It looks like Ubisoft is ready to deliver a knock-out blow to manuals. At least for some of their games.
Eurogamer notes that Ubisoft’s “green” initiative isn’t without merit: to make a ton of manuals, it takes thirteen presumably standard-sized trees into a process that pumps out 6000 lbs. of CO2 and produces 15000 gallons of waste water. Sounds like something that Dirty Jobs’ Mike Rowe might be caught swimming in.
Splinter Cell: Conviction will also be one of the last games that will actually have one. Going forward, everything you will need will apparently be shown to you in-game and if you really want to read one, a digitized copy will be provided as well. In recent years, RPGs have been doing a lot of this by actually providing plenty of in-game material, such as “books” and scrolls that can actually be read.
It’s obviously a cost-cutting measure, but it also gives Ubisoft a nice “green” checkmark for the environment at the same time. Not every game really needs one as much as they did in the past, either. For someone that has grown up with manuals bursting with details on the PC, it’s something that I’m going to have to get used to.
In the eighties and nineties, before tech had managed to come closer to helping realize the imaginations of the game developers that had shaped their worlds through it, manuals and little extras like actual amulets, crystals, folding maps, and even fake props such as newspaper clippings helped to further immerse the player. Thanks to better tech, that kind of help is probably no longer as important as it used to be when much of that is now in the actual game.
That, and the fact that gaming is so much larger than it had been before with higher sales required for anything to break even nowadays. Creating that many extras can’t be cheap which is probably a big reason as to why most of the interesting ones are found in CEs and LEs.
Eric Wittmershaus at PressDemocrat also points out that it doesn’t make sense for every game to have one other than those with involved systems, such as an RPG like Dragon Age.
Then again, hint guides have been doubling as manuals by providing the basics with their tables and skill tree diagrams, anyway. But if paperless RPGs do come around, I can only hope they don’t follow FFXIII’s lead with a twenty hour tutorial.