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The Crown of Kings awaits...

It's been too long since we posted any concrete news about Sorcery! 4, the final part of the narrative epic that's been keeping us busy since 2013.

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It's finished... again

Writing on the game has now finished, again. That means we've done our first pass, fleshing out all the rooms, encounters, characters, secrets, jokes, puzzles, hidden endings. And we've also done our second pass, playing through everything, smoothing it, checking for logic and story consistency, and getting the pacing as slick as we can.

We're now embarking on the long process of beta-testing - gathering feedback from early players, and hunting down all the strange nooks and crannies of the story-flow. A lot of the details can and will still change at this point - good ideas are never thrown away, even close to release - but if we had to put down our pens tomorrow, we could, and the game would work.

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There are multiple endings, but more importantly, multiple states for multiple endings. But there is also an ultimate ending of sorts, better than the others.

All in all, Sorcery! 4 now stands at half a million words, putting it bang in the middle between Sorcery! 3 and 80 Days.

But that's not all!

Even with the writing completed, there's still lots for us to do. There's new audio to gather, and new art to get into the game, and a pile of new code to write as well.

For the first time, we'll be integrated 3D models into the map. These models are still being hand-painted by our cartographer/illustrator Mike Schley, and we've got to make sure they play nicely with the in-game camera. We've also got an epilogue sequence to build, that will suitably reward players who have made the journey all the way from Analand to Mampang and returned with the Crown of Kings intact.

One thing we have got finalised is Laurence Chapman's new theme - as recorded by live orchestra.

Concluding part and new adventure, all in one

One of the things that's made this part a real writing challenge is ensuring that it provides a complete experience for people picking up the Sorcery! series for the first time, while also providing the epic conclusion that returning players deserve. Over the last three games we've seeded a lot of characters and story points, as well as giving the player a lot of choices to carry with them.

(A Sorcery! 3 game loaded into Part 4 brings with it over nine hundred individual story-flags, ranging from whether or not you destroyed a city, to how many gold pieces you have in your pocket, and whether or not you know the name of the witch in the Shamutanti woods.)

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Thankfully, we've got a few tricks up our sleeve for bringing new players up to speed...

All platforms, all at once

For the first time, we're planning to launch the game on the App Store, Amazon Store, Play Store, Steam, Humble and Green Man Gaming all on the same day. You can buy the game on any platform to continue your adventure - cloud saves work from one device to another. (Just remember to write them down somewhere!)

And while Mike's latest map looks glorious spread across a desktop monitor or an iPad Pro, we're working hard to ensure the mobile experience is still just as tight and playable as its ever been.

So what's the date?

Later this year. Apologies, we don't want to commit to a date until we know we can hit it!

But we can't wait to open the gates and let you into Mampang - it's weird, terrible place, full of ancient, decaying magic, foul mutants, crosses and double-crosses, and secrets. This is our toughest, most intricate - and we hope, most rewarding - Sorcery! adventure yet.

Can a Story Game Have Too Much Game?

On this week's inklecast we ask a question that's close to our hearts: when is the game part of your story game too much game for your story?

In all our projects, we try to marry the gameplay and the narrative elements so tightly together that neither could be removed - but is there an argument for the cutscene-and-play model? Have a listen and tell us what you think.

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Sorcery! 3 is out now!

The gates of Kharé have opened once more, and the wilds of Kakhabad await. Players on PC and Mac can now venture into the shifting deserts, tangled forests and thick swamps of the Baklands as they attempt to make their way to Mampang and the Crown of Kings.

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Sorcery! 3 is our most ambitious interactive narrative so far - not just an entirely open-world adventure where you can go anywhere, by any route you choose, and that's stuffed full of secrets - the game is actually two open-worlds, which you can freely blend together as you explore.

You can either continue your story from Parts 1 & 2, or jump straight in at this installment: the game will adapt itself appropriately. And not only that, it's 25% off for the first week.

Many ways to win, and a hundred ways to die

Roaming the wildnerness are seven deadly serpents, racing to Mampang to warn the Archmage of your coming. How you tackle them is up to you - head on combat? Strategy and cunning? Or will you simply try to outpace them?

The choices you make in this part will define your adventure in the concluding part of the story, out later this year.

Want to hear more?

To celebrate the launch we recorded a special episode of the inklecast last week all about how the open-world design affected everything from the way we built it to the way player's played.

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Sorcery! 3 comes to PC/Mac on April 5th!

We're happy to announce that the third part of the Sorcery! saga will be hitting Steam, Humble and Green Man Gaming on April 5th, bringing desktop player's up to date with the story.

We'll be talking a bit more about the game in the next inklecast, but for now, here's the trailer to whet your appetite:

A wilderness to explore

Sorcery! Part 3 takes the adventure out into the wilds of the Kakhabad, a land of deserts, grassy plains, forests and swamps - and it transform the game from a linear story into a fully open-world experience. Go from anywhere, to anywhere, by any route you can find; backtrack to find every secret or plough your way forward - and with the aid of ancient magic, even reshape the landscape through which you travel.

Open world design, story-rich content

But being open world doesn't change how the game is played: its still rich with characters, stories, traps, monsters and peril. Everything that happens in a Sorcery! game is bespoke and unique, and Part 3 is the largest Sorcery! game to date, the size of Parts 1 and 2 combined.

Can you survive Kakhabad, cross the Horns of Xamen and Lake Ilklala? Will you travel fast to evade capture, or hunt down and destroy the Seven Serpents dispatched to end your journey? Will you explore the ancient land through magic, or leave the past untouched? All these choices, and hundreds more, will carry over in Part 4 and alter the stakes in the story's conclusion.

ink is open, right now!

Next week is GDC, and Joe's going to be presenting a talk about our scripting language, ink, that we use here at inkle to write massively-branchy content in a way that allows writers to get on and write.

We've been using and developing this language for four years but as of yesterday, the language is now available for all to use. We've decided to go open-source, with all you'll need to plug ink-scripted content into Unity projects. You can grab it on GitHub, right now.

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And if you want to hear more about how ink works, where it came from, and why we're going open, we talk about in this week's inklecast, which you can check out below.

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Unpicking Oxenfree, by Night School Studio

In last week's inklecast we tackled a game head-on: in this case, stylish teen-horror adventure Oxenfree.

Oxenfree

We dig into its clever real-time, multi-character conversation system, and talk about how it plays and (maybe) how it works, before our own conversation branches into dialogue systems in general. Take a listen and see what we thought, spoiler-free.

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Naming the games

In this week's inklecast we get lost in an intractable problem of all creative work: what to call your game once you've finally made it.

Is it possible to sum up potentially years' of work in two to three words? Or should you just put two other words together to make a new one? Have a listen to the inklecast, and find out.

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The inklecast talks combat, dice and maps

This week's inklecast is Part 2 of our Sorcery! special. In this episode we talk about all the elements of Sorcery! that aren't story choices: in particular, the combat system and the dice game.

Meanwhile, if you'd like to see a little Sorcery! in action, including some good commentated demonstration of the combat, we've been enjoying SplatterCatGaming's Let's Play series.

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Inklecast Episode Three

Welcome to the inklecast, bite-sized snippets of game design. This week: how do choices help you roleplay, and are Bioware games just a quiz with the answers already pencilled in?

This one's gone up a day early, as cast-master Tom is at the Global Game Jam in Oslo tomorrow.

And with next week seeing the release of Sorcery! for Steam, so we're considering a Sorcery! special. Let us know in the comments or via Twitter if you have questions. (But, please, no "how do you visit the Gardens of Briar"?)

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