The inkle blog
This guest post is by Meg Jayanth, author of the script for 80 Days.
Verne was one of the pioneers of science-fiction: his novels mixed wild invention with careful, plausible explanations. His stories imagined the future - but to the modern reader, his visions can be marred by the prejudices and assumptions of the past.
We wanted to take Verne's sense of exhilaration and optimism about the future, and expand upon his perspective. We wanted to build a world that isn't comfortably settled into Victorian values, but is as slippery, changing, and as challenging to a contemporary reader as Verne's works were to his own.
Steampunk is often written as a modern fantasy of an imagined past. We wanted to create something a bit different: a historical fantasy of an imagined future. We call our style Victorian Futurism.
80 Days is steampunk whose heart doesn't pump (only) Thames-water: a world shaped by indigenous retrofuturisms in Africa and Asia and the Americas, which resist and disrupt the conventional narrative of history.
We wanted to write steampunk where the automaton armies of the Zulu Federation turn away the depredations of European colonists scrambling for Africa - where the technology that built the British Raj is being used to dismantle its foundations - where the Panama Canal is dug using Haitian ingenuity, tipping the balance of power away from the United States - and where the stories usually told in the margins spill over into the text, and half of them belong to unexceptional women.
We think all this will make our game better, richer, funnier, wilder. We tried to write steampunk which addresses race and class and empire, that goes beyond bustled-and-corseted nostalgia. To build a hungry, radical, fantastical world. Writing historically shouldn't be an excuse to fetishise outmoded ideas, but to invent better ones.
The year is 1872.
Welcome to the future.
Only eighty days, now that the section between Rothal and Allahabad, on the Great Indian Peninsula Railway, has been opened...
At the start of Around the World in Eighty Days, a newspaper report about the completion of a new railway line is the trigger that sends Phileas Fogg on his race to circumnavigate the globe.
And at the time that Verne was writing, there was only one way the trip could be made in such a short time: through the newly-opened Suez Canal, across the heart of India, and then across America by railway.
But for our version of 80 Days, we wanted the player to be able to go anywhere, visit any city on the globe, and build their own route. Which meant we couldn't set the game in 1872. Or at least, not the 1872 that Verne knew.
So instead, we've created an 1872 Verne might have dreamed of...
Trains, Balloons... Airships, Hydrofoils... Gyrocopters, Steam-cars...
Perhaps you will begin your journey on the newly-built Orient Express, travelling in style from Paris to Istanbul. From there, you could change to a Roziere hot-air balloon for the three-day journey to Beirut, where steam-ships travel to Alexandria, airships ply routes into Mesopotamia, and an ingenious steam-car powered by the heat of the sun runs the old road to Baghdad through the ruins of an ancient Sumerian city...
Or perhaps you'd rather travel north, taking the hydrofoil from Amsterdam to the city of Kristiania - now Oslo - before heading into Russia, where the Trans-Siberian Express crosses the Steppes at super-high speed, powered by magnetic induction?
Or why not travel down through Africa, swapping Ottoman Gheyik airships for the mighty copper-and-tin balloons which can cross the Indian Ocean in a few days...?
There are hundreds of ways to travel, and hundreds of thousands of ways around our world.
Will you make it back to London in time? Care to bet?
Two weeks ago we posted an annoucement of our next game, 80 Days, where we described it as "part interactive fiction, part globe-based board-game". (We also said it was a real-time, location-based game, but that was nonsense.)
So what does exactly do we mean?
An adventure begins
inkle exists to experiment with ways to create rich, immersive stories which place the player right in the action, whatever and wherever it may be: where every movement, every line of dialogue and every choice are made by you, and remembered for the rest of the game.
Now, in 80 Days, we want to blend those two approaches and in Verne's classic tale of gentlemanly adventure we've found the perfect inspiration. 80 Days will take you on an adventure around the entire world, starting on Tuesday 1st October, 1872 and ending - if you play your cards right - eighty days later.
But unlike in Verne's novel, where you go on this journey is up to you.
An entire globe of content
At time of writing we're up to nearly two hundred different cities to visit and explore, covering Europe, Russia, India, Africa, South America, the Pacific Islands... and the network of journeys between them is a crazed spiders'-web of steam-boats, balloons, trains, yachts, camel-trains, elephants, carts and carriages...
And every day of every journey forms part of the story, with risks to take, people to meet, situations to overcome - and consequences, both good and bad. Crossing the date-line will be the least of your troubles!
It's all been meticulously researched: our author, Meg Jayanth, has a folder with hundreds of web-links, images, documents and transcripts. From first-hand accounts of the Trans-Siberian express to the religions of the Ottoman Empire via the slave-trade and the colonial opium trade, we want our journey to be authentic - more so even perhaps than Verne's original work.
One more last thing
With all that said, there's one thing we haven't yet told you about the world of 80 Days. We'll be revealing more soon, but for now -- the clues are all here...
In January we posted this teaser:
Now it's time to reveal our hand.
It's finally here! You can now start your adventure in search of the Crown of Kings in the acclaimed first part of Steve Jackson's Sorcery!, available for Android devices and Kindle Fire.
Find out more on the main Sorcery! page, or get started straight away!
An epic adventure
Sorcery! is an epic adventure in four parts - a journey where every decision is yours to make, and every danger is yours to face. Along with a simple but compelling combat system and a gamut of weird and wonderful spells to cast, the game features thousands of choices - and every one you make is remembered. Will you be kind and honourable, or cruel and selfish? Will you starve, or feast? Will you uncover the secrets of The Shamutanti Hills?
Adapted from the million-selling series by Steve Jackson, part of the Fighting Fantasy series co-created with Ian Livingstone, Sorcery! is an interactive story the like of which could never have existed on paper. Using inklewriter technology the story rewrites itself in real-time around your actions, so every play-through is different.
Part 2 of the adventure has already been released for Apple devices and will be out on Android within a few months, and we're aiming to release the last two parts of the story simultaneously on both platforms later in the year.
The dream of building games simultaneously for iOS and Android always seemed like a goal just outside of our reach. Unfortunately, writing code for Android requires learning an entirely different set of tools than for iOS, and with a core team of just two, we wanted to play to our strengths. All our apps so far have been built in native iOS code.
Therefore, the decision to port Sorcery! to Android was a question of who? and how?
One of the things we did when adapting Sorcery! was to stuff it so full of hidden surprises and Easter eggs that wandering off the beaten track and trying new things would always be worth your time.
And with the series making its Android debut next Wednesday, we thought it'd be a good time to set a few challenges.
So, have you:
- Survived the fields of the Black Lotus?
- Met a man with an identical twin?
- Been eaten to death by bats?
- Collected 5 Giant's teeth?
- Collected more than seventy Gold Pieces?
- Killed Jann the Minimite?
- Solved the riddle of Daddu-Ley?
- Been cursed by a spirit?
- Set off, and survived, all three traps in the Manticore's maze in a single run?
- Completed the game without a single fight (except for the tutorial sparring match)?
- Met Vik the Slaver?
- Met the founder of the City of Kharé?
- Collected the Green-Haired Wig, the Cloth Skullcap, the Bracelet of Bone and the Gold-backed Mirror in a single run-through? (And we mean, a single one!)
- Bought the Legendary Sword? Or better still, bought it twice?
- Collected more than a hundred and fifty Gold Pieces?
- Burned down the market?
- Met the Goblin King - and incite a Goblin revolt against him?
- Rigged the fight in Dwarftown?
- Stolen gems and jewels from the God Courga?
- Gone bald?
Sorcery! 3 is still being written, but so far, if you're smart and observant, you should be able to:
- Learn a spell for summoning a Rock Demon...
- Meet Vancass again...
- Survive being crucified...
- Turn the jewel-studded collar into something more valuable...
- Leap across a canyon...
- Age to death, blow yourself up, and be eaten by ants...
- Turn into a snake...
- Get married...
- Create six giant invisible clones...
- ...and defeat all Seven Serpents while you're at it!
It's finally ready, and looking more beautiful than ever: the first part of Steve Jackson's Sorcery! will be hitting the Google Play and Amazon App stores on the March 12th.
Prepare to journey through the Shamutanti Hills, face deadly foes, and explore hundreds of different branches, areas, with thousands of choices, all of which are remembered. You can save as many different play-throughs as you want, ready to pick them up in Part 2 - which is over four times as long, and adds a host of new features.
Originally released for iOS last May, Sorcery! has been described as "the gold-standard for interactive fiction" by Pocket Gamer, "taking the genre of interactive fiction to a whole new level" by Kotaku and "some of 2013's best interactive storytelling" by IGN. Sorcery! featured in Game of the Year lists for Mashable, TouchArcade and Gamezebo.
A long time coming
So - we promised this at least six months ago. Why the delay? What started as a simple port turned into a reimplementation of huge portions of Apple's core iOS codebase. We'll go into more depth in a later blog post, because it might be of interest to other developers (but no, we didn't use Apportable).
Our developer, Iain Merrick, has managed to recreate the underlying iPhone and iPad systems used for user interface, imaging, audio and much more, in around three months. Until a few weeks ago, we weren't even sure it was possible: but now, it's ready, and we have an exact port of the original game, right down to using the same original Apple-specific code.
It also means Sorcery! 2 should be quicker to produce; and we're hoping that from Sorcery! 3 onwards we'll be releasing simultaneously cross-platform.
Actually - it's not quite a copy. If you get a chance, put the Android version side-by-side with the iPad version and prepare to be amazed. The addition of a quick pixel-shader has brought the map into crisp sharpness at the closest of zooms.
(The best thing about this port? We can take that pixel-shader code right back into the iOS version.)
What news on Part 3?
For those of you who've already made your way through the Shamutanti Hills and across the deadly cityport of Kharé, rest assured: The Seven Serpents are on their way. As you'll know, we don't just replicate the original gamebooks but extend and expand them into full adventures, packed with extra routes, new scenes, secrets, traps and consequences.
So far, we've written over half a million words of content, and while Part 3 is going to be a bit different than previous instalments, its certainly not going to get simpler.
We're typing away furiously, but we've got a few more months to go. Trust us; it'll be worth the wait.
We're making a new game. Think you know what it is? Care to bet?