I’m going to plan the game’s instruction manual as though it were going to be printed and physically distributed, although at the moment it seems most likely that the game won’t have a physical form for a while. The finished result of this project will probably be a beta version at best, as I would quite like to carry on refining and changing things after the May deadline. Still, there’s no reason why a digitally distributed version of the game can’t come with a PDF version of the instruction manual.
The shape and size of the document will be a square measuring 120×120 mm. Why?
Firstly, because there are not such things as cubes and secondly, because this is the size and shape of a CD inlay. While PC games tend to come in DVD sized cases, my personal opinion is that this wastes a lot of space/plastic/paper/everything. And they take up a lot more room than CDs, honestly I’m not sure why the cases have to be so big. In my opinion, Sony have always managed to make good use of casing space. Playstation 1 games for example came in what were essentially bulked up CD cases, also with 120x120mm inlays. And you could pack a lot into those inlays. I seem to remember the Tekken 3 inlay coming in about 5 languages and was almost as thick as the case itself.
Image from Ebay.
Playsation 2 games were the size of DVD cases, but had space above the disk to store your PS2 memory card. Playstation 3 cases are less tall than DVD cases and waste considerably less material by simply chopping the top off. Compact is good. Ultimately, as I’m a fan of nice eco stuff, I would like to design a cardboard sleeve for the game rather than a plastic case. I recently discovered a limited edition version of a Stemage’s latest album on Bandcamp, which comes in an “eco-wallet” with bunch of other paper goodies. There’s something seemingly special about getting a disk in a cardboard case, if the stock is nice. They make plastic cases seem like tack.
When I design for print, I like to start by setting up a grid in InDesign which I can use a template for design. I set up the new document like this (I add grids and guide later…):
I’ve chosen to use a 3×3 grid for this document. I tend to use odd numbers of rows and columns when I need to centre a lot of the content. Based on some of the content I’ve already made for the game, such as the intro slides, I’d say this is going to be fairly important. I want to try to continue the style where possible. On my master pages, I’ve also marked the centre of the page, and where each quarter of the page sits. I’ve also marked three elements that will exist on most pages- title, running title and page number. To plan other content, I’ve printed this template to draw over:
I’ve planned the first couple of pages as an example of planning from here on… The first page is the front cover, which will include the game’s logo (which I’ve decided will also run vertically as opposed to horizontally across the page), and a subtitle which will read something like “instruction manual”, also running vertically.
The second page is a double page spread. On the first side I’ll put some game info and the game’s system requirements (which I’m currently in the process of working out) and the second page will be a table of contents. I’m marked on this design where the title, running titles and page numbers will be. I’ve kept all of this at the top of the page, to reduce clutter or odd little bits elsewhere.
Back in InDesign, this currently looks like this (using placeholder text). I’m not sure yet whether to move the running titles into the centre rather than on the edges, but I’ll work this out when there’ more content in the document.
From here I’ve been able to work out paragraph styles for the titles, running titles, page numbers and body, which should be pretty much everything covered. All copy throughout the document will use Dejavu Sans ExtaLight, unless it’s part of an image or under some other special circumstance. Titles are in point size 12, as the page size itself is very small. I did a print text using a larger point size and it seems anything larger just dominates the page!
There are a few things you must always remember when designing for print, which I’ve reminded myself of in my notebook just in case. All images must be in CMYK at 300 dpi, which I know I’m going to forget at some point as I’ve been designing graphics for screen for so long now! Background and large images have to take into account the document’s 3mm bleed. All text must align to the baseline grid (which I haven’t shown, but I’ve set this up to the leading size of the body text.) And the grid is king.