Why are in-game tutorials important to some and not to other video games?

These are some of the questions about in-game tutorials that have always nagged me: Why are in-game tutorials important to some and not to other video games? How can in-game tutorials be made seamless to avoid breaking the player’s suspension of disbelief in a video game? When does a game need an in-game tutorial? Should the player learn the game by failing? What kinds of players will put up with the frustration of not being tutored? Which games can do without tutorials? What different types of in-game tutorials are there? How can in-game tutorials be made interesting and seem like an integrated part of the game?

In a way, there are three types of video games: the illogical, the intuitive, and those with in-game tutorials. The illogical game probably has the hardest time settling with the players. The intuitive game is a bit better off once the player knows what to do and where to go. Those with in-game tutorials give the player a head start in complex concepts. However, there is a fine balance to keep: do not underestimate and patronize your players. I have an opinion on some of the strengths and weaknesses that should be considered when talking about in-game tutorials.

Each of the types, illogical, intuitive, and with _in-game tutorial _are of course mixed and graduated in reality, but for the sake of the discussion, I’ve taken them to the extreme.

The Illogical Games

In these types of games, the controls are often hard to learn and the objectives in the game often don’t make sense unless the player knows about the game world. The controls and objectives doesn’t necessarily make sense even when they are learned. The games must be interesting for players before they learn the controls and objectives.

Games with illogical controls or objectives often have a steep learning curve. Some may categorize these as hardcore games. I remember sitting in front of my brother’s Amiga 500 immersed in a variety of games with great enthusiasm, but often after having been frustrated by having to figure out the controls by trial and error.

Practically no games were translated to our mother tongue and if they were, we wouldn’t waste precious gaming time reading the tome that came with the game. That meant that a hard judgement fell on the illogical games: discarded! (i.e. because the games simply fell outside of our zone) So, what made us grant the games our attention back then, was most likely the scarcity of videogames in general.

If games was as ubiquitous as they are today, I think that we’d been more demanding and the most illogical would not be granted a second.

The Intuitive Games

Intuitive game controls and objectives are easy to learn may not need to be taught to the player. Controls and objectives make sense the first time you’re learning them. The games does not rely on being overly interesting for players to learn to play. Intuitive games have a gradual learning curve. Some may categorize them as casual games. Some controls are so obvious and easy to learn that it does not really require much effort from the designer nor the user. Just play the game. However, varying complexity in games are often reflected in the controls and how the objectives of the games are given to the player.

Consider a player that has never played a first person shooter. To him, Doom is something that awaits and not one of the founding fathers of what evolved into a standard control scheme in subsequent 3d shooters.
This player need an incentive to play the game and learn the controls. Back in the day, it was fancy photorealism in VGA and the compelling story about… killing monsters. And that was more than enough for most of us. Frankly, I do not recall if the controls were taught in-game or only in the manual – some of the controls wasn’t event in the manual.

The point is that to the player that never played with these controls, they would not be illogical after some time getting used to them, perhaps even intuitive if using the wasd/mouse configuration that is pretty much standard these days.

The Games with In-Game Tutorials

Even though I named this the third type of game, it serves more like a transcendent category: In-game tutorials are both used in illogical and intuitive games because both may benefit from in-game tutorials or in some cases in-game tutorials are a disadvantage for the intentions of a game. First of all, in-game tutorials lets the players learn the controls and objectives fast and really get into the intended game play sooner. The downside is that there is a risk of patronizing the player if the controls are super intuitive  and still spelled out, so I guess there is a fine balance to keep depending on the players:

  1. Continuous throughout the game,
  2. once per game session, or
  3. once per player (stored in a user profile or the like).

In the end, remember that videogames are mostly entertainment and if the player ends up frustrated, the game fails its purpose.

Physically Modelled Sound and Immersion in Computer Games

(8th Semester)

In the early days of computer games the sound was created using simple synthesis techniques, but as the development of better processors and larger storage media, the development lead towards the use of wave-table synthesis, which has become the most used technique in current computer games. Since the introduction of the wave-table synthesis the development in audio creation and playback in games has stagnated.

One of the latest fields within sound synthesis is physically modelled, which holds great potential, within games and interactive environments, because of its more dynamic nature. An area in which very sparse research has been done is measuring the impact of physically modelled sound in computer game environments. This has lead to the following problem statement to be formulated: To which degree does physically modelled sound enhance physical immersion in first person computer games?

This project has analysed theories proposed by several authors within the fields: immersion, narrative and gameplay in computer games, audio in computer games. These fields and their different theories have formed an ontology for the project, upon which an application has been build. The application consists of a Half Life 2 modification, which makes use of the Nintendo Wii controllers, together with a modal sound synthesis.

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Localisation of 3D Audio Sources in Augmented Reality

As human beings, we are dependent on our ability to navigate by 3d audio since it provides us with many clues about how we are to navigate and behave in our surroundings. The fact that we from birth have been equipped with two ears placed on each side of our head makes us able to perceive the azimuth of a given sound, in fact we are able to localize a sound source within 2 degrees of azimuth; the design of the pinna or outer ear and our torso provides us with the ability to perceive the elevation of a given sound.

During the past decade there has been an increase in interest within 3D sound or spatial audio, both within entertainment, industry, and research; within this period several methods and systems has been developed to reproduce spatial audio. One of the methods is called head-related transfer functions (HRTF), which uses several audio cues in order to provide the listener with a broad spatial soundscape.

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Bringing Direct Social Interaction to Computer Games

Bachlor thesis at Medialogy: Bringing Direct Social Interaction to Computer Games.

In this project we did a lot of research in the social factors in play and gaming. We established a framework for describing the immersive factors in a game and tested the framework with a computer augmented card game that displayed the players’ stats in a pseudo–holographic display, which enabled face–to–face communication while following the displayed stats.

How can we improve the advantages of a board game with the technologies provided by a computer?

When the tendency of playing games becomes an asocial thing, it is a scream to the developers to change the course.

The ever growing and impressive features of computer games have long suppressed the power of conventional games. The still fast development in technologies allow for still more extraordinary graphic engines. But what is happening to good old tabletop games.

We have delved into this aspect and investigated the relation between immersion and socialization as a method to create a relation between the idea of board games and the power of computers.

Direct Social Interaction in Multiplayer Games – The Petri³

A bachelor thesis about direct social interaction in multiplayer games. The Petri³ is pronounced “petri cube”.

The Petri³ was a tool for my bachelor thesis at medialogy, with which we tested the degree of direct social interaction in an immersive augmented reality multiplayer card game. Besides playing around with cool next gen tech, we wanted to see how people responded to digitally augmentation of a card game. We ended up with a contraption that tracked a card game with image recognition and displayed the game’s status on a holographic display.

There were several elements in the project. The card game, which was an extremely simplified flavor of the mechanics from the Munchkin games. A game tracking engine that read the cards when played and kept track of scores for the players. Lastly the pseudo-holographic display, which we made out of a truncated pyramid in plexiglass with a back light projection on the top.

Thunder Glove

(4th Semester)

The purpose is to determine how a sound system can be designed to manipulate the imagination with the user.

The project include a prototype of an eight channel 3D sound system.

The choise of project–theme shall be viewed in the light of the group’s desire to give the user a memorable experience as well.

The viability is tested by qualitative interviews and observations.

Intuitive Interaction

(3rd Semester, Medialogy)

The theme of this report is Intuitive Human Computer Interaction.

The purpose is to determine what the term intuition covers and how human computer interaction can be made more intuitive.

A computer game is developed to illustrate what could constitute intuitive interaction.

The game is tested by qualitative interviews and observations.