In Game Tutorials. Too Many Vs. Too Little

Since game manuals are kind of obsolete at this point, a game still has to tell you how to play. Or do they? I’ve played a hell of a lot of games, I mean seriously a hell of a lot, and I’ve come to notice that while mostly every game tells you something while playing about the basic controls there are some games that tell you nothing at all. While I can’t stand over instructions that sometimes pause the game during important moments, I also can’t stand a game that doesn’t tell me what to do or give me any direction on how to play.

Every game needs a basic type of instruction. Sure everyone knows that pressing up on the left analog stick usually makes your character walk while using the right analog stick makes your character look around, but what about all of the other buttons? You know since there are like a bunch of them on a standard controller. What do you do with them? When do you have to use them? This kind of basic instruction is really only needed once and is of course helpful, but what about instructions that really aren’t so helpful or just too frequent. Take Borderlands 2 for example. I recently completed this game again on the PS4 and I found it highly annoying the way the game paused every so often if I picked up something new or the game wanted me to learn how to use the menus. At first it seemed helpful but soon became extremely annoying since the game was interrupted over and over again by this annoying presence of an in game instruction guide. This isn’t the only recent game that has done this though, I’ve also had the same problems while playing Dragon Age: Inquisition and even more recently while playing The Witcher 3. Sometimes enough is enough. If I need to learn more I can also go to the manual that is usually located in the options menu. I know all of this can be turned off in the options menu, but it just feels like it’s something that I shouldn’t have to do.

While there are those games that over instruct, there are those games that don’t even instruct you on what to do at all. My most recent game of no instruction was The Unfinished Swan. I spent three or more minutes staring at the white screen in front of me when the game first loaded waiting. I wasn’t sure if there was a glitch or my game didn’t load right. Just when I was about to reboot the game, I accidentally hit the R2 button which fired off my first paint ball. Seriously? Some type of simple instruction would have been nice and it wouldn’t have ruined the whole “art” feel of the game. Not only do some games have no instruction at all, but some instructions are so obscure that they have you scratching your head wondering what the hell you actually have to do.

At the moment there really doesn’t seem to be a balance between over instructing and under instructing. Some games do it too much, some games too little, and some none at all. While I would like to see some sort of balance in upcoming titles, it just doesn’t seem like there ever will be. Unfortunately that means that games that over instruct and games that under instruct will continue to annoy me while games that perfect this equation of balancing instructions perfectly will continue to earn my respect and praise.

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1 Comment

  1. Good read. I agree with a lot but I would have to say in my opinion, games that have minimum instruction tend to give me a better experience. A game that shows you the basic controls and lets you loose to figure everything else out always gives me a sense of achievement and a belief that that through practice I have developed some skill to be displayed. This feeling tends to get lost in many modern games with the use of mechanics such as quick time events.

    I think the reason behind developers dumbing things down and holding a player’s hand through a tutorial is due to the supply of games readily availabe to players. Developers don’t want a player to get to frustrated or they will simply play something else. 20 years ago this situation would not be as common. When the target audience was much younger the purchasing power of that market segment was as well. This means in 1995 whatever games you were playing ( for me it was a sense and earthworm Jim) your library of games was a fraction of what someone of that age has access to today. So since then we had fewer games on hand we were forced to try over and over and over no matter how frustrated we got because we may only have 1 or 2 other games that we have beat a million times.

    Anyway, as I said good read and keep an eye out maybe this topic will be my 2nd blog post. 😉

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