Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Testers wanted for Destiny Quest Infinite

Hello all!  This email just appeared in my inbox.  Maybe YOU can be a HERO and help here release an app of the beloved Destiny Quest gamebooks, written by Michael J. Ward.

Development for our digital gamebook DestinyQuest Infinite is nearing an end, and we're ready to squash some pesky last bugs and put a polish on the user experience. Whether you’ve been a gamebook fan since you were a kid or you’ve never even heard of the genre before, we want to make sure DQI is fun to play and easy to understand. 

Now we need some help: we're looking for testers for our game-meets-book.  We're interested in people from different walks of life and different levels of experience with gamebooks.

To apply, anyone interested just needs to fill out this form: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1EbojbIRTpgItDHpX70v-Tj65FHOuiXZbMCVZjAsiv5c/viewform We'll then select a handful of people to test with. 

You can find more information about DestinyQuest Infinite on our website www.destinyquestinfinite.com or by following us on Twitter @QuestForge.

Below is some additional information:

Testers will:

Play through the Prologue and one quest of DestinyQuest Infinite in a Skype session. (This should only take about 30 minutes).
Share your thoughts as they play: what's good, what't bad, what’s confusing.
We'll do the rest! There is no technical knowhow or previous experience required.

As a way of saying thanks, testers will receive:

A free copy of Act 1 of DestinyQuest Infinite when it becomes available.
A listing of their  name (or nickname) on our website.
A chance to play DestinyQuest Infinite before anyone else!

Again, the form is located at this link: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1EbojbIRTpgItDHpX70v-Tj65FHOuiXZbMCVZjAsiv5c/viewform . We'd appreciate if you spread the news. 




Testing the feed out

Hello  gamebookers!  I've been tinkering around on the internet to find ways to bring you news more Gamebook Feed should automatically make a post linking to it.  Hopefully this works!
easily.  In doing so, I've discovered Buffer, Feedly and If This Then That.  Between them, they have managed to get my feedly posts on my Twitter feed.  However, that is not all.  If this works properly, then whenever a blog about gamebooks makes a post, then the

If it does, then I won't need to post feeds around the blog.  You will just get posts on the blog whenever someone else does it.  If you want to see which sites and blogs I am using, have a look at this Google Drive folder.  The list of websites in the Excel document is a list of websites that when they get updated, I will automatically tweet the updates on Twitter.  The OPML file is my Feedly file.  I have two categories - for Fightign Fantazine is the sites that I look at for Fightign Fantazine news and they are the ones I tweet about automatically.  Gamebook Blogs is the category that will get mentioned on the Gamebook Feed.

Let's see what happens.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Clash of the Princes playthrough

Originally published at http://fightyourfantasy.blogspot.co.uk/ by Justin MacCormack - Please be sure to check out the original article, and support the author by purchasing his latest book, "Return to 'Return to Oz', and other tales".

Written by Andrew Chapman and Martin Allen, artwork by John Blanche

Clash of the Princes is perhaps the most unique of the Fighting Fantasy series. It's slightly rarer than Steve Jackson's Sorcery series, and is the only FF book (outside of Fighting Fantasy, The Riddling Reaver, and Dungeoneer/Blacksand/Allansia) that have multiplayer capabilities. It also predates these multiplayer books by several years, I believe. What is the big pull for this book? Well, it's two-player. And it's two books.

Two-player gamebooks weren't unknown, but were better known under the 'Duel Masters' series, which really captured and perfected their form. With Clash of the Princes, each book could be played solo, unlike the 'Duel Masters' series. But the real heart of Clash of the Princes was the impression of freedom that it gave the players. The very first choice you make in the game, for instance, is if you want to work together or not.

But as I said, it's also one of the rarer Fighting Fantasy adventures. This is mainly because it was sold as a box set of both books. Many bookstores simply didn't know what to do with this big box - split them up? Display them seperate? And then there was the price tag, which was a hefty £3.50. Can you imagine, two books costing that much? For 1986, that was crazy money. Let's say that you're 9 years old, your parents usually can be coaxed into indulging you with a Fighting Fantasy book for £2 every couple months or so. Now try begging them for one that's almost twice that much!
Of course, books don't cost anywhere near that little these days. Except for my book, that is - available on Kindle now, if you're interested.

But anyway, the first book (The Warrior's Way) sets you as Clovis, fighter-prince. The second book (The Warlock's Way) sets you as Lothar, mage-prince. Both princes are sent out into a world full of crazy mad things that want to kill them, and told to find a magic gem in order to prove that they are worthy of ruling their nation. I am unsure if this is a good means to select a ruler. On one hand, I doubt that David Cameron could complete a quest any more dangerous than kicking a disabled person. On the other hand, I can't really picture Clovis's great-grantfather, Mad Douglas the Demented, would have much grasp on the economic nuances of ruling an entire empire when his only claim to rulership is that he headbutted a gryphon to death and nicked its ruby.

Clovis, the warrior, plays exactly the same as your typical Fighting Fantasy adventurer. Lothar, the warrior, has less skill points - but makes up for this with a number of magic points, which he can use either when the text allows him to cast a spell, or before combat to give him a variety of stat boosts or injure his opponent. I'd generally suggest that of the two players, the less experienced FF player take Clovis for the first few playthroughs.
Me and my partner decided to give this a shot. In order to keep both players synched up, we are required to record Status and Action scores. Both scores are essentially little more than flagpoints, but they work very smoothly. For instance, we might come to a section where Lothar has the chance to lay a trap for Clovis. If he does, he would change one of these two scores to a set number, and then continue on his way. When Clovis gets to that point, he is asked to look and see what number is set. If the score is set to the number associated with the trap being set, then Clovis would fall into the trap - otherwise, play continues as normal. This method of synching is very smooth and works surprisingly well.

As an example for this - the first choice we are asked to make is to decide if we want to travel together. I was playing Lothar, my partner was playing Clovis. Lothar wanted to travel together, so the text told me to change the Action score, and wait until the Status score changed. When Lothar changed the Status score, the text told me to turn to a paragraph ("If the Status score changes to X, turn to section Y. If it changes to anything else, turn to section Z.") Section Z would mean that Clovis didn't want to journey wth me and ran off on his own. You follow? No? Tough!

We decided mutually to travel off together. It wasn't long before we come across a villager who tells us that his home has been over-run with orcs. Those pesky orcs, they're worse than woodlice. We decide to split up, with Clovis charging in through the door whilst Lothar opens the window and chucks spells into the house, assuming that the villager doesn't mind the inside of his home being consumed in a myriad of fireball spells. Unfortunately, Lothar's plan fell apart when he got caught in a magical rope snare that was waiting at the window, leaving Clovis to chop his way through a bunch of unhappy orcs.

Clovis freed poor Lothar and claimed the majority of the loot for his trouble. Together the two hurried along to their next location, a large bridge across a vast river. The bridge, more a small fortress, had an upstairs area which was abandoned. Together the two princes hurried upstairs, only for Clovis to be caught by a giant moth. Lothar saved the day by turning the moth into a mouse (he had the option to cast a fire spell, but given that Clovis' player was screaming for him not to use any fire because that would result in surely certain death, he went for the more sensible choice of spells). Lothar took some of the moth's silk as a reward, and then promptly fell down a hole in the floor and got swept away by the river.

With both princes seperated, they began their adventures apart. Clovis crosses the bridge and ventured north, going onwards until his path ventured into a small valley. The walls of the valley grew narrower and narrower, until they were wide enough for only one person to walk. Then Clovis seen someone in the distance. It was himself.

Realising that he was standing in front of a giant mirror that some mad bugger had installed in the middle of a ravine (and really, who does all this stuff? Fighting Fantasy books are replete with odd bits of geographical features that could only have been put there by mad buggers), Clovis stands around looking confused for a while. Then his reflection steps out from the mirror and tries to kill him. It's a tough fight, because the mirror image had the same stats as Clovis, but Clovis is able to win through. No sooner has he killed his reflection, however, than Clovis begins to fade away. Without a mirror of his own to create a new reflection, he fades out of existence.

Lothar, meanwhile, fares no better. He drags himself out of the river and trecks across the landscape for a while until he encounters a lake. A group of boatmen tell him that it is the Lake Of Death (with capital letters, no less), and that it is filled with venemous, flesh-eating fish, which are also invisible!

Lothar, being no rube, tells then "You're having a laugh, mate. Pull the other one!". He isn't stupid enough to fall for such a blatantly fake and utterly moronic story, especially not when it's coming from a bunch of boatmen who are asking for almost every penny Lothar has in order to ride him across the lake, which is only a yard deep anyway. So the warlock-prince wades out into the lake to cross it. Whereupon he is promtly eaten by venomous flesh-eating invisible fish.

So ended the royal line.
I like to think that in the aftermath of this tragedy, the regent decrees an end to mad buggers installing geographical features at random and a cull on all implausable nonsensical monsters. But frankly, that wouldn't be half as much fun. Early FF books really captured this sense of whimsical madness perfectly, and this is a wonderful example.

Clash of the Princes plays spectacularly. It has a whimsical atmosphere and a system that compliments it excellently. It is also fiendishly difficult in the traditional Fighting Fantasy manner. Playing it is a joy - the game advises that you play in silence and only talk with the other player when instructed to, but we had so much fun comparing the madness that occured when we went our seperate ways that we couldn't resist speaking. I would recommend that if you love your Fighting Fantasy books, scrape your way through ebay to find a copy of this one. It tends to go for about £15 these days, but it's worth it.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Advanced Fighting Fantasy short adventure

Hello gamebookers!

I have a lot to write about at the moment, but a Fighting Fantasy Fest report will be here at some point.  For the time being, you could spend next week reading the Windhammer competition entries, which will be out on the 14th September.

Or you can play Heavy Metal Thunder.

In the mean time, here is the short adventure I ran at Fighting Fantasy Fest, which I tried to fit into an hour, but it went a little over (this was also with pregenerated characters).  It would make quite a good one shot as well as a prequel to a bigger adventure (and since it starts in Anvil, that adventure could be Firetop Mountain).

I made a longer version of this adventure, which will appear in Fighting Fantazine.

Happy gamebooking!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Heavy Metal Thunder

Okay, so this punk-ass tries to cave in your skull - crack - but you're, like, too badass to die, so you break out a shotgun and point it right between the poor mofo's eyes, and you're like, "Yeah, bitch, you think it's that easy to - "

Whoa. Sorry. I've just been in a really gung-ho mood ever since I read Heavy Metal Thunder. Let me take a minute to calm down...

Okay, so this time around I'm talking about Kyle B. Stiff's Heavy Metal Thunder. It's the second app from Barcelona-based Cubus Games. Their first release, The Sinister Fairground, was in a comedy-horror vein. And it was excellent (read my review of it here). This time around, they've gone sci-fi.

And what great sci-fi it is. You take the role of a member of the Black Lance Legion of elite jetpack soldiers, humanity's first and only line of defence against the nebulous extraterrestrial Invaders. You play Mr Wiggles (the name isn't permanent), a wounded amnesiac who struggles to recover his memory, and to return to his home before the Invaders can destroy it. It's grim stuff - what small pockets of humanity remain are on the run; you aren't fighting for victory, but for revenge.

Throughout, there's very much a theme that only the strongest can survive - and as Mr Wiggles strives to do just that, the story presents some probing choices weighing mercy against practicality. Will you kick a man off your spaceship so that you have more food for yourself? Or will you welcome him on board, even though he doesn't seem to have any useful skills? And there's a dark undercurrent that hints that you've been somehow 'programmed' to feel a certain aggressivity in specific situations. That's just begging for more development in sequels to come.

There are some lovely, original touches throughout the story - without being too spoilery, my own favourite would be the long-haul flight through space wearing only a little short-range jetpack, and towing a huge net of food and supplies behind you. Excellent stuff. Or, for instance, a section in which another jetpack soldier's radio is broken out in the vacuum of space, so you have to touch your helmet against his in order for them to convey sound. There are a bunch of fantastic little details like that. Of course, you should expect some pseudoscience with your sci-fi, and the pseudoscience here is well thought out, and credible - the 'fat mass' generators that create gravity aboard spaceships, for example. Kudos to Mr Stiff for that (that must be a fake name...).

Okay, a few technical points. Game mechanics: stats are a bit D&D-esque (Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, Will, Charisma, as well as Zero-G Combat and 1-G Combat), but alongside that you can also learn a bunch of skills (Jetpack, Computers, Xenobiology, Piloting etc.). You gain experience as you go along, and level up, allowing you to increase stats and pick new skills. And it's all pretty well balanced; as with a lot of good RPG systems, you often find yourself just a little short of the next level up, and craving more Exp, more Exp, more Exp... Combat and skill/stat tests require you to roll virtual dice - and, while I'm not a big fan of dice-rolling in apps, these are some pretty funky digital dice. Also, just like in The Sinister Fairground, you gain Hero points as you go along, which allow you to retry, or automatically succeed in, failed tests. Unusually for a gamebook (and this is adapted from the Heavy Metal Thunder gamebook), the story is dialogue-heavy, and each 'page' is usually quite long. Me, I quite like that, and I suspect that Cubus have intentionally tried to do away with a lot of redundant screen-tapping. The artwork is good, overall - the pictures of spaceships, or planets, or machinery, are beautiful; the pictures of people are a mixed bag. And the game motor looks great, and is simple to use - it's another step up from The Sinister Fairground, in fact.

Does the game have any bad points? Not so many. As I hinted at above, sometimes the tone of the narrative and dialogue is just suuuuuper-macho, and it gets a bit tiring. And there are a few too many T-junction choices for my taste. Also, I felt a bit frustrated that a certain key plot thread regarding Wiggles' amnesia seemed to go unresolved. Maybe that's just the way I played the game, though. Maybe I did something wrong; only future playthroughs will tell.

So, overall verdict: great, great, great. Even better than The Sinister Fairground, which was brilliant. Cubus are really starting to establish themselves as makers of awesome interactive fiction apps. Congrats to them, and to the spuriously-named Kyle B. Stiff for writing such a great story.

Trivia of the day: 'Heavy Metal Thunder'? Also an album by Saxon.

(Review by Paul Gresty)  

Monday, September 8, 2014

Back from Fighting Fantasy Fest

Howdy gamebookers! I'm back from Fighting Fantasy Fest.  I will do a proper write up later, but there's something I want to ask people now.

Like everyone, I'm feeling energised by attending the amazing Fest (many thanks and congratulations Jonathan Green!) One thing I've been thinking that was also mentioned by Marc Wilson was that there is a lot of great gamebook stuff out there, but it is quite disparate and there isn't really a central gamebook place. A few forums pop up then go quiet. Marc and I also get emails from people who want feedback for their gamebooks, but we are both too busy to attend to all of them. However, there is a great crowd here and a central gamebooks place would be awesome - the question is, where could it be? Any ideas - Facebook, a forum, something else?

And don't forget that the Windhammer entries will be released on the 14th September!