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What are the key things that you need to cover in a tutorial for a multiplayer focused game?

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I've been thinking about tutorial levels a lot lately, as my team's first project is heading to early access quite soon and we're trying to get our tutorials to a state where they help to engage new players and equip them with the knowledge they need to jump in and start playing games quickly.

Zero Sum Future is a competitive multiplayer citybuilder, which makes creating a good tutorial a little more challenging: we have to teach you what the object, controls, and strategy of a multiplayer game without giving you a human opponent to practice against right away. To this end, we created an NPC character, Oscar Cole, to be the CEO of a rival corporate empire that the player will compete against in the course of the tutorials.

You may be saying to yourself, "plenty of multiplayer games have tutorials, what's the big deal?" Zero Sum Future has core mechanics that revolve around deception and sleaziness that a computer isn't necessarily good at simulating. As in most other citybuilders, players place structures that produce or refine resources, then sell those resources to colonists on various planets in order to turn a profit to fund further expansion. However, players can also construct illegal versions of buildings that opponents see as regular buildings, and illegal buildings provide pretty broken advantages. For example, regular Hospitals treat sick and injured colonists, providing you a small profit as a fee charged for treatment. The illegal hospital (known as a Retirement Center) kills patients, reducing the number of available workers on a planet and delivering their money directly to your bank account as they die. Being vigilant in detecting and shutting down illegal buildings is vital to success, and effectively teaching this to new players has proven to be a challenge.

I haven't got a video of any illegal building activity right now, but I'll link a video of our first tutorial so you can get an idea of what the game looks like. I'd really like to know what you think of the project's general premise, what questions remain, and what you all think about the larger question of multiplayer game tutorials. When you're up to your eyeballs in developing something, it can be really hard to take a step back and see it from the perspective of someone who's never laid eyes on the game before.


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