Magic Books and Deciding Your Destiny: An Interview on QuestForge and DestinyQuest Infinite
QuestForge produces gamebooks described as “interactive, story-driven games that mix Choose Your Own Adventure and Fighting Fantasy/D&D-style RPG.” Their first work, DestinyQuest Infinite: Legion of the Shadow will soon have a call for testers.
The interview below details the ideas behind QuestForge and DestinyQuest and part of the process of gamebook creation.
To start off, tell me about your work with Adventure Cow and QuestForge. What got you interested in interactive fiction–both creating it and giving authors the tools to share it?
Back a year or two ago, a major video game company released what was supposed to be a magic book. The ads showed these forests and castles growing up out of the pages, which made it doubly disappointing when the book turned out to be a set of large QR codes.
We want to make magic books. As disappointing as that book was though, magic isn’t about vegetation or masonry – it’s about stories that respond to you as a reader. I want to be able to tell a story about an explorer of a lost temple where I can follow your actions and help you build your story around that.
And then I want to give the tools to tell stories like this to everyone. Interactive storytelling shouldn’t be limited to people who can code.
What was the idea behind DestinyQuest? Was there a major goal in mind? Do you feel that’s changed at all as development has gone on?
DestinyQuest pushes the limits of what a gamebook can do. The size (600+ pages), the rules (the special abilities!), the systems – very little of it has been seen in a gamebook before, and all of it is really just cool. What Michael Ward did is pretty extraordinary for paper, but it’s just the start of what you could do with today’s technology.
I’m very limited as a (mostly) lone programmer, so DestinyQuest Infinite was really a test of whether we could make that magic book experience real: take a book that already works in print, and see if we can make that into a game.
It took a much longer time than I could’ve imagined, but through that process I feel like I understand a lot more about what it means for someone to go through the work to make a game, a story, or both.
I’m sure not many people know what goes into the creation of a gamebook like this. Can you tell be a bit about the process?
There are two big parts to it. Michael Ward’s the author of the print version of DestinyQuest, and it’s definitely worth asking him about that process. He hinted that he might be blogging about it soon, so I’d stay tuned for that. For now, his advice is: “Don’t listen to authors! 😉 Do your own thing and enjoy it!”
But as I see it building a gamebook is a lot like designing a game – I’m not waist deep in those details like the author, but I know it takes a lot of charting and quite a few spreadsheets.
We worked on the digital side. What made the digital process really crazy was that for us, there were no precedents. Our initial prototype was a quick-and-dirty version where we spent a day or two writing scripts to scrape the e-book and pull it into Twine. Once we did that though, the fun really started–Twine is able to handle branching and prototyping quite well, but for everything else that makes DestinyQuest a gamebook, we had to build new systems – ways to have an inventory, a map, combat, and other goodies.
Our hope is that people will be able to use what we built so they don’t have to spend years toiling on it like we did, but starting from scratch certainly made things exciting – at least, if you’re a programmer. 🙂
Have you faced any major surprises along the way, either in development or users’ reactions to the work?
Aside from the delays (which, sadly, are a somewhat predictable part of many software projects), I think the process has gone about as expected! I will say that after so long working on DestinyQuest, it was nice to crack open a working prototype, play for a few hours, and start to think, “Hey, this is kinda fun! I wonder when the sequel will come out.” (If only I could wave a wand and make that build itself…)
What kind of successes have you seen so far? What would you say is your ultimate goal for QuestForge and DestinyQuest Infinite?
DestinyQuest is a new experience – I can’t imagine what I would’ve thought if someone had shown me this when I was reading Choose Your Own Adventure books as a kid. Ultimately though, when you look at the worlds of video games, visual novels, and interactive fiction, it’s clear to me that there are so many more things that we can do with this medium. Some of those things are already starting to happen in Twine/IF/VG. Some of those things we’ll start tackling through DestinyQuest Infinite and its successor works, and some elsewhere.
Everywhere I look, I see interactive books that we could be making, should be making, but haven’t made yet. DQI is going to be our first, and it won’t be the last!
To find out more, visit DQI’s site: http://destinyquestinfinite.com/