Why we’re including a digital guide booklet with our game
The image above is the official guide booklet for a game called Chulip. It is a game I very much like, and it became semi-well known for doing something a little strange: its packaged instruction booklet came with a full walkthrough for the whole game. A lot of people decried that as evidence of the game’s faulty design. Obviously, it is only including a walkthrough because the game isn’t clear enough in what you’re supposed to do.
And maybe there is some truth to that? Chulip isn’t exactly the most clear game on the market. It is difficult to know where you need to go, or why you need to go there, and from the outset it doesn’t introduce very well how you’re supposed to successfully kiss people (the game’s core mechanic) without getting slapped in return.
But I think there is value to including a developer-created guide booklet with a game. One of odplot’s core focuses is to have people enjoy our games who do not typically play (Nintendo is usually very good at this), and by including a guide I hope that people who are intimidated by an industry that has traditionally marketed itself only to core purchasers will feel more comfortable knowing that there is help at their side, curated by the developer rather than an online third party.
What is such a guide to include?
There are so many things that I think people who are already well versed in games take for granted that can be included in such a guide. How to jump, or shoot a gun, or interact with objects, or run, etc. If you’ve played a couple of games you will know the standardized controls for all of these, but what of those who haven’t for a few years? A decade? Ever?
Many people say that you should teach the player about the game during-play, and while I agree with that concept, I think it has been distorted a bit. Yes, certainly the player should learn how your game’s systems interact with one another and respond to input. But does the input need to be gamified, too? It is expensive to make tutorials for how to jump, look around, etc, and these parts are always clumsy and boring, anyway. So why not put basic background info such as that in a human readable format? Hopefully, the learning of the controls of the game will not be such an important part of the core experience that it will be a weaker game for its being removed.
Games are not usually designed with walkthroughs in mind, so that you have to sort of read through a lot of stuff to find where you are, possibly ruining other parts of the game for you on the way. But by thinking about that before hand, we can design into the game such a way so as to let the player know how to find what part they’re at in the booklet, without the spoilers.
One might argue that you should just design the game well enough so that a walkthrough isn’t needed. This is true, and I hope this is a goal of all game designers. However, video games are particularly onerous when it comes to the need for the suspension of disbelief and being of a very high quality. For if a film or book breaks character and has a low quality passage or scene, the consumer is only hindered by a few moments of slight annoyance. For a game to have a low quality puzzle, though, very well may mean that the consumer will never solve it and never see the game to the end.
The fact is, games which have obstacles in them have an abysmally low completion rate. Yet, obstacles are what make games fun, so the solution is not to remove them, or make them easier. Why though should a player not get to see the game through to the end just because they had a bad run-in with a single puzzle?
Our guide will also include various extras, like art, developer information, short summaries of the story’s background and characters, etc. These are things that can make for a nice, rounded out experience for a product that will most likely be bought and played digitally.
And, frankly, they’re fun to have.