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Spreading the Love!

Indie Love Blog Tour
Ninja! by David Walters
Arcana Agency: The Thief of Memories by Paul Gresty
Gamebook Size Comparision

 

…The indie love!

As part of the Spread Some Indie Love Blog Tour I’m here today not to talk about myself or things I’m working on, but on the wonderful work of some other indies.


Being quite enamoured of, and involved in, the “gamebook” genre myself, it makes sense that I should choose three indies who also work in this genre – all of which are doing contemporary gamebook works that have impressed me for their writing ability and creativity – and deserve the recognition!

(I was only supposed to showcase one indie author for this blog tour, but that was too hard! Oh and I might add that I’ve committed to doing reviews of works by the three indies below, but alas that’ll have to wait!)

First of all, for those arriving here in this strange land and wondering just what the hell a “gamebook” is, let me summarise them as a fiction story where the reader directs where the story goes by making choices (typically the reader is playing the role of the protagonist in the story). Beyond this definition (which describes well-known books such as the Choose Your Own Adventure series and the Goosebumps series) I’d also add that what distinguishes a “gamebook” from “interactive fiction” in this sense, is the inclusion of game mechanics. These game mechanics typically involve character statistics and dice rolls according to given rules, and also include things like a character sheet with an inventory of items carried and even a selection of differing skills. The eighties are generally thought of as the time when gamebooks were at their peak (the Fighting Fantasy series being the most well-known, but just one of the many series around at the time), when computer games were less able to provide such experiences than now… But lately, thanks to the efforts of indie developers like Tin Man Games, Inkle and Megara, gamebooks are coming back in a revitalised form to smartphones, tablets and computers: a second revival if you will.

So now onto the three indies I’ve chosen for their work in creating some of the best gamebooks I’ve read in recent times (and yes, there are plenty of other recent gamebooks that I thought were also amazing or just haven’t got to yet, but these are the ones I choose to showcase):

 

David Walters

In some ways, leading with David Walters is a strange choice considering (at this point in time) I’ve probably read less of his works than the other two I’ve listed here. Nevertheless, I thought I should open with David since he doesn’t have his own blog and needs the support, plus he’s also done a guest post about one of his works on this site HERE.

David Walters is the author of seven novels and at least two gamebooks. He is an expert on Japanese and Chinese ancient and military history, and his writings tend to focus on these settings. As you can see HERE on Amazon, he has a series of Samurai themed books, another based on the Chinese Dragonwarrior monks, and another fantasy novel, City of Masks, about an assassin society. –I’ve read the first book, Samurai’s Apprentice, in his Samurai series and it is an enchanting tale of a farmer’s boy thrust into the life of a samurai where he must learn their code of honour and discipline against the backdrop of a war-torn land. David’s mastery of the topic is evident and his writing and characterisation are exceptional. I was somewhat reminded of the mystique and drama of the Conan’s early adventures in Hyboria as I read this, albeit with a distinctly different circa 16th century Japanese setting.

David’s first gamebook, Day of Dissonance, part of the Windhammer 2012 gamebook competition was an excellent, atmospheric tale with great twists as I discussed in my review of the entries HERE. He was to follow this up with the prequel to one of the most popular gamebook series of all time, The Way of the Tiger, written in collaboration with the authors of the series itself, gamebook “gods” Mark Smith and Jamie Thomson, and produced by Megara Entertainment in beautiful hardback with gorgeous full colour illustrations. This work, entitled Ninja!, is available to order from Megara while stocks last.


The indie group Megara Entertainment, recently concluded a highly successful Kickstarter campaign to bring the entire series of The Way of the Tiger to life in full colour, hardback glory, and the indie group Tin Man Games, with whom I have worked on seven released gamebook titles and counting, is also bringing the The Way of the Tiger series to the digital platform sometime soon!

 

Paul Gresty

Paul first appeared on my “gamebook radar” when he wrote Ookle of the Broken Finger for the 2012 Windhammer gamebook competition. I was stunned, for he had written one of the best short gamebooks I had ever read (in my humble opinion of course), as I gushed in more detail on my Windhammer reviews HERE.

Then he followed up with Arcana Agency: The Thief of Memories, which was produced by Megara Entertainment (in full colour hardback once again) through another successful Kickstarter campaign. ED: He also has written The Orpheus Ruse - a gamebook app where you "infiltrate the enemy as a psychic spy, leaping from body to body by touch."  I’m not entirely sure if the below picture does this work justice, but it’s possibly the most beautifully constructed physical gamebook I’ve ever seen (mind you, The Way of the Tiger hardbacks Megara followed up with might top that). The artwork and layout is exceptional and the story and characterisation is incredible. If you’re a fan of the 1920’s/1930’s New England setting, you really shouldn’t miss this. The gamebook mechanics are easy to manage even for a “gamebook novice” and the way the story unfolds with distinct and memorable characters and the interactions between them is fascinating. You play a team of paranormal investigators, so if you’ve an avid fan of The Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game like I am, with its emphasis on investigative and deep stories set in just this time and place, it ticks a lot of boxes. Then add in that Arcana Agency: The Thief of Memories features exceptional writing and artwork, underpinned by a simple yet ingenious design that rewards character development and detective work over lucky dice or “blind choices”, then you have what is for me, one of the best gamebooks produced. EVER. (And there’s rumours of a follow-up too!)

Hardback copies are still available from Megara while stocks last, so don’t miss out on such a great work!


 

Michael J. Ward

In a very short (and recent) space of time, Michael has created quite literally an entirely new breed of gamebooks by combining the “traditional gamebook” with the gameplay seen in “MMOs” (otherwise known as MMORPGS or Massively Multi-player Online Role-Playing Games). If you ever wondered what World of Warcraft or even Diablo would be like as a gamebook, then Destiny Quest is your answer.

Michael originally self-published the first Destiny Quest book, The Legion of Shadow, which was then picked up by the imprint Gollancz, who re-published this work, released the sequel The Heart of Fire in 2013 and is due to release the third title in the series, The Eye of Winter’s Fury in 2014.

That Michael was able actually able to make this work a reality is quite a stunning achievement. Not only is each work MASSIVE in scale (the books are huge with over 650 pages each and a word count of around the 200K mark) but they feature hundreds of different skills, items and careers with which to build your character and battle a seemingly endless variety of foes, each with different strategies. Not only this but the system is well-balanced (no easy feat with so many thousands of possible character builds) and even the writing itself is awesome: descriptive and efficient with little “filler” and numerous memorable events and set-pieces to underpin an exciting, epic tale. There’s even an online forum where readers can compare and critique their character builds and battle each other.

As you may have guessed, Destiny Quest is combat-heavy with quests revolving around what new items and skills you’ll get to upgrade your character with. And given the huge plethora of combat options available it’s not something for those wanting to just enjoy the story, even though that itself is quite an exciting, action-packed and epic tale. But if games where you explore, build your character up over progressively more difficult quests and try different strategies against opponents in combat appeals, and you like reading, then this will keep you enthralled for weeks, if not months and years.

And just to give you an idea just how big these books are, here's a picture (that I stole off the interweb) of the first book in the series placed next to a couple of other gamebook classics:


 

So now that you've got this far, did you know that as part of this blog tour there's a HUGE give-away of a ton of free indie books, including two of my own? Well now you do, here's the give-away where entering is as easy as a couple of mouse clicks:

 

*** b00kr3vi3ws Spread Some Indie Love Rafflecopter Give-away! ***

 

(and click here to view the list of books on offer on Goodreads)

 

 

*** And finally, here’s the list of all the bloggers taking part in this Blog Tour ***

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Brewin
Well I guess it's quite possible that on a different day, I might not be so dramatic as to say "Arcana Agency is one of the best g... Read More
Friday, 14 February 2014 13:02
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The Way of the Tiger Kickstarter (Guest post by David Walters)

The Way of the Tiger gamebooks (original covers)

I have a special guest post for you today, from David Walters who is an author of both novels and gamebooks, and something of an “oriental expert” if I may call him such… He’s also written the prequel for an iconic gamebook series from the eighties, The Way of the Tiger, that was written by Mark Smith and Jamie Thomson who were prolific gamebook authors “back in the day” and between them wrote many of the greatest gamebooks of all time (IMHO), including Duel Master series, the Falcon series, Talisman of Death and Sword of the Samurai for the Fighting Fantasy series, plus contributions to the Fabled Lands and Virtual Reality series among others… That’s seriously a lot of kudos!

 

Anyway David has enlisted my help to help promote the Kickstarter program currently underway to not only bring the The Way of the Tiger gamebooks back in full hardcover glory with all new colour art, but with the never-before-released seventh book to complete the series (and to address the cliffhanger that’s at the end of the sixth book), and with an all new prequel written by David Walters himself, who is quite a prolific and talented author in his own right (speaking from personal experience of having read some of his works!) –Not to forget, he’s also helping to write the seventh book too!

The hardcopy copies of these new The Way of the Tiger gamebooks are being produced by Megara Entertainment who also produced the Arcana Agency: The Thief of Memories Deluxe Gamebook last year (which also happened to be one of the best-produced gamebooks I’ve ever seen: the presentation and artwork was exquisite and the writing and design by Paul Gresty was nothing short of superb!)

So without further preamble, I give you David Walters:

 

The challenges in writing a prequel to an already established series:

I’m David Walters, and I was tasked with writing the prequel story to the Way of the Tiger books, a series of six ninja gamebooks set on the world of Orb. I came across a few challenges as I undertook the task, the main ones of which I’ve explored below.

Avoiding future payoffs

When writing a prequel I had to take care to avoid ‘stealing the thunder’ of significant scenes coming up in later books. For example as book 2 Assassin! ends with a dramatic one-on-one fight with a ninja, the prequel had to avoid single combat against such a foe otherwise it would devalue the later fight. This rule applied whether the reader has read the original series already or not – the series should work as a continuous whole and thus unnecessary repetition and similarity should be avoided.

Original Author preferences

Fortunately I was dealt a pretty free hand when it came to plotting the prequel, but even so I had to be absolutely true to the direction of the original series creators. I gained some freedom setting the story on the Island of Plenty which had only been partially explored in the other books. It was an area I had worked extensively on for the Way of the Tiger Role-Playing game (with Mark Smith’s oversight) so I felt confident I could write a lot of detail in that was in alignment with his view of Orb.

An issue of scale

It was important to me that the prequel should be appropriate to the scale of the other books in the series i.e. it should not introduce the overly powerful adversaries or grandiose story arcs too early in the series. If there were problems with scale it may lead to a feeling of disinterest in later books. In the prequel the reader can learn about Avenger’s earlier missions, and how Avenger’s ninja skills were honed through experience.

Limiting Crossover

Although some readers may prefer a prequel to be fully cross-referenced by the existing series, it was clear to me that series should not require any rewrites to make the prequel ‘fit’. This also meant I should limit any rules changes affecting later books (such as not granting an improved punch modifier) so as not to change the pre-existing gameplay balance of the other books. It was also important to limit interactions with characters from later books so that they still worked as originally intended.

 

EDIT: David Walters continues Part 2 of this discussion on Stuart's "Lloyd of Gamebooks" blog and Part 3 on Scott Malthouse's Trollish Delver blog.

 

 

The Way of the Tiger Kickstarter is running until 1st November. http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1615043334/the-way-of-the-tiger-gamebooks-new-collectors-edit?ref=live

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Brewin
Hi Richard! A pleasure to have helped promote a good cause! And as for the links, I like to provide background and references for... Read More
Wednesday, 02 October 2013 03:50
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