Posts Tagged ‘paper trail’

When I opened Mass Effect 2, I was more than a little surprised to see that the manual was…more of a booklet. No, not even a booklet. It was a pamphlet. No, even smaller. It can only be described as a trifold leaflet. And it wasn’t even a manual, to be honest. It was just a little slip that essentially told me the manual was on the disc.


You call this documentation?

Now, I don’t particularly like on-disc manuals, mostly because I like to be able to have my reference material handy. I understand that the future is supposed to be paperless and all, but call me old-fashioned: I like my well-written and illustrated paper manuals.

When I started playing PC games in the early to mid ’90s, games had a tendency to come with a detailed manual, a reference card and, more often than not, “feelies”, which were extras that served not only to provide cool collectibles, but to draw the player deeper into the game world. These would include things like mini-newspapers, maps, and other helpful little goodies; and often these goodies were important components of copy protection (before the age of CD keys or invasive DRM we had to scour manuals for such and such word on whichever page number – hey, it’s still better than SecuROM). If you ever picked up a game by Infocom or Origin, you’re probably familiar with feelies. It was kind of like the stuff you have to pay twenty or thirty extra dollars for in the collector’s editions these days.

Now, the Mass Effect 2 leaflet claims that it’s putting the manual on disc in an effort for EA to reduce their impact on the environment. On the other hand, there’s a separate leaf to provide the Cerberus Network code and a third slip to advertise Dragon Age II. Now I have no problem with advertising or with saving a few trees, but honestly? 2k and Bethesda don’t have any problems printing out full-color, detailed manuals. Now, when you pay full-price for a game, is it too much to ask for twenty-five or so pages of text?

In the case of an RPG like one of the Fallouts, or Elder Scrolls or Mass Effect, I like to look at the perks or abilities or whatever the particular game has. I come from a tabletop background so I like to think ahead a little, plan out how I’m going to build my character. Again, call me old fashioned (I’m currently playing through Baldur’s Gate, with a couple of Second Edition DnD rulebooks handy, and the game is wonderfully faithful to the rules). I’m sure I’m in the lunatic fringe here, but I’m sure I’m not the only one. Right? (echoes). RIGHT?

But in any case, it’s pretty obvious to anyone who’s been gaming for any length of time (especially PC gamers), that the contents and even size of game boxes have been shrinking faster than an ice cube in Death Valley in August. Remember how big game boxes used to be? Well, anyway, I figured I’d draw some attention to the ever-shrinking amount of decent game manuals.

Share Your Thoughts: What do you think? Is a good manual a helpful addition to a game, or is Chad simply living in the age of grunge music and Crystal Pepsi?

(Join me for part 2 where I’ll talk about strategy guides!)