GamesBeat

Kickstarter campaign aims to revive the printed video game strategy guide

Above: A work-in-progress mock up of the front and back covers of the Mercenary Kings Codex by Brady Hartel. Art by Stéphane Boutin of Tribute Games.

Image Credit: Off Base Productions

Do you remember what it was like to play video games before the Internet? Back when there were no online walkthroughs or YouTube videos, and you actually read the manual cover-to-cover before jumping in to play? One company wants to re-create that experience with indie games instead of blockbusters.

Creative services firm Off Base Productions has set up a campaign on crowdfunding site Kickstarter to fund what will hopefully be the first in a series of high-end strategy guides for independent video games.

The company is asking for $65,000 to produce and distribute a guide for Tribute Games’ 2D action title Mercenary Kings. The Mercenary Kings Master Codex will be an 8-by-11-inch full-color, 200-page softcover book with two Kickstarter-exclusive covers. It will feature comprehensive mission walkthroughs, boss strategies, crafting recipes, detailed maps, artwork, and more. It’s inspired by the late-1990s Nintendo Player’s Choice series of strategy guides as well as fan-created works like the Mother 3 Handbook.

“In those days — before GameFAQs, before YouTube, before IGN, and all that stuff — the only way you could get information was you had to wait for the printed strategy guide to release,” said lead author Josh Richardson. “And even then … because we didn’t have cinematic fidelity graphics like we do today, all these guides would feature tons of production art mixed in with the strategy, and [they] kind of inspired your imagination even more so than the game already did.”

Now that walkthroughs, Let’s Plays, and wikis are only a mouse-click (or finger swipe on touchscreens) away, Off Base claims the printed strategy guide has become nothing more than an upsell statistic for game retailers, or a throwaway object that’s never looked at again once the game is completed. The company wants to change all that by creating a book that owners will want to proudly display on a shelf or coffee table.

Mercenary Kings Codex Variant Cover

Above: Corey Lewis’ initial sketch for the variant cover of the Mercenary Kings Codex.

Image Credit: Off Base Productions

“You know, the guide, what we’re producing, is something that’s going to appeal to collectors, and collectors are people who can’t get that same collectible experience by having an icon on an iPad or a PDF,” said Off Base chief executive officer Greg Off. “We still want to bring that experience to people. We want people to go back to this, hold this guide, and … have it be inspired as, like, the extension of the game. And I don’t think that translates yet to viewing it on your tablet. Maybe somewhere in the future.”

The business of producing strategy guides is risky, Off said. Both printing and distribution involve huge costs. It’s a business model that can’t sustain itself without the help of deep pockets or a huge book publisher, which is why Off thinks Kickstarter is the perfect vehicle for his team’s project.

“It is an experiment to see if it’s viable,” he said.

If the campaign is successful, Off Base wants to collaborate with even more indie game developers. When prodded, Richardson admitted he’d love to do a combined guide for Hotline Miami and its sequel. “I love that game’s art style. I love its play style,” he said. “I think it would make for an awesome guide, and I just picture this, like, burn-your-eyes neon pink cover in my head already to go along with it.”


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