So, my article about Minecraft's new tutorial didn’t go over too well. I understand; I’ll admit that I could have explained myself better, and that’s why I’m writing this. Think of this as “Part two: A tutorial for Minecraft”.
My first mistake in writing the previous article was neglecting to explain why I didn’t like Minecraft’s new tutorial; which I’ll clear up right now. It’s a heavy-handed, wall of text that goes against the spirit of Minecraft. Now, before I get any death threats, let me just say that I think the tutorial is better than what it could have been, but not as good as it should have been.
I don’t blame 4J Studios; in fact, I think they did a pretty good job. But pretty good doesn’t cut it with Minecraft. This is a game millions of people play, with a personality all its own, and a rabid fanbase. This version, along with the mobile version, are meant to introduce Minecraft to a wider audience while still retaining the core gameplay and soul.
Obviously, some tweaks were necessary, and some sort of tutorial was definitely one of them. But I’m not convinced it was well implemented. Yes, it explained the basics and ensured that no player would go the first night defenseless/clueless, but it did so with information dumps and walls of text. A good tutorial should use as few words as possible; make the player feel clever, bad#ss, or important; and prepare the player without overwhelming them.
4J’s tutorial does one of these things, and one out of three isn’t too bad. It can also be skipped; and even if you choose not to skip it, it will only take you 10 minutes to complete. What really gets me; though, is the wasted opportunity. A tutorial can be a wonderful thing, but all too often, it’s just a slow, painful slog through the game’s basic mechanics.
Okay, I know Portal is cited too often as an example of great game design, but that’s for a reason. About half of the original Portal (the Orange Box version) was a tutorial, and I’ll bet you didn’t even notice. A steady stream of new concepts, along with hilarious commentary from GLaDOS, keeps players interested and learning. You’re slowly learning to think in a new way as you progress throughout the game, without even realizing it. That’s the power of a great tutorial; instead of being taught how to play, you learn how to play.
That’s the kind of tutorial Minecraft sorely needs. The current tutorial feels so sterile and confined. Minecraft is open, boundless, and full of life and personality; and the tutorial should reflect that.
I can’t believe that it’s impossible for a tutorial to be seamlessly integrated into Minecraft. There’s got to be a way; whether it’s through a miniature tutorial Minecraft world or a better hints and tips system, there just has to be a way.
I hate to even suggest it, but “copying” Portal may be another possible idea for a tutorial. It could be as simple as a series of easy puzzles (with signs explaining the controls), that could be solved in multiple ways. Accessible from the main menu, it would be non-intrusive and completely optional.
Heck, the community could even be involved by turning it into a contest. Users could submit sections or entire worlds that would be reviewed by a panel of judges selected by Mojang. The judges could be people who’ve made an impact on the Minecraft community – modders, let’s players, or even other developers. Their favorite picks would be sent to Mojang to be considered for the PC version’s tutorial.
It’s probably too late for the Xbox 360 version to be corrected, but it’s still possible for the PC to have a great tutorial. And whether this is seen as an opportunity to once again involve the community in the development of Minecraft; or just another feature on a to-do list, is yet to be answered.
What’s you’re opinion?