Total War Blog

Archive for October 26th, 2006

Froggbeastegg’s Guide to the Guides

I find that, of all the questions I am asked, there are certain ones which stand out as more common. An invitation to write a blog entry seems a good opportunity to give answers to those who wondered but never asked, and to explain a few things here and there.

The main focus of these questions is usually “How did you end up writing these guides?” A new patron on the org had been asking questions for a week or two, and I, among others, kept on answering them. He said that if all my posts were gathered up they would make a good newbie’s guide to Medieval: Total War. It sounded easy enough, so I gathered them up and stuck them together in Word. I wasn’t happy with the result – there were so many more things to say about the game! So I said them. When I posted the first draft of my beginner’s guide I didn’t honestly expect much, but the response was incredible. Amid all the praise there were corrections, suggestions, requests, and I did my best to meet them all. It kept on going and going, and the guide grew and grew. Finally there was nothing much left to do with it, and people started asking me what I would do next. Next!? I’d no idea, I’d never considered doing anything else. Which, in a roundabout way, provides the other half of the answer to this question: I wrote because people kept asking and I didn’t want to let them down.

Queries about the writing process, about how much goes into each guide, and about where I get my information are one of the staples of my inbox. Writing the initial version of the guide took me perhaps a week, usually spent writing from 7am through to 11pm or later with barely any breaks. Exhausting. Prior to setting virtual pen to virtual paper there is the necessary research. For my Rome: Total War guide I put in an estimated 200 hours of research spread over nearly two months: reading forums, taking part in discussions, testing things over and over in the singleplayer game, dragging my poor multiplayer partner into games to test yet more theories… Let me tell you, research is tedious and nothing like playing the game for fun. On posting the guide the treadmill of  adding updates begins. Sifting through these many corrections and additions of course adds many, many more hours to the work load.

Because I put these works together in MS Word editing or altering the 200ish pages of text is a nightmare; I don’t have any kind of overview, or a hard copy to consult with, or anything really but my memory of what is where. To make matters worse the manuscript version is full of the coding needed to produce text effects and pictures: it is unpleasant on the eye, and heavily coded areas can be confusing. The RTW guide got so big I had to chop it up into five different documents, containing the five different posts on the forum. Those posts are so big the org software nearly had a nervous breakdown each time I edited them. The final aspect of each guide comes with the messages I get from readers. I try to reply to each and every one; alas time and circumstances do not always make this possible. At this point I’d like to say a big, big thank you to the many people who have sent me kind wishes over the years.

Overall I estimate I’ve spent some 900 hours working on the three guides.

Frogbeastegg consists of one person. Frogbeastegg’s guides are the work of one person only, save for a few technical aspects, such as PDF conversions, which are clearly accredited to someone else. Amusingly I once saw some people labouring under the illusion I was some kind of writing team…

Speaking of misconceptions, I’m not a man. I’m a lady frog. It’s an easy mistake to make, especially when I appear somewhere where I can’t use the custom-made geisha avatar I have on the org. There aren’™t many sites where I would contradict the natural assumption I’m another in the sea of males. This community, however, isn’t populated by people who make crude, lewd remarks and then say I must be a man anyway, because girls don’t play games other than Barbies Happy Horse Fun (now featuring 50% more pink!)

One assumption I encounter a lot is that I have links with CA, or have been employed by them to write my guides, which simply isn’t true. All of the information stated as coming from CA representatives in my work is gathered up from posts made in response to other people on the forums at the org and the .com, or, in the case of MTW, taken from the official strategy guide. So no, I really cannot give you any inside information and/or ask them questions for you and/or do you any favours. Really.What do I gain from writing these guides? There’ve been some truly inventive ways to profit from my work suggested to me; while I’ve taken none of them up I shall remain perpetually curious about how well printed and bound hardcopies equipped with a froggy autograph would have done. That bit of genius makes opening a paypal account so people can donate to my book buying fund seem positively dull.

My gains are, to be honest, likely to sound dull. No money, no writing contracts, my mantelpiece sports no freebie copies of TW games autographed by the CA team members – fun as that might possibly be. I’ve received online awards for my work, and all those messages saying thanks. It means a lot to me. I have learned how to write – that is my major gain. I’m a dyslexic froggy you see. I found that out several months before I started the first guide. Back then I struggled to write anything, no matter how basic. My spelling was so bad Word couldn’t guess at the right words to offer me when spell checking. Grammar was a concept my education had not so much brushed over as swept under the carpet and then pulled the house down on. I was so frustrated I decided that I would do something or die in the attempt. At long last I can say what I want, not what the spellcheckers will allow me to. I don’t need a spellchecker any more. I didn’t get it all from working on the guides, but they helped. Most of my writing these days is fiction: I have my childhood dream of being an author back.

The Beginner’s Guide to Medieval: Total WarThe Complete Total War Unit Guide
(outdated; it doesn’t cover RTW/BI)

Frogbeastegg’s Guide to Rome: Total War and the Barbarian Invasion