We have all had this before, the controls are obvious, the tutorial is boring and slow, plus you cannot skip!
Or the tutorial/lack there off, leaves you in a world with no idea what to do.
This is common in many games I have played. I feel there are a few reasons this happens; I will discuss on a singular topic why I think this is so, and what you should be thinking about when teaching the player how to play your game.
Have you ever played an “RTS” style game on mobile and had to go through a gruelling tutorial with many paragraphs describing the mechanics? Me too, and it is frustrating as hell! You can either tap-skip through it all then try and figure it out after, or patiently loose interest in the game by the time your ready to play. I believe this is a common occurrence because the game has been designed in a way that there is allot of things the player can do that they have to take in, and they have access to that very early. Some of those style games have tried to overcome that by slowly popping up tutorial dialog as you unlock things, but the mistake is that it is still a forced linear tutorial. It controls what next action the player can do right up until they have already achieved a few levels and build a bunch of stuff that they could not control. A good example of how this has been done right are games such as “Age of Empires” and “Command & Conquer”. The reason I believe this to be so is because the game was designed around teaching the player, not the other way around.
When the game starts you have a limit to what you can do and all the future possibilities are not revealed to the player straight away. Progressing a little further you begin to unlock things at a rate that the player can focus on learning a couple mechanics at a time, not thirty. Imagine never playing this type of game and starting up at full civilisation, you would defiantly need a flood of information to describe what the hell is going on. These newer games may not put you in that state, but they show you everything that is available. To a new player how will they know that thing A required thing B but first thing C needs to be build, all the way up to Z. And this comes back to designing the game around teaching the player, not the other way around. You should be focusing on how you will introduce the player to a game.
When you enter a game for the first time, its new and you have to take in what you can see. The average player con only hold up to seven different things on a screen at one time, the less there is the more attention can that be given to the others. Some things you should consider when designing a tutorial experience is; Is my game running like the hundred types before hand and will it use the same control set?, How much do I actually need to convey? and at what point should I let the player learn the rest?
All three of those are very important! For example… A simple fps game that uses the same control set as Call of Duty/Halo, does not need a step by step guide on what button to press or what they should point there gun at. Do you really need to tell the player that your gun just got a power-up, or should the item they just picked up tell them based on what it looked like and what happens when they next shoot there gun? No need to pull the player away from the game to tell them if they can figure it out on their own.
That’s just a few things to think about. I guess it just comes down to how much thought you put into the design of teaching a player.
I will be working on a game over the following weeks. The controlls will be quite unique as they require joystick guestures to move. Rather than do what most games do and have the player locked until they perform an action like, look left/right, move forward then back. I will simply have a small on screen image anmating the guesture of the basic movement. The image will stay there until the player moves but they wont be locked to that action. The controlls are simple and other than that they will only be able to look around until close enough to an interaction. So there is no need to inform the player in a typical tutorial fassion as its quite simple to grasp. Just enough to hint them towards finding the control.
In terms of the games objective, rather than tell the player the reason thats in the game. I will have narations tell them about the character and what they do, give hints towards their next objective whilest not making it the priority of their exploration. My intention is that the player will absorb what is happening in the scene and the narations equaly, and gain an understanding of their purpose based through progression of naration.