For this week’s research, before the first internal play-test, I wanted to look into different options for tutorials to teach players how to play the game.

I tend to classify tutorials into two different categories: passive and active. Passive tutorials show the player the information, for them to absorb before playing the game. Active tutorials are teaching the player the different controls/concepts before introducing complexity into the game. To help explain this more clearly, I will use two game examples whom use one of the different tutorial styles:

  • Saints Row: The Third – Active Tutorial. The first level serves as a tutorial, explaining the different controls to the player, such as how to shoot and aim at enemies.
  • Ski Safari – Passive tutorial. Instructions are given to the player as a pop-up screen with a small image on loop (a gif) to visualize the controls.

    Ski Safari (source)

With that said, there are four different tutorial styles normally seen in games. The first we have is Non-Interactive In-game tutorials. Simply put, it is an image shown on the screen with the game instructions.

Non-interactive. Although, it can be argued as interactive, as the player can test the controls in the tutorial level (source)

Interactive in-game tutorials allows for player interaction within the tutorial, normally as a way to teach the game mechanics. It does not ‘tell’ the player how the game works. Instead it has them perform the actions, allowing the players to remember the controls easier (see Saints Wow 3 example & Super Meat Boy). Background In-game tutorials is more direct, while the player still plays through a beginner level/area, they have direct access to the gameplay, hypothetically allowing the player to get into the game faster. Interactive and background tutorials sound very similar; the key difference however is that it is possible to skip the tutorial completely in a background tutorial.

VVVVVV gameplay image
VVVVVV, Player begins in tutorial level where they can figure the controls out. Similar to Super Meat Boy’s tutorial level. 

Finally, we have the option of simply not including a tutorial and allowing players to figure the controls out for themselves. Relying on players to instinctively know how the game works (e.g. “veteran gamers”), or through experimentation. Examples would be in a platformer, regardless if the player has played it before or not, they instinctively know that jumping into a spike pit is a bad idea. Plants vs Zombies for example, does not have a tutorial however with visual clues, players do not have any trouble understanding the rules/mechanics:  plants don’t move and zombies are slow movers. Plants act like turrets keeping the zombies at bay and so forth.

Now that we have the explanations out-of-the-way. It is time for me to discuss on how Matt and I could use one of these tutorial styles for our project, to teach the player how to play.

So far I am leaning towards a simple non-interactive pop-up screen with instructions that players can close, just so they know the interaction mechanics right away. However, I can also see both interactive tutorial or simply having none working well. Since we plan to have interactive objects have a subtle glow to hint they can be interacted with, if we go with an interactive tutorial, once they are close enough to an object, we can have a small pop-up to simply say “left bumper to pick object up” then while the player is viewing the object, have a small delay till the next instruction comes up which will be “right bumper to put object down”.

The none tutorial route, I see it working best if it was on a keyboard/mouse control scheme. However, since I just recalled we will be using the game-pad for our game, it may not be the best method. So at this point, I am leaning towards a simple pop-up with instructions or having it be an interactive tutorial that teaches the player, for day one only before disappearing when the next day begins. Although admittedly, I do prefer the idea of an interactive tutorial, with day one serving as the tutorial level.

Helpful link / reference:

4 Ways to teach your players how to play your game (source)