Jan 12, 2015

DualMondays: Let me be your guide!

DualMondays is a more or less weekly column by Jim Spanos (a.k.a. Dualnames) on game design, adventures and all sorts of highly intriguing things. It usually appears on Mondays -- only rarely on Wednesdays. And some times fortnightly.

Alright, first, let's get formalities out of the way.

Happy new year, fellas and gals!

I hope you had a good share of the holiday spirit and rest. Even if it wasn't full frontal partying but spending time with loved ones on a cozy and warm environment instead, everything counts in my book. Enough about holidays though. And to get the thing out of the way, I'm not gonna talk about New Year's resolutions, these are silly. If you're gonna do something, there's no need announcing it to everyone, unless you're looking for attention or confirmation. And these should never be the motive to accomplishing anything.

Alright, back on topic, which is none other than tutorials in videogames. So, what is their purpose? Why do they even exist as a term and comprise such a big role in the medium? Well, videogames have evolved a lot those past 40 years and with them so have their respective controls. These aren't the 80s anymore; we don't use the Atari 2600 control schemes anymore - just a stick and one button rarely cut it. We've instead been transported to an era of rather complex and multi-level control over our videogames. And that can be accounted mostly to the traversal to an extra dimension.

Nowadays we can move a character regardless of perspective (the position of the camera is irrelevant, dear viewer) to a space that isn't pseudo-3D because of limitations - emulated through mode7 algorithms or the like - but rather is actually presented in front of our very eyes as genuinely three-dimensional. Also, as games swell in complexity, the number of available actions the player can perform to impact his surroundings increased as well. To explicitly explain and help the player realize and understand the game mechanics, tutorials slowly started popping in videogames. But, while the tutorial --on a theoretical level-- fixed a major upcoming problem of the medium, it also created a couple of issues with its presence.

You see, on a practical level, initially at least, nobody bothers making use of the tutorial a part of their story and world. Instead it is stuck between some part of the story usually on the first stages, to make sure the player has been shown everything there is to know about the videogame in question.

While this is useful, it also breaks immersion, reminding us constantly throughout its duration that this is a videogame we're playing after all. In their majority tutorials are uninspired and as such, there are several tropes they're falling into, some of them becoming some sort of inside joke among gamers, who are anxiously smashing buttons, hoping to go through the tutorial faster to get to the actual game. FarCry 3's tutorial even goes a long way joking about this entire situation.

However, games such as Half Life, Little Big Planet, Portal, Black & White, Beyond Good & Evil, Metal Gear Solid 4, Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night and Fallout 3 sport wonderful tutorial sequences, that don't feel intrusive and instead feel natural and part of the entire game. They exist because they actually work as a concept based on the principles and the rules which govern the universe they happen to be a part of.

Related @ Gnome's Lair:


  1. Happy new year! :D
    At times tutorials can be extremely annoying, as some games don't let you go anywhere or do anything until you've finished it. Also, some tutorials are just broken, they can be buggy, annoying, and can just invade the screen too much, but meh, thats just my opinion :P

  2. There was nice way of showing tutorial in Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Dishonored games