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Children learn through play, which by it's core nature is subversive. In digital games we can enforce and feedback any arbitrary rules and do not require "conceptual rules" like don't step outside the white lines.

Have we started using tutorials as a crutch rather than keeping our mechanics consistent and self-explanatory?

Edited for clarity

So I was listening to Another Castle interview the extremly interesting Eric Zimmerman. They were talking about the subverssive nature of play when my brain started drifting to tutorials, thinking about Limbo. Then I realised that not once on Glo did we ask, do we need tutorials?

Now I know the indie and art games scene has been promoting this concept of subversive play for a long time but I ask you how many developers question the need for a tutorial?

Copied from Blog Post for explanation and context

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Personally, I feel it is bad form to put a link to your own blog in a question you ask. It tends to look as though you are trying to publicize the blog, even when you just wish for other people's opinions. –  Nikwin Jul 28 '10 at 9:49
    
Yes, I agree. It was poorly informed choice. Mostly because I did not want to retype the length post I fired off before starting work. –  Kimau Jul 28 '10 at 10:17
    
Question is argumentative by nature, but I am torn as I can see some benefit for leaving it open. I'd recommend CWing it at the very least, but I think you could create a better question from it. –  Noctrine Jul 30 '10 at 23:19
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closed as primarily opinion-based by Anko, bummzack, Sean Middleditch, Vaughan Hilts, Byte56 Apr 7 at 15:15

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

4 Answers

The unmentioned assertion here is that tutorials are bad and not fun. Can we explain our game concepts to the player in a fun way?

To give two competing examples, the Halo tutorial was excellent, and famously selected your axis inversion for you by just watching what you did when asked to "look up." Conversely, I've recently played a cricket game whose tutorial was a sequence of text screens and actions to parrot, with little or no context.

Any tutorial should pass two requirements: the player shouldn't have to pick up the manual at any point in the game, and the player should have their immersion compromised as little as possible. If you can do these, I see no reason why you shouldn't have a tutorial.

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Requirement #3: It should be skippable for those who know the game. –  Bart van Heukelom Jul 28 '10 at 20:36
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Granted, but if it's fun, you won't want to skip it. :) –  tenpn Jul 29 '10 at 11:56
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By contrast, the game "Portal" is essentially a giant tutorial that teaches you how to beat it as you go. There is no "tutorial level"... rather, every level is at least part tutorial. Great game, very popular. So, to say "we need fewer tutorials" I think is an overgeneralization; there are many paths to making a good game here.

If the question amounts to "should I make a tutorial in my game" the answer is: it depends on the game!

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A better question would not be: should I make the tutorial obvious? –  speeder Jul 29 '10 at 1:07
    
The question is possible poorly phrased and argumentative. I realise a day late now I'm thinking about this in a much grander scale. Like would adding a tutorial compromise exploration. From a practical point of view I think the "it depends on the game!" is valid and accurate. From a philosophy point of view I need to do more research before I can correctly phrase my question. –  Kimau Jul 29 '10 at 13:01
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Children learn through play, which by it's core nature is subversive.

Both assertions there seem questionable to me. Play is one way we learn but the only way? And why is it subversive?

I explore the question in depth here on my blog

Not sure if this is just an attempt to drive traffic to your site, but I will give my two cents. Whenever I have made a game (casual Flash game) and start to get feedback from the larger public the first thing I hear is "We want instructions".

I find not having instructions will probably take 1-2 points off my game's rating (out of 10). Even for something like a minigolf game where the user only ever has a single operation he can perform and has the same goal across each level.

Have we started using tutorials as a crutch rather than keeping our mechanics consistent and self-explanatory?

Is it really reasonable to strive for "self explanatory" game mechanics? Should Modern Warfare 2 be self explanatory? It seems to me that it would take someone new to games an incredibly long time to learn the ins and outs for a complex FPS.

For a complex game, instead of striving for simplicity or obviousness I would instead focus on employing progressive disclosure so that users gradually are introduced to more complexity. This is a tried and true method and lets you stagger instructions across the entire game.

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It's really not a traffic thing. It's a genuine question that popped into my head this morning. I'm still thinking about it, hence posting here. I just pointed to my blog post for more details and clarification. I think most of the mechanics of MW2 are self explanatory and the controller is possible the biggest barrier to play discovery there. –  Kimau Jul 28 '10 at 9:51
    
As a game player who has played games for a long time, possibly since you were a child, MW2 is easy to pick up and play. For someone who has never played a video game or held a controller learning the controls to move around and fire, the mechanics around say how death matches work, how to find a game, what the bonuses do, etc, would be completely overwhelming. –  Alex Schearer Jul 28 '10 at 9:59
    
It's a challenge and I do agree the controller is a large barrier but I don't think the problem is insurmountable. Also under examination of exploratory play often certain "accepted conventions" which gamers don't question seem silly. By introducing these conventions in a tutorial however we train players to it, and most adult gamers will accept the convention if told it is that way, but question it if found through play. –  Kimau Jul 28 '10 at 10:16
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This is a good question. I would say that it really depends on the game; some games are complex by nature and thus need tutorials for people to effectively learn (see Dwarf Fortress, AI War, some RTS games), while others contain no tutorials and would be spoiled by them (see most adventure games, arcade games, some RPGs).

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