Tutorials are used to teach a player the core mechanics of a game. In the past, tutorials were a last-minute addition and subject to resources and production deadlines; for example, a pop-up screen would be added to display some minimal instructions on button combinations.
We have since developed a deeper appreciation for tutorials, and we now understand that incomplete or poorly written tutorials can get in the way of many players’ having a truly immersive experience with a game. Here’s how you can use the numerous improvements made in this area over the years:
Initiate the pop-up window before any vital gameplay starts. This will give the player some time to read and anticipate the next move.
Provide one kind of game mechanic per tutorial and give the player ample time to experience the game mechanic before introducing a new popup. If the game mechanic consists of one or more moves, consider consolidating up to three tutorial screens into one.
Tutorial mode and sandbox level
To avoid displaying pop-up windows during the gameplay, some game designers create a tutorial mode and a sandbox level. These features are used to provide instructions before the game starts, and they allow players to practice core game mechanics without affecting the gameplay. This approach requires additional production effort and budget.
With scripted tutorials, the game presents the core mechanic and ample instructions at the beginning of a level. Each level is designed specifically to focus on the core mechanic, but it’s also is tied into the progression or storyline of the game. Scripted tutorials require more forethought into the production and pacing of a game.
Another way to introduce game mechanics is by displaying a button prompt immediately before the user’s input is requested. The button prompt is used during single moments or sequences of gameplay.
Make the button prompt visible at a distance, use the button color as additional visual identity, and place the button hint close to the player or action on the screen.