The inkle blog
With writing on Sorcery! 4 now at fever-pitch, we took a little time out to talk to Rock, Paper, Shotgun about Sorcery!'s past and present. A few minor spoilers for Sorcery! 2 here and none for Sorcery! 4, but if you're interested to hear a little about the history of the project and how we go about designing it, this might be an interesting read.
As designers, we’re incredibly restless. We like trying new ideas, and in a way Sorcery has turned into our prototype testing pot for new concepts. As soon as we realised that Steve and the fans are happy for us to take it to new places, it’s been really fun to build on things.
The full article is here.
In other Sorcery! news, we've just had the final mix of Sorcery! 4's theme music from the composer and it's... jaw-dropping.
With Sorcery! 4 well underway, we're looking ahead to our next big project. After four years of adapting books - interactive and otherwise - into great, interactive reading experiences, we're looking to expand outwards a little.
A new game is a precious, fragile thing: this game doesn't have a name, and any mechanics and systems it might contain could be flung away at a moment's notice if a better idea comes along. 80 Days went through ten or so major iterations before reaching its final combination of cities, journeys, trading, health and conversations.
The Pillars of the Game
But there a few things we're certain of - the pillars of the game, around which we hope to build our temple.
It's going to be made in Unity. After so long making iOS-first games, this is quite a change for us, but we want to be releasing our games across as many platforms as we can.
It's going to use a next-generation version of our ink writing engine. We'll talk a bit more about this in the coming months, but ink2 takes all the best parts about ink1 and adds more flexibility and power.
It's going to use dialogue. A lot of dialogue. In every game we've made, we've found dialogue is what works the best - so much so, that we told 80 Days entirely through one character's voice.
It's about a partnership. Two characters are better than one, especially if your game is about dialogue! We discovered this the moment Jann the Minimite first appeared back in Sorcery!, and the combination of Passepartout and Fogg is at the heart of 80 Days.
It's going to be beautiful.
It's going to take you somewhere you have never been before. For the first time, we aren't adapting anything, but starting from scratch. That's exciting, but also terrifying - what if people don't like the world we've created?
That's what we know for certain so far. Discovering the rest of the game is like caving - exploring dark passages, retreating from dead-ends, and occasionally holding one's breath to swim through a flooded, darkened chamber in the hope of coming up on the other side...
We'll tell you more, once we get there.
Going the Extra Mile
Time to Set Sail!
A year in the making, this is the original, award-winning mobile game, rebuilt from the ground up for desktops. With a streamlined user-interface, bigger and brighter visuals, this is the ultimate 80 Days experience.
We've added thirty new cities and 150k words of new content. We've opened up Canada, North and South America, as well as adding a few pitstops along the way - Port Moresby, Pitcairn Island; Zurich, Meteora Valley and Tunis...
Around the World, In Your Lunchtime
There are smaller tweaks too - for instance, background play: if the original 80 Days was good for curling up with on the sofa and going on an adventure, we've built this version to be played in a window, so you can travel around the world while you work. (And to ensure you don't miss anything, the clock will automatically pause when you're in another window.)
Of course, you can still play full-screen for an immersive experience as well.
When we released 80 DAYS last year, it was something special for us, but we didn't expect people to take it into their hearts the way they did. But we also knew we weren't quite finished with the game, either. There were still more adventures to tell and more places to explore.
Last Christmas, when we brought the game to Android, we indulged ourselves a little by including a new journey - a perilous, possibly even fatal trip to through the Arctic to the North Pole itself.
Over thirty new cities
Now, to celebrate the PC and Mac editions coming on the 29th September, we've added a huge new update - so big we've been calling it internally "Season 2".
If you want to embark on new adventures without spoilers look away now! Otherwise, here are a few juicy details about what's coming up.
Free on all platforms, this update brings the total number of cities to 169, and opens up North America, Canada, South America for full exploration, as well as adding new highlights along the way - the clockwork city of Zurich, the tiny settlement of Pitcairn Island, the monasteries of Meteora Valley and a dark night in Machu Picchu (and props if you can find that one, by the way).
Major new storylines!
The update also adds one huge new plot-line, which sees Passepartout falling prey to Europe's most notorious international jewel-thief, the Black Rose. Is she friend or foe? What is her interest in the valet and his master? And will she be able to discover the Artificer's greatest secret?
“I have learned that the wealth of the Artificers has grown beyond what they might keep in the banks of any one nation without paying large sums of taxes. So they have begun, in secret, to store it away in a vault of their own devising.” - The Black Rose
But who is she, really?
More Extraordinary Voyages
We've also returned to Verne for more inspiration: most notably, somewhere in the world, a certain Verne hero is preparing a ballistic rocket, ready to fire himself into the sky...
“Hold on. I dare say this will be somewhat more dramatic than last time!” - Michel Ardan
And that's not all...
Deputise for a corrupt Sheriff, play poker with a billionaire, go over Niagara Falls, rekindle a lost romance, discover Port Moresby (to the surprise of its inhabitants) and soar skywards with the curious Levitating Atheists of Valaam.
Hundreds of new people to meet, with secrets, hopes, dreams and grievances to discover.
“It is too refreshing to be anonymous for a few minutes, out here above the world.” - 'Lalla'
80 DAYS isn't a game about endings, but there are a few more of those to be found: two in particular, we think, are destined to be real crowd-pleasers...
The new release brings the game's total word count to nearly 750,000 words, longer than the first five Harry Potter novels combined. It's also pushing our inklewriter engine to its limits.
“I suppose that's the real truth. We are all connected by a hundred untaken journeys.” - The Lady Aodha
This is, we think, the definitive edition of 80 DAYS, and it'll available to play in just two weeks time. We couldn't be more excited. And if you're looking forward, do stop by the Steam Store's community page and let us know!
A whole new world
We're excited to finally announce what we've been up to for the last year, in the background, here at inkle HQ. In collaboration with Cambridge-based studio Cape Guy, we've rebuilt 80 DAYS from the ground up in Unity, for PC and Mac. And it'll be out on Steam, GoG and Humble at the end on September 29th, priced at $9.99.
A bigger adventure than ever before
To celebrate the release, we've included a massive content update, adding thirty new cities, over 150k words, and two major new world-spanning plotlines. Love, betrayal, thievery, murder, poker and piracy await! (UPDATE: Read more here!)
We go into a bit more detail in this interview here on Macworld.
About the port
The desktop versions are being built in Unity, with the bulk of the work done by Cape Guy, a new indie studio founded by ex-Rocksteady developer Ben Nicholson. Ben approached us to take the game on, and quickly impressed us with his credentials as a developer (if you want to know what he did on the Batman games, for instance, take a look at the company name and guess - Ben wrote the original physics code for Batman's cape in Arkham Asylum.)
We've been building in Unity 5, and leaning heavily on the new UI canvas system, with some of our features - such as the gently animated text reveal - really putting it through its paces.
We've also been making use of the graphical capabilities to produce some fancy new colour and shading effects, including a day/night cycle that moves across the surface of the globe.
The new version is prettier than ever!
Update: Laurence has written a bit about the new work on his own blog - along with an early preview of the theme for Sorcery! 2!
The recording came about thanks to the $99 Orchestra, a Kickstarted-orchestra dedicated to making high-quality live recordings for use by, well, whoever!
We've been so pleased with the results we're looking forward to using them again on two new pieces of music - firstly, the theme for the final Sorcery! instalment (coming soon - and no, sorry, we don't know when!) - but we're also going back to create something new for Sorcery! 2.
Here's Laurence hard at work composing more Sorcery!
We're looking forward to the results!
It's taken six weeks, but it's finally been cracked!
When we released Sorcery! 3: The Seven Serpents in late April, we teased on this forum (warning: major SPOILERS on that thread!) that the game had one ultimate secret: an ending that was totally fair, but almost impossibly difficult to find. An ending so hidden, in fact, that we hadn't managed to do it ourselves.
Normally, on the internet, "difficult" means "solved today" and "secret" means "solved tomorrow", but this one has kept the posters on Touch Arcade busy for over a month, and has been repeatedly declared impossible.
NBAS - No Beacons All Serpents
The goal is to complete the game, killing all seven, but without using any of the "beacons of time". Yes, that means, getting across the ravines, gullies, and mountain ranges, all without the power to alter the landscape. It also means defeating that Serpent. And yes, it seems, it can be done. (We thought so!)
There's now a full walk-through on the forum, so if you want to play the game unspoiled, then you've been warned...
While people have been Serpent-slaying, other players are still working on 80 Days, and Phileas Fogg fans will be pleased - or appalled! - to hear the world record has been smashed to a mere 28 days. The previous best of 30 lasted for a good six months.
Speaking of Secrets
...We're keeping one. No, we're keeping it. For now. More, soon.
The long wait is over. The Gates of Kharé have opened (or not, depending what you did) and the path into the Baklands beckons. A place of dust and stones, empty of life but cursed and haunted by terrible creatures. A place where you will starve, tumble into canyons, be murdered in your sleep... unless you have what it takes to survive.
In short: Sorcery! 3: The Seven Serpents is now out on iOS, Amazon Kindle and Google Play. It's our most ambitious title yet - a fully open world to explore across two time periods that can be blended between at will. The monsters are tougher, the traps meaner, and the secrets and hidden corners more weird and surprising than before. But we've still ensured that, if you haven't played previous games, you can pick up the adventure here.
A year in the making
When we say this game is big, we mean it; what was intended as a four month project grew to take most of a year. When we began, we knew we wanted to throw the game open and leave the normal branching-path structure behind, but brought a lot of big changes with it.
For instance, if the player can go anywhere, how do we handle the passage of time? In previous parts, that's keyed to where you are - but now you can be anywhere, at any time. And with the player's paths looping back and around on themselves, our previous rewind system had to be overhauled into the new "active rewind" feature that you'll see in the game.
Under the hood, too, we had to upgrade our core text engine, making it possible to spin side-stories out from the main flow of content at any time - allowing the serpents and Snattacats you might be hunting to stalk you right back, appearing anywhere and at any time.
It's a technique we played with a little for 80 Days and have now gone all out on, meaning areas such as Lake Ilklala are built entirely from these procedural story components.
And then there was the graphical work, blending two massively detailed hand-drawn maps dynamically, in real-time and under the player's control, using a development on the shader technology we originally created to give the 80 DAYS its crisp outlines.
And finally, we were committed to a simultaneous release on both Android and iOS, which meant building all these systems in a way that worked across not two devices, but hundreds.
Judge for yourself
So was the extra work worth it? We think so, and early reviews agree, like this one from Touch Arcade:
“Sorcery! 3 is easily the biggest and most robust gamebook inkle has produced to date. It offers all of the strengths of the previous chapters and builds a ton of improvements on top of them... The hunt for the serpents is thrilling, and the battles with them are tense and exciting... easily the biggest and most satisfying gamebook ever released on iOS.” - Touch Arcade
How will you fare?
Now the game is finished (and don't worry, Part 4 is already under way). But we've got a request for you. The new open world structure means we have a question we don't know the answer to -- how quickly can this game be completed? (When we released 80 Days, our best time was 56 days. It was recently completed in just 27.)
So how fast can you cross the Baklands? Destroying all 7 Serpents, naturally. Let us know in the comments.
We've been silent on the blog for a while now. It's partly the shock of 80 DAYS receiving four BAFTA nominations, but mostly its been because we've been buried in the wild wastes of Kakhabad, fighting not one but seven Serpents, and trying to survive the curse that covers the land.
The good news is, our journey is almost complete. The game is just about to go out to our dedicated beta-testers, who'll strap on their legendary swords, ready their nose-plugs, glue and sand-pouches, and most likely die horribly at the first bug they encounter, whether it's this one...
... or this one...
New art, new music, new monsters...
As ever, the cartography is fresh from the pen of the brilliant Mike Schley - but this time around, it comes with an as-yet-unannounced twist. Suffice it to say for now that if you thought the original Sorcery!'s 3D mountain ranges were cool, be prepared for something truly magical this time around. Here's a clue for the eagle-eyed.
And all of that comes alongside twenty new monsters, smarter Swindlestones opponents, another half million words, and an unprecedented level of freedom of exploration. More on that later...
The Adventure Begins - or Continues
As before, you don't need to have played any previous Sorcery! games; you can start your journey right here - one of the advantages of a game that writes its story on the fly is it can insert the extra backstory and tutorials a new player needs without interrupting the game for returning adventurers.
Those of you loading games from Sorcery! 2 will be pleased to know you'll be facing a stiffer challenger than new players as well. If you struggled through Kharé's mean streets then you deserve it, right?
While we aren't announcing a launch date yet, we can say for certain that Sorcery! 3 will be launching on all platforms simultaneously.
In case you can't wait, you can always indulge a bit of Sorcery! love in our new online store, where you can pick up some gloriously high-def poster prints of the maps so far, or battle a Skunkbear while you have a cup of coffee. Take a look.