Those Tricky Tutorials Part #1

In a F2P world an initial hook means everything. I have touched on this topic before and am going to again, 'cause it is so essential - and yet so many seem to get it wrong. A game like most other media meant to entertain, must start out with a bang! Grab the hand of the player and quickly but surely show the wonderful world that this game has to offer. It goes without saying that with the introduction of games on Social media and mobile, companies like Zynga open the eyes of millions and millions of people, now turning to games as a huge source of time killing and entertainment - the birth of the casual gamer. 

Though, with the casual gamers not being a part of the decades long evolution of video games, these games now need to be more easily digested than ever. Tutorial levels explaining the most basic gameplay features now had to be implemented to include all types of players - and this is a good thing. There are tons of examples of very fun and informative tutorials in mobile games, succeeding in allowing all types of players to initially be hooked. But lets not focus on those. Lets look at some of the horrible examples of tutorials.

Game Of War
This game is a strategy/builder like most others and because of its complexity it would primarily be targeted at adults. In Game of War's attempt to show you the ropes, and ignite that initial engagement, it manages within the first few minutes to confuse and make the player feel incompetent. Below is 10 pictures of the gameplay flow on initial start-up of the game. I'll try to explain what the hell is going on, and then comment on why this goes against everything, anyone has ever learned about games. 

So, the friendly lady in the daring white dress greets you and tries to help you get started. You are now the emperor of this majestic, though nameless place, and you need to get started on your duties as ruler. (#1)

She tells you that a bigger stronghold means more power so with the help of a large green arrow you are told to go upgrade that stronghold. But don't worry, she'll show you the way. 

After initiating the construction, the screen turns nearly black and only shows you a button that says "Free" - the green arrow is pointing at it. You press the button, 'cause why not? (#2)

After the Stronghold is done, the nice lady admits to have looked through your belongings and explains how some of these items are currently not being used by you. (#3) You press continue and suddenly find yourself in the game's store, (#4) where you can get all sorts of powerful items. But hey! lets open your gift! wait... what gift again?

The Screen turns black again and you are now appointed to a button, reading the word "Use" (#5). You press it and you are now told to use this gift, which content is still semi-concealed behind the 85% black screen, on your newly upgraded Stronghold (#6). So far so good. The nice lady applauds you and tells you that you should now go claim your Quest reward (#7). Claiming the reward, called Empire Quest, (#8) again turns your screen black and you can now press the claim button to collect, a reward unknown for a quest you did not know you were on. Onworth! (#9)

The nice lady returns to tell you that you are now ready, and that she has provided you with a Peace Shield for the next 24 hours. She tells you that you will be shielded from all attacks and that you should use the next 24 hours wisely (#10).


I think I need the next 24 hours to understand what the hell just happened. How is this going to prepare the player for the game and the interaction he/she is going to be exposed to from here on out? A lot of things are wrong about this introduction/tutorial, so lets go over some of them them.

People know what a button is
A User Interface Element, is a fancy way of categorizing the oversized and redundant green arrow, 'helping' the player to know where to look/interact. With fairly large buttons, surrounded by a brighter tinted stroke, one would assume the player would know where to press. I mean, most of the time there is only one button.

This is not only the case with games, but close to everything in this world by now. People know what to do with a button. Don't mistake newcomers to the world of games as halfwits not knowing about the design of everyday things.  

Show the game 
The black screen is by no means helping this game's tutorial. It is like the game knows its too complicated and must hide some of the complexity and introduce it a bit at the time. 

Claiming a chest/reward with unknown content is in no way satisfying for the player. You did something good and should be rewarded, but it is not important what the price is, 'cause that part of the game has not been introduced yet. Then spare the gifts!

What this game ultimately did wrong was overexposing the very basic mechanics and concealing the elements that the player would constantly need to do after the tutorial is done. 

This is important! Making a tutorial, but not teaching the player anything, is the same as forcing a new player to skip to the hard part.

There is no need to teach people what a button is or how to claim a reward. What the player do need to know is how to build, quest and have fun with the game. With a tutorial like this you do not start out with a bang, and for some players, the consequence of that is that they will press that home button after the tutorial and never open the app again. 


The funny thing about Game of War - Fire Age is that it is doing incredibly well. it has not left the Top 5 U.S. Grossing ranks this year and it seems to be steadily placed beneath Hay Day, Clash of Clans and Candy Crush. But why is this? 

Well, the game obviously attracts a lot of people through its title's resemblance to a popular show which fourth season is about the come out, and the familiar fantasy-world gameplay appeals to a lot of people - but with a tutorial as poor as the one the Game of War, i guess you can assume one of two things. 1. People do not give a shit about poor tutorials because they've gotten used to this type of gameplay and play the game anyway - or 2. The potential for this game is much bigger. In any case it is truly interesting how great Game of War, revenue-vise, is doing. Try it out for yourself! 

Do you have other examples of games with a similar or even more confusing tutorial. Let me know by commenting below or @appcrimes, and I'll definitely try them out. 

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