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  • Ingredients For The Perfect Video Game Tutorial

    [03.24.20]
    - Carlos Valenzuela

  • Flavour #3: Not everyone learns in the same way.

    'Can you repeat that, please?' 'Wait! I am writing out this' 'Let me try to do it please' I'm sure you have listened to one of those or even said one once in a while. Not everyone acquire information in the same way, each individual have their own learning style and this have been studied by psychologists since quite a long time. One literature review even identified 71 different models! But we do not need that much.

    The VARK model identifies four different kinds of learners: Visual, Auditory, Physical and Social. Keep in mind everyone of them: try to represent ideas as images, make use of audio feedback, let players learn through trial and error and/or let them see other people fail.

    Flavour #4: Balance the Experience.

    Asher Vollmer (Threes dev) explains that every game tutorial has to accomplish four things:

    1. Comfort the player. Don't bother with unnecesary elements, let him experiment and practice. Don't overflow the screen with things he doesn't understand or doesn't have to yet. Keep things clear and simple (Remember Flavour #2? Keep clear objectives to reach flow).
    2. Excite the player. Show him the possibilities of your gameplay. Maybe they are practicing versus wood sticks but hint them that those will be amazing dragons later on.
    3. Respect the player. Don't treat him like a robot, don't give commands and expect them to repeat them. Don't tell what to do, ask them to do somethingand they will figure it out.
    4. Teach the player. All of this doesn't matter if a tutorial doesn't end with all things clear (it's a good moment to remember Flavor #1)

    Comforting and exciting may be complete opposites, as well as respecting and teaching. But that's how balance work. Giving absolute safe space may end in confusion and disorientation, but telling exactly what they have to do won't make them feel smart or special. It's not a game if there is not a challenge, even in the tutorial.

    Flavour #5: Use Mechanics to teach Mechanics.

    Scott L. Rogers tells us in his book 'Level Up: The Guide to Great Video Game Design' that 'A mechanic is something that the player interacts with to create or aid with gameplay'. If you have the tools to interact with the game, use them. For example, we want to teach that behind some walls there is hidden treasure, but they have to be destroyed first. We can use a pop-up with a chunk of text explaining it (Hint: NO), a glowing sign or an arrow. Those are not mechanics, those are examples of telling the player what to do (Flavour #4), and we have to avoid that. But then, how do we do it?

    If the player is able to attack, let him attack. Place something that he needs to destroy, like an enemy, right in front of the wall and just wait for him to see that his attack, that inevitably reached the wall, destroyed it revealing the juicy coin. You didn't say a word, you didn't point anything, the player itself discovered it and now he's feeling smart (Flavour #1 again).

    Flavour #6: Extra Tips.

    • People don't like to be teached, we already cleared that, but we can extend it a little bit. People don't like to read. An image is worth a thousand words, so try to write down the least words possible. Reading means a break which interferes with the game's rithm, and keeping a good rithm is key.
    • Don't be tasteless. Tacky graphics can take down an experience in two seconds but, counting on your game doesn't look horrid, don't ruin your aesthetic with vulgar 'tutorial' elements, like glowing fingers, moving arrows, pop-ups or shiny contours. You already know the tools to avoid all of that.
    • Maybe it's impossible to reach the tutorial later on the game but at least make the most important information always accesible. Like an 'info' tab on the menu or something, but as overinformation can be overwhelming, the lack of it is confusing and undesirable.
    • This is just a note on the Flavor#2 but, as the challenge must to build up, so must the interesting elements. Always keep a cooler surprise behind another. Remember, keep the player excited!

    So, when do I have to start thinking about my game's tutorial?

    NOW.

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    I hope this have been useful to you. This article was written thinking of video games but you can extend it to any interactive digital experience like apps. But if this has been too dense or long to you, just read the bold text.

    Follow me on TwitterLinkedin and keep an eye on Gamelearn to check my work. Thank you for reading!

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