Tutorials are something that every game developer struggles with: We want our players to be able to understand as much as possible about our games, but we want to do it intuitively.
Many developers have to think about feature creep every day. With today’s tools making development easier, including the implementation of new features, we lose a sense of teaching the player both individually with characters and overall game mechanics
Today I want to talk about a bit of the history of Smash as a whole, a few larger games, and three games on the Indie game circuit (Skullgirls, Rivals of Aether, and Tooth & Tail) in relation to tutorials in platform fighters.
We all remember Board the Platforms from Smash 64, correct? We all liked this mode - More importantly, though, the stages for Board the Platforms and Target Test were character-specific. These modes helped us learn each of the characters at their most basic level inside out. Using each character's unique abilities to see what other characters most likely would not be able to do, thus gaining some basic proficiency with a character. They were a fun way of teaching us how to play the game without writing “Tutorial” on it.
Melee changed things up by removing board the platforms. It kept the character specific Target Tests, and it added a few stadium modes. While the other modes were great for experimenting with characters, it lost some of that specific character individuality.
Brawl mixed things up by removing any sort of character individuality from stadium. Smash 4 proceeded to dive into the concept even further, by making Target Tests, the only one that remained since Smash 64, into a “Target Blast!” which played very differently. This lost any sort of pushing individual characters to their boundaries.
Now to look at some other games.
Rivals of Aether
Rivals of Aether includes more character specific tutorials unlocked after beating the other main tutorials. It also features Abyss mode, which is unlocked after completing the main story mode with the main six characters. This mode draws some inspiration from Smash games, and while not character-specific, it still serves as a good way to teach players more about the game.
While not a platform fighter, Skullgirls does a very good job at addressing each character separately. The presentation and explanations puts it on the shelf even compared to other fighting games. The campaign mode for each character being more individualized helps the player as a whole, too.
Tooth and Tail
While not a fighter at all, Tooth & Tail impressed me because it spent the first hour in it’s campaign teaching me the game’s mechanics, while not making it boring. It made extra objectives for me in these levels, and it ramped up the difficulty significantly but in a subtle fashion.
While these games, and other smaller games, such as Divekick, Pyre and, Shovel Knight are doing tutorials for their games really well, we have to consider how Smash now has a roster of 58 characters. Making even the slightest piece of individualized content for each of these characters costs a lot of money and time.
What we can think about for the future of platform fighters , whether big or small, is how can we make our tutorials more intuitive, or? Or even as intuitive as Smash 64, with or without character-specific elements?. Let us know what you think in the comments below!