Hello everyone, and welcome to Inside the Guide, the article that gives you a behind-the-scenes look at the art of making guides for videogames. Why, this is the March edition! That means I can Irish it up a bit in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day! Where’s that footage of me on the SCU Irish Dance team?
Aye, that’s good stuff. You know what’s even better? This month, I’m writing about Nancy Drew: The Haunting of Castle Malloy. That’s a game that takes place in Ireland!
Ah, Ireland, where the sun is always green and the grass is always shining. Or something like that. Thar be two puzzle that Aye be wishin’ t’ talk with ye about, an’–
[Note from Editor: Michael, what are you doing?]
[Note to Editor: I’m writing with an Irish accent.]
[Note from Editor: That’s a pirate accent, not an Irish brogue. Get back to writing normally.]
There are two puzzles in this game that posed a specific problem to writing a guide, due to their length and difficulty:
The ring puzzle is a super-long puzzle where you move seven rings back and forth across three pegs. The shortest solution takes 105 moves. Yeah…really complicated.
This means that coming up with a way to describe how to beat the puzzle is almost as tough as the puzzle itself. I figured the best thing to do was make a list like this:
Put Ring 1 on Peg 2.
Put Ring 2 on Peg 1.
Put Ring 1 on Peg 1.
Put Ring 3 on Peg 2.
A list like that is pretty easy to write, because I just have to copy/paste the same line a hundred times, and then put in the proper ring/peg numbers. The downside, however, is that it’s really easy for readers to lose their place on a list of 105 near-identical items, and nothing sucks more than having to restart the puzzle because you accidentally skipped instruction #53.
I decided I had to do something to avoid this problem. So, every seven or so lines, I included a little description of what the puzzle looks like at that point, something like “there are 3 rings on peg 1, two rings on peg 2 and three rings on peg 3.” This serves the dual purpose of helping people locate where they’re supposed to be if they do make a mistake somewhere, and making it less likely that they will lose their spot on the list of instructions, seeing as the instructions are listed in groups of seven.
Really, that’s an ideal solution to the layout problem posed by this super-long puzzle. Begorra, what a long puzzle.
The other puzzle in the game that’s a real head-scratcher is the slider puzzle. Aye, that puzzle is tougher than understanding a James Joyce novel. James, we love you, but seriously? An Irish version of The Odyssey? It’s been done before, mate. It’s called Gulliver’s Travels, and it’s a lot more entertaining than your works.
Here’s a slider puzzle if you haven’t played one before. The goal is to make a picture appear by rearranging fifteen randomly-placed pieces. And, of course, it’s pretty difficult to write instructions for how to beat a slider puzzle because the pieces are randomly placed.
My solution? I looked up slider puzzles on GameFAQs and found a pretty general slider puzzle description. After three or four attempts, I finally figured out how to adapt the general strategy for the specific slider puzzle in the Castle Malloy game, which is a particularly weird one.
Adapting someone else’s work rather than being wholly creative and creating something entirely original: a classic Shakespearean strategy. Yes, that’s right. I compared my Nancy Drew guide to Shakespeare. Nancy Drew visiting Ireland is just that awesome.
Don’t let the podcast fool you—these are the only two Shirley Temple movies that I’ve seen.
So that’s my special Irish edition of Inside the Guide! Hooray for being Irish! Sure, some people think we’re crazy party maniacs just because we have big parties after funeral wakes. But come on! Having a party is a lot more fun than having a sad funeral, right, folks? And stop giving us grief about believing in fairies. Of course fairies exist! How else do you explain Conan O’Brien?
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to see if those “Kiss me, I’m Irish” pins actually work. I’m putting one on now…looking to see if any girls come by…that looks like one now…she’s…woah….WHAT? NO! ZACH RICH!! STAY AWAY FROM ME!!!