Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Game Tale - kickstarter for gamebook aimed at children aged 3-9

Hello all! There's a new kickstarter in town. This one is called Game Tale, a beutifully illustrated children's gamebook aimed at 3-9 year olds. It looks absolutely delightful and you should definitely check it out and back it over on the kickstarter page.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/gametale/1779918119?token=0637a8cd

Friday, May 26, 2017

Want to write a gamebook? Then here's a reading list.

Whassup! Here is the fruits of my labours on a little project I was working on. I wanted to collect a definitive  list of gamebook analysis that anyone who wants to write a gamebook has to read. So far, I have come up with the following blog posts and links to give you a good grounding in the art and science of gamebook writing. Enjoy!

EDIT: The links weren't working because I had pasted hyperlinks in from a Word document (!?) but I have re-inserted the links so they should all work now.

Grey Wiz

http://blog.mysteriouspath.com/2013/03/the-problem-with-gamebooks-trilogy-part.html

http://blog.mysteriouspath.com/2013/03/the-problem-with-gamebooks-trilogy-part_15.html

http://blog.mysteriouspath.com/2013/04/the-problem-with-gamebooks-trilogy-part.html

http://blog.mysteriouspath.com/2013/04/the-problem-with-gambooks-trilogy-part-4.html

http://blog.mysteriouspath.com/2013/06/the-problem-with-gamebooks-trilogy-part.html

http://blog.mysteriouspath.com/2013/07/fixing-gamebooks-6-dont-break-story.html
Andrew Drage 

http://www.thebrewin.com/blog/entry/the-brewin-guide-to-writing-better-gamebooks

Ashton Saylor 

http://www.ashtonsaylor.com/2012/08/game-design-principles.html

Sam Kabo Ashwell

https://heterogenoustasks.wordpress.com/2014/09/22/a-bestiary-of-player-agency/

https://heterogenoustasks.wordpress.com/2015/01/26/standard-patterns-in-choice-based-games/

Jake Care 

http://jakecaregamebooks.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/classifying-and-rating-linearity.html

Paul Gresty

http://fabledlands.blogspot.co.uk/2016/07/gamebook-design-finding-workarounds-for.html
Dave Morris

http://fabledlands.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/gamebooks-value-of-doing-it-with.html

http://fabledlands.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/hot-and-cold-about-interactive.html
http://fabledlands.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/how-do-we-make-gamebooks-pleasure-to.html

http://fabledlands.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/do-gamebooks-need-text.html

http://fabledlands.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/do-gamebooks-need-dice.html

http://fabledlands.blogspot.co.uk/2010/05/gamebooks-where-youre-not-hero.html

http://fabledlands.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/does-interactive-fiction-need-randomness.html

http://fabledlands.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/how-many-endings-does-gamebook-need.html

http://fabledlands.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/does-interactivity- have-downside.html

Richard S. Hetley

http://fabledlands.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/guest-post-richard-s-hetley-on-way-of.html

Jon Green

http://jonathangreenauthor.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/how-to- write-adventure- gamebook-part-1.html

http://jonathangreenauthor.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/how-to-write-adventure-gamebook-part-2.html

http://jonathangreenauthor.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/how-to-write-adventure-gamebook-part-3.html

http://jonathangreenauthor.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/how-to-write-adventure-gamebook-part-4.html

Heather Albano from Choice of Games 

https://www.choiceofgames.com/2010/04/sailors-are-not-dragons/

Adam Strong-Morse from Choice of Games

https://www.choiceofgames.com/2010/05/dont-start-at-the-beginning/

Dan Fubilich from Choice of Games

https://www.choiceofgames.com/2011/03/five-tactics-for-designing-games-while-depressed/

https://www.choiceofgames.com/2011/07/by-the-numbers-how-to-write-a-long-interactive-novel-that-doesnt-suck/

https://www.choiceofgames.com/2011/07/7-rules- for-designing- great-stats/

https://www.choiceofgames.com/2011/12/4-common-mistakes-in-interactive-novels/

Emily Short

https://emshort.blog/2016/04/12/beyond-branching-quality-based-and-salience-based-narrative-structures/

Peter Agapov 

Just about anything on his blog. It's all so in depth.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Coils of Hate - cutting the Gordian Knot

Hello all - this is about the free reboot of Coils of Hate that I have created with Mark Smith's permission. It contains all the best bits of the original with more added on. And it's freeeee!

In case you don't know, Coils of Hate was the 3rd Virtual Reality Adventure, written in 1993 by Mark Smith. It was set in the city of Godorno, a fantasy analogue of rennaisance Venice. You are a member of the Judain religion, a group persecuted by the overlord of the city. One day, you are forced to flee Godorno. However, eventually you return (if you don't it's game over) and find that Hate itself has become a physical form and is bent on destroying the city.

As Dave Morris writes, the book had a really strong atmosphere, but it also needed the flowcharts sorted out. They were a tangled knot which lacked logic at times. Of course, someone could have tried to unravel the knot to make it easier or, like the Gordian Knot, someone could have just cut it. That was my approach. Instead of making sense of what was given, I went through the books, took all the stuff I thought I should keep, added my own threads to link these pieces together and retied it to make the creation I have to offer you (for free!).

Ironically, I had to remove the bit where you get the codeword Gordian, however. As Per Jorner points out in his review, it is quite unrealistic to be carrying around a huge chain used to link together a bunch of prisoners.

I will be writing more about Coils of Hate and how I wrote the reboot in the future. For now, enjoy the new version (for FREEEEE!).

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Mechanics of GAMEbooks (input - test of performance - feedback)

Before we start talking about Gamebook Mechanics, we should first recognize the very basic elements of any game. In theory, a video game (or any other game) consists of two major events: input and feedback. In simple words, the player takes any action such as tilt the joystick, hit a button or move the pawn in a board game, etc and we have an input. For every input, there should be positive or negative feedback such as moving the character on the screen, hearing a sound or something else that provides the player with a clue if he or she is doing well or not.

Here is the basic structure of any game: INPUT - PERFORMANCE TEST (test of the input) - FEEDBACK

In my previous blogpost, I already mentioned that one of the most disturbing articles I've seen so far is the one named narrative is not a game mechanic by Raph Koster and based on his theory many people consider that games and story don't mix coming to the wrong conclusion that it is impossible to write a book which is also a good game.

Just take another look at the basic game elements! Narrative is a form of feedback, isn't it? I think that, not only narrative IS a game mechanic, it actually is the best form of feedback. Raph Koster argues that "games can and do exist without narrative". He is absolutely right, they do, but... Remember the old arcade games where the gameplay was always the same except the opponents speed increased in every consecutive level? Sure, that did make the game more challenging, but how much closer to the final goal did it make you feel and how much feeling of accomplishment did that design approach provide to the players? "Kill as many enemies as possible and move on to the next level" was the motto of all games back then and there was no ultimate goal for us to achieve. My personal opinion is that having some storyline and narrative such as "You just left the Old Village on your way to the Ancient Forest. You can see the mountains standing proud out there beyond the tall trees and you are now a step closer to finding and killing the Dark Wizard, who has been terrorizing your people for centuries... You won the battle against the Dark Wizard and you are successful in your mission to free your people from evil! Everybody in the Old Village will live happily ever after"? Sure, a good narrative limits the replayability of the game as nobody wants to read the same paragraphs multiple times, but how many times do you want to replay the same scenario in the countless levels of a jump and run or a shooting game that doesn't have any narrative? We, the human beings, like diversity and we love having a final goal to reach, and the answer to those challenges in the art of making games lies in providing the player with an interesting storyline that includes diversified encounters and a clearly defined ultimate goal. Those vitally important needs were hardwired in our brains by mother nature through the evolution process of our species (you can read more about my views on that subject in my earlier post about psychology of games).

If I have to summarize, I'd say that for the purpose of reaching the final goal of the adventure, the actual form of the feedback in games doesn't matter all that much as long as the player is given a clear idea if his performance is satisfactory or not. The feedback could be in the form of a sound, movement of an object on the screen or simple description in the form of text narrative. That being said, the real difference in mechanics between gamebooks and all other games is found mainly in the input methods, so next I'd like to compare for you how overcoming an obstacle in video games drastically differs from overcoming the same obstacle in the genre of gamebook adventures and to do so, I am going to use as an example the all-time-favorite Super Mario game and more specifically, how to test the player's performance when jumping over a deep chasm.




Jumping over a chasm in Video Games

Here is the way artificial intelligence would test the gamer performance by checking his speed and coordination:

1. IF the jump button is hit too soon THEN Super Mario will fall into the chasm;

2. IF the jump button was hit too late (after Super Mario walked off the edge) THEN he is going to fall into the chasm;

3. Ideally, IF the jump button is hit at the correct time (between too soon and too late) THEN Super Mario will make it safely to the other side.

Leaping a chasm in a Gamebook Adventure

Unfortunately, we don't have the luxury of testing coordination and speed of the player in this genre. The only input method available to the author is the logic of the reader. Since it would be dumb to ask the gamer if and when he would like to jump, to make gamebook adventures dependent on the input, at this point, the designer must test the stats of the protagonist. The same stats that would have been built up earlier in the adventure through meaningful choices based on strong logic.

An example of such test looks like: If your strength stat is greater than 10, you successfully make the jump. Otherwise you fall down to your death.

A more complicated example would be: Add the number of your Stamina stat to your Strength skill. If the number is higher than 15, you make it to the other end and the adventure continues. If you fall short, your protagonist dies here.

It is also very common to integrate some randomness: Roll 2 dice and add your strength skill to the result. If the number is equal or greater than 20 then you succeed and your adventure continues. If the number is lower than 20, you fall down in the chasm and die.

Please note that skillchecks, dice rolls, flipping pages and so on, are not game mechanics. All of the above examples would be completely meaningless if the author failed to provide proper ways of increasing the protagonist stats earlier in the adventure. This is where the game part of a gamebook happens. For an example, there could have been an option to purchase a headband of strength earlier in the adventure or there could have been a paragraph where the reader had to choose between eating a good meal or picking up a fight in the tavern and the outcome turns out to be increased strength stat from eating the meal or loss of strength points due to the injuries suffered.


See, the input in Gamebooks happens in the form of choices and decisions. It is up to the author to make sure those choices and decisions are meaningful and that they are based on strong logic rather than random dice rolls and player's blind guessing due to lack of relevant information.

I believe that there are two forms of narrative feedback in gamebook adventures: instant and delayed. In the examples above, leaping over the chasm is a form of delayed feedback (the gamer performance up to this point would be considered satisfactory if the protagonist is successful in the jump). A form of instant feedback is the instructions to increase the character strength by 2 points after making the choice to eat the meal instead of picking a fight at the tavern.

As I already pointed out in my previous post, I am not claiming that Gamebooks represent the best of all game genres nor I am claiming that they are any better than video games. All I am saying is that due to the lack of other game mechanics, Gamebook Adventures provide the most diverse storyline and force the player to make the most meaningful choices, because they provoke critical thinking and force the gamer to assess different situations and then select the most rational action for the best possible outcome. I just wish that more of this kind of game mechanics, providing a lot of learning and personal improvement value to the player, would be implemented in video games. Just imagine how much more interesting and exciting an adventure like Diablo 2 would have been, if it was putting the gamer in situations that require certain meaningful and important choices altering the outcome of the story one way or another.

In the next post I will talk about the most important Gamebook Mechanic: Meaningful Choices.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The great potential of Gamebook Adventures and what is wrong with them

The following article is an excerpt from Peter's Gamebook Theory blog.

Let me make it clear, I am not claiming that Gamebook Adventures is the best genre of them all nor I am saying that it has the greatest potential. I am simply stating that I have found Gamebooks to be teaching the most meaningful lessons of all the games I've played so far. This genre, probably for the lack of other game mechanics, puts the character in many different situations and the player is given a limited amount of possible actions to choose from. Making such a choice must be based on critical thinking, educated guessing and calculating the risk of possible negative or positive consequences for the character on the way to achieving the final goal of the adventure.

Meaningful choices haven't always been part of the Gamebook Adventures. Just take the arcade approach of the first Fighting Fantasy books for example! They are filled with "Which Door", "Cake or Death" and "Shell Game" choices (more on this terminology can be found in the blog about Gamebook Theory by Ashton Saylor) and the only way to get to a good ending in those books was to explore the adventure land, filled with countless instant death chapters and way too many battles (too much of the adventure outcome was left to pure chance), through trial and error until the ultimate path was eventually discovered.
The very first Fighting Fantasy Gamebook: The Warlock of Firetop Mountain
Fighting Fantasy Book 1

Please, don't get me wrong! I have a lot of respect for the pioneers in the genre, the legendary writers Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone. They laid down the basic foundation of something that captured the hearts of millions around the globe and has been keeping the love for adventure alive in many generations now. All I am saying is that gamebooks have come a very long way since the dawn of the genre back in 1982 when "The Warlock of Firetop Mountain" was released in Great Britain. I believe that the ultimate example of how much gamebooks have improved since then, is the great work of Stuart Lloyd presented at the Windhammer Competition for Short Gamebook Fiction that is ultimately leading to his mobile platform game Asuria Awakens developed by the computer and marketing geniuses Neil Rennison and Ben Britten at Tin Man Games, for GamebookAdventures.com (not to be confused with my current project Visual Gamebook Adventures).

So, what is wrong with Gamebooks? While I was doing my research on the genre, I ran across quite a few posts that discussed the problems with Gamebooks and how we could fix them. Some were even saying that they can't be fixed and we should leave them in the past. Especially disturbing is the theory that narrative is not a game mechanic and therefore it's impossible to create a book that is also a game. Not only narrative IS a game mechanic, it actually is the best possible form of feedback! (see my next post)

This is what I have to say about it: There is absolutely nothing wrong with Gamebooks and they don't need fixing. The problem lies in the countless amateurs, who want to write a game, without willing to put enough effort into research and without willing to invest time in learning the techniques of a good adventure. That is exactly what happened in Eastern Europe in the late 90s when the whole genre there was brought to a halt, simply because there was too much junk on the market. The situation is the same with the mobile platform games of all genres right now. There is way too many mobile games available and most of them are just plain horrible, so the consumers often get lost in the huge variety and they become disappointed with the questionable quality. The bottom line is that the market suffers, because people quickly lose interest after a few failed attempts to find something worth their time, but instead they discover nothing else besides pure frustration.

There is another aspect of video games which I dislike very much nowadays. The "free to play" games with in-app purchases are the worst thing that has ever happened to the gamer, because winning the game is now based on the amount of money you spend rather than on the skills and qualities you learn and apply. These games are despicable money generating machines that focus on the economic aspect instead of rewarding the gamer for good performance. Put in other words, they could be "free to play", but they are definitely not "free to win" and I am very glad that this system can't be implemented in the genre of Gamebook Adventures.

To summarize this post, I am going to say that narrative and gameplay mix just fine, given that we have the right author to mix them correctly. Just take a good look at the amazing adventures written by Ashton Saylor and Stuart Lloyd and you'll see exactly what I mean. Both of them have excellent blogs on Gamebook Theory that I would strongly encourage you to read if you are planning on writing a short adventure or even a long gamebook. Their thoughts about how to start writing an adventure, how to approach the design process and what NOT to do to the player (such as instant death and many other bad things) are priceless, but for some reason they don't talk in detail about the mechanics of a good Gamebook Adventure. That is the exact subject of my future posts as I will be trying to build on the foundation Ashton and Stuart have already laid down for us.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

#AtoZChallenge Z is for Zines and news

Hello lovely people! The last April A to Z post is a couple of places to find the latest gamebook news. The first is Fighting Fantazine, a high quality Zine full of great stuff which is FREEEE!

Second is an awesome looking website called Gamebook News which has all the latest err, gamebook news for you. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

#AtoZChallenge Y is for YOU ARE THE HERO 2 and other wonderful things

Jonathon Green is doing great things for the gamebook world. First, he is organising FIGHTING FANTASY FEST 2 on the 2nd September in London which will be AWESOME!

Also, you should look out for the Wicked Wizard of Oz, an awesome gamebook based on Frank L. Baum's the Wizard of Oz. You can pre order it from Amazon and it will be available from the 1st May.

Also, Jonathon is writing YOU ARE THE HERO part 2 which was recently funded on Kickstarter.

The awesome Lone Wolf gamebook series now has an RPG!

Megara entertainment is releasing great new gamebooks including Autumn Snow - a new Lone Wolf spin off. It has also released Templre of the Flame - the 2nd Golden Dragon gamebook - with 100 extra sections written by Mark Lain.

Micabyte continues to kick ass with its awesome apps - you should check them out.

Also, check out the Explore-A-Quest series by Anthony Lampe.