Sunday, September 22, 2019

3 rules I had to be reminded of when writing Asuria

Asuria Awakens, my addition to the Tin Man Games Orlandes series is still out in the App store. It was released on September 11th 2015, making it almost its anniversary.

I thought I would share some lessons I leant whilst writing it.

1)  Don't annoy the player.

There's a reason why this is number 1.  It doesn't matter how clever you're being, or how great you're writing is.  It's all for nothing if it annoys the player.  I had a section in Asuria where you get sucked into a maelstrom and pulled into a giant monster.  Now, throughout the book, I wanted to give an impression of hopelessness and that winning was impossible, so in this section, I offered two choices - row or swim.  however, both choices lead to you being sucked away.  There was no functional difference between them.  The reason I did this was to make the reader think that they had chosen the 'wrong' choice and make them feel like it was hopeless.  However, I then thought that if they went back, chose the other choice and realised that there was not difference, then they would have got annoyed.  So I got rid of that bit.

2)  If you need an item, make sure you have a chance to get it towards the point you need.

I'm referring to point 4 on the terrific article linked above.  I wanted Asuria to be a book where you did not have to complete a set path to win and it would be quite forgiving in terms of instant deaths.  So there is only 1 section where you need an item or die.  And when I wrote it, you had the chance to find 3 different items that would save you.  However, when I went back through it, I realised that these 3 items were all at the beginning of the book and that you could go through 2/3 of it with not chance of success only for you to die at the end.  It is for this reason that I included a new location towards the end with a new item to help (the bat amulet in case you're wondering)

3)  If you give the player an option to leave, don't just let it lead to an insta kill.

This is one thing Dave Morris, author of the Fantastic Heart of Ice, does not like about gamebooks, so when I realised that I had done it in Asuria, I immediately changed it.  I had two bits where you could leave Casporur and head back to Orlandes before you finish (one by land and one by sea) and they might be justifiable too (you might have found the simulacra you were looking for and you were charged with the safety of Orlandes, not Casporur after all).  However, since I didn't want this to happen, it was an instant death paragraph.  However, after the interview, I inserted a combat to both bits where the simulacra you fight warns you that you will be followed wherever you go as a not too subtle message to stick around.  After a warning like that, I feel absolved of guilt about anyone who ignores that warning and heads home anyway.

Honourable mention: Never have a combat where you have an offence of 1.

Combat in Tin Man Games works like this. You roll a number of dice equal to your offence. Your opponent rolls a number of dice equal to their defence. The winner is not the one with the highest total number, but the one whose highest die roll is higher than their opponent's highest die roll. If the attacker wins, they deal damage equal to the number of all the dice added together. Then it's the other combatant's turn. This means that if you have an offence of 1, you are rolling 1 die. Even against a defender with a defence of 1, the chance of hitting is not large and if you do hit, you deal 2-6 damage at most, which means it will take a while to kill your opponent. I did not want lots of busy time, so I made sure that your character always has a dagger with an offence of 2 and it is impossible to lose it. Also, I had unavoidable weapon upgrades so that I knew the player could keep up with their opponents.

You can get Asuria Awakens from the app store.

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