ChrisT talks game manuals

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Only a few enlightened ones are asking about the Fallout 3 manual, out of nostalgic feelings towards the fabulous Fallout manuals. So let’s ear what Chris “anarchy” Taylor, the man that did the original Fallout manual has to say on the generic theme of Game Manuals:

I have a lot of empathy for manual writers, having been one myself. I’ve written over 10 different game manuals and hint books. They are not as easy as it looks. First off, the fact that you usually have a very limited page count actually makes it more difficult to write than not. Secondly, you have to write a combination tutorial and reference manual — and those two concepts are often at odds. Finally, you usually have a very limited amount of time to write the manual, and usually the product is still in flux until the very last moment. Games, both digital and analog, have production lead times that require printed materials to be finished ahead of digital media.

As a gamer, I like a well-written informative manual. I appreciate the art of a good manual and I am fascinated with different approaches to manual writing.

Digital games have one advantage: they can incorporate the tutorial into the game a lot easier than an analog boardgame.

Some guidelines for what I think makes a good manual:

  • Clearly written and well organized rules
  • Well defined chapters
  • Images and examples
  • Brevity is the rule but verbosity when required
  • Whitespace (as compared to Whitesnake)
  • A dash of humor

Theme can make a good manual great. But too much theme can destroy a manual.

Oh, and it has to be comfortably sized enough to read on the can. Very important!

More of Chris writings on the Zero Radius Games blog.

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