Implementing the ingame tutorial

Now that the open beta of “Phase 2” has been downloaded a few times (with a 10:1 ratio between Windows and Linux) it seems that people like it. But one thing I’ve heard several times now was the lack of a tutorial. Since the game is pretty complex, especially compared to the current games, many people are finding it hard to get into the gameplay and actually win a game (I guess it’s the same thing I felt when I played my first matches of “Panzer General” almost 20 years ago).

So I started (re)implementing an interacitve ingame tutorial. “Phase 1” had such a tutorial, but it was pretty basic and since so much changed for “Phase 2” I decided to start from scratch. My plan is to have an ingame tutorial that teaches you all the important parts of the game so that you can hop in the game and win after working through the tutorial.

And as usual this turned out to take much much longer than expected. At first I hoped to get it done in a week (after my work), but I’m now in the third week and I’m roughly half-way through. The index of the tutorial contains 70 (!) chapters, and that number may grow while writing the content and scripts for the tutorial, and it already contains over 10,000 words for the tutorial texts (not including scripts and such for each tutorial step). And since I’m doing the tutorial (like the rest of the game) in two languages (german and english) it takes ages to get it done. I’m even spending my breaks at work to translate chapters from german to english to get it done.

Technically the tutorial is stored in an xml and divded into several main chapters with tutorial steps as their subchapters. Each subchapter contains a text and a subnode for commands that are executed when this tutorial step is started. These steps include opening up a window, changing the game’s view, highlighting UI elements, creating divisions, constructing buildings, etc. So the tutorial contains a very light-weight and simple scripting engine that allows it to be interactive instead of just text explaining stuff. I’m also thinking of expanding the tutorial so it can work as a contextual help too, so that you can e.g. open up the help on the tutorial window and you get the content and highlight from the corresponding tutorial step, which could be a nice addition for players not to keen with the gameplay.

So the next release of the game will finally (again) include an interactive ingame tutorial (which is much better than the external html manual), along the new space backdrops and some bugfixes. Though I don’t have a date for you yet, but my estimate would be “within the next two weeks”.