I recently got Gran Turismo 5. I’m not quite finished with the 5 backlog games. I decided to order it anyway and not play it until I’m done playing off the backlog debt for it.

However, I did unpack it. I ordered the UK Collector’s Edition (not the prohibitive Signature Edition). It contains a small but thick book called Apex. I was completely blown away by it’s contents.

Apex Cover

This little booklet was in my Collector’s Edition of Gran Turismo. I was expecting a collection of glossy car renderings. But I was in for a surprise…

Do you remember the good old times where PC military flight simulators came with a huge manual that not only explained the button layout but also described the history of the depicted conflict, fundamental aerodynamic principles, basic flight maneuvers and the technology behind all the planes you would later encounter in the game? Apex is EXACTLY that. It’s an old-school game manual. And it may be one of the best ones ever printed.

The first chapter deals briefly with the history of automobiles and features not only some beautiful images but also some well-written texts. The second chapter goes on teaching driving techniques. Now, I bought a Gran Turismo 4 game guide back in the day. Those guides always feature a rather half-assed, short chapter on driving fundamentals. This is different. Somebody REALLY put A LOT of effort into it. They use a lot of incredibly detailed information graphics and useful metaphors. They don’t just explain when to push what pedal, they make sure you develop a model of how cars behave on the road. The result is that this isn’t just useful in the game, the lessons can be also applied to real-life driving.

Apex Technique

One page of many explaining in great detail various racing maneuvers. Note that there are even directions on how to use the pedals at each stage of the maneuver.

But that is just the beginning. After a nice overview of the different types of motorsport, there is yet another lengthy chapter on car technology. Again, it explains in great detail all the fundamentals of how cars work. It explains how an engine works, what kinds of engines there are, what the advantages of different solutions are, how turbos work, how suspension work, how a transmission works – you name it. Again, this isn’t just going trough a checklist. There are very detailed illustrations on each topic. The scope goes beyond what is necessary or even visible in the game. It’s actually better than what I’ve learned in physics classes about car technology.

Apex Technology

Car technology explained down to the very last screw. Here, quite competent information graphics on what engine displacement is.

What follows is a short colorful feature on the development modern car technologies that may become important in the future such as electric cars and alternative fuels. Finally, yet another super-detailed chapter on car tuning. All the setting you can manipulate in GT5 are explained in the same detailed fashion the other topics were. Each individual setting is presented on an individual page. There are information graphics on each page. To drive the idea home, various setups are presented side-by-side and the advantages of each are compared to each other.

Apex Tuning

Yet another chapter focuses on car tuning and explains exactly what each individual setting does.

The book finishes up with some general articles on car tuning and performance upgrades. It also shows some nice car photos and the layout of the GT5 tracks.

Lately Ubisoft announced that they will move away from printed manuals. Many other publishers seem to follow a similar strategy. One of the reasons seems to be that they claim hardly anybody ever reads them. I think the problem is that most of them are simply poorly made. They are ugly and didn’t contain any interesting information anyway. No wonder players stopped reading them, they had no reasons to.

The Apex book finally shows how a proper manual can look if the developers put some effort into it. It’s an incredibly useful and quite gorgeous piece. Just browsing through it is such a pleasure. It goes even beyond being just a manual for a game. It can stand in it’s own as a book about cars. But it also successfully binds the content of the game to the real world. It provides real-life context for the things players encounter in the game. It also provides informations that players can easily apply to their everyday lives. As a result it enriches the game by making it more life-relevant.

Needless to say, I wished every game came with such a manual. And no, Ubisoft, I don’t think you can replace that with in-game tutorials.

Krystian Majewski

Krystian Majewski was born in Warsaw and studied design at Köln International School of Design. Before, he was working on a mid-size console project for NEON Studios in Frankfurt. He helped establish a Master course in Game Design and Research at the Cologne Game Lab. Today he teaches Game Design at various institutions and develops independent games.

One response to “Apex”

  1. adamsmithalevel

    Hey Krystian,

    I am intrigued by the fact that someone would spend so much on a manual for a game.

    Having said that, I honestly must say the manual looks very appealing and eye-catching.

    and yup, from what i can see, I agree with you on “It’s actually better than what I’ve learned in physics classes about car technology.”



The Game Design Scrapbook is a second blog of group of three game designers from Germany. On our first blog, Game Design Reviews we describe some games we played and point out various interesting details. Unfortunately, we found out that we also need some place to collect quick and dirty ideas that pop into our minds. Hence, welcome to Game Design Scrapbook. You will encounter wild, random rantings. Many of then incoherent. Some of them maybe even in German. If you don't like it, you might enjoy Game Design Reviews more.


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