(Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the January 2009 issue of GameCola, back when GameCola was published in a monthly online magazine format.)
Hello everyone, and welcome to “Inside the Guide,” the only article on GameCola that talks about writing guides for videogames. Last year, I wrote a guide for The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess specially for the big January issue. This year, I decided to do the same thing with Prince of Persia. Enjoy!
I bought the game this week, and already, there are problems. See, I’m not quite sure how to structure the guide. Other games can be played from beginning to end, but Prince of Persia apparently has “unlimited different playthroughs.” Well, crap! How the hell am I supposed to write a guide for a game like that?
So I decided to get a little extra help. Fortunately, GameStop had me covered:
Yeah, that’s right; I bought a guide for the game. I suppose that’s cheating or something according to GameFAQs rules, but I don’t really care.
Anyway, the good news for me is that the guide says the game has only sixteen different areas. All “unlimited playthroughs” means is that you can do them in any order you want. So all I have to do is make a minor note about this in the guide, then list walkthroughs for all sixteen areas like normal.
Bad news. It turns out there are twenty-four main areas of the game, not sixteen. And the “do them in any order you want” part of the game? It turns out that this is, well, half the game. Let me break it down for you:
Four areas can be approached in one direction.
Two areas can be approached from two directions.
Eighteen areas can be approached from three directions.
Which means I’ll have to make 62 different minisections on getting to and from the various areas. Crap. Crap. Crap. This is going to take forever to do now.
In other news, this is one of those games where you have to close the game before you can do anything besides play the game—in other words, I can’t skip back and forth between the game and the word editing program I’m writing the guide in. To get around this problem, I decided to make videos of myself playing the game in 10-or-so-minute segments.
Unfortunately, the game comes with anti-recording security, so the videos don’t come out so well. Dang. I can use them to help me write a guide, but I won’t be able to make a video walkthrough.
OooooooK. I was lazy and didn’t do any work on the guide last week, besides working on the guide’s layout. You know, creating the seventy or so minisections. That’s a job in itself, even though all of the sections are currently blank, because I have to make titles for each of them, and the game—ha ha!—doesn’t really tell the names of the sections.
So I had to make a fancy section that explains how the game/guide is set up, complete with a map to let people know where the heck everything is. Um…yeah. If there’s a lesson to be learned from this, it’s that it’s really hard to format a linear guide for a non-linear game.
I did about a fourth of the work that was necessary. That was enough for one day. Over the next few days, I filled in the empty sections using the videos I made, getting all the way up to the second boss fight (of twenty-six).
I didn’t do any work on the guide this week. Um…yeah.
You know, I’m probably not going to finish the guide by the January deadline. The truth of the matter is that I don’t like the game too much. It doesn’t work very well on my computer; even when I play it in the smallest screen possible, it’s still kind of jumpy.
Besides, dealing with all those minisections is way too much work.
So I’m going to relegate this guide to my half-started guide pile, which contains such gems as Dream Penguin Adventure, Glory of Hercules 2, and Nancy Drew: Phantom of Venice. Those are all guides that I started, but for some reason, I never got past the first few sections.
I don’t want to throw those guides out because I did put some effort into them, but I don’t really feel like working on them. I keep telling myself that I’ll “finish them someday,” even though it’s highly unlikely. After all, some of those guides haven’t been touched in three years.
So, I guess that’s it for now. I’ve stopped working on the guide and don’t plan to resume work anytime soon. A bit anti-climatic, but that’s what happened.
If there’s a moral to be learned from this story, it’s this: Writing guides is a lot of work, and sometimes, it’s not worth the effort, considering the fact that you don’t get paid.
Just like writing for GameCola.