A short time back, over at cinemablend, Pete Haas wrote a piece on why RPGs are disappointing. One of his peeves was “slow beginnings”.

He feels that games should pull you in faster, drop you right into the action, and never mind any “get acquainted” tutorials. Well, I’m not so sure about that.

One example he uses is Neverwinter Nights 2. Certainly, it has a tutorial, where you can learn the controls and practice skills in perfect safety. This may be the best feature of the game.

What he doesn’t mention is that you can also skip that tutorial entirely, and go right to the action. In this case, it’s the invasion of your village by evil Dwarves and a Githyanki mage.

One of his examples of a “good” beginning comes from Final Fantasy VII, where Cloud (the hero) and friends are raiding a power plant. I played a little way into FF7, and absolutely hated being thrust into that situation before having a chance to learn the controls – and I always read manuals.

So no, I don’t mind a game having a tutorial or “practice situation”, provided it can be skipped in later playthroughs. For instance, I only did the NWN2 “festival” once in my several attempts to finish a second time. But that first time I found it helpful.

The Spiderweb games tend to combine the two, and that is an irritation. For instance, in Geneforge 4, you’re a rebel recruit who arrives at what’s supposed to be a secure location. Only Shaper forces have attacked, so you must run for your life to the safety of the rebel installation.

The problem is those annoying pop-up boxes with “helpful information” that appear over the course of the escape. There is no way to turn them off. Thus, each time you go through the game, you’re presented with a “pop-up tutorial” at the start. So the Spiderweb games have a fast beginning, but you can’t get away from the “help”. Someday, maybe Jeff will do something about that.

This also brings up the question of whether we need some action to get us into the game quickly. Aside from action/RPGs, is it really a problem to spend a little time walking around and talking to people? Provided, of course, the conversations aren’t inane.

What about you? Do you think tutorials slow things down, or are they useful for learning your way around before all hell breaks loose?

Reasons Your RPG Is Disappointing