Death of the traditional guide...
  • RombieRombie
    Seeing as Dan is a guide writer I thought this might be a good place to write this up on thoughts I've had during this evening.

    As I mentioned in the Currently Playing thread I started a play through Silent Hill Downpour during the day. After the first several areas you get to arrive into a part of Silent Hill (again like most of the titles a part yet unseen). To say this area is huge however is an understatement, it's gigantic in it's sprall and not as heavily blocked off as perhaps in other games. I missed the map for the town at first. I'd walked right past it without knowing, and once I realised how big the town was and I was going around in circles without knowing, I bit the bullet and decided given the size of the town I'd look up the location of the map because I really needed it.

    I'm not the type of person who normally uses a guide on the first play through (or even that regularly - which may be why I only noticed what I'm about to say now), but I figured the best bet was to look up a guide to find the map location (or locations as it turned out you can pick it up from a few places because the map is so damn big).

    But what I noticed when I turned up at GameFAQ's shocked me. Now I know Downpour hasn't been a massive seller, but there was only one guide and one easter egg/memo script list. And that was it. Back over a decade ago... Silent Hill 2 which was a moderate success, had dozens of FAQ's breaking down all sorts of elements constantly done.

    And then it dawned on me. Everyone watches videos of playthroughs now. No longer is a massive chunk of ASCII going to help when you can visually just show an entire playthrough of the game in numerous chunks, pull out specific hard parts, and show exactly how to beat bosses, cheat, show of glitches, and the like.

    I remember that I always wanted to do visual guides when I started doing FAQ's. In 2000/2001 I began on image and video guide for Code Veronica that never got past the Tyrant fight. All the videos were encoded in Real Media files because that was the best you could do at the time, and we had small sized screens because of bandwidth. I forgot all about this and yet in the past decade or so that exact style (mixed with Wikia pages) seems to have surpassed the traditional text based video game guide.

    I have no idea how the official guides have fared over the years (Dan, any info?) but I suspect the impact they've had has a lot to do with, the pictorial and map work firstly, and secondly the effortless event of being able to pick up that guide on the first day the game is out (or even a few days before on the odd occassion) which makes them still a viable prospect to be purchased.

    But even I think the days are starting to be numbered even for that based on the videos, made worse even by the fact the game guide companies themselves are supplimenting text guides with videos and online updates for DLC and extra after the fact content.

    I'm going to miss the traditional text guide and the effort required to be a good enough writer to put all the detail in text, rather than just making a simple budget edit and slapping a small bit of txt on it and uploading it. But considering that everyone wants things quicker and easier it makes complete sense.
  • DanBirlewDanBirlew
  • JayneJayne
    Video guides annoy me much the same way as video content on news sites does. As in Dan's example, I don't have the time or patience to watch someone else do what I need to do. I can scan a page or two of text addressing an entire chapter of a game, hit on the points I need to learn, close the guide, and get to it in under 3 minutes. The tedium of watching someone go through the motions drives me nuts.

    The video guide is also the worst type of spoiler. It's one thing to read what you have to do and other to experience it. The only difference between watching the video guide and doing it yourself is that your hands aren't on the controller.

    Maybe this is a philosophical point. I've long been of the philosophy that reading a plot summary of a movie or TV show doesn't ruin it because the medium is necessarily visual. You can tell me what happens, but the watching of it is a different experience. Games are much the same. You can tell me I have to throw the ax when the boss reveals his unprotected armpits, but that's not the same as watching it happen. What do his armpits look like? What is the animation when the hit is made? These are the "yes!" moments in gaming that are stolen away by video guides.

    I'm much the fan of the interactive map, but I don't want videos with that, either. I want to see locations and pop-outs with info when I scroll over them. I've actually used this approach, based on game guides I enjoyed, for project websites for work-- want to know what features will be at that station stop? Roll over and find out!

    Wiki guides are nifty and a great time-sink, but I've never used them for discrete strategic issues. Rather, I rely on the exhaustive contributions of rabid fans to understand the range of possibilities for weapons or armor or locations.

    But the desires of a few Luddites like me are a drop in the ocean of marketplace sentiment. Video content is how all the cool kids do it these days, so I guess we're not going to be rid of it anytime soon. It's a shame, because there's something deeply satisfying about reading a well-crafted and even humorous description of game strategies. Such things can enhance the experience by hearing the words of someone else who (appears to) enjoy the experience as much as you. It's a kinship thing, in a sense, and it's slowly dying away. How sad.
  • vincentvincent
    I haven't read the whole thread (my back is killing me so I can't concentrate at the moment) but I thought I'd just chip in with the whole video guides thing.

    Not a fan of them. I still use gamefaqs when I need help. But I think I used IGN for the Gears of War 3 collectibles. That was way easier than reading a guide as the site had a description of where in the level they were with an accompanying screenshot (I'll never move on to saying screencap - what's a bunnet doing on a screen in the first place? ;) ). As I'd been through the game once I could easily recall where in the level the screens were taken.

    Sometimes guides can be hit and miss with descriptions of places. I struggled for 30 minutes to find an e-book in Deus Ex as the description said level 2 of the basement. Nope, it wasn't there, keep going down, ride in the furnicular (I think that's what it was called), then go to level 2 and you'll find it.

    Video guides, like Dan said, can be a waste of time as they try to show too many things in the one video leaving you to either flick through them to find what you're after or sitting watching the whole thing.

    The only video guides I've seen that were helpful were the Final Fantasy XIII ceith stone missions ones. They started with things you should look out for in the fight followed by breif pauses in the menus to show what equipment/paradigms they were using then talked you through the main points of the fights. One fight per video.

    That's how it should be done, but looking on youtube etc there's very little of that. It's all just "here's a bunch of things I'm going to unlock in this one video" which sucks.

    Give me a published guide anyday. Particularly if it's Whitney's Deadly Premonition guide!!
  • PlopperPlopper
    I still go to Game FAQs first stop 100% of the time if I need to know something as I can't stand the wait like every one else has said! If I want to watch a game I'll watch a playthrough on UTub but hardly never a walkthrough/guide.
  • JayneJayne
    I played Fatal Frame 3 with my laptop next to me, open to the GameFAQs guide, not necessarily because I needed to know what to do but because I needed a friend who'd been through it before to comfort me in my moments of terror. :)
  • DanBirlewDanBirlew
    @Jayne That's not uncommon, it seems. Many of the people who've contacted me over the years claim to play entire RPGs with my books open next to them. Many don't want to make bad decisions that will cost them down the road, I guess. I keep that in mind and make sure to include plenty of tips for equipping characters late in the games.
  • Like any guide, it depends on how it is pre-planned before production begins. A guide to the Riddler trophies would be much more beneficial (especially to the producer) as images on an interactive map (like Dan mentioned above). Videos for each trophy is frankly overkill (when you factor in recording, editing, compression, uploading and adding a description for each one), unless you do them just for the trophies that require complex steps to get.

    But video guides in general can be really good if the person capturing the game has pre-planned what they want to convey in the guide. People showing walkthroughs of their first playthrough are of no use, but someone showing clearly defined strategies throughout can be a massive help to someone who needs it.

    And HD video capture isn't that expensive anymore, you can get an HDMI/component capture card (that bypasses the HDCP no less) for less than $150, record with a free lossless codec in a free capture program onto a relatively cheap RAID-0 hard drive setup. You could do all of that for less than $300 if your PC itself is already half decent.
  • RombieRombie
    I may have unintentionally stated that complete video guides was a main point of replacement, but what I really meant to focus on (and failed, now re-reading what I wrote) is that it's more about videos that break down certain elements replacing the concept of scanning a whole text guide. And that is what makes me sad.

    I mean, very much true - when someone makes a video or multiple videos of collectables or the whole game it is a pain in the ass trying to scroll through lots of video trying to keep up or find the parts that you need to. I don't disagree at all, but I think it's more about videos of specific hard spots, cheats, glitches, and achievements/trophies (which are generally linked into specific hard spots or things you need to do) that are replacing the traditional text or even text/image based guides on most sites. And it sucks. Because these things don't allow you to find the info you always need like a text guide does. Either you're going to have to scan through footage to find it like we've talked about or it's just not there at all.

    Batman AC is a great example that Dan made. I actually used a pictorial guide to find the ones I'd overlooked or just couldn't figure out how to get to. The guide I used was this one over at GamesRadar:

    In it it has a page broken down into each area, a number linked system, a screen and usually a brief text description on each riddler event. This made it very easy to just go to things I was missing (rather than some guides like this which you have to have been using from the start to stay on top of)

    In cases where it might be harder though they've put in a video just showing the way to get to it, and it's this where I think showcases that sometimes even with text or even a picture the video stuff really is more often a replacement. This I'm okay with because it's selective for stuff that just really is easier to show than a picture or lots of text is going to do.

    Batman AC is also an interesting point on a replacement for guides I hadn't yet thought of mentioning that's happening. Thats Apps for iDevices. SquareEnix actually hired a company to make an official paid guide app you can buy on the Apple Store which marks every thing on a map for you, complete with audio and screenshots of each thing. I mean not everything is official or even a paid thing like that one, but these sorts of interactive guides are also probably impacting on the traditional guide as well.

    And otherwise I can agree totally on interactive maps being very very useful as well. In fact the first one I can recall I really used was the "flying rats" section of the map for GTA4 over at

    Which maps each one and adds a pop out screenshot if you click it, and then linked with their 100% checklist will mark each thing off your map for you. But as Dan also correctly stated, that's a lot of work to get that sort of thing off the ground.

    However perhaps there is some overstating some of the work needed for a video because it wouldn't be as prolific to me if it was that hard.

    Frequently the people aren't building a website around it at all or it's just part of a general site that posts tips videos. I'm thinking of places like Achievement Hunter, Mahalo Video Games, and X360 and PS3 Trophies sites, where they're just showcasing certain things in games. Mahalo's You Tube page for example has literally hundreds of thousands of videos and they generally come up in google searches when you look for even specific things. They're doing it because capture to you tube posting can be a quick turn around.

    Great example was I was playing Splatterhouse and one level I really just couldn't find one of the pieces of the photo I was looking for even though I'd played the level through three or four times. I searched for a text list on google and instead the first results are a handful of videos to show me the location rather than just some text explaining it. I don't need the video, I just want to know roughly where I should be looking. Drives me crazy.

    I also agree with Jayne that a video is a more direct spoiler than perhaps reading something in text. While I know I've seen plenty of videos for specific things, I still haven't used a video walkthrough on a game I've never played before for that exact reason.

    I agree with GamerGuides too. Price on gear has come down too but web video doesn't require complete HD to make and even sub serviceable video.

    As an example my friend has a basic Roxio Game Capture device attached to his consoles so he can record his CoD multiplayer games. It only out puts a maximum 480p and splits out the audio in several options. It cost him $130NZ on special, about $65USD, and yet thats more than decent for low end HD video output on YouTube or Vimeo for gameplay showcasing.

    I mean I know there are people out there who love to record gameplay or cutscenes in the highest HD possible, but also considering 90-95% of console games only currently output at a max of 720p anyway whats the real point for just showing you playing the game.

    I hate Wikia guides with a passion. Just find them annoying and frequently the crowd updating is abused and the info can be wrong, error filled, and under developed (much as Dan said) because editing them isn't much work for large important pages but having to make a page for each item is a downpoint. I'm less likely to find issues with FAQ's because they're so big the person making them is making an actual effort to be as accurate as possible.

    The sad point is back where I started at GameFAQ's, I looked again using Batman AC as a more possible valid thing that might tell me that Downpours lack of guides might just be due to lack of sales. But it's not. AC has half as many text based guides than Arkham Asylum had and yet I'd say without question AC has more reason for indepth guides and more chances of guides being written. But it just hasn't happened. I think people really are looking more and more at videos and other alternatives.
  • JayneJayne
    After reading about Downpour here, I took a trip to Target (to get ear infection meds-- this is my life now), and en route to the pharmacy, stopped by the games dept, and not a copy of Downpour was to be found. Perhaps GameStop has it, or BestBuy, but I wasn't there.

    This makes me wonder if perhaps the lack of attention given to Downpour isn't so much the video vs. text phenomenon, but that trend we identified earlier-- that FPS and online campaign style games are what's hot and the rest of us are just not up with the times. This doesn't explain Batman, but Batman is also has multi-media appeal. People saw the movies and want a movie-like game. People read the comic books or watch the animated show, and want to play the game. Silent Hill has only its own reputation and followers who found it as a game and pursued it as a game. It's just not as popular by comparison to the other game styles. I could also simply be very pessimistic.
  • DanBirlewDanBirlew
    Sorry if I'm taking us off-topic or further off-topic, but @Jayne brings up a good point which goes to point out one of the major faults of the infinite sequels system; just because a game sold well in the past doesn't mean it's going to sell well again. And if the last game in a series sold poorly... FORGET ABOUT IT. Major retailers like Target and Wal-mart are more likely to buy a sequel if the previous one did big numbers. But if the series has gone down in recent years like Silent Hill (even I bought Homecoming at a major discount and traded it, unfinished) then the sequel is actually pulled down by its previous iteration. I bet even Best Buy bought fewer copies of Downpour due to Homecoming's failure and subsequent bargain blow-out. Not that I agree, they probably should have given Downpour a chance. But with Homecoming's numbers I bet it was a tough sell. Plus, Downpour didn't blow any doors out sales-wise, so that didn't encourage a trend buy on their part either. Konami may need to reduce Silent Hill to a network-exclusive series, and I'd hate to see that.
  • RombieRombie
    Come back and ignoring the spam (sorry Dan).

    While I don't disagree about Downpour's sales at all, Batman AC was one of last years biggest titles which is why after Dan mentioned it I decided to see if the same thing happened to it and also compared it to Arkham Asylum as well for that reason.

    I think the main point on this is I could probably pull out this last years top 10 selling games and compare them to the top 10 from two years ago and I'd find text guides and the like have gone down, but the amount of video and visual guides probably has gone up.

    The more I play of Downpour the more I think its a crime that it's been overlooked, even by it's own fractured fanbase who haven't even been that confident about any Silent Hill title since SH4 I would say. I fully agree with Dan too though, that stockist wouldn't have ordered huge amounts after the very poor sales of Homecoming a few years back. Also probably not helped by cramming (at first) the three SH different titles during the month.

    Even over here stocks were low. There was 5 copies of HD collection and 4 Downpour on release day at the store I purchased it at, when they sold those out - it took almost a month to get restocked. Even one of the staff members there said he'd missed out until the restock, and when they did get new copies it was 5 of each again and that's all they're supposedly ever going to get. When they're gone, they're gone.

    Jayne I missed your comment about the FPS thing. Thats very much true and very much doing my head in. So many games are being canned or franchises ignored for the actionfication of gaming. Either the games try to suit CoD players directly or their multiplayer takes elements even if the game is 3rd person. Franchises that used to be okay selling 2 or 3 million units now want 7 or 8 million on sales like FPS.

    The one shining light is indie devs are picking up pace. Digital distribution is helping. And some titles are trying to fill
    gaps in overlooked genres. There was that crowd funded survival horror game République which is going ahead and has former talent from several major studios behind it as one relevant note to Silent Hill.

    My understanding is Downpour has done okay, but not even anything close to what SH2 or 3 did. Homecoming is still the worst selling title (in the US it struggled to even sell 100,000 units in its first months on two platforms). So I can only hope Konami notices that while the sales for downpour werent great that the general critical comment from the fan base is that the game was on the right track.

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