Wednesday, April 16, 2014

April A to Z - N is for New gamebooks from Megara

 Hello all!  Today, we are graced by the presence of Richard S. Hetley and Mikael Louys from Megara Entertainment, the company that produced Arcana Agency: The Thief of Memories and has just had massive funding for Way of the Tiger to the extent that David Walters has written a prequel, and he will also be writing book 7 with the original authors.  Megara's books are very lavishly produced, which, along with excellent writing, has made them some of the most awesome gamebooks ever.  Anyway - on with the interview!
Tell us about the company name - it is the wife of Heracles.  Why did you call it that?
Mikaël Louys here.  I called it Megara because 10 years ago I decided to become an expert in Japanese anime series, to watch at least one movie or two episodes per day and to hunt for the less-known animes, watching many in Japanese with English or French subtitles.  I wanted to start with a series that impressed me in my youth so I started with Captain Future based on the works of Edmond Hamilton, who became later on one of my favourite SF writers (I have read most of his books).  Captain Future helps free a tribe of frogmen enslaved by the Space Emperor on the planet Megara in one of the episodes, and also Megara is mentioned in the series soundtrack.
I loved your Arcana Agency book.  Are there plans for any more after the Deathless Wanderer?

Paul Gresty is busy because he is a professional English teacher and translator, and he also likes to work on another of his creations (the very good Orpheus Ruse which you should download and play on iOS!!).  So it usually takes him 1 year to produce something like an Arcana book, and it takes time for us as well to design the art.  We have no idea if we will do another.  I would like at some point a revamp of the original iOS prequel (which was translated to English but not written in English at the time) but I also would like to see Paul's ideas for another sequel after the Deathless Wanderer.

Were you pleased with your Way of the Tiger Kickstarter?
I was pleased, the only thing that didn't please me is that I would have needed twice the amount we got to provide the exact Arcana treatment (luxury paper for the inside pages) to all the 8 WotT books. I hope to find a way to do a special treatment to book 7, though, to try to find a compromise.  And starting from book 2 and on I poured more of my own money to improve the quality of the WotT gamebook covers.  You can see the difference now since book 2 is now available on our webstore.
Will you try Kickstarter again?

Richard with the US branch of Megara will probably run a Kickstarter, this time US-based, but I won't myself since I am very tired and I prefer to spend the next years designing and selling gamebooks on our webstore instead of making plans, running campaigns, and designing side goodies.  My objective is now to have one new gamebook available each end-of-month on our webstore (the one for late march is Assassin!).

You are currently doing new editions of Fabled Lands.  Would you like a Fabled Lands 7 (or more)?
Richard S. Hetley here.  Mikaël is expecting his Fabled Lands 1 full colour collector's proof copy next week.  Going on to Fabled Lands 7, though, would be a different sort of challenge: completed books like Blood Sword and the first six in Fabled Lands are relatively easy to adapt to modern day, while new books like the prequel and sequel for The Way of the Tiger are MUCH more involved.  As stated, it would take Paul a year to make a new Arcana Agency book; The Way of the Tiger is presenting quite a challenge to wrangle two books in less time!  So Fabled Lands 7 won't happen until and unless enough people can commit to it.

You are also doing new editions of Blood Sword.  How are they coming along?
You need to ask this of Dave Morris.  Megara is only doing the full-colour pictures, cover, and collector's layout.  For the rest any change or update to the Blood Sword material is handled by Dave himself!  He's on it.

What advice would you off to someone who thinks that they want to write their own gamebook?
Wow, you want advice?  That's not an answer: that's an essay!  Like in that series of guest posts from David Walters (  But I'd say it's essential you understand how to quantize events and challenges, to decide things like "we need this many challenges here, spaced this far apart."  A gamebook isn't just a book.  Book-style pacing doesn't work when the reader is expecting to DO something: the player's decisions form anchor points in the narrative and form a rhythm for the whole experience.  Paradoxically, a long and "engaging" story is less engaging than a series of interruptions--so long as the writer gives meaningful decisions at each interruption.
(Note I assume you already can do an even more fundamental thing: "writing."  This is an easy assumption because you can still punch a keyboard even if you have no idea what you're writing.)

What spoils a gamebook for you?

It's rare that a gamebook has spoiled itself for me.  Game designers all share the impetus to explore their game mechanics to the limit, and those that fall short leave the audience hanging.  A game promises a type of experience, perhaps a choice of X useful skills out of Y possible, or perhaps a "thinking outside the box" theme with unusual decision mechanics.  But suppose there is exactly one set of X that does any good, and the remaining (Y - X) options do nothing.  Suppose that the author "thought outside the box" in section 1, but then had nothing new to say in sections 2 through 400.  Then there was a promise of a meaningful experience but it simply didn't happen.
(Note again that I overlook the fundamental thing called "writing."  I'm sure that a book that was written terribly could also disappoint me, but you can still make a good game out of broken narrative.)

What makes a gamebook stand out for you?

Probably the standouts are those that make real consequences for player actions.  There is only so much space in a few pages to do so.  Take the example of in-game "money."  With limited space, the alternatives can be painfully discrete: did you earn 15 gold pieces or didn't you?  If those are the only options, then it is meaningless that "the bridge toll is an unreasonable 5 gold pieces," because the consequences here are binary (and the word "unreasonable" might as well not have been written).  However, if the game grants multiple ways to earn money and multiple things to do with it, then the player's actions have meaning.  The player can plan.  The player feels like the world is real and full of consequence.

What future projects do you have that you can talk about?

Mikaël and Megara Europe may get to unveil a secret project outside of Orb that has been in negotiation for 3 years now!  It would be the translation of a foreign RPG to English, but we can't tell you yet which one!  It was popular in the 80's . . .  And Richard in the USA is working very hard on editing The Way of the Tiger, but is generally open to running another Kickstarter once it's all done, as mentioned above.  Kickstarter for what?  Well, still working on that.

What is your wish for gamebooks?

Mikaël wishes that many new gamebooks were written this year or converted to new formats!!  Richard knows better than to expend valuable wishes, particularly when unaware of the genie's disposition.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting (and illustrating!) our interview. Looking back over this half of the month, I see you're bringing in some fascinating people. Great stuff to read.