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Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb
 
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The Emperor's Tomb
 

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  Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb

Indiana Jones: Creating a Manual (February 11, 2003)


 
 
 

- Console game manuals have a history of sucking. PC games often have nice packaging and great, in-depth manuals filled with extra goodies that don't necessarily pertain to gameplay. But in the console world, manuals are often in black-and-white and sometimes fail to even cover all gameplay aspects.


Gregory Harsh, Senior Designer/Illustrator at Beeline Group, the folks who made the manual for the upcoming Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb, wants to buck the trend. Indiana Jones, coming this spring to all platforms, offers one of the more attractive manuals to surface in a console game for some time.


Harsh was so hyped for his manual that he wrote us, in length, about the process behind the creation. As you'll see from the pictures and words that follow, this is a game manual that goes far beyond listing controls. We can only hope more publishers will see that a quality manual is a nice bonus for gamers plunky down their hard-earned fifty bones.


Let me start by saying the Indiana Jones films have had a big impact on my childhood. 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' was one of the first PG movies I watched without my parents, and 'Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom' was the first film I got to see more than once.


 
 
 

I am also incredibly interested in movie special effects and props so I immediately knew how I would approach the manual concept forIndiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb. Prominent among the Indiana Jones collectibles are recreations of the 'grail diary' from the third Indiana Jones film and what better way to present a manual than to embed the gameplay information in a field diary penned by Indiana's hand?


This concept allowed me to do two things: establish the 1935 time period with accurate historical references, and situate the game storyline within the Indiana Jones timeline. Much research was required to prevent the contradiction of dates and situations, because in addition to the movies there have been many novels and comic books which place Indy at different locales in any given month. For example, I knew that The Emperor's Tomb takes place in early 1935, just before the events of 'The Temple of Doom,' so any character references made towards Dr. Abner Ravenwood shouldn't contain knowledge that Indy couldn't have had (Indy doesn't reunite with Marion until 'Raiders' in 1936). Likewise, I knew from the comic, 'Indiana Jones and the Shrine of the Sea Devil,' that Indy was in the Marquesas Islands just prior to the start of this game, so I made references to this fact in his field notes.


So, before I could even begin writing the manual, I had to do two separate areas of research -- historical and fictional. I began by utilizing the Internet to dig up as many historical highlights as I could find about 1935. This included notable newspaper headlines, famous people, and popular music and movies. This led me to other, unexpected areas that gave me a wealth of trivia that could be inserted here and there in Indy's journal entries for a feeling of authenticity. I researched everything from period pain relievers (for the note from Indy's doctor), to accurate New York City phone numbers, to notable archeological findings of the previous year.


After acquiring as much information as I could, I then planned how I could blend the storyline with required game play information without being too blatant about it. The manual information is split into two conventions: Any information regarding the game story (or of interest to Indy himself) is handwritten. Information that is vital for actual gameplay is always typewritten and uses similar header treatments. For the game play information, I wanted to emulate real-world period documents, and began making a list of what I felt could actually be tucked inside the journal: newspaper clippings, telegrams, ticket stubs, money, envelopes with postage and cancellations from the actual game locations, advertising, and more. This led to a whole new area of research, and I located many resources through antique dealers.


I wanted this manual to seem like an actual journal, so I was careful to keep the modern world touches to a minimum; that's why the logo on the front cover is hand-sketched and attached with a paper clip (rather than utilizing a floating full-color logo), and the 'epilepsy warning' is an attached flier from the Health Board as a 'safety advisory for travelers abroad'. The 'Archeology 101' paper for Indy's college course is a 'mimeograph' in purple ink, rather than the black photocopies of today's world. I was careful to avoid cliches, such as typical art deco typefaces or overused lingo; because even though Indiana Jones is a romanticized adventurer, his world is firmly rooted in gritty, war-ridden times.


All items within the manual are attached, sketched, or inserted as real objects, and there is justification for why they appear. For example, the 'setup' page, which is a required section of any Xbox game, is presented as a form that Indy or Marcus might fill out when cataloging an artifact. This form could have been hastily tucked into his journal as Indy was preparing for a scuffle. Finding justification for the information in this manual has been a challenge. For example, the warranty page is presented as an actual warranty document, though it appears to be for Indy's whip and not the software! I also wanted to add Asian elements to the artwork, as China is integral to the storyline, and had many phrases translated in calligraphy, which are strategically added throughout the journal. Indy even tries his hand at calligraphy on one of the pages!


The second area of research concerned the world of Indiana Jones itself. I wanted to make as many references as possible to recognizable characters and events from the movies, but I had to make sure they fit within the context of 1935. First I read the scripts for the movies, then read all the comics, but eventually relied on 'The Indiana Jones Timeline' on theraider.net for the synopsis of the novels, otherwise I'd be spending all my time reading!


My favorite piece is the memo written by Marcus, which foreshadows the events of the beginning of 'Raiders of the Lost Ark'. Since Indy fails to properly retrieve an idol in the beginning of The Emperor's Tomb, Marcus writes Indy that, "this is your chance to show the Museum you are still our most profitable expert of antiquarian acquisition." Another example of the movie tie-ins is the advertisement for Club Obi Wan. Though we know Indy has not yet met Willie Scott, the flier can be included because of a handwritten comment; 'Indy, check out this place. Many possibilities.' The newspaper, in particular, was a fun challenge. Through the paper's articles, I was able to explain to the gamer the brief history behind the 'Last Emperor of China', which is integral to the game story; and introduce the mysterious nature of the Emperor's burial through Abner Ravenwood (a character we don't actually get to know in the movies).


My aim throughout this manual was to convey all the necessary information without hitting the gamer over the head with it. Though most of the information is straightforward, with a little probing one can find a lot of hidden trivia. For example, the patent number on the Barnet College Interdepartmental Memo represents the opening day of 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,' and the Egyptian hieroglyphics sketched on the passport spread loosely translates to 'the ark cradles the wrath of God' (too bad Indy notes that he hasn't had time to translate it...).


But above all, I was able to be Indiana Jones, by writing his journal entries. How cool is that? Funny how he and I think alike...

I'd like to thank LucasArts for my creative freedom and trusting me to be faithful to the Indy universe. I presented a version of the completed journal at only our second meeting, rather than just describing a concept, and with just a little tweaking and game play editing, the manual now appears exactly as I envisioned it.

-- Gregory Harsh


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