Rethinking Tutorials

Assassin's Creed IV

Hello, Sushians. I’m writing you guys from the future. Or rather, from the next generation.

Having received my PlayStation 4 last weekend, I’ve been enjoying my fill of it over the last several days. I’ll write something a bit more extensive at some point in the near future, but right off the bat I’ll have to say that I love the machine, and am incredibly impressed with how it does everything promised. It’s quiet, it’s easy, and it just works.

Gushing about the PlayStation 4 aside, however, one of the games I purchased, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag has given me some food for thought. While I’m loving this game much more than I did its predecessor, the let-us-not-speak-of-it Assassin’s Creed III, I can’t help but wonder if game tutorials have gotten too ridiculous.

At the moment, I’m just about 6 hours or so into ACIV, and I’ve only just stopped performing the game’s multiple tutorials. With all the new editions over yearly iterations, the game’s teaching segment has had to grow to accommodate all the new systems at play, such as sailing, hunting and crafting. Each of these is handled in a variety of tutorial missions that, while fun, are still nothing but tutorials, at the end of the day.

I can’t help but feel like this is a recent trend that’s gotten out of hand. I mean, I get it, if you’re a developer and people are jumping into your franchise for the first time, you don’t want them to feel lost. But surely there’s a solution other than making your players have to work so hard to get to the good stuff. If video game stories were movies, they’d have people walking out of the theater while they waited around for a reason to get involved or to care. For some reason, developers feel like it’s OK to let a game take awhile to develop, rather than launching us in straight off the bat. In fact, I think this is so widespread, I can’t recall a recent game that didn’t spend the first 2-3 hours just teaching you how to play it.

What about you guys? Do you think game tutorials have gotten way too far out of hand? Or are you fine with waiting for them to finish? Go!

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I write about samurai girls and space marines. Writer for Smooth Few Films. Rooster Teeth Freelancer. Author of Red vs. Blue, The Ultimate Fan Guide, out NOW!

4 thoughts on “Rethinking Tutorials”

  1. I like the Gears of War approach where it gives you the option to play the tutorial. 5 minutes into the game they give you a left trigger/right trigger choice, one gives you the tutorial and one basically tells the game “I’ve done this shit before”. Choose that option and the game jumps right in and gets you playing normal combat, rather than tutorial-esque scenarios.

  2. I enjoyed the way Bioshock Infinite had their tutorial. It was more like, If you want to stop and play the minigames to learn how to play go ahead, else just go ahead and play the rest of the game.

  3. My rule of thumb when designing tutorials for games has been to make it quick and make it virtually unnoticeable. BioShock Infinite did this really well. You didn’t even realize you were in a tutorial until it was almost over. Most importantly, you had fun.

  4. Tutorials are getting a little on the long side, but I don’t mind them much, they’re par for the course at this point. Tutorials you can skip are nice, but that usually isn’t an option since they’re so long and can have a lot of the game’s story in them. Tutorials that don’t feel like tutorials are ideal, of course. Hopefully tutorials don’t get too much longer.

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