245: Bad MotherFAQers

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Bad MotherFAQers

Many gamers have encountered situations that lead them to consult a FAQ or walkthrough - a boss battle that just seems impossible or a puzzle section that looks downright incomprehensible. But what drives a person to write a guide? Robert Janelle speaks with a number of FAQ writers about their efforts.

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You know what? After reading that...I think I'll put my time in Oblivion to use and write a character creation guide, even though there's no demand for it. There are a ton of CC guides out there, but they tend to be focused on Min/Max'ing and making the best possible character. Mine would just stop you from making bad ones. From the perspective of someone who's done it all. Unless we're talking Imperials or Dark Elves. Never did a Dark Elf in Morrowind, because the game encourages it TOO much. Nearly the same for Imperials in Oblivion. Except that I actually did a mere 200 hours with them in Oblivion.

I wrote a number of Final Fantasy walkthroughs myself in my day. Though... I did things a little differently. Yeah, I went through the gameplay and gave strategies - I even bothered to every so often even suggest what weapons to buy. But actually I spent most of the text just making fun of the characters and the hackneyed plots. Needless to say, they were absolutely worthless when it came to being guides. (Also whenever I didn't feel like playing the games, I simply copied over whatever GameFAQs said.)

Onyx Oblivion:
You know what? After reading that...I think I'll put my time in Oblivion to use and write a character creation guide, even though there's no demand for it. There are a ton of CC guides out there, but they tend to be focused on Min/Max'ing and making the best possible character. Mine would just stop you from making bad ones. From the perspective of someone who's done it all. Unless we're talking Imperials or Dark Elves. Never did a Dark Elf in Morrowind, because the game encourages it TOO much. Nearly the same for Imperials in Oblivion. Except that I actually did a mere 200 hours with them in Oblivion.

I've only ever used dark elves.. by that i mean they are the only ones i've botherd to spend over a few hunderd hours on.

I've never played Morrowind though.

Im working on a FAQ for one of my old (and favorite) games; Magic carpet 2. An interesting way to kill time and deconstruct the game by analysing pretty much everything i find.

Speaking as a player who all too frequently needs the crutch of an FAQ to get thru a game, I'd just like to thank all the FAQ writers who've made my entertainment time that much less frustrating.

Nice little piece and yes the contributors deserve a lot of credit.
I made one contribution myself to GameFaqs for Spore but it was declined for being too specific. What ever that meant :P

Twad:
Im working on a FAQ for one of my old (and favorite) games; Magic carpet 2. An interesting way to kill time and deconstruct the game by analysing pretty much everything i find.

I played that game too back in the day, and guess what: It was designed by Peter Molyneux.

dochmbi:

Twad:
Im working on a FAQ for one of my old (and favorite) games; Magic carpet 2. An interesting way to kill time and deconstruct the game by analysing pretty much everything i find.

I played that game too back in the day, and guess what: It was designed by Peter Molyneux.

Yeah, i was a bit suprised when i found out about it recently. It doesnt bother me, its a fun game.

Robert Janelle:
Huijboom's portfolio includes one mammoth piece: his Final Fantasy VII guide, which was his attempt to put together every piece of information that could possibly be found about the game. [...] Almost 900 pages later, he felt he'd filled the gap in FFVIII knowledge.

That's quite impressive, writing a guide for FF7 and ending up with information on FF8. :P

On topic, I've written a small handful of guides, and apart from the "noone did a good one before" motivation (there's no point in writing a guide if you don't think you can do better than existing ones), it's definitely a vanity thing for me. As mentioned in the article, if you write a good FAQ you can expect a lot of friendly mail. Every now and then I still get mail about a FAQ I wrote four years ago.

BlueHighwind:
I wrote a number of Final Fantasy walkthroughs myself in my day. Though... I did things a little differently. Yeah, I went through the gameplay and gave strategies - I even bothered to every so often even suggest what weapons to buy. But actually I spent most of the text just making fun of the characters and the hackneyed plots. Needless to say, they were absolutely worthless when it came to being guides. (Also whenever I didn't feel like playing the games, I simply copied over whatever GameFAQs said.)

You, you are an asshole.

Just kidding. I actually wanna read it. Sounds funny.

KosagiNoLegion:
Speaking as a player who all too frequently needs the crutch of an FAQ to get thru a game, I'd just like to thank all the FAQ writers who've made my entertainment time that much less frustrating.

A fantastic first post. I'd say welcome, but you've been lurking for at least 2 years...

Twad:
Yeah, i was a bit suprised when i found out about it recently. It doesnt bother me, its a fun game.

Well, there's a reason people recognize his name and keep hoping he'll carry through with some of his crazy promises. He made several great games in his day. :)

I know for a fact that I would have never made it through that fucking marble puzzle in Riven without the help of a guide. I spent weeks on the damned thing. So, thank you GameFAQs.

Loved the article, and it's 100% true! I wrote a few guides and FAQs back in the day, in fact, that's how my game journalist career started. I had that little hobby of playing totally unfamiliar and obscure games, and they did not really have any walkthrough or guide anywhere on the internet.

One of them was Free Enterprise, an economic industry and factory simulator created by Tsunami Media. It wasn't really a game, but me being a total tycoon game fanatic, I loved it. But FE had it's fair share of bugs and it was more like a spreadsheet-simulator than a game, with very convoluted strategies required to achieve anything. The game's own help file and tutorial was a joke, it only covered the bare basics, so I had to figure out a lot of stuff for myself, there was no guide or FAQ like for big games. That was the point when I decided to write my own guide for the game, since no one else would, and I wanted to save people the trouble. It's still on the site, so if you need some help in Free Enterprise, my guide is the only one out there still. It's a bit old, and I haven't updated it, but since the game hasn't changed at all (Tsunami Media went bankrupt after releasing FE, what irony), it's still valid. What's more interesting, I still receive emails regarding the guide, people asking questions about certain scenarios not covered or just "hey bro, cool guide". It's pretty heartwarming, that after all these years, people still use what I wrote back then.

There are some more guides and FAQs out there with my name on it, trainers too. It's a very rewarding hobby, I love to do it. It helps people in time of need, and for free. That's how the world should work, IMHO.

Is it just me, or in the header image of the guy on his comp, is there something quite wrong with his face? He looks like he's wearing panda face paint.

Twad:
Im working on a FAQ for one of my old (and favorite) games; Magic carpet 2. An interesting way to kill time and deconstruct the game by analysing pretty much everything i find.

That's something I've been meaning to play. I need to actually buy it first, though.

You know what convinced me to stop buying official guides?

The guide for Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

Those in the know know that it was horrible, not only because it gave generic information during missions but also because the maps with the hidden objects were made completely wrong. I had to go online to find that every marker was placed 1/2 and inch too far to the left.

I've used countless Steve Huijboom guides in the past. It seems every game I get stuck on Absolute Steve has got my back. We have very similar taste in games. Keep up the good work :)

Onyx Oblivion:
You know what? After reading that...I think I'll put my time in Oblivion to use and write a character creation guide, even though there's no demand for it. There are a ton of CC guides out there, but they tend to be focused on Min/Max'ing and making the best possible character. Mine would just stop you from making bad ones. From the perspective of someone who's done it all. Unless we're talking Imperials or Dark Elves. Never did a Dark Elf in Morrowind, because the game encourages it TOO much. Nearly the same for Imperials in Oblivion. Except that I actually did a mere 200 hours with them in Oblivion.

This is why I wanted a seperate tips and walkthroughs forum on the Escapist. These kind of things would be great to share with eachother.

I'm doing a Mass Effect 2 insanity guide but I have nowhere to put it.

For the most part I believe that a game shouldn't require a walkthrough. All the information you need to succeed in the game should be IN the game not elsewhere. Unfortunately this isn't always the case. I've used walkthroughs mostly to find my way around whenever I get lost in a game map or to deal with a particularly difficult boss battle. I hate wandering around for a half hour asking "Where the fuck is the exit?!" or "What the fuck, I died 7 times on this boss, it's impossible!"

Other than that I have used game guides for very long RPGs like FFXII where I do not plan to replay the game and so I want to make sure I don't miss out on something valuable. I give much respect to the writers of these FAQs and game guides. I do wish that game developers would try and look at their games from a n00b perspective before shipping it out though.

OptimusHagrid:
Is it just me, or in the header image of the guy on his comp, is there something quite wrong with his face? He looks like he's wearing panda face paint.

Twad:
Im working on a FAQ for one of my old (and favorite) games; Magic carpet 2. An interesting way to kill time and deconstruct the game by analysing pretty much everything i find.

That's something I've been meaning to play. I need to actually buy it first, though.

Actually, you can find it on abandonia/abandonware.

Very interesting article!

Does make me wonder how this is changing given YouTube (and other video sites) where people just post up their video of them doing the problem/whole game. (Tasselfoot being a great example for casual games.)

The article has truth, no one real does want to purchase an official guide book for $20. I am like that especially after reading the Final Fantasy VII official guide book by Bradygames. The guide was actually inaccurate and had horrible spelling errors at places. And trying to find an official guide book to games where without it you will be aimless wondering, a perfect example of that is "Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne". A used guide for this game is always usually over $50 (and even in a condition where the guide has bends and tears). Upon playing and beating this game by using an FAQ I sent a praising email to the FAQ author. The best thing about FAQs is that you can't lose them, unless you do not have internet access, while a book is losable. So a salute to the FAQ writers for helping the gaming community save money and beating the game.

Onyx Oblivion:
You know what? After reading that...I think I'll put my time in Oblivion to use and write a character creation guide, even though there's no demand for it. There are a ton of CC guides out there, but they tend to be focused on Min/Max'ing and making the best possible character. Mine would just stop you from making bad ones. From the perspective of someone who's done it all. Unless we're talking Imperials or Dark Elves. Never did a Dark Elf in Morrowind, because the game encourages it TOO much. Nearly the same for Imperials in Oblivion. Except that I actually did a mere 200 hours with them in Oblivion.

For a mod heavy game like Oblivion, wouldn't it be hard to make a relevant guide?

I might just go ahead and create my own now =>

Thousands of years ago I was going to write a guide about boss battles in Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem, because I hung out in the board and that was what most people asked. Usually because they were using Gameshark cheats that gave you infinite health but due to a glitchy also gave infinite health to some of the enemies, including ones you had to defeat to continue. Even more amusing is that the first of these monsters was in a level in which, for plot reasons, the character was invinicible anyway.

But then, I didn't. The end.

I haven't been to the GameFAQs board in year but it's still the place to go for FAQs. Every once in a while I find one that's so delightfully written I'll use it rather than a more complete but duller one.

Game guides and FAQs are very useful and all, but I find myself turning more and more to the various gaming wikis available, rather than GameFAQs. For the linear single-player games like Painkiller, a guide is still a must for most people to find every secret available, but for branching or open-world games like Dragon Age or Fallout, using (and contributing to, while you're at it) one of the gaming wikis is much more practical. When you look at a site like gaming.wikia.com, the guides for individual games made by one person can pale in comparison when you see the masses of information these wikis contain. You can't really do it any other way, when you look at a game like Dragon Age: It's near impossible for one person to cover every aspect of the game. How many people would it take? One person for each combination of sex, race, class and specialization? Not gonna happen.

So you could say that gaming wikis are an evolution of the game guide, much like wikipedia can be considered an evolution of the encyclopedia. They both have their strong and weak points regarding quality and quantity of information, and both are suited to different types of games. You're probably going to turn to GameFAQs in order to find every landmark collectible in Prototype, and you might do the same for every bobblehead in Fallout 3. But where do you go to find the best possible weapon in STALKER? Or the most powerful build in Mass Effect?

GameFAQs are old, Escapist. Can we get more on gaming wikis? You'd be amazed at how many of them exist, they already do for every game I mentioned.

There are good ones and bad ones out there, recently I found a gameguide and in order to complete said game, it required you to use known cheats\exploits to do it. To me this was worse than lazy writing.

I think everyone who likes free guides that are higher quality than official guides are forgetting about the poor corporate giants who want all of our money. How is this fair to them?

On a more serious note, excellent article. Not what I was expecting based on the title.

I used the official FFVII guide, it wasn't too bad. Now IX, there's a piece of shit.

On the other hand, even with paid work available, some authors prefer to keep FAQ writing as a hobby. Summers has turned down paid assignments, fearing it would take away from his writing. "Turning play into work is a good way to get burned out," says Summers. "It's important to me to have zero deadlines."

And I won't write unless there's a paycheck waiting for me. It's interesting that a writer would turn down pay; I have never ever heard of that. These FAQ writers are a strange breed indeed.

Also, I'd like to say that not all Official FAQs are bad. I loved the one for Final Fantasy Tactics.

The best official guides I have ever used were the ones for Pokemon Crystal and Onimusha 2.

Though some guides I've read have been pretty horrendous! XD

Onyx Oblivion:

BlueHighwind:
I wrote a number of Final Fantasy walkthroughs myself in my day. Though... I did things a little differently. Yeah, I went through the gameplay and gave strategies - I even bothered to every so often even suggest what weapons to buy. But actually I spent most of the text just making fun of the characters and the hackneyed plots. Needless to say, they were absolutely worthless when it came to being guides. (Also whenever I didn't feel like playing the games, I simply copied over whatever GameFAQs said.)

You, you are an asshole.

Just kidding. I actually wanna read it. Sounds funny.

You'd be surprised how often I was called that. Mostly because I really was. Here's a link to one of them (there were far more than I want to admit to): http://finalfantasy.wikia.com/wiki/Walkthrough:Final_Fantasy_XII/BlueHighwind

I used official guides for Mario games, but I never paid money for them. And only the classics. I try not to use FAQs now unless I'm stuck and frustrated to the point where I'm tempted to quit. Recent examples include finding a piece of paper stuck under a cabinet in Hotel Dusk and fighting the Shiva sisters in FFXIII

I've purchased official guides before, but only if there is some incentive to do so beyond that of the guide itself. Several include extras like game artwork, design sketches, background history on characters, and more. I find that stuff to be fascinating, and have bought those kind of guides if the game was interesting enough.

Otherwise, it's GameFAQs all the way for me. I've even contributed to a few guides myself, by writing in tips or pointing out problems. I also designed a really awesome ASCII heading for a Diablo 2 guide, way back in the day. I tried to find it, but couldn't. It looked a bit like this one, only it was on fire, like the official logo.
http://www.asciiartfarts.com/20040116.html

I remember when the internet first started becoming a big deal, and gaming started to take off. I constantly hit up these FAQ's for little secrets, bits I missed, or the occasional challenge I just couldn't surpass. It truly amazed me how in depth a lot of these were, how massively large they were, and all contained within a notepad document. Of course, there were a ton of garbage walkthroughs and the such, but the good ones were truly impressive.

Oddly enough, I really can't remember the last time I've had to look up such a document. It truly does say something for the state of gaming when I can't remember looking up a single clue to a game in at least the past 3-4 years. I certainly can't be getting any smarter, hell if anything age is taking its toll.

But yes, these people truly do deserve some sort of recognition, and at the very least, quite a bit of appreciation. Their hard work has saved me many a headache in the past.

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