Author Topic: Suspension of disbelief in tutorials  (Read 4935 times)

AgingMinotaur

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Suspension of disbelief in tutorials
« on: June 04, 2014, 02:41:03 PM »
Posting about in-game tutorials here might hopefully give rise to some heated discussions. Typically, RLs don't feature tutorials, but I guess a "modern-styled" RL should be able to bear the burden. My question to y'all is mostly how you think one should strike the balance between immersive and techincally informative in such a tutorial. In particular, I'm thinking the tutorial mode could be just a starting scenario tailored to teach the player some basic concepts. Consider how analyses of some classic games emphasize how the starting levels often have some kind of teaching function. Eg. The first jump teaches you how to jump, then comes a second hurdle to make you understand the next important concept, etc. This is nice because it makes the player feel as if s/he's playing the game from the very outset. On the other end of the scale, you have really annoying tutorial modes with some disembodies voice going: "Now, to see if you've mastered movement, go over to the spot marked X. Then pick up the X by pressing "," (the comma sign (often (but not always) located to the right of Space (should be a really wide key on your computer)))."

In my RL of yore, I started implementing tiny side-quests in the village, intended to teach basic concepts. For instance, you could meet a farmer who wanted you to demolish a wall for him. The whole idea was to teach the player that certain tools could be used to destroy walls, and these quests were just placed randomly (or not) like any other piece of content. For my current game, I'm thinking of an explicit tutorial mode which starts you out with a companion NPC who gives you hints about what to do next. "Go over and pick up the gun," "Get closer to your target to increase shooting accuracy," and so forth. (Taking a note from a post Darren made once, I'd make the tutorial open in one end, so it's possible to enter the normal game from it, but also make it very difficult to survive, as a way of teaching about permadeath ;))

Still, there's a limit to how much info one can convey without breaking immersion, so to speak. Take Gearhead as an example: The first shopkeeper you speak to offers to provide information about system-specific things, like: "What does 'DV' mean?" It's done well enough, since the info is there as an option that more experienced players can ignore. Yet, it doesn't feel ideal for a genre where non-modality and open gameplay are held up as golden standards.

So, any thoughts on this? Is it better to have a one-off tutorial with a disembodied voice, or to somehow integrate lessons into the game? Or should we just include a readme and be done with it?

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Minotauros
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rust

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Re: Suspension of disbelief in tutorials
« Reply #1 on: June 04, 2014, 03:35:56 PM »
Personally, I wouldn't have any problem with reading an external readme file. A step up from this method would obviously be integrating it into a game and then relying on context, for example you press "?" on a character screen and the game brings up a corresponding help screen.

As for tutorials, if you'd like to appeal to people who are generally unfamiliar with roguelikes, then an explicit tutorial would be a good idea. If not, then you obviously don't need to explain basics, so you could convey information in the same way as I've seen in Forays into Norrendrin - when something happens for the first time, a pop-up shows up. That's useful for little things that don't need overly long explanations. If, for example, your weapon was cursed with Mercy, then from the pop-up you'll learn that it still deals damage, but you're not able to land a killing blow with it.
Another idea would be short tips put on the death screen, perhaps based on what enemy killed the player, what weapon did the player use, contents of their inventory and whatnot. That would put an additional emphasis on learning from your deaths.

Kyzrati

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Re: Suspension of disbelief in tutorials
« Reply #2 on: June 05, 2014, 01:01:03 AM »
This can depend on the intended audience, but only a small minority of players will look at a readme these days. A majority of experienced RL players will no doubt read one, but if the goal is to target a wider audience we have to take other measures.

To avoid affecting the game content too much context tutorials are the most flexible. Just have messages that appear the first time the player encounters a tutorial-requiring mechanic. This is what I'm doing with Cogmind. I don't like the fact that the text ends up breaking the immersion, but the game is simple enough to pick up that there aren't too many messages required, and they're all short. Then I'm making sure that the short starting area is arranged such that new players will generally encounter new mechanics in a certain order; but again, there aren't many, so it's not a huge deal as it might be in more complex games that require in-depth tutorials. As for underlying game mechanics the tutorial doesn't explain, I decided that having an in-game manual styled in the manner of the normal game interface should get more players to read it.
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AdamStrange

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Re: Suspension of disbelief in tutorials
« Reply #3 on: June 05, 2014, 04:44:54 AM »
you could have signs/posters detailing things. E.G.
In your cowboy RL use the Wanted poster. When the player comes near the required poster - show it
Wanted:
<image/graphic>
McGOO
cattle rustling
Dead (press x to fire, z to reload) or alive (c to capture)
REWARD:
$200

Etc...

reaver

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Re: Suspension of disbelief in tutorials
« Reply #4 on: June 05, 2014, 08:02:28 AM »
I think the manual-like super-detailed information being presented by shopkeepers and such is a bit annoying - text files are for reading long texts, not speech bubbles.
I would personally prefer an in-game tutorial that is skippable and is actually found a lot in city building and rts games, DCSS etc:
- select tutorial type ( battle, movement, spells, skills)
- be given a preselected character on a preselected level
- make the players pass some "tests" to make sure they grasped the concepts (e.g. use magic on a physical-resistance monster, how to disarm traps, etc)

So pretty much: skippable learn-by-doing, within the context of the game

Endorya

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Re: Suspension of disbelief in tutorials
« Reply #5 on: June 05, 2014, 08:11:46 AM »
I really hate external manuals, mainly when combined with having just one screen; I have no problem whatsoever with in-game tutorials, however, if you plan to let the player learn by himself through experimentation in-game tutorials should be carefully implemented; if they are also too long and detailed it will also be boring. Personally, I prefer having detailed item descriptions instead of manuals and tutorials. It's easier to implement and the player can consult such information whenever he wants throughout his whole adventure.

Instead of having a tutorial demonstrating that a certain item can be used to demolish a wall, simply add this information directly into the item's description. Item descriptions in roguelikes are so underrated but I guess understand why, due to their primitive-keyboard-only interfaces. By using a mouse you could easily hover over an item to display its relevant information. What was dexterity used for? What could I do with the crafting skill? What can I do with this item I just found? Simply let the mouse reveal that information, no need to repeat tutorials to remember stuff around nor bringing up that massive manual which will force you (most of the time) to go repeatedly up and down until you find that particular information you are after.

It was a pain in my smooth and gentile ass to read throughout ADOM's tutorial, sometimes I would simply deny myself from going over it (yet again) just in the name of patience. And this is pretty much the main reason why nowadays I don't play that many roguelikes. I really love Dwarf Fortress' in adventure mode but just the idea of needing to go over his massive manual to learn how to effectively play it, keeps me away from playing it at all or at least not as often as I would like.
« Last Edit: June 05, 2014, 08:27:18 AM by Endorya »
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miki151

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Re: Suspension of disbelief in tutorials
« Reply #6 on: June 05, 2014, 09:14:10 AM »
By using a mouse you could easily hover over an item to display its relevant information. What was dexterity used for? What could I do with the crafting skill? What can I do with this item I just found?

Thanks, I need to add more of those. I guess this may be a problem for mobile games though. Any hints? I'll be porting to Android soon  ;)

Regarding tutorials, I like how Hoplite does these things. The first 2-3 levels are in tutorial mode and it teaches you how to move around, attack, etc. The experience is really smooth. It's a pretty simple game though, this is much harder to do in more complex games.
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Endorya

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Re: Suspension of disbelief in tutorials
« Reply #7 on: June 05, 2014, 09:32:24 AM »
Thanks, I need to add more of those. I guess this may be a problem for mobile games though. Any hints? I'll be porting to Android soon  ;)
Hey miki! In mobiles you need to make a decision, will the game run in low resolution mobiles? This has a strong impact on implementation effort and how the interface will look in the end, unless you don't mind creating specific interfaces for each resolution size, but I guess you don't want this ;). As far as pop ups goes, if I was to implement it on mobile I would add long presses in pretty much everything that is relevant. I really don't mind of having a message popping up and filling my whole mobile screen; personally I believe this is always better then browsing long manuals.
« Last Edit: June 05, 2014, 09:36:03 AM by Endorya »
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Rickton

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Re: Suspension of disbelief in tutorials
« Reply #8 on: June 05, 2014, 02:57:51 PM »
Really, a separate tutorial mode is probably the best option. Putting tutorial missions in-game sounds kind of cool, and can work fine in some games, but in a roguelike where you're going to be starting over all the time, it would just be annoying to have to play the same simple missions over and over.
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Slash

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Re: Suspension of disbelief in tutorials
« Reply #9 on: June 05, 2014, 03:16:48 PM »
For Ananias, which is designed for mobile devices, I added a frog that helps you while you are on level 1, he's contextual so for example if you are standing on a item he tells you how to pick it up, then asks you to open the inventory, then tells you how to use it, same goes for battle, etc:

Check it out, might be helpful http://slashland.co/ananias

jim

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Re: Suspension of disbelief in tutorials
« Reply #10 on: June 05, 2014, 07:08:58 PM »
The recent roguelikelike "Wayward Souls" did a good job with their tutorial by having it be a different, but related scenario - the tutorial was the introduction both to gameplay and to setting. In your western roguelike, the opportunities there are endless. Old Slim buys a gun and heads to his final shootout, for instance. In the regular game, maybe his gravestone is at the edge of town.

Jo

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Re: Suspension of disbelief in tutorials
« Reply #11 on: June 05, 2014, 11:00:24 PM »
Well Aging, I think for hobby level games a tutorial is probably not all that important. Maybe a separate mode. But in the main game just having the '?' is good enough for me.

If you want to get really tricky maybe your '?' takes you to a context specific 'help'. Like if you hit ? from the inventory you get info about how that works, ? in town gives townie info.

One thing I'd like to see more of is some strategy advice in the ? screen.
« Last Edit: June 05, 2014, 11:02:17 PM by Jo »
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AgingMinotaur

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Re: Suspension of disbelief in tutorials
« Reply #12 on: June 06, 2014, 03:16:41 PM »
Thanks for many insightful replies, folks. For my part, I think I'll try to embed as much pertinent info as possible in the flavor texts of items and skills. This enables the implementation of specialized features without the fear of no one ever noticing it. As for a tutorial mode, the current test build of my game provides a very simple scenario (escape from the lead mines) that I might rework as a tutorial scenario later on. In that case, the tutorial would start with a popup explaining the basic controls ("Move with weadzx, use Tab, Space and Enter to navigate inventory/actions menu."), and then I'd add as an NPC a fellow prisoner who tries to escape with you, while shouting pertinent tips and hints. I think it could be a funny thing, because the in-game instance that provides the actual tutorial would be susceptible to die :) Also, I might opt to chain the player and the NPC together, as they've been working in the same chain gang1. And I'd like to make it possible to "clear" the tutorial and enter the real game world, get a blacksmith to hack off your chains and be on your way, but much more probable to die before the tutorial is through. So even advanced players might still play the tutorial as an iron man mode or something.

In a tutorial like that, I'd be able to explain the basic tactics needed to navigate the game (assessing cover when shooting, when to switch between melee/missiles, etc). A written manual could provide more in-depth rules for people who want them, eg. explaining exactly how missile accuracy is calculated.

Mouseover for tooltips is a good idea, and definitely something I want for my own game, but it's currently keyboard-only, so ...

Slash: I liked the frog in Ananias – and the game looking nice in its own right, very polished interface 8) The title has me a bit flabbergasted, as "ananas" means "pineapple" in several Germanic languages.

Rickton: Yeah, these kinds of tutorial missions, in a RL, will have to be optional, something you'll just as well skip once you've been through them and which don't impose on the rest of the gameworld geography. It's not an idea I'm thinking about using for my current project, anyway.

As always,
Minotauros

1 So if he dies, you'd move at half speed, having to drag the corpse behind you. I guess the idea comes from wanting to implement a system for lassos and ropes (how are we gonna lynch someone if we can't tie'em up first). But also immediately gave rise to an idea for a possible boss monster: the last survivor of a chain gang where the other succumbed to lead poisoning and other dangers of the deep, himself utterly insane at this point, dragging a dozen corpses behind him and craving the guts of whoever comes near. But I'm getting ahead of myself. As always.
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Paul Jeffries

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Re: Suspension of disbelief in tutorials
« Reply #13 on: June 10, 2014, 10:43:40 PM »
Something that I've been planning on doing for a while (but, like 99% of my ideas, haven't had time to implement in anything and probably never will) is to have a specific character as a tutorial-giver who is a bit 'Deadpool-y' - i.e. they have metafictional awareness and can say and do the kinds of fourth-wall breaking things that are necessary to teach the player how the game works, but in-universe everybody just thinks they're completely wacko.  With some good enough writing and a liberal dose of dramatic irony I think that you could do this in a way that would be fairly entertaining but also wouldn't be too immersion breaking.  For example, having them exclaim:

"'E uses things with E's', 'E does!"

would hopefully communicate to the player that E is the 'use' key but in an ambiguous enough way that their character would just write it off as incoherent ramblings.  I suppose that if you were clever enough you could drop the madness angle altogether and have the tutorial messages make perfect sense in context but with a double-meaning to the player.

"Here, take these keys to the fletcher's storeroom and go over there, would you?  That's right, I want you to move with the arrow keys."

Aukustus

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Re: Suspension of disbelief in tutorials
« Reply #14 on: June 11, 2014, 05:07:08 AM »
I've always found in-game tutorials huge immersion breakers. Sort of breaking the fourth wall. I think keys shouldn't be talked outside either readme or completely separate tutorial mode. Nothing annoys me more than in-game characters talking about keyboards.