organic manner.
Tutorials never tell you what you want/need to know and are never just quick about it.
They are never just fun to do. (Disgea on the DS is an exception in case you wanted to know how a tutorial can be done right in many aspects.)

Yup, pretty much this. Worst example is Fallout 3, it takes 20 minutes (and feels like 20 hours) to actually start playing the fucking game.

I beat Final Fantasy VII twice through the entire game, the second file managing to beat Emerald weapon and did not figure out that materia equipped altered your stats, that equipment had a materia growth stat that modified how fast it leveled, or that you could master materia to gain more copies of it.
(For the record I beat Emerald Weapon with Cait Sith's slots and rolled the hyper rare instant win combination rather than actually tactically succeeding. I consider my method more impressive than playing well.)

I completed Pokemon Blue, Yellow, Gold, and Crystal before learning about STAB(Same Type Attack Bonus) giving you 1.5x damage when a damaging move used matches the type of the Pokemon using it.

I got stuck on the Rat Cellar mission in Final Fantasy Tactics and got Game Over perhaps 15 times using only unequipped Squires and Chemists before realizing what the "Formation" option on the world map menu was. The game was much cooler once I knew it had jobs, items, and abilities. I beat the game several times before realizing that Brave, Faith, and the Zodiac alignment of the character did anything in gameplay.

It took far to long to occur to me that you could dash jump in the Megaman X games. I believe I rented X3 first and kept dying at a jump that required it before getting X1 and realizing what the issue had been.

Can't think of any others off the top of my head. Most of my list shows the importance of paying-attention-to/having mechanical effects clearly accessible within menus and descriptions.

mrverbal:
Oh, assassins creed 2.
'
"To do this, press <foot> and <hand>"

well what the fuck button is foot, exactl...

"Oh no, you've been discovered! Press <face>!!"

Face, I still don't know where foot is an....

"To take a bite out of the giant big as you hurl it at a guard, press <hand>, <face>, [bacon]"

Fuck this. '

If you're going to have tutorials, make them smart enough to show me the ACTUAL keybindings, or you're just being a dick.

This.

I think it was Enter the Matrix that had instructions like, "Press action to do an action. Press kick to do a kick."

And Soul Calibur 2 did the same thing (granted, I haven't played many fighting games, so maybe they're all like this, and I'm a slow, slow person). On the combo list, and in a tutorial, the instructions consisted of "press K, K, P" and I was confused as fuck (considering this was for the GCN, and there are no such buttons). Then I find out they stand for "kick kick punch" and I got angry.

Anyway, great article Shamus.

camscottbryce:

mrverbal:
Oh, assassins creed 2.
'
"To do this, press <foot> and <hand>"

well what the fuck button is foot, exactl...

"Oh no, you've been discovered! Press <face>!!"

Face, I still don't know where foot is an....

"To take a bite out of the giant big as you hurl it at a guard, press <hand>, <face>, [bacon]"

Fuck this. '

If you're going to have tutorials, make them smart enough to show me the ACTUAL keybindings, or you're just being a dick.

This.

I think it was Enter the Matrix that had instructions like, "Press action to do an action. Press kick to do a kick."

And Soul Calibur 2 did the same thing (granted, I haven't played many fighting games, so maybe they're all like this, and I'm a slow, slow person). On the combo list, and in a tutorial, the instructions consisted of "press K, K, P" and I was confused as fuck (considering this was for the GCN, and there are no such buttons). Then I find out they stand for "kick kick punch" and I got angry.

Anyway, great article Shamus.

It's a hold-over from being on the arcade where there literally are punch and kick buttons. That and since it has a multiplayer focus and customisable controls it means that the command list won't change depending on who's looking at it. It's still confusing though, and kind of lazy.

OT: I can't count the number of games that feel the need to keep reminding you of controls every few minutes.

Yes I know how to attack. And how to counter. And how to combo. And how t-SHUT UP!

Remember Me is a recent release that was REALLY bad for this. Every time you drop a combo it helpfully suggests pressing the buttons rhythmically to keep them going. Even if you dropped it because you were hit in the face or to dodge.

And to the people saying to turn off tutorials, the problem is if a new ability/system is introduced later in the game you won't see the tutorials for how to use them, which isn't exactly helpful.

If I need to be reminded of the controls, I go into the controls section of the options menu and look at what's been defined for what (and make any changes I think would be easier to use).

Ace Morologist:
Resident Evil 4: I didn't realize there was a run button until I hit it by accident. Also, I couldn't find the reload button in the first tense situation when I needed it. It made that first fight in the village before the bell rings REALLY stressful.

--Morology!

I remember the Hunnigan sends you a "playing manual" AFTER the town uprises and you meet Dr. Salvador. Nice timing there.

Thedutchjelle:
When I jump into a tank in Battlefield 3, it still reminds me of the keys needed to shoot and drive.
I got 7000 kills with that thing and 70 hours drive time, I think I know that by now.

I prefer the tutorial to be outside of the "main" game. Or else, just let us figure it out. STALKER made you trial by fire, Myth II had a funny single-player tutorial that explained the keys.

IMO a well designed FPS should have a tightly woven, solidly written and only moderately long story mode to familiarize players with the controls and leave tutorials out of the multi-player.

I will also say that whenever I get a question along the lines of "How did you do _________?" in a fighting game it means that somewhere a game designer should be feeling ashamed of them self because I am not some fighting game god (i.e. whatever I did that this person is asking about probably isn't something super complicated) and this inquiry means that the games teaching section(s) have failed.

So I realize I'm late to the party on this one but thought I'd throw in my two cents.

I think this is a hard thing to nail down and I think some do it better than others. I recently started playing through Ni No Kuni and one of the most irksome things about starting it was all of the uber basic tutorials they threw in. I *just* *wanted* *to* *play* *the* *game*. I understand the idea of approaching a person who hasn't played your game yet to approach them as if they never played a game before to make it the most universally acceptable but I also feel like there's a good amount of us out there that don't need to be told how to use an analog stick to move the character around on the screen. It's frustrating and is also insulting considering you can't even use the PS3 if you don't know how to use the analog stick to begin with.

In contrast I think Uncharted had one of the best hint/tutorial systems I've ever witnessed. It wasn't perfect but it was a damn good attempt. For those that haven't played - on the puzzle parts of the game, you'll get several minutes to attempt to solve it on your own and after x amount of time has expired the game presents the *option* of a hint (press L2 to receive the hint). This is brilliant! If I want the challenege of solving a puzzle on my own I'm not obligated to receive the hint. Conversely if I'm impatient or don't care for the puzzle parts I have a way to get through it.

And I think that's the take away to making a good tutorial system and it's something I'd like to see in software design overall - give the user control. To improve on the Uncharted system I would throw in options to customize how long the game would wait before offering a hint. Allow a user to set it to any where from 30 seconds to 30 minutes or to simply not offer any hint at all. As with Ni No Kuni and for JRPG's in general there are basic controls that are pretty typical across the board and there are those that are specific to the game itself. Allow the player the option to turn these on or off but throughout always make them accessible to the player. Be it through an options menu via the opening menu or through the ingame menu or both.

In the age of Apple it seems developers are all about presenting a simple interface which they correlate to not giving a user control in an effort to save them from themselves. Personally, I'm fine with that as a default mode but I would absolutely love to see a piece of software that gave me a control option. To say "check this option if you want the advanced controls". present a confirmation box to make sure it's what the user wants and then proceed to offer them the everthing along with the bathroom toilet. To customize the software or game to the way I want it to look and feel.
Say what you will about World of Warcraft but one thing I give them mad props for is giving their users that level of control. From defining every part of the look of the interface to including parsers and other additional useful information to incorporating sounds from Super Mario Bros. you can do it all.

That's what I would look for and ask for in tutorials to come. Thanks for hearing me out =).

Scionfall

The game where it happens the most is Mechwarrior Online. Module key ... I always mix them up. Just showing them in the top left corner of the HUD would be a big help.

Sometimes, games want to give us lots of cool toys to play with and use completely different buttons for everything. Or -far worse- combination of buttons (Warframe) or menues (The Witcher) you have to click through to get to your end result.

A pop up display of button layout that takes you changes into account and that you can reach through using only one button is the easiest solution I can come up with. Doesn't help with game mechanics that are not control related. For those I like systems like the one used in Splinter Cell: Conviction. Okay, it was distracting from the action, but at least it was on point with its offering of help.

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