What Is This I Don’t Even

We’re going to get a little lost here, so hang onto your hats.

Since I finally got my new computer up and running (christened Sissyphus for obvious reasons) I’ve had the opportunity to broaden my gaming repertoire considerably.

Over the past couple of weeks I have played:

• RIFT
• Gary’s Mod
• Team Fortress 2
• Dragon’s Age Origins

Those four games I played for the first time.  One of them is an MMO, another is a sandbox toy, one is an FPS, and one a single-player RPG.  What can I say? My tastes, they are eclectic.

The one thing they all had in common, however, are tutorials.  Running through so many different tutorials got me thinking what I would like to see in Guild Wars 2.

RIFT

I’m having trouble remembering this tutorial.  I know there were pop-ups that explained in words and some pictures what I needed to do based on what I happened to be doing at the time (context). But beyond that I found them unremarkable.  That’s not really a bad thing, though, because a tutorial’s sole purpose is to get you playing the game.

I felt different when it came to crafting, however.  Your introduction to crafting comes through some quests and since I don’t bother to read the quest text beyond the first few quests I do, I was lost pretty quickly.  I know, I know, it’s my own fault for not reading the information that is Right There for me.  Blame it on the promise of fully-voiced games and the need to compress my playtime due to Having A Life.

Gary’s Mod

Tutorial? We don’t need no stinking tutorials!

Well actually, I do.  The only Halflife games I had ever played before jumping into Gary’s Mod was Portal and Counterstrike: Condition Zero (my husband used to compete and I always want to try whatever he’s doing).  I knew vaguely that E was use and Q would call up stuff I could spawn, but beyond that not a heck of a lot is explained with a couple of notable exceptions.

Videos: Upon first loading up my own private game I found a couple of videos right there on the login screen that showed me how to spawn stuff, pose ragdolls, and make a car (I later made a car out of a piece of road with a bunker on top, go me).  Those were pro, and awesome.  I like videos.

Pop-Up tips: I think there were pop-up tips, I can’t be completely sure, they were there and gone so quickly.  I would have liked to be able to access the tips at-will as well as having them pop up at opportune moments.

Team Fortress 2

I think this game wins the Tutorial prize.  I found a quick how-to section and then I played a skirmish with some NPCs.  I tend to be very clumsy in an FPS environment and I’d rather not be getting my face blown off constantly while trying to learn how to not trip over myself.

After the skirmish the game decided I need a little help and suggested I play through the “How to not be bad at a Soldier” tutorial.  So I said ‘OK’ and loaded it up.

Video. Ok cool, I like videos, that’s neat.
Shooting Range. Oh! This is nice, it’s got good pacing and there’s pop-up messages that tell me what button does what.  Even better though, after they tell you that buttons 1, 2, and 3 will select your various weapons you’re then tasked with putting that new information to use!  Learning the information and then performing the action goes a /whole/ heckuva long way to make learning actually stick. (No, I’m not a teacher, akshully)
Demo Round(s). After the shooting gallery the game bounced me into a 3-round match against and with NPCs during which I was expected to put my new skills to use.  I also learned a few new tricks thanks to some helpful pop-ups and idiot arrows. (I am much the FPS idiot.  If there is a dead-end I will find it!)

Like I said, TF2 wins the Tutorial prize.  I’m not sure the exact format would work for GW2, but a system that combines visual and audio lessons (as opposed to walls of text, see next entry) with cementing knowledge by doing, will be fantastic.

Dragon’s Age Origins

I’m sorry Dragon’s Age, I know you’re critically acclaimed and everybody seems to love you, but your tutorials suck.

While playing, I was bombarded with walls of text that didn’t necessarily have anything to do with the tasks I was completing at the time.  I can access those popups later, but they’re interspersed with articles on lore (the popups for which are very similar to tutorial popups) and everything just ends up lost in the shuffle.

I can only take Dragon’s Age in small amounts before I get tired of reading my games and go find a book to curl up with in either a more comfortable chair or laying on the grass down in the park.  That might be more of a general criticism of the extensive dialogue, but it still doesn’t fix the tutorials.

Portal

This wasn’t on my list above, but I’d like to mention it anyway.  Portal has, by far, my favorite tutorial of any game I’ve ever played.  When I voiced this opinion in the PIG vent I was met with laughter and an outcry of “But 2/3rds of the game is tutorial!”

Yes, yes it is.  The thing is though, I don’t feel like I’m doing a tutorial in preparation to play the game.  With Portal I was simply playing the game and just happened to be learning new things (and acquiring new skills) along the way.  Weather I had only my two hands or a fully-loaded portal gun I found the same amount of enjoyment and fun from solving the puzzles and working my way through the compound.

So I think my favored tutorial would be something that combines video and audio lessons with immediate opportunities to use the skills learned, along with a little repetition to make it stick.

The perfect tutorial, however, would be the one you don’t even realize you’re doing.

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