Obviously tutorials aren’t a new thing so there’s plenty reason to look at older titles as well as more modern ones. Fur Fighters, whilst not successful in terms of sales, was a wonderful title and from what I recall, ticked every box emphatically. I decided to wipe the dust off my trusty old Dreamcast and check out the tutorial.
After being given an introduction to the game through a quirky video, the player is introduced to General Bristol and the training centre. It is a traditional structured and self contained tutorial to give players a chance to learn the various game controls without the risk of dying. As with all self contained tutorials there is a risk of boring the player and Fur Fighters doesn’t really hide the tutorial all that well, but it is relatively short and you get introduced to all the playable characters as well as a few NPCs. Along with basic movement, jumping, aiming and firing weapons, players learn about the various abilities of each character through various little scenarios, some with amusing cut scenes and dialogue.
Unfortunately the level design is a little sloppy at times and lacks clarity in the direction that the player must go. The section to test switching characters to rescue babies is too tight and enclosed. It is too easy to accidentally touch the wrong portal and you’ve switched character.
The occasional vague paths are a big “no no” as far as I’m concerned as well. It should always be instantly clear to the player which direction they are to head when there is and what is expected of them, especially in a tutorial. Visibility is without a doubt on of, if not the most important aspect of games design and to be honest, pretty much most forms of design. From tutorials to mission objectives and user interface, or the controls in order to start a car in real life to even opening a door! Anything that is imperative to the user must be clear and apparent. Being lost or confused puts the player on the back-foot but perhaps more importantly, if everything is nicely visible then the whole experience can be a lot more seamless and becomes natural. Of course a major goal of a tutorial is to make playing the game feel natural and like second nature. I’m not saying bombard the user with information, less certainly can be more, but whenever a certain action or direction must be taken, for the love of god make it clear! If a player gets lost within the first 5-15 minutes, they could well end up quitting and not returning.
So Fur Fighters uses the self-contained tutorial. Is manages to encompass combat and all the different characters’ abilities through a relatively concise and entertaining structure and design, however the level design is pretty shoddy, causing potential confusion and/or frustration.
Below is a video of a run through of the tutorial. Fur Fighters uses inverted controls, which I’m not used to so forgive the dodgy aiming. :)