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View Full Version : If you would like to be a shark, turn to page 91. Talking about CYOAs/Gamebooks


Loki
04-04-2013, 12:25 PM
I have a fondness for these stupid things.

http://i.imgur.com/0yOOpua.jpg?1

You may remember from places like your childhood that Chose Your Own Adventure was a serious a books that tried to trick you to read by offering you choices that would alter the path through the story. Some paths led to good endings, a lot lead to bad ones. The series became so popular in the 80s that a whole bunch of spin-offs popped up and there was a whole cottage industry of choosable 2nd person narratives (known collectively as CYOAs).

http://i.imgur.com/sf0cbRf.jpg?1

About the same time a couple of british chaps at Games Workshop figured out that if they added stats, dice, and inventories to the CYOA form they could create solo Dungeons and Dragons type experiences. They created a line of gamebooks called Fighting Fantasy that also went on to inspire a wide range of imitators.

http://i.imgur.com/HaoudM3.jpg?1

The gamebook craze had largely died out by the end of the 90s. Video games basically did everything gamebooks did but better. And who would ever want to read a word? But gamebooks have had something of a comeback in the past few years either due to nostalgia or the easy exchange of information on the internet. Mobile gaming has turned out to be fertile fields for gamebooks. There have been a number of apps including both new titles and reissues of older books. The multimedia additions, ease of number management, and hyperlinks makes for an ideal way to play these types of games. There have also been several successful kickstarter campaigns for new gamebooks. You're probably most familiar with Ryan North's Shakespeare parody To Be or Not To Be: That is the Adventure (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/breadpig/to-be-or-not-to-be-that-is-the-adventure/posts), but the inspiration for making this thread was Zach Weinersmith (of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal) Trial of the Clone (http://smbc.myshopify.com/products/trial-of-the-clone).

http://i.imgur.com/BOJK8vp.jpg

It was published last July, but an Android version developed by Tin Man Games (forerunner in gamebook app production) was released just last week and the iOS version is set to drop sometime this month.

From BoingBoing:

Not only is it witty and often laugh-aloud funny -- it's also got a novel and well-thought-through game mechanic that introduces an element of tabletop RPG-playing to the system (instead of rolling dice, you flip randomly through the book and get your roll-value from the number at the bottom corner of the page).

The premise is a fun spoof of the Star Wars trilogy. You're an orphaned clone (they decanted you in order to fill a hot market wherein rich people competed to adopt orphans, quickly exhausting the existing pool of orphans and giving rise to the practice of cloning; alas you were decanted just as the market crashed) and you're sent to live with a mystic cult of warriors who train you and enlist you in an intergalactic war. The humor is trenchant, never too on-the-nose, and never gets in the way of what turns out to be rather a good story. As an added bonus, "nearly all the proper names in the book are dirty words in Czech."

Sounds great. Apparently the iOS version will include an audio reading by Will Wheaton (ugh!). Nether the less, I'm excited. And I figured that for you people crushed by the death of LucasArts would be interested in a new game that's almost Star Wars.

Rosencrantz
04-04-2013, 12:35 PM
I was a huge CYOA fan in grade school. I remember also reading (playing?) a book that must have been a Fighting Fantasy imitator. You had HP and I think you could choose some of your equipment at the start. A friend of mine had found it at the county library, but it was the only one they had in the RPG CYOA sub-genre, so we never played another one.

sraymonds
04-04-2013, 12:39 PM
I love CYOAs. I have a bin of the books in my study and I'll go searching for them whenever I go out of town.

Büge
04-04-2013, 01:15 PM
There was, of course, the Lone Wolf series, which I think was unique in that you could carry your character from previous books forward, getting more powerful.

Loki
04-04-2013, 01:29 PM
Lone Wolf was the other big classic series. Maybe more popular in the USA than Fighting Fantasy? Check out Project Aon (http://www.projectaon.org/en/Main/Books), where amazing fans have transcribed and made available for free all the books in the series. Seriously way cool. Or better check out this super great LP (http://www.talking-time.net/showthread.php?t=4408) of the first two books done by a hansom and talented fellow who we should all aspire to be as great as.

sraymonds
04-04-2013, 02:52 PM
super great LP (http://www.talking-time.net/showthread.php?t=4408) of the first two books done by a hansom and talented fellow who we should all aspire to be as great as.

HOLD ON A SEC THAT DOESN'T LINK to the LP I abandoned after some time. Yeah, ok.

Falselogic
04-04-2013, 02:58 PM
Lone Wolf was the other big classic series. Maybe more popular in the USA than Fighting Fantasy? Check out Project Aon (http://www.projectaon.org/en/Main/Books), where amazing fans have transcribed and made available for free all the books in the series. Seriously way cool. Or better check out this super great LP (http://www.talking-time.net/showthread.php?t=4408) of the first two books done by a hansom and talented fellow who we should all aspire to be as great as.

That guy draws pretty!

Brickroad
04-04-2013, 04:11 PM
How do I turn to page 91 in a one-page thread!?

Falselogic
04-04-2013, 04:12 PM
How do I turn to page 91 in a one-page thread!?

I know! I really want to be a shark!

Teaspoon
04-04-2013, 05:46 PM
I think this (http://youchosewrong.tumblr.com/) is relevant for our purposes.

Loki
04-04-2013, 05:49 PM
http://i.imgur.com/iuZc7Q8.jpg

Octopus Prime
04-04-2013, 05:59 PM
http://25.media.tumblr.com/b6e156dab787524f43afa95f82a1c2f5/tumblr_mj9de7Zf451rz2qoko1_400.jpg

Büge
04-04-2013, 09:31 PM
I think I've mentioned before but I remember Wizards, Warriors and You, which was probably the most barebones gamebook system one could manage without pencil or dice. You chose the wizard or the warrior, and each had a section in the back of the book where you chose spells and weapons, respectively. Your options would be dependent on those selections.

Oh, I just remembered! Zork had a bunch of CYOAs that they printed starring a brother and sister who come from Earth and are telepoted to Zork with medallions or something. I only read the second one, but as I recall, the "choice" you could make was

1. Horrible and/or silly death.
2. The next page.

The setting was pretty insipid too, as I recall. Oh it's a fantasy world with distinctly non-fantastic elements like computers and accountants! Zany enough for ya? It pretty much soured me on trying any of the computer games it was based on.

Healy
04-05-2013, 12:29 AM
Can we talk about digital CYOAs in this thread? Because You Will Select a Decision (http://ifdb.tads.org/viewgame?id=5u4tg8c3n8wh590o) is pretty amazing. I would, no joke, call it the Citizen Kane of Choose-Your-Own-Adventures.

Loki
04-05-2013, 12:52 AM
Yeah totally. There were a few in last year's IF Comp that were pretty good. Especially Porpentine's howling dogs (http://aliendovecote.com/uploads/twine/howling%20dogs.html#2m).

Olli T
04-05-2013, 01:26 AM
Oh man, I completely forgot that Zach Weinersmith made a CYOA book. I should check that out.

Olli T
04-05-2013, 01:28 AM
Can we talk about digital CYOAs in this thread? Because You Will Select a Decision (http://ifdb.tads.org/viewgame?id=5u4tg8c3n8wh590o) is pretty amazing. I would, no joke, call it the Citizen Kane of Choose-Your-Own-Adventures.

Does anyone know if this is a for-real Soviet CYOA book or just an artful imitation of one? I do love it to pieces.

Healy
04-05-2013, 01:52 AM
Does anyone know if this is a for-real Soviet CYOA book or just an artful imitation of one? I do love it to pieces.

It is imitation my friend. There is one ending in the first one that has you figure out where you are through the use of a cell phone, plus a couple recent pop culture references scattered throughout both books. (Besides, the story-telling sequence in the second one is too artfully aware of interactive fiction design to not have been produced after a quarter of a century of it.)

Olli T
04-05-2013, 03:10 AM
It is imitation my friend. There is one ending in the first one that has you figure out where you are through the use of a cell phone, plus a couple recent pop culture references scattered throughout both books. (Besides, the story-telling sequence in the second one is too artfully aware of interactive fiction design to not have been produced after a quarter of a century of it.)

Oh yeah, they do mention it on that page you linked too, heh.

Rosencrantz
04-05-2013, 12:09 PM
Lone Wolf was the other big classic series. Maybe more popular in the USA than Fighting Fantasy? Check out Project Aon (http://www.projectaon.org/en/Main/Books), where amazing fans have transcribed and made available for free all the books in the series. Seriously way cool.

Hot damn, this is great. This is helping me out on my slow-and-boring Friday at work.

I got through the first book really quickly - on practically every "page", one of my chosen skills was useful. I've already had to redo the second book a couple of times, however, and just now I ran into this problem that I saw in Loki's LP:

In the original printing, there's an issue with the Magic Spear and Animal Kinship. I cannot, for the life of me, remember the exact thing - and google isn't turning up anything but REFERENCES, as opposed to the actual passage - but it's something to do with basically screwing you over. Best I can recall, if you had the Magic Spear, you were forced to give it to Rhygar, and then later on you run into the Noodnics.. which is fine if you have AK, but bad if you don't. If you DON'T have the spear, then there's some kinda alternate path thing that's available to get you through. It's pretty clearly a bug or mixup on Dever's part, and thankfully it's corrected in the ProjectAon release.

I didn't get the Magic Spear (and if I had, I would have given it to Rhygar) AND I don't have Animal Kinship. Every path I'm able to take at this point leads me to the same death. Gonna have to cheat this a bit and retcon my choices so that I have the spear.

Having these books online really is fantastic. I'm glad that, for the most part, my skill choices have been making up for the fact that I only "rolled" a 1 for both my Combat and Endurance bonuses.

sergiocornaga
04-07-2013, 09:51 AM
I discovered the Choosatron (http://choosatron.com/) today. Play Twine games on a reciept machine! Neat!

Wolf
04-07-2013, 12:06 PM
I have a few of the Lone Wolf books, which I got sometime in the early 90s, I think. I haven't read them in ages.

Steve Jackson also did a series of books like this called "Sorcery!" It was a four-part series that let you play either as a mage or as a fighter. I always chose to be a mage because the spells' effects were a lot more interesting than regular combat, although fighting was mandatory in certain places. I hate to say it, but I cheated the combat pretty much always. It seemed so tedious, and I always thought, "If this guy thinks I'm going to get killed and start reading all over again, he's nuts." There were four books in the series, plus a spellbook you could buy separately (the list of spells was also included in the backs of the third and fourth books), and they got progressively longer as you went. One thing that was interesting was that there were various changes that could occur depending on how certain books were completed. If you finished the third book in a certain way, then in the fourth book, in any reference where someone might know your true identity, you could subtract a certain number and go to that reference instead, where they wouldn't know who you were, and different options might be available.

Loki
04-07-2013, 12:26 PM
Speaking of Sorcery!, the upcoming iPad app looks really cool.

http://youtu.be/3UdYssQleZk

On the surface it looks like a top-down CRPG (which is something much more likely to get a few hours of my time than a Fighting Fantasy book) but the truth is more complex and more interesting. You can go back and forth around the world Fabled Lands style, which I don't think was a feature of the original Sorcery books. More importantly, look what they've done with the text. It develops as you go - not in a simple old-style gamebook way, where the text you read depends on whether you take the money or open the box. Oh no. The style of the narrative - the way things are described, the way you speak - is shaped by the way you're playing.

Say you stride boldly into every battle. The system learns that and gives you text that portrays you as fearless. The things you say will be forthright and challenging. It's the original concept of Fable, only here it looks like it might go deeper than the colour of armour you wear over your Union Jack underpants. And the text that is being written aggregates a complete story, right down to the level of having procedurally-generated descriptions of the fights you get into. You could give the end result to a friend and it's the novel of your imaginary life. This is sounding a lot cooler than "roll two dice and add your Skill", isn't it?

Wolf
04-07-2013, 01:03 PM
Well! Now I need an iPad.

MrChris
04-07-2013, 05:36 PM
I didn't get the Magic Spear (and if I had, I would have given it to Rhygar) AND I don't have Animal Kinship. Every path I'm able to take at this point leads me to the same death. Gonna have to cheat this a bit and retcon my choices so that I have the spear.

Having these books online really is fantastic. I'm glad that, for the most part, my skill choices have been making up for the fact that I only "rolled" a 1 for both my Combat and Endurance bonuses.

I hate that I know this, but here's the deal with that sequence:

There are two versions of the tunnel sequence. In the original book, if you go into the tunnel with the magic spear, one path leads you to a fight with the Helghast, which is winnable as long as you have the spear. The other path allows you to use Animal Kinship to bypass the Helghast. If you don't have the magic spear (either because you gave it to Rhygar or you never obtained it at all) both paths lead you to the Helghast, which insta-kills you because you don't have the magic spear. Consequently, you'd always be killed in the tunnel if you didn't have the spear.

So far as I know, the Project Aon version switches around the two versions of the tunnel sequence: if you go in with the spear, you'll inevitably end up in a (winnable) fight with the Helghast; if you go in without the spear, you can now use Animal Kinship to avoid the Helghast. So in the Project Aon version, you can now survive that sequence without the spear if you took Animal Kinship; this makes more sense than the original versions, and it's probably how the book was supposed to play out in the first place.

In general, the first five Lone Wolf books were pretty good about allowing the player to win even with low initial stats; I think the later books became somewhat less lenient. There was a spin-off series, Grey Star the Wizard, which were basically the Hard Mode version of Lone Wolf: they never really allowed you to conserve your resources; the best you could do was to minimize the rate at which you burned off your Endurance and Willpower points, and hope it would be enough to see you through to the end.

I do have to give the Lone Wolf books credit for being more fair than the Fighting Fantasy books (and more enjoyable, if my childhood memories are to be believed). It seems that all of the Fighting Fantasy books (at least the early ones) had a secret "correct" path that would let you get all the way to the end of the book; if you didn't find it, there always seemed to be some sort of arbitrary dead end.

One lesser-known (and amusing) gamebook series was The Cretan Chronicles (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cretan_Chronicles) which took place in ancient Greece and were loosely based on the myth of Theseus. These had some rather amusing features: in addition to allowing you to select a patron god or goddess (who would sometimes directly intervene on your behalf) the book also had you keep track of your Honor and Shame points. Having high Honor had various benefits, but if your character's Honor ever decreased to the point where it was lower than his Shame, you instantly lost as it was assumed that your character would immediately kill himself. Which I suppose is appropriate to the source material, but still.

Another series of note was Blood Sword (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood_Sword), which started off with a book featuring a generic Fighting Fantasy sort of plot and setting; the next four books have your party roaming around a setting suspiciously reminiscent of the Levant during the First Crusade, trying to assemble the eponymous Blood Sword before the Apocalypse arrives. I find the series to be of particular interest because it allowed the player to run a party of up to four characters, each of whom had a variety of abilities. Combat was more involved than in the typical game book; every combat section came with its own map, so each encounter played out like a little TRPG battle.

Like Loki, I do have a nostalgic fondness for these things. Sure, maybe video games can do all the same things, and better, but I do appreciate those gamebook series that went to the effort of doing interesting and unusual things, even if they weren't always successful.

Zef
04-07-2013, 06:06 PM
I know! I really want to be a shark!

You Are A Shark! was my favorite CYOA book in grade school, closely followed by Space Patrol and The Great Rally. But while Rally felt grown up and Space Patrol pulled no punches with how gory its endings could get, Shark got pretty damn existential at times. Having a fifth-grade kid contemplate living out a tree's lifetime and all that implied was heavy.

Loki
04-16-2013, 08:13 AM
Trial of the Clone is out on the App Store today. I've been playing the Android version this past week. As a game it leaves a little to be desired. There's a lot of unexpected instant-death paragraphs. I usually don't play e-book versions of gamebooks with bookmarks (the electronic version of keeping your finger on a previous page), but here I've been using them liberally. You never know if a choice is going to end the game. The book tries to make up for this by letting you re-start the chapter you're on instead of starting from the very beginning. However, the number side of things is less than fair too and it's possible to get yourself into a situation where you don't have the stats to progress and you have to re-start anyway.

But all this is just nit-picking because it's hard to hate on a thing that is just trying to be funny and succeeding. Here's an excerpt to ignite your plasmaster.



As your first challenge, you must do battle with... yourself. You are laid on a table and strange electrodes are placed over your eyes. For a moment, you see nothing. Then you blink. You find yourself in a cave. Before you stands... you.

You isn't that bad. I mean, we're not talking supermodel looks or genius intelligence of adult hygiene, but overall You is pretty solid. You ask You if there are any dark secrets of disturbing revelations about your character - hidden currents under the still waters of your psyche.

"Nupe."

You and You hang out and talk about Internet memes for five minutes or so, at which point the strange environment around you dissipates. You open your eyes as the electrodes are removed.

"Okay..." says the Grandmaster. "Battle with yourself failed."

So if you're looking for a funny Star Wars parody you could do much much worse. Despite some gameplay flubs I'm enjoying it a lot and recommend it to anyone interested.

Mogri
04-17-2013, 12:36 PM
I wrote an engine for creating gamebooks/CYOAs/whatever (http://www.slimesalad.com/book/index.php) that pretty much no one ended up using. But I enjoyed writing it!

Apparently there are like a dozen of these floating around out there. If you end up trying something out with this, then let me know.

madhair60
04-17-2013, 02:28 PM
I'm gonna post the image again.

https://dl.dropbox.com/u/19832728/Image0298.jpg

The Fighting Fantasy books really captured my imagination as a child, and inspire writing of mine to this day.

Loki
04-17-2013, 05:48 PM
That's impressive as heck, Madhair. I love those horrible green spines. What's your favorite book in the series?

madhair60
04-17-2013, 11:32 PM
Dead of Night, for being almost solely responsible for inspiring about eight to ten years of fiction. Closely followed by, ooh, Creature of Havoc. Guilty pleasure: Legend of Zagor because it's the closest one to a video game.

Büge
04-18-2013, 08:41 AM
Personally, I found Legend of the Shadow Warriors to be the most game-like.

The Raider Dr. Jones
04-18-2013, 12:34 PM
apparently Kotaro Uchikoshi, the Chunsoft dude who's done a lot of their visual-novel shit like 999, pegs the Steve Jackson Sorcery! gamebooks one of his biggest influences.

Pseudonym
05-08-2013, 10:42 AM
Anyone ever messed around with Fabled Lands? I just got all 6 books in from Amazon yesterday and I spent the whole evening messing around with it. It's pretty rad. It's open world with the regions split up between books, assumingly getting tougher along the way. I spent the evening wandering around looking for quests. I also bought a house. It looks like you could buy a ship and just spend all your time on trade routes between the towns if you want. I got a quest to save a mayor's daughter, but this involved me traveling down the book pile like 3 books, so of course I was not ready yet and promptly got my mind fried by a magic helmet. Anyway! It's rad stuff.

Teaspoon
06-16-2013, 02:59 PM
To any DW fans who might be in the thread... (http://blogtorwho.blogspot.com/2013/06/tee-offer_16.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+BlogtorWho+%28Blogtor+Who%29)

Loki
07-26-2013, 03:18 AM
Anyone ever messed around with Fabled Lands? I just got all 6 books in from Amazon yesterday and I spent the whole evening messing around with it. It's pretty rad. It's open world with the regions split up between books, assumingly getting tougher along the way. I spent the evening wandering around looking for quests. I also bought a house. It looks like you could buy a ship and just spend all your time on trade routes between the towns if you want. I got a quest to save a mayor's daughter, but this involved me traveling down the book pile like 3 books, so of course I was not ready yet and promptly got my mind fried by a magic helmet. Anyway! It's rad stuff.

Missed this somehow. Yeah Fabled Lands is really neat. I like that it has a unique flavor despite being generic fantasy. It's crazy that the authors were able to do open-world in a CYOA, but it really works and feels just as valid as Elder Scrolls. The first two books are in the iTunes store and there's a free Java app floating around out there too. But the books just got a reissue a year to two ago and are easy to find on Amazon.

Anyway, so there's this short gamebook contest and I'm writing an entry for this year. I've been playing through the past winners to get a feel for what works. I just finished one from 2011, Pêledgathol - The Last Fortress (http://www.arborell.com/peledgatholthelastfortress.pdf), that was a lot of fun. Story wise, it's nothing special. You play a Dwarf king building a fortress in preparation for a goblin invasion. It borrows so heavily from Tolkien that it might as well be set in middle-earth. But as a game it's really neat. There's a lot of moving parts and the whole puzzle was great fun to solve. The game's broken into three phases: fleeing from the goblin forces, building the new fortress, and the war versus the goblin army. Your choices in each section inform the next and everything has a weight to it, but the actions in each are unique to themselves. In the first part you're making immediate survival decisions, the second you're choosing what resources to cultivate and how best to develop the new settlement, and in the third making strategic battle decisions to get the best advantage going into the big fight. It took me three tries to get to the best ending, and that final run making all the smart moves and watching numbers go up was very satisfying. It kinda feels like a cross between Civilization and the Grow games, and nothing like Dwarf Fortress.

Anyway, it's right there for free behind the link. Takes about an hour to get through. Good way to spend an afternoon.

Loki
08-12-2013, 05:21 PM
According to Gamasutra (http://www.gamasutra.com/view/pressreleases/198068/Famous_game_book_IP_Lone_Wolf_comes_to_smartphones _andtablets.php) a new Lone Wolf book is coming out for iOS and Android in November.

Falselogic
08-12-2013, 08:30 PM
The original creators of CYOA books have a kickstarter going (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/cyoa/choose-your-own-adventure-choose-toons?ref=live)

Teaspoon
12-21-2013, 10:30 PM
Did anyone else know there were Superman CYOAs? (http://www.progressiveruin.com/2013/12/20/i-suspect-it-was-cigars-n-wine/)