quarta-feira, 6 de abril de 2016

What we can learn from the old RPG solo adventure books

If you are an old school gamer and a RPG fan like me, you have probably played in the 80’s or 90’s some of the classic solo adventure books created by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone, named Fighting Fantasy Collection. These authors disseminated a very unique kind of entertainment in the form of books. Using the idea of non-linear narrative they materialized some stories where the reader (or the player) could take decisions, combat enemies (rolling dice) and obtain different kinds of equipment for his/her journey (that could be controlled using a special character sheet). One of my favorite books from this collection is The Temple of Terror (LIVINSTONE, 1985).



This narrative fits in the idea of ergodic literature, proposed by Aarseth (1997, p.1), because of the unusual effort readers/players must put in text to advance in the story (roll die, take notes, read the pages without logical order etc.). In Temple of Terror the player will be a warrior entering an adventure inside the Temple of Skelos to fight the evil sorcerer Malbordus. Using a clever system based on choices and number of pages, players must use their memory, solve puzzles and get lucky in the dice to defeat the monsters until reaching the dungeon of Malbordus.



Entertainment aside, rests a question: what lessons this kind of ludic experience can teach to us to develop or study games? Here are some points to think about:

1) This kind of book is perfect to deconstruct. To learn from failures is essential to draw a map. This map is the game’s script. Through it, it’s possible to understand the complex “decision trees” created by the author.

2) After playing the same adventure a number of times, you’ll see strong points and weaknesses of the narrative. You can mark the frequency of combat, dialogues and achievements to have a notion of how to balance your game between different features.

3) Temple of Terror, specifically, is an exercise of suspension of disbelief. Can you imagine a dungeon full of goblins, demons, skeletons, dragons and other fantastic beings living in a healthy way? Makes no sense if you think rationally, but in this format it makes all the sense. The script is a little bit naïve, but, on the other hand, it is an exercise of fantasy fiction for young audiences.

4) There’s a crisscrossing between how a book like this is created and how a complex videogame script is created. Basically, both are narratives. So studying different formats will help you have “fuel” to compose new ideas for new games.

5) IT’S FUN! So don’t waste time. If you have never played a solo adventure game, buy a book and try now. During the experience, ask yourself: why books like this one made such success in the past? Where’s the fun factor in them? How we can use them to create games for mobile phones, consoles or board games?



The challenge is yours.

#GoGamers



Reference:

AARSETH, Espen. Cibertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature. The Johns Hopkins University Press: Maryland, 1997.

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