It’s strange and exhilarating to go back through my early work. Without a journal to actually keep track of that period in my life, I’m left to trawl the sea of my memories in hope nuggets come up from the murky depths. The emails I sent that summer seem to be the only concrete documentation I have from my time working on Hitman GO 1 in the muggy August of 2014.
I was in my third semester of college still plugging away credit hours to properly enter the journalism program. Listening to podcasts had been a part of my commute since I could take myself from one place to the next. Podcast Beyond was required listening. It turned traveling from Point A to B into a breeze.
During the week of August 8, Jared Petty appeared on Podcast Beyond and asked for folks to reach out about wiki work. I obliged. A few weeks later, I started writing the guide for Hitman GO.
I remember looking for guides that were ripe for creation. Nothing crowded, but not so unpopular no one would look twice. My original idea was old PS2 games I was familiar with. Those felt out of date. Some even had been converted from IGN’s old guides; back when publishers provided physical copies of the games weeks or months before release and a proper guide could be manufactured for launch.
I’m not sure why I landed on Hitman GO. The app originally came out in April, but it seems I bought the game on August 21, 2014. Maybe it was on sale. The PS4 and Vita version wouldn’t be announced for another year. Perhaps that’s where I saw the opportunity: A new interpretation of a classic franchise on a non-traditional platform.
Looking through my emails with Jared offers some glimpse into my approach for this guide.
“Here is some more of my work on IGN wikis. I noticed the Hitman Go wiki was bare, so I am gradually working on that. I am trying to create walkthroughs for a few levels a day. It’s still early on, but if you notice anything that I could add or fix to improve the wiki I would appreciate the pointer. Thanks for taking a look at the wiki and have a stellar weekend!”
The levels in this game are not lengthy, so a few levels a day sounds like a realistic goal I’d have set for myself. The first five or so levels are tutorials anyway. I did get to express my creativity with naming the little boards, since the game only numbers them.
Clicking through the pages, I like the layout I came up with. Even for my second guide, the flow of guiding a player through this puzzle game was clearly obvious to me. Using an iPad mini, I’d capture screenshots. Once I figured out the level for myself, I probably propped the iPad next to my MacBook Air and began typing in the wiki editor. Like I said, these levels were not long. Looking back, this seems like the perfect little guide to test style on and learn IGN’s own editor.
The guide started with an image of the board at turn zero. This immediately lets the viewer know if they found the right level. Beneath that would be the written walkthrough. At the bottom would be steps on how to complete the optional challenges, which could require a second round of the level. I’d include images if the maneuvers would benefit from visual aids. The instructions were simple; swipe here, move there, toss that, take out him. I think that simplicity allowed for me to develop my own style.
By nature, guides cannot be fluffy. A person is reading it for help to solve a problem. A writer’s style is going to seep through the instructions (there are all sorts of ways to be direct). I’ll admit, I tend to have unnecessary words. I inject fluff more often than I extract it. Glancing around Hitman GO, I do seem to keep focused. This may be the game’s nature influencing my own writing.
Now go and pick up the second tennis ball. Throw it to the right to turn the guard around. Move along the lower path and avoid the yellow jacket fiend. When he is out of your way, make a mad dash for the exit!
My next contact with Jared would be a month later. He sounded the call for wiki writers on Podcast Beyond again, so I took that as a prime opportunity to share an update on Hitman GO. Seems I hadn’t done too much in that gap, but I’m not sure how little or much that actually was.
…Since then my semester load has kicked up and my wiki work has ceased. I believe I have room in my schedule to start work on the wiki again. I now have the means to record an iPad screen. Do you think video walkthroughs would be a beneficial edition to the wiki or should I primarily focus on the written aspects of the wiki? Any guidance you could offer would be greatly appreciated! Thank you for your time and hard work on IGN!
I think asking about video was the kicker. I had learned that Quicktime could record an iOS device natively on macOS. I knew high-quality capture would help set me apart—it still does. We were in the infancy of the eighth console generation, but Sony’s share features on the PS4 would open the doorway for millions to natively stream and record. It has become essential on new consoles to have some sort of sharing feature.
Jared responded the next day with two tips about the necessity of kowtowing to Google’s SEO power and the importance of video.
- On every page of a walk-through, it’s helpful to use the name (or number) of both the stage and the game in the first sentence. Google crawls the web reading first sentences, and it helps people find the page if these are located high up in the document.
- Regarding your questions about video, video walkthroughs are huge! They really help out our wikis. If you can capture video, upload to google drive, and give me the links, I can add IGN bumpers and have them sanctioned as company videos, so long as they meet our quality thresholds.
Would you mind putting a demo walk-through video together for me, on a single stage or single topic? I’d like to see how your capture works.
These points are cornerstones to wiki guides and websites on the whole. The lower the barrier to entry, the more likely someone will engage with that content. Watching video is easier than reading a guide (I say it depends on the writer. Written guides can be blazing fast and efficient, but I digress).
Jared’s request for a demo was major. He wanted to see more of what I could do like a talent scout. Could I be molded into a new freelancer? At least, that’s how I imagine his thought process went.
Timestamps indicate a bit back and forth took place at the top of the morning. This request sent me straight into work. I had hooked a fish and wasn’t about to lose it. Two hours after reading his email I sent off two video samples, one with narration and one without. To my dismay, these files no longer existed in my Google Drive. I would have loved to see and hear my first attempt at a video guide. Thankfully, Jared’s response outlines a picture.
This is good, though we’d probably need to get you a better mic. Can you send me a list of all the devices you can capture from? Is it all iOS?
And my response fills in said picture:
I capture the video and game audio via Quicktime. For the voice over I use Audacity with a wireless PS Pulse headset. I compiled it all in iMovie.
I can see myself at my glass desk making this demo. The headsets USB dongle protruding from the right side of my eleven-inch laptop, fans whirling. There’d be no script. I would have recorded the level—which I had dubbed “Sound Board Conundrum”—then delivered my narration freestyle over the playback. I think two demos was the right call. It offered a straight-up look at the capture quality of an iPad mini and the potential of my own audio quality.
Now, if I wasn’t so excited and took the time to slow down and read Jared’s question, I would have mentioned my entire capture set-up. I had an Elgato Game Capture HD (still do), giving me the ability to record any of my systems at the time at 1080p30. Perhaps if I did that, I may have been offered paid work sooner. More range equals more opportunities. Instead, I left Jared figuring I only could work on iOS games.
Our back and forth ended as fast as it started. I appeared to only complete half of the second world. Odds are I got distracted by the semester and other new games on the horizon. Jared’s closing email to me would carry me forward into my next wave of wiki work. I’m big on words of affirmation and Jared provided those in spades.
Nicely done. I like this. We’d have to improve the voice audio quality somewhere in the process, but overall this is good.
I’ve talked with my boss, Sam. We’re going to be keeping a close eye on your work. Please keep forwarding me links. We don’t have any iOS-game freelance guides on the schedule at the moment, but when one comes up, I’ll be thinking of you. In the meantime please keep in touch. We really need people who can both write and produce video, and it appears you can do both.
I’m also going to start sending you some hints on how to format the wiki for better SEO, page [integration], etc. I think what you’re doing here is solid, and I’ll be offering some advice for how to make it even better.
Please send links to your progress as you work. You’ve really impressed me.
The need for video and written work affirmed I was on the right track and had most of the right equipment. The microphone would need an upgrade. One month later I bought my Blue Yeti that I used faithfully for eight years. 2
Jared’s willingness to guide me along helped me tremendously. While I never finished the Hitman GO wiki, I did go back briefly in 2016 when the PlayStation port came out. I fixed a few typos. I was probably there using my own guide to solve some challenge. It would not be the last time that I would use past Max’s work to help myself out in the present.
My willingness to strike out on my own in a guide helped me grow. It also clearly led to a future opportunities with IGN. Without Jared’s call on Podcast Beyond and Hitman’s unique board game spin-off, I may not have worked on guides in the capacity that I did.
Nothing like reviewing a game six years later. Those astute in mathematics noticed the two year difference. While I originally played on iOS in 2014, I wouldn’t complete the game until its PlayStation release in 2016. With the power of the Vita and trophies, I’d go on to beat the game and earn the Platinum trophy. Never underestimate the power of trophies.
The lavish board game art direction reminds me of the luxury editions of classics like Clue. The decorations frozen in place while convey place like a Revolutionary War diorama behind glass. Being presented in this manner lends itself to strategy and puzzle solving. It’s a natural representation of the physical world in a digital landscape.
The visual medium lends itself to the mechanics as well. Game pieces and spaces are understood. The rules are presented up front with no fuss.
This simplicity does not mean difficulty is absent. I recall head scratching my way through the Vita version. The developers let the difficulty shine through in the optional challenges. This lets the players who want a challenge pursue one without forcing brain-busters upon everyone.
The use of classical music during the “boss” levels has stuck with me to this day as clever and stylish.
The game does not run well on modern iPhones. At least it does not on my iPhone Xs Max, a far more capable device than my iPad mini in 2014. I would think the PS4 and Vita versions still run the same as they did then. For an unknown reason, you cannot download the PS4 port to a PS5. It joins the unplayable on PS5 ranks with P.T. Thankfully, the Platinum trophy is easy to earn.
It does bum me out that this gave seems to have become worse off since its release. Digital-only games have this curse over them to be neglected. Hitman GO is unique and spurred the GO game series from Square Enix. I’d even go on to review Lara Croft GO for PlayStation Insider in 2017. As a fan of puzzle games, Hitman GO still stands tall as a unique title that gave Agent 47 a fresh spin before the innovative reinvention from IO Interactive. But I’ll save my stories on that game for a future letter.