Hacked Off: When the Tutorials for Video Games Are Terribly Done

What better way to start off the New Year than by continuing to rant about trivial aspects in video games? Tutorials normally annoy me in any format, as I’m a bigger fan of being left to one’s own devices to work out the controls or only being shown the advanced stuff. Though, I do understand some people like to know what they’re doing, rather than running around like a headless chicken, even though that’s more fun.

Pokémon games aren’t the most complex. I would be amazed if even a chimpanzee couldn’t work out how to play the game. What makes this worse is that there have been six other generations which have taught players what a Pokémon Center is and how to catch a Pokémon. Why not make a tutorial optional? This way newcomers can learn a water type is strong against fire, while the rest just move on with the game. Pokémon Sun/Moon was made worse by the fact the tutorial lasts a whole island; there are only four of these, so it’s not like that’s a small area dedicated to a tutorial. The whole section is unnecessarily sluggish, and the story tries to mesh with the tutorial when it really didn’t need to.

Another recent tutorial that annoyed me a smidgen was the one in Final Fantasy XV. At the start it asked if I wanted to do the tutorial. Being a responsible adult, I thought it was for the best, and besides, it was taught by the ever adorable Carbuncle. Yet when it was finished, the game went on to teach me everything again. What on Earth was the point of the tutorial beforehand? Was it some kind of extra-credit so that I could try and be ahead of other players? Did the people at Square Enix think the players would forget instantaneously how to play and so needed to be taught it again? Sitting through a tutorial once is bad enough, but twice is ridiculous.

An infamous tutorial was in Driver. Here you had to complete a series of tasks before you could move on. The problem was the game didn’t actually teach you how to do any of these tasks, you could only crash four times, and you had to do all of this within a minute. Sure, this is a great mission but hardly something to start the game off. How did the team all agree that was the best possible way to teach players how to play the game? It’s like they wanted to put people off the game straightaway.

F1 2013 is another driving game tutorial I had problems with. Codemasters decided it was a good idea to put the tutorial as part of the story mode’s team placement. This means depending on how well you do, different teams will send you job offers. Now, this is great fun for people who’ve played the game, but for those fresh to it, it means you’re lumbered with Marussia. Great, give people who can’t play the worst team, that way they’ll never get points. It also failed to explain any of the car setup information, making most race weekends start with a trip to the internet. Not exactly effective tutorials.

The tutorials that stop the game every five seconds to teach you something are probably the worst. It’s like the game doesn’t actually want you to play it. The constant stopping and starting make it drag for no reason. Viva Piñata is among the many games that do this. Why not just tell the player several things they can do, let them try it out for a while and then explain something else? Most people have waited a decent amount of time to play the game, and the last thing they want to do is be bombarded every time they take a step with a tip on how to play. The most infuriating is when you’ve already been doing the thing it’s trying to teach you.

NBA 2K17: The Prelude had one of the worst tutorials I’ve ever played. This is the first NBA game I’ve ever played, so in theory I’m the prime target of a tutorial. The only thing is, the tutorial taught me nothing. It was just the bare basics of “this is how you throw a ball.” I mean, if I couldn’t work out what button did that, I doubt I should be playing the game and instead questioning my life choices. This meant when playing the game, I had no idea what I was doing. All the ‘President’ was doing was running around trying to get the ball, failing and commentators saying, “Wow, he’s awful.” Well, maybe if they told me how to actually play the game, I’d be at least adequate. It was meant to entice people to buy the full game, which surprisingly, failed to persuade me.

A confusing change of tutorial was in Spider-Man 3. The game is beyond awful, but in the PS2 version, the tutorial was at least somewhat fun. The narrator, Bruce Campbell, made jokes which allowed for the perception that the game would be enjoyable. The PS3 version rejigged the tutorial and made the narration more serious. It’s as if the developers thought, “Hmm, this is too funny, let’s make it dull, that way people will know straightaway they’ve made a bad decision buying the game.”

Obviously, loads of games get tutorials correct. One of my personal favourites being Alan Wake. It was set in a nightmare, so it didn’t impact the plot, but it didn’t even feel too much like a tutorial. It told players how to play with little text boxes which didn’t interrupt play. Games don’t need to force the tutorial down players’ throats; when gamers struggle, they’ll seek out the tutorials, thusly, players who don’t need to sit through an hour long tutorial don’t need to be annoyed.

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I mainly focus on features here at Gaming Respawn, where I can freely voice my thoughts and opinions to those on the internet, as those around me stopped listening years ago. The games I like are pretty standard so I shan’t bore you with what I play, but don’t worry you won’t go empty handed I’ll offer a little less popular one, well among my age range, Viva Pinata.