One of the last games I bought was Gears of War 3. The instruction manual was about two pages long. When I bought Gears of War 1 back in 2007 I read the instruction manual on my walk home. That manual had everything. It told me about the story of the game, the weapons, the enemies I would be facing, how to play, tips and it might of even had a section for notes. The manual for Gears 3 has controls for the game and... that is about it.
Truth is, games no longer need instruction manuals. Not when the game can teach the player exactly how to play though the game itself.The first level in a game is usually the tutorial. When I first started working on my third person action game the first level I was working on was a tutorial level.
When I was attending Art Institute one of my professors saw me working on the first level of my game. He said that I should do something different, I should be innovative! Make the level begin with a shootout! Immediately the player is being shot at! Enemies are rushing the player! Make it really intense!
That might sound like a great idea but in reality that is one of the worst scenarios imaginable. Think about it, if the first thing you did was get attacked by an enemy and you didn't know how to fight back wouldn't you get frustrated? I mean you don't even know how to play and everything in the game is attacking you. Even Call of Duty's first level doesn't start off like that. In both Modern Warfare 1 and 2 the player is eased into the game. In MW 1 the first thing they do is teach you how to aim and fire your weapon. You know why? So when you are in the middle of a shootout you know how to shoot back.
One of the best examples of a tutorial level I can think of in recent times is the tutorial level in Red Dead Redemption. The part I am talking about is when you are on Bonnie's ranch. From that point on the player is introduced to just about every gameplay mechanic they will need. On the ranch the player is taught how to lock on, fire a weapon, change weapons, ride a horse etc. This is also interlaced with dialogue and cut scenes that inform the player on whats going on in the game and what the games story is. The first half hour of the game does this very well.
Pacing is important. If you want to have a narrative you need to have those slow paced moments to tell the player about the story. How is the player supposed to care about their long lost brother when they have grenades being thrown at them and are on the verge of losing the level for the third time?
Let me break it down. In Zelda 64 when you are in Lord Jabu Jabu's belly you get the boomerang. In this dungeon there are enemies that would normally hurt you if you used your sword on them but now with the boomerang you can defeat them and take no damage.
The next of the tutorial teaches the player how to jump. The player is told to jump on a moving platform. The platform takes the player up but not high enough for the player to get to this new area. The only way to get there is to jump a second time to reach the new area.
Once the player reaches the new area (The area marked with the #3) they are once again their path is blocked by a metal crate being held by a claw. If the player freezes it the claw drops the crate. The crate however is made of steel and does not break apart like the wooden ones. This teaches the player the difference between the two. Once the path is clear the player can jump over the steel crate and move forward.
The fourth area is a quick review. Once again the path is blocked. The player is given the option to either freeze what is in their way or simply jump over it. There is no wrong decision here. Nowhere in this tutorial can the player fail. There is no way for the player to be punished. A good tutorial will not punish the player in anyway.
At the end of this short section the player effectively knows how to freeze and jump. Two skills they will need to complete the game.
- Danny Q