(Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the July 2009 issue of GameCola, back when GameCola was published in a monthly online magazine format.)
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. I’ve just finished writing a guide for Mega Man: Dr.Wily’s Revenge this month, so I figured I’d talk about four different methods I’ve used to write various guides. And just in case the column ends up being more educational than entertaining, I’ll put in pictures of cute animals to keep everyone happy.
1. Writing Notes While Playing: I used this method when I first started writing guides. This method works superbly with games where you have to write something down so you can remember it later, whether it’s the lyrics to the opera song in Final Fantasy VI or the super-long button pressing sequence in the caveman world of Super Paper Mario. When you already have those notes writtendown, it’s quite easy to type them up into a guide.
I gave up using this method when I wrote a guide for Duck Tales 2, because I ended up using five pages in my notebook. Five full pages of handwriting! And then, all I did was type up the notes. I figured there had to be an easier way, so I switched to…
2. Writing the Guide While Playing: With this method, I cut out the middle man. No more writing down notes, then turning those notes into instructions—I went straight to writing instructions. Specifically, what I do is open up the Word document for whatever guide I’m doing, and I type up the guide as I’m playing the game. This works best with computer games, where all you have to do is switch between windows to go back and forth between the guide and the game.
For console games, this just means pausing the game every half-minute or so and writing down everything I just did. This is probably the most effective way of getting an accurate guide. And although it’s useful, I have to admit that it’s no fun to play a game when you have to pause it all the time. That’s why the most efficient way of writing a guide is…
3. Memorization: If you have a game memorized, you don’t have to play it in order to write a guide for it. Right? I don’t need to replay Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time to know that the strategy for the first boss is to hit Gohma with a slingshot when her eye turns red, which paralyzes her for a few seconds, leaving her open to sword attacks. I could probably write a lot of instructions for that game, just off the top of my head.
Now, I’m not saying that guide writers have to memorize every game they play. I’m just saying that a correct memory is a great videogame guide. Take, for example, GameCola’s video walkthrough forDay of the Tentacle. Simply by remembering the solutions to the various puzzles, Paul and Lizo were able to beat the game quickly. See? The best way to get through a game is to remember how to play it. For guide writers like me, this means that the best time to write a guide for a game is right after I finish playing it, when the game solutions are still fresh in my mind.
4. Video Footage: This is the method I used to write a guide for Mega Man: Dr. Wily’s Revenge. It’s sort of a mixture of the other methods. See, I made videos of myself playing that game for the GameCola YouTube page. And since I had the video files on my computer, I figured why not write a guide for the game?
It was fresh in my mind, so I could write parts of the guide (mostly the boss fights) straight from memory. For the rest of the game, I simply watched the videos and wrote down what I did to get through the game. This is an improvement over the “write while you play” strategy, because I don’t have to interrupt my gaming experience with my writing experience—the two can remain separate.
The downside? I’m kind of lazy. Instead of going through all nine videos at once, I decided to do it one video at a time, which worked fine for the first few videos. But now it’s a month later and the videos are still sitting on my computer, waiting for me to watch them. Darn.
In any case, this is still a great method of writing videogame guides. In theory, that is.
So, there you go, everyone. A semi-educational column on the various methods I’ve used to write videogame guides. Not that anybody asked me about my writing methods, of course. Answering reader questions isn’t my job—it’s Captain Eric’s. But I thought it’d be fun to write about it anyway. It turned out to be more “boring lecture” than “fun,” but I went through all the trouble of writing the column, so I’m keeping it, by jingo. See you next month, everyone!
Oh, wait, that’s right. I can’t say that anymore. Um…this is awkward. What do I write now?
I’m not sure. Oh well. See you later, everyone!