The inkle blog
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?
Nothing to do with Sorcery! today – instead, we’re really excited to be finally able to announce...
We're busy getting ready for our appearance at PAX East next week (yikes!) and as part of that, we've put up the first screenshots from Sorcery! The shots show the main game interface, along with the spell-casting, combat and map in action.
To celebrate the release of Future Voices, our anthology of inklewritten stories, we've released a raft of new features for inklewriter. I know, for a moment there we were in danger of coming out of beta...
There are updates to the way stories can be read and played, as well as new ways to vary the text that gets written. But possibly the most important update in this whole package won't make any difference to the story itself, but to the writer...
The Future Voices anthology is now available to download free on the App Store!
An analogy just popped into my head that goes some way to explaining why I like the idea of interactive books.
While listening to music (Mozart this time, but this holds true to any musical genre), I often have a longing to play along. I wish I am the pianist tinkling the ivories expertly with passion and precision. Some people drum their fingers, some whistle along, others can play along. (As a half measure, I can recommend learning a simple blues scale in a simple key and bashing a keyboard along to some jazz. There are few notes to learn, and most things sound good!)
Guitar Hero was popular because it so successfully constructed the feeling that you were playing, despite the relative extreme simplicity compared to the real thing.
The feeling that you're a part of the music elevates it further than listening passively. It helps you to concentrate, discern the themes and follow the threads.
And, whether we've achieved it or not, this is precisely what we're trying to do with inklebooks. The point is absolutely not to allow the player to do anything and go anywhere or change the story. The point is to let them play along within the musical score, working inside a narrow margin of narrative creativity. (As an aside, how nice to confidently be able to use the word "player" over "reader" for once!)
An opportunity for self-expression goes a long way as long as the boundaries are well-defined. At the very least, as the lead guitarist or first violin, you should be able to vary the intensity and timing of the notes. But we can go further: we can provide the narrative equivalent of a solo with the opportunity for improvisation. However, the boundaries and parameters of this improvisation needs to be well defined. You need to start at the right time, in the right key, continue the narrative of the composition, and hand over gracefully to the rest of the band by the end.
Therefore, the goal is to bring the concentration and the focus to a magnificent story that players of guitars, both real and plastic, get when they play along to a pre-written score. Very few video games have done this successfully, despite their mastery of immersion and interactivity in other contexts. Usually the story is interleaved with the player's interactions, rather than integrated.
And that is perhaps inkle's highest ambition.
Here at inkle we're winding down for the Christmas break, but we didn't want to go silent without first letting you know how the Sorcery app is coming along.
Hallowe'en has been and gone, and it's been Frankenstein season here at inkle. First was the very pleasant news that Apple were featuring the app as part of their seasonal specials. Then there were two events where we got to show the book and talk about how it works to people on both sides of the industry: firstly, to a group of readers, and then, to a conference of up-and-coming new entrants into the world of publishing.
But we've also seen some really interesting... not criticisms, exactly, but confusions. Ways in which the expectation of players didn't quite match what they got. And the one that seems to recur is this question: "Can the player change the story?"