Last night, I was exhausted.

For the last three nights, I haven’t slept very well. I get into these modes, when I am being creative, where my sleep schedule (or lack thereof) becomes even more chaotic than usual. I start going to bed only when I am very tired, and waking up a scant couple of hours later. It’s pretty unhealthy, now that I think about it.

But last night, my brother was over. After playing Aquapazza for a while, he wanted to play Ni no Kuni, a game he’d just bought. Because I am so interested in Con-scripts, he’d mentioned that there was one for this game (Called Nazcaän Script), and it was outlined in the manual (which it was).

This got me to flip through the rest of the manual. It was fairly standard fair for a modern video game manual: black and white pages, no pictures, very short content repeated in multiple languages, no frills. This, then, made me want to look at an older manual (back from the 90s when gaming had just hit the mainstream) to see just exactly how much had changed.

My copy of Jade Cocoon just happened to be right on the end table, so it was the one I chose. It was a good one to contrast with Ni no Kuni: Both were generally colorful games, both had art from Studio Ghibli (Katsuya Kondo for Jade Cocoon, Toshihiro Kuriaki and the rest of Ghibli for Ni no Kuni) at their core, and both were released for Sony consoles. So, there are a lot of similarities.

But, let’s focus on the differences I found in the older manual, for Jade Cocoon.

First of all, it was thicker… Possibly because it was stouter (PSX games came in square boxes, not DVD style ones). Second, not only were the front and back in color, but the entire thing was in full color, with unique designs added to the borders of the pages to fit in with the style of the game. There was a spread for controlling the game, but also glossary, story, and concept art sections… all with images and quotes from the game.

It explained things that weren’t explained in the game (Something Ni no Kuni admittedly didn’t need… because the tutorial was unskippable, mandatory, and LONG). It talked at length about the different families of monsters in the game, with sketches (not screencaps) of the monsters that it highlighted. And finally, it delineated mechanics in a helpful way: Here’s how You increase Your health, here’s how You merge Your monsters, here’s a bit of lore about a secret minion hidden deep in the game.

My point in talking about this, I guess, can be summed up with a single sentence: There was a time when the manual that came with a game could be a part of the experience You had with the game.

I understand why it changed: These older manuals were probably much more expensive to produce, and definitely took a lot more time to develop than the new ones. But it’s just a shame that it changed so universally.

If and when I release a game, I want to make the older style of manual… not the newer one.

Categories:  games  writing 
Tags:  art  manual  world building  jade cocoon