Welcome to GeekOut South-West, where you can read the very best* in geek entertainment, from anywhere on the internet.
Below you will see the Top 10 for this week, which is called Top 10 In-Game Tutorials. You can use this article to get an idea of what games the GeekOut Media writers think are the very best in-game tutorials.
Proceed to the next section to commence reading.
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10) Coach Oleander’s Basic Braining – Psychonauts
Starting off with something less like a tutorial as such, to reach the training brain of Coach Oleander you’ve got to get to grips with the basics of movement, and you have a moment or two in a safe space to play around at getting it wrong, learning to interact with your environment and the simple stuff that most of us who’ve played a game before are fairly familiar with.
The battlefield of Oleander’s mind thrusts you immediately into danger and excitement, a space where things can go wrong very fast, but it all helps to educate you on those mechanics that make Psychonauts so unique. The alien mindscapes that would be completely impossible to navigate without your natural psychic powers, and the manifestations of the military man’s mind, the ones he wants you to face… and a couple he doesn’t want found…
9) Rulebook Minigames – Krosmaster Arena
For a board game example we turn to Krosmaster, the two to four player slugfest with a lot of rules and mechanics to remember. The people who wrote the rulebook were smart enough to break it down into chunks, and introduce each component incrementally, including mini-boards on the pages to try out each part we learn.
Step one is a basic one-on-one melee scrap which is very one-sided. Then you get to learn the basics of ranged attacks and targeting which shifts the balance, before you’re given the full character to play with, then finally cut loose with multiple characters to learn about turn management and action economy. As a direct result, Krosmaster goes from one of the more complicated games, to one of the easiest to learn.
8) Stephen Fry – Little Big Planet
We’ve spoken about how much Stephen Fry adds to the Little Big Planet titles; a familiar and warming voice who narrates the game in a most splendid manner. With such a happy, pleasant voice, he takes a game featuring a character simply called Sackboy and turns it into an audio treat, along with the visual delights you’re afforded. But there’s something more important about Stephen Fry’s involvement here.
He teaches you how to play the game – You can’t progress from the start without listening to what he has to say and doing the things he tells you. He’s a helping hand, but he’s not completely overbearing. He doesn’t tell you to “Hey, listen!” Instead, he simply tells you what you need to know and you then do it. If you manage it, he then congratulates you for being able to follow simple instructions. How wonderful!
7) The First Case – Phoenix Wright
The First Case is a generic term that I’m giving the very first case you do in all Phoenix Wright games. If you’re unfamiliar with Phoenix Wright, then let me catch you up very quickly. This is a series of games where you play as titular Phoenix Wright, a defense attorney, who rises to fame (Sorta infamy almost), for being amazing at getting out of really tight spots. You defend the undefendable, because you believe in your clients, as they believe in you. Oh and you play as other defense attorneys, too.
In the first case of almost every Phoenix Wright (or Apollo Justice) title, you are faced with the pretty simple task of beating Prosecutor Payne. I say simple, but it’s always stacked against you. Fortunately, you start off with the information you need and a friend by your side who reminds you how to be a lawyer. You have to do this, but it is still a first case. It just offers you a helping hand to teach you how to do your damn job.
6) Siege of Kaer Morhen – The Witcher
Talk about your “on the job training”. The amnesiac albino has only just had time to reacquaint himself with people he still doesn’t fully recognise before the mountain fort of the Witchers comes under attack. You’re forced to drag Geralt’s muscle memory out of him while learning the controls mid-fight, adopting the stances, learning when to click and when not to click, recalling the spells and potions that make fighting beasties and spellcasters possible.
The first Witcher game came as one hell of a departure from my normal “click it to kill it” Diablo-esque games, so I was glad of the time to learn on the go, and CD Projekt Red wove it rather neatly into the narrative, as you learn the basics of gameplay, and the consequences of actions very early on. I may grumble that too much time is spent in the next area – the Vizima outskirts – but the opening chapter is quick and punchy and gets you right into the story of the Witchers that has proven so very successful.
5) Growing Up – Fallout 3
How’s this for backstory? To give the player an in-depth look at how life has been for the passing years underground in nuke-proof bunkers, the tutorial and character creation literally takes place as you live out your early years in Vault 101, learning to walk and talk, adopting your specialisations, learning to shoot and be a functional member of vault society, until the day comes when you finally break free.
It’s a bizarre thing to experience a life in a game, in many ways akin to the opening montage of Pixar’s Up, a great deal of emotional investment is crammed into an intensely short space of time, making that first step into the wasteland around Megaton so much more exhilarating and terrifying. You’re free, but you’re not safe, and anything you’ve not already learned you’re going to have to make up as you go along.
4) Childhood – Fable
How’s this for backstory? Wait, this sounds familiar…
In Fable, you start off as a child version of yourself. You get to wander around a little village – Your little village! You get to do various tasks which don’t really affect the game all that much, but they’re a good indicator to show how you can play the game once you leave this starting area. You can either do things in a good way, which usually is to follow along with what the task says – Or the bad way, which is to betray people.
Ultimately, it’s down to you how you play this. You can be as nice, or as nasty as you’d like; it really doesn’t matter. By doing this however, you learn a lot about combat, interacting with people, what farting is like in game and much more. It’s a really clever way to get you to play the game in a safe environment before sending you into the real world of being a hero. And also lots of farting.
3) Worms Games
Ah Worms, we all love it – But if you’ve never heard of it, then you probably wouldn’t realise that this game was full of garden-based warfare! Seriously, these little worms go around the place, wriggling all over plants, people, cows (lots of cows) and much more. But that’s not all they do: They fire off bazookas, grenades, holy hand grenades, sheep, super sheep, moles, mad cows, old women and much more. They’re a little bit mad, but ultimately, this is just an arena game, so how did this make the list?
So if you actually go to look for them, in most of the Worms Games, at least since Armageddon, you have a tutorial section, which gives you tasks to complete. Tasks such as blow up x targets with the bazooka, or to shoot x targets with your handgun. These get progressively harder, but you do not have to do them to continue the game. Instead, it’s worth doing, just to see if you can beat the hard mode ninja rope challenge, because those challenges are tricky and a lot of fun – And they teach you to do some pretty ridiculous ninja roping skills, like me!
2) Tutorial Island – Runescape
What an imaginative title, but when you consider what this island is there for, you really can just forgive it. Technically after you leave the island, it sinks so you can never go back, but let’s not dwell on that. The popular browser based MMO, which is soon coming to mobile, has one of the greatest instances of a tutorial probably ever made – It’s simply just really clever in its simplicity.
You start off on Tutorial Island and the game gets you to basically go over a lap of the island. Once you’ve started your character, you get taught how to: interact with characters; chop wood; make fires; cook; equip weapons/armour; attack; know what different attack styles do to your experience; craft new gear; use magic; use the banking system and probably a whole lot more that I’ve forgotten. You do all this in a couple of minutes, get some hands on experience and boom! You begin the game, as if nothing ever happened. Simple and elegant.
1) Test Chambers – Portal
Nothing could have topped it. Portal introduces you incrementally through the mechanics of the game, teaching you bit by bit to use the space bending device, and to think with portals. It never feels like a tutorial, the test chamber format is made to feel like a natural escalation of product testing and human experimentation, all the while given a steady drip feed of GLADoS’ sarcasm, and backstory that is more implied than overtly spelled out for us.
Portal is arguably an example of design perfectly (or near perfectly) implemented, and the sequel becomes an organic extension of how the story began. In fact both titles educate their players so subtly that you may never notice that you’re being taught a lesson. Unless you’re looking for it of course.
That’s it! You’ve done it! Well done, readers – You’ve made it to the end of our main list. Now, as a reward for you being able to follow the instructions given to you at the start of the article, feel free to browse two more entries. When it’s completed, please proceed to the last paragraphs of the article.
Land 1 – Black and White
Land 1, which is probably one of the worst names for a world ever, but still the only name I can find on an official or semi-official basis for it, is the first world of Black and White… Funny that. However, in this land, you’re introduced to a lot of concepts in a short space of time: The first of which is that you have two conscience guides, “Good & Evil, Yin & Yang, Black & White”. You learn that these two act as both your guides through the game and also your ‘tutorials’.
Whilst Land 1 introduces you to the basic concepts, such as throwing objects, performing miracles, learning about village needs and so much more. In fact, the sheer volume of concepts you learn is staggering – So much so, that depending on your play style, you might not use some of them at all, unless the game forces you to do so. Well then, best learn how to throw them boulders. There’s villages that need to believe in the power of the mighty God: Timlah, the Cruel One! Muwahaha!
Pre-Searing – Guild Wars
I’ll profess I have limited experience of MMORPGs, but I love what Guild Wars did with their opening few hours of gameplay. If you know it well enough then you can blaze through it in short order, but for me who was busy exploring and had no idea what to expect, I spent hours wandering through the lush greenery of Ascalon expecting the eternal springtime to only break when I wandered into distant and far off territories.
Oh how wrong I was. The searing came and burned the land out from under me. After hours of gameplay I was not expecting such a dramatic change. It was a way of the game telling you that the training wheels were off… screaming it actually. Ok so I never exactly found the game all that difficult, maybe I just never went to the right places or played enough… whatever. It was an epic moment that I really appreciated, they’re not the first to do it, but it was well executed, and frankly I wasn’t expecting it.
Thank you for participating in this tutorial; but now the game really begins. We have taught you many of the concepts that the above games teach you, but it’s now up to you to start formulating your own ideas about these games. Before you go on to tell us what you thought, take a moment to register your vote below, which steers us to the next chapter in this story. Which of the below is our next Top 10?
Now that you’ve finished our tutorial, it’s time for you to go on and leave your feedback in the comments below. Do you think this Top 10 list was a good one, or did we forget some of the important detail? Was it ordered in a structured way, or was it all a bit of a mess? As always, share your thoughts and opinions below, or over on Facebook, Twitter or Reddit.