What are the basic requirements for a FAQ to be posted on GameFAQs?

There are several factors required in every guide:
  • Proper Formatting - GameFAQs posts guides almost exclusively in plain text. Text files are almost universally readable, and are capable of conveying information just as well as almost any other format. See the formatting requirements section below for more detail.
  • Originality - All files posted on GameFAQs must be original work, with all credit to external sources given plainly and clearly. Submitting plagiarized work or violations of copyright is grounds for removal of all site contributions, and could also easily get you in legal trouble.
  • Style/Grammar - All files posted on GameFAQs must be easily readable by the average visitor. While the occasional spelling or grammar mistake is perfectly fine (and probably unavoidable), guides that are either intentionally or unintentionally hard to read (i.e. ALL CAPS, no caps, constant spelling/grammar errors) will not be posted.
  • Language/Tastefulness - Files with significant offensive or obscene content have no place on GameFAQs.
  • Claim of Ownership - GameFAQs does not accept any further anonymous submissions. All guides must be credited to a specific user or alias, and to protect your rights, a real name. See the Copyright section for more details.
  • Quality and Content - The most important rule, and the one that can supercede minor problems above (except for originality), is the quality and content of a guide. A guide that contains comprehensive information for a game, from a full walkthrough to item and enemy lists, is going to be the most helpful to the most people who read it.

What are the basic formatting requirements?

99% of the content on GameFAQs is in plain text. Viewable in any browser on any platform and portable to practically any computer system ever created, it may be plain but it is infinitely useful. The formatting recommendations are Standard ASCII Text, 79 characters per line with line breaks:
  1. Standard ASCII Text: Unless you are writing a guide in or including information in a non-English language, you should limit your guide to standard ASCII text. For more information, see the sections on Foreign Language guides and ASCII text.
  2. 79 Characters Per Line: 79 characters is a classic standard for text files. In today's browsers, it allows for the file to be read at almost any resolution in any standard browser. Remember, if you're using a Word Processor, make sure you're using a fixed-width font, not a proportional one.
  3. With Line Breaks: Web browsers do not automatically word-wrap text files. Most of the files on GameFAQs use the standard windows CR/LF line break format. When saving your file from a word processor, please try to use this format if you can select it.
In rare and special circumstances, we also will accept groups of files in a ZIP file, but unless you're a long-time contributor who is doing that for a specific reason, plain text is the format of choice.

What should I use to compose my guide?

Assuming you're on a Windows computer, the simplest and easiest way to compose a guide is in plain old Notepad. In Windows 2000 and XP, there is no limit to the file size, and the basic feature set is more than enough to compose almost any guide. If Notepad is too restrictive for you, or you're using Windows 95/98/ME, you can always try one of the many freeware and shareware alternatives such as metapad, UltraEdit, GWD Text Editor, or EditPad Lite.

For Mac users, SimpleText generally works well enough for most people, although you may also want to try Tex-Edit Plusor BBEdit.

If you want to use a word processor as opposed to a text editor (such as WordPad, Works, WordPerfect, or Word), make sure you follow the guidelines for word processors, as most word processors are not set up by default to make plain text files.

What is ASCII text and why should I use it?

ASCII text is the standard format for text in almost every computer created over the past 15 years. It consists of:

  • 26 Uppercase Letters (A-Z)
  • 26 Lowercase Letters (a-z)
  • 10 Numbers (0-9)
  • 32 Punctuation Marks (!@#$%^&*()-=_+[]{}\|;:'",.<>/?`~), and
  • the Space character.

That's it. No other symbols or punctuation are in standard ASCII. ASCII characters can be created on your keyboard using nothing but one key and sometimes the Shift key.

Extended ASCII (aka ASCII-II) includes many other characters, such as new symbols (§®¼) and accented letters (èñ).

Extended ASCII characters cannot normally be created without using special keys or other programs such as the character map, but they should only be used when writing FAQs in other languages requiring those accents, as Extended ASCII is not always displayed identically between computers, and is sometimes even interpreted as another language.

For example, one of the most popular non-ASCII characters that finds its way into FAQs is the "upperscore" (¯). While it is most often used in line breaks or for ASCII art, it doesn't look like an upperscore on several non-windows computers, and even Internet Explorer can see the character and mistakenly interpret it as a Japanese character!

Unless it is absolutely necessary for your particular guide, it is strongly recommended that you stick to using plain ASCII text to ensure maximum readability.

What are some guidelines for making a good FAQ?

  • Learn by example - GameFAQs has guides submitted by many great authors, quite a few who have gone on to be published in commercial magazines and books. Most of the site's most prolific authors have written some comprehensive, easy-to-use guides that are the hallmark of free information available on the Internet.
  • Be Detailed, yet Concise - That may sound like a contradiction, but it's actually not that difficult. The more detail added to your descriptions of places and events that occur makes a better guide. However, adding superfluous details will detract from the main focus of your guide, which should be to help people get through the game. The longest guide is not necessarily the best guide for a game.
  • Review Your Guide - Before submitting your guide, open it up in a web browser. Just drag and drop it into a your web browser to see how it's going to look once it's posted. Any major problems (bad margins, trailing spaces, glaring spelling/grammar issues) should be obvious to you right away.
  • Use a Spell-Checker - Correcting major spelling mistakes and typos will make your guide look much better to those reading it. Most word processors and many text editors will have this feature included for you.
  • Include the Date, Version, your Name, and E-mail - These four things help GameFAQs to properly post your FAQ, and it helps your readers understand the age and status of the guide.
  • Give Credit Where It Is Due - It's the Golden Rule of GameFAQs. If you get factual data from another guide or book, credit the author. If someone mails you a tip that you weren't aware of, one line in your guide will show where it came from. Even crediting the game itself and the instruction manual can't hurt, although it's generally understood that it's the source of your data. Plagiarists are not looked kindly upon here, or pretty much any other place on the planet.
  • Protect Your Work - It's smart to provide a clear and detailed statement outlining how and where your guide can be used, along with copyright and contact information. See the section on Copyright for more details.

What are some common pitfalls to avoid when creating a FAQ?

  • Don't use the Tab key - Tabs are not consistent between browsers, text editors, or word processors. What you may think is five spaces is ten to one person and eight to another. Always use blank spaces if you need to line up columns in a table.
  • Don't use any word-processor formatting - Centering, bold text, underlines, larger text sizes... These all look fine in a word processor, but disappear when converted to text. Try reviewing the files already posted here; you'll find that none of them have any of these features.
  • Watch your FAQ size - While some people think having the largest FAQ (in terms of size) is better, keep in mind that many people are still using their old 56K modems to browse GameFAQs, and they'll be upset when they wait several minutes to download a 500KB file with only 50KB of actual gameplay content. Having small amounts of ASCII art and dividers is fine, but when used to excess, these can increase the signal-to-noise ratio of your guide beyond what will be accepted.
  • Watch out for trailing spaces: Spaces at the end of a line are invisible to the eye, and can only be seen when the line is highlighted in a text editor or browser. Obviously, these add nothing to a guide, and can actually force people's browser to scroll horizontally.
  • Don't use "boxes" around your text: Any time you have an ASCII line on the right, it's going to be major waste of space. Boxing important text to highlight it is great, but please don't use it throughout your guide!
  • Don't indent your text: In standard text files, you should never indent. The proper way to show paragraph breaks is with a blank line in between each one.
  • Avoid controversy - Don't use foul language, don't flame other users or sites, don't re-post people's derogatory mails to you, don't get involved in religious, political, or sexual debates. Just don't. It doesn't make a better guide, and can be distracting and/or inflammatory enough to prevent your guide from being posted, or even get it removed once it's already been posted.
  • Never copy someone else's work without permission, and never use someone's work as a basis for your own without credit. It can't be said enough times.

How do I decide the version number of a FAQ?

There are as many ways to use version numbers as there are people. However, the easiest and most common way to have a version number is simple:
  • For guides that are only partially complete, your version number should reflect the percentage of the guide you have written. For example, if your walkthrough covers the first quarter or so of the game, it can be "Version 0.25".
  • The first "complete" version of the guide should be "Version 1.00".
  • Minor updates increment the version number by a hundredth (1.00 -> 1.01). Major updates by a tenth (1.00 - > 1.10).
  • Full rewrites deserve a full integer (1.00 -> 2.00).
  • Avoid using "Final" as your version number, simply because time has shown it's never the final version. While it may be the final planned update to a guide, each day GameFAQs receives updated "Final" guides, which defeats the purpose of using a version number in this manner.
  • Avoid using "gimmick" version numbers. These are impossible to follow and aren't really useful to either GameFAQs or your readers.

How do I create a FAQ using Notepad?

Notepad is the simplest of text editors you can use; it's relatively feature free, but it's more than enough to create a FAQ for GameFAQs. Many authors use either Notepad or a similar plain-text editor.
  • You should keep the default font: "Fixedsys", 10 point. Turn off Word Wrap if it's on.
  • Before you begin, create a row of 79 characters, then set the Notepad window size to match the width of that line. This ensures that you'll match the proper margins required for posting.
  • Make your own line breaks simply by hitting Enter at the end of each line.
  • Save often. Notepad rarely, if ever, will crash, but it does not have an Autosave feature.
  • In Windows 2000 and XP, there is no size limit, making Notepad a great choice. In earlier versions of Windows, you usually cannot create a file larger than 50KB, so you may need to either manually split your file or use one of the many alternatives (see "What should I use to compose my guide?" above)

How do I create a FAQ using WordPad?

First of all WordPad is not a great alternative to Notepad; instead, you should try one of the text editors listed above (under "What should I use to compose my guide?"). However, for simple work, it still can suit your purposes quite nicely.
  • Set your font to "Courier New", 10 Point, or another fixed-width font.
  • Under "Options", turn on all of the toolbars and set your word wrap to "No Wrap".
  • Create a row of 79 characters of text, then set the ruler to that width. You may also want to set the WordPad window to match that width. As you write your guide, you'll need to manually insert line breaks after each line.
  • When saving your guide, use "Save As" then save the file as "Text Document - MSDOS Format".

How do I create a FAQ using Microsoft Word?

Microsoft Word is much more full-featured than WordPad, and is simpler to write guides in.
  • Set your font to "Courier New", 10 Point, or another fixed-width font.
  • Under the "View" menu, select "Normal".
  • Create a row of 79 characters of text, then set the page margins to that width. Under normal circumstances, this should be 6 3/5ths inches.
  • When writing your guide, you only need to insert line breaks manually as you need them; normal text will automatically be broken between lines.
  • When saving your guide in Word 95, 97, or 2000 , use "Save As", then select "MS-DOS Text with Line Breaks". If you see a warning telling you that some formatting features will be lost, you may want to check the saved guide to see if any real information was lost.
  • When saving your guide in Word XP, use "Save As", then select "Plain Text". On the pop-up window that appears, select "US-ASCII" as your text encoding, check "Insert line breaks" using "CR/LF", and check "Allow Character Substitution". If any characters are highlighted because they cannot be converted, you may need to go back and make changes to your text to repair this.
  • Keep a copy of your guide saved in Word format for future maintenance.

How do I create a FAQ using other word processors?

  • Always use a fixed-width font, never a proportional width one. "Courier", "Courier New", "Lucida Console", and "FixedSys" are common fixed-width font names. If two rows of different characters do not line up directly with one another, then you're using a proportial font, which you should avoid.
  • Make sure to set your margins properly to ensure your text doesn't go past 79 characters.
  • If your word processor uses automatic line breaking, make sure that you can save those line breaks when you save your file; if not, then you may want to manually insert the line breaks yourself.
  • When saving your file, save two copies; one in the word processor's native format for yourself, and one in a plain text format. Once you've saved the plain text file, view it in a web browser to see what it's going to look like when posted online. If it doesn't look right to you, then it won't look right to anyone else.

How do I create a FAQ with Japanese text?

The two most popular Japanese-language word processors are likely to be NJStar (Shareware) and JWPce (Freeware). For either one, you can include Japanese text inline with your normal text, and you can just follow the rules above for using "other word processors". One important note; when saving your file, the most common Japanese encoding is Shift-JIS; it's used on most Japanese sites. The other option is EUC, which has its own following. Make sure you select one of these two encoding types for your file; others cannot be posted.

Alternatively, Word XP includes native support for Japanese text. When saving your file, instead of selecting "US-ASCII" as the encoding format, choose "Japanese (Shift-JIS)".

How can I make ASCII art for my FAQ?

ASCII art has a long tradition in plain text files, and can often add a nice artistic touch to a plain text file. There are several ways to create ASCII art, depending on whether you want to use text or graphics. Tutorials and samples are available all over the place, and there are even programs that will create ASCII art for you, such as Figlet for text and several ASCII art generators for graphics. Just make sure your art is 79 characters or less wide, or it's not going to fit in your file!