I Interactive Fiction Meeting of “DÉDALO”

http://international.librojuegos.orgAs many of you may know, Librojuegos.org is not only a gamebook blog. It is also the central hub of a spanish gamebook association called Dédalo.

These days, we have been frantically working on the first meeting ever for professionals and lovers of gamebooks in Spain, the first (and hopefully not last) Dédalo Meetup.

It will take place in the Generación X shop in Puebla (Madrid), and yours truly will give one of the speeches. If any of you guys happen to be in Madrid this weekend, and want to have a taste of what’s being done in Spain for all things Interactive Fiction, now’s a good opportunity!

This is a very important moment in our association, and it culminates the work of several years of many people. Now it’s the time to enjoy the fruits of that work, to get to know each other, and above all, to have fun with interactive literature!

The timetable for the meeting is full of interesting subjects, just take a look:

10:00 to 10:10 Presentation: Jacobo Feijóo
10:10 to 10:40 Fernando Lafuente: Librojuegos.org and Dédalo: Genesis of a dream
10:40 to 11:10 Juan Pablo Fernández del Río: Microdédalos
11:10 to 11:40 Santiago Eximeno: “Twine: minimalist and experimental interactive fiction”

11:40 COFFEE 12:00

12:00 to 12:30 Iván Sánchez (Nosolorol Editions) : From the fingers between the pages to the screen
12:30 to 13:00 Pablo Martínez (Lavyr Interactive): Gamebooks as educational and social awareness tools
13:00 to 13:30 Gaia Tempesta and José Lomo: From CYOA to erotic gamebooks (video)

13:30 LUNCH 15:00

15:00 to 15:30 Pedro Belushi (Saco de Huesos): Illustrating gamebooks.
15:30 to 16:00 José Luis Pastor (Editorial Suseya): Noir novel vs noir gamebook
16:00 to 16:30 Víctor Lopez, Pablo Arroyo and José Valverde (Calipso Studios): Interactive reading in Apps: Unexplored ground (video)

16:30 COFFEE 16:50

16:10 to 16:40 Alberto Oliván: Narrative design in graphic adventures
16:40 to 17:10 Ruber Eaglenest (Lavyr Interactive): From gamebooks to digital apps. Designing Interactive Fiction on the 21st century
17:10 to 17:50 Josué Monchán: How to kill the writer, or the videoplay double narrative
17:50 to 18:00 Jacobo Feijóo: Closure

Published: 16/09/2015 | Comments: 0

“The Big Adventure of the Little Gremlin”, by Nikola Raykov

international.librojuegos.orgToday I’m going to talk about a very different kind of gamebook to the ones I am used to. It’s “The Big Adventure of the Little Gremlin“, by Nikola Raykov a gamebook written for children ages 3 to 8. There have been gamebooks written for young children, but this is one of the first I see for children this young.

The story talks about a small gremling who lives in the forest, and suddenly discovers that the winter is going to arrive and… there won’t be that much food to eat! So this little guy starts a big quest in search of, you’ve guessed it, lots and lots of things to eat during the winter. And there he must go, travelling to one of several places in his magic world: the Big Mountain, the Deep River, the Dark Cave, the Enchanted Forest or even the Houses of Humans.

international.librojuegos.orgAnd each path he takes, leading to twenty different endings, is a complete joy to read. Playfully written, full of word plays and humour, the book is not only enjoyable to kids, but even I was able to enjoy reading these stories enormously. And each and every one of these pages is illustrated beautifully by a lot of different artists (Including the author!). Every page of this book speaks of a work of love.

If you have kids, and want to find a different way to play together that allows them to take choices and see their consequences, think no more. If you are a gamebook fan, and want to share with your children what makes interactive literature so special, this is a good chance.

Also, surprisingly for a product this good, you can download it COMPLETELY FOR FREE from its website.

Published: 08/09/2015 | Comments: 2

The Well – from “Hero, The Calling!”

We arrive to the last article in the series from our guest bulgarian contributor Borislav Traykov, where he reviews the last of the three gamebooks that compose the third volume of “Hero: The Calling!”. “The well“, as it is called, seems also a very interesting (and sadly untraslated) offering from the bulgarian community.


The_Well_from_"Hero,_The_Calling!"I would like to feature The Well – the third short gamebook from the 3rd “Hero: The Calling!” collection of short gamebooks. It is also the debut gamebook of Branimir Sabev – he is an active member of the Bulgarian gamebook forum as well as an author of mostly horror fiction – a detail that will play its part in the flavor of his work, The Well.

The back cover teaser messages for each gamebook – in the blog post dedicated to “Hero: The Calling!” #3.

For this post I wish to translate the reviews on The Well from the book’s page on GoodReads.com.

A fragment of Slavy Ganev‘s review from his blog (Bulgarian only):

Style-wise the best effort was put by Branimir Sabev with his short gamebook The Well. The plot is not complicated: a cursed well which leads to a network of tunnels filled to the brim with evil monsters. A fourteen-year old boy must go through all sorts of nastiness in this hellhole in order to save his little sister before she gets eaten.

The pace and the game mechanics remind me of an old-school first-person shooter like Duke Nukem, Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, etc. in which you make your way through narrow spaces and you take turns in endless labyrinths while fragging hordes of monsters. There are even two boss battles.

I really enjoyed it because it reminded me of some PC fun from my childhood. Great fun!

A fragment of Branimir Sabev‘s review from his blog (Bulgarian only):

Sometimes Evil is closer to us than we expect. A thirteen-old boy will have to go through a literal Hell filled with traps and nightmarish creatures in order to save his little sister.

So, here I am! My first gamebook – a short one, compared to the other two in the collection, but I must say it turned out good, very good even thanks to the editors.

You play as a youngster who needs to go down the well at the end of the yard in order to save his little sister who has been kidnapped by Evil. You will find yourselves in a labyrinth filled with all manner of foul creatures and deadly traps which you must overcome using your skills – Strength, Dexterity, Accuracy and Psyche (translator’s note: “Resolve” may be more appropriate) – and the items you find. I strongly hope that you like it!

A fragment of Borislav Traykov’s (that’s me!) review:

The feeling I got when I read The Well was that the author’s attitude was way too enforced on me as a reader, as if I had to be having fun with it like a 12-14 year old kid who is a growing thrash metal fan, for the likes of which Metalica and the urban/sub-urban horror of Stephen King goes hand in hand with shooter games like Quake and Doom. Frankly, I think that the author wanted to share his passion for all those things, but I felt too pushed to share that passion.

As for the literary aspect, I really liked the fact that the plot takes place in Bulgaria – there were a few words, mostly old, borrowed from Turkish, which I had not encountered before! As a reader I was pleasantly surprised and enriched by this fact.

For me the descriptions of the horrific situations were strongly reminiscent of Stephen King’s style – disgusting and 90s-like, rather than blood-chilling terror in the style of Lovecraft. Not that this is a bad thing – I got used to the style and I kind of liked it. Especially the encounters with the brood queen and the end baddie.

Since you are fighting against the clock to save your sister, you have to track your time, but counting 5 minutes on almost every paragraph became a bore, along with the labyrinthine main part of the story. It was a lot like Livingstone’s FF favorite tunnel/corridor traversal.

HOWEVER! At the end of the gamebook I saw that there is a speed run challenge for the reader and I liked that idea immediately – the more ambitious readers will really have a reason to do time tracking and to try to optimize the traversal of the labyrinth so that they can prove they are the best. The presence of an actual prize – a copy of one of the other new Bulgarian gamebooks – was also nice. I hope that some young reader will be able to grab it!

Please let me know what you think in the comments below – I would love to hear your questions and comments!

Disclaimers:

  • The image of cover photo of the book is taken from the publically available feature article on knigi-igri.bg
  • All translations of names – book, story, author, etc. – are purely my own interpretation – I am not in collaboration with the people who published the book.

Published: 07/09/2015 | Comments: 0

Lords of Nurroth by @TinManGames

Lords_of_Nurroth_by_@TinManGames«Lords of Nurroth», by the Australian publisher Tin Man Games, written by Dylan Birtolo and wonderfully illustrated by Simon Lissaman, is the latest offering in their «Gamebook Adventures» series, set in the world of Orlandes. In it, we take the role of a thief stealing an important document for a mysterious member of one of the powerful ruling families in Nurroth.

A lot has been said about the way in which Tin Man Games try to replicate the exact same experience as the old gamebooks of the eighties. And there is a lot of reason to that statement. For instance, in every one of our choices we are told to go to «page 86» (when there is, of course, no need to number the virtual pages). We roll dice to calculate our physical capabilities, and to pass combats and obstacles, and those dice are shown rolling over the pages. In this sense, Tin Man Games’ gamebooks are always reminding us of their source inspiration.

Lords_of_Nurroth_by_@TinManGamesBut it would be unfair to consider these stories «clones» of the Fighting Fantasy books just because of that. There are several important differences. The setting, the world of Orlandes, is a much darker fantasy world than the Titan of Fighting Fantasy. Those were stories of high adventure, and usually – except for some interesting exceptions like «Seas of Blood» – we played the part of the «good guy» defeating an «ultimate evil». In the world of Orlandes, not everything is black or white. Our characters are not as good, the world is a world of corruption, there are no «good kings» or «wise magicians» sending us to missions. Also, I feel that the «Gamebook Adventures» series is much more coherent as a whole. Where gamebooks like «Island of the Lizard King» felt more like a collection of encounters and situations with a «final boss», the stories of Tin Man Games have a much more developed world, and the encounters and locations always make a sense in the overall story.

Lords_of_Nurroth_by_@TinManGames«Lords of Nurroth» is set in a moment of great political turmoil in the city of Nurroth. Our character is a competent thief, who gets paid by the rich to retrieve important objects from the house of their enemies. So it was a matter of time that he would get involved in some very important affairs. The document he is hired to retrieve, and the decisions he takes, can change the political landscape of Nurroth forever.

One of the things I liked most in “Lords of Nurroth” was the several different “good” endings. Usually, in Tin Man gamebooks, there’s just one way to “win” and several horrible deaths. Here, the decisions we take about the document we have to retrieve – if we give it to our first contractor, or send it to the original addressee, or even if we destroy it – will have deep consequences on the story. I detected a slight influence of “Game of Thrones”, with the background story of powerful families making alliances and plotting to take control over the city.

Apart from that, it doesn’t change the formula of Gamebook Adventures that much. It is an enjoyable gamebook, competently written and beautifully illustrated, that will not win new fans to the genre, but will surely satisfy those who want a bit more of Orlandes.

You can find the game HERE.

Published: 05/09/2015 | Comments: 1

The Enslaved Princess – from “Hero: The Calling!”

We continue with the series from our guest bulgarian contributor Borislav Traykov, where he continues reviewing the three gamebooks that compose the third volume of “Hero: The Calling!”, an untranslated (and very interesting, by the looks of it) bulgarian gamebook series.


The_Enslaved_Princess,_from_"Hero,_the_Calling!"I would like to feature The Enslaved Princess – the second short gamebook from the 3rd “Hero: The Calling!” collection of short gamebooks. It is also the 2nd gamebook in the cycle that started with “Blaze over Cordoba” – one of the three gamebooks from the 1st edition of “Hero: The Calling!”

The back cover teaser synopsis for each gamebook can be found in the blog post dedicated to “Hero: The Calling!” #3.

For this post I wish to translate the reviews on The Enslaved Princess from the book’s page on GoodReads.com.

A fragment of Slavy Ganev‘s review from his blog (Bulgarian only):

The Enslaved Princess emphasizes on a much more elaborate plot than the rest of the gamebooks in the collection. In this aspect perhaps, it has no rival among the rest of them.

An Arabian princess is captured by a group of French knights during the Reconquista in Spain. One of those knights turns the heroine into his sex-slave and when he becomes bored with her, throws her away into his castle to be a servant-girl. Deprived of all of the luxury she once lived with, the princess must find a way out of her prison and get back to her homeland.

Each day the reader chooses in which part of the castle to send the heroine – the stables, the jail, the kitchen and so forth. In that way she will uncover various items and information about the castle which can aid her escape. The gameplay system is quite complex and it’s related to a lot of note-taking (for a moment there, I felt like a clerk). At the end of some paragraphs – fragments of the story – code numbers are given for the current part of the castle being visited. These code numbers can be used in certain combinations that lead to other paragraphs where possible escape plans are outlined. It’s a good idea, but I did some mistakes in the calculations and I couldn’t progress further … in the end I gave up on the combinations and continued from whichever paragraph I wanted. After all, it’s all for the sake of fun and it really turned out that way :).

A fragment of Branimir Sabev‘s review from his blog (Bulgarian only)

(Branimir is also the author of the third short story in this collection – The Well)

The story is tightly related to Blaze over Cordoba from the first Hero: The Calling! It was interesting for me to see the continuation of the story – written by only one of the authors of the original – would change for the worst, but I was pleasantly surprised – everything was in place. The story, the literary aspect, the gameplay and mechanics – it was all top notch. I admit that I was skeptical – in the first story/gamebook you had to flee (from the city – Cordoba) whereas this time you have to escape a fortress and you’re also a teen Arabian girl – things like fights are out of the question; I didn’t think it was going to get my attention. Quite on the contrary – it’s surprisingly good, well-put together and competently created gamebook. I am waiting for the next installment.

A fragment of Borislav Traykov’s (that’s me!) review:

I am going to share some spoilers by saying that this gamebook has a very high degree of parallelism. By that I mean that the ways of going about in “the first act” are akin to Robert Blonde’s The Magical Harp. Apart from the standard rewards and penalties on the heroine’s stats while exploring, I also really liked that I got to know the castle and its inhabitants – I genuinely cared about the setting! I forgot to note the very start of the gamebook – the prelude can appear a bit dragged out, but it gives a very good motive for the very first choice of the princess – what is she going to be like as a person after the tragedy and trauma that has happened to her.

“The final act” of the story is also made parallel because of the multiple escape plans you can uncover – I am very happy that each one of them can play out in more than one way. Hell, I did all the code number combinations for those escape plans like a boss and I got rewarded and satisfied by that effort.

Last, but not least I would like to mention the bad endings – although they are relatively hard to come by, they do exist and they emphasize the skill of the author of blending a captivating tale and a challenging game.

As an addendum to my original review, I would like to point out that not only does The Enslaved Princess have a female protagonist, it actually has a competently fleshed-out female protagonist. A girl, to be more precise. In a medieval setting with all of the nastiness that comes with that: fear, prejudice, rape, but also courage, a fighting spirit and a will to pull through.

I also would like to mention the little side quest that the reader can undertake for one of the other girls in the castle – help her get out and have a future. There is no benefit to accomplishing this quest other than the sheer pleasure of reading about how another girl, stuck with a similar fate – scarred not only physically, but mentally as well, can receive a second chance.

Please let me know what you think in the comments below – I would love to hear your questions and comments!

Disclaimers:

  • The image of cover photo of the book is taken from the publically available feature article on knigi-igri.bg
  • All translations of names – book, story, author, etc. – are purely my own interpretation – I am not in collaboration with the people who published the book.

Published: 10/08/2015 | Comments: 2

The 8th Continent, by Patrick Garrett

The_8th_Continent,_by_Patrick_GarrettThe 8th Continent, a gamebook app programmed by Ben Garrett, written by Patrick Garret and illustrated by Kate and Ben Garrett (this is one creative family!) tells the story of Morgan, a teenager who has to survive and find his family after a super-eruption destroyed the world as we know it. A post-apocalyptic adventure gamebook, that tries to make some interesting innovations in the media.

The post-apocalyptic fiction is a subgenre of science fiction with a long history. The subgenre became popular in the eighties, with the nuclear fear of the Cold War, but we can find it as early as Mary Shelley‘s “The Last Man” in 1826. And even earlier, if we consider the Book of Revelation, or the story of the great flood and Noah’s ark in the Bible.

The_8th_Continent,_by_Patrick_GarrettThese stories, which usually narrate the destruction and rebirth of our world, become more popular in times of great social and political crisis. “The Last Man“, by Mary Shelley, talked about the failure of romantic political ideas. During the Great Depression in the 30s, novels like Stephen Vincent Benét‘s “By the waters of Babylon” described the ruins of the United States after a “great burning”. The Cold War brought, of course, hundreds of examples, born with the fear of global annihilation by nuclear weapons. And, after the fall of Lehman Brothers and the beginning of our current global systemic crisis, it’s no wonder that post-apocalypse becomes popular again. Usually in the form of the “zombie-apocalypse”, but also in more creative ways, like the “super-eruption” described in this story.

As we mentioned before, in this story we take the role of a teenager called Morgan, a guy who witnesses the destruction of his city one morning, and is forced to hide with his family inside a bunker. After this is narrated in the first chapter, we are told how Morgan’s family is taken away by a group of mysterious kidnappers. And, as it is mandatory in any adventure story, he decides to go looking for the kidnappers and save his family from them.

The_8th_Continent,_by_Patrick_Garrett8th Continent” tries to do some very interesting things with the gamebook media on mobile phones, by giving it more of a “game-y” feel. Placed among the narrative, there are three kinds of games, that appear whenever a specific situation arises. Whenever our character wants to search for objects, we arrive to a “Scavenging” game, basically a “match-three puzzle” kind of game. Whenever we have to force an electronic lock, it’s time for a “Hacking” game (a puzzle game similar to the old “Pipe Mania“). And even when we have to fight an adversary, we are taken to a “Fighting” game.

The result of these experiments is mixed. I think it’s interesting to try new ways to add interactivity to gamebook apps, and even to mix computer game mechanics with narrative. Still, the “scavenging” and “hacking” games, even if they are fun to play, don’t feel part of the overall story. When we are searching for medicines inside the ruins of a house, and suddenly we have to play a “candy crush” clone… well, it feels as if we were playing a different game altogether.

The “fighting” game, though, is a fantastic idea, very well executed. Instead of the random dice rolls we usually find in these kind of stories, here there is some strategy to the confrontations, in the form of a card game, where we exchange attacks and defences with our enemies, trying to eliminate them while minimising the damage we receive. Those “combat cards” are also much better interlaced with the narrative, as we obtain them when we discover weaknesses in some of our enemies, or when we use the environment to our benefit.

The_8th_Continent,_by_Patrick_GarrettThere is a fourth kind of game, a completely optional “decoding” game where we decrypt the entries of our father’s journal. This won’t give us any benefit in the story, but will add some interesting additional background information.

I am leaving the best part for the end. The writing of this gamebook is fantastic. It really manages to make us feel that the world being described in the story is real, the world is alive, and even the characters are believable. Here we won’t find “good” or “bad” characters, just people struggling to stay alive. Also, some of the descriptions in “8th Continent” are the most beautiful that I’ve read in any gamebook. Patrick Garrett is a very talented new writer, and I can only encourage him to keep writing. As a gamebook, it tends to be a bit more linear than many (as one of the archievements, “Completionist”, says, it is possible to read the vast majority of pages in a single playthrough), but I am sure issues like these will be fixed in future entries of this series.

I’ve liked “8th Continent” a lot. A good gamebook, not without problems, but excellently written, and a story that I will love to see continued.

You can find the game HERE (Android) or HERE (iOS)

Published: 27/07/2015 | Comments: 1

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