If I know something about tutorials it is, frankly, that I dislike them. Quite a bit. As a player having to follow a tutorial, as well as as a developer actually creating a tutorial, both of these are onerous and annoying. However, when dealing with logic-puzzles that often have very specific rules there sadly isn’t really a way around it.
When it comes to logic-puzzles, you need to know the basic rules before you can even start to play, but you don’t need to know every single puzzle solving strategy before you can at least start trying. For this reason, begrudgingly, Piczle Cross Adventure has a basic tutorial that runs the player through the rules, and the most basic of controller information.
The most basic world controls I need to convey to the player are:
– You can move the character in the game
– You need to walk up to puzzles to access them (a pop-up balloon showing the A button when you’re close should be enough of a hint on what to do then)
Any further information (such as minimum level required puzzles or multi-part puzzles) is presented as and when required at later stages.
As soon as the player is presented with a puzzle the professor will ask the player if they need an explanation. If you player wants they can answer “no” and dive into the puzzles immediately. People new to this type of logic-puzzle will want to answer “yes”, at which point the tutorial pops up.
I’ve made it so that you can, at any point, quit the tutorial. Once started you are not forced to completed, not even the very first time you access it. In Piczle Colors you had to follow the tutorial at least once before you were allowed to quit out of it. Not this time.
I’ve also made it so that you can always approach the professor in-game and ask for the tutorial. Even experienced puzzlers might want to do this because as a reward for clearing the tutorial at least once you can get a trophy. Completists will want to do this for a complete trophy collection.
The tutorial starts off by quickly explaining the rules. Because Piczle Cross puzzles follow the basic, classic nonogram / picture crossword forumula these rules are quick and easy.
However onerous it is to script an interactive tutorial, I found that doing, rather than merely being told, helps the player to understand the rules better. Even a 3 minute tutorial that only explains in text and animations won’t do as good a job as one where the player is asked to actively participate. It is a lot of work, with a lot of unique situations you need to script, but it is absolutely worth it in the end.
On top of this the world of Piczle Cross Adventure features books strewn around the place. These are (mostly) entirely optional but can be perused for extra information, clues, and indeed Piczle Cross strategies. This way I don’t bloat the tutorial while at the same time still offering deeper insights for those who need or want them.
Doing the Piczle Cross Adventure tutorial won’t take more than a few minutes and should prepare the player with enough information to play the puzzles. I spent a lot of time editing it down as much I could and keeping the text as simple and descriptive as possible. If you have no choice but to implement a tutorial in your game it is important to keep it short, interactive and don’t overwhelm the player with so much information they can’t retain it all. It is also important to provide “further information”, such as strategies or tips, but to keep those separate from the tutorial.