A technical "walkthrough" of StepMania is rather difficult as each player will experience different songs, themes, patterns, and whatever else they choose to (or not to) modify. This will pose a a general walkthrough of the basics of how StepMania functions, as well as how to get yourself situated if you just recently looked into StepMania.
Depending on whether you downloaded and installed StepMania 3.9x or StepMania 5.x, your start ups will vary...but the premise will still be about the same. I HIGHLY SUGGEST downloading StepMania 3.9x as it is not an alpha/beta release, and the majority of the themes and note skins you will find will be StepMania 3.9x compatible, but will tend to crash or make StepMania very unstable on StepMania 5.x. Stepmania should load up successfully and full-screen itself, to which you should be brought to the start screen (or intro screen depending on which StepMania version, just hit "enter" until you get to the menu screen) and you should have a selection of available options to choose from. Considering the fact this is your first run, you probably didn't add any song files to your StepMania set-list yet, so don't bother selecting "game start" yet. A good start would be going to the StepMania options, and fiddling around with the settings a bit. Go to "config / joy mappings", and give yourself some spread out options so you can see which keys might suit you best. You can store up to 2 custom key mappings, and the third automatically sets up as "left", "right", "up", and "down". Try out a few things, if you are using a dance pad occasionally, have your first set up be your joy pad's buttons (to change a key press "Enter" and then press your desired key, usually keys are labeled joy1 or joy2 from dance pads and other devices like them), then in the second region maybe assign yourself a spread chart (like), and the third region will be for your one handed set up (a lot of times newbies will find it easier to play one handed than spread, but will change over later down the road to keep getting better). In the end, it should look something like this:
Next, you may want to disable some windows that pop up and will eventually start to annoy you by going to "Appearance options" and disabling the "Caution" and "Instructions" windows (don't worry you won't ever need them for anything).
Also BE SURE TO CREATE A PROFILE by going to "Profile options" and making your own new profile (otherwise all of your song data, options, and scores will never save). Once you do this, you will automatically be signed into that profile when StepMania starts.
Finally, get out of the options menu, and either close StepMania (if you didn't install any songs), or hit "Game start" and try to play some Simfiles! (Simfiles refer to StepMania song files which are what you play whenever you select a song, this term will be used a lot from here on in.)
Sounds simple enough, but there is one more thing you have to handle before you starting up your StepMania career...and that is setting your speeds, and modifications. Just select any song, and hit "Enter" twice instead of once...it should bring you to the Stepmania song options menu. there are a LOT of options, please try not to get overwhelmed and confused by it all and just go to "speed" and select something you think you might be able to handle:
- Speeds that are listed x1 or x2 are called xmods, in which you play the song according to the beats per minute (BPM) speed MULTIPLIED by the amount you have listed (EX: a 250 BPM area of a song on x2 speed would have you play at a rate of 500 BPM). This can change throughout the song, and can be extremely annoying and frustrating (especially for new players) so I suggest you back off of this setting.
- Speeds listed as C200 or C400 are called "C-mods" or consistent modifications in which a file plays the notes at a static BPM of the choice you made. This is the easier and more used option, though the score may be disqualified for ranking or the clear mark may be downgraded.
Although the default theme you have at the moment only has two "C-mods", themes such as Cyberia Style 6 have many different C and X modifications to choose from, but for right now...try either C200 or C400 (C400 will help you a lot more in the long run). Play your song, and if you think it is too fast, lower the C-mod, or if you think it is too slow (HIGHLY doubt it if you just started playing), then you will need to download a theme that supports more consistent modifications. If you like your selection, play through all the stages it allows you to, and then enter in your name. Now it will permanently lock these settings in (unless you change them in the options menu and play that way for another whole session).
Where to get files for my skill level
If you just downloaded this game, you need to learn where and what combinations can be done with the settings you are playing on. I highly suggest going to the sites listed to find some easy simfiles for you to get the hang of (if you decide to go to Bluexoon, go to "Songs" and then "packs", where you will see a few "ITG DDR packs" that you can play with). Absolute newbies should try playing dance pad files on the keyboard to get the sense of how to play the game, and then find their way to some more challenging files in the sites listed to enhance their skills.
On rare occasions, StepMania may crash, don't worry though, it doesn't hurt or damage Stepmania or your computer in any way! Just either close Stepmania, or restart it if you still wanted to play a few more songs.
What about themes, announcers, and all of that other amazing stuff?
Stepmania made it easy for you to learn about how to install and create many of these awesome extras. If you go to where you installed StepMania, there will be a file named "README-FIRST.html" (open it up with IE or Firefox) and it will tell you everything you need to know about installing and or creating these things. If you want to know how to make a really good theme, you may want to hold that thought and go to the "Stepmania things" website (www.stepmaniathings.com) and try out some of the themes there and save yourself a LOT of aggravation.