Post by mister frau blucher on May 26, 2015 9:21:46 GMT -5
A nice little article. I appreciate your mentioning us. And my curiosity is raised by the Fabled Lands books. A few people have mentioned them before - it is high time I checked them out! Not many seem to be available from Amazon...
I just realized I own a couple of Fabled Lands books. They have the title, Quest. Book 1 is "Quest: The War-Torn Kingdoms," and Book 2 "Quest: Cities of Gold and Glory."
I did a little digging, and found out they were released in the USA with the title Quest, and in the rest of the world as Fabled Lands. For some reason, I find this fascinating. Another thing I found fascinating was they came with two dice in a box crazy-glued to the front cover. Strange no one had come along and stole the dice before I bought them.
Anyway, refreshing my memory by thumbing through them now... yes, large gamebooks. Book 1 has 679 entries; book 2 has 786 entries. I remember really enjoying book 1, but the concept began to lose its appeal for me late in book 1. Book 2 didn't grab me at all. They're very sandboxy; lots of wandering around, lots of visiting the same location over and over. It became a bit tedious for me. You can travel from book 1 to book 2 within the game, and on and on, but only books 1 and 2 were published in the USA.
It's a fantastic concept, I think, if you really enjoy this "free roaming" aspect, a definite throwback to late 70s/early 80s gaming. Variety is good, but in the end, I prefer the longer adventures tightly focused on a specific mission.
I'm sorry. It's been a while since I've written on that website. One day I discovered that they had removed the English part of the web... Deleting all the articles that were there! And rendering the link to the English section completely useless! I consider this to be an exceptionally shoddy way of updating a website, but, considering that I am no longer there, I have no vote on the matter. In case anyone was curious to read the article, I have translated it again here from the Spanish version. Keep in mind that it has been a very fast translation, so I hope you will be a bit lenient with the errors
In the game book blog "Jake Care's gamebook" I read a very interesting article from 2012 about the different types of game books according to their linearity. Basically, it divides games into four categories:
Linear: Those games that present a single linear path, allowing few choices to the reader, and even these choices have little importance to the plot. Convergent: The different paths chosen by the reader allow them to see different places and aspects of the story, but all the paths converge in the same point at the end of the plot. This is the case for most of the game books. Divergent: Each of the plot lines are independent of each other, and rarely converge at the same point. It is the case of "Choose your own adventure" Free movement: Where the reader can wander freely through the world of the game, and return to previously visited places. Of these four typologies, the first three have a common characteristic that is not shared by the fourth: A section of the game book is not reached twice. Except for a few occasions, the first time we read a section is also the last one; the game book is designed to make us advance inexorably in the plot until the end.
However, in free-moving adventures, the player character can move around wherever he wants -as long as he has access to it- and perform any action. It is a type of design that gives greater freedom to the reader, but necessarily "makes the writer lose control of the plot". It forces you to think in terms of "game world" instead of story. And perhaps, because of the greater difficulty it presents to the author, it is much less common than the other three. It is, nevertheless, a type of design that I find very interesting. It allows the reader to "dive into the world of the game" in a deeper way, and appeals more to the fascination of discovering secrets and new places and enjoying the exploration itself, instead of focusing on a final task as a narrative thread.
There are a few examples of this type of structure, and I would like to briefly review them:
1.- Self-playing modules of "Tunnels & Trolls": By their very nature as modules of a role-playing game, self-playing modules of "Tunnels & Trolls" needed to have this kind of structure; they are thought to be played solo and with a group of players, and they must allow a greater freedom of action.
The only one I have been able to see of this type is "Buffalo Castle", the first of all of those designed for this role-playing game. It is a simple dungeon, very simple in the narrative aspect and not much of a story - basically it is a set of interconnected rooms, each with a different encounter and little relationship between them. The narrative excuse is the most cliché possible; penetrate the dungeon, get as many treasures as possible and come out alive. Despite this, it is important because it is one of the first games - if not the first - to allow the player real freedom of movement.
2.- Fighting Fantasy #8: Scorpion Swamp: This Fighting Fantasy title is peculiar for several reasons. It was one of the first to experiment with the structure of the typical game book of the series, trying to increase the replayability. It allowed the reader to choose between three different missions, in the form of three magicians to whom the adventurer protagonist could offer his help.
As for the adventure, it was again -as in Buffalo Castle- a journey through a dungeon, where the rooms are "clearings" in the swamp. In addition, the book encouraged us to build a map of our journey, very similar to the maps made by players in text-based computer adventures of the time.
When I played this adventure as a child, I was amazed at the feeling of freedom, and the sense of going through a "virtual world", that changed as I went through it. Now, when I read it again, I find it an interesting and innovative design in many aspects, but a minor adventure in the Fighting Fantasy series, far from the quality level of other later titles.
3.- The Fantasy Trip and Legends of the Ancient World The Fantasy Trip was an old role-playing game, derived from two previous board games, Melee and Wizard, by the company Metagaming. It was developed by Steve Jackson - the creator of the role-playing game Gurps, not the author of the same name in the Fighting Fantasy series. This role-playing game was characterized by resolving its battles using a board and tiles, due to its origins as a board game. The game disappeared in 1983, although it has continued having some followers until today.
If we mention it, it is because some modules came out for this role-playing game, designed to be played both with a group of players and alone, similar to those already mentioned from "Tunnels & Trolls". Probably, the best of them was "Grail Quest", the third of the series, where we played as knights of the Arthurian myth, in search of the Holy Grail.
Many years later, a company called "Dark City Games", decided to release new modules for the now defunct "The Fantasy Trip", and for a proprietary system - compatible with "The Fantasy Trip" - called "Legends of the Ancient World". These modules also have the same freedom of action; the reader can go through the game world in any direction and solve problems in any order.
I am surprised that I have not seen more reviews of these titles. Board game critic Marco Arnaudo has made some videos about them, but apart from him, I have hardly found any references to Dark City Games titles. And I think it's a pity, because many of them are very enjoyable stories, much better even than the ones from "The Fantasy Trip" that they were trying to resemble. I will probably come back to do some more in-depth articles about them, but for those who are curious, I encourage you to buy "Ebon Rebirth", the last one of its collection, and the one with the most open structure of all the ones I have played.
4.- "Sandboxer Books": I found this almost unknown collection of game books when I was looking at random titles on Amazon. At the moment I have only read the first one of the series, "Red Dog", although there is a second one that I have to start in my shelf, called "Stronghold" and set in the same world.
The case of "Red Dog" is curious. The design is what we are talking about here, an open world where the player can go in any direction and return to the places they have already visited. However, the sequence of actions the player must perform in order to complete their mission is very linear. As an example, we can go to the airport at any time, but we cannot get on the plane until we have the credit card that is given to us when we accept a mission. Or, we will not be able to enter a building until we have a certain chip implanted that allows us to go unnoticed. And all the tasks to be carried out follow the same linear scheme; to get to "C" we must necessarily go through "A" and "B". This means that, despite having a structure that would allow a non-linear development, the story we end up experiencing is the same in all cases.
This shows that the structure in "free-roaming" does not guarantee by itself a non-linear development. The author of this book had a story in mind, and wanted us to experience that story and not another one, eliminating one of the main advantages of this type of design.
"Red Dog" has many additional problems - the locations remain unchanged every time we visit them, giving the world a static aspect, there are countless uncorrected grammatical errors... - but despite this it is a work that can interest those who wish to see new ways of structuring games.
5.- Fabled Lands: This is probably the best known work of this type of game, and for good reasons; what Dave Morris and Jamie Thompson did here is pretty impressive. The book series allows you to perform any kind of action, travel through a fantastic world, solve missions, acquire ships with which to navigate the inner sea, increase the capabilities of our character, transform the world where we are ... and continue playing indefinitely, with our same character, without reaching an "end". In a way, these games simulate a "virtual" life, in the same way as certain multiplayer computer role-playing games - but in my opinion in a much more interesting way. The fact that they have been able to do this by means of a paper game, shows an incredible capacity to handle narrative interactions.
If you haven't had a chance to read them yet, you owe it to yourself. And yes, they are that good.
Conclusion: This article is not intended to be an exhaustive review of all the free-roaming games, but rather a light look at a type of design that I find very interesting and that I still think can be explored further. Recent mobile games inspired by game books, such as "80 days" and Inkle's "Sorcery!" saga, go in this direction, and I think the game book - both in its physical and electronic aspects - should experiment more in this direction, and try with much more open designs, which allow readers to explore new worlds and live other lives.