Since the release of Steve Jackson’s Sorcery! in May we’ve been a little quiet on this blog. Partly we’ve been reading all the reviews – and partly we’ve been working hard at Book 2, mapping out the twists and turns of the city of Kharé, and cooking up ways to bring its inhabitants, traps and puzzles to vibrant life.
And partly we’ve been trying to crack the multi-platform problem. So far, all of our games have been iOS-only, but these days everyone knows there are a lot of Android users out there (and if we didn’t know, they email us quite often to remind us!)
So: for all you Droiders who have stuck with us over the last year and a half, your moment has come. This week we’re announcing not one Android release, but two.
Two goodies from inkle today: first up, the video of a talk we gave at BookNet Canada’s technology forum in March is now online.
It’s about 45 mins long, and I was a bit jet-lagged when doing it, but it’s a nice little overview of our ideas about game design, and how games tie up with books and digital experiences. It was also the first public showing of Frankenstein’s look and concept. It’s an extension of the talk we gave at the Futurebook conference last year, only longer, and with more jokes.
Check it out here.
Secondly, we’ve launched the web-demo version of Dave Morris’ Frankenstein, so those of you without iPhones and iPads can get a taste of what you’re missing. Try it out on the Frankenstein page: just click the iPad to get started.
A great review went up at The Chimerist today, intelligent and thoughtful. Here’s the opening quote:
Whatever interactive fiction is (and we’re still figuring that out) it suffers from all the problems of traditional fiction and then some. The vast majority of novels and short stories aren’t much good, but when a branching fiction — along the lines of the old “Choose Your Own Adventure” children’s books — fails to engage, the first impulse is to blame the form rather than the content. Let “Frankenstein,” just released by Inkle Studios and Profile Books, serve as a reproach to that reflex. The app is a creative, subtle and sensitive adaptation of Mary Shelley’s classic novella, and it has singlehandedly renewed this critic’s hopes for interactive fiction.
There’s enormous intelligence behind the reworking.
– Dale Townshend, quoted in The Independent
Frankenstein, by Dave Morris and published by Profile Books, has gone live on the App Store today.
– Tim Harford, senior columnist for The Financial Times
Update: We’ve had another national newspaper review, this time under the title “The app that’s a monster hit”, in The Independent.
With about a week and a half to go to release, Frankenstein has started to pop up in a few more places around the internet, and in print.
First up, a detailed interview with Good E-Reader, in which I discuss inkle and interactive apps, and Dave talks adapting the story of Frankenstein.
Then there’s a (slightly unexpected, but most welcome) half-review half-discussion of the Apple/DOJ court-case by Porter Anderson, as illustrated by inkle.
There seem to be a lot of articles around right now about book-apps. Are they the future? Or are they hurting our ability to imagine? Are they more immersive? Or are they an interesting sideline but no mainstream? Reading these articles, and their comments, reveals a definite schism in viewpoint, between those who are excited – perhaps too excited – by a digital future of video and audio-rich content; and those for whom reading is a precious, fragile thing that we cannot afford to lose.
Our beloved monster, Frankenstein, is ready. Dave has finished stitching together his capillaries and arteries, and we’ve finished buffing his skin. Right now, he’s curled up in his vat in the corner of the room, listening to everything we say, waiting, ready to be awoken by the spark of life that is the Apple approval process. We’ve sent out our betas and invited our previewers. And pleasingly, we’ve started to see his name appear here and there.
Since the announcement of Frankenstein, we’ve been talking to a lot of people about the possibilities and potential of adaptive, interactive stories. A lot of people are excited. Others say, so, isn’t it just a gamebook?
It’s true, our stories contain choices, and the choices you make change the story that you read. That does sound a bit like a gamebook, doesn’t it?
But I think there are some crucial differences. Not just simple things, like because it’s on an iPad or an iPhone you don’t have to turn the pages yourself. Not just that we won’t be using dice-rolls to decide if you’re allowed to continue the story. But there’s something fundamentally different to exploring a book of choices, and an app that uses your choices to weave a story around you as you read.
Monday saw inkle‘s first public outing at the Futurebook conference, where I spoke as part of a panel on the subject of gamification under the watchful eye of Penguin Digital’s MD Anna Rafferty. Harvey Elliott, previously of EA, spoke about the barriers to entry between players and games, as well as the power of games and gamification to define people’s identities. My own talk was about the structure of games and game-like experiences: what does a designer need to make sure a game’s got for it to work?
The two complemented each other quite nicely, with one talk focusing on the gamification of reading, and the other the gamification of stories.
(This is a reprint of a blog post that first appeared on the Futurebook website.)
Our first project, Frankenstein is being built using our “inklebook” platform, designed to let non-technical writers make interactive content with the minimum of struggle. One of the question that’s come up a lot since we started showing it to people is – if your technology is aimed at writers, why do you need publishers? Why don’t you work with the writers directly?
It’s true. We could do that. But first and foremost, we’re a software and design company. We make things. By working in partnership with a publisher, we get to focus on what we’re good at and know we’ve got a lion in our corner.