2013
12.24

And so we reach the last day of The Twelve Days of Gamebooks! We hope you’re looking forward to all of our announcements. The team here at Tin Man Towers will be working really hard to release as many great gamebooks as we can throughout 2014. However, we are also committed to advancing the art of gamebooks as well. Ultimately that is why we started this crazy venture!

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And so: quietly in the background, we have been developing some new and exciting gamebook technology that will begin to see the light of day in the coming months.

One of the big choices that we made in the early days of Gamebook Adventures was to try to capture the feel of the original paperback gamebooks of the 80s and 90s. Our mantra was to take out what was bad about paper books, but keep all the things that we loved. This has worked very well for us and we love how our gamebooks play and feel – it’s almost like having an old book in your hand. Over the years we have slowly added more and more features that are only possible on the digital formats. Often we have some really great ideas for new features that would really enhance the experience, but have had to shelve them for the future because they were just too expensive to implement.

Astute readers will remember that earlier this year Tin Man Games secured some funding from Screen Australia. This funding allowed us to expand the team, ultimately allowing us to bring more gamebooks to market quicker and at a higher quality. This fund has also allowed us to make some big leaps in technology that would have been impossible previously. We have been deep in research and development trying new ways of laying out and presenting content to keep as much of the nostalgic feel while still opening up the genre for some exciting new advancements.

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This is some early concept art from Appointment with F.E.A.R. that shows new gamebook engine

This new presentation engine allows us to keep the strong narrative that we love, while allowing us to add heaps more customisations and far more dynamic content. This means that the stories will feel more personal, your choices more impactful, and provide for richer overall experiences and much better replay-ability. It also means we can deliver the text in a way better suited to the genre, as the comic book style approach above shows.

The first book that uses this new tech will be Appointment with F.E.A.R. that hopefully be ready to show off at PAX East in a few months time. We will be shouting it from the rooftops then, so stay tuned!

Alongside this new content engine we are also working on some more visual, non-narrative tools to help us make the gamebooks that much more awesome.

When Neil was out in Melbourne for GCAP this year, one of the things we did as a team was sit down and brainstorm ideas for how we can update the visual side of the gamebooks without losing the core experience. Not just changing it for the sake of change, but trying to move forward and make the experience more engaging. The thing that we kept coming back to was having some excellent mapping tools. We have had maps in the gamebooks for a while now, starting with The Forest of Doom that shows you where you are in the story. We then went on to add the mapping tech to Gary Chalk’s Gun Dogs, and most recently Island of the Lizard King. This has been a hugely popular addition to the games and the players really like how it makes the story that much more engaging. Having a map really helps link the encounters with a sense of place and helps things fit together better.

proofofconceptWith all of this in mind, we have been testing out some ways of adding interactive mapping systems into our gamebook titles. We’re proud to announce that The Warlock of Firetop Mountain will be our first title that will make proper use of this technology. The new ‘mapping engine’ will allow for multiple map scales (see town map below as an example!) and other visual treats. The map won’t just be there to show you where you are, but it will also be one of the core ways that you interact with the game. We can’t give too much away just yet because it is still early days, but we are planning for the maps to be more than just flat images on the screen. They will be explorable and interactive. We really want to try and replicate the experience of being in a tabletop game with your close friends and having your maps and miniatures right at hand while the interactive narrative unfolds.

village3The gamebook will still be king however and we’re going to be giving Firetop Mountain a bit of an overhaul by fleshing out Ian and Steve’s original narrative. To help us achieve this we’re really pleased to announce that Fighting Fantasy alumnus, Jonathan Green, will be acting as a writing consultant! Overall, we’re pretty confident that the combination of our new gamebook engine and mapping engine will take a digital Warlock to a new level of immersion!

Oh, and in case you were wondering, all this new tech will be making its way to other FF titles such as Deathtrap Dungeon and Creature of Havoc. If you were also curious as to what had happened to our plans with Grailquest, then we’re pretty sure you have a good idea of why we held off a release too. Of course, other future titles (some of which we’ve announced in the last month), will also benefit from our updates.

In the next few months we will start to release more information about our new engine. We are all really excited about this new stuff, and we hope that you will be too!

So that concludes The Twelve Days of Gamebooks for another year. We hope you’ve enjoyed the ride! Happy holidays (if you’re celebrating) and we look forward to seeing you in 2014. :D

One more thing: Before we get emails from FF fans saying that the landscape around the mountain in the image above doesn’t match Allansia, don’t worry! This was produced purely as a ‘proof of concept’ and the artist wanted to test as many environment types as possible, to perfect the look.

2013
12.22

…Holdfast!

We originally announced our collaboration with Black Chicken Studios back in May, while the kickstarter was still ongoing. We’re delighted to say it was a success and the team raised over $30k! Many of the backers will already have the physical books in their hands and next year it’s our turn to bring this dwarven adventure to iOS and Android. John Daly, senior editor at BCS has more background on the gamebook and the future of the brand:

Holdfast is set below the surface of a world where humanity is young, where wars between gods gouged scars into the earth, and where the dwarves – after centuries of misread prophecies and bloody civil wars – have a great deal to prove.

The main character of the game is a young dwarf whose entire clan died in the defense of an ancient fortress with dark secrets.  Twenty-some years later, the hold at the Crossroads is no safer than it was – but our hero’s life of killing rats for copper coins and getting wrecked in seedy taverns has become fairly unsustainable.  This, then, is the story of how he rises to the occasion, assembles an army, and overcomes the monstrous horde that killed his parents… or, alternatively, how he suffers more and more injuries and finally gets knifed to death by magically distorted elves that want to steal his face.

It really depends on the choices you make.

We had a very successful Kickstarter; six hundred and eleven people took a chance on us and gave us more than 150% of what we’d originally hoped to receive, and that gave us the breathing room to expand the scope of the project (and the world design) into something more than a little bit wonderful.  We’ve written several supplemental books for our Kickstarter supporters so far, and there’s still more we plan to do.

That’s near term.  Beyond that… well, we have two games planned for 2014, but we’ve already outlined a Holdfast sequel– and hopefully we may complete that next year as well.

This has just been a huge amount of fun.  We’re kinda giddy at the idea of doing it again.

motley banditsWe’re hoping to release Holdfast by the middle of 2014. All the black and white illustrations in the book will be full colour (like the never before released image above) and we will be adding interactive maps and many other features that you have come to expect from our gamebook apps!

We would highly recommend heading over to the Kickstarter page to read more about the original campaign – there are also lots of beautiful maps and other goodies! To find out more about Black Chicken Studios and their other titles (notably the magical RPG, Academagia!) then check out their site.

Join us tomorrow to open the very last door of The Twelve Days of Gamebooks 2013! We have some important incoming news that will change our gamebooks forever…

2013
12.21

…Jack Striker and the Palace Under the Sea!

JackStriker_01We started with fantasy gamebooks, have scared you with some horror gamebooks, blasted into space with some sci-fi, and cosied up with some flirty vampires. Now we welcome another genre – Pulp Fiction!

Gamebooks are all about playing a fearless, handy, athletic and clever hero. Well, we will now be adding a touch of charm and dash of humour too – shaken, not stirred, of course. We introduce you to a new hero: Jack Striker!

Jack is a well known gem specialist, but where others see an indecent amount of cash in precious stones, our man sees the beauty of nature and the need for preservation. This old-style hero spends most of his time travelling the globe, recovering valuable rocks and ruining the plans of criminal masterminds.

In The Palace Under the Sea, Jack receives a visit from the daughter of a long-time friend from Germany. She claims that she has been abducted by strange forces but no-one, not even the FBI, will help her. A perfect job for Striker! It is up to you to uncover what really lies behind the abduction of the old professor, which may just take you on pulp-inspired adventure, uncovering an unspeakable project by a secret organisation. JackStriker_02But beware, nobody is really who or what they pretend to be. The threat is ever-present and it just might have a pretty face!

Brought to you by an acclaimed author, Benoit Attinost, and well known artist, Bertrand Bès, Jack Striker and the Palace Under the Sea is our third gamebook collaboration with Studio 09, following Les Fils d’Uruzimé and La Bataille de Ia Drang earlier this year. It will be released in French around the middle of 2014, with an English version later in the year.

We’re hoping that this gamebook will be the start of a new life for Jack Striker in Gamebook Adventures. There may be plenty of other adventures that await him!

Join us for more gamebook goodness tomorrow when we open the eleventh door of The Twelve Days of Gamebooks.

2013
12.20

…old Gamebook Adventures made new again!

We’ve come a long way since our very first digital gamebook was downloadable for iPhones at the end of January 2010. Can you believe the iPad wasn’t even announced then – oh, how the fast the technological world changes! It’s important for us as a company to find new ways to make our older GA titles relevant to people that haven’t read them before or don’t want to join in with the digital book reading revolution…just yet! Here are 4 things we’re going to be doing in 2014 to make our older titles new again:

1) Gamebook Adventures Compendiums

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We’ve decided to start creating collections of some of our older titles. The print publishing industry does it all the time to re-release older material for new audiences, so we thought we’d give it a try! The first release will see our first 3 GA apps, An Assassin in Orlandes, The Siege of the Necromancer and Slaves of Rema grouped together in one app. It will be a little cheaper to buy than if you bought all apps separately but may have a few less bells and whistles, like sharing one main menu, for example. The important bit though is that the stories won’t change and you’ll still be able to collect all the achievements and illustrations.

The tech behind putting three GAs together, and it’s actually more complicated to do than it sounds, will be used to help develop the Golden Dragon collections that we announced on the fourth day of Gamebooks. It will also be used on our upcoming Sagas of Fire*Wolf, announced last year. Should this method of delivery prove successful, then we may start putting more collections together in this way!

2) Gamebook Adventures Paperbacks

GA_printsWe’ve already talked about this on the blog when Neil received a very special surprise on his recent trip to Melbourne! We can reveal that not only do we have The Siege of the Necromancer nearly ready to publish, but we’ll also be self-publishing An Assassin in Orlandes very soon too.

Assuming they prove popular then we’ll likely look at getting the rest of the series underway. Again, laying out a print gamebook from a digital gamebook is a lot more complicated to do than you’d think, so it may take some time.

We’re also going to get both our Strange Loves titles, Vampire Boyfriends and Hex Boyfriends, into print too during 2014!

 3) More translated Gamebook Adventures

Recently An Assassin in Orlandes was translated into Spanish by the wonderful team over at Mundos Epicos under their Dark Game gamebook label (they also recently translated Steve Jackson’s House of Hell and Ian Livingstone’s Blood of the Zombies too). spanish_assassinWith Un Asesino en Orlandes and our French version, L’Assassin d’Orlandes, as a second language option in the app, this obviously this increases the potential readership of the gamebook. We’d like to increase this further in 2014, not only by having more gamebooks in both Spanish and French, but also looking at other European languages such as German or Italian. We’ve even started looking at both Korean and Chinese markets too!

Our gamebook pipeline has been heavily developed with translations in mind, and after a few teething problems in the early days, we can now get translation teams to use our tools and give us the translated assets directly, which vastly speeds up the development process. Fighting Fantasy fans can also expect to see us apply this pipeline more in the future too. Both The Forest of Doom and House of Hell are already available as a French option (with Gallimard as our partner) but we hope to have more translated releases for you further down the pipe!

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Slaves of Rema or Les Esclaves de Rema as it is known in French speaking parts of the world, will be released in early 2014. Studio 09 have done a fantastic job and we’ll be inviting them to write a guest blog post next year about their experiences working on Gamebook Adventures and Fighting Fantasy.

4) Other Gamebook Adventures Media

Calendar Have you checked out our Gamebook Adventures calendar yet? Lots of lovely artwork by Pirkka Harvala, Simon Lissaman, Dan Maxwell and Josh Wright. You should really check it out. PLUG!

Plugs aside, this is a great example of how we’re going to try and extend our brand in 2014 to other forms. There has been a lot of discussion in the office of what to do, but we can reveal that we may be involved with something special for PAX Australia next year, there may also be an official soundtrack album (OST) release and the word “Kickstarter” has been used more than a few times in relation to a few ideas – most notably a potential Art of Gamebook Adventures book.

We’ll keep you posted! :D

Join us for more gamebook reveals when we open the tenth door of The Twelve Days of Gamebooks very soon (within a few hours in fact!)

2013
12.18

…The Way of the Tiger!

When people discuss 80s gamebooks, there are a number of usual suspects that turn up consistently as favourites. The Way of the Tiger series by Mark Smith and Jamie Thomson is part of that group and we’re absolutely delighted to say that we’ll be bringing this 6-book series to digital platforms over 2014 and 2015!

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You are Avenger, a Ninja warrior, worshipper of Kwon, Supreme Master of Unarmed Combat. Trained in the Way of the Tiger, you are now an outstanding master of the martial arts, ready to use your deadly skills to overtun evil and to avenge the death of your foster-father, Naijishi.

If you’re not aware of the series, The Way of the Tiger uses a complex dice and skill-based gamebook system. Your character can choose from a range of abilities to help them progress through the story as well as harnessing the power of Inner Force, a chi-like energy to inflict greater damage on enemies and objects. You also get the ability to throw shuriken, spit poison needles and even garotte your opponents! The big advancement for this series relative to other 80s gamebooks was the combat, which is played out like an interactive narrative version of Street Fighter. When fighting enemies, you get to choose from a range of kicks, punches and throws, with names like Cobra Strike and Leaping Tiger! Using these different moves in combination adapts the fight narrative itself, offering up different styles of fighting.

The ink is barely dry on the contract and we have lots of decisions to make regarding how we will be presenting the series. One thing is for certain is that we’ll be using our new gamebook engine* as we feel what we have planned with that will better suit the WOTT style of gamebook, especially the combats. If you are impatient for some ninja action then please do check out the recent kickstarter to revive the series in paper form. A prequel to Avenger! and a sequel to Inferno! have also been written!

This is a VERY exciting project for us and we really want to knock the ball out of the park (or hurl the shuriken out of the temple – sorry). We’ll reveal more information as we have it over the year, but we can say that we plan to release Avenger! and Assassin! concurrently, with the rest of the series not far behind.

Join us for more gamebook reveals when we open the ninth door of The Twelve Days of Gamebooks very soon!

* Wait. What? New gamebook engine? Yes, a new gamebook engine! Keep your eyes peeled for more info in a matter of days.

2013
12.17

…to bring you a public service announcement from the Gongchong!

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AVAILABLE NOW FROM THE FOLLOWING APP STORES:

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Normal service will resume in the next 24 hours! Door 8 of The Twelve Days of Gamebooks is open! What could it be?

2013
12.14

…some amazing new Gamebook Adventures artwork!

We couldn’t have The Twelve Days of Gamebooks without our very own Gamebook Adventures series. Our beloved Orlandes has returned to life this year with the critically acclaimed release of Curse of the Assassin and soon we’ll be travelling south across the seas to Rema in Sultans of Rema (released in January), a direct sequel to our third GA gamebook, Slaves of Rema.

Back in September we released some information about the next 3 Gamebook Adventures (after Sultans), but we didn’t show any artwork, until now! So feast your eyes on amazing illustrations by Simon Lissaman, Tony Hough and Pirkka Harvala.

Awakening of Asuria written by Stuart Lloyd and illustrated by Tony Hough

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Songs of the Mystics written by Kieran Coghlan and illustrated by Pirkka Harvala

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Lords of Nurroth written by Dylan Birtolo and illustrated by Simon Lissaman

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Lords of Nurroth will be out around April 2014 and both Songs of the Mystics and Awakening of Asuria will make an appearance later in the year. As usual, available on iOS and Android. :)

Join us for more gamebook guesswork tomorrow when we open the eighth door of The Twelve Days of Gamebooks!

2013
12.12

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Zombocalypse Now is an epic, novel-length pick-a-path adventure in which you play as a stuffed bunny trying to survive the zombie apocalypse. In the first scene you’re waiting to meet a blind date, nervous because you haven’t told your date you’re a stuffed rabbit. (Your date, of course, winds up being a zombie, and your first choice is whether to stick around, since it STILL isn’t the worst blind date you’ve ever had). – MATT YOUNGMARK

We first caught up with Matt Youngmark during PAX Prime 2012, held in Seattle, and found out that we had plenty in common in the world of interactive fiction. Like us, Matt did a lot of growing up in the 1980s and was enamored with the original Choose Your Own Adventure series, particularly the fact that even though they were written for little kids, the authors had no qualms about straight-up killing you! As an adult, he set out to write the gamebooks he always wished he could read, keeping the spirit of his original inspiration very much alive.

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On reading both his Chooseomatic books, Zombocalypse Now and Thrusts of Justice, enjoying them immensely (and laughing a lot!), we started discussing the possibility of turning them into apps. We are really pleased to announce that we will be developing these as apps in 2014. So get ready for the hilarious tale of a stuffed bunny and the end of the world! This will be followed later in the year with the superhero antics of an unemployed reporter. We’re also told that Matt is working on a third title too. :)

ZN_image2_blogMatt is also the illustrator of his books too and will be introducing some brand new artwork exclusively for the apps, as well as adding colour to his existing illustrations. We’ll be bringing our usual Tin Man Games twist to proceedings, adding in some music, sound effects and a bit of animation! Zombocalypse Now will be released across all of our usual undead digital platforms in the next couple of months.

If you want to find out more about Matt Youngmark, especially his prolific conference appearances (seriously – the man is an expo-machine!), then head over to his blog now for a great read!

Join us again tomorrow when we open the seventh door of The Twelve Days of Gamebooks!

2013
12.10

Starship Traveller by Steve Jackson!ST_new_01

We know, we’ve already announced this, but this is an important Fighting Fantasy release for us as it’s the first gamebook of the series where we’re completely changing the overall aesthetic of the original! ST_new_02While we’ve dabbled with new cover designs and adding colour to all the old illustrations, this is the first time that ALL the artwork is new in an FF app, and the first time that Starship Traveller has had new artwork since the cover was changed by Wizard Books in 2005.

There were unfortunately a few issues with the original Starship Traveller image rights so we turned a potential hiccup into a positive situation by hiring the skills of talented Australian illustrator, Simon Lissaman. ST_new_03If you’ve been following the blog recently you’ll know that Simon has created artwork for our upcoming Gamebook Adventures 10: Lords of Nurroth release next year, and will also be giving Herbie Brennan’s Sagas of the Demonspawn (renamed Sagas of Fire*Wolf) a new lick of paint. So for door five, we thought you might enjoy a sneak peek at some of the new artwork in development!

The art isn’t the only thing that’s getting an overhaul in Starship Traveller either and we’ve had permission from Steve to change the design of the book somewhat. The major change will be having the ability to customise a few things, such as your starship’s name (no longer just the SS Traveller!) as well as having the ability to design your crew members. These changes may impact the way the adventure plays out. With a brand new user-interface from Dan Maxwell too, Starship Traveller could well become our best looking Fighting Fantasy release yet!

Sucked through the nightmare of the Seltsian Void, an inter-galactic starship emerges at the other side of the black hole into an unknown universe. YOU are the captain of this beautiful starship and her fate along with the fate of your crew depends on YOU! Will you be able to discover the way back to Earth from the alien peoples and planets you encounter, or will the starship be doomed to roam uncharted space forever?

ST_new_04To check out more of Simon’s artwork, visit his portfolio. Also note the images here are work-in-progress and may look slightly different to those in the final app.

Join us again tomorrow when we open the sixth door of The Twelve Days of Gamebooks!

2013
12.09

…Golden Dragon Fantasy Gamebooks!

GD_02_GBAbout 4 years ago, an email from famed gamebook author, Dave Morris, first appeared in our inbox to see if there was any possibilities for collaboration. We were obviously really excited as this was THE Dave Morris, one of the pantheon of gamebook writers from the 1980s that we’ve always held in such high regard. GD_02_USDave has been one of the torch-bearers for gamebooks and interactive fiction, writing a large number of titles over the years and is co-creator (with Jamie Thomson) of arguably the most innovative gamebook series, Fabled Lands – a work so far ahead of it’s time! When Dave first got in touch, it was the early days of Gamebook Adventures and licensing deals were not even on the radar for TMG. We didn’t have anywhere near the amount of tech and tools that we use now and to be honest we didn’t have the experience either. So sadly nothing transpired, but we still kept in contact with Dave and Jamie with the hope that someday we could work on something together. That someday has now come to pass and we’re over the moon to be able to bring Dave Morris’ six-book fantasy gamebook series to iOS and Android.

(The Temple of Flame covers above are from the US and British versions)

Over to Dave…

Who didn’t have a gamebook series in the mid-eighties? That’s how it seemed. Oliver Johnson, Mark Smith and I had been at college together. Mark went to school with Jamie Thomson, who had worked with Joe Dever and Gary Chalk and Steve Williams at Games Workshop – where, of course, the two grand old fellas of Fighting Fantasy first cooked up the whole idea. We all lived quite close to each other, too. Jamie had a flat around the corner from me. Mark and Oliver were a ten-minute walk away. We’d bump into Ian Livingstone in the local pizza place. Paul Mason joined our role-playing group and pretty soon he was writing gamebooks too. Only Herbie Brennan avoided being part of that little London enclave, by the simple dint of living in Ireland.

Golden Dragon got started like this. In the mid-80s, the big London publishers were eyeing the success of Fighting Fantasy and they all wanted a gamebook series of their own. Angela Sheehan, who ran Dragon Books, asked me to come in. I’d hardly finished my coffee before she offered me a two-book contract. A week later another meeting, with cocktails this time, turned it into six books to be written by me and Oliver. That’s how much easier it was to get publishing projects off the ground back then!

Role-playing was and is my real passion, and I always saw gamebooks as a way to smuggle it into high street bookshops. I used one of my Tekumel scenarios as the basis for The Eye of the Dragon, and later series like Blood Sword drew heavily on my Legend campaign and the characters who inhabited it. But the Golden Dragons came first, and most of those were just plotted as I went along. In spite of that (or perhaps because of it) they were and are among my most popular books.

We’ll be releasing all six books next year as part of two compendium apps that contain the following books:

Golden Dragon Compendium 1: Crypt of the Vampire – The Temple of Flame – The Lord of Shadow Keep
Golden Dragon Compendium 2: The Eye of the Dragon – Curse of the Pharaoh – Castle of Lost Souls

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If you have any vague interest in gamebooks or interactive fiction (you’re here, so you must have!) then we highly recommend checking out the Fabled Lands blog. Lots of amazing posts and articles! If you’re a fan of Jamie Thomson’s work too, then you might want to keep a close eye on the our blog in the coming weeks, as we may have some information than may tickle your fancy. :)

Join us again tomorrow when we open the fifth door of The Twelve Days of Gamebooks!