From Story Papers to CYOA: An Interview with Demian Katz on VuPop

In case you missed it, Villanova University hosted VuPop, a conference on interactive fiction featuring some great speakers discussing everything from gender in historical fiction to bioethics awareness. Demian Katz discusses the conference, noting the highlights and reflecting on what went well and future possibilities.

Why Villanova University? What is the brief history of VuPop?

VuPop started in 2013 after a forgotten collection of dime novels was rediscovered in the basement of Villanova University’s Falvey Memorial Library. This seemed like a good excuse to begin a series of events highlighting interesting areas of popular culture worthy of deeper academic study. The second year’s topic was chosen as gamebooks simply because it happens to be my area of expertise; next year’s will look at 3-D technology in entertainment to tie in to the installation of a CAVE system in the library.

What were some of the highlights from VuPop?

Attendees at VuPop were rewarded for their travels with some nice give-aways courtesy of ChooseCo and Tin Man Games – not bad for a completely free event. Some of the day’s presentations offered solid overviews of several areas of interactive fiction: gamebooks, electronic adventure games, and visual novels. The remainder were either inspirational – Chris Liu’s talk on special considerations for writing interactively, and Randy Cook’s reflections on the power of the form – or more specialized – Rebecca Slitt’s look at handling gender in historical interactive fiction, and David Perlman’s discussion of utilizing interactive fiction for educational purposes, specifically in the area of bioethics. Many talks prompted some good audience questions, and all had something interesting to offer both the veteran and the newcomer. This was capped off with a live reading of my new gamebook, The Groom of the Tomb, which went a long way toward reassuring me that the book is actually fun to play, and an informal game night that offered opportunities for attendees and speakers to get to know each other better. Given the extremely specialized nature of this event, it’s unlikely that Villanova would ever repeat it – but I’d love to see something similar happen again in another venue.

The schedule of events mentions a Special Collections Tour. What did that involve?

Since some people were traveling some distance to the event, we wanted to extend our hospitality for an extra day to those who were interested. Thus, we offered the option for people to get a tour of the library’s Special Collections department, where we keep all of our rarest materials. We don’t have much in the way of interactive fiction (the IF exhibit currently on display in the library for the summer term comes largely from my personal collection), but many of our other popular culture materials help show the evolution of genres that eventually became interactive. It’s hard to look at a turn-of-the-20th-century children’s story paper without seeing many of the same themes that would populate the Choose Your Own Adventure books a century later. To demonstrate the library’s digitization efforts, we also gave a tour of our scanning lab, where we scanned an issue of “Happy Days” (one of the aforementioned story papers) which is now available online: http://digital.library.villanova.edu/Item/vudl:351596

How did you feel about how VuPop went? What was done well, and what do you think could be improved?

I was extremely pleased with the content of VuPop, and I really enjoyed meeting the various people who attended. My biggest disappointment is simply that we didn’t get as many attendees as I would have hoped – we could have accommodated a great many more. Obviously this is a function of timing and location – an event in the city and/or on the weekend would likely have been a greater draw – but I hope that the online video has allowed a wider audience to enjoy at least some portions of the event.

Anything else that you’d like to add?

As of this writing, you can still watch the afternoon sessions through the “streaming now” link at http://vupop.org, and I’m working to get these videos (plus recordings of the morning) available more permanently somewhere. Stay tuned for more details!

Advertisements

Seducing the Gamebook Community: Interview with Cubus Games


In this interview with Cubus Games, Quim Garreta discusses the company’s goal to create great gamebooks for both those who love gamebooks already and those who might be new to this type of storytelling. Their first release, The Sinister Fairground, is now available!

First of all, can you tell be a bit about the background for Cubus Games? How did it get started, and where is it now?

All of the members of Cubus Games have a “freaky” past: RPGs (The Lord of The Rings, Call of Cthulhu, Deadlands, Stormbringer, Star Wars, Dungeons & Dragons, etc), computer
games (all from Amstrad CPC, Spectrum, and PC later), tabletop games (Hero Quest!), Choose Your Own Adventure gamebooks… and stuff like these for many many years. A couple of years ago, we started making an amateur prototype of a gamebook app for Android devices. The results were so good, so we decided to go further and make the project professional. Now, we are a startup based near Barcelona, with the first gamebook app released in the AppStore: “The Sinister Fairground.” Another one is coming soon: “Heavy Metal Thunder” by Kyle B.Stiff.

As co-founder, what is your role in Cubus Games? What does a typical day look like for you?

Communication and marketing are my main tasks. I’m always searching for new ways to introduce our gamebooks to new readers. Searching for talented artists who want to participate in the gamebook apps development. I also compose the music to take this reading/gaming experience to another level.

09-35-ENG - Copy

Tell me about some of the other members of the Cubus Games team. Are your works collaborations or are various writers/illustrators on staff?

Both. Jaume, our art&content director, is a gamebook expert, illustrator, writer… and philosopher! Jordi is designer, developer, photographer and musician. So we can develop a gamebook app by ourselves. However, we have great collaborators with us.

What goes into gamebook development from your end? What kind of surprises have you found along the way?

We are just at the very beginning of our journey, but we have already learnt lots of amazing things and have met great people. However, I’ll answer this question when Cubus Games has three or four apps released in the market! 😉

What do you think sets the work of Cubus Games apart from other gamebook developers?

We could say that a good gamebook must have “intensity in the experience,” and all the features (music, illustrations, design) and system tools are there to help it. We try to follow this premise, but also the simplicity is very important in order to make the experience of reading/playing much more “user-friendly.” We would like to seduce non-gamebook readers as well. We also focus on the music more than anyone.

Your gamebooks can be read in English or Spanish. What effect do you think this has had on gamebook development or your audience?

We are lucky to be from Barcelona, so we can speak Catalan, Spanish and English. The gamebook world is mainly English, so it’s a must to be present in English. However, the Spanish speakers community is also huge, and people like to read in their mother tongue, so we think it’s very interesting to have the possibility to switch between different languages.

Tell me about your recent release, The Sinister Fairground. How did it come into being? How is it currently doing?

We met some great people from Nocte (Spanish Horror Writers Association). They had released a paper gamebook called “In the Sinister Fairground” and got in touch with us. We found it very interesting to adapt that book to the app format, so we wanted to start the Cubus Games gamebook app series with that adventure. The Sinister Fairground has been a good first step to get into the interactive storytelling developers.

07-35-ENG

Where do you see Cubus Games in the future?

Our dream is to see Cubus Games among the greatest ones in the world of gamebook app developers. We want to participate with all of them in making this genre grow. We would like to seduce the gamebook community but also the people who might like gamebooks but don’t know it yet.

Do you have anything else you’d like to add?

We would like to thank all the people that are collaborating with us, one way or another. From gamebook experts and legends, to normal people, old and new friends, writers, illustrators, fans, beta-testers, etc.

Anyone who wants can support Cubus Games joining our Gamebook Community (it’s only a click from http://www.cubusgames.com). We’d like to listen to our audience, to know about their experiences with our gamebook apps, and to improve our product in every release.

If people check our first releases from the AppStore and gives feedback to us, we’ll be able to help the gamebook world get bigger.

 

 

Interview: Magic Books and Deciding Your Destiny

 

From DestinyQuest Infinite’s Gallery: http://destinyquestinfinite.com/gallery/

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/

Call for Interviews, Young Writers’ Space, 8-Bit Art, and More!

Interested in participating in an interview? Inky Path is reaching out to those in the IF community on everything from their latest projects to heated debates. We would love to have your lovely voices grace this blog. If interested, contact inkypath[AT]gmail.com with the subject line “Interview: [Your Name]” and include a bit about yourself and what you’d like to interview about.

More of a monologist?  We are also accepting blog entries (including previously published material). More on that on our Submissions page.

Are you a young writer? Poetryspace has a great opportunity for you–a Young Writers’ Space dedicated to those 18 and under. According to their submission guidelines, “We welcome stories, poems, jottings, drawings, graphics, cartoons, extracts from your novel. Anything at all!”

Interactive fiction combines games and literature… but what about games and other kinds of art? One artist takes on the challenge of fusing games and art in a series depicting well-known pieces as 8-bit paintings, as seen in this article.

It seems that predicting the future really is possible–for some notable sci-fi authors, that is. The Outlet, Electric Literature’s blog, offers this handy graphic showing where sci-fi authors got it right.

For April Fool’s Day, xkcd offered an interactive comic in which readers can make decisions and even add their own suggestions at the end. It offers xkcd’s classic mix of the funny and the fantastic.