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The State of Modern Gaming Tutorials
Virtually every game has them, and they’ve become such a part of gaming culture that tutorials are things we simply must grin and bear – even if they are ultimately unnecessary – but the question is, why?
Anyone who picked up Pokemon Black 2 or White 2 played through the early stages of the game’s tutorial, which will be familiar to anyone who has ever played a Pokemon title. I selected my starter (the water Pokemon Oshawatt if you’re interested) and received my Pokedex, all well and good.
But then the tutorials set in. You’re asked if you know how to use the running shoes, you respond with an affirmative and you’re talked through it anyway. This feature has never changed in a Pokemon game, all you have to do is press B in the direction you want to go. One wonders why gamers are given an option at all if you’re going to be talked through the process anyway.
This was followed by another tutorial showing you how to catch Pokemon, which cannot be skipped. This too is an element of the series which has never changed, lower your Pokemon’s health as far as possible, throw a Pokeball and hope it goes in. If GameFreak ever chooses to change how this process works then yes, there should be a tutorial even for veteran players. But until that point in time, you shouldn’t be made to sit through it and you do have to sit through it.
Despite the 3D makeover of the upcoming Pokemon X & Y, it’s likely core concepts haven’t changed too dramatically, and yet gamers will still likely be required to watch as they’re shown how to do something they’ve done a hundred times.
By that I mean you don’t even have control during the tutorial. An NPC shows you how it’s done, and then advises that you follow her lead in the future. You’re not even given the opportunity to try it for yourself in a practice environment if you’re a novice player.
I am not alone in pondering the state of tutorials in games today.
Last year former Epic producer Cliff Bleszinski tweeted: “In a world of YouTube, wikis, and forums, one can’t help but wonder if this connected generation even needs tutorials in their games.”
I think he’s wrong about this. Some aspects of a game can be tough to grasp from reading about it on a wiki or even from seeing it done on YouTube. There is something to be said too for discovering how to play a game on your own. I have been compelled to use these services to help play many games, but the fact is that sometimes there isn’t any help available, or what assistance is out there just isn’t enough. Sometimes you’ll even play a game before people have been able to make guides.
This will be particularly prevalent going forward as the PS4 possesses game capture and sharing technologies, and the next Xbox is believed to offer similar features. PC gamers of course have had access to this particular set of functions for years.
Some of you no doubt remember the controversy last August over what Gearbox developers internally referred as ‘Girlfriend Mode‘ in Borderlands 2. It was a poor choice of words, inferring that women were inherently inferior gamers, which is by no means the case, however the core concept of the mode – essentially a version of the game for new players or noobs – was sound, there is even an argument to be made that a similar option should be available in far more titles.
While Girlfriend Mode wasn’t the actual name of this feature (the Mechromancer skill tree), the concept of somewhat leveling the playing field should be welcomed as a potential means of enticing non-gamers into the fold. If you’ve never held a controller before, it can undoubtedly be a daunting prospect to try to master.
Should there be tutorials? Yes, of course, but if, fundamentally, the mechanics haven’t changed as in Pokemon or even Assassin’s Creed free running sections, then they should at least be optional. A possibility to consider is the Uncharted series’ feature, whereby at certain points of the game you can choose to push the right stick to highlight something important.
You don’t have to do it and the camera is only taken off your hands if you choose to do so and returned immediately once you drop the right stick. If this same mechanic could be applied to tutorials, then many of the problems that exist within this gaming staple would surely no longer be problems. Alternatively, developers could endeavour for that rarest of tutorials, one where it’s not clear you’re playing a tutorial at all.