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Several manuals

An instruction manual, in the context of video games, is a booklet that instructs the player on how to play the game. Manuals can be large, such as the Civilization II manual which runs hundreds of pages, or small, such as the single sheet of double-sided A5 paper included with Half-Life 2.

Contents

Personal computers

Computer games typically have larger manuals because some genres native to personal computers such as simulators or strategy games require a more in-depth explanation of the interface and game mechanics. Furthermore, instruction manuals for personal computer games tend to include installation instructions to assist a user in installing the game, but those instructions could also appear in a separate piece of paper or in a different leaflet. As some of these manuals are so large as to be cumbersome when searching for a specific section, some games include a quick reference card (usually a list of keyboard commands) on a separate sheet of paper or in the back cover of the manual.

A common use for printed manuals until the CD-ROM became the main medium for games was to use it as a copy protection device: some games required the player to find the "word x in the yth paragraph of the zth page" or to input a code found in the borders of a certain page. These mechanisms were highly unpopular, as they only affected legitimate purchasers; pirates would simply use a crack or have the codes printed on a single sheet to bypass the mechanism. While this practice has fallen out of use in recent years, CD-keys serve a similar purpose and are occasionally printed somewhere in or on the manual.

Other manuals go much farther than being simple guides: some games based on historical or well developed fictional stories often include extensive information about the settings, like WWI combat simulator Flying Corps, where every campaign was thoroughly described with historical information. In some genres, this led to the aforementioned large manuals traditional with computer games.

Decline of printed manuals

The trend in recent years is towards smaller manuals - sometimes just a single instruction sheet - for a number of reasons. Console games are no longer sold in large cardboard boxes; instead, since the early 2000s, DVD cases have been used (as today's major consoles use DVDs), which leave no room for a large manual. Printing is also expensive, and game publishers can save money by including a PDF of the manual on the disk (computer games). Notably, most video games produced during and after the fourth generation include in-game instructions via tutorials and other such methods, rendering printed manuals even more useless.

Missing manuals

While their use in computer games post-2000 is scarce, console games and older computer games are expected to have them. Games acquired in second hand markets often miss the manuals, after being kept, lost or discarded by their previous owners. As occasionally the manuals are part of the game experience, owners of games missing manuals try to find replacements in other second-hand stores or with other players or collectors. Alternatively, sites like Replacementdocs provide a large repository of fan-made and official PDF manuals to download. Those range from simple page scans (which is impractical in longer manuals, due to larger file size and the inability to search text) to OCR-scanned and carefully assembled manuals to remain as close to the original manuals as possible.

MMORPG manuals

MMORPGs in particular continue to be packaged with a comprehensive and high-quality manual. World of Warcraft and Guild Wars include instruction manuals that are 150 to 200 pages; they explain everything from in-game lore to detailed overviews of the different character classes. In general, MMORPGs have a larger variety of features in which the player can focus on while playing than normal games and often take much longer to complete. The detailed instruction booklets that accompany the games help answer any questions that players may have in order to make public relations and technical support easier once the game is released. These manuals also invite potential players to explore an aspect of the game that was previously unknown to them. More than any other genre, the community and longevity of an MMO are important to the developers because they often charge a monthly fee for playing the game.

See also

External links

  • Meekeo - instruction manuals for current gen systems, in pdf documents.
  • Nintendo - Nintendo games instruction manuals.
  • Vimm's Lair - offering scans from many older systems, from Atari 2600 to the Playstation 2
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