An instruction manual, in the context of computer and video games, is a booklet that instructs the player on how to play the game, gives descriptions of the controls and their effects, and shows a general outline of the concepts and goals of the game. It is also common for manuals to contain a brief summary of the storyline of the game, especially in games with complex storylines, such as role playing games. 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.
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) or in-game help (both computer and console games). As more "spare" buttons become available on controllers, screen resolution and an obstacle course
to teach movement and target practice
to teach shooting and introduce different types of weapons; in real-time strategy games, they are one or more missions
that teach not only the issuing of basic commands (build, upgrade, move, harvest resources, attack) but also the uses of basic units.
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.
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, and comprehensive instruction manuals can only add to the game's appeal.
- Many of the Sierra Game Series, such as the original Kings Quest or Leisure Suit Larry games had copyright protection built into the manuals- and the player would need to answer questions to start the game, or refer to items in the manual to bypass in game puzzles. Since most pirated games did not include copies of the manual, this could be a deterrent against copying the game. However since the manuals were easily lost this could cause people who legitimately purchased the game to be unable to play.
- Most games by MicroProse have extensive manuals.
- The original release of Myst included a pamphlet which fit in the compact disc case and contained a one page setup and basic instructions for the game. The main "manual" is a booklet of blank pages for the player to take notes in. Later releases add more information on the creators and some assistance.
- MDK's manual is presented as the diary of Professor Hawkins. (Mdk explanation.JPG)
- Grand Theft Auto III and later games in the series present their manuals as in-universe reading materials, with those of GTA III and GTA: Vice City fashioned in the form of tourist guides to cities the games are set in, GTA: San Andreas presenting its as a "local business advertising guide" (consisting predominantly of advertising of in-game products), and GTA: Liberty City Stories depicting its version as a local newspaper. The series also came with maps of the city sometimes set in the universe of the games.
- During the 1980s and early 1990s, most of the manuals provided by Konami of America (and their sister company, Ultra Games) for their games were written in a very humorous tone and often contradicted the original information from their Japanese counterparts (as was the case with Contra, Castlevania and Metal Gear). Konami of America only began taking a more serious approach for their manuals around the mid 1990s, when they began using translated versions of the Japanese manuals instead of writing their own. Their counterpart, Konami of Europe, often used the same manuals as Konami of America, but they also made their own (and often accurate) manuals when an American version wasn't available (as was the case with Probotector and Parodius.)
- NHLPA Hockey 93 suggests injuring opposite players as a tactic, stating "Player injuries — it's a part of the game. Knock key opposing players out of the game with an extra hard body check". Combined with other factors (such as a high number of fights and players that bleed when injured), it forced EA to tone down several aspects of the game in order to keep both their NHL and NHLPA licenses.
- The NES game Star Tropics has a yellowish paper written as a letter from the main character's uncle. Midway through the game the player receives a hint to get the letter wet, which reveals a secret message necessary to continue the game. This letter was easily lost, but since the secret message was always the same, the game can still be progressed as long as the player can find someone (or a website) that knows the content.
- The PC game "The Last Resort" also came with a letter as part of its instruction manual, which contained a code which was needed to solve the game's very first puzzle. This could possibly be a direct nod to Star Tropics, but could also be a coincidence.
- The Super NES game Home Improvement (based on the TV series of the same name) is particularly notorious for featuring a splash page that proclaims "Real men don't need instructions" as the sole content of its manual.
- The PlayStation games Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete and its sequel Lunar 2: Eternal Blue Complete included 100 page faux-leather bound manuals that contained not only the standard manual, but art, interviews and translation notes.
- The SNES game Earthbound is notable for not being boxed with an instruction manual, but an actual strategy guide for the game, made by the developers. This accounts for Earthbound's rather oversized packaging, in comparison to other SNES titles.
- The manual of the game Contact for the Nintendo DS was written in the style of a blog, likely a first for the medium.
- The CD-I game Hotel Mario included a line telling the player to "check out" the "enclosed instruction book" in the opening sequence. There have been many parodies of this line in video remixes featured on YouTube.
- The manual for the Sega Master System version of Bank Panic featured information regarding the original arcade version of the game, the Master System version was a complete remake rather than a port, and the gameplay was a lot different to the arcade version. There was even a screenshot of the arcade version on page 9.
- The manual for the Genesis/SNES game Bubsy the Bobcat contains a full-color comic book detailing the game's story.
- The manual for the Japanese Famicom version of Double Dragon III is presented in manga-format, with story scenes interspersed.
- Manuals for MS-DOS games are usually written in an informal tone, often containing slang.
- Meekeo - a video games instruction manuals directory in pdf documents.
- Nintendo - Nintendo games instruction manuals