A new version of the UHS Source Editor (version 4.00, r22) was released on January 18, 2003. It is supported for all 32-bit versions of Windows (95/98/ME/2000/XP) and includes a number of bug fixes and interface enhancements over prior versions.
If you have any questions or comments about the file authoring process, send mail to Jason Strautman. Please, however, read the rest of this page first, as it may answer your comments or questions.
Also, before you write, note that we don't just hire people who say they want to write hints for us, without being more specific. Messages like "I hear I can get paid to write hints. Sign me up," generally will not get you anywhere. You need to name specific hints that you can contribute or, if we already have hints for all the games you've played, you should provide relevant hints or walkthroughs you've written for other sites.
- What does it take to be a UHS author?
- What's in it for me?
- What are you looking for in a UHS file?
- What types of games do you cover?
- You already have hints for a game. May I write another file?
- Can you name any specific games I should write hints for?
- How do I get started?
First of all, make sure that you've used/read enough UHS files to understand what the UHS is about and how it's different from standard walkthroughs, cheat codes, and even plain-text FAQ's. The key to writing a good UHS file is understanding the format before you try to write a file yourself.
Authors should also have good English writing skills. While English doesn't have to be your first language, you should be a fluent enough writer that your file is easily understood and relatively free of grammatical or spelling errors. At this time, we are not taking submissions in other languages -- this is primarily because we do not have the editors to perform our usual editing and quality control on non-English submissions.
Prior hint/walkthrough/cheat writing experience is always helpful but certainly not required. Please let us know if you have any writing samples you can show us (even if it's just something posted to your home page).
If we can use your hint file, you will receive a free registration for the current UHS readers, and you may be eligible to receive payment for your work as well. We will usually not make payment offers to new authors (beyond the free registration, of course) until we have a better idea of the quality of your work. This can usually be determined by looking at a sample of your file before it is completed.
Whether and how much you are offered beyond a free registration depends on two factors: the demand for the file (based on the age and popularity of the game) and the size of the file. Payment is generally only offered for action, adventure, or role-playing games for the PC, unless the game is very popular -- those are the hints our readers most often look for.
For a new adventure or action/adventure game, the typical rate is approximately $100-150 per file. For larger files, you may earn as much as $300 per file. Note that we also may impose deadlines for completion of any file for which payment is offered. Ask us for full details about whether a particular file would qualify for payment. (But as a general rule, anything for a game that's more than a few months old definitely will not count.)
The UHS is not a generic file format. We are essentially an on-line publisher that happens to use a common file format to distribute its content. We want the "Universal Hint System" name to stand for quality hints. UHS files should give gamers just the hints that they need to get through games, and they should also contain enough information to help gamers with any questions they might have.
Unlike text walkthroughs, UHS files are designed to be read in any order. A good UHS file will be written so that it makes sense no matter how it's read. (That's how the file can give you only the hints you need.) But it's difficult to do this correctly. In the over 10 years that we've been working on the UHS, we've seen a lot of files that don't. These files can be frustrating to use, since the answers you need won't be where you expect them -- if they're in the file at all.
Believe it or not, individual bad UHS files reflect poorly on the UHS as a whole. Even before we attempted to place quality standards on our files, people told us that they thought the UHS itself was flawed because of bad files. We promise people only the hints they need, and they have every reason to expect those hints.
Accordingly, we take steps to insure the quality of every UHS file written. You will need to submit any potential UHS file to Jason Strautman for review and possible suggestions for improvement. Once your file has been reviewed (and any requested changes made), we will send it back to you in compiled format for approval to distribute it to this site and other distribution points for the UHS. It's also important that we get permission to redistribute UHS files -- which is another reason why we feel it's important to know what files are out there before they're distributed.
You may notice that the bulk of our existing hint files are for PC-based games (or PC games which were later ported to other systems) -- primarily adventures and role-playing games. Don't take this as a sign that those are the only games we want to cover. It just so happens that most of our current authors play adventures and role-playing games on PC's.
We can use hints for any game -- on any platform (including console systems like PS2 or Xbox) and in any genre -- that you have to offer. There is therefore no need to ask us "Do you take hint files for PS2 games?". If you have a title in mind, just go ahead and suggest it. But keep in mind that we are about hints. That is, we want to help players figure out to get through games on their own. Any UHS file you want to write should be able to explain puzzles, teach strategies, or do something similar.
While things like cheat codes or basic descriptions of a game's mechanics are welcome in UHS files, they don't really teach players anything about a given game. Therefore, don't let things like this become the entire file. (This isn't to say that files full of cheat codes are bad -- they're just not what the UHS is about.)
If you think you can write real hints for a game, then you've met our only requirement on what kind of games we cover.
It takes a lot of time and effort to create and distribute a UHS file. Of course, there's the time that you put into your own file as the author, but we also spend a lot of time editing and later distributing the files that we receive.
As a general rule, we greatly prefer hint files for games that are not already covered by existing hint files. If you have a choice between writing a file for a game that's already covered and one that isn't, we think more gamers will benefit from your efforts if you chose the game that didn't have hints -- all other things being equal.
Additionally, the time we spend working on any file submitted to us is the same whether the game is already covered or not. Given that we have a limited amount of time to work on files ourselves, we prefer to focus our own efforts on what will benefit our users the most.
We do realize, however, that there will be times when existing files are in need of improvement. If you see a file with a couple of minor errors, we'd ask that you contact the author or us directly and point out these errors. In many cases, we can correct the existing file, and corrections are much easier to deal with than an entirely new version of a file.
If you think that you could make major improvements in a file, though, we would be happy to take a look at your own attempt at hints for a covered game. Just let us know how you could do better than an existing file. Please try to be as specific as possible when writing us, though. Do you think the hints aren't very hint-like? Are parts of the game simply not covered in the file? Can you add other information that would make the hint file more useful? We don't need a complete description of every typo in the existing file, but something more than "This file stinks" or "I can do better" would be appreciated.
If you have prior hint writing experience somewhere else and would like to start with one of these newer titles, let us know. You would need to show us samples of your work and also show some basic ability to use the UHS's editing tools. Otherwise, the best way to get the started is to try a UHS file for a not-so-new game first. Even a game that's been out for a couple of months may be old enough.
If you want to write a UHS file, you will need to download the current UHS Source Editor. Currently, the only supported version is for Windows (version 4.00 r22, click here to download). It works with Win 95 and all later versions of Windows, including Win XP. Just download and run this program to install the UHS Source Editor and look over the instructions, which are available on your Start menu. Contact us for instructions on writing hints on other systems.
Once you're ready to start work on a file, e-mail Jason Strautman and let him know. You must:
- Pick a game that we don't already have hints for.
- Have finished the appropriate game if there are definite endings and tasks to complete, or you've played it enough to know how to give hints or strategies if there aren't.
- Have read and understood all the appropriate instructions on this page and in the Source Editor.
- Have used the Source Editor enough to feel that you can write hints with it. Try writing a few questions' worth of hints (not just credits or cheat codes) to make sure that you can use the editor and then send this sample to us. Please send us just a sample, and not a complete file, since we cannot use every submission we receive.. Give this sample the same attention to grammar and style that you would give to a final file, since we're as interested in these factors as we are in your technical ability to use the editor.
- Have free time in the near future to finish the file after volunteering. In other words, don't volunteer just before you head out of e-mail contact for a month to go on vacation or before you have to finish a big project at work/school.
Feel free to ask if a title is available before you're "ready", but realize you will not be assigned a title yourself before you have done all of the above, including submitting a short sample of your hints. Unfortunately, we've had too many new authors volunteer for files and not even bother to start, to make exceptions to this policy.
Also make sure that you are willing and able to follow the copyright policy for all UHS files. (In short, this says don't use anything you didn't create yourself -- including screen shots from games -- without permission.) If you're just planning on including other people's work and turning it into a UHS file, your file will almost definitely be rejected for copyright concerns.