Corey and Lori's Quest Log


Corey and Lori’s Quest Log

Posts Tagged ‘Interactive Fiction’

Playing With Fire

Friday, July 4th, 2008

Playing with Fire

Well, it’s Independence Day, more commonly known as the Fourth of July, here in the United States. It’s a time for fireworks and fun, hot dogs and burgers on buns, and terrible puns on the blog. We hope you’ll get a char-ge out of this and that we haven’t made ashes of our shelves.

When you’re hot, you’re hot, and we’re really fired up about this hot topic. So here’s a warm welcome to you all – we’re here to fan the flames of fandom for our Interactive Fiction.

Unfortunately, just last week, our hot dog, Zeus, was barking up a storm – a thunderstorm. It seems his namesake was tossing lightning and thunderbolts all around us. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and it was “Fire on the Mountain” “Smoke on the Water,” and “Dust in the Wind.” It was a hot time in the old town that night.

Corey of course sought to chill out in the World of Warcraft. The hot event there is the Midsummer Festival, where feeding fire spirits and throwing torches helped to light up the Summer skies. It certainly sparked his interest for a while.

School for Heroes - Sparking Your Interest in Furthering your Education

Meanwhile Lori was filled with a burning desire to blaze some trails with new artwork for the upcoming School for Heroes web site. She designed blazons (coats of arms) for the four – or is it five? ;-) – classes in the hero school. Only the mages get to play with fire, but Corey thinks all the designs are cool. Lori has also been burning the midnight oil creating other hot stuff for the Hero School site.

First, of course, we have to survive the baptism by fire that’s involved in learning a new game system, designing five games in one, and building a community on TheSchoolForHeroes.com web site. We’re already burning the candle at both ends making the game sizzle. It will take a lot of slow cooking to make the game sparkle before we’re ready to burn the final disks.

On a lighter note, have a happy Fourth of July, and hopefully when it comes to our game – you’re fired. (Up, that is…) Just don’t flame us or rake us over the hot Coles.

School for Heroes - A fire burns in the Heart of a True Hero"

Interactive Fiction 2.0 – School As You’ve Never Seen It Before

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

School for Heroes 2.0

One of the big buzz-phrases these days has been “Web 2.0”. According to Wikipedia, “Web 2.0 is a term describing the trend in the use of World Wide Web technology and web design that aims to enhance creativity, information sharing, and, most notably, collaboration among users.” It’s all about involving users in the Web site experience, letting each person enhance the experience for others (and for themselves).

We think the time has now come for “IF 2.0.” School for Heroes will be more than just an interactive story or an adventure game. We want to build an ongoing relationship and community experience between the players and with us. To accomplish this, we are creating a School for Heroes community web site in parallel with developing the IF adventure.

What will you find on the S4H network? We’ll have forums where you can discuss game strategies, learn secrets, and role-play with other “students”. We’ll have articles on heroism in real life. You’ll find maps, hints, and news about upcoming games and extensions to the School for Heroes game. And, of course, Lori and Corey will patrol regularly to answer your questions and participate in the role-playing and discussions.

Why are we doing all this? We’ve never been satisfied to turn out “just a game.” Every one of our games “plays” on multiple levels including the story, the game play, expressing our life philosophies, and maybe even teaching something. For us, creating each game is a rite of passage into a new way of expressing and sharing ourselves. We also hope that when you find a home in the School for Heroes, you’ll want your friends to share in the experience too. With you spreading the word, everyone benefits – We get to keep making games, you get to keep having new games and Web content to play, and we all grow by doing things together?

Sound idyllic? Maybe a little naïve and unrealistic? Well, that’s the brave new world of Interactive Fiction 2.0, Corey and Lori Cole style. Let’s see if we can all make it real together!

P’s and Thank You

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

Wizard Instructor

We’re all students in life. I once said that the most important thing about my job was that I learned something new every day. When I stopped learning new things, it would be time to move on to something new. Well, here we are doing something new!

School for Heroes is a unique learning opportunity for both the players and ourselves. Every time we start developing a game for a different company, it’s like going back to school. Each game developer has its own standards, style, and library of useful source code. Many use unique proprietary languages (as did Sierra On-Line) and the others use a Babel of languages and libraries. Corey is building School for Heroes with the Inform language, one of a dozen or more computer languages that specializes in Interactive Fiction projects.

We’re learning a lot of other things as well. We started the School for Heroes design process by talking about what worked best in the Quest for Glory series and which story lines we should continue from the online How To Be A Hero school. We also talked about what we like and dislike about other works of Interactive Fiction. (Here’s a hint – For us, it’s all about the characters. Arbitrary puzzles and frustrating mazes are so Last Century.)

To Perpetuate the plethora of P’s that plague this series of paragraphs, we will pontificate further…

Play

Playing games has been an essential part of our lives, whether it is the old fashioned AD&D style of role-playing where you create and develop your character’s personality, or World of Warcraft, where the game play is mostly all goal-driven rather than role-playing. What we want to do is take what we enjoy most of other genres of games, and then push the boundaries of game play for Interactive Fiction. After all, the Play’s the thing….

Prose

One thing that we will be doing more of than most Interactive Fiction games is writing. We’re taking the concept that this is Fiction literally. The School for Heroes is just that… a school. You get to play a student and go to classes. The teachers try to teach you things. Unlike lessons in the mundane schools we were forced to go to, the lessons from School for Heroes have practical application (at least in terms of the game… but who knows, you might learn a few things that work for you in real life.) All this means is that there will be a fair amount of reading and writing to this game. You do the reading, Lori’ll do the writing, and we can stick Corey with the ‘rithematic. Somebody’s got to do the math.

Phun

Okay, so we have a school… and there’s going to be learning… and reading and writing… so where’s the phun? I mean, if a game isn’t enjoyable to play, what’s the point?

This is the tricky part. This is what game design is really about – creating a game that is enjoyable to play. We’ve given entire lectures at game design conferences on the Phun Phactor (only we spelled better then). Part of what we will be discussing in this blog over the next few months is what makes a game phun, and how we will create a game that will be challenging, thought-provoking, phunny, and phun.

So, thank you for your interest in our game and our writing. We’re opening up the doors to this School for Game Design, and you are officially a part of it now. While we are developing the School for Heroes, we will take a few moments each week to let you know how things are going and to share our Philosophies and ideas about games and game design. Find yourself a seat in this classroom – School is now in session.

Mind Your P’s (Part Two)

Monday, May 19th, 2008

Dogwood Flower

The nice thing about working for yourself is that you can work anywhere. The downside is that you are always working.

My trip with Corey to Yosemite National Park last Saturday was a working vacation. I am a photographic artist and this is the best time of year to see the falls of Yosemite Park. Yosemite Falls was marvelous. From the bridge near the bottom, the wind and the spray from the falls were more thrilling than the best amusement park ride. The sheer cliff walls dwarfed the huge pines. Nearby Half Dome (the symbol of Sierra On-Line many years ago) shown in the evening light.

So, in the midst of this panoramic landscape of glacier-hewn granite and rushing waters, what did I photograph the most? Dogwood flowers.

Yosemite Park attracts some of the finest photographers in the world. These people have the best equipment, the experience, and the passion to take the wonderful photos that show Yosemite to the world. They’ve been there and done that for years. My job is to reveal the beauty of Yosemite that they haven’t shown.

That’s our approach to designing this Interactive Fiction – to boldly go where no designer has gone before.

Past

Many, many moons ago, two eager and enthusiastic game lovers proposed a role-playing game to Sierra On-line. We’d never actually done a computer game before, but we had played a lot of them. We knew what we liked and what we didn’t like about computer games. Role-Playing games were mostly ‘kill the monster, get the treasure’ experiences with no real story or characters. Adventure games were mostly puzzle-solving exercises covered with a thin veneer of story. We wanted to create a game with depth and meaning, excitement and true adventure. We wanted our games to feel like standing in the spray of the Yosemite Falls. Thus, we created the Adventure-role-playing Quest for Glory game series.

Present

Now, we are professional game designers with more than ten computer games to our credit. We’ve had years of experience honing our skills at story-telling, puzzle creation, and character development. So what type of game are we proudly prepared to pursue? – A text adventure.

You may be checking out the date on this blog right about now. “You’re doing a text adventure? How last century!” But what we are actually designing is Interactive Fiction. It only looks like a text adventure just as Quest for Glory only looked like an Adventure game. We will create an Interactive Fiction game that has everything we love in games – challenge, excitement, emotion, and story.

Phuture

Over the next months, we will design and implement this “next-generation” Interactive Fiction game called “School for Heroes.” We will also open the “Famous Adventurer’s How to be a Hero” School website. Here you can learn more about the game, the story, and the world of Glorianna. We will also have a forum for you to discuss the game, roleplay being at the school, enter contests, and take classes about becoming a hero. You see, when we say we make Interactive Fiction, we mean it.

Setting Sun

On our way back from Yosemite last weekend we spent the long, windy drive home discussing characters and puzzles for the School for Heroes. We figured out the backstory and character arc for one of our protagonists. This is the best part of working for yourself – you never have to leave your work behind you. It’s your life.

Mind Your P’s (No Q’s just Yet)

Sunday, May 18th, 2008

Lower Yosemite Falls

Yesterday we drove up to Yosemite National Park.
The waterfalls were amazing, full of power and beauty as the water flooded down glacial cliffs. Dogwoods were in bloom everywhere, and shy woodland creatures abounded.

As we were driving and brainstorming ideas for the School for Heroes interactive fiction game, a phrase popped into my head – “The three P’s – Passion, Preparation, and Practice.”

Passion

We are passionate about the School for Heroes. Lori ran the online version of the school for several years. She role-played the teachers as they assigned and graded challenges to the “students” in the four classes – Warriors, Wizards, Rogues, and Paladins. Running the School was a lot of work, but incredibly rewarding as she interacted with the students and participated in online role-playing with them.

Passion is essential to making a great game. When game developers are excited about their work, that feeling communicates itself to the players. When they are just “doing their jobs,” , which results in a dull, flat-feeling game. We don’t do games like that – if we don’t love the game idea, we just don’t make the game.

Preparation

Preparation is important too. School for Heroes is based on work we created during the four years that we ran the original online school for heroes. In addition, I chose not to begin implementation until we had brainstormed for about two months to work out the characters, story, and game interface. That is why our game won’t be “just another text adventure” when it’s done. We’re trying to give you a true Interactive Experience with a story as deep and enjoyable as a novel, but where your actions really matter.

Practice

Practice makes Perfect, or so they say. We just wish it was that easy! It’s hard work, but if we weren’t willing to put in the time and effort, then we couldn’t create great adventure stories. For example, I’ve spent the last month studying the Inform language and playing the best character-driven interactive fiction works. I did this to thoroughly understand the technology and techniques we will use to make a great IF game. We have a lot of revolutionary ideas on bringing stories to life through IF, but it takes practice, practice, practice before we’re ready to Practice what we Preach.


As we prepared to leave Yosemite, pretty soon we were popping P’s back and forth at each other. It’s amazing how many words that start with the letter “P” are essential to building great games. There’s the Past, the Present, Performance (in two senses), Production, Play, Pickiness, Persistence, Perfection, Puns, Platitudes, Punch, Possibility, Probability, Power, and so many others. (Not to mention Platypuses.)

Pardon me if I tend to pontificate, but pessimism has no place in producing a premier product. I just hope we’ll do well in the postmortem.

As for the Q’s, well, they’re a Question and a Quest for another day. I don’t want to compromise the Quality of this one by trying to do too much in one article. Until we meet again, mind your P’s and Q’s. You know we will!