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!
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.
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.
With 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.
The 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.
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.