Manual Intervention

Slow progress on the CRPG…

I had a fun but exhausting weekend at Rose City Comic Con in Portland, one of my cats got sick and I had to rush him to the ER on a Sunday (fortunately he’s okay!), work has been on a major upswing lately, classic World of Warcraft continues to draw me in, and I had a death in the family as well.

When I’m feeling stuck in a rut, I change direction onto some other portion of the project. Which in this case, is the manuals. I had always envisioned creating beautiful manuals for the game. The gold star in this area is, of course, the Ultima series.

A good example would be the Ultima IV manuals. There is the history and spell book, written in a flavored prose which still manages to convey the necessary information on the game’s structure. And then a reference card which has some of the more technical aspects like the key controls and specific elements for each computer platform.

The Ultima IV Manuals! (And cloth map)

However, I’ve never gotten very far with writing up a history book in the prose style I wanted. It just felt fake and weird… And I started to realize it just wasn’t my style. I like a good manual but a manual should be exactly what it is; instructions.

Maybe I just don’t have the writing skills to pull it off… But as I read the Ultima manuals over again, I started to realize it wasn’t what I wanted to do. They do add flavor and verisimilitude, but that’s mainly because the games those manuals are for has so little.

Another aspect of it was I realized a lot of the history and background information I wanted to convey, I could do so in the game itself. There are several places in game I can scatter books that share little bits of history and trivia that will be far more rewarding for the player to discover themselves, rather than read it in a manual outside the game.

In order to find a style of writing that worked for me, I also researched on the TI side of things. I read over the Tunnels of Doom and Legends manuals and was impressed with both of them; what they lack in production values they make up for in informative instructions. The TOD manual even provides the steps to using the TI computer to load the game, something I tried to emulate myself.

So there will just be one instruction manual, and maybe a reference card (I’ll see if there’s enough information to put ON a card to warrant it). My first draft is 40 pages, that may go up a bit as I add or remove things. I’ll definitely have to get them professionally printed; when you get too many pages you need a place that can print and align them straight and trim the edges off. I can do a nice cover of some kind as well.

One thing I did NOT want to omit, but wasn’t sure how to get, was artwork for the manual. I am not an artist myself, so I knew I’d have to get it elsewhere. Fortunately, I discovered that sites like DriveThruRPG actually sell stock art with an open license for use in RPG products! This is far better than commissioning artwork, which can get VERY expensive.

Rough draft of the manual!

I will make a map for the game, but unless a very convenient and economic means presents itself, it will probably be on paper and not cloth. I have several map drawing programs I can use to create a good one. I may even hand-draw that one myself.

I had envisioned at the start that I could create a box for the game, but I’m not certain about the economics of that right now. I found an online source that crafts custom boxes with artwork for board games, RPG’s, and similar, but their per unit price would be extremely high for a low production count. And they also manufacture them overseas which means prices are likely to go up…

I may have to resort to getting blank boxes from somewhere and just pasting art onto them myself. A step up from a zip-loc bag at least.

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7 Responses to Manual Intervention

  1. arthurdawg says:

    I loved the goodies for Ultima, still have them stored away after all these years!

    Glad to hear everything is moving along well!

  2. ERoberts says:

    Nothing wrong with a good old-fashioned ziplock sandwich baggie.

  3. Starting with Realms IV, I’ve used Oubliette’s manual as my template and inspiration for writing the manual:

    I like the fact that the Ultima manuals tend to stay “in character” when you read them. But myself, I prefer to make the instructions feel like an old 1970s/early 1980s D&D manual–part technical and part story.

  4. ERoberts says:

    PRGE is coming up. Are you going to be wandering around, or do you have a booth or something?

    • adamantyr says:

      Unfortunately I had to cancel my plans to attend.

      My cat got sick (urinary crystals) and I had to rush him to the ER. He’s doing fine now, but he’ll need to be on a new diet, and requires close monitoring for awhile. We didn’t have anyone who could cat care for us to that degree available, and none of us would have been able to focus on the con. Fortunately, I WAS able to get a refund for the tickets.

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