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Visual design begins for Down Among the Dead Men

With Frankenstein out of the door, we're now looking ahead to our next inklebook. Again, we're collaborating with Dave Morris, this time on the swashbuckling adventure story Down Among the Dead Men.

Developing a visual metaphor

One of the first steps in producing a new inklebook from scratch is to design a visual look and feel for it. As part of this, it's useful to establish a consistent metaphor. For Frankenstein, the metaphor was that you were looking at Victor Frankenstein's desk, full of anatomical illustrations, spilt ink, and his notes and journals. The metaphor doesn't need to be strictly consistent, but keeping it fairly coherent helps make the whole scene glue together nicely. It helps to answer design questions, such as which font to use where, and what to use for graphical flourishes.

So, for Down Among the Dead Men, we've started with the scene of being washed up on a tropical beach, along with a set of piratey paraphernalia. We're still developing the exact metaphor - what should the front "cover" look like? Should it be a book cover, a page, or something else entirely?

We're also keen to differentiate the visual style from Frankenstein. While the material aesthetic is inkle's trademark, we want to make Down Among the Dead Men brighter, and communicate more of the gamey elements in the text. For Frankenstein, it was easy to lean on the beauty of the anatomical illustrations. For Down Among the Dead Men, we'll have to find a new touchstone.

We'll post more images as we develop the visual skin further, but see what you think about this initial concept. Also, bear in mind that this is purely a first draft, so the polish and finesse will improve dramatically over the coming days and weeks!

Help us out!

Also, feel free to help us out! If you want to suggest ideas for Down Among the Dead Men, either reply to this post, or drop as an email. We have a pinterest board up to help us gather visual resources and inspiration from around the web.

Frankenstein @ The Chimerist

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.

Frankenstein is alive!

There's enormous intelligence behind the reworking.
-- Dale Townshend, quoted in The Independent

Art from Frankenstein

Frankenstein, by Dave Morris and published by Profile Books, has gone live on the App Store today.

Superb
-- Tim Harford, senior columnist for The Financial Times

More Frankenstein press

Update: We've had another national newspaper review, this time under the title "The app that's a monster hit", in The Independent.

Frankenstein screenshot

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.

Enhancements

Enhanced e-books

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.

Frankenstein in the press

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.

SFX magazine story Times clipping

inklewriter & Ian Livingstone at Games Britannia

We're hugely excited to be able to announce that inkle will be teaming up with UK games' legend, Ian Livingstone, at the Games Britannia festival this July. Games Britannia is a week-long festival of workshops, talks and competitions aimed at getting schoolchildren interested in videogames and we're going to be there with inklewriter helping kids turn Ian's classic Fighting Fantasy book The Warlock of Firetop Mountain into slick and modern interactive fiction.

In a garden of forking paths...

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.

inklewriter for writers and teachers

inklewriter logo

Since we announced inklewriter two weeks ago it's been getting a lot of attention, which is really exciting for us. When we first started work on it, the idea was simple - we make interactive stories, but when we tell people that, they don't always get what we mean. So we thought, let's make a web-tool that lets people find out for themselves.

Introducing the inklewriter

inklewriter screenshot

One of the best things about working with interactive stories is they're new: the ground is mostly untested, the formulas are still in their infancy, and people are having new ideas about what works all the time.

One of the hardest things about working with interactive stories is also that they're new: it's not always clear to see what to try next. It's not even clear to see how to get started.

The ability to experiment is key, and we need to get more people trying things out and exploring the possibilities of interactive stories. And while we're not a self-publishing platform - we want every inklebook we produce to be something really special! - we also know that great talent isn't easy to find, especially when our best authors might not even know about interactive stories... yet!