Tutorial or No Tutorial?

For a while I thought my game would need a tutorial, for two simple reasons. Firstly just the simple fact that most games today have some form of tutorial. And secondly because when I tell people “I am making a game based on lights out” they tend to not know what I am talking about. And even when they get the game in their hands it takes them a while to actually understand the mechanics. So the answer is obvious right? Make a tutorial.

Except… making a tutorial is no where near as simple as some people will have you think. I making my tutorial I had to basically recreate all the systems in my game in a… disassembled form, so that I could disable and enable various parts based on how far through the tutorial the player was. I never got it fully functioning, mostly because before I had it “finished” I re-did all the UI. And since I wanted the tutorial to mirror the main UI (while also slowly phasing in UI elements as needed) that meant the entire tutorial would have to be re-made (including most of the programming).

Now starting near, if not at, square one on a tutorial level I asked myself “Is this really necessary? Do I really need a tutorial?” and the answer I came to was: no. And again there were two simple reasons for this. Firstly, I looked at other “Lights Out” games. And none of the ones I found had a tutorial. At most a similar game had a screen of pictures and text that explained the mechanics (Badly. That game needed to be seen “in motion” to be understood.), and that lead to realization number two: I already had a tutorial built in. Yep, from the start I did the same thing as all the other Lights Out games did with there first few levels, I made them super simple 1-2 move “puzzles” that served to show how the game works, served to show what pushing the buttons did and what certain common patterns looked like. The more I thought about it the more sense it made, my testers got better at solving puzzles as time went on, meaning they were learning how to play… except when they were “making a pattern” or otherwise just playing around with it.

So, did I need a tutorial? Yes and no. I do need a way to instruct the player on how to play, but I was stuck on this idea of “what a tutorial is supposed to be” and not seeing what I already had. As with most games, mine needs a tutorial. But also as with most games that tutorial does not need to be a ham fisted “Hey player! THIS is how you do thing.” It can be more organic and integrated into the game itself.