Monday, April 11, 2016

April A to Z - I is for Inkle

Hello gamebookers! Today we have a treat. It is Jon Ingold from Inkle, the company behind making apps of Frankenstein, Down Among the Dead Men, Sorcery! and 80 Days. Let's see what he's been up to...

>For those of us who don't know, please tell us about yourselves.

Inkle is a small studio - once two, now three people - that makes narrative-based games. Our break-out success was an adaptation of Steve Jackson's superb Sorcery! gamebook series, which we expanded and developed into a multi-part, open-world narrative rich experience that mixes strategic combat, puzzles and over a million words of remixable content to provide a totally unique adventure for each player. The last part of Sorcery! is almost done, and should be out later this year.

Our other big game was 80 Days, an interactive go-where-you like globetrotting adventure riffing off the Jules Verne novel, which we created with writer Meg Jayanth.

We've also just released our scripting language, ink, as an open-source tool for other developers. 

> You have recently released your podcast where you talk about everything intereactive fiction from the game Oxenfree to how to name games. How do you decide your topics? Can you tell us what else your podcast has in store?

The inklecast is a lot of fun to do, and we pick topics pretty much on a whim: anything we think might be interested to hear our ideas about. The whole concept of doing a podcast came out of our lunch-time conversations, which would range over whatever was bothering us at the time. We thought, why not record these and put them out into the world? We picked Oxenfree because it was really trying something new - and doing it well - and it's a rare game we'd all played..!

There's a few episodes coming up about Sorcery! - some insights into Part 3, in time for the upcoming Steam launch, and then some preview material about Sorcery! 4. 

But we're open to suggestions from people too!

>You are going to/have made your script for writing adventures, Ink open source. Tell us about Ink. How easy is it to use and what kind of things can you do with it?
We love ink. We've been working with it - and developing it  - for four years now. It started out as a very hacky script that just put quote marks around text strings to they could be used in code; and grew into a full programming language, but one with a significant twist: it puts written text at the centre of everything, and relegates all the machine-instructions to comments and mark-up. The result is a language that lets you just write, that's clean and unfussy to read, quick to edit, and doesn't force you to go hunting down missing semi-colons, quote marks and curly brackets when all you wanted to do was add one more choice. (Well, almost never.)

The most important caveat about ink is that it's not an end-to-end solution: you can't download it and make a Sorcery! game or 80 Days yourself just like that. It does one thing - provides a way to write branching narrative - and nothing else; the rest is up to you to code and build yourself. 

> The Sorcery series has expanded the books and given them way more breadth and depth. They have also hinted at a greater story that might get resolved in Sorcery! 4. Is there anything you can tell us about the last Sorcery! game?
It's massive.

We're playing around with a few of the core concepts that have run through the Sorcery! series so far. We're introducing a few new, important mechanics. We're maintaining the open world design we brought in in Part 3, but using it in a different way. We are, hopefully, tying up the plot to everyone's satisfaction.

It's almost done, but we've got a few graphical features we'd like to add before we ship. And it needs testing - lots of testing.

> You have another game planned after Sorcery! 4. You revealed some things about it in a December 2015 post ( . Is there anything more you can tell us about it now? How is it coming along?

It's hard work! We're taken on quite a few challenges in this project, and we're still wrapping out heads around them. Still, every breakthrough we make along the road is pretty exciting. But we've nothing more concrete to announce yet beyond what little we teased.

Though, of course, the first piece of work has been released: which was the new, revamped ink engine (, that we made open source and availiable to all developers last week!

> Is there anything else you would like to reveal?
No, except to say there is something we *could* reveal but aren't revealing yet...

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