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Ubisoft Says No More Game Manuals 400

thsoundman writes with this excerpt from The Gamers Blog: "No more manuals? Ubisoft announced last week that they will be ditching the trend of printing instruction manuals for new games under the 'green' initiative. While no other publishers have jumped on that 'green' train just yet, it is likely that others will follow suit. Printed manuals have been part of gaming since you bought PC games in plastic bags. There have been many standout eras for manuals, such as the NES-era booklets to the manuals that accompanied Electronic Arts vinyl-sized game sleeves. Some may argue that the advancement in on-screen contextual commands and first-level tutorials have made the manual pointless, but is this really the case?"
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Ubisoft Says No More Game Manuals

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  • Good. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tool462 ( 677306 ) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @01:46PM (#31942364)

    They've been all but useless for ~20 years anyway. Contextual help and tutorials within the game are usually more useful and intuitive. If I need more help, it's usually easy enough to find what I'm looking for online anyway.

  • Yes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ZekoMal ( 1404259 ) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @01:46PM (#31942368)
    Nobody reads instructions. As noted in older /. articles, nobody even reads Terms of Service, even if they end up surrendering their soul. Instructions are always included in the game itself, and if they aren't, are fairly easy to figure out. I've never used instruction manuals, except for when I'm looking at character bios not included in the game, or artwork.
  • in other words... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 22, 2010 @01:46PM (#31942370)

    they plan on developing only simplistic titles for the brain-dead masses; instead of huge, complex, detailed games that demand printed reference materials.

  • Game Manuals? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by skine ( 1524819 ) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @01:47PM (#31942382)

    I honestly can't remember the last time I used a game manual.

    The only real reason I know of is to find out the control layout, but that's usually included/changeable in-game now.

  • by jandrese ( 485 ) <> on Thursday April 22, 2010 @01:47PM (#31942384) Homepage Journal
    I have not seen a decent printed manual for a game in about 10 years now. Sometimes they've got some nice fluff or stories, but as the writeup mentioned, in-game tutorials work a lot better. Having the instructions only printed in the manual is an anachronism in this day and age. Manual designers know that too, since most are at best anemic these days. When you download games from Steam you don't get the manual either. It's only an issue if you're attempting to play very old games like the original X-COM. Even then, the manuals are often available as a PDF.
  • by dwiget001 ( 1073738 ) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @01:47PM (#31942388)

    No, not "GREEN", more like "It's a helluva lot less expensive to just not print the manuals!"

    On-line help in HTML or PDF form would suffice for a "manual" and often does in many games nowadays.

    Besides, I have seen manuals get smaller and smaller and smaller to the point where they are really just a few pages of basic "How to install game" paragraphs and "How to contact support" *plus* two pages of advertisements for the company's other games, subscriptions, merchandise, etc.

  • Home Improvement (Score:5, Insightful)

    by shentino ( 1139071 ) <> on Thursday April 22, 2010 @01:48PM (#31942412)

    Real men don't read instructions

  • I like them (Score:5, Insightful)

    by linear core ( 1692640 ) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @01:49PM (#31942452)
    What will kids read on the way home from the game store now? I have also found game manuals helpful in many instances where commands and instructions that weren't put into the game were put there. Not every instruction or tip you need to convey can be put into the game without breaking the flow. The game manual helps. Besides, sometimes they're really pretty.
  • by Delusion_ ( 56114 ) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @01:50PM (#31942464) Homepage

    ...either in software form (nothing more fussy than html or pdf, please) or within in-game help, that would merely be a disappointment.

    But what really going on here is that they're turning their manuals from a cost to a profit by outsourcing their manuals to BradyGames, Prima, and other publishers. I'm sick to death of paying for games which need manuals (rts/tbs yes, fps, no), but I'm only provided with a razor thin command reference sheet, if that.

    UbiSoft wins. The game strategy guide industry wins. The customer loses. More of the usual.

  • by the_one_wesp ( 1785252 ) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @01:50PM (#31942466)
    However there are a few games, such as simulations and city building games, such as those created by the late Impressions Games, with vast complexities. Covering this kind of information in a tutorial is a little tedious and the beginners just don't care. It's really for the advanced users who want to understand how all objects interact. So, IMHO there are circumstances where game manuals are warranted, but most of the time I'd say they're not necessary.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 22, 2010 @01:52PM (#31942496)

    I can remember buying computer games and, I couldn't even wait to get home before I'd rip open the box and start reading the manual, looking at screen shots, viewing the magic spell list for an RPG, etc....

    When you're on the go, and you don't have a computer available, good old paper manuals were awesome! And, you can read them without needing a power source.

    I still love 'em and wish they won't go away...

  • Re:Good. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DeadDecoy ( 877617 ) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @01:53PM (#31942510)
    I dunno, for some games, I've found manuals to be pretty useful: Neverwinter Nights, Civilization, i.e. games with lots of miscellaneous icons and skill trees that require a decent amount of planning. Sure you can put the content in game, but sometimes it's nice to have a reference guide. Plus the art and flavor text is nice sometimes too.
  • by dskzero ( 960168 ) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @01:53PM (#31942512) Homepage
    Sarcasm meter screaming out, but i'm sure they will publicly divert that money to R&D, and other important departments.

    Like the "Boss wants a new ferrari" department, and the always popular "How to DRM your way into making games unplayable".

  • Green? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FonzCam ( 841867 ) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @01:57PM (#31942584)

    So to be green they're removing the most environmentally friendly part of the product?

    It'd be a much more green initiative to replace the plastic case with a paper and card case that could include basic controls printed on it's various surfaces. They could even go all out and switch to all digital distribution.

  • by thsoundman ( 1778564 ) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @01:58PM (#31942598) Homepage
    Because they add to the overall experience of the game. They give artwork, keyboard/controller commands, they give alot of backstory and on the side they make you actually feel like your getting somting for all the money you just spent. When i spend 60 dollars i want somthing more then a disc. Have you tried "figuring out" how to play NHL10 without the booklet there are over 5 pages of commends in there. Games like Final Fantasy have pages of story, character info, etc. It just gives you somthing tangible that makes your gaming experience that much better.
  • by rilian4 ( 591569 ) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @02:02PM (#31942672) Journal
    Solution for PC games is obvious. PDF on the Disc containing every page that would have been printed. I suppose for console games that a URL to visit online where you can download the manual would work but then what if the site goes down or the file is removed...or they might make you setup a "free" account and be forced to provide personal details in order to access the manual. (Yes I know it will get out eventually...)
  • Man, if there's ever a time when I don't RTFM, it's when I'm playing a new game. For starters, convention has pretty much taught us all what to expect. Second, delays between acquiring a game and playing it, no matter how small, are annoying. Last but not least, I pretty much Google or wikipedia everything these days. Why waste time fishing around for an easily lost pamphlet when a couple of clicks get me the info I need?

    Kudos to Ubisoft. Better for waste, better for their bottom line and practically zero impact for gamers.
  • by Nadaka ( 224565 ) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @02:08PM (#31942810)

    Dwarf Fortress.



  • by blackraven14250 ( 902843 ) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @02:09PM (#31942826)

    When is the last time that a major RTS hasn't had a campaign mode nearly entirely devoted to showing you all of your units and explaining the mechanics and trees? Starcraft and Warcraft 2 had campaigns where the beginning explained these things; the difference in newer games is the general shrinking of the portion afterwords that you have full access to all units.

    I know that TBS games can be a bit more detailed and usually only give an overview, but since when is learning their mechanics impossible to do from playing rather than reading?

    Even if I did want to read the manual, I wouldn't care if they got rid of the paper manuals in favor of electronic versions; it's the same information whether it's in HTML, PDF or print; one just costs the environment and the company less. There's no disappointment to most people when most people would use the amazing information machine in front of them anyway instead of searching for a manual that's likely not detailed enough to cover the aspect of the game you want to know.

  • by ElKry ( 1544795 ) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @02:10PM (#31942862)
    You may want to try to read the post itself instead of just answering to the subject...
  • by zero_out ( 1705074 ) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @02:11PM (#31942866)
    X-COM was, and still is, the greatest game ever created. Even with the horrendous graphics, by today's standards, it's an awesome game. I break it out every couple of years. If the game simply ran natively on today's hardware, and had higher resolution graphics (no 3D, just hi-res sprites), I would be absolutely giddy (and I don't get giddy. Ever).
  • by HybridST ( 894157 ) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @02:12PM (#31942884) Homepage
    This document is printed on recycled paper.
  • by snowraver1 ( 1052510 ) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @02:13PM (#31942912)
    I don't know about you, but I usually read the instruction manual on the crapper. Most of the manuals never get read, but like a previous poster stated, it gives you something tangible with the game.

    "Green" initiative... Money is green
  • How is that a loss? There was a time when the game manual had to fire the imagination a little, make up for the chunky graphics, supply a back story, or document some complicated controls, stuff that was difficult/impossible from within the game. Now games have all the technology to explain themselves from the moment they start, and if they can't or don't, they're in trouble. What's wrong with giving some game mapping companies an inside track, folk who do a far more honest job documenting the game than the developers, and letting customers choose whether they want the manual? Developers can leave the books to people who want a colourful walk-through, and make them pay. If it's one less "compulsory" cost in a boxed title, that's fine by me.

  • by Bakkster ( 1529253 ) < @ g m a i l .com> on Thursday April 22, 2010 @02:28PM (#31943218)

    Sustainable forestry doesn't hurt the ecosystem. We can harvest trees until kingdom come and still have trees left, as long as we do it properly.

    It's the fossil fuels, inks, and man hours that go into harvesting, producing and shipping the materials and final products that's the problem.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 22, 2010 @02:41PM (#31943430)

    Part of the reason I buy games are for the media, case and manual. Taking away the manual is just another reason for us just to download the pirated version and not bother buying. Great work UBISOFT!

  • by megamerican ( 1073936 ) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @02:42PM (#31943462)

    Wrong. It means less trees will be planted. Paper comes from trees planted specifically for that purpose in large farms. The higher the demand for paper, the more higher the need for tree farms to be planted.

    Wood pulp is best from younger trees, which soak up more CO2 and pump out more O2 than mature trees.

    The only green thing about Ubisoft's decision is the color of the money they'll be pocketing from this.

  • Your definition of kudos is rather egotistical.
  • by ffejie ( 779512 ) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @02:57PM (#31943756)
    From what little I know about these companies, I would prefer if they actually passed the savings on to their employees, with higher wages or better hours.

    $60 (or $40 for an older game) for 20 hours of gameplay is pretty good $/hour of entertainment.
  • by Digicrat ( 973598 ) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @03:13PM (#31943992)

    Before you can answer that question, you have to realize that game manuals fall into two, maybe three, categories:

    1) Traditional Instruction Manual with story overview, controls reference, and other useful information. No matter what, such manuals are always essential for quick multiplayer games (ie:Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, Smash Bros., etc.) for looking up some extra moves while you wait your turn ;-) For some games their useless, but for others their a great reference.

    2) "Collectible" Instruction manuals. These are one-step below the dedicated art books that come with recent games, but still include extensive story, background information, artwork, and more. These won't be going away, though I predict we'll increasingly be seeing them only on "collector's" edition copies.

    3) The Boilerplate Manuals. These are the ones that Ubisoft and others use the most and should go the way of the dinosaur. These manuals are always virtually identical, contain a picture of the controller, copyright notice, and maybe a copy of the description printed on the box. On occasion, these come in thick booklets that trick you into thinking it's type (1) or (2) before you realize that it's just boilerplate * n languages.

    So in summation - if all the publisher's are writing are boilerplate manuals, let's go save some trees. But for those few developers that still invest the time in creating real manuals, those are an important piece of gaming tradition that we don't want to lose.

  • by Em Emalb ( 452530 ) <ememalb@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Thursday April 22, 2010 @03:17PM (#31944070) Homepage Journal

    Because they add to the overall experience of the game. They give artwork, keyboard/controller commands, they give alot of backstory and on the side they make you actually feel like your getting somting for all the money you just spent.

    And, most importantly, warn you that they can cause epilepsy seizures. So now how are they gonna do that? Big-assed splash screen right as the disc loads?

  • by east coast ( 590680 ) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @03:27PM (#31944216)
    Paper manufacturers don't go around cutting random trees; they either grow their own trees or buy them from someone who owns the land. If people stop using paper, that land will be used for some other purpose.

    Unless there is no buyers. By reducing the need for resources in all possible places there simply will not be a market and land that is unused today will continue to be unused. Supply and demand applies as much to land as it does to money.

    They're doing this to save money, nothing more.

    The paper is not the only thing involved with the printing process. There is a potential for real gains here. Maybe not a big one on the small scale that Ubi is doing it but it is part of the solution of reducing waste, like it or not.
  • Re:Green? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tepples ( 727027 ) <> on Thursday April 22, 2010 @03:27PM (#31944224) Homepage Journal

    They could even go all out and switch to all digital distribution.

    All-digital distribution isn't fun if you can't get cable or DSL where you live, or if you're trying to squeeze 20 GB of a Blu-ray or multi-DVD game over low-end DSL.

  • by hack slash ( 1064002 ) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @03:41PM (#31944458)
    Something tells me you've played early 80s computer games (ZX Spectrum, C64 etc.) where the manuals often depict an amazing backstory to what you're about to play - once the tape has finished playing - only to discover the graphics fall way short of the description you just finished reading.

    Ahh those were the days.
  • by KDR_11k ( 778916 ) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @03:42PM (#31944472)

    For a complex game that's not a good solution because you may need to have the manual at hand while playing the game to look things up, most games don't survive being alt-tabbed out of.

  • by PoolOfThought ( 1492445 ) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @05:39PM (#31946218)
    Ummm... or they could pay their investors the money. Or make better games (or more often release new games) because they have more money to hire talented staff and thereby are also productive. The end user getting something for less money isn't always the best way for a company to make good use of savings due to good decisions.

I've noticed several design suggestions in your code.