Thursday, April 26, 2012

April A to Z - X is for Xhoromag and gamebook writing programs.

Writing a gamebook can be a time consuming process.  First you have to plan all of the possible paths, then you have to split the paths up into paragraphs and write them.  Then you have to randomise the paragraphs.  This can get very tedious.  Fortunately several people have come up with gamebook writing programs to make the whole paragraph organisation and randomisation thing easier.  Once of these people is Xhoromag, whose program, ADVELH is very useful in randomising the paragraphs and producing them as a RTF document or a hyperlinked web page.  There are many other gamebook creation systems on this page (scroll down) for you to try, but I've been using ADVELH for a while and not felt the need to change.  To get ADVELH for free, go here.

On to the interview...

What was the first gamebook you read?
The Caverns of Kalte.

What is your favourite gamebook?
Not a specific favorite gamebook, but a favorite series : Lone Wolf.

When did you decide to write ADVELH?
Roughly around 1995.

Did the idea come from trying to write a gamebook yourself?
Not quite. I was writing amateur gamebooks before that. The idea came from a defective version of MS Word which tended to save files as 0-byte documents (thus losing all my work on a semi-regular basis). That's when I thought I could construct my own little gamebook-writer.

What did you want to include in ADVELH to make a gamebook writer's life easier?
The tools I myself was using manually, namely the graphs (trees) and the reserved-vs-typed paragraph grid. Then, taking advantage of the power of computers, Advelh's ultimate functionality, the MasterMix (randomly scrambling the section numbers while keeping the adventure's structure intact). Everything else came later, even stuff like Bold and Italics... lol.

Have you written any gamebooks of your own?  Are they available?
Yeah. Everything signed "The Oiseau" on is mine. That's about 100 of them. But they're all in French. Six of them were published by Les Éditions AdA in a series called Le Secret de l'Univers (The Secret of the Universe – also in French). There should have been nine but they didn't sell.

What other projects have you completed?
I converted some of my amateur gamebooks to novels and had them published. Still in French ("Les Enfants d'un Autre Ciel" – Children of Another Sky). Co-created a board game too (again in French).

What gamebooks/interactive fiction would you recommend to a gamebook newcomer?
If they're kids, probably something simple like the various Pick-a-Paths on the market. For a grown-up, stuff like Lone Wolf, Way of the Tiger, Sorcery and other gamebooks with a good story to go along with the game. I don't get the feeling that most Fighting Fantasy books would be a hit with adult newcomers.

Explain what a gamebook is to a newcomer in 100 characters or less.
Gamebook, n. : An interactive story where you choose the hero's actions and manage his various resources.

Why are gamebooks so great compared to games or books?
Their game aspect is what makes them fun. Some are like puzzles to solve, and thus don't resemble traditional novels. Having control of the hero's destiny tends to involve a casual reader in the story. The paragraph divisions also allow you to digest bite-sized descriptions and actions. A gamebook rarely feels like you're trudging through endless pages of text waiting for something to happen.

What do you think the future of gamebooks is?
Probably the iStuff, although I'm nostalgic and will always prefer actual books.

Do you have a blog/Twitter feed/webiste?
My website is Xhoromag. Surely you knew ? ^_^ I have nothing else.

Many thanks ofr your answers and for saving me hours of time.
Hours ? ^_^

To get ADVELH for free, go here. 

To find a comprehensive list of gamebook creation programs, go here.

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