Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Warlock fatigue

Tin Man Games, who started out doing solid work on their original IP series of Gamebook Adventures, have since branched out in the service of larger and more lucrative licenses -- from Ryan North's To Be, Or Not To Be, to the somewhat niche nostalgic gamebook series Grail Quest and Demonspawn, to the original UK gamebook phenomenon, Fighting Fantasy. FF is a license that refuses to die, so hats off to it! Every few years another contender decides that it has potential for a computer (or now, mobile) adaptation, then peters out after adapting a book or two when they decide that it just didn't deliver the calibre of revenue they'd hoped for -- often it is the first few books in the series that are visited, and revisited. Following Adventuresoft UK's text adventure conversion of Temple of Terror in 1987 -- as the steam was running out of the gamebooks' first wave -- there wasn't another FF adaptation made until Eidos' 1998 action version of Deathtrap Dungeon, and no not-previously-converted books (not for lack of options -- the series runs over 60 titles) were subject to adaptations until Bright AI's (since-redacted) conversion of The Shamutanti Hills for iOS in 2010. In the meantime, we get to see, again and again: The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, the series' first entry, raw, unmoderated by experience or developments in game design sensibilities since 1982. Tin Man Games are currently hyping stretch goals for their kickstarted version of Firetop Mountain.
I maintain a game group at Mobygames of Fighting Fantasy gamebook adaptations, but I maintain a separate group for Warlock of Firetop Mountain adaptations -- that is how many of them there are. The license is not always well-applied: the first, 1984, computer game by that name is simply a re-skinning of the Gauntlet-alike Hall of the Things for the ZX Spectrum; around the turn of the century there is an internet-unknown (despite being award-winning) WEP mobile phone adaptation, and not long after Proporta in 2004 publishes a version for the Palm organizer.

In 2006 there's a breath of fresh air, a roguelike, "Warlock's Mountain", loosely inspired (read: unlicensed) by the scenario; in 2009 Aspyr makes an Elder Scrolls-ish first-person action game based on it for the Nintendo DS, and in 2010 Big Blue Bubble launches a brief line of FF adaptations for iOS with their version of Firetop Mountain. One measly year later, in 2011, Laughing Jackal try for a more faithful enhanced-gamebook presentation dual-launching on the PSP and PS3, and there is a Kindle version in 2012 that looks eerily similar to the Palm version of 12 years prior.

And now, in 2015, Tin Man takes its crack at the throne, having successfully adapted eight other FF titles (making it the undisputed Fighting Fantasy electronic adaptation champion of all time -- Big Blue Bubble made it through 5 before their license expired) before deciding to return to this well-trod territory (rather than looking at some of the fifty-odd titles that no one has yet ever given the conversion treatment.) Can they blow some fresh air into the title? It's not impossible -- Inkle has done marvels with its treatment of Steve Jackson's Sorcery! gamebooks, expanding on them nigh-exponentially. Previews suggest that this is the direction Tin Man may be going for this adaptation -- at least, if they're able to raise the dosh to do so.

1 comment:

  1. I agree that other titles deserve a look in. However, this would involve getting the non Steve and Ian authors on board to do this, which may or may not require a lot of effort. Depends on the author, I guess.