Day 723 Without A Clue
@Arislyn and I had briefly discussed Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention this morning on G+. The conversation converged on the point that this is an amazingly complicated game (series, actually, not just this installment), but it’s an absolute train-wreck when it comes to figuring out how to actually “do stuff”.
So I want to back up a bit. Disgaea 3 isn’t the exception, it’s just illustrative of the rule: manuals are passe. Up front information is passe. I suspect that even tutorials will become passe in the next 5 years, because they’re becoming increasingly anemic now. Instead, it seems that many developers are either ceding the education of new players to the community, or are stuck in the mindset that the mechanics are more commonplace than not, and that “experienced” gamers should have no problems with them. Both are bad ideas.
Relying on the community would be bad because the community isn’t impartial, and isn’t very good at being clinical or direct. Here and there, you’ll find no-nonsense breakdowns of a game’s mechanics, but they’re not based on under-the-hood knowledge, only on the game the way the author understands it. I know I’ve misunderstood how a system works in many, many games, and if someone asked me to explain it to them, I’d be sending them down the wrong path. It’s really not that the community is maliciously directing people towards faulty information. It’s just that we can’t always assume that anything we read on the Internet is absolutely factual, impartial, or correctly understood.
There’s a trap that many people fall into when they try to relate a process to another person. It’s totally unintentional, but some people tend to skip over critical information that they deem “unnecessary” towards the execution of a task. If I tell you to “mop the floor”, I am assuming that you’re smart enough to get a mop and bucket, and to fill the bucket with soap and water first, so I leave that part out. Many gamers are bad in throwing around acronyms and terms and concepts as if everyone they interact with knows what they’re talking about. That’s simply not always the case. It would be even worse if a developer built a game with deficient tutorials or documentation because of this exact mindset. The flip side, though – the inescapable, ubiquitous tutorial – is just as bad if you do know what’s going on (a subsequent play through, for example), so there has to be a decent option to balance the two.