I do the Words,
You do the Pictures
for a Crowdfunded Steampunk Adventure Gamebook
Interested? Continue reading “Illustrator Wanted”
Interested? Continue reading “Illustrator Wanted”
You manage to haul the struggling engineer onto the back of your velosteam and ride off towards West Wycombe. She is not at all impressed when you unload her in front of Lord Dashwood, but despite herself she is fascinated by the steam carriage he is building. He has called it the Wagtail and its sleek aluminium lines are quite captivating.
Lord Dashwood takes you aside. “Good work,” he says, handing you a purse of guineas (1260d). “I knew she’d see sense.”
The three of you get to work on the engine, but after a week’s tinkering and tuning, involving many trial runs, Lalage Harris puts down her tools. “We need a stronger material for the shafts and cylinders. There’s a titanium alloy that people have been using that is what we need, but it’s not easy to get hold of.”
Lord Dashwood claps you on the shoulder. “If anyone can get hold of it, you can! I put prodigious faith in you. Bring me that alloy and you can name your price.”
Leave West Wycombe House… 492
Here’s a single passage from my current Steam Highwayman gamebook. It’s an open-world steampunk adventure set around Marlow, High Wycombe and Maidenhead. Rob the wagons of Transport Guilds, intercept the telegrams of the Compact for Worker’s Rights, ride the midnight roads of Berkshire and find lasting fame – through ruthlessness or mercy!
Breakthrough! I’ve rewritten my inventory system in Steam Highwayman to make something much, much more streamlined. Discovering that I was able to display a passage named after the nth string in an array, I’ve moved onto creating a passage for each generic object and giving the reader the opportunity to read about it whenever they open their inventory. The same passage, when displayed within a passage tagged “shop”, gives the option to sell that object.
I always wanted to have variation within the game’s prices, so objects fit into one of six or so categories, and shopkeepers and fences will offer you better prices on some of those categories – eg revolutionaries will give you more for weapons, engineers for tools, hungry people for food.
Now that I’m writing it down, it looks like a minor matter – but I assure you, it’s not!
I’ve also included a photo of a (glitchy) version of what I hope to display in your ‘legend’ section – a list of the deeds of the day and your past deeds. Simply because I’m pleased that it now registers when you have been attacked by a deer.
It’s been a good day astride the velosteam. I’ve created a 2-part mini quest that introduces you to one of my Factions, the Compact for Workers’ Equality. You’ll want to watch out for their posters in urban locations and their supporters in pubs everywhere…
And on the technical side, I’ve been using help on the twine forum to embed a map for the first time. This was one of the first things that I was asked for, so I’ve managed to get the first version embedded as Base64 encoding, whatever that is. It now sits in your inventory just above your pocket watch…
I’ve moved my demo from a separate demo-map into the top left corner of this ‘real’ bit of my old neck of the woods. The demo extends up towards Stokenchurch and beyond Christmas Common, which is the entrance point for your story.
I’ve just completed the first of several ‘Robin Hood’ style adventures in Steam Highwayman – prevent the strip-mining and destruction of a poor Chiltern village by challenging the Regional director of the all-powerful Coal Board. Your response can be variously ruthless, and variously successful, which may lead to trailing consequences.
I’m planning for this to be one of 6 possible beginnings to Steam Highwayman, allowing you to enter the world in a different physical location, with a slightly different allegiance and with a different ‘base’ – all of which you should be able to change in time. However, for my planned demo, this will be the first adventure, which is why I’m not publishing it here as a playthrough.
The experience of siding with the villagers against the corporation should give you an on-going set of missions: when people realise that you are wanted by the Coal Board, or at least willing to act against them, shady characters will offer you missions and the local priest may take an interest. Will it result in an emergent plot? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
I’ve returned to Fabled Lands as a stimulus for my Steam Highwayman writing. I like the short, pithy passages that leave a lot to your imagination. However, there was never a great deal of conversation in those books and I find dialogue fits into a responsive text very naturally – in fact, it’s one of the easiest and most pleasurable things I write. So I’ve drafted this encounter with a gipsy family: Barsali’s Caravan. It gives a flavour of the style of mini-quests I’m intending to include as you explore the world of Steam Highwayman. Different options would be available to you depending on whether you have collected certain objects, or have certain skills.
I’ve also just begun experimenting with customising colours on Twine, the tool I use to create this.
Try exploring this story: steamhighwayman0-3
I’ve now completed a demo map to explore on your velosteam: 14 passages or ‘rooms’ that respond to the order and time in which you visit them, generating unique text and interactive traffic events. I haven’t got any graphic interface for this yet – it exists purely as the relationship between passages. But I have sketched it here to help you locate yourself:
One of the underlying ‘vanilla’ engines of this story was always to be your ability to rob any passers-by, either creating story-lines as you become despised or hated by particular groups or simply making easy money. This means that in true open-world fashion, you will need to be able to interact with all the traffic that comes your way.
At the moment these interactions are very rough, but essentially different sorts of road (main road, road or lane) and different times of day (day/night) will be more or less likely to generate different classes of traffic (pedestrians/farm vehicles/goods vehicles/guild vehicles/locobuses/private steam carriages etc). You may be able to hail them and get rumours or rob them – reminiscent perhaps, and purposefully, of the sail ahoy mechanic in Sid Meier’s Pirates Gold.
I intend to keep working on this demo map until all the major modules are working. So far we have:
I mean to finish writing Squire Lynch’s quest, finish the interactions with the guild engines and create a quest at a nearby steam fairground. Still haven’t done anything about my pistol engine…
Also I’ve got some lineation and matching issues with the generated text in my passages. I’m slowly building more reliable templates so that in a completed version, everything should look seamless. Other bugs include:
This morning I’ve been working on those priority checks – the variables that will test whether you’ve visited a location before, what factors will influence the generated text there and the counters that generate time, the phase of the moon and the weather. I’m going to head out to do some of the creative part soon, thinking about the way I want these passages to sound and look.
I had a long chat with my brother Jack about this and we agree that there’s no point having long passages of description clogging up a reader’s enjoyment of what is essentially a story. In the Fabled Lands series, passages are typically around 60 words, and that suits a smartphone fine, so I’m hoping to extrude the all the vital information in a few pithy sentences.
It’s been a good morning. I’ve been teaching the locals at the Sign of the Spyglass to gossip – as well as to keep track of your visits there. Should they tell you of the wicked Squire Lynch, you should find a new quest opening up, in which you dole out some justice to an overbearing landlord.
Most of my recent writing has been coding systems that keep track of various story variables, so it’s nice to be starting on writing a mini-story within the tale. However, though I’m sketching dialogue and event options there are a few things I need to complete before you’re able to to stop Squire Lynch’s speedy chariaeoli, defeat him in a duel, humiliate and rob him.
These are what I’ll be working on for the next week or two. Using variable text to create interesting and significant passages is really my aim. Many interactive fictions dispense with description because a reader skips them naturally, hurrying to the action. I’m trying to embed important information and other options within text. If it rains, that will effect your ability to chase a high-speed steam wagon. If you’re in a wood, you may have simple sub-quest options related to objects you carry – such as cutting wood or finding a particular mushroom. I hope to give the reader the ability to complete actions in any reasonable place, rather than at a specific quest location.
I was just mucking around with sound editing software and an intro for Steam Highwayman that came out of my head. So here’s a little taster I made last week.
That’s Brahms’ 3rd Symphony in the background – a very quick choice – inspired by the old Ladybird story cassettes we had with classical soundtracks to excellent stories like Around the World in Eighty Days and Tom Sawyer.