These Developers Are Proud Of Their Manuals

The people at Matrix Games think video game instruction manuals are cool. Forgive them for not knowing any better.

They didn't get the memo that instruction manuals are over. I think Sony sent that memo. Or maybe Nintendo did. Or was it Ubisoft?

Well, no one gave the Matrix people a memo, so here we are with an awkward piece of hype from Matrix Games and their friends:

"Slitherine, Matrix Games and Wastelands Interactive are thrilled to release a sneak peek at the Time of Fury manual to give gamers a feel for the intuitive yet realistic and engaging game mechanics that power this WWII grand strategy powerhouse!"

Man, it looks like Slitherine and Wastelands Interactive didn't get the memo either that instruction manuals are not worth getting excited about. They're offering people a sneak peek at their game's instruction manual.

The manual for Matrix Games' Time of Fury is 79 pages long. At least it's digital, though — download-only. These people aren't completely out of touch with the idea that video game manuals are a thing of the past.

Here's their manual teaser.

Time of Fury manual (teaser)

Oh, but what's this?

A Matrix Games public relations person named Sean tells me that their customers like instruction manuals. "It's actually a major selling point in our niche market," he told me, when I asked him if he realised how unusual it is for a video game company to be proud of their manuals.

He pointed me to this other manual for the Admiral Edition of a game called War in the Pacific. He told me that the game ships with a giant full-colour manual.

"Yes you pay a premium for the title but that tactile satisfaction from touching and flipping through a beautiful glossy manual is some serious value-added for many of our customers who come from board gaming backgrounds. For these guys, seeing the board on the table and moving the pieces around are a significant component to the enjoyment. A game this complex typically attracts the old school boardgamers who are not scared of a multi-100 page manual to begin with."

So people have to pay "a premium" for these fancy manuals, huh? One man's premium is another man's $US64. Not too bad.

Video game instruction manuals are not dead yet.


    I know I spend about 0.005 seconds looking at the manual. Usually in game tutorials are good enough to tell me everything and if I get stuck, it's usually to Youtube.

    You're telling me that no one here missing the older, engaging manuals that came with video games?

    I know I, for one, enjoyed them. They added depth to things, described intricacies of weapons for example. Or gave further background to the story.

    I'm saddened that no effort goes into them these days, the "manual" will often just be the 'don't have a seizure while playing' slip.

      I do mate - I do =(

        The Homeworld manual was great. I remember it had a nice metallic cover and inside there were back stories for the different factions and a bit of concept art too.

      i liked them for strat or rpg games where they had important info in regards to buildings etc but these days a lot of them are balanced so much after launch due to poor testing that it often renders them useless for creating a play style.

    It really depends on the game. Yeah, I can see that a combat sim would have a manual that you can keep by your side while you're playing. Especially if it's turn based and you don't have to keep your eyes on the screen while playing. Less so arcade/action titles where everything can be explained in 2 mins of tuts.

    One of my favourite franchises of all time the Zork series, came with beautifully put together manuals and extra material. History of the world, detailed maps all overlaid with a wonderful sense of humor.

    I say some games need manuals (big glossy, informative manuals), I was sad back when they got rid of full sized game boxes. I used to love the extra weight of a good manual in my game box.

    I like Instruction manuals. Gives me something to read on the bus after I've bought the game.

    Metal Gear Solid ones are pretty cool. They're like informative comics.

    Best I've seen so far has to be the Arkham City booklet/manual/cover, with all the concept art.

    I used to read manuals, then I took an arrow to the knee....terrible terrible joke

    I really did read them until I was 12, and now I don't even look at tutorials I just try to figure it out, it makes games much more fun.
    That being said, I will always read a Mario manual to see the character models and other assorted power ups

    Nintendo used to have EXCELLENT manuals for the Nintendo 64! Their manuals for the first-part or exclusive games like Ocarina or Time or F-Zero X were meticulously detailed and very well designed with artwork, stories and motifs from the games.

    F-Zero X in particular had the entire line-up AND back story of all 30 racers!

    it really shows the change that has occured, a couple of months ago people were saying how terrible it was that games were leaving out manuals
    now companies are being criticised for actually having one
    i for one always loved reading through them not neccessarily for how to play the game but for the background info they provided.
    always loved the manuals like ratchet and clank with descriptions of guns and enemies and the gta series especially san andreas showing the various locales

    Nothing will ever beat the Baldurs Gate 2 manual.

    I think it really depends on the game.
    any FPS don't really need a manual
    anything strategic really should have a manual
    RPGs should have a manual plus a few pages of "what you need to know it step seamlessly into the world"

    Besides The manual gives me something to read while I wait for my wife to finish playing the Sims so I can play my new game.

    Im to the author but... um... reading this made me so mad, there some of us it this world who like instruction manuals. I miss the days the days of getting exciting manuals like Civilization 2 and Baldurs Gate Series. Where the manual was as exciting as the game, full of useful information and stats.

    Now days people who like these types of things are required to fork out extra money to buy things Guide Books. Not because we want a walk through but so we have all the information to play.

    So as games are costing more and getting more detailed, we get less in the box for our money

      Is it not easier to have that information on screen as you're playing? Rather than looking down into a manual. Just kinda breaks the immersion.

        I find the immersion is broken FAR more by on-screen prompts rather than having to consult a manual. Sure, it's personal preference, but I hate being in the middle of a game when "Press Space to do X" pops up. Really kills it for me.

    The state of manuals is a terrible one indeed. All my life I'd been spoilt with the vibrant, detailed manuals of Nintendo games, then last year I wound up with a 360. Opened the manuals for those games up... 90% of the time, all you get is a page telling you how to turn on the machine, a page telling you the controls and then a blank page for notes :/

    Further depression was getting those GBA games on 3DS the other day. All of them have electronic manuals, just like the kind they gave out with Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7. Flicking through the Metroid Fusion one, sure it seemed to have most of the verbal content of the original. But it was so awfully bland and empty, none of that beautiful artwork peppered throughout the original. So sad.

    I like Bungie's manuals for their Halo games, soo detailed. They gave information on weapons, vehicles, multiplayer, story and some other things.

    Why would you have a big fancy manual and have it download only? I want to read my manual while the game is running, not alt+tab out!

    I also like to read manuals while the game is installing...Sucks that no one makes good ones anymore.

    PS3 killed off the manual. There's some good ones ala Catherine and a few others, but they're always lame and black and white. Batman had nothing in it's manual and MvC3 was really garbage.

      How is that the fault of a console? It's up to the devs and publishers.

    I've actually got the Starcraft Manual in my bookshelf. The story of each three races, really was a story.

    geeze, i remember when developers put some effort into their game paraphenalia, remember homeworld's technical manual?

    I read my Skyrim manual the other night and found out that holding left or right on the d-pad will hotkey an item. I’m 140hrs into the game and it failed to tell me that. Manuals be praised.

      I think you mean Bethesda be damed. That's just bad tutorial/menu system.

        That’s a petty big insult to the 98% of game devs around the world who can only dream of getting to the standard that Bethesda sets.

    Reading the manual during the car ride home from the shops was the great part of buying games as a kid. Not just for the instructions but usually half the storyline was in the manual.

    Nowadays I barely look at the thing because of the in game tutorials.

      manual was a great part of a game, as a kid i remember flicking through it till i got home to put the game in finally..

      as a grown up not so much, but im paying my 90-110 dorra, i want my freakin content!

    The trouble is that in the day and age of FPS games, the "Manuals" are reduced to simply telling people "This is a G U N, this is a H E A L T H bar, when the screen goes R E D, you D I E". There's almost no details that NEED to be put into the damn things. And people have gotten used to that. Now, after years of such manuals, people see the more complex RTS or RPG manuals that actually have some content or useful information in them, and they almost pass out from the thought of actually having to read something more than 3 pages long.

    I loved the manuals as a kid.
    I also loved the thick manual that came with the original Starcraft, it had the overall backstory and the story of each race. It was awesome!
    I miss good manuals :'(

    Plus the author, Stephen, kinda sounds like a dickhead.

      This. He obviously didn't get the memo that nobody gives a shit about his opinion

    Should WTFM be RTFM?

    As in "Read The Fucking Manual"?

    Fallout 2 was one very nice manual.
    Its a shame most games these days are so childishly simple that manuals don't need to be more than 5 pages long...

      I'd say games are better designed to not require a manual. Did you need one for portal 2 this year? I didn't.
      Manuals destroy immersion, I don't want to be wandering through Skyrim and want read why no one likes the khajiit. It's more organic to go up and talk to the khajiit in game.

        Neither of those games are Grand Strats.
        For complex games with intricate rules, you're going to want a rule book. Look at the size of role playing core books, or the rules for tabletop war games. I'd much rather have those in a physical format.

        Also, I found Stephen Totilos condescending tone to be in poor taste. To hardcore grand strategy fans, a peek at the rules, which can determine how they play the game, is huge.

    I miss the very detailed manuals. They were great to look at and read. Now they're mostly crap. Sometimes only having 2 pages, WTF.

    Bring back the good manuals!

    I remember the following as being notable to me
    Sim City 2000 (original version) - I swear, local state and govt should play this game...)
    Civ 3
    Homeworld 1

    Various games with anti pirate measures built in to the manual. Great work and fuck you.

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