I Kind of Hate Tutorials, Except When They’re Hidden

It might be just me, but I kind of dislike (hate) tutorials in game. I suppose the reason why I think this way is that tutorials are boring and don’t get me anywhere in the game. I’m the kind of player who wants “tutorials” to be “gentle tips for newbs” type of stuff. I guess I can sort of manage a tutorial that’s a quick one and has “skip” button available. But god heavens if there’s tutorial where I need to wait some voice to tell me “now you need to click there to move your unit and wait while I tell some story that took place seven thousand years ago and let’s order pizzas too and have a chit chat?” What’s this, I want play?!

I liked how Left 4 Dead does things: it gives you on-screen tips on what to do (pick up med kit, do this, do that). I like how Nation Red did this: they have separate tutorial but it teaches everything in 2 minutes.

I like how Zombie Panic has no tutorial, nor much hints at all. Instead, players ask each other “how you rotate the board”. In Zombie Master (for some reason I’m getting zombie game examples here) it’s cool how players ask each other “what to do next?” – sometimes the reply is “n000b!” but often time other people tell what to do. I think that’s tutorials in its greatest form: community interaction where everybody helps each other. People can enjoy the game in many different levels.

Of course there’s dangers in this type of no-much-help, no-tutorial approach as players can frustrate for not knowing what to do, but I think I must admit that the day when I learned how to rotate a board in Zombie Panic (you hit the reload button to rotate it, which goes against almost every piece of logic I can come up with, but that’s a story for another blog post) – thanks to fellow players – was much more rewarding to me than the day when I learned how to use medic in Left 4 Dead. Rotating the board required thinking, trying, effort and social communication to understand it. It required nothing to learn to use medic stuff in Left 4 Dead (since they told me how to do it). I guess the effort used to learn something can also affect to the amount of how much you appreciate that knowledge.

Of course this comes from a not-so casual game developer’s mouth, so take all this with a grain of salt.

Juuso Hietalahti


  1. I hate games if they don’t explain (somehow) how to play the game. It can be anything, tips, learn-as-you-go, a list of controls (not so good if there are lots). Not so keen on “annoying voice” or video-clip style ones. The ones I like best are learn-as-you-go that give you a new move each level until you’ve got all of it, and then maybe if you read another document (guide, or community forums) they will give you some strategy tips or something. I don’t mind reading instructions but I hate when they are read to me. I quite like games (where it’s appropriate) that have an in-game encyclopaedia. Games have to be pretty well done to give you no tutorial and no instructions at all (or they need to operate under current typical control schemes for that genre).

    Actually the videos in Evil Genius were ok. And they were skippable but you could go back and watch them again if you wanted in the in-game encyclopaedia :D

    The tutorial for Civ4 was horrrrrrrrrible. “Hi, I’m an animated version of Sid Meyer. I’m incredibly annoying and unnatractive, and I’m only going to tell you the basics of how to move units and stuff, chich you’d know how to do if you played any of the previous versions, but I’m not going to tell you that. Also you can’t save this tutorial, so I hope you have a couple hours RIGHT NOW!”Argh.

  2. Totally with you on this one. This especially applies to games I only have a mild interest in. If the game can’t capture my attention is about two minutes, then I’m not going to waste any more time on it.

  3. I don’t play games which have annoying tutorials.

    At all.

    When I encounter an annoying tutorial, I just quit the game demo and uninstall it.

    If I have made a mistake of buying a game before knowing that it has an annoying tutorial, I might force myself to try bear through it.. but usually that doesn’t really save the game for me.

    The tutorial stuff can be made so much better anyway, just so that you don’t really notice it unless you stop and think about it… i.e. the elements, controls, etc. of the game are just introduced you a bit at a time, without any kind of forceful spoon-feeding. Some games do it properly, many don’t. In my case no tutorial is better than an annoying tutorial.

  4. I sorta liked how Super Metroid explains its advanced techniques. For instance, at some point, you’ll be stuck at the bottom of a pit. There’s also a bird in there that is essentially part of the background. If you watch what it does though, you’ll learn how to do a super jump that will enable you to get out of the put.

  5. I dislike them too. Which is why I’ve made the whole first level of ‘Lylian’ a ‘learn as you go’ type experience.

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