Sorcery! at PAX East

The Main Hall before PAX

Two weeks since PAX already? Seems like only yesterday when we were stepping into the main hall of the Convention Centre bleary-eyed and jet-lagged, with a hundred printed Sorcery! maps, and a build with a 3D version of the same, ready to let some journalists play.

Nerve-wracking stuff: our first big games convention - arguably our first game, unless you count Poems By Heart - but also the first time anyone outside of inkle had played the game. Would they get it? Would they like it? Would they get destroyed by the first Bandit and never see the Hills?

...So what is it?

Making it particularly difficult for us was one thing we didn't have: a one-line pitch. We know Sorcery! is adapted from the book by Steve Jackson. We know it has RPG-elements, and we know it's turn-based and played across a virtual tabletop. But it's not a gamebook, it's not an RPG and it's not a tabletop game. So with every journalist we gave the game to, we made sure to ask them one question: how would you describe it? We met twenty writers and got twenty answers, like:

  • It's an old-school text adventure
  • It's Dungeons and Dragons, but where the iPad is the Dungeon Master
  • It's Diablo in text
  • Dude, it's a gamebook
  • It's an interactive interactive choose-your-path story

In the end we settled on "It's a tabletop interactive story game". Which doesn't really help describe it, but at least we feel we haven't missed anything out!

Previews and podcasts

One aspect of PAX we weren't expecting was how many of our interviews would in fact be podcasts - and in some cases, vlogcasts (or whatever they're called). Being shy retiring English types, having a microphone pointed our way and being told to "go!" was pretty intimidating. But apart from re-using the same jokes about a hundred times, we think we managed to get across a little of what's got us so excited about Sorcery!.

Here's a smattering of the videos and recordings that have gone up so far:

...and we were also interviewed on a Press2Reset podcast, after getting home (so sounding a bit less wired). Our bit is 36 mins in.

Indie Storytelling panel

While in PAX we also ran a panel on storytelling in the indie game scene, with friends from across the industry - Phil Tossell from Nyamnyam, Andrew Plotkin of text adventure legend, Steven Hewitt of Blazing Griffin, Dave Gilbert of Wadjet Eye Games and Oded Sharon of Adventure Mob.

Our lovely audience

The theme was "How does being indie help you tell good stories?" On the text side of things, we talked about the freedom to iterate, and Andrew talked about the integrity that comes from one person being able to develop the entirety of a game for themselves, with reference to Emily Short's recent text-game, Counterfeit Monkey.

From the world of adventure games, Dave Gilbert and Oded Sharon talked enthusiastically about the freedom of working away from publishers and not having to please anyone but oneself with everything from the design, tone, through to the marketing of the game. (There was a little irony here, as Wadjet Eye is now a publisher itself - but as Dave pointed out, not all publishers are so bad.) Oded talked about several games he's made covering hard-to-market topics: including sex, drugs, and rock'n'roll (coming soon!)

From the other side of things, Phil talked about their upcoming iPad title Tengami, in which the player controls a Japanese-inspired paper world in pop-up, moving the parts of the book around to allow a character through. Tengami's storytelling is entirely implicit, and dream-like, and Phil discussed how they've worked to provide players enough freedom to find their own stories within the game.

Feedback from the audience was good, with lots of great questions getting asked in person and over Twitter. And while we were busy upstairs doing interviews, Phil had a lot of people coming to the Nyamnyam booth to thank him for the talk.

So long!

PAX was full of great things to see (and people - lots of people). We particularly enjoyed exploring the Indie Megabooth, checking out all the interesting things being done right now, as well as finally meeting our fellow Fighting Fantasy-ers, Tin Man Games, in the flesh. We hope to return! But first, we've got this little app to finish...

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