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The Frustration of Tutorials and Onboarding within Games

Any gamer, game developer, or game publisher will agree that games are getting more complex, and the gaming experiences even more juicer, but only where the right support is provided. At the same time, the onboarding process takes more and more time. This is a matter that any serious game developer or publisher shouldn’t take lightly. It can’t be an afterthought anymore, because breaking the gaming experience causes frustration, frustration results in lost attention, and ultimately, a gamer who uninstalls your game.

Today, very few games even come with manuals as the game itself teaches the players how to play. However, the big question is, do they do it the right way? What is the next level for game tutorials? TV Tropes has a great article about tutorials so before we get answers to these questions, let’s have a look at the different types.

Common Types of Game Tutorials

Antepiece

For an Antepiece tutorial, a great example is when the game requires you to open a portal at a certain location and go through it. In the portal, you are presented with an ostensibly simple and small task that acts as a channel to the bigger and more difficult real game level. When completing the tutorial, you’ll get subtle hints about how you are expected to deal with the next step of the game.

Auto-Pilot Tutorial

This is a visible tutorial that you can’t touch. It normally plays over and over to give a player important hints on how to play the game before throwing them into the action. The tutorial explains these directions through voice-over or written text.

Forced Tutorial

This is an in-game tutorial that you must read or watch for you to advance to the next level. In most cases, this applies when the developers feel that the challenge awaiting the player is too difficult, so they help to enjoy it.

Timed Hits

These are tutorials that are conveyed through a character that outwardly seems fictional but doesn’t break the fourth wall. In these cases, the character itself tells the player what he or she should do at a specific time.

Justified Tutorial

A justified tutorial is integrated into a game’s setting. The tutorial’s characters accompany the player throughout the game, instructing them on the moves to make. Since the character’s instructions are part of the setting, their audio directions are supported by the game’s Heads Up Display. For instance, when the instructor tells the player to shoot, the Heads Up Display reads “press R1 to fire”.

Signpost Tutorial

This is an in-game tutorial that puts instructions on the signs and the background of a game to show a player how to navigate through certain features. It is less obstructive as compared to the non-player character tutorials.

Training Boss

This is a tutorial that places you in a simulated game environment where you are battling against an unbeatable character. Don’t be surprised if you end it up with a humiliating defeat – you can’t beat the opponent anyway. However, you’ll have tested your new game skills.

Training Dummy

This is where it feels like someone is telling you, “ Hey come and practice your combat moves on me; I won’t fight back!” You can’t lose this practice fight, but again, you can’t win it either. You end it when you had enough.

How to Create A Good Tutorial That Doesn’t Break The Gameplay?

1. Prioritizing Undisrupted Gaming experience in your Game Design

First and foremost, you need to put undisrupted gaming experience in the center of your game design. The best game design is which helps a gamer to understand the rules and instructions of the game easily and enjoy the gameplay as seamlessly as possible. Perhaps there’s this game that you were playing, and along the way, you had to pause the gameplay for minutes as you try to understand what the tutorial was telling you in order to make the necessary move. How was the experience? Not the best, right? Maybe you even lost interest in continuing the game. This happens to many other players as well when they get fed up with disruptive tutorials. Others will try to skip them, only to be stranded later in the game because they lack the necessary support that they’d have otherwise gotten from the very tutorials they’ve just skipped.

As such, as you create your game tutorial, ensure it is supportive to players without being disruptive. Make it simple and optional where possible. Just think about a player who replays your adventure. Would he really want to listen to every hint and tips you have to say?

Also, text is not the best way to deliver a tutorial message. In most cases, text instructions destroy immersion and many players tend to skip them if given a chance. If you have to use texts in your tutorial, the best way is to use them as subtitles in a video-only, video-audio, or audio tutorial. Having done that, your players can opt to listen to or read and listen to the tutorial.

How about players being able to access your game’s help database hand-free using voice commands? Now, this is game experience taken a notch higher. It’s one of the best conveniences you as a game publisher or developer can offer to the gamers. They’ll be ever thankful to you because you’ll have helped them navigate through the game smoothly without them having to remove their fingers from their controls.

2. Maintaining a Simplistic Control Design

Secondly, you need to stick with simplistic control design. You cannot hide behind the excuse of “My game has so much to offer; it cannot be simple”. Gamers can be impatient if they feel that they are spending too much time trying to understand your game controls. No matter how rich you feel your game is, your target audience may hold a contrary opinion because you’ve not provided them with an easy channel to explore its richness. As such, it is crucial to ensure that your game’s controls are easy to understand and use.

3. Appropriate Placement & Timing

The third thing you need to keep in mind is to time and place your tutorials well. You just cannot break the game-flow by throwing information on the players when they don’t need them yet. They want to concentrate on the game, and when a disruption occurs, it has to be something to help them proceed as soon as possible. Give them small portions of helpful information just when they need it. With such an interactive tutorial, it’ll be easy for them to relate to the information and act on it because it’s relevant to the prevailing gaming step. Otherwise, if the presentation of the information isn’t properly timed, the chances are high that players will skip it. The tutorial will not have served the intended purpose – unfortunately.

So What Is the Next Big Step for Game Tutorials?

Considering the tips above, there’s great importance for game developers and publishers to leverage on the power of artificial intelligence and virtual assistants to offer interactive tutorials. Virtual assistants are key components of AI-powered gaming, whereby games are so ‘intuitive’ that they are able to respond to every gamer uniquely depending on their gaming behavior.

With the growing popularity of virtual reality gaming, immersion goes to a whole new level. However, without minimizing the information displayed on the heads up display, there is a barrier to this evolution. Switching to a voice-based assistant can be the way to go here. This brings us to Fridai, a leading gaming assistant.

Fridai, has been an integral part of AI-powered gaming and it’s a great tool that helps game developers to implement their onboarding and tutorials without disrupting the gaming experience. It conducts a real-time analysis of a gamer’s behavior during gameplay and provides them with small and appropriate pieces of information just when they need or ask for it.

Better still, the gamers don’t have to engage their hands to request this information. All they need to do is to speak to the gamer assistant, asking it what they want to know. For instance, a Minecraft player who wants to know how to create an enchanting table may ask the gamer assistant, “Hey Fridai, how can I craft an Enchanting table?” It’ll draw the relevant information from Minecraft and present it to them instantly. For those who want help with a bicycle kick on Fifa, asking it, “Hey Fridai, how can I do a bicycle kick?” is enough to get all the info they need and the timing will be perfect.

This way, players do not need to suffer through forced tutorials, popping up screens, and overwhelming information floods. Most importantly, they can immerse themselves in the game a lot more. Oh, and one more thing: How cool it is to pretend to be Iron Man with your own Jarvis?