The inkle blog
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
This is something we learnt the hard way in the mainstream console industry. Making something flexible and non-linear, like a game, or an interactive story, is hard. Making sure it doesn't break, even in obscure ways, is really hard. Making it in a way that, once you've made it, you've any idea at all how it worked a month later is almost impossible.
But most importantly, making it in a way that frees you to think creatively is crucial.
At inkle, we balance our time between big projects, and quick fun things we want to try out, so this week we made a quick demo showing how we could adapt a book (we pulled out by Alan Garner's classic fantasy The Weirdstone of Brisingamen) into our inklebook format.
The questions were: would it work? How easy was it to do? How close could we stay to the original text, without compromising the interactivity? How much fun is the result?
The demo story is pretty short - just a few scenes, from near the start of the novel, in which the two protagonists Colin and Susan arrive in the wonderful setting of Alderley Edge, and the first seeds are laid of the magical things that go on there. And obviously, we can't release it! But it was a great experiment, and one I'd love to repeat on a larger scale.
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.
Welcome to inkle!
inkle is the brainchild of Joseph Humfrey and Jon Ingold, two video-game developers with one foot in triple-A console gaming and the other in the world of books and literature. Together, we code, design, create and visualise beautiful software.
After several weeks of hectic development, we're pulling back the curtains and revealing our new website. Please, take a look around, and let us know what you think. There are sections here or coming that'll tell you all about who we are and what we do, as well as our upcoming projects.
There will be plenty more features added over the course of the next month, and some exciting ways for you to get involved. So please be sure to check back regularly! In the meantime though, we've got some work to be doing...