September is upon us! Originally the seventh month in the Roman calendar and derived from the word Septem, the latin word for seven, September is always one of those months which heralds a feeling of change. Change has certainly been on the cards for us here at Tin Man Games as we’ve started taking quite bold steps into new territories. With Appointment with F.E.A.R. we’ve left the comfort zone of our gamebooky interface and also jumped into Steam for the first time, we’ve released our first ever $10 four-gamebook collection in the form of The Complete Sagas of Fire*Wolf, and we’ve jumped into iOS 8 with both feet by releasing our gamebook apps into value bundles.
Nothing to fear but F.E.A.R. itself
And so with excitement and trepidation, we released Appointment with F.E.A.R. last month, and what a ride it turned out to be! Our first release using our new gamebook engine that Tin Man Ben (Britten) has been beavering away on for so many months and a major technical stepping-stone for future releases. A few commentators suggested it was our reply to Inkle’s recent Sorcery! apps, but in reality it was more about us testing our toes in the water of our new tech, whilst also being able to give a gamebook the treatment it truly deserved. AWF cried out for a more visual treatment that suited the comic book genre and was one of the reasons we sat on it for such a long time, waiting until the time and the tech was right. If people really want to pit us against the guys at Inkle (and to be honest both them and us find it amusing to be the Oasis and Blur* of the digital gamebook world) then The Warlock of Firetop Mountain will give be that ‘thing’. Maybe. Definitely Maybe.
The reception for AWF has been pretty phenomenal and we’ve had some awesome reviews across the board from places like Touch Arcade, Pocket Gamer, 148 Apps, Mature Gamer, Starburst, and many more. We also had a bit more marketing spend for this release than usual and placed adverts and re-skinned a couple of app sites to spread the message that Titan City was under threat. Possibly the most suprising thing for us has been how our new Steam audience has responded to us. For the first couple of weeks of release the Steam community group was packed with players taking screenshots, posting reviews, and very importantly, bugs. We were able to clean those up very quickly and the community were super supportive and very patient. Steam also brought us to the attention of Youtubers and lots of awesome playthroughs of the game have popped up, which have been a lot of fun to watch! Thank you to everyone, journalists, bloggers, youtubers and gamers for your support – it means a lot to our small, hard-working team!
If there has been a negative it is that we let down our iOS fans slightly for which we apologise. While we’ve released our apps in the past concurrently across iOS, Android and desktop, it has been with the old engine, which was tried and tested and above all a lot more stable. Releasing a new engine across so many formats was, in hindsight, not a great idea and sadly because the Apple approval process takes a lot longer than other app portals, it meant many of our iOS fans with certain iPhones and iPads were unable to save Titan City. It was harsh lesson learned for us (especially as we were featured on the App Store in the Best New Releases) and we’re sorry to anyone affected by that.
Is it possible to sell a digital gamebook app for $9.99?
It’s an intriguing question and one we’ll be answering over the coming months. We always wanted our adaptation of Sagas of the Demonspawn to include all four of Herbie Brennan’s gamebooks in one app. We could have sold each one separately as we’re doing with the Spellcaster Trilogy, but unlike that series, these titles are already fully designed and written having being originally published in 1984/85. Obviously that meant more work on our end (mainly for Clinton and Kamina!) developing four gamebooks in one go, which in turn increases dev costs and ultimately price. It will be interesting to see how things go and eagle-eyed TMG followers will already know that we’ve had The Complete Sagas of Fire*Wolf (our new name for the series) available to buy on Google Play for a couple of weeks already. So far, even though we’ve done no promotion, a fair number of copies have been sold. Good news for the barbarian!
The Complete Sagas of Fire*Wolf will be available on the App Store for iOS and Amazon Appstore for Android too in the next week or two. Also our user-interface designer, Elroy, has just posted some of his artwork for the app on his Tumblr – so check it out!
Little and big bundles of joy!
When we first heard that Apple were introducing app bundles to iOS 8, we thought it was the greatest thing for digital gamebooks since the original announcement of the iPad. Like the coming of tablets, bundles are perfect for book app developers, especially those apps with strong gaming elements that are also part of large libraries.We tick all those boxes so we were really keen to get on board with this and contacted Apple immediately to learn more about it. To our joy Apple have chosen to feature some of our bundles in the various international App Stores during this first week. Great exposure for us and will hopefully encourage more people to check out our titles. Here are a few of them:
Gamebook Adventures MEGAbundle – $24.99/£17.49 (Purchased separately: $53.91/£35.91)
Fighting Fantasy Steve Jackson Bundle – $9.99/£6.99 (Purchased separately: $14.97/£9.97)
Fighting Fantasy Ian Livingstone Bundle – $9.99/£6.99 (Purchased separately: $17.97£11.97)
Tin Man Games Heroes Bundle – $12.99/£8.99 (Purchased separately: $24.95/£16.45)
One of the highlights of this month so far has to be the Fighting Fantasy Fest held in London. Meant originally as a launch event for Jonathan Green’s kickstarted You Are The Hero: A History of Fighting Fantasy (in which we feature a fair bit!), it quickly became a bigger beast once Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson got involved. And so Fighting Fantasy Fest was officially born and will likely be a yearly gathering if the success of this event is anything to go by.
Neil headed along and gave a talk about Tin Man Games, showed off some of the lovely new Caverns of the Snow Witch illustrations and gave the assembled audience a sneak preview of some of our new gamebook engine tech that will debut in The Warlock of Firetop Mountain. The crowd were very enthusiastic and the talk seemed to go really well, especially as it was the opening talk of the day. No pressure then.
Also in attendance, as well as Mr. Livingstone, Jackson and Green, were some of the great illustrators from Fighting Fantasy’s past: John Blanche, Russ Nicholson, Leo Hartas, Chris Achilleos, Tony Hough and Malcolm Barter. Many others from FF present and past were also there including Jamie Fry (The current Warlock), Phillipa Dickinson (former editor at Puffin), Geraldine Cooke (original comisioning editor of Warlock), Arion Games (Advanced FF publishers), Inkle Studios (Sorcery! devs), and a host of others.
As well as an exhibition of FF memorabilia there were many talks put on by the special guests and an auction of lots of personal FF items owned by Ian and Steve. Two lucky attendees were also picked out of the hat to appear in a future Tin Man Games app – most likely to be Warlock!
A big pat on the back to Jonathan Green for not only a fantastic event but creating the wonderful tome that is You Are The Hero. He’s a top fella’ that Greeny.
In the news…
We’ve had some great press coverage of Appointment with F.E.A.R. this past month, but we’ve also been featured in a few other places as well. Most notably Neil was quoted on the BBC News website in an article about the ‘cult’ of Fighting Fantasy and Ben (Britten) was interviewed on camera in The Feed on SBS. Our TMG offices are based in The Arcade, a non-for profit game developers hub, and the show was not only about this awesome indie space but also about the Australian game funding and the recent cuts. Check out what Ben has to say!
Neil also appeared in issue 403 of Starburst Magazine in an article called the ‘Wizards of Aus’, as well as appearing on a few podcasts over the last month or so. If you can bear to listen to his yapping click the following links: Why I Love Comics – The Sausage Factory (Spong.com) – OMG Nexus – Just Press Start.
Finally, Ben (Kosmina) and Kamina, the dynamic duo, have recently been hanging out on Arvan Eleron’s Twitch channel accompanying Greg and his viewers on live play-throughs of both House of Hell and Appointment with F.E.A.R. Check out Youtube versions of these recordings here and here!
Next out of the Fighting Fantasy stable is Ian Livingstone’s Caverns of the Snow Witch. The original gamebook was published on October 24th 1984 and we’re hoping to have it ready for both iOS and Android around the same date 2014 – the 30th anniversary! This is has been developed using our standard gamebook engine that was employed for The Forest of Doom and Island of the Lizard King.
This is an extra special release for us as we’ve had all new illustrations commissioned by a team of seven artists, four of which are new to Tin Man Games. As well as TMG favourites Pirkka Harvala, Josh Wright and Simon Lissaman, we have the amazing talents of John Stone, Dan Angelone, Ben Ee and Leonardo Meschini. Ian has worked closely with us and the artists to make sure that the denizens of the Crystal Caves live up to your worst nightmares! If you’re an old-school FF fan then fear not, Crosby and Ward’s original black and white illustrations make an appearance in retro mode.
Announced on our Facebook Page as part of International Talk Like a Pirate Day, Jonathan Green’s classic Fighting Fantasy, Bloodbones is also in development. This is the first FF app outside of Ian or Steve’s original line-up and we’re really proud to be tackling the original 60th FF title in the series that never nearly came to be! Original illustrator of the gamebook, Tony Hough, has been recruited to add a splash of colour to his original drawings and it’s all looking rather splendid so far!
We’ve also got underway on the development of Ryan North’s To Be Or Not To Be. This is using the new gamebook engine, so expect something very different to the original print book. We’re hoping to get this released in a few months time across all our usual platforms and it’s shaping up to be one of our most spectacular apps yet!
And Finally, we’re also beavering away on The Gatekeeper’s Oath, the sequel to The Forgotten Spell, the next Gamebook Adventures title, Lords of Nurroth, isn’t too far away, and we have Gamebook Adventures Collected editions coming to Android. A busy few months then for the TMG team!
* The Oasis and Blur reference relates to the battle of two major Britpop bands in the UK, during the mid-90s. Not sure which company would be which though!