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Everybody Play The Game

December 21, 2011

I was reading through’s Top 100 Adventure Games of All time list, and though it’s not completely posted yet, I did so with a slight sense of melancholy, because I know there is one adventure game that simply cannot be on the list. I know it’s not there because it’s one I was trying to get made, which never happened.

The game was going to be called The Lost Fortress of Black Glass, and it was going to be a nice RPG Adventure Game hybrid, a bit like what we’ve seen with the Elder Scrolls games, only with more opportunities for problem solving and less call for fighting or shooting your way through if you prefer.

Sadly, the first mistake I made was saddling myself to a programmer who really only wanted to make a new kind of Turn Based Strategy game with more story and more flexible art than we’ve seen in most of those games to date. Frankly, I didn’t see it coming, but once I understood where his heart really was, I was only too happy to let him off the hook.

The problem for me since then is that, I’ve tried implementing variations on the game a couple of times since then, and frankly, every time something seems to kill the project before it gets started, which leads me to the inescapable conclusion that the project is cursed. Somewhere along the way, I must have offended a Gypsy or something, because I haven’t been able to get this project to come together in five years.

It’s a tale from the medieval period of my Quantum Gaslight series, taking place in a small Balkan country with almost a dozen towns, each containing a castle fortress that has its own secrets to hide. The biggest secret is that a legendary lost fortress, the original capitol city of the country, has been rediscovered, and it is once again opening its doors, which powers a problem, given how much effort it took to close them the first time.

My vision for the series was that it would all be made up of modular sections that would be distributed separately online, and then recombined in any order you liked, save that the beginning and the ending had to be, well, at the beginning and ending. I wanted this because I thought it would make the game more accessible and affordable, while allowing us to make quite a bit of money from the full set if it caught on.

Of course, this wasn’t the concept I shared with the original programmer. It was just a notion at that time. What broke the back of the project that time was simply that I wanted it to be a modern adventure game (with action and stealth components), and he decided he’d rather have a strategy game.

The next time around, I planned it as a tabletop RPG series, which was where the initial concept of modularity came in. A series of modules that could be bought and played in pretty much any order sounded ideal to me. However, by that  time, I had a pretty strong idea of what the project was about, so changing the story significantly to suit the needs of the RPG group I was working with didn’t appeal. I didn’t know how I could mount the project on my own, but I was certain I’d rather wait for a better opportunity than compromise.

Since then, I’ve done some more work on the series, which has been considered for a trilogy of novels at present. However, my main interest in the series has been as an interactive story, so I haven’t committed to writing it as straight prose because I was quite hoping I’d figure out a way to make it into a proper interactive story.

At the moment, I have two options: either I make it as a series of Choose Your Own Adventure ebooks, which would be easier, or I devise some form of story game format and try to get the game published that way, kind of like the Bhaloidam system, only in a form I can afford to publish myself without licensing fees or what have you. I can almost envision a series of cardboard cutout fortress models to be assembled for each module, but I’m not sure how much work it would take to design a working build of each fortress. There would doubtless have to be plenty of play testing, and I simply don’t have an available group to play test with these days.

What I think I’d really like to do is design a LAN party-style multi-player game where everyone has to use a computer, laptop, smart phone or tablet to input and watch the game unfold, giving their silent instructions to the game master, who simply guides and governs the events and ensures no one walks away feeling cheated. The real requirement of such a thing is to design a game that allows for classic tabletop RPG style gameplay, including a human judge instead of an impersonal and highly inflexible game mechanic.

I’ll probably end up doing the Choose Your Own Adventure series, if and when I can figure out how to make such a system context sensitive, if I still plan on going with the modular model, which seems increasingly unlikely. It might be nice to try out a demo chapter and see if it works the way I’d like it to, at least.

This will probably be my next project, while I also work out my Procession of The Tartarus story, which has hit a bit of a snag, as I’m having to do a lot of research on ‘Dark Age’ empires long forgotten by modern history classes, like the Crown of Aragon and such.

Time to sign off and get back to work. Hope your morning is going well. Take care, Macketeers.


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