Fighting games are one of the most difficult genres to become proficient in. They’re intensely technical, and usually require you to become proficient with all sorts of complex inputs for moves that have to be deployed at very specific times after instantaneous reactions to be effective. And that’s great! That’s why fighters a joy to watch and play at a competitive level. But fighting games typically don’t have much of a tutorial beyond the basics, leaving players scrambling to YouTube to check out instructions on both the fundamentals and advanced combos.
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There have been a few titles which include in-depth tutorials, like Skullgirls and Guilty Gear Xrd, but these games are a distinct minority. More mainstream titles like Street Fighter and Tekken do without all but the most basic instructions. Why is that? We got the chance to ask Tekken producer Katsuhiro Harada directly.
“We can tell with most of our games which modes players are spending time in,” says Harada. “We have that data in our company. You hear a lot of people say this game is great because it has a tutorial but when we look at the data, not many people play these tutorial modes. This is the same when you buy something new, you take it home and you don’t read the manual. It’s a positive for your product if you can say you have a tutorial but when you take a closer look you notice that people aren’t really playing it.“
That’s not to say Tekken has given up entirely on easing players into the game. Harada tells us that Tekken 7’s “story mode was envisioned on teaching the player with baby steps whilst playing the game.” This direction came out of Tekken Tag Tournament 2’s fight lab mode, where players learned the game while playing.
“As you’re playing through the story mode,” says Harada, “you naturally learn things like, ‘oh, this can be side stepped’ or ‘this character has this powerful special move if I learn how to use it properly.’ In the story mode, you can perform these with a simplified command so once you know about it, you can practice to perform this with the normal command.”
It’s an interesting direction, though one that still leaves a pretty big gap between beginner and intermediate players. Don’t expect to stop watching combo videos any time soon, especially given that Tekken 7 has still managed to be quite successful with or without tutorials.