Monday, April 14, 2014

April A to Z -L is for Lovely gamebook Kickstarters

There have been several successful Kickstarters relating to gamebooks this year, including Maelorum, the Trial of the Clone series, and Way of the Tiger.  Since then, it's gone a bit quiet on the crowdfunding front, but there is a new gamebook Kickstarter launching.  It is called Dangerous Worlds, and it promises to be a great series.  I have the author, Marc Wilson, here today.

The Dangerous Worlds Kickstarter has launched.  It has already raised £1665 of the £2000 goal and it will be live for another 16 days.

How would you describe the Dangerous Worlds universe?
Dangerous Worlds was a series title specifically created to encompass multiple universes. With a foundling
project such as this, I felt it was important to give it as wide a scope as possible – whether that leads to traditional Fantasy, Sci-fi, Horror, Historical - or anything else besides! The universe for the first book:  ‘Restless Heart of Evil’, is a dark, gritty, fantasy style setting. Anyone who has ever had a passing interest in the ‘Games Workshop’ fantasy world should feel right at home.

How did you come up with a system for Dangerous Worlds?
I began writing in earnest when my daughter was born. Three weeks off work, and plenty of time sat on the bedroom floor trying to keep myself awake at crazy o’clock, led to something which was quite organic, if not chaotic. In truth, I simply wrote. When the fog cleared, and to my surprise I was still employed despite permanently losing 20% of my brain power through lack of sleep, I had 10,000 words and something that was more than transient scribblings. Originally I had the notion to submit it to Black Library publishers, and tailored it to fit; place names, timeline etc. Soon after, it was apparent that submissions were no longer being accepted and their gamebook line was inert. As a result I shelved any thought of mechanisms and just wrote narrative. This was to lead to complexities, as I came to learn later…

When does the Dangerous Worlds campaign start?
Soon. It will run for three weeks. The fundraising total is quite modest, and more to cover costs than anything else. People don’t get rich from Kickstarts, they just get a shop window to engage with what they…what I, hope will be longstanding customers and allies.

As well as backing it, how else can people contribute to Dangerous Worlds?
The best way anyone could contribute to this project is to tell others about it. I am wholly dependent on people to do this outside of my own circle and meagre PR talent. I would be eternally grateful if anyone is interested, that they repost the URL on social media or within their own gaming circle.
For serious prospective authors, the series presents a real opportunity to publish a work in a framework that will be at least supported past infancy.

What is the most exciting thing about writing a gamebook?
I’ve always fancied myself as a decent writer, but like many others with a full time job and otherwise busy existence, any skills I may have had lay dormant and under used. Seeing my own ideas, laid bare in black and white, definitely gives me a kick. I’ve always been a voracious reader, so I’m reasonably well placed to gauge the standard of my own fare with a large degree of honestly, and honestly I believe it compares well. I’m very proud of some of the passages, and sometimes even surprised I wrote them!

What is the hardest thing about writing a gamebook?
I’ll flip this around first, and say the easiest thing about writing a gamebook is the writing of itThe hardest part for me was layering in mechanics after pretty much writing the whole piece. As I alluded to, my audience or purpose was not very defined at the beginning; would I submit to existing publishers? Would I make it a ‘Fighting Fantasy’ follow on? I didn’t know, and so just wrote, leaving gaps saying ‘insert combat and mechanics’. I undocked the narrative from the application I had been writing it in (to keep track of links and remaining section numbers) too soon, and then had a bit of job bridging sections. The last 5000 words probably took to get down as the first 50,000.

What spoils a gamebook for you?
There is a fork in the passageway, one section leads to the east, one to the west.
If you want to go east, turn to xxx
If you want to go west, turn to xxx
[Marc’s brain] ‘Err…east?’
You choose the eastern passageway. The walls collapse and you die!
[Marc’s brain] ‘Balls.’
This will resonate with most people who have ever read a gamebook, and I would hazard a guess it’s unsatisfactory to all. Likewise reaching the end of a book, and not being able to complete it because you are missing an item you needed to collect at the beginning of the book. For a minority of people this latter example possibly provides a challenge, but again I speculate that people prefer more than one route through a book, and at least some degree of in-game tolerance.

What makes a gamebook stand out to you?
A real sense of danger and urgency. It doesn’t have to slap me in the face from page one, but so long as it’s palpable, and builds up a sense of unease, I’m happy. Saving the world or the Elven princess is ok the first time, but once you’ve done it a few times you begin to wonder how they’re so careless as to be kidnapped by so many evil wizards! People are naturally more attuned to saving their own skins, and the skins of other characters that they have an emotional bond towards. I have intentionally written the first book to include some of the elements above, but with an anti-hero angle, imbuing the protagonist with the natural reluctance one would expect in the face of such dangers. It also has to be believable and cause the reader to exercise caution, and value self-preservation.

What advice would you give to someone who thinks that they want to write their own gamebook?
Get a piece of A3 paper and draw a rough tree of the book, detailing major events. Pace is quite important in storylines. Any study of action films will show they follow a similar graph – most difficult is retaining the pace in the ‘soft middle’. Jot down the main characters and what their motivations are. Think of a main goal and what steps are needed to attain it. Is there a set piece conclusion; a ‘big boss’ or cataclysmic event?  You needn’t stick to this in any way, but just thinking about it should get the brain juices flowing lustily! If it doesn’t - you may need to reconsider your gamebook writing ambitions... If it does, then start writing and don’t stop until your fingers ache and your ears bleed J
Practically speaking, you will find it useful to use one the freely available section logging applications available, lest you become entangled in a morass of orphan links and missing paragraphs. Such applications don’t write for you, but they certainly help with organisation should your book begin to develop into more than just an idea.

How far do you want to see Dangerous Worlds go?
I write for pleasure; I really enjoy it. Naturally, uncomfortable schedules and pressing deadlines diminish the enjoyment somewhat. Selfishly, I want to continue to write for pleasure - and see myself doing so for a long time into the future. For Dangerous Worlds to bloom it needs more than one person nurturing it. I would not want the series to wither and die due to events of singular important to myself. I foresee multiple authors publishing work under the same umbrella, which will allow an aggressive publishing schedule, with new releases at frequent periods, interspersed with my own leisurely submitted works! Of course during its infancy it will require nurturing and underpinning by lots of hard work on my part, but after book three I would certainly expect not to be the sole contributing author. On this point; I never expect to become fabulously wealthy from Dangerous Worlds, and can say that at least for the near future, all profits would go direct to authors. Only by making this ‘open-source’ (I’m sure this is the wrong application of this phrase, but, well, you get the idea) can it develop.

What other future projects do you have that you can talk about?
I certainly have in mind expansions upon the first book. Trilogies sometimes fatigue readers, so I may have to schedule the release of these carefully. In the Kickstart, I mention possibilities for the next book, and indeed some of ‘rewards’ offer a vote on which book is next in sequence. I have a framework down for all of them, and with the mechanics now in place, and lessons learned, I anticipate a relatively speedy turnaround. Like most people, I have a novel in me. I’m utterly convinced it’s an amazing concept – I just need to requisite (but entirely unobtainable) two years of quiet solitude to write it!

What is your wish for gamebooks?
Being of a certain age, late thirties if you have to ask, I have a natural antipathy for the pace of modern life. Properly written books offer so much more than the instant gratification of aps and computer games.  I, and many others I know, lay their gaming hobby foundations in this genre, and I don’t doubt for a second the continued interest in them. They’re just not as noisy and attention grabbing, and the community is more considered. I’m convinced there is a hunger for new material, aimed at a slightly older audience, with darker themes. In the Dangerous Worlds project, I seek to both engage the existing steadfast readers, but also to attract new fans - who may have dismissed the genre, with all of its imprisoned Elven princesses…

Marc Wilson 23rd March 2014.


  1. The link at the end of the article is messed up.

  2. We like this system of getting a piece of A3 paper and draw a rough tree of the book, detailing major events. Certainly some 'manual methods' are still good to manage the hard task of writing a gamebook!
    Dangerous Worlds looks very interesting!

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Horace; please allow me :)

      Cubus - thanks for the kind words. Gotta love a big sheet of A3 paper!

      Stuart - thanks as ever for your fine A-Z

  4. I have changed the link now. Thanks for the spot.