Gamebook store

Monday, 31 May 2010

Turn to panel 9

A while ago I mentioned the interactive comic that Russ and I thought of doing back in about 1987. And here are a few test strips we knocked up at the time, though now with the benefit of professional Blambot fonts laid in over my scrappy hand-lettering on the originals.
Would this have been feasible? A full gamebook adventure in a 64-page graphic novel, say? Looking at it now, it would have been a fair old bit of work. But hard work wasn't something either Russ or I would shirk from in those days.
One thing I'm glad to say is that my dialogue writing skills have improved a little bit since then! Anyway, nothing we were contemplating in '87 approaches the mind-bending complexity of Jason Shiga's brilliant branching graphic novel Meanwhile, which is well worth a look to see what happened when gamebooks grew up.


  1. Definitely a lot of work (for the poor old artist that has to draw the few hundred-odd panels)!

    I wonder if using rendered art might be a way to cut down on the sheer volume of work? Just build the scenes, characters etc, pose and render out? Depends on number of unique scenes and characters, and how long it takes to compose the shot compared to simply drawing it.

    If done well with careful asset re-use you could end up with some nicely rendered colour images (I'm thinking modern film cgi quality) - on the downside I have seen some really poor 3D art out there.

    Taking it a step further, if you released it as software rather than static images (digital or print), and rendered the scenes in real-time on the users device, you could build in all sorts of customisation, such as allowing unique player characters, depicting inventory on the character, health status etc. Render quality could be based on target platform, and as each scene is static, some degree of pre-rendering can be done in the background so even if a scene takes several seconds to render, it's not really an issue.

    Then again, maybe just easier to draw it all by hand. :)

  2. Hi Wayne, Leo and I have been plugging away at uses of machinima (both true machinima for animation, and a static form for comics) since before the term machinima was coined! We tried doing a Fangleworths graphic novel using the Lightwave assets created for the TV show (see May 24 post) but there's still an awful lot of work to be done posing the models.

    I do like the idea of creating the characters on the fly, with all the extra features we could then build in. I guess the answer is not to create a gamebook like this from scratch, but to build it using the assets of an existing CRPG as a tie-in e-gamebook for iPad, say. But I can just visualize the kind of blank look I'd get from a "creative" director at a games publisher if I even tried pitching that ;)

  3. It would certainly benefit from the economies of scale - the more titles in the series, the greater the library of assets, characters and core poses that could be quickly dropped in and tweaked rather than created from scratch.

    I wonder if a simple prototype could be knocked up using something already out there, such as the editors and assets used in games such as Oblivion, Half-Life or Crysis? I'm not sure how much control the user has over lighting, depth of focus and other subtle aspects that would be required to compose a good looking frame though.

  4. There are a few programs like Machinimation and Moviestorm that could be used to mock something up. I'm inclined to think it's easier to get an artist to just draw it - but as a writer I would think that :)

  5. Cheers, I'll check those out. Got me thinking now...

  6. "Would this have been feasible? A full gamebook adventure in a 64-page graphic novel, say? "

    I've seen it done here in Bulgaria in the 90ies, and in fact, I played through it! There was a gamebook magazine, which published a comic-based gamebook adventure, featuring a dungeoncrawl. It was published across several issues.
    It was written by local authors, and illustrated by a local artist, so I doubt they knew of your idea. Just thought you might like to know this.
    The fans were mostly of a positive opinion, although of course, I was in high school back then, so I only know of fans that I knew personally.

  7. That's really interesting, Asen. It's a pity they didn't sell foreign rights, as I'm sure it would have sold quite well in Britain and France in the '90s.

  8. Well, I think they have tried, but failed. But maybe it was some other book of theirs, or maybe they tried to persuade the editor, who held the rights at the time, and failed there?
    Honestly, I don't know, I'm only sure one of the authors mentioned some plans to publish something, probably in the US, a few years ago, in a private conversation.

  9. The short-lived 'Dice Man' series from 2000AD did this. Towards the end they tended to have a few pages of text, which allowed them to get more adventure per page.

  10. That's interesting, because Diceman ran in 1986 (according to Wiki) so I wonder if that was what gave us the idea. Or was it a case of parallel development, like Newton and Leibniz? (Well, okay, maybe not the best example. Like those two Robin Hood movies in the '90s coming out at the same time. That's better.)

  11. In spain, the superhero parody "Superlopez" had a CYOA style of comic called "Los petisos carambanales y otras petisoperias". You can see how they did it in this image (two sections):