Welcome to “Inside the Guide”, the column that gives you a behind-the-scenes look at writing guides for videogames! This month, I’m discussing my guide for Cause of Death (iOS).
Cause of Death is made by EA. It’s a visual novel, about detectives who are trying to catch a serial killer. The game is about two hours long, which is a good length for a short, ten-page walkthrough. The walkthrough is short enough to finish in one sitting, yet long enough that I don’t look like a slacker.
I ran into problems after beating the game. You see, Case #1 is free. All the other cases, including copious amounts of bonus material, cost money. Here’s a picture of the in-game store:
EA regularly releases new 20-minute segments of the game. Each segment is free for a week, then they raise the price to 99¢. This has been going on years now, and it currently costs $125 to buy every case in the game.
$125. I don’t have that kind of money to spend on a visual novel! And I don’t have a time machine to go back and play the game when those cases were free. Besides, if I had a time machine, I’d probably just jump ahead several years, to the time when companies no longer use the premium content model.
So here’s my dilemma. Do I submit a guide for this game, which only covers the free material? I’d be ignoring 93% of the game, but it’s still a legitimate guide! Or should I shell out big money so I can write a full guide?
I tried to cheat the system, by changing the date on my iOS device. It didn’t work. However, I was able to successfully disable all the in-game ads, by turning off my device’s Internet access. Score! I’m going to use that trick with every other game that features in-game ads.
After thinking about my minor guide-writing dilemma for a bit, I decided to submit a guide which only covers the free material. As a flimsy excuse, I offer up the fact that no one complained when my Professor Layton guides ignored all the free DLC. Don’t blame me for being a negligent guide-writer; blame EA for making a game which is 93% paid DLC.
On that topic, is this the future of gaming? Are movies going to follow suit, by showing the first ten minutes for free, then charging $5 for every minute after that? Or does the business model of weekly DLC only work well with visual novels that allow you to reuse the same art assets for months?