I've been entering a few game jams lately and there's been a consistent problem I've run into - explaining to the player how the heck to play my game.
As noted in the great Tutorials 101 from extra credits, the best tutorials are usually integrated invisibly into the gameplay and text based tutorials are usually boring, ruin immersion and most of the time are skipped by players anyway.
While I think that's a fair enough point, I think this applies better to games with already familiar actions (eg. platformers, shooters). What I'm finding this very difficult to apply to is puzzle games. Usually you are dealing with a unique user interface that needs explaining before the player gets started (consisting of buttons, labels, win/lose conditions), so it's very hard not to front load everything at the start. Making it doubly difficult is that game jam entries tend to only be a few minutes in length, so you can't slowly drip feed the player over hours of gameplay.
I just finished a puzzle game for a game jam and I'm not sure how to explain without text. I currently have the trifector of evil - front loaded, multiple, text based windows of text. Blech.
So I'm curious - how do you all deal with tutorials in (usually short) puzzle games? How do you explain to the player how the game works without boring text? Is there any good examples anyone knows of?