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Crusader Kings II Bafflement!
by Ernest Adams on 02/09/14 07:29:00 pm   Expert Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


I pound it into students' heads that games must either be completely self-explanatory or provide tutorials; dumping the player in at the deep end to sink or swim belongs to the arcade days and is no longer acceptable.

Some time ago someone suggested that I play Crusader Kings II because I'm interested in diplomacy games. It is currently my second-most-egregious example of how NOT to introduce a player to a new game.

(My most egregious example is a master's student project from an institution that will remain nameless, which puts the player in an environment with no HUD and no explanation of who she is, where she is, why she's there, what she can do, what to do next, or even what the controls are.)

Crusader Kings II is the opposite, overwhelming you with vast amounts of minutiae, huge numbers of icons, and long hint text that doesn't tell you what to actually DO or how to do it. There's a tutorial, but it was clearly written by someone with little capacity for putting himself in the player's shoes.

I'm sure I'll get there in the end. I want to like this game. But right now it feels like being handed the keys to the space shuttle and told to take off.

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RJ McManus
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This is funny because I actually started a thread on /r/gamedesign yesterday about accessibility in Paradox's games, but in response to your post:

I think that there are some games that can get away with not including much in the way of introductions and tutorials, but that requires a certain level of intuitiveness not present in CK2. That's not to detract from the game, but merely to say that dynasty management makes for novel and unfamiliar gameplay for many people. For what it's worth, I haven't quite been able to get into CK2 yet either, and Paradox's older games are allegedly even more impenetrable.

I'd probably recommend EU4 instead as an introduction to Paradox's "historical grand strategy games". I put it in quotes because- despite their similarities in presentation- Paradox's IPs vary significantly in terms of premise. If CK2 is a dynasty management simulator, then EU4 is essentially an asymmetrical 4X game (a genre which may or may not be more familiar to you) glorified by a lot of historical detail. That said, I do have my reservations with EU4's design, and I remain firmly convinced that I'll eventually make myself like CK2.

Zachary Strebeck
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I've been hesitant to try for this reason. Luckily there are tons of good tutorials on YouTube. I'll get to it one of these days...

El Winchestro
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I think Ck2 puts itself perfectly in the shoes of the players usualy intrested in these kinds of games. Players who are willing to spend a few hours learning a game so the developer can focus more on making the game more enjoyable in the long run, the other 95% of the time you spend playing the game after the initial burden of learning it.

These kinds of discussions often appear in the context of dwarf fortress, a game you would absolutely hate i guess, but I think ck2 would also be an example where many people often think intuitively that it's a stupid failure from the developer rather then a tradeoff they took kowingly.

I agree with you, it could be done better and the first 5% of the experience would definetly benefit from it. But should developers always, like in every single game, cut down complexity and always focus a lot of their development time on the first minutes of the game? I'm very happy people are willing to take different approaches.

That said, if you are willing to share your experiences/opinions about the game after you played it for a reasonable amount of time I would love to read about it.

Janne Hyytiae
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I really love Europa Universalis-games. For me the big problem is definetly the absence of the great tutorials. But on the other hand, even if you have tutorials for this, the game is so vast it takes for ever to even get to a point, where you can really understand and enjoy the game.

The absence of tutorials caused me to delay trying the games for many years, but when I finally did, EU3 became quite soon the best - I would label turn-based strategy game (you can argue it's RTS, but you can not really label it as RTS).

So I really recommend trying them out, though it takes time. For them, even the lack of tutorials work, since the genre and playerbase is very special and another important point I believe is that, since the games are very vast and because of the details they are very good, it's more important that Paradox uses the time to finetune the games and not the tutorials.

Mihai Cosma
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I have a novel thought on the matter of complex games.

The best thing such games can do is not give any more info than what you need to know to actually progress through the game. It's a matter of making the mental map and connecting the links yourself, things that a tutorial might actually hamper, let alone fail in conveying. Figuring out interlocking mechanics and pieces is at the core of complex 4X/Grand Strategy/.. Dwarf Fortress, and a tutorial cannot reasonably tell you how all pieces work within each-other.

Crusader Kings 2 could have a tutorial five miles long, and you'll still not realise that the reason you were given a great wife for your son, though with a suspectly high spymaster attribute, was to assassinate him. Even more so, this is most likely emergent gameplay that cannot really be taught.

Try teaching someone in Eve Online that they can make money in the game by not even playing the game itself, but contributing on various forum threads and organizing meetings.

Tutorials should be for a basic understanding of how to progress in the game, not necessarily to win or even be efficient.