Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Some musings on manuals

A few days ago, I was ranting on twitter about how Baldur's Gate 1 is terrible at explaining to the player how the game works. One of my friends told me that it was from a time when reading the manual was expected if you wanted to understand how the game works, but this isn't exactly true. Sure, games back then didn't have helpful button prompts telling you which button lets you jump, but back then there were plenty of games, even RPG's, that teach the player it's mechanics within gameplay. "So where did this assumption come from?", I wondered.

After a few days of thinking, I remembered that I also used to read a lot of manuals when I was younger. I spent hours reading the manuals to Super Mario Bros. 3, Pokemon Ruby, the Sly Cooper games, and even board games. Not because I needed to, (many of these games were fairly self explanatory), but because I had nothing better to do. I was a kid, and I didn't have the disposable income to assemble the kind of games backlog that I have today. Combine this lack of things to do with a bit of curiosity, and you end up with a little boy who knew the rules of Settlers of Catan by heart.

And I imagine this applies to many other people as well. People that grew up with Baldur's Gate probably spent hours reading the manual. So when they encountered something that seems completely unintuitive to newcomers, they instead knew exactly what to do. Now by itself this wouldn't be a bad thing, but it does mean these veteran players might have a bit of trouble putting themselves in the mindset of someone thrust into a new ruleset without the spare time to slowly figure it out. Which is a bit sad, because those new players often do want to enjoy this game.

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