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We have released our new game to a closed alpha group. It's a browser-based MMO RTS, however some aspects of the game are slightly different from the "standards" you'd expect to see in traditional RTS' due to it being persistent, browser-based etc. For this reason, we have a new player tutorial which helps players through some aspects of the game that differ from the "norm", such as the way you acquire territory and the way you move large groups of units.

I think that every game I've played has had a "skip tutorial" option during the tutorial, so we put that option in as well. However, this has now caused us a dilemma: looking at the player stats in our database, there is an almost perfect correlation between those players who have played through the tutorial and have progressed through the game, and those who haven't. Basically, if you don't play the tutorial, you pretty much don't know what to do next and stop playing the game after not doing anything meaningful for a few minutes.

I'm really torn here between "best practice" / user experience (which probably dictates that players should have an option to not play the tutorial), and clear evidence which shows that if players don't play the tutorial, they likely will quit the game early.

Is it reasonable in this situation to "force" players to play the tutorial? I.e., don't give them a "skip tutorial" option? Could we dress it up as "missions", where the first 10 or so missions are compulsory to progress, but actually those "missions" are simply the current tutorial steps?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm actually all for you forcing players into the tutorial and then share with us how much of them dropped the game before they finish it. \$\endgroup\$ – badunius Jan 13 at 3:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think that every game I've played has had a "skip tutorial" option during the tutorial, perhaps you misremember, perhaps you need to play more games. Anyway, there are games that make you go over the tutorial without calling it a tutorial, and there is no option to skip it. Sometimes people do not notice that the tutorial part is over. Sometimes skipping is done by using the skill you would learn in the tutorial before being prompted. Although, that is harder to do in a competitive online multiplayer (browser) game. It could be that "skip tutorial" is the state of the art in that category. \$\endgroup\$ – Theraot Jan 13 at 23:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hi. How to reach you? I'm doing something very similar. Would like to share some ideas and experiences. My email is magimantas@yahoo.com \$\endgroup\$ – mansim Feb 3 at 7:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hi mansim. I have set up a chat room for us called "RTS MMO discussion". Please let me know if you have any trouble posting there. Arj \$\endgroup\$ – Arj Feb 4 at 0:59
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I feel like you should force players to take the tutorial, especially if it isn't a long one. It's better to make people stay longer with the game (by making them understand how to play it) than acually making it daunting for them to play it (by adding that skip button). Also I would advice against making the tutorials into missions, as they would be simple. (because they are tutorials) Talking from a player perspective I wouldn't like the first few levels/missions to be basic moves. They should be interesting and entertaining beacause the first few levels/missions are always the ones that will captivate the user or make them hate your game.

Hope this helps:)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for your comment. I like your logic that it's better for people to stay longer with the game as opposed to making it more "difficult" for themselves if they press the "skip" button. I guess a lot of us gamers are so used to pressing "skip tutorial", even in a game where it's basically essential to know how to play :) \$\endgroup\$ – Arj Jan 12 at 3:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ Dozens of browser based games that forces you into "click here, click here, click here..." kind of "tutorial". This is terrible. \$\endgroup\$ – badunius Jan 13 at 3:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ So how is forcing players into tutorial and then missions is different from tutorial missions followed by normal missions? \$\endgroup\$ – Kromster Jan 13 at 10:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think this is the best answer to my original question, since I was asking what to do in our current situation, not some potential future situation where we have more time/money to improve the tutorial. \$\endgroup\$ – Arj Jan 18 at 7:21
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A good tutorial is one where the player doesn't realize it's one.

Work on your new user experience to introduce the complexity of the game gradually. After giving the player access to a new game element, give them a trivial and intuitive problem based in that new mechanic. Only let them progress to the next layer of complexity when they solved that problem.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Hi Philipp. I agree with you, however we're in a position where we've already "released" the game to some players, and overhauling our tutorial (a fair amount of work) is not an option for this phase. I'm doing a lot more research on good tutorials so that we can work on it before beta launch, but in the meantime I was hoping for advice on a quicker/simpler decision: force players to play the tutorial, or not. \$\endgroup\$ – Arj Jan 13 at 1:17
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Although I think @Philipp's answer is the way to go, a "quick fix" for your situation could be to still give your player the option to skip the tutorial, or keep on following the tutorial for a reward. As they progress through it, make the reward bigger.

And it has to be a meaningful reward, like something that could usually only be obtained through the cash shop, or make it an achievement. Or a hat for their avatar.

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    \$\begingroup\$ That's not a bad idea. I had been thinking about somehow integrating rewards into the tutorial after reading some of the previous comments. This may be one way to go. \$\endgroup\$ – Arj Jan 16 at 0:10
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The problem I see by forcing the player to go through the tutorial is:

how do you actually know you‘re dealing with a new player?

In singleplayer games it is basicly impossible to tell if someone someone is starting a new game or already played through the entire thing before. In Multiplayer/MMO games someone with a fresh account is very likely to be a new player but it‘s not guaranteed. People start new accounts for various reasons. And you need to ask yourself, when you confront a player with a skip option, how likely is it he‘s going to use it if he has no clue about the game yet?

There should always be a skip button for tutorials that just explain the core mechanics of the game.

The best way is to allow skipping and offer a "repeat the tutorial" option for the players that decided to skip it and noticed that it would have been a good idea to play through the tutorial afterwards.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ "And you need to ask yourself, when you confront a player with a skip option, how likely is it he‘s going to use it if he has no clue about the game yet?" It looks like the OP has data to back their concern: people do skip the tutorial then quit. \$\endgroup\$ – Vaillancourt Jan 15 at 2:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Vaillancourt exactly right. This is the core dilemma that we have in our game right now - when people don't play the tutorial, they quit. So forcing the tutorial should be no worse for new players. Anyone who has already played it is then by definition not a new player, so they won't be affected by the change. \$\endgroup\$ – Arj Jan 16 at 0:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Arj I still think both this answer and the one from haxor raise a valid point. For some reasons, some players you would identify as new players will not be actual new players and will be frustrated if they are forced to play the tutorial again. You have an interesting challenge on your plate :) \$\endgroup\$ – Vaillancourt Jan 16 at 0:37
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For players who replay your game, being forced to go through the tutorial again can be frustrating.

You could find a smart way to propose the tutorial again for users who skipped and don't manage to accomplish anything in the game.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks very much haxor. Actually, we do have a "resume tutorial" button which can be found in the game's settings. I guess we could have some logic that checks if the tutorial has been skipped + if the player doesn't progress much in the game, then prompt to resume the tutorial. However in my experience, players logging in to the game again in such a scenario would be rare - if you don't play the tutorial and don't do much in the game, chances are you aren't coming back :( \$\endgroup\$ – Arj Jan 18 at 6:49

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