Currently playing: Nox Archaist

March 24, 2012

The lack of printed manuals today

I have to complain a little about another thing that irritates me in todays gaming market. The lack of proper paper manuals.  It´s not as much about the quality as of the lack of a printed media I am talking about. There are several reasons for it.

  • It is convenient to have a paper manual to be read anywhere, anytime without having to sit in front of the computer. I have read countless of manuals to/from work, in the bath, before going to bed etc. It won´t be bad for my eyes.
  • Proper manuals should be exhaustive and well written. Examples of good manuals where the ones supplied by Microprose once in a time (Gunship,F-19 Stealth Fighter, Pirates, Civilization etc). They add great value to the game. I was quite frustrated that Civilization V was the first game in the series that was not supplied with a paper manual.
  • To have the paper manual is also one reason to buy the game and not get a pirated version. That was always my standpoint in the 80s/90s. Advanced and good games are worth the money if not for the game itself but for the manual supplied. There was this added value in having a fine box with a thick manual. Today you get a sheet or four language leaflet for most games. 
  • I could rationalise away thick manuals for lighthearted games and FPS/Cinematic adventures etc but not for strategy- and roleplaying games. 
  • Even though digital manuals does not incur printing or distribution costs they could still be very short even though one thinks they would have all the space available to describe spells and skills or give complete descriptions of mechanics etc. I don´t want to have to look up dev journals to get that kind of info.

Now my antagonists will say...

  • You have to think about the environment. Do you know how many trees is required to ship a manual with every game around the world ?
So what ? If the game is advanced and complex enough to deserve a proper manual it should be there. In paper. Should we close down all bookstores as well with the same reason ?
  • The game would be more expensive with the manual. This is a way to keep down the costs.
I am ready to pay 5-10 dollars more for a printed manual. Games like Civilization V are proably played by older gamers with more money anyway.

  • You get the PDF manual of the game included. Stop complaining!
See my reasons at the top.

  • You just have to print the included digital version!
That is expensive and you get it in a bad A4 format. Why should I be content with that when games up to the first years in 2000 always included proper manuals ? I am used to them. 

I understand the companies wish to cut costs, to be able to fit the manual in simple DVD-cases which is the same for all platforms. That advanced games could never be released on the consoles and therefore obviate the need for a manual. But still I will support companies that offers two versions. Instead todays Collectors Edition includes every useless junk except a proper manual. They could include figurines and trinkets. Art book etc. Who cares about that except small children ? Game music on CD is appreciated and those that supplies proper manuals.

That was my thoughts about this issue. Proper manuals was always supplied to the belowed CRPGS.


  1. Well said. I don't know about other countries, but here in the US, trees are actually grown to harvest paper from them. There is no tree shortage, since the trees used are explicitly grown for the paper! Sheesh.

    Anyway, I'm sure the reason they don't make paper manuals is the rising cost of paper and all that. I miss the booklets in my DVDs too. Now you're lucky if you get a single sheet with a scene listing or something. It's sad...

  2. That is the main reason reason I don't buy games any more. Well, that, and they don't make any good (to me) CRPGs any more.
    Games are expensive. I don't want the added expense of having to print my own manual too.
    The old CRPGs often included little extras that probably added a lot of cost to the company, but they didn't charge any more than a similar game without them. I would have happily paid more for the extras.
    Ah well. It's not called the Golden Age for nothing.

  3. Recently, I had the same thought when I bought the "World of Warcraft" Battle Chest. It came with a full print copy of the "World of Warcraft Beginner's Guide," a full color 256 page book, complete with great pictures, that told you everything a new player could possibly want to know about the game.

    When I started thumbing through it, I thought to myself that once upon a time books similar to that were pretty common with video games. In fact, the last big book I think I got with a game was the original Neverwinter Nights booklet.

  4. I still flip through old manuals for fun. I haven't bought many recent games, but I've yet to see no manual come with a console RPG. Maybe this is a PC game thing?

  5. I still enjoy reading through the manuals for my old CRPG & Interactive Fiction games... Another positive aspect to paper manuals that I didn't notice you mention is that when they're printed on the right kind of textured paper & with the right fonts, they greatly enhance the sense of realism.

    I don't know about today's games, but the other tangible items that were included in the 80s & early 90s were often also chosen to boost the realism, and in those cases it wasn't just kids that appreciated (or appreciate) them.

    I don't think that the portability or screen-eyestrain logic entirely counts now, though, since there are small, inexpensive e-readers that are just like paper from our eyes' perspective. (I keep my little reader with me all the time, as it fits in my jacket pocket & I can read it even when I have a light-sensitive migraine.)

  6. I learned more about the history of railroads from Microprose's Railroad Tycoon manual than I ever did in school. I'm pretty sure that manual was about 5% gameplay instruction and 95% educational.

  7. @Raifield
    That´s another factor I forgot to mention. How much did I not learn about Nato´s and Warzaw pact forces from Microprose games like Gunship, Gunship 2000, F-19 Stealth Fighter and Red Storm Rising.

  8. I used to read them on the toilet or at school with my buddies. I wasn't allowed to play games on the weekdays when I was a kid so I would play vicariously by reading the book. Awesome stuff, huh? I remember loving the Fallout manuals and Wiz 7 manual because it was so thick with lots to read.

  9. I have mixed feelings about paper manuals. On one hand, many of the classic games had fantastic manuals that really added to the game world. Examples: Fallout 1 and 2, Baldur's Gate, Alpha Centauri, Pirates.

    On the other hand, game wikis have mostly replaced written manuals as go-to places for information about a game. I find the wiki format much easier to read than a printed manual and much more complete.

    Also, modern games tend to have tutorial levels to teach you how to play the game. I'm usually not a fan of these levels, since they usually last too long and sometimes don't even teach you what you need to know (I'm talking about you, Witcher 2!).

  10. Wow you nailed it right on the nose, thats a major issue for me when comes to paying full retail price on games is the lack of content.....thats why I purchase most of my games from a second hand vendor online, ferpennies on the dollar. Talk about a rip off, and half the time the manual is vague anyway......push this fer that, this key maps the extras, the so called perks of buying a game, like the thick manual that contain so much more then idle filler....

    1. You know its funny, that you mention having to print out your manual fer said nomened game, 'cause I used to have this ritual back in the day. That back then, way back then, whenever I was about to make a purchase of an role-playing game fer my first console which was a Playstation, I would go to great lengths to print out an selfmade all inclusive gameplay manual, that cut and pasted together from various faq sites, stuff like weapon lists, merchant locations, etc. e
      tc.etc.. I would spend hours, days, weeks preparing my bible fer the select game I was going to purchase n play the following week and or month. It's funny reflecting now on that........It is also weird that I started playing jrpgs n are just now playing western rpgs.......lifes funny like

  11. When you need information AS YOU PLAY, nothing's better than a paper manual.
    Having to save-exit-login-read-logout-relaunch-load isn't very unser-friendly.
    I can tell the same about window-juggling between the game and an online manual, even if it's less bothering than the above.

    Moreover, paper manuals had very often a lot of written background that enhanced greatly the game experience.
    Tutorial levels are good for FPS or RTS that need some handling not to mess the very first game levels, but aren't so good when it comes to RPG.
    Look at Neverwinter Nights : in order to go through tutorial levels, you need th right character. As an example, you can't train (using the interface) how to pick pockets if your character don't have this skill already trained (when created) so what use is then the tutorial level ?

  12. I've actually gone as far as to make my own manuals for Ultima IV, V and Zangband just so I have a paper manual to read and use. It's not too hard (worse part besides finding text to use is planning the page layout, but that can be fun at times), just print them in two columns in landscape mode.