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No one reads text in a tutorial

Post talks about our experiences with developing an effective tutorial for our simple 2 button game "I shot the sheriff". We realised that a text based tutorial was ineffective and had to make a gameplay based tutorial whereby players "learned by doing".

During the development of our latest game “I shot the sheriff”, we never gave the tutorial much thought. We figured that since the game is simple enough, just 2 buttons and 2 rules, players will be able to figure out the game easily. So we developed a very basic, text heavy tutorial and left it at that. It looked like this

   

It was only when we started playtesting the game that we realised we had a problem. During our first playtest, only 2 out of 10 players were able to figure out the rules of the game on their own with just the tutorial.  

A common feedback we got during this first playthrough was that there was just too much text in the tutorial, so a lot of players did not bother to read it and would just rapidly tap through the tutorial. So we decided to reduce the text and came up with the second iteration of our tutorial and it looked like this

   

 

The second playtest was definitely better than the first. 5 out of 10 players were able to understand the rules of the game without our prompting.  But this was still not good enough. 

During this playtest, a player suggested that we bake in the tutorial into the gameplay. This got us thinking and we decided to add in a system whereby when the player sees the sheriff for the first time, we bring up the in game tutorial for the sheriff. However if the player still shoots the sheriff, we resurrect the sheriff and keep doing it, till the player taps on the other side to let the sheriff pass through. Once the player lets the sheriff pass, the game continues. You can see it in action below

Once we added this tutorial, the number of players understanding the game without prompting jumped to almost 100%. 

We found that the old adage “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand” is true for game tutorials too.  

Learnings

1. Every game, no matter how simple, needs an effective tutorial.

2. Play tests are necessary, even for your simple 1 button arcade game.

3. It is hard to see players struggle with your game during play tests, however restrict the urge to jump in and explain the game.

4. Just watching new sets of players interact with different builds of your game will give you a lot of valuable insights.

5. If possible, bake in your tutorial into the gameplay.

6. Finally, no one reads text in a tutorial.   

 

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