Saturday, April 8, 2017

#AtoZChallenge G is for Paul Gresty

Hello lovely gamebookers. Today, we have a real treat and that is Paul Gresty, author of many wonderful gamebooks. Take a look to see what he's been up to.

So, who the devil are you, anyway?

My name is Paul Gresty. Author of gamebooks and interactive fiction apps. Visionary. Dreamweaver.

Have I read any of your stuff?

My most widely-read work to date is probably the app I wrote for Choice of Games, MetaHuman Inc. I'm also about done writing the seventh book in the Fabled Lands series, created by Dave Morris and Jamie Thomson in the 90s. This new book is called The Serpent King's Domain.

How was 2016?

Dreadful. Brexit happened, and then an orange man-child got voted into the White House. Dark days lie ahead.

No, I mean how was 2016 for you, personally?

Oh. It was busy. I spent it writing The Serpent King's Domain, and an app for Cubus Games, The Frankenstein Wars. In total, I'd guess I wrote about 300,000 words of text and game code, last year.

Not bad.

Thanks. I plan to do a lot more this year.

How's The Serpent King's Domain going?

We're on the home stretch. As I write this, at the end of March 2017, I'm working with the book's editor, Richard S. Hetley, balancing the difficulty of fights, checking how hard it is for new characters to make money, things like that. Richard has been telling me that the book's a bit light on encounters around the Nozama River, and the Lake of Firewater, so I've just been adding some sections to rectify that. We're up to 1196 game paragraphs, as of this morning.

The book's artwork is coming along as well. Russ Nicholson has finished all the internal full-page pics, and is moving on to the smaller filler pieces. And we're starting to see some cover roughs from Kev Jenkins. Everything I've seen so far looks fantastic.

This book was funded by a Kickstarter. Will you be launching a Kickstarter for the next Fabled Lands book, The Lone and Level Sands, anytime soon?

I'd like to, and I think Dave and Jamie would as well. But the next time round, we have to be able to produce the book much more quickly. Ideally, I'd like to have the book mostly or completely written before we even launch the Kickstarter. So really, it depends on when I can clear some time to really focus on it, and get it done. More news to come.

And what about The Frankenstein Wars?

That's just about finished as well. The game is written, a handful of paragraphs excepted. Those diligent guys at Cubus are working hard checking the game's code, and adding some more technical elements. But we're about done with that. We have a launch date for late May.

I feel a little bad for the Cubus guys, actually – one of the game's chapters covers a duel of sorts, where the player is hunting an opponent inside a church. And so I tried to make the opponent in that chapter intelligent – he moves around, searching for the player; he'll adapt to the player's strategies, and he'll get better at finding the player, should the player decide to ambush him. That's something that hasn't really been tried in a gamebook-style app before. And that's all fine, but the code I've written for that is a nightmare to test. In a classic gamebook, a really tough opponent might require a couple of paragraphs of text; here, I've had to write thousands and thousands of lines of code.

I think it'll make for a fun experience. I just feel sorry for the guys in Cubus, who have to test every possibility.

What's next for you?

I don't know. Lunch?

I meant professionally. What are you planning for 2017?

Ah, okay. I've just started writing another game for Choice of Games. It takes place in the same universe as The ORPHEUS Ruse and MetaHuman Inc., looking more closely at the in-world elements of the living dead that MetaHuman touched upon. It'll also examine fun things like a government's responsibility to its people, and the consequences of allowing immoral people to run ostensibly law-abiding organisations. Really, it'll be a giggle.

The original working title of that was The Wraith Cycle: The Darkling Watchers. But that contains too many characters for the Google Play store, so we've had to jettison that. The game remains untitled, for now. 

In 2017 I'm also planning to learn a lot about hand to hand combat, and farming. I have a feeling these will be valuable skills in the years to come.

Is it okay if I fire a few quick gamebook-y questions at you, just to finish things off?

I think that's a great idea. Hit me. With your rhythm sticks.

What was the first gamebook you ever read?

A Choose Your Own Adventure book, The Flying Carpet, by Jim Razzi.

What was the last gamebook you read?

They were apps, which I'm counting. The last was Life of a Mobster, by Mike Walter, and published by Hosted Games. Man, that guy writes some great games. And I'm currently partway through The Forgotten Spell, by Louisa Dent Pearce, and published by Tin Man Games.

What's your favourite gamebook series?

Impossible to say for sure, but the Blood Sword series, principally by Dave Morris, might just be at the top of the list.

I also really love the Falcon books, by Mark Smith and Jamie Thomson. I always slightly preferred them to The Way of the Tiger, also written by those guys. The setting is fantastic, and the time-travel mechanics actually make sense, from a storytelling perspective. Not one person uses the phrase 'timey-wimey' at any point in the series.

Do you have a favourite Fighting Fantasy book?

Probably Vault of the Vampire, by Keith Martin. And maybe Howl of the Werewolf, by Jon Green. Both those books have fun villains, and a spot-on gothic horror-fantasy vibe.

Also, pretty much anything by Steve Jackson. It's a crying shame he hasn't written any new gamebooks for a while.

Are you planning to go to the Fighting Fantasy Fest 2 later this year?

I hope to. I had fun at the last one. I got to sit at Russ Nicholson's table while he was speaking on panels, and look after his pictures. I tried to tell people that I was in fact Russ Nicholson, but nobody believed me.

What about a favourite Lone Wolf book?

Flight from the Dark is definitive, particularly the revised and expanded version. Also all the Grey Star books, by Ian Page. Yay for wizards!

Are there any less well-known gamebooks you like?

Many. I'll pick out the Lost Jedi gamebooks, by Paul Cockburn. There are only two of them, Jedi Dawn and The Bounty Hunter. But they're really well-written, and they take an original approach to game mechanics. Plus, y'know... Star Wars!

Do you have a least favourite gamebook?

There are some I don't really bother with, yes. The only one I ever really hated was Shadows of Doom, by Stephen Thraves. I had the impression the author didn't really know what a gamebook was. It's the only one I've ever thrown away.

Thanks, Paul. It's been a pleasure talking to you.

No, thank you, you magnificent bastard.


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