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Posted by Guided_By_Tigers

My favorite part about Super Metroid is the feeling of isolation....after the opening sequence you are thrown on the planet Zebes and have to figure out on your own what to do.

Posted by yyZiggurat

Mention anything about Super Metroid in your article and I'm in.

Posted by JackSukeru

I guess I'll be the third guy to bring up Sequelitis, but I'll also embed it so there's that.

Of course these older games have the advantage of being simpler in design, you're pretty much just jumpin' and shootin', but I'd still like to see more of this kind of design in modern games, or at least the sort of modern games where having these sort of tutorials make sense.

Zelda, of all things, actually has the right idea when it traps you in the new item chamber of a dungeon until you can use said item to get out of there. Only then it also pretty much tells you exactly what the item does in long winded text tutorial that I can never skip past fast enough.

Posted by MaFoLu

Isn't it really the same thing, though? 
You either tell the player how something works through text, or you do it by adding hints in the environment. 
Both are ways of telling the player how the game works, they're just two different ways of doing it. 

I have to agree that a game that manages to work the tutorials into the progression seamlessly often comes out a better game, but having some text describing something isn't necessarily always a bad thing.

Posted by Phatmac

@leejunfan83 said:

Jeff likes hand holding

Which is why he played and reviewed Fez.

Posted by mandude

But what if I am stupid?

Posted by csl316

I wonder how the Super Metroid spark jump thing would have been accepted these days.

Online
Posted by ChocolateCoffin
Posted by EvilKatarn
"Lots of people applauding closure for not assuming the player is stupid,”
The comment struck me...

Yeah, it strikes when it's about an indie game, but not when that's about the most talked-of game of last year - Dark Souls?

I mean, sure it's possible to make a more coherent story about a game that's creator is available to talk, but the point stands.

Posted by Splodge

@EvilKatarn said:

"Lots of people applauding closure for not assuming the player is stupid,”
The comment struck me...

Yeah, it strikes when it's about an indie game, but not when that's about the most talked-of game of last year - Dark Souls?

I mean, sure it's possible to make a more coherent story about a game that's creator is available to talk, but the point stands.

I dont see any exclusion of Dark Souls anywhere in the article.

Posted by ThineOarlock

I play Starcraft with Tyler! He's my best friends cousin.

Posted by phrali

but most players ARE stupid

Posted by jozzy

@clstirens said:

@MordeaniisChaos said:

Odd, coming from someone who had an issue with Witcher 2 not holding your hand.

It also didn't teach you using game mechanics (for many things) either. Hence the problem.

True, but for a player with a certain mindset this can be a positive, like with Dark Souls. Some players actually like to be lost a little, having to find stuff out for yourself, being surprised.

Different strokes for different folks, I am sure some people love being super handholded, even with text. Others like subtle hints better, and some people like no hints at all. I don't think any of these are wrong perse, I actually love games in all these categories!

Which makes this article a little dumb in my opinion.

Posted by ghoti221

The thing is, the amount of 'tutorial' that should be in a game is a function of both its intended audience and the complexity of the game, not just design decisions.

I found it interesting reading this article in the context of the discussions Jeff and Brad have had in terms of the amount of tutorial time spent in the average modern generation fighting game (which almost seems to always be "not enough"), or watching the Flight Club try to just jump in and run really complicated simulators (and failing miserably, usually to the humourous delight of the audience.)

And there's a lot of personal preference in this as well - for example, a previous commenter talked about Shogun 2, preferring 'contrived missions' as opposed to 'text explanations', but, I'm sure there are people out there who prefer the 'text explanations' in order to get every bit of numerical data out of the mechanic.

In other words, I don't think you can extrapolate the issues raised in this article and the following discussion to "all gamers" or "all games." Throw in the fact that good design is hard, and it's no wonder tutorial design is all over the map, with all sorts of competing philosophies and opinions.

JGH

Posted by REVULSIVE

I recently rented The ICO & SOTC HD Collection. It didn't come with a manual. There are no tutorials in either game; no button prompts or "Press SQUARE to swing your sword" text. So you know what I did? I figured it out on my own. It's not hard.

I wish that game developers would stop assuming that I can't figure out how to control their game. Maybe it's not the developers though, maybe it's the publishers saying, "No, your game has to have this in it because it's an industry standard." Either way, it should stop.

Posted by EvilKatarn

@Splodge: And I see no inclusion.

Edited by liako21

i think thats why it was soo hard for me to play zelda 1 20 years after its release. i was so used to having my hand held.

but i suppose even in its time zelda was a hard fucking game.

Posted by HockeyJohnston

This weird fetish for the original LoZ when the each and every Zelda game after it improved the formula in every possible way (including eliminating the obtuse silliness that essentially padded out the experience) has become an epidemic in the indie community. Guys, being confusing is not a merit. I don't want Myst. Super Metroid was built on the *failures* of games like Metroid and the original LoZ. And while it's great, it's still a little more confusing than it needs to be.

Edited by SimonM7

One problem is that a lot of players today aren't actually players at all. Games are approached by millions as entertainment, not as a challenge. It's enough to ask them to keep track of plot points in a film, but there isn't a test halfway in that dictates whether the film continues or not.

There's such a distinct difference in attitude, and growing up during the rise of cinematic experiences and Grand Theft Auto begs the question how you're even gonna know to appreciate properly steering a platforming jump to land on a small platform, guiding coloured blocks so they fit together, or working out a puzzle by putting some thought into it. Hell, Uncharted makes puzzles into IKEA couches you assemble from the on screen manual, and I'm not even knocking Uncharted when I say that, I'm just illustrating what kind of an audience developers generally expect.

Metroid, to a majority of the gaming population today, is ostensibly about simulating the context of being a "badass space bounty hunter". The minutia of the game is of no consequence. In fact, the obstacle they fight to overcome with the greatest ferocity is *the part where it's a video game*. Why would they remember a component of the game's ecosystem voluntarily?

Tutorials today feel like they underline the gameplay components that players will inevitably need down the line, in a way that they can barely fluke their way through it. It's a funny coincidence that Brad Shoemaker on this very site made it abundantly clear that he had no idea what Ryan was refering to with one of the *first strategies introduced in Trials Evolution*, and had to have an on couch training session with Ryan's direction in the second video. It may be depressing that tutorials are so intrusive these days, but many players will even go through them without learning anything.

Posted by clstirens

@jozzy said:

@clstirens said:

@MordeaniisChaos said:

Odd, coming from someone who had an issue with Witcher 2 not holding your hand.

It also didn't teach you using game mechanics (for many things) either. Hence the problem.

True, but for a player with a certain mindset this can be a positive, like with Dark Souls. Some players actually like to be lost a little, having to find stuff out for yourself, being surprised.

Different strokes for different folks, I am sure some people love being super handholded, even with text. Others like subtle hints better, and some people like no hints at all. I don't think any of these are wrong perse, I actually love games in all these categories!

Which makes this article a little dumb in my opinion.

You're absolutely correct. To that extent, my comment wasn't to criticize the witcher, or even games that let you figure things out a bit more.

It was more just pointing out that while they complained of lack of instruction, which is still a preference here (I think), that games can organically explain things rather than using tutorials.

Edited by Rox360
@MaFoLu said:

Isn't it really the same thing, though? You either tell the player how something works through text, or you do it by adding hints in the environment. Both are ways of telling the player how the game works, they're just two different ways of doing it. I have to agree that a game that manages to work the tutorials into the progression seamlessly often comes out a better game, but having some text describing something isn't necessarily always a bad thing.

It's not the same at all, actually. In one case, you rip the player out of the game world (usually by pausing the game and shoving a text box in his face that he has to read before continuing to actually play the game) and tell him exactly what's going on. In the other, you unobtrusively let him discover the system by experimenting and observing the consequences of his own actions.
 
Even in the more subtle cases, there's a huge difference in how a player percieves being told "You're stuck in this room so climb to that ledge to proceed" versus designing the environment to encourage him to think "Huh, I don't think I can go anywhere in here, but that ledge looks important somehow". Even if the hints more or less say the same thing, the delivery mechanism makes the difference between personal discovery and following instructions. One's a lot more fun than the other.
 

Edit: To touch on another topic that were also brought up in the comments, here, there are obviously cases where cold, hard instructions can be important. There are also differences in players if you take into account personality types; Some people learn best by experimenting, some want to watch others do a thing and then imitate what they did, and some people only learn from being told exactly what to do in the first place. Some games have to mind that and make sure they're understandable to a variety of different people.
 
 But, not all games are like that, and designing all games to be approachable by anyone is not a recipe for a good game. Some games need to be obscure and requiring of a different mindset, by virtue of what they're trying to be. Especially if they happen to be puzzle games, like the ones mentioned in the article. Some people can't deal with puzzle games, possibly in part because of the learning mechanisms involved, so they just don't play puzzle games. And that's okay. Different people like different things, and sometimes thing have to be incomprehensible to one crowd in order to be truly enjoyable to another.  
 
If the game in question is meant to be enjoyed by a large, mainstream audience, then having clear instructions has advantages over presuming the player can figure things out himself. It'd probably be a good idea to assume the audience is stupid. But if you're making a game aimed toward clever people who like to wreck their brains trying to figure out some kind of arbitrary logic just for the gratification of having thought really hard for a really long time, you'd be gravely mistaken to make presumtions like that when you're designing your product.
 
Always assume the user is stupid; Except for when you have to assume the user is smarter than you are. Blanket statements fortunately don't work in game design.
Posted by coaxmetal

The part about not assuming the player is stupd and letting them figure out the game themselves was a large part of the initial draw of the D* Souls games, which were also praised for it.

Posted by Karkarov

Seriously? Fez is the most talked about game of the year? Try to keep the personal opinion that is patently false out of a news article.

Either way the article was also okay except for the Zelda comments. Zelda 1 made plenty of sense. I was 9 the first time I beat it. So either I was a freaking genius at the age of 9 or the game wasn't as complex as he insinuated. I am willing to bet it wasn't my genius.

Posted by Ragnarok512

Good article. Thanks Scoops.

Posted by Fuga

But what if I am stupid?

Edited by whyareyoucrouchingspock

If you look at Call Of Duty and then you look at the sales of Empire: Total War, aiming at the lowest common denominator (dude bro's) brings in far more sales than a sophisticated game designed for mature minds. From a bussiness standpoint with millions of bucks thrown in, it's logical. All the best selling games aim for children, casuals or people who wear a cap sideways and play gears of war, Call of Duty or other (i'm totally not gay, honest) macho man titles while smoking drugs. For sophisticated intelligent games, these are mostly found on the pc. Specifically simulators and strategy games. Many pc titles that once had a mature mind as the target audience are now aiming for what I mentioned above. Crysis 2 and Dragon Age 2 are good examples of this.

Even look at gaming media websites, they do the exact same thing as games. Slap hawt womenz all over the place and young adults males down with the kids you are suppose to identify with. Gamespot is a good example. Check out the staff and 99% of them (the ones that are shown) look like they have barely started growin facial hair. Along with obligitory hawt woman next to them. Thats gaming sadly.

Posted by beard_of_zeus
@Nadafinga said:

Closure is a really fantastic game. Its not hand-holdy, but its not like it has some crazy bizarre difficulty curve either. I felt the game did a great job of laying out the ground rules, and the levels became very intuitive as you're figuring them out. One of my favorite downloadable titles so far this year.

Agreed, really loved it! I keep meaning to go back and get the other half of the hidden moths.
 
There IS such a thing as a game not explaining enough, but there's also the other extreme as lamented in this article. I'm not sure which is worse.
 
Finding a happy medium has got to be pretty tricky, as many games don't get it right. The descriptions in the article of how all the on-screen indicators had to be tweaked, and how the "tutorial" had to be reworked to be just right seem to back this up. Game developers should definitely try to spend a lot of time striking a good balance and integrating learning experiences into the gameplay, even though it can be very tempting to just throw some text on the screen because it's the quick and easy route.
Posted by Flawed_System

@phrali said:

but most players ARE stupid

Agreed.

Posted by Sentinel373

First thing they tought me at game school when talking about game design and programming,

"Never underestimate the stupidity of your user."

Posted by TheKramer89

@Sentinel373 said:

First thing they tought me at game school when talking about game design and programming,

"Never underestimate the stupidity of your user."

Sounds like something a teacher would say.

Edited by Aldrenar47

Super Metroid is one of the few games I consider nearly flawless in design.

@MaFoLu said:

Isn't it really the same thing, though? You either tell the player how something works through text, or you do it by adding hints in the environment. Both are ways of telling the player how the game works, they're just two different ways of doing it. I have to agree that a game that manages to work the tutorials into the progression seamlessly often comes out a better game, but having some text describing something isn't necessarily always a bad thing.

Learning by doing is always more effective than by reading. For example, let's say you had to prepare two people to make their first painting. If you gave one of them a book on painting, and the other one a paintbrush and paint, I guarantee the one with the paintbrush and paint will be better prepared when the time comes to put their skills to the test.

Posted by hermes

@MaFoLu said:

Isn't it really the same thing, though? You either tell the player how something works through text, or you do it by adding hints in the environment. Both are ways of telling the player how the game works, they're just two different ways of doing it. I have to agree that a game that manages to work the tutorials into the progression seamlessly often comes out a better game, but having some text describing something isn't necessarily always a bad thing.

Not really. Games differentiation to other mediums is its interactivity, therefore something that can be learn through interactivity is preferable to having to tell you.

The same happens with other mediums. A movie that shows you some plot points is better than a narrator talking about it...

Posted by onan

I'm willing to tolerate hand-holding in modern gaming because it makes multi-million dollar blockbusters possible by expanding the market. I also like not having to refer back to the manual constantly. Up until the end of the PS2/Xbox era I was still reading manuals cover to cover out of habit because of it, just because I didn't want to miss anything.

By the same token, not all books need to be challenging. Some of my favorite books have been easy, summer reads.

Posted by project343

I tend to appreciate the interactive narrative aspect of video games more than anything, so I'd rather not have difficult gameplay stand in my way as I play. I'll take being treated like a child from a gameplay standpoint if it means a less infuriating adventure. Not everyone needs a constant sense of challenge and accomplishment to get through life.

Online
Posted by FatTroll

I can't imagine how Super Metroid and Zelda did it back before wikis, but I'm sure the lower number of AAA titles had something to do with it. Back then, you'd get a game like Super Metroid and play nothing else until it was done. Now you have six Super Metroids at a time and it's impossible to remember the controls, let alone where you have to go next.

Edited by Brackynews

Egoraptor is godly on this topic (conveyance). 20 minutes well fucking spent.

"Ridin' on cars!!"

Posted by super2j

good read, keep it up. I feel like when i hear of games that make it hard intelligently, not just god of war on super hard mode, i am always interested. I found demon souls to hard and gave up but i loved the time i spent the week i rented dark souls and think about it once in a while. I know i need to go get it. I want to play fez, the idea of solving this game with a community makes me so jealous of people with an xbox, ur xbox live downloadables have had me jealous for years, some come to pc or ps3 and i can enjoy them then, same thing with Trials, its hard and almost like a puzzle.

In reality i want realistic games, games that dont over power u or place real world logistics on the player, for example: i have wanted a game that realistically models how sword fighting works, where if u dont block basically everything u are screwed and lose an arm. I once played in a minecraft server with me and my friend in it, we found an area and started to build our respective lairs. I had died by accident and got sent back to the spawn point, problem was i had no idea how to get back, so i travelled in a direction, still talking to my friend over a steam voice chat we set up and eventually, I had to set up a new camp on a tree, i built a new home, my friend told me how to make a compass and map, so i did. After i figured out where he was, i built a sky road or 1 block width to travel back and it took a long time, eventually i could see he tower in the distance and i connected my road to his balcony. I was home. The fact that there was no mini map, no arrow (given to me) to point me to where i could go, no invisible walls to funnel me toward my objective, and i started from scratch. Its the best memory of that game i have.

Posted by Dagbiker

@FatTroll said:

I can't imagine how Super Metroid and Zelda did it back before wikis, but I'm sure the lower number of AAA titles had something to do with it. Back then, you'd get a game like Super Metroid and play nothing else until it was done. Now you have six Super Metroids at a time and it's impossible to remember the controls, let alone where you have to go next.

Not a bad first post, welcome to Giantbomb. When I was a kid there was gamefaqs, or often you could find a Geocities site ( it was a place that would host crappy websites) that would copy paste the game guide word for word. Also you have to remember that game manuals, even for console games where often 20-50 pages long.

Posted by joachimo

I wish more games had the option to turn off the tutorials/tips/help text and let that be one of the main choices before you start playing, but then again - developers would have to account for that in the game as well of course. I'm sure million dollar companies could afford to do that for the hardcore & experienced gaming crowd.

Posted by Seroth

I haven't read the article yet, but I Ctrl+F'd and "Skyward Sword" was not found. That game is probably the biggest offender of "assuming the player is stupid."

Posted by patrickklepek

@Seroth said:

I haven't read the article yet, but I Ctrl+F'd and "Skyward Sword" was not found. That game is probably the biggest offender of "assuming the player is stupid."

We talked about it, but it didn't make it into the story. Naturally, Glaiel finds it super annoying. Here's the quote:

"Zelda’s the worst offender. I still like the Zelda games and enjoy them, despite the fact that they’re terribly boring in the beginning. The latest ones, at least, have been slow and drawn out and trying to force you to repeat what you just did to progress. It’s just kind of annoying for anyone who’d ever played a video game before."

Staff
Posted by tourgen
“I watched the video walkthrough that they did and they were solving puzzles the...wrong way,” he laughed. “Their solutions were ones that I didn’t even know were possible, but almost none of them were easy solutions--they were all more difficult than the actual solutions.”

There is no "wrong way". There is no "actual solution". There is only the player and their interaction with the game, their solutions and failures.

The player can never "do it wrong". They can only do it their way. Games should be able to account for a wide domain of player input and actions, and do it elegantly and consistently.

Posted by aurahack

@Brackynews said:

Egoraptor is godly on this topic (conveyance). 20 minutes well fucking spent.

"Ridin' on cars!!"

One of the best videogame related videos ever. I love his humor, but he's infinitely right about everything in that video.

Posted by starfurydysan

Great article but one point I wish was brought up is that older games never had the luxury of in game tutorials (either due to cost/localization/memory/time) and in many cases relied on the player to actually read the instruction manuals as in the case of Zelda 1. I loved reading them, it has great art, and in the case of Blizzard games they had lengthy game mythology background and some basic instructions. It is more sad to see the decline of people not reading instruction manuals and expecting the game to include them as forced explicit tutorials as well as not assuming that the player is not intelligent.

Posted by rmanthorp

@aurahack said:

@Brackynews said:

Egoraptor is godly on this topic (conveyance). 20 minutes well fucking spent.

"Ridin' on cars!!"

One of the best videogame related videos ever. I love his humor, but he's infinitely right about everything in that video.

Yeah I love this video.

Moderator
Posted by Xeirus

@Brackynews said:

Egoraptor is godly on this topic. 20 minutes well fucking spent.

"Mavis Bacon: Number Munch."

I looove that video, it's the first thing that came to my mind when reading this, good call.

Edited by dailydozen

I'm glad there is still games like "Closure" to play out there. I'm tired of games that hold your hand throughout the whole thing like "Fable 2" and "Fable 3". Trial and error is the best concept ever!

Posted by Deusoma
@Flawed_System said:

@phrali said:

but most players ARE stupid

Agreed.

Indeed. Frankly, I kind of assume everyone is stupid until proven otherwise, I see no reason for game designers to do otherwise.
Posted by mlarrabee

In my experience, approximately eighty-percent of people are stupid, regardless of the group.

Posted by MormonWarrior

The most recent game to be an awful perpetrator of "treating its players like they ain't never seen a video game before" that I can think of is, oddly enough, Zelda: Skyward Sword. That game interrupted SO FREAKING OFTEN to tell you extremely obvious things that you didn't need to be told, to the point that I started actively hating the game less than halfway through. I thought it would go away when tutorials weren't needed anymore, but it literally goes until the end of the game continually forcing you to scroll through slow text of obvious repeated information. It wasn't the game's only flaw, but it was probably the most crippling one.

I think a lot of the reason why this has changed in games, whether for good or bad (I think it's both), is because of the data limitations in old games. It was hard to put a bunch of text into a game like Super Metroid, so instead of offering a little text blurb in the menu explaining what something did (which is inoffensive and in the GBA games), they built it into the environment and expected you to pick up on it. To be honest, it probably would've taken me a while to get the hang of the space jump if I hadn't already learned how to do it in Fusion and Zero Mission.

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