Thursday, May 29, 2008

All you man (are belong to us)

Manuals. This week's lecture about game manual's and documentation has quite some relevance to a piece of assessment due for this unit, the game manual for Crusaders. Although the lecture was more of a pictorial demonstration, it was clear that the variances and effectiveness of various manual designs can help or hinder the success of how easily a game can be played. To further illustrate this point of view, I will explore 3 game manuals that I currently have access to from 3 very different games. All three are equally effective in their design regarding the type of game they are related to.

Below: World of Soul Reaversis

World of Warcraft, Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver and Crysis are all games that I own and played at some point in the past. Soul Reaver, undoubtedly the oldest (being a PSX game) has a very methodical layout of the content, relating very closely to game elements that would be uncovered during the course of the game. Controlling the main character moves logically towards enemies encountered and special abilities, with a brief history and rundown of the world and associated vampire clans. It lists relevant information earlier on in the manual with other less important data closer to the end. While the design is simple, it is an easy to follow and understand article that only gives out details when you require them.

World of Warcraft's manual is also very similar to Soul Reaver's, the main difference being the fact that is about 5x more comprehensive. This monolithic game manual includes in depth break downs of class roles and abilities as well as the narrative and lore behind the game environment. It could surely pass for bedtime reading for someone without anything else better to read. Blizzard leave no expense when they attempt to deliver as much information to the player as possible, which while convenient, may be daunting or confusing for someone looking for a simpler answer. However, the scale and complexity of a game like WoW really does require a large enough manual which in all honesty, only brushes the surface of the game.

Crysis on the other hand is a bit different from both of these games. It is very straight forward and direct, clear instructions with a very linear design (both navigationally and visually). "This is a gun", "shoot it by doing this" and "follow triangle on map" are derived objectives you will naturally get from skimming this type of manual design, which probably appeals to the slightly impatient nature of FPS gamers. Crysis is an action game, and reading is for wussies!

Below: If only you could combine the three...

Anyway, what does this mean for our manual? From what our group has discussed, our manual will probably follow a style very similar to all three of the ones mentioned. It will follow a chronological explanation of game play mechanics and the possible situations players will encounter, listed in the order most likely of occurrence. It will have the narrative and historical aspects of the game possibly listed later in the document, with the earlier information more related to the actual game play itself. These former sections will be very succinct and to the point, delivering information in an easy to comprehend and minimalistic, need-to-know manner. The style will quite possibly be in the form of some olde-English design, reminiscent of the era where the actual Crusades were taking place. This was also my intention for the use of the figurehead (i.e. a Crusader), however it wasn't a well received item by the rest of the group for some reason. Maybe we should change the name of the game.... :S.

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