Manual Labor

TelltaleGamesTelltaleGames Telltale Staff
edited 10:32PM in Blog
During my brief stint at that other company, I sat very close to a gent whose job it was to write manuals. He was quite diligent and proficient at his job, but a sense of defeat always hung over him like a dank black cloud of pestilence. null

He would slink back and forth between his desk and the game he was documenting with all the enthusiasm of the final remaining rat who knows full well there is no other sucker rat left to stand between him and the boa constrictor's dinner plate. It wasn't that our manual writer friend didn't enjoy his work. It was simply that he had accepted deep into his soul that his daily labor was, in fact, utterly futile.

No one reads manuals. You know that, I know that, everyone who plays games or works with them knows that. So why do we game companies insist on spending time and money writing up documentation and laying out colorful graphics?

Contemplating this issue brings me back to some of the happier moments of my childhood. I would clutch my newly purchased game to my rapidly palpitating heart as I climbed into our family vehicle on our way home from the computer store. I would have to wait until I returned to our domicile to actually play the game, but I could tear open the shrink wrap and practically live the experience simply through reading the manual. I could get a feel for what to expect in terms of the story, the gameplay, the controls. Even now I live vicariously through game manuals when I am forced to slave away deep into the night, not being able to see my husband or my home PC for days at a time.

What shocks me greatly is that even in these days of in-game tutorials and streamlined controls, sometimes there is still information in the manual that you actually >gasp< need! I have occasionally found manuals to be a more complete source of necessary information than the tidbits offered in-game. Why this is, I cannot say, but I suppose that manuals can be added to and edited long after the code in a game must be locked down.

I recall playing Ico, and getting stuck in the very beginning of the game. The princess you have just rescued from a hanging cage is being sucked down into a pit of shadowy darkness while inky creatures assault your character. You have a stick. Admittedly, you can light the stick on fire, but even so it was impossible to actually save the princess. While my husband stubbornly assaulted the creatures and the dark pit itself (and finally even the princess) in every way he could possibly imagine, I coolly turned to the manual. And there it was. You pressed a different button to pull the girl out of the black pit of doom. While I triumphantly pulled the princess to safety, he snorted with derision "It should've told me that in the game."� It gave me great joy to mock him ceaselessly and tell him he should've read the manual.

And thus it was with grim bitterness that I turned to creating the manual for Bone: Out From Boneville. Yet, in order to uphold time-honored gaming tradition, it had to be done. It doesn't matter if no one ever skims its pleasing yellow pages, or through its perusal discovers that there is a feature or two they might not even know existed in the game. The manual is a proper part of the package. I believe it would be missed if it were not present.

Just don't be expecting to see cloth maps anytime soon.
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