I’ve tried to see how begginer friendly my first game was becoming with my wife (who had never played IF or any adventure game before) by just sitting her and telling “Go ahead, try to play, I won’t tell you anything” - and the results were not good. I tried other games and she started to get the hang of things the more she played, but she would have quited long before if I hadn’t… err… forced her to try for a bit longer.
One thing striked me as curious: she never typed HELP or ABOUT in any of the games I gave her. When I suggested her to do it (to read the “New to IF?” kind of pages in the HELP/ABOUT menus, with example actions and all), she read it diagonaly and told me that it was all too confusing and boring.
I started to think that a tutorial mode, as in Blue Lacuna, in which the parser gives hints along the ride (Try to type EXAMINE SOMETHING to examine an object --> that sort of hints), was probably a good idea; but then I thought that what I wanted for my game would be somehow lost If I “tutorialized” the intro any more than I was already doing. I also thought that many games would “loose” something If they had a tutorial mode in them for the first turns of the game.
So, the two issues are:
- A new to IF player may find the texts in HELP/ABOUT menus, with small explanations and lists of regular verbs, to be boring and confusing;
- A tutorial mode in the beggining of the game may not always be a good idea, since, for several reasons, it may damage the mood/ambience/challenge/etc that the author is trying to achieve.
This morning I found myself thinking about this and bumped into an idea. I decided to put some work into it and tell you about it. I don’t know if this has been done or discussed before, so forgive me If I’m presenting an old something as a new something.
A game (any game) starts and, before the player is in the first room, an instruction would arise:
[If you never played Interactive Fiction before, please try the TUTORIAL GAME first: type TUTORIAL and press ENTER]
Then the player would begin a short game (3 min to 5 min), completely unrelated to the main game, that would teach the player the main instructions common to many IF work. After the player completes the small task, he could explore the tutorial world a bit further or just go and play the main game.
What would this accomplish:
About issue 1: the player learns by playing, so it diminishes the chances that he would get bored and confused.
About issue 2: it allows the author to begin a game as he wishes, without having to think of a tutorial intro.
What would be great:
- that such a tutorial game would be the work of the community;
- that it would be written so that the source code could be inserted into any game with small chances of conflit with the source of the main game;
- that it exists in all IF language (TADS, I7, etc)
I’ve written a short game (Hotel Tutorial) that ilustrates what I have in mind:
So, in this game I’ve tried to:
– create a simple, short plot with a simple task.
– guide the player ALL the way, covering some of the more basic commands.
– use names for things and rooms that would be difficult to conflict with any game - I’ve called everything the tutorial thing (tutorial room, tutorial key, etc).
– leave room to create more explorable things, rooms and puzzles.
What would follow:
– to make it so the game could fit into any game (I don’t know how to do this other than just copying the code to another game).
– to make the Hotel Tutorial more explorable after the Hallway (community driven content).
– to discuss what guidance is the best possible and what guided actions are the best options.
– to port the idea to another language (I only know I7 and I’m just learning it!).
– to clean the code (I imagine, beeing a newbie, that this same game is possible with much more elegant code).
So for now I would love to know what you think of the idea.
Hugs and kisses,