GameDev Thoughts: How To Design A Good Tutorial For Your Indie Game

We’ve all been in the situation where you’re starting up a new game and you get the basics down, but your hand is held for another twenty minutes or so and it begins to annoy you. Everyone likes a tutorial that introduces them to the game and makes sure they know what they’re doing, but if that tutorial interferes with gameplay, it can become problematic. The gameplay becomes disjointed and your experience is hindered as a result. If the tutorial is a bit too tedious, you might be placing your players in a position where they ask themselves a question; will the players keep playing the game that’s inherently annoying or hard to grasp without using the intrusive tutorial or will they just give up entirely? Obviously, having your players leave the game before they even start is pretty horrible.

For the most part, a gamer’s thought process is similar to that of a rookie on the sidelines. They just want to know enough to be successful, and they don’t want something out of their control dictating their every move. Keep the tutorials as short as possible. Then, find a way to make them even shorter. Also, don’t forget that some gamesdon’t even need a tutorial at all! You can have a very basic controls reference and let the player go, or you can keep everything external if the game is relatively simple.

So we know that players don’t like intrusive tutorials, but what if your game needs it to effectively teach the player what to do? The best solution here is to just make the feature optional; you can have a basic reference somewhere and then the long in-depth tutorial as an option for those who want to go through it. This makes sure that players won’t be annoyed by an unskippable, hand-holding tutorial, but those who actually need it can go through it. Remember to always include in-game contextual cues just in case the player opts to skip, or is simply picking up the game again from a long hiatus.

Important Takeaways: Players hate having their hands held in tutorials, at least when they’re lengthy. If your tutorial is both annoying and necessary, you might lose a significant amount of the playerbase right away, since some might give up trying to learn how to play without your annoying tutorial. One way to fix this is to just have a very simple tutorial, or to not implement one at all and just have a basic reference somewhere; this way the player won’t get annoyed but they’ll still understand how to play.

Another solution is to just make the tutorials optional; Those that feel as if the tutorial is in their way can just skip it, and those who come to find that they actually need it can go through a long, in-depth one. For those that want to skip it, again, having a small reference somewhere can alleviate most of the problems that can potentially arise from skipping a tutorial.