RTFM: Remembering the Forgotten Manuals

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You know those things that you didn't realise you missed until someone points it out for you. This is one of those things.
Whether or not these manuals are still strictly relevant isn't the point. The point is that they were awesome and added a whole lot to the game. And we don't really have that anymore. I think what made them interesting was the fact that they were actual items. Tangible objects that we could touch and carry around and use without the aid of some electronic device. They were related to the game but they were a seperate facet.
Maybe that just me. In any case great article.

I haven't even been bothering to read game manuals lately. It's a pretty lame situation, but there really isn't much incentive for devs/publishers to bother. Since when were sales affected by the game's manual?

Rednog:
Also, where does Downpour fit into the Silent Hill universe...? I'm sorry but do the silent hill games really tie into each other besides them all taking place in Silent Hill? Silent Hill is a story about one's personal hell and coming to grips with why they are tormented. There is no set time line between the games and there is no connecting story. Hell one could even argue that all the Silent Hill games are taking place at the same time. You see the character from 2 running across your screen in downpour at one point, and you can sneak into the room from 4. That's the whole reason why Silent Hill is a scary place you don't know that much about it. Do you really want someone to sit down and be like ok this is why this is such an evil place, this is the character's complete and whole past and why he is in Silent Hill. No! That is the whole reason you play the game, it's to be brought into the narrative by the game and not having to rely on a leaflet.

Well, talk about spitting in the face of continuity. I haven't played Downpour, but I'm assuming he wasn't in Ashfield (where The Room was), and Silent Hill 2 revealed a metric butt-ton on how the town works. Also, Silent Hill 3 was a direct continuation of Silent Hill 1, and Silent Hill Origins was a prequel (with some ret-conning) of Silent Hill 1, as well as Silent Hill 4 referencing Silent Hill 2... in a long-past tense.

Most likely, the references in Downpour are results of "Did Not Do The Research" fan service because the devs were too damn lazy to read the Book of Lost Memories (the canonical everything to Silent Hill) or some of the better fan theories (see: Dena Natali).

I can't say you did either. "No set timeline"? Do you want me to outline the only one that makes sense? And it's not about working through your own personal hell - that's not what 1 and 4 were about, they were other people's personal hell that the protagonist got dragged into it (especially 4).

OT: I have a 120 page manual for Roller Coaster Tycoon - it came in really handy. I wouldn't mind seeing complete manuals come around again.

A couple of years ago I bought an updated version of an old game for it to work on windows XP, but it came with no manual. The manual had illustrations & a diary-style prequel chapter. Mine got torn up during a house move, so I went on eBay to see if I could buy the manual. The gong rate for the manual alone was $30.

Yeah it's pretty sad. I loved pouring over manuals. In fact my dad used to joke about it - he'd say "sure he reads... his favorite books are his game manuals!" Har har.

Anyway probably my favorite manuals ever were Starcraft, Myth (Total Codex), and Homeworld 2. I played a ton of SNES games, mostly rented, and most definitely poored over them too but they don't really stand out like the 3 I mentioned.

How come when I make a topic about this I get people saying that they are not needed anymore, but when you guys do it you get actual people talking?

I for one am glad to see the end of paper manuals. A waste of resources. Everything that was once provided by a manual can now be provided by in-game content and the internet. And if the author thinks that reading text is preferable to watching a cutscene, why is he even playing a game? Go read a book.

Mike, this article really speaks to me. I was one of those so-called "chumps" who used to get laughed at back in the Genesis era when -instead of popping the cartridge in right away -I would instead take the time to read every word of the manual and study the pictures in great detail. Reading the Lion King's manual was the only thing that helped me overcome some of the tougher parts of that game!

I also owned that "Spider-Man vs. Kingpin" game (it was one of my favorites growing up) and I remember loving that comic spread so much that I made it a mandatory ritual to read it through before every attempt at playing the game, just to enrich the whole experience. Despite what everyone else says (i.e. 'Ugh, reading is boring! Get to the game! Waa waa waa!), manuals were like royal advisers, whispering untold secrets into our ears while we sat perched in front of the TV screen, fumbling for the level exit. Hell, if it wasn't for manuals, I never would have known that Bowser (or King Koopa, as the book called him) was a practitioner of black magic! That's terrifying! Knowing that made me so anxious for the fight with him! How about Ganon? The manual talked him up so much that finally confronting him felt like meeting a celebrity.

And I have to agree with you about the concept art: who cares?! We've seen it! Let us unlock a new piece of gameplay, or new playable characters, or freaking ANYTHING but concept art. "Congratulations on collecting all 300 hidden items! Here's a nice drawing of the Arkham City Hall!" says the game, as my Batman avatar literally stands on the front steps of Arkham City Hall. "Gee, thanks..." I say. "What'll my reward be next, I wonder? A three-dimensional model of the same Batman character that I've been running around with for twelve hours and...O-KAY."

Instruction manuals...we miss and love you. I think that (besides Nintendo) the only company who still respects the manual is Rockstar. All of the GTA games, Bully, Red Dead Redemption...they come with lengthy, full-colour manuals complete with tongue-in-cheek humor, as well as pull-out posters and maps! Remember posters and maps? Remember how cool it felt to open up "The Legend of Zelda" or "Final Fantasy" and see a map and gameplay tips in there?! Thank you, Rockstar, for keeping the tradition alive.

The Diablo 3 manual I found very cool cause 90 percent of it was lore about the game, and I had a lot of fun reading it now. Took me back.

Guys, there are still great manuals nowadays. I'm thinking here about the Wing Commander Arena manual, for example. It's a XBLA game, yeah... and it's 33 pages long, with fake interviews of celebrity pilots in-universe, magazine articles, small-ads for privateer jobs, full-page ads for fighter crafts, dozens of references to obscure game lore only old-time fans will get, lots of info on the games' timeline, all the while explaining properly how to play the game.

Even if you're not a Wing Commander fan, take a look at that and tell me honestly they don't know how to make manuals anymore:
http://images.ea.com/ea/arcade/draft2cRGB.pdf

The past three games I bought: Metal Gear Solid HD, Deathsmiles, and Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage each had thick, full-colour manuals. I was pleasantly surprised. Binary Domain, however, did not. Splinter Cell: Conviction had ads for bargain PC games much better than it. They're the last five games I bought. 3/5 success rate there, not bad actually.

Go buy Fallout 3 right right now. It has the greatest game manual to have ever existed. It's designed so that it looks like it came straight out of the game world. I even have an extra copy of in stored away.

Wow I really shouldn't be this excited about a game manual...

Manuals were great. Toilet reading in all honesty, I was young, impatient, and enthralled by games. Of course they're gone though, as are the times where I'd spend 7 minutes waiting for my computer to start, a minute for CompuServe to connect, so I could slowly browse my way to a cheat site (later a bookmarked CheatCC) so I could pass a level I felt was 'impossible'.

I do on some level miss the manuals, and going to a game shop on the weekend to pick up a new title. Though not enough to give up the convenience that comes with being able to simply click and download a new title. The world is bigger now than it used to be. Reviews are more accessible, the internet is lush with promotion for the newest upcoming sequel, and most people who are going to play the games know the basic controller layout.

Google makes it so easy to access so much information, that manuals describing lore quickly are just redundant.

I could not agree more with the fact that nowadays there are so little manuals D:
I still remember the days spent with just the Morrowind manual when I could not play it yet.

Manuals are at least 20$ part of the overall expirance.

Games with good manuals (like several mentioned in this thread) will have an automatic plus in my book.
It is usually not a dealbreaker but I consider manuals almost essential in RPGs and Turn based strategy.

I got D3 as a digital download. Is the manual anything like the D1 manual? That was one of my favorites, with its hand-drawn representations of each class with a page or 2 of lore behind that class, as well as illustrated lore text. This and the thick manual for Baldurs Gate were my two favorites, BG having to almost fully explain the D&D 3rd Edition ruleset to understand how the game mechanics work. -5 THAC0 FTW

Rednog:
Oh rose tinted nostalgia glasses how you rear your ugly head over and over. Maybe 1 in a hundred manuals were actually interesting/amazing as you described. But the sad truth is that a majority of them were just warning, legal information, basic set of "moves", and on screen information.
Also, where does Downpour fit into the Silent Hill universe...? I'm sorry but do the silent hill games really tie into each other besides them all taking place in Silent Hill? Silent Hill is a story about one's personal hell and coming to grips with why they are tormented. There is no set time line between the games and there is no connecting story. Hell one could even argue that all the Silent Hill games are taking place at the same time. You see the character from 2 running across your screen in downpour at one point, and you can sneak into the room from 4. That's the whole reason why Silent Hill is a scary place you don't know that much about it. Do you really want someone to sit down and be like ok this is why this is such an evil place, this is the character's complete and whole past and why he is in Silent Hill. No! That is the whole reason you play the game, it's to be brought into the narrative by the game and not having to rely on a leaflet.

Silent Hill 1, Origins and SH3 all share the same story and continue it...

OT: Couldn't agree more. When I can't play the game I like to leaf through them on the bus, or toilet, etc and involve myself in the lore of the game. I quite enjoyed the GTA: Vice City manual, it was as wittily put together as the game itself.

I remember Claw Marks: The On Board Magazine of the TCS Tiger's Claw. It was from Wing Commander and was probably one of the sweetest manuals ever. Also Starcraft's manual was totally awesome. The whole race expo and the unit descriptions, it was all amazing.

What I miss most though is the extra swag that video games used to give you. Sure, these things were just a few folded up posters, but they made you feel as if you were part of the game universe. Last time I got something out of a video game box, it was a Sam and Max poster. Which was cool, but when you've gone 10 years without, you have to start asking questions.

Al-Bundy-da-G:
Go buy Fallout 3 right right now. It has the greatest game manual to have ever existed. It's designed so that it looks like it came straight out of the game world. I even have an extra copy of in stored away.

Wow I really shouldn't be this excited about a game manual...

Really? I just bought a new copy of Fallout 3: GOTY on PS3 from Gamestop a few weeks ago, and whilst the cover of the "manual" fits the game's visual aesthetic, the whole manual itself is just a tri-folded sheet with the EULA and Warranty Information on it, plus a small bit telling you how to start a game with your PS3. They have a link on the bottom of one part where you can get the full manual online. Either you are sorely mistaken, or they cheaped out on the manuals for the GOTY version.

The Arcanum manual was the best for sure. hundreds of pages of lore and tips. i still have it and i think i may read it again now.

You know what Manual I fucking loved? The one that came with Sly 2. God damn that manual was awesome.

I found myself reading my PS1 copy of Mortal Kombat Trillogy the other day, Every single character has there own little picture and Bio to go with it, its a really nice extra.

Hehe, my manual for Gears of War 3 was a single piece of plastic, folded in half with one page dedicated to a picture of the controller, and the other three pages about warranty and help lines. I remember getting Baulders Gate 2 and reading through the novel that was the game manual. Good days...

immortalfrieza:
I think the reason that manuals have become pretty pitiful these days is because they aren't really needed anymore. In the 8-16 bit era they didn't have the means to really put all that much backstory and such into the games themselves, or putting a lot of tutorials either, or at least they weren't used for that purpose very often.

Now, they can easily put how to control the game and it's backstory directly into the game itself, which actually works quite well a lot of the time because learning by doing is more effective than by reading a manual, and they can slowly reveal the backstory of the game as the game progresses to give you a deeper understanding of the game than telling you "this guy did this" and trying to imagine it in your head, instead of having it right in front of you; Show, don't tell. not to mention that they can use this to create surprises that revealing in the manual would ruin.

I think that's the problem. Back then, you often couldn't put a compelling backstory, character bios, and all of that info in the game itself, which was why manuals were so large, ornate, and detailed back then, but now? Just look at the Mass Effect codex; it's like one of those manuals, but it's in the game. It just seems kinda redundant to put anything but the controls in a manual, even though we'd want that.

Still, I still like the manuals that try to give you that one bit of immersion. Stuff that comes to mind like Reach, Fallout 3's, or even fricken Fable 2's manuals treated you, from start to finish, like you were the player in the game. It wasn't as great as the ones back in the NES era, but it was definitely a welcome touch.

I agree. Nothing beats a professionally crafted manual to put that extra touch on the excitement and anticipation of playing a game. The other great benefit of the manual is that it serves as an encyclopedia of offline information about the game that you can browse at your leisure, rather than having to be constantly plugged into the game. Sure, today you can just google the information on the Internet, but the Internet is a very poor substitute for the craftsmanship that goes into a well-constructed manual (also, the information in the manual is more trustworthy than the Internet).

As I was reading this, I did have the fantasy idea of an Android/iOS portal app where developers could upload game manuals (crafted to the standards and completeness resembling those of the past glory days) that gamers could read on their mobile devices. Maybe it's not quite the same as the printed manual, but it can have the potential of getting close without incurring the printing and reproduction costs of the printed manual. Plus, you won't lose it (unless you lose your mobile device, but, with that, you'll have bigger concerns than a lost game manual).

Moontouched-Moogle:

Al-Bundy-da-G:
Go buy Fallout 3 right right now. It has the greatest game manual to have ever existed. It's designed so that it looks like it came straight out of the game world. I even have an extra copy of in stored away.

Wow I really shouldn't be this excited about a game manual...

Really? I just bought a new copy of Fallout 3: GOTY on PS3 from Gamestop a few weeks ago, and whilst the cover of the "manual" fits the game's visual aesthetic, the whole manual itself is just a tri-folded sheet with the EULA and Warranty Information on it, plus a small bit telling you how to start a game with your PS3. They have a link on the bottom of one part where you can get the full manual online. Either you are sorely mistaken, or they cheaped out on the manuals for the GOTY version.

They cheaped out like hell.

image

Ah, I miss those wonderful old manuals...and I don't care how rose-tinted that sounds, manuals used to have, in general, a LOT more work put into them. That's just a fact. whether or not that bothers anyone, that's another story.

Personally, I loved the old manuals as the author of this article describes them. I'd read them before I started the game to get into the mood, and then I'd re-read them long after I finished the game to remind myself of how much fun I'd had.

Not too long ago, I bought an old copy of a long-extinct Indiana Jones game for PS2 from TradeMe. When I opened it up, though it might have been little crumpled and dog-eared, the manual brought unashamed joy to my wizened old heart - it was designed to look like Indy's journal, with clippings and sketches and pictures of artifacts, and backstory galore.

So, yes, I wish there were more great paper manulas out there today. Now leave me alone - I need to put these spectacles back on and take my Pokemon Red gameboy manual out to the rocking chair on the porch for a nostalgia trip... ;-P

Never mind manuals, the original Elite came with a bloody novella. Mind you, given that it was a space combat and trading simulator on an 8-bit system with only 32KB of RAM, there was no way in hell they could fit backstory and game universe context into the game itself.

I think a point relevant to this discussion is the targeted audience of video games today vs. back then. In 1991, it was possible that any game on the market was the very first game someone ever played. Thus, it made sense to have a detailed manual explaining controls, how to avoid obstacles, some background on the characters, etc.

Today, this is a much more rare possibility. Our world is so well inundated with video games and their dominant concepts that it has become standard cultural knowledge. You're not complaining that a pair of scissors doesn't have an extensive user manual because everyone already knows how to use scissors. In the same way, everyone who buys games these days knows how to use basic controls and employ basic concepts (jump over pointy things).

As for background information, hell, learning that is sometimes the only interesting part of the game. Games today are allowed to be much more immersive and are able to tell much more complete stories. I don't need to read about the background of today's game characters because they are presented to me vividly. I'm shown their background through their actions and choices, not merely told in a lengthy exposition. This is a far superior story telling method as any creative writing professor will tell you.

Manuals are a waste of paper. It won't be long before CDs are considered a waste of plastic. Software is moving into the cloud. In ten years, mark my words, the vast majority of software purchases (PC and Console) will be through digital download.

Looks at his latest addition.
Diablo 3, small booklet "quickstart guide" with some background information about Sanctuary and all the classes you can play with some nice artwork. Not bad.
*Looks at his game cabinet

Crusader No Remorse
-A 23 page "Anti Terrorist Site Security" Manual for the folks that work for the ingame company. With notes made by the resistance/Terrorists about weakpoints and their own profiles. "No armed and dangerous? I need to go hit the firing range"
-Installation guide, 16 pages (DOS Era, what do you expect)
-16 pages "Resistance Confidential" a "Welcome to the resistance" book with whats expected of you and ins and outs about the weapons.
-a thick 2 sided A2 ingame newspaper with ingame adds
oh, and the game :P

And no, this was not a collectors edition!
Fallout 2
-78 pages of manual
Carmageddon
-28 pages with stats of all the opponents

The rest is still sealed so no, i'm nog gonna open them! :P

But yeh, I do miss the big boxes and the manuals/extra's included
Got Mechwarrior 4 lying around somewhere, they also had a nice manual with specs of all the mechs and notes in the sideline made by characters of the game.

*sigh.. I feel old :P

Manuals made sense when you were lucky to get a text screen explaining the plot before throwing you right into the action. What do you need them for now? Unless it's a cheap indie title you get lengthy tutorial sections and the games are given enough context to not require any further explanation from external sources.
I did enjoy reading manuals before playing newly purchased games as a kid but I really don't see the point of their existence anymore.

Now, cardboard boxes, on the other hand.. Those I miss. I don't care if they get damaged more easily, they simply look better on the shelf than plain DVD cases.

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