Bring back the instruction manuals!

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Bring back the instruction manuals!

Postby VideoGameCritic » July 15th, 2011, 12:00 am

A lot of games are now being released without instruction manuals, including the new NCAA College Football 12.  This is largely being done under the guise of being environmentally responsible, despite the fact that these manuals are small, easy to produce, and the paper is bio-degradable.

When I bring up this topic, a lot of people would say "who cares"?  It's true that you can still play the game without the manual.  But there are many reasons why a manual is still a good idea.

First of all, any kind of on-line help sucks.  Whether you're using Microsoft Word or playing a video game, wading through menus to figure out how to do something is a huge pain in the ass.  In many cases games use tutorials to explain the controls, but do you really want to replay a 15-minute tutorial just so you can remember how to stiff-arm a defender?

Next, gamers who were around in the 80's and 90's probably remember when it was fun to read the instructions.  Some of them had interesting background stories or colorful illustrations that got you psyched up to play.  Some PC games actually came with books that you were proud to own.  Who can forget the humor in the Donkey Kong Country (SNES) manual?  I love the color coded "game variation" charts in those old Atari 2600 manuals.

Manufacturing instruction manuals isn't hard, but putting one together does require some effort.  You need writers and artists and graphic designers to make it look professional.  More important, you need to have them coordinate with the developers so the manual does not delay the release.  I suppose EA finds it cost efficient to fire these people instead of going through the trouble.

It's a shame because games of today need manuals more.  On the main menu of any game there's usually a list of modes, and you don't have any idea what half of them mean until you try them.  The sports games in particular could benefit from a good manual, since they tend to be more complex.

And please don't tell me "I'd rather have no manual than a bad one", because then you're totally letting the publisher off the hook.  It's bad logic.  If they are going to charge full price, you deserve the full package.  If they wanted to knock off $10, I might be singing a different tune, but we all know that's not going to happen.  You'll get less but pay the same amount.

Enough of my rant.  Let's hear your thoughts.

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Bring back the instruction manuals!

Postby Leo1 » July 15th, 2011, 1:58 am

I certainly miss the way they were 15 years ago and earlier (Although there were occasional exceptions afterwards that were still worthwhile, such as with many 1st party Nintendo games)..

But they've largely been so poor for so long that, like it or not, it was easy to see them die. While I agree that just saying that "I'd rather have no manual than a bad one" is just letting them off the hook for something we're owed as a standard part of our $50-$60 purchase, they've just been so useless for so long that its passing has largely gone unnoticed by many of us. I stopped looking at them regularly long ago since they contained relatively little information that was of any use.

I miss the good old days of game manuals, not the flimsy contraptions that have shipped with games in recent years that only include a handful of pages showing the controller layout, with more legal notices seemingly contained on the pages than actual game information.


Bring back the instruction manuals!

Postby Luke » July 15th, 2011, 3:03 am

As far as I'm aware of, it's only EA... and possibly Ubisoft (?), that have done away with the manuals. So I don't think there's any reason to panic yet.

Michael Prymula

Bring back the instruction manuals!

Postby Michael Prymula » July 15th, 2011, 3:12 am

I remember how useful the instruction manuals were for my Genesis games, course most manuals today aren't that useful, 99% of the time i'm better off getting info from Gamefaqs.   While I agree that the exclusion of manuals is sloppy and lazy, the poor quality of manuals makes it to bemoan the loss too much, though now i've got one more reason to not buy EA sports games.

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Bring back the instruction manuals!

Postby bluemonkey1 » July 15th, 2011, 8:25 am

There's usually a screen under options that shows you all the controls, takes 30 seconds.

I think there's benefits to the lack of manuals. Yes back in the day I'd love to read them on the way home but now I get a lot of stuff online so don't have a car journey to read it. So many second hand games lack the manuals, in such circumstances having important info in the manual makes it a nightmare for the used game buyer. Space Hulk took on Saturn took me ages to work out for this reason. But by keeping all this info on the disc developers avoid the problem of one being separated from another. And yes they employ fewer manual makers but those guys would have been outside contractors working freelance anyway. Its a mute point because the size of dev teams has grown by a far larger percentage.


Bring back the instruction manuals!

Postby 0-Storm » July 15th, 2011, 2:28 pm

When I was a kid I'd take my NES, SNES & Genesis manuals on long car rides. Now I read them on the toilet or waiting rooms. I'll miss them dearly.

My favorite part of the manuals were the illustrations. I loved seeing artwork of the characters in the game. Sometimes they'd look quite different & it gave me a different perspective of what the characters were like.

It's just a natural progression before everything goes digital. In a few years the Critic will make a post, "Bring back the hard copies".


Bring back the instruction manuals!

Postby MoonMetropolis » July 15th, 2011, 6:19 pm

Well, the thing is, most games don't even require them.  99% of games today have detailed tutorials, helpful instructions, control screens, and complex back-stories.  Instruction manuals would have been far more helpful for Atari 2600 games, where you had absolutely no idea what you were supposed to be doing unless you read them.

I mean, when a game is explaining what to do the minute you start (like most games do), you really don't need an instruction manual anymore.

And, even if you forget how to play, there's always the Internet (which almost everyone has nowadays), a luxury that wasn't available to most people in the 1980s.


Bring back the instruction manuals!

Postby TedE.Bear » July 15th, 2011, 7:02 pm

[QUOTE=0-Storm]When I was a kid I'd take my NES, SNES & Genesis manuals on long car rides. Now I read them on the toilet or waiting rooms. I'll miss them dearly.

I respect this concept......

I think I'm at my comprehensive best while reading on the bowl or in a doctor's waiting room. 

While I am not complusive about having manuals for all my old video games, I do take comfort in knowing that I have something "official" from the game manufacturer to view if I have a question.

I've recently ordered Spy Hunter for the 2600 and Star Wars for Colecovision and am very grateful for the ability to print these manuals off the internet.  But to spend some cash on a new game and not have a printed manual or instruction guide is wrong.

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Bring back the instruction manuals!

Postby Leo1 » July 15th, 2011, 9:54 pm

I can remember only one time where I read the manual to a game on the way home after buying it.

I actually used to like sitting down and going through the manual before ever playing the game. Those days are sure long gone.

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Bring back the instruction manuals!

Postby Jon1 » July 15th, 2011, 11:57 pm

I can't believe they're doing this. I mean, just when you think EA can't stoop any lower, they do just that. It's bad enough that they killed off the NFL 2k series, which really really pissed me the **** off. That despicable company realized they couldn't compete so they made some deal with the NFL which really should be illegal. But back to the manual thing, it's a joke. How can you not have one? I think EA found out they could fire some people and go without a manual by saying that you can just get it online, because everything's online these days, right? To me, the manual is incredibly important. It shows off what creativity your company has. I have fond memories going through manuals. My favorite football game of all time Front Page Sports Football Pro 95 (NFL 2k5 is my second) had this huge manual, it was like 300 pages. And it went over the game in such detail that it made the game so much better. And every time I get a video game I'm interested in looking at the manual. And for EA to pull this off, it's a monumental disgrace. To think that if I want to play an online football league, I have to go through EA, really pisses me off.

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