Tody’s Take: Please God, Stop The Tutorials
After attending the Cape Town Prototype 2 launch event this past Thursday night, and getting to play the game, I stumbled once again upon one of the things that I can’t stand in modern gaming. Tutorials. Now, I had a great deal of fun playing Prototype 2, but that was only after the first twenty or so minutes when the game finally stopped with the introductory tutorials. But this isn’t about Prototype 2, it’s about games in general because almost all of them are guilty of this evil which threatens to destroy the IQ of the entire universe. No really, I’m quite serious. Tutorials are the reason I’m bored at the beginning of a lot of games rather than excited, they’re the reason I can’t enjoy the freedom to experiment and learn the game in the beginning, they’re the reason why certain interesting mechanics become redundant at the start of a game, and they’re probably the reason why KFC cancelled the Double Crunch.
I’m deadly serious, so let me head into this column and discuss why tutorials need to be destroyed.
In today’s gaming, one of the things that annoys me the most is how serious developers take the idea of “making things accessible to newcomers”, so much so that I feel certain games actually undermine my intelligence, and in many ways their own logic. The worst of it occurs in sequels. Let’s take Prototype 2 for example. Chances are that you would be playing it since you’re a fan of the original game. So why then, does the game open with a twenty minute introduction teaching you the very same mechanics you spent the entirety of the first game using? Let’s look at Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, since the screenshot above is from that game. It’s the fourth game in the series, but it opens by showing you how to move, use the camera and climb walls, and how to perform basic combat. Really now, if you haven’t played the first three games in the series, what on earth would you be doing playing Revelations? I’m completely fine with in-game help and the option to take tutorials, but I hate it when they’re forced onto players who are completely familiar with the game they’re playing.
The idea of these compulsory tutorials is completely contradictory to getting fans hooked onto a game, and selling a game to you. What exactly am I talking about? Well, in today’s world, games go to such incredible lengths to market themselves to gamers, yet it makes no sense to me why those same games do not try and sell themselves to gamers during the early hours of the game. There’s an almost obsessive tendency for sequels to start right at square one, which may work nicely for newcomers, but it doesn’t help people like me who want to get immersed straight away and immediately discover, or rediscover, why we’re playing the game in the first place. For example, the ideal and best way to start a sequel for me would be the way God of War III began, where the game basically said, “Right bitch, you’ve played the first two, and you know what it has been building up to. So man up and go kill this giant water God.” I was completely sold in the opening sequence, and my excitement levels were sky high as the game incredibly set the stage for an epic scale boss fight as your first welcome to the game. Now that’s awesome. However, regarding any game, that is not a sequel, an example of what I consider a great start is incidentally the opening sequence of the original Prototype. You were thrown straight into a massive battle between the military and the infected monsters, your character was powered up and you were free to raise hell and enjoy what the game did best for a short while.
Let me give you the following analogy to illustrate my main point. Take a look at the immensely popular and incredibly awesome movies, Batman Begins and its sequel The Dark Knight. The former slowly introduced you to the character of Bruce Wayne, took you right to Batman’s origins, showed you how he grew up to become the caped crusader, and painted a clear picture of what motivated and drove the character. And that’s all great, and thoroughly entertaining and immersive the first time around. But then The Dark Knight came along, and rightfully took for granted that you had watched the first one, so it threw you straight into the mix, assuming that you were fully equipped with the necessary knowledge to go into the movie, and it immersed you straight away into the new world, fully taking advantage of its new toys and creative freedom. Now, let’s take a look at the flip side. Imagine that The Dark Knight had started out with twenty minutes of recapping, showing flashbacks of the first movie to enlighten you on what’s going on. I can’t say I would have enjoyed that, personally. I think my excitement levels would have plunged down to a level of mellow or even below. Look, I know games and movies are very different ball games, but it’s the principle of the idea of “slow-walking” that I’m trying to make clear.
That’s about the gist of what was on my mind since the Prototype 2 launch event. I really dream of a world where tutorials aren’t compulsory monsters that slow-walk you through the opening sequences of games, exhausting cool mechanics you’d much rather want to experiment with for yourself and making you perform boring, lifeless tasks multiple times as though you’re incompetent. I think most gamers would much rather have their game start off with a bang, or have the tutorial feature as either an optional thing on the side that is integrated into the game seamlessly. A great example of this, off the top of my head, was in last year’s Deus Ex: Human Revolution, where tutorials were entirely optional and popped up on the screen at set points in the game, prompting you whether or not you’d like to view a short video tutorial to explain one of the game’s mechanics. They didn’t interrupt gameplay, as they rather nicely chose to appear in the corner of the screen, and you could either ignore them completely, or view them, and that’s what I loved about the game. It didn’t assume you were a child incapable of figuring things out on your own. It allowed you the freedom to play the game and learn for yourself.
That’s what I would like to see more of. It may seem like a minor issue to many, but for me mundane and compulsory tutorials take away a lot of the initial excitement I have for a game. A lot of the initial magic for me in a game is in figuring out how things work and learning for myself how to play, and what I can and can’t do. I love that aspect – the freedom to explore the game’s mechanics and test them for myself. But compulsory tutorials take that element away, forcing me to do things in one way and one way only, reducing the magic, treating me like I’m incompetent and taking me out of the experience. When I play a game, I want to be sold within the first hour or two at most. I want to know that I’m playing this for a good reason. And when I head into any sequel, I should be made to feel as though I’m already prepared to jump in and take on a new experience in a familiar world. That’s what I want.
That doesn’t mean that I always want to be thrown into the deep end. It just means that I don’t want to feel so restricted at the beginning of a game, and I want to have my own experience.
It just means that I want compulsory, boring tutorials to die. Painfully.