Monday, 28 February 2011

My new gamebook mechanic - Hidden Choices - Complete and about to be released

On March 17, this year, my second gamebook, "The Wounded Falcon" will be released into the marketplace - The first in the "Choices" series.  This is a rewrite, expansion and update of a short mini-gamebook I wrote a few years ago.

With this book, I have created a new gamebook mechanic, not used before, called "Hidden Choices". I explain the motivation for this new mechanic, on my "Choices" website.

"One thing that a lot of computer games, particularly adventure games, have had over the written adventure gamebook was the ability to attempt any action (within the accepted range of actions for the game) at any time, not knowing whether the attempted action would be permitted by the game or not. This added significantly to the challenge of puzzle solving.
With gamebooks, all available choices given to the reader are almost always displayed on the page. The reader does not have to think 'outside the square'. At no point is the reader able to think, 'Now I wonder if I could use item X that I collected back at location Y to get by this problem.' and be permitted to act on that thought.
I wanted to increase the level of the gamebook experience by encouraging the reader the option of trying something else and not just be limited to the choices on the page. By engaging the reader this way, I think it significantly increases the value of the gamebook experience."

To read more about the mechanic, and, in particular, the full instructions concerning how the "Hidden Choices" feature works, click here to go to my Choices website, which includes a full extract of the relevant pages in the gamebook instructions.

In keeping with the theme of different gamebook mechanics, to any visitors to this blog, I encourage you to contribute (in the comments section) with what unique gamebook mechanics you have found to be particularly interesting/enjoyable.



reluctance said...

a new gamebook mechanic, not used before

This is not entirely dissimilar "Taking a Hint" in the Cretan Chronicles, though more rigorous.

J P Barnett said...

I should clarify. When I say the mechanic has not been used before I am stating that no mechanic exists where:

a)to use any and all items of equipment collected in the gamebook, you need to follow a procedure to "potentially" find a hidden choice to use that item. i.e. Every page of the story (after the first one where the first item of equipment is acquired) could potentially have a hidden choice.

b) Incorrect attempts to find any of the abovementioned hidden choices is met with a time penalty.

The "Taking a Hint" option of The Cretan Chronicles was what I would classify as a "Partial Hidden" choices system as well. The italicising of the paragraph number gives a hint that a "non-standard" action can be performed. The form of the penalty is different to mine as well (honour/shame) as compared to time.

I really wanted a system where choices were genuinly "hidden" from the reader, leaving the reader totally unaware of even how many hidden choices exist in the book. Even after completing the adventure successfully (of which there are three ways in The Wounded Falcon), the reader could still think "There are possibly events in the book that I have not seen play out yet" for they do not know where every hidden choice is hidden in the story. I hope this will increase re-readability of the story.

Jon Green also uses a similar method to the Cretan Chronicles in his FF book Stormslayer, where a paragraph is asterisked to imply that a number can be added to the paragraph to discover more about a situation. In his case, it is used for when you have a companion. There is a number to add to the asterisked paragraph for your companion to speak out and provide more information about the location where you are currently at. There is no penalty system here, but again, there are similarities to both the Cretan Chronicles method and mine, but, still all three mechanics are unique.

Thanks for your post, Reluctance. I enjoy discussing the different gamebook mechanics that have evolved over the years. It is certainly a lot different to the (early) days of the Choose Your Own Adventure series where all that existed were choices and nothing else.

Ikaros said...

Hi! It’s a nice way to use normal items in a gamebook!
In “Sorcery!” they use a similar system in the “Seven serpent book”. In that book there is a particular ring that allows you to subtract 14 to any section were you confront an serpent. In this hidden section you could learn about the secrets they keep.

The time consumed is a nice mechanic to!


J P Barnett said...

Thanks Ikaros,

I vaguely remember that ring. Was it something collected in The Seven Serpents or was the ring collected in a prior book of the series?

That is a good example of a small usage of the Hidden Choices mechanic, to a degree. It was a natural progression, I think, to extend such a mechanic to all items collected in a gamebook.

The time mechanic indeed, was critical to the whole Hidden Choices mechanic being viable. Without it, the Hidden Choices system, used on such a large scale, would be almost pointless.