The Death of the Strategy Guide

strategy-guideI was recently at my local Chapters, looking at some books, when one caught my eye: Super Smash Bros 3DS/WiiU Strategy Guide.

I thumbed through and noticed a few things. First, some of the values were different. Second, a lot of the language was vague at best.

Changing Values

Changing values happens quite often, even in console games. Damage, health, and other attributes of nearly any aspect of a game can be changed from time to time.

For example, the aforementioned SSB4 strategy guide states that using Bowser’s Flying Slam over an edge will cause him to win ties. However, this has been changed recently, and will cause Bowser to lose such ties, causing a huge change in strategy for the Bowser player.

That is an extreme example, but even minute differences can be important.

A three frame difference on one of Ryu’s attacks can make or break a combo string. Added characters or weapons can completely alter one’s strategy. Even the metagame can change on the fly, with no actual game patches. Exploits can be found, fixed, re-found, broken, fixed, modded, patched, and fixed in a month, but a print book will not be able to keep up.

That’s why, instead of pushing for such tomfoolery as a quickly outdated book, I suggest that actually spend time and money on a wiki.

The Wondrous Wiki

Wikis, for those of you who recently discovered electricity, are essentially large, ever changing encyclopedias opened for public contribution.

They contain articles on  nearly every subject, with links to other articles. This allows for easy extrapolation of ideas and concepts, while allowing for infinite expansion.

Normal print books are limited in both physical size and interactivity. Who’s going to buy a 1200 page strategy guide, let alone use it? How would you find the frame data on Ryu’s Shoryuken if you have to waddle through a veritable bucketload of paper?

Wikis allow for infinite expansion (the TF2 wiki has over 45 thousand articles) and are easily searchable. Instead of having to physically thumb through the 45k page book, you can simply type whatever you want to learn about. And, if another subject catches your eye, you can easily jump to there with just a click of a button.

Problem with Wikis

The main problem with Wikis are that they are usually run by fans. This tends to lead to:

  • Bickering,
  • Biases,
  • Vague information,
  • Relying on player involvement

Many games out there suffer from having a poorly made wiki, often with incorrect, out-dated or a serious lack of information.

A Simple Solution

If developers were to actually construct, maintain and moderate the wiki, many of these problems would be solved.

  • No longer would you need an active player base to create the articles, the developer would have them right there.
  • No longer would players have to experiment to find the exact damage value of a certain weapon at a certain range, the developer has access to the code.
  • No longer would people start a war over said vague values, the developers can step in a quell any petty arguments.

For developers that are saying they do not have the time or inclination to do this themselves, well, you just gotta. You have the information right there, in your design document. Any RPG already has a database of every encounter, their health, damage, drops etc. You’ve probably written down the damage algorithm somewhere, and you can bet you have the exact damage values of each pellet of the shotgun somewhere.

For those saying they don’t want to “spoil” the game for players: people are going to do it anyways. It doesn’t matter if you want parts of the plot to be a surprise, or if you want enemies to remain mysterious and dangerous, someone is going write everything down.

Someone will bump every single surface, someone will talk to every NPC, and someone will get right up close to your eldritch abomination to get a clear screenshot. Might as well make things clear for curious players.

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