So, I just gave an interview on tutorials, during which I had hoped to give a concrete example of a game which handled its tutorial poorly. Unfortunately, my memory failed me as most game tutorials eventually seem to blur together. Naturally, just today I saw a perfect example of how not to write one. The game is called Bloxorz, and it is a quite good puzzle game that feels a bit like a turn-based version of Marble Madness, if that makes any sense.
At any rate, when the game begins, the player is moved through 9 screens that give instructions on how to play. The problem is that this information is simply too much for the player to digest before he or she has even a tangible sense of how the game works. Simply put, gameplay cannot be described with just words. Did you understand my Marble Madness analogy in the paragraph above? Probably not. However, as soon as you actually play the first level, the basic gameplay becomes quite clear.
Thus, advanced features, like switches and teleports, are meaningless to the player until he or she actually understands the core game. The tutorial could be twice as effective if each of the instructions screens was simply placed before the level in which the new feature first appears. The designer is essentially forcing the player to read the entire manual cover to cover and then hoping that everything gets remembered. Information should be handed out to the player only when needed.
Give the game a try, it’s fun! Just not the best tutorial experience…
Boy, you sure got that right about Bloxorz. Worse than just giving you too much information, the overly long tutorial actually confused me about playing the game!
“Where’s the switches? The teleports? How come I fell off the edge?”
The best tutorials are the ones that integrate the information into the game play. For example, “No One Lives Forever 2” starts you off playing the game. Headquarters leaves you little notes around the level (sometimes the gadget guy will radio tips to you).
You keep the feel of being immersed in the game and you aren’t given information before you need it.