What Does it Take to Make a Good Game Tutorial?


This episode contains a content warning for discussion of Nazi imagery in games.

In episode 181 of Waypoint Radio, we get very excited about good game tutorials. Danielle, Rob, and Patrick discuss what makes a good tutorial and in-game learning experience, with special attention paid to games we're into right now: Bad North, Dead Cells, and F1 2018. Then we look at some historic examples and take a dip in the question bucket.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/vbjkx4/waypoint-radio-game-tutorials


I totally feel Rob about his Valkyria Chronicles rant. Playing VC4’s demo was a stuttering mess of pop-ups with lessons I learned 10 years ago! Every other part I loved, but when it’s the fourth game in the series, just give me an opportunity to skip the newbie tutorial.

I still think Gears of War did its tutorial so well way back in 2006. If you need a lesson or refresher about the game’s mechanics, the option is there. But if you’re well-versed in chainsawing Locust, you can easily skip passed it.


I appreciate so very much that we have a video podcast out here in the world that is not afraid to bring up Antwaan Randle-El’s game-breaking role in NCAA Football 2002


I work in Instructional design for colleges and a big factor I try to keep in mind when building any instructional material is the invisible tutorial that they kind of touch on in this episode. Games like Mario or Half Life 2 or Hollow Knight that only break the immersion for the basic “This button does that” type information, and leave the rest up to environmental clues and the player’s inherent curiosity.

Learning can be a vulnerable act for some people and a frustrating one for others, so sometimes when a game just outright tells you what to do at every turn it can make the game feel boring or worse, condescending. To frame it it a way that allows the player to figure it out themselves is way more rewarding and when done correctly, way more effective in sticking in the player’s mind.


I forgot I wanted to share this video from Game Maker’s Toolkit in case anyone hasn’t seen it.


Not much to add beyond just stating how surprised and happy I were that SimBin were mentioned by Rob in this episode. I worked at that company for several years, and it is very rare to hear it or its games mentioned outside of dedicated simracing forums, and oftentimes they weren’t talked much about even there. So it’s nice to hear, for a change, that at least someone played them :stuck_out_tongue:

Regarding Patrick’s point about how tutorials basically come in last. It’s totally true. I’ve definitely been on projects where tutorials have come in really late


I think more games should let you have familiarity options in the beginning. I think invisible tutorials are great, if not always helpful for everyone, and I also appreciate when certain types of games sort of tosses you in to figure it out yourself in a relatively low stress environment, but if a game has a lot of front-loaded tutorials that halt your pace, they should allow you to say “nah, I know all this”.

I’ve been thinking about this in my own projects, letting you pick between “I already know how to play”, “I need a refresher”, and “Break down the basics for me” or something to that effect, just to skip the experience guesswork.

I always appreciate when games let you consult tutorials for their systems in the game’s menu as well, so if you need a reminder how something works, you can find out without checking a wiki.
Clear button prompts and learning by doing instead of like, annoying action-pausing pop ups every 2 minutes is also welcome; while how to effectively devise strategies is hard to tutorialise, basic mechanics can be done far more unobtrusively.


Now you got me down a GMTK hole, very good informative videos.