Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/11/12/prima-purveyors-of-gaming-str.html
Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/11/12/prima-purveyors-of-gaming-str.html
I miss Prima guides, but they were so full of inaccuracies. Even the stuff that was correct at print was usually wrong by the time they hit bookshelves.
I’ve only owned one or two, but for me the fun was when they showed the math inside the little sprites, so I could optimize my SimCity or whatever. I am such a loser.
Aside from the guides for original Civilization, Master of Magic, and Master of Orion, I have never, not once, encountered a print strategy guide that was worth the paper it was printed on. The information to pages ratio was always incredibly poor, they often reiterated at great length things that were already in the manual, and they never gave you real in-depth, detailed information about the internal game math or about the best approaches to winning. The FAQs available on Usenet or later, on the web, were always markedly superior.
I wonder if there will be a future market for game guides to games that are no longer available to play on any current platform. Sort of nostalgia reading for the dawn of gaming.
I question is was even correct at print. I’ve owned a few (trying to complete RPGs) and absolutely 0 of them were accurate the whole way through, often about core mechanics in the games. Then they started publishing ones that pointed to their website for more details around the section. Completely useless.
Since the get-go FAQs were better.
They certainly helped Final Fantasy games only take forever to play instead of eternity.
So Gamefaqs, founded in 1995, killed Prima in 2018?
IIRC wasn’t there another competing brand that was better?
I remember that despite Gamefaqs being really useful, I used to buy guides because Gamefaqs is text only and non ASCII diagrams could be useful. (Plus this was the pre-wifi era, so you can’t pull the faq up on your phone or laptop, gotta huff it upstairs to reference it or print that sucker out)
Except their guide to 7 was wrong about the chocobo races, the guide to 9 was wrong about basically everything, and the guide to X doesn’t help unlock the ‘real’ ending
The guides for Zelda games were always pretty useful, and in a lot of cases down right essential. I remember having a lot of guides for point and click adventure games. But these guys were definitely in the business of printing guides for every game that came out whether it needed it or not. Not every game has the sort of puzzles, hidden stuff, collectables/side quests, and complicated mechanics that make a guide of any kind useful.
Sadly the state of online guides is pretty rotten right now. Seems like everything is autopopulated from the same unfinished wiki, and loaded down with malware. And 20 minute videos about something that should take 1 sentence and a couple of screenshots to explain, along with lengthy forum posts that devolve into fights. I don’t think I’ve found an easy answer for much, outside of specific games, in a couple years. Even simple shit like “what button do I hit to do that thing”.
I’m honestly shocked they still existed. I haven’t seen them in years and would have assumed that web guides would have totally demolished them in short order.
Yeah, I don’t get it. There are plenty of zombie companies out there, either hemorrhaging money or profitless, but that’s a long time to be in that kind of state (especially considering they couldn’t have been that flush with cash to begin with). I don’t understand how they managed to hang on so long. Something else must have been going on.
I wonder how the dynamics of publishing those guides worked - game sales windows historically have been pretty small (with the exception of more popular games), so you’d want to publish as close to the release date of the game as possible for it to be remotely relevant. But the short period of time between a game being feature-complete and release isn’t very big by book publishing standards, so even if you’re collaborating with the game publisher and/or have access to pre-release game executables, it’s a mad rush to glean secrets and strategies. (Getting information on the game before that point, you’re relying on pre-feature-complete information about the game, which is going to be wildly inaccurate.) Not to mention that not all games actually have much worth discussing in the first place.
I’ve noticed! The illiteracy of the modern gamer community is frightening. Seriously, why on earth do a fucking video to explain something that could be conveyed a ton faster in a couple sentences of prose?
Back when you could still find actual game books in brick and mortar bookstores, the batting average I encountered was very, very abysmal. 90% of game guides made me feel like the author was being paid by the page and so they padded a couple pages of serious info into a hundred pages of low information shit. I almost never, found a game where it wasn’t just easier and faster to go online and find a FAQ rather than buy the damned overpriced, poorly written, low density book. The exceptions were the giants of Microprose 4x strategy in the DOS era, which tended to have very superb game books packed with tons of detailed formulae and statistics and strategies.
I still have my 1997 Prima guide for Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight, from back when a strategy guide could be 400 pages long and effectively the text version of watching a Let’s Play by someone reasonably entertaining. I used to just read that sucker cover-to-cover for fun because the writing was genuinely pretty sharp and funny. (Also because I was kind of a weird kid.) I was pretty disappointed when the guide for Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast was a slim, magazine-style disaster of game inaccuracies and grammatical errors.
Looks like their Myst guide back in '93 was written by the same guy, I wonder how hard/expensive it would be to track a copy down…
It’s not illiteracy. It’s money. You have the potential to become a YouTube/streaming/social media factor by creating spammy videos. And the old school gamefaqs style walkthroughs didn’t generate income. The new useless guides are essentially ad farms monetizing eyeballs by maximizing page views and ad space. The major publications that do guides like IGN function off a wiki structure with fans filling them in. So there’s no info at release, the guide gets filled in as popularity and sales peak, then never get updated again when the zeitgeist moves on. It keeps costs down.
You see a lot of the same in any other kind of media. The number of times I had the that’s not what video is for arguement when working in media or marketing is absurd. Theres a whole startup called Now This News that’s built around 5 minute verticle video “news” distributed through social media. Where the whole idea seems to be having an awkward intern read scripts containing no more content than a single tweet. And videos that are essentially just the same obnoxious listacle that would take a minute or so to read, but take nearly 10 to watch.
They seem to have an awful lot of money behind them, but they don’t seem to have made much of an impact or learned anything about how to make their content matter in anyway, or improve them over (again) a single tweet.
I am disappointed because they were go-to gifts for my kids.
Edit: But from the other comments, I am learning that I was a terrible gift-giver. Well, I bought them the consoles in the first place!
They are both useful in different ways. Sometimes seeing something done helps more than reading about it, other times a video will tell you nothing while a text faq helps you understand.
I have the Brady Games strategy guide for Myst (and Riven), but not the Prima one. However, I do have the Prima guides for Myst III, Uru: Ages Beyond Myst, Uru: Complete Chronicles, and Myst IV. The two Uru guides and the Revelation guide were all written by the same person, who was a pretty big fan of the series and did a good job of writing up the games (the Revelation guide has a bunch of “in-character” incidental infoboxes that seem to contain a lot of development team tidbits that were dressed up in an extremely try-hard-y “DRC research” context, which are Bad and Annoying, but the actual walkthrough content is great). I haven’t looked at the Exile guide in years, but I don’t recall there being any inaccuracies in it. The guide for Uru: ABM is actually written (and titled) as a “travel guide”, fitting in with the general “this is real life” presentation of the game’s story.
If you can find a copy of the Complete Chronicles guide and have any degree of interest in the development of the game, the last 50-ish pages of the guide are basically a full-color post-mortem/behind the scenes piece. It’s like a miniature version of the From Myst to Riven coffee table book about the development of Riven (which is also worth getting if you can find one), full of concept art and interviews with Cyan.
For example, I replayed FFX (this time sans Prima guide) a few years ago. There’s a minigame that is complete horseshit to get one of the ultimate weapons involving racing a chocobo while touching balloons and avoiding the laziest diving RNG birds imaginable. The guides all say the same thing in text, but watching a successful run lets you know in much more detail what the best strategy to spam is before getting the RNG win.
1:19 with text under the video showing the detail.
Another example that comes to mind is when you have to touch something hard to describe accurately in words, normally without a prompt to guide whatsoever. The problem is that LPs and longer form stuff label their videos as walkthroughs when they are not.
Their guide to Minesweeper left a lot to be desired too; it only covered the first 20,000 levels.
There are absolutely things that video is better for. Just as there are things that text and images are better for. The issue is that where there is this kind of guide information these days it’s often only in the videos. Whether it should be or not.
I’ll give an example. I was recently looking for the location of a couple of items and locations I couldn’t quite figure out. All I really needed to know was what area of the map they were in, so I could figure it out myself from that point.
So I went looking for an annotated map, or simple description of where to find these things. I could find neither. Instead my search lead to several videos purporting to give that information. All of them contained an introduction about the game, the presenter, his patreon page. Several minutes of dicking around, adjusting inventory, demonstrating movement. A brief view of the in game map, with no effort to mark or call out where we’re headed. Then a meandering let’s play style walk to the location. A 20 minute video to answer the simple question “hey where’s that thing”.
You end up jogging through the video till you spot a usable landmark, then attempting to follow along. Till you hit the point you need, and close the video. When a JPEG of a dot on a map would have provided more useful information more quickly.
You run into the same thing looking for info on controls. A practical answer to “how to Dodge” is “hit x” not 7 minutes of narration where the host briefly holds up the controller and say “now were gonna Dodge” while pointing at a button. No matter how simple the query it’s a 20 minute video.