What's the best (or worst) tutorial in a game you've played?

Lauren Morton

Staff member

Hey PC Gamers, thanks again to everyone listening and especially to those of you who came to talk with Mollie and I here last week! It was really encouraging to hear that some of you have been following along all last year and we're psyched to be hanging out in our very own forums again.

This week's chat log topic is a surprisingly tricky one, because while it's the one part of a game we've all seen the most of by definition, it's also the part we're most likely to forget about after it's over.

What's the best (or worst) tutorial you've played in a game?​

This week Mollie and I invited PCG staff writer Harvey Randall to join us for a chat about game tutorials. Mollie is a guilty tutorial skipper, I am a tutorial suffer through-er, and Harvey does a little of both. They can be such a drag, especially when the entire game pauses, goes dark, and a very long text popup with three slides explains a basic concept to you. So we want to hear about some memorable game tutorials you've experienced, whether they were the worst of the worst or shockingly good. And someone back me up on this: platformer tutorials are usually the best ones, right?

Oh! And I found that old game design theory video I referenced but couldn't remember the name of. It was this Tutorials 101 by Extra Credits, which was fresh off the YouTube press while I was in university game design courses in 2012. Yikes, that was over a decade ago 😅 Clearly I internalized a lot of this back in school because it feels like we talked about a lot of these points during this week's episode. I swear there was yet another Extra Credits video about platformer tutorials specifically and how they teach players with unwritten cues but I can't seem to find that one. I've slept a few times since 2012.

Anyhow, thanks for listening and watching this week!
 

Lauren Morton

Staff member
The example of best recent tutorial I played that I talked about during the episode is Planet Of Lana. The entire experience of visuals, soundtrack, and tutorializing is great as you jump and swim and crouch around this seaside village chasing after your sibling. It also showcases how 80% of a great platformer tutorial is in the level design. It's a very well-constructed introduction that lets you quickly learn and then practice the traversal abilities you've got.

I'm not specifically familiar with this creator MadMorph but you can watch the intro here to get the idea!

 

Zloth

Community Contributor
So, let me get this straight, the "word people" get upset when there's a full page of text they have to read? ;)

The worst one that instantly springs to mind is the old EVE Online tutorial. It was so bad I managed to break the tutorial and as I couldn't complete it I had to delete my character and reroll a new one. I think the game and tutorial have been radically improved since this incident though.
X3: Terran Conflict's tutorial broke for me. I did the 'friendly trader' start and, at one point in the tutorial, the game has you blast a target with your guns. Being an unarmed trader, all I could use was harsh language, and that doesn't travel through space. So, I just flew off and got rich.

It turned out, though, that the tutorial I did was just a tiny part of the true tutorial. The main "Terran Conflict" quest turned out to not really be the main quest, it was actually just the advanced tutorial! Those X games are seriously complex monsters. Even after playing for 100 hours, I was still learning new things. And you know what helped me learn the game more than anything else?

THE MANUAL!

Oh no, how do I drop chaff to shake off that incoming missile! I learned it once, but that was a week ago and I forgot the key! Oh, right... hit pause, alt-tab to the manual's PDF, search for chaff... oh yes, there it is! It's even faster than trying to page through all the keyboard bindings.


NieR: Almost. The opening is actually a whole series of battles. If I remember right, you start out with just one little power, then you get another, and another, and another... your character goes from level 1 to Max over the course of about half an hour! And yeah, then you're dumped into that town. Ugh. I think that wasn't so much a tutorial as a way of saying "look at all this cool stuff you'll be able to do once you get past this dull village."

In JRPG's defense, Final Fantasy 7 was the first game I played that incorporated the manual into the game itself. You got prompts telling you how to move and it quickly showed you the basics of fighting, then you go through the first 'dungeon.' When you get back to town and go into the gun shop, there were a bunch of people who would explain advanced things like limit breaks and give more details on how save points worked.

P.S. Say what you want about the tutorial... the opening cinematic for Oblivion was a killer.
 
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Lauren Morton

Staff member
So, let me get this straight, the "word people" get upset when there's a full page of text they have to read? ;)
We know it's wrong but it's true! Something about being forced to read a lengthy text tutorial is torture. Reference material like manuals are great but once I'm in the game I want to be in the game, not stopping to read 😞

P.S. Say what you want about the tutorial... the opening cinematic for Oblivion was a killer.

Agree on Oblivion though. That opening cinematic gives me goosebumps to this day. The Oblivion theme is my morning alarm on my phone, actually 😆
 

PCGMollie

Staff member
Aug 14, 2023
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So, let me get this straight, the "word people" get upset when there's a full page of text they have to read? ;)
Writers can have a little hypocrisy, as a treat :cool:

The worst one that instantly springs to mind is the old EVE Online tutorial. It was so bad I managed to break the tutorial and as I couldn't complete it I had to delete my character and reroll a new one. I think the game and tutorial have been radically improved since this incident though.
I can't explain it but I feel like if this were to happen for any game, it'd be EVE Online. I'm trying to think if I've ever hardlocked myself thanks to a tutorial before and I think the answer is no? I don't think I'd ever want that to happen in a game where I can spend literal hours fine-tuning my character.
 
Best? Journey - it doesn't really have one, entire game is working out what you can do. Its not very complicated since there are only 2 buttons in the game.

Worst? Grim Dawn - It also doesn't have one and without looking online it would take a while for new players to work out where to go at the start as no arrows on mini map. So much of the game isn't explained... reminds me I need to learn it again soon. Still reading guides even towards the end.

Sacred 2 also didn't tell you where to go, but I think there was an arrow on mini map that showed location of main quest.
 
May 1, 2020
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I feel like there are hundreds of games we could shame here, just by the sheer omission of any sort of tutorial when they clearly should have one (my pet peeve in practically every single survival crafting game I've ever played). I'm sure survival elitists will claim it's to 'discover everything yourself', but I've played enough to not really buy that justification anymore.

In terms of good tutorials, the one that comes to mind is Hitman 2016 which constructs a fake set based on the first level and holds your hand on one possible way to achieve the objective, explaining most of the game's mechanics along the way. Then once the tutorial's complete, you get dropped into the real mission, free to tackle it any way you choose.

I think the idea of standalone tutorials conflict a little bit with the more modern approach to game design, which typically is to trickle in new mechanics over the course of the game and set up specific scenarios to highlight them - there aren't as many games which front-load all their mechanics and systems right from the start, at least in the genres I play. Recently played through Dave the Diver, and that game never stops introducing new mechanics, even after you complete the main story 😂

There are some games that have so many systems and mechnaics in play at once, it's an impossible task trying to craft a sufficient tutorial. For what its worth, I think Baldur's Gate 3 is inpenetrable without some prior D&D knowledge, reading up on starter guides, or having your DM friend explain it all to you. The game is very selective with what it decides to actively teach you and then assumes you're capable of figuring out the rest, which is probably the best they can do.
 
I think Baldur's Gate 3 is inpenetrable without some prior D&D knowledge, reading up on starter guides, or having your DM friend explain it all to you. The game is very selective with what it decides to actively teach you and then assumes you're capable of figuring out the rest, which is probably the best they can do.
it was part 3, none of the others helped you along way. It was worse in past as not a lot of online guides to help figure it out back then. The lack of a tutorial in part 3 is due to them staying true to first 2 games. If it were a new game now, probably have hand holding tutorials like most modern games.

Worst tutorial - Wizardry: Knights of Diamonds on Apple iie. Tutorial? Not even a map. Had to manually draw the map as you went on graph paper... though it was 1982. We were just happy having a game to play. Admittedly all the commands were on screen but it was possible to die in 1st encounter... so not easy really.

We only need tutorials now as when was last game you saw with a manual? I don't mean a 8 page booklet... goes looking for Diablo 2 manual. We used to get PDF manuals but that was soon dropped as no one looked. So if you not going to show anyone how to play in a book, you need something in game to show them way. Books were easier.
 
Well, see my previous post!
I did

I still prefer printed ones.
Sacred 1 was in color
rnLsjmG.jpg

shame Sacred 2 wasn't
H0i8VJG.jpg

I know I had a manual with Age of Conan but I couldn't say where it is now. I couldn't tell you last game that came with one.
 

Zloth

Community Contributor
Yeah, printed is definitely nicer - though also impossible to update short of making an expansion and including a new manual in the box. Honestly, though, few developers bother to update even PDF manuals. All that fancy artwork you're seeing means "just adding another sentence" can become a real nightmare.

I wonder what the last printed manual I got was? I bought X:Rebirth in a box and that had one, plus a little art book.
 
Most games from say 2004 (When Sacred was released) didn't really get that many patches after release, any update that did occur was in the expansion packs - they released a free one in 2004 & a paid one in 2005. So any updates to manual would be in those manuals. Or in a readme text file on CD.
Sacred 2 came out 2008 and got an expansion in 2009 just before company closed business for good. I have a text file and html page showing the changes it made.
auwIgob.jpg


My last printed manual might have been a Playstation game. I have manual for Roller Coaster tycoon 3 as well, its requirements make me think its older
2W8RiSk.jpg

Seems not, 2004.
 
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the last printed manual I got

The last one I can recall was for Red Alert—I still have it in falling-apart state somewhere here. I also had a cool wall chart for the Civ 4 Tech Tree. Current GF is an artist tho, so I'm not short of wall décor :)

Same with software, I can't remember the last one—it's long gone, maybe it was for DOS Word.

I still prefer printed ones

As décor maybe. But as useful, no way—out-of-date before you get it. How much depends on the Day 1 and subsequent patches.

My last printed manual

Now if printed had that binding, it would at least not be so frustrating to use. Trying to play and keep a glue-bound book open—grr. Which is why it quickly gets to the falling-apart state I mentioned.

Print has had a great 500 years, but its heyday is done. It will of course always have a niche following, like horses and steam trains.
 
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ZedClampet

Community Contributor
Late to the party here, but I play a lot of oddball games, about half of which are in early access, and many of the tutorials are bugged and can't be completed, so it would be difficult for me to pick a "worst".

A notable tutorial is for Stationeers. I think it took me about 10 hours or more.
 

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