The lights are on
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As gaming has become more and more mainstream, and has become more accessible to a variety of audiences, tutorials have become more and more commonplace. Of course, gaming has also become vastly more complicated as technology has grown. The fidelity of analog sticks, motion controls, and voice controls have all incited leaps in gaming that we have had to become accustomed to. For some, these interactions are still wonky, and do not end up working all of the time. So, tutorials have had to crop up more, not just at the start of games, but in the middle too, so that games have become more and more "hand-holding". There are definitely good tutorials, and bad tutorials, as well as things like the Super Guide in the New Super Mario Bros. games that can assist players when they are in need. I don't think that all tutorials should go away: rather, developers should start putting in place better options for games who are more cognizant of how some games work, and follow examples set by games like Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc and Half-Life 2.
EXCUSE ME! WHAT IS THE ACTION BUTTON?!
Tutorials are, of course, meant to help gamers. If a developer doesn't tell us what a button does, then we will most likely become frustrated that we didn't know of a certain action that could have been very useful in the first combat situation. Of course, if they tell us everything at the beginning, we may become overloaded and then forget what one button does, leading to confusion as well as frustration. Is there one single formula that works for every single game out there? No, that's impossible. The variety of controls and interactions various games require mean that we will almost always face problems with how a tutorial should work. There are, however, systems that I believe could work very well across multiple genres, and should be considered by developers.
I was inspired to write this blog based on a game I recently finished, and a game I started after beating that game. Those games are Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc and Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy, respectively. The latest entry in the Professor Layton series still has the charm that all the previous games had, and the puzzles are still just as great, but I've seen the tutorial over and over again. Sure, it's changed a bit because of the series moving onto 3DS and having new ways to move and interact, but it's essentially the same as before, and I'm just a bit tired of it. Plus, the characters act like they are reviewing this idea for pretty much the first time ever, and that makes the tutorial seem less necessary. They're people capable of solving the world's most difficult puzzles, and yet they need to review how to move and look around? Look, the series is geared toward the younger adult audiences with how the stories go, mostly, but it's also still a series many older audiences enjoy. I feel a bit disconnected now, also, as the game is trying to tell me things I don't need to know.
In contrast, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is a game I played for the first time very recently, and it's one of the most unique games I've ever played. You won't see mechanics like these in most other games, even the Ace Attorney series. The game even builds upon these mechanics over the entire game, adding in new elements to make situations more complicated. Each time this happens, though, the game quickly asks if you want to hear about the new element that has been added to X scenario. Even though it's your first playthrough, you can go into parts without knowing what you're doing. Of course, I never did that, but since I intend to do a second playthrough sooner or later. I know now that I can skip all of that stuff. I was never bothered by the game asking me these questions, and felt it was one of the best teaching methods a game has even presented me with. If I'm playing the game again, and forget how to use a certain element, I will have the option to review it, but not everything else the game has.
This works, mostly.
Most first-person shooters have their own small things, such as changing what the melee button is, or what sprint is. When the melee button is as something as ungodly as V on PC (yes, there are customizable controls of course, but in terms of defaults, that's awful), I need to be told that. I do like experimenting with controls when I play games, but I don't want to have to search for things either. I don't know how many times I've tried pressing random buttons just to find a certain action in a game, and then find out it's completely different from another game that I'm used to. In this day and age, something that could be helpful with this problem would be Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft implementing a system where games could be set into certain genres, and then that genre could have certain actions assigned to certain buttons. For example, let's say you're starting a first-person shooter: you could default reload to Y, or square, and do that with the rest of the "necessary" actions. Then, for maybe a game like Borderlands, you would be prompted when starting the game of what button you want to assign for the action skill. I know that this would take an industry-wide effort to implement, and is most likely something we'll never see, but I think it would be beneficial to some gamers. There is a question of how much it limits developer's freedom, I guess.
Although, there is another industry-wide idea that I think could work well would be instigating a set of options for the tutorial before a game starts. The player could choose to have the normal one, one tailored specifically to the game (for example, learning about how to use skills in Dishonored, but not how to attack, run, jump, and other normal parts), or the option to skip any tutorial the game has. This last option could be a way to get back to how games used to be, in a way, and could make gamers ease into games more naturally at their own pace. Half-Life 2 has probably had the most minimal tutorial of any game, as the game never stops to tell you anything, and buttons only appear in a translucent box off to the side, not in the middle of the screen. I liked that a lot, but it would also be cool to just take that out entirely. Tutorials sort of kill immersion, which is what a lot of developers seem to be pushing for nowadays.
Of course, not all "forced" tutorials are bad: I hope I haven't given that impression. Some games have incorporated them into their stories very well, such as Dead Space 2's action-y opening. The Mario & Luigi series is funny because the characters mention pressing buttons, even though they don't know what that means. Metal Gear Solid has the player told via codec or radio how to play the game, but like the title caption says, this is a bit confusing (seriously, I don't know which the action button is, and I've played two hours of 2 and 4, 10 minutes of 1, and beat 3). If a tutorial is going to be forced, it needs to be clever, or at least, not very time-consuming and/or tedious. When tutorials are made so that you can fail them...well, that's tedious, and I don't exactly want to have to replay a tutorial.
There are definitely games that need tutorials in today's market, but considering the influx of them over the past few years, they are becoming a bit more of a nuisance. In any case, I've said all that I was going to on the topic of tutorials...so this is where today ends. See you all tomorrow.