Gamebook store

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Four squared gamebooks

Not that anybody asked, but here are the gamebooks or interactive stories that I've personally written or co-written, displayed in order of how well they turned out, starting with Heart of Ice in #1 position and reading across.

The only one missing is the salmagundi that is The Walls of Spyte - which currently isn't even on the chart, but for the new edition I'm stripping out the engine and reconditioning the whole thing so as to try and get it up into the third row at least

No Keep of the Lich Lord? So you spotted that. It's tricky, because I'd put the original Fighting Fantasy edition at around #15 on the list, but the revised edition that's coming out next month might just edge up into the third row around #10 or #11. Maybe I'll revisit this list once I've got enough books to fill another row, then.

All the above my opinion only, of course. Everyone will have their own favourites, though I doubt if many would dispute Heart of Ice's primacy on this list. Take a look at reviews for the top row and see what you think:

Heart of Ice (review by Andy Wright)
Frankenstein (review by Laura Miller)
Down Among the Dead Men (review by Per Jorner - scroll down)
Necklace of Skulls (Per Jorner again)

(Incidentally, reviews are pretty much the only way books can get noticed these days, so let me thank all of the above-mentioned reviewers, as well as Stuart Lloyd, and Mrs Giggles, and Demian Katz, and Ed Jolley, and everybody else who takes the time to review not just my gamebooks but any in the genre. That flame won't go out as long as you keep blowing on it, guys.)

And the nice thing is, not only is the whole of the second row now back in print, but I'm currently involved with digital projects based on all four of the top row titles. The first of those is out tomorrow, so come back then.

15 comments:

  1. You don't define what your criteria are for judging "how well they turned out", but, seeing that the Fabled Lands books are in the bottom half of the list, I wonder, if you could go back and write them again, what would you do differently?

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    1. The assessment isn't really fair to the FL books, as I'm judging how well I told an interactive story, and FL was never meant to be a story-based gamebook but rather a roleplaying campaign in multiple choice form. So in that sense those books don't really belong here, any more than Dragon Warriors would. And now you've got me looking at the criteria differently, from the point of view of innovation in the medium, FL really ought to be much higher up. Maybe even at #1...

      I guess I'd better not try to pack for that desert island trip just yet.

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    2. One more qualification: FL is probably the gamebook project as a whole that I'm proudest of. As a series, that is. I think Jamie's books in the FL series are generally better than mine - better balanced, better structured, and Hidden Faces in particular has a more intriguing world - though I did write a few bits of that, so... ;-) In short, FL scores highest for innovation, but my criterion for the ranking given above is for story, which (a little unfairly) lowers FL's score.

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  2. Very excited to see Inkle adaptations of Virtual Reality! How much new content can we expect? On the one hand, the Inkle page says there are "thousands" of choices, but on the other, it's a "snack-sized" adventure.

    Gaetano

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    1. It's pretty much the same overall adventure as the book, Gaetano, but Inkle gave freely adapted it, modernizing and improving the prose style to make it read more dramatically, and adding a bunch of micro-choices. For 99c I think I'd say your best bet is to see for yourself. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

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    2. Oops, I meant "have freely adapted". Sorry, typing this on my phone...

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    3. Oh, and - as you know, the original Dead Men is at least as long as the first of Steve Jackson's Sorcery books. But remember what "snack-sized" means in Inkle terms. 80 Days was as long as Fabled Lands books 1-4 combined.

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    4. Inkle certainly did an amazing job on the Sorcery books 1 and 2 so cannot wait to see what they have done with your books, Dave.

      It is funny how the Sorcery apps got me nostalgic about game books again that I decided to buy the Fabled Lands series, which I had kind of missed out on after moving to the U.S in the 1990s. That in turn brought me to your blog, Dave, and of course I was delighted to learn that Blood Sword was just released again, which I just had to buy! Hopefully this does lead to a new generation experiencing game books, whether digital or buying the physical books.

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    5. Ah, well, I have to say Inkle haven't done nearly as much new work on Dead Men as they did on Sorcery, Jonathan, so don't expect that. I'm afraid Jamie and I just have to accept that, even though most buyers of digital gamebooks today probably weren't even born in the '80s, it's the top-selling series of the '80s that get all the attention. What can you do?

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  3. Great to see so much Lands of Legend goodness back in print on that list, and with fixed versions too - I'll admit that for a few years there I was worried.

    Speaking of Legend and a few years in the wilderness, the rumour/PR mill has it that the Dragon Warriors Players Book might actually be 1) making an appearance soon, and 2) awesome (woohoo!).

    I'll be keeping my fingers crossed!

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    1. Me too. As long as it comes out before I'm actually drawing a pension!

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  4. And of course this isn't an exhaustive list of interactive fiction titles you've written; perhaps just the ones for older readers and which appeal most to those of us here?

    Not that I'm in any way qualified to second-guess, but I'd swap Necklace with Tiger (or at least bump Tiger up a few places). The latter has fantastic atmosphere and some great set pieces, it always feels like the perfect gamebook to read on a blustery winter's night (perhaps right before House of Hell).

    On a tenuously-related note, any chance you could do a blog with the solutions for the GD books? Much though I love Tiger I'm sure I've never once completed it properly.

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    1. And of course for "Tiger" read "Dragon". Either I'm seeing the cover and interposing the wrong creature when I type, or I'm channelling a popular 80s rock tune.

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    2. Strangely enough, Mike, I read that and did the same substitution in my head. I remember Angela Sheehan, my publisher at the time, saying, "The one with the flaming pussy." Hard to think of it in other terms after that...

      I don't know about "older resders" as the target audience for these books were originally supposed to be 10-12 years, which isn't any older than Heroquest & Knightmare. I admit that I usually thought of the readers of Virtual Reality, Blood Sword and FL as being older than that, or at least more fully committed than the readers of (say) Keep of the Lich Lord. I certainly couldn't get the reading level of Dead Men or Heart of Ice passed for 10-12 year olds by any publisher today!

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    3. Btw I'm worried that you never completed Tiger, I mean Dragon. I'd better check there isn't a bug in it. Other than Lord Mantis, I mean.

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