Exciting news as Big Al’s Books and Pals awarded Witches and Bandits and Swords (Oh My!) with a nomination in the Fantasy category of the 2014 Readers’ Choice Awards. Sadly, I didn’t realise it had been nominated at the time so couldn’t go round begging for votes, which is one of the less frequently documented tasks of a writer!
Here is the review in full from Big Al’s Books and Pals:
Reviewed by: SingleEyePhotos
Approximate word count: (varies – this is a create-your-own adventure)
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store
Dominic O’Reilly lives in Manchester, England and has many temporary jobs, all including the typing up of very mundane, and totally uninteresting, information. When he needs to escape from the mundane, he writes. The genre depends on his mood at the moment. Dominic has a blog you can visit and also a page at Deviant Art.
A sea voyage to trade spices with a distant land promised great fortunes for you and your friends. However, a vessel flying a pirate standard had other ideas. How well can you deal with the unexpected? Find out in this create-your-own adventure!
Anyone remember Zork, one of the first interactive computer adventure games? I do. I played it while I was in college on one of those ancient Apple computers – back before they were Macs, back before they came in colors. Way back… And I loved it. It was my first experience with just how addictive a computer can be. Well, I think that this author probably grew up with Zork, and loved it, too.
I spent about 45 minutes gleefully building my own adventure and snickering to myself and thinking “Boy, this is just like Zork!” OK, I admit it… I wasn’t able to accomplish much except to wander around in a circle picking up herbs and offering a guard some very odd bribes. But neither was I ever able to do much of anything in Zork, and that didn’t stop me, nor did it dim my enjoyment.
This book has the same snarky, tongue-in-cheek humor – usually at your expense. The baddies aren’t really bad – just offer them a potion that you were able to have mixed up by one of the witches on the heath using herbs that you picked up while walking in circles, and they’ll be your friends. The pirates steal your cargo, but they don’t kill you – it’s much more fun to watch as you walk in circles picking up herbs and encountering odd characters. There are bandits with spiky clubs, but their aim isn’t any better than your prowess with a sword is. Everything’s all in good fun.
The book has 3 chapters, and if I understand it correctly, you can ‘save’ your adventure, when you inevitably end up getting killed, by jumping to the next chapter (as opposed to starting over). So, in effect, you get three ‘lives’. I’ve read a few ‘create your own’ adventure Kindle books, and this is more elaborate, with a greater number of options than the others I’ve read (not to mention having a much more wicked sense of humor).
Highly recommended, if you have a good sense of humor, and even more so if you can remember playing Zork.
This is very family-friendly. The humor is snide, but not mean. The ‘baddies’ are bad in name only. Even getting killed is an opportunity for the author to poke fun at the reader.
In all the jumping around I did during my game, I saw only one minor typo, so I’d say formatting is excellent. On the Kindle, the links to select the next scenario work perfectly, and some are worth a laugh in themselves.
Rating: ***** Five stars
Originally written for Indie Book Blog
Certainly writing is challenging: you need things like plots, character development, thorough research into anything from which flowers blossom at which time of year, to the sort of weapons related matters that might result in some very serious men knocking at your door. But is it really enough? Have you ever wished, not just to paint a picture for your readers, but to plonk them in the midst of the action and let them wander into however many dangers and traps you choose to throw at them? If, like me, you’re a power-hungry sadist who spent large chunks of childhood drawing maps for Legend of Zelda and the like, then writing a Choose Your Own Adventure game might just be the answer.
For anyone unfamiliar with the concept, these game books are written in small sections which end by giving the reader a choice of actions which move them on to different parts of the book. In a regular paper book, they’d do this by flicking through the pages, but with an e-book, they just have to click the links. My own game, Witches and Bandits and Swords Oh My (out now on Amazon at a very reasonable price for 20,000 words, hint hint) has a traditionalish fantasy setting, but you can use this format for any genre. To pick a film at random, a Home Alone adventure book might read:
You are in your large family home by yourself, your extended family having accidentally left you behind while going on holiday. Several preceding incidents have led you to conclude that two burglars are about to rob your house. Do you…
Attempt to contact your family? Go to section 154
Find a local friend’s house, or trusted adult to visit? Go to section 23
Contact the police with a detailed description of the felons? Go to section 70
Set about on a murderous campaign of violence against said felons? Pick up a blowtorch and go to section 13”
Assuming you’ll want to write something more complex than this, first of all, you’ll need a map. Depending on how you structure your game, this could resemble an original Zelda view (i.e. squares arranged in a grid pattern), interconnected spider diagrams, or even an MC Escher-style mind fuck if you really dislike your readers. Keeping these linked in with your prose sections is absolutely essential. It really can’t be stressed enough that a single broken link has the potential to ruin your game.
The format has other challenges to keep you constantly
frustrated entertained. How and when to introduce information, for example, is difficult enough with regular prose, but when the reader can reach the same point through different paths, this becomes more of a challenge. If you decide to introduce the feared purple-tentacled monster of Xhighazyx as an opponent, then you’ll need a system for fighting. Requiring the readers to use dice, and to keep track of their health is one idea, but I favoured keeping it simple and giving options based on items you may have picked up beforehand, some of which result in instant purple-tentacled death. In all cases, fairness is key and dropping some preceding hints can help. Having a high difficulty level is one thing but, like a murder-mystery novel that wheels out a long-lost twin brother in the last three chapters, nobody wants to feel cheated.
Of course, you’ll face other obstacles too. One significant problem I found (that my test readers didn’t always appreciate) is the difficulty of introducing the same section after an event- let’s say that the reader’s meeting the High Priestess Doris, but may have stolen her chocolate biscuits in another scene. Clearly, if she knows about the biccie theft then the scene would have to be written differently, but allowing for both events is tricky. The most naturalistic way of doing this (for the reader) would be to duplicate the whole book with the new sections following a path from stealing the biscuits, to Doris being annoyed with you. It doesn’t take a High Priestess, however, to realise that this isn’t a sensible idea, and the book would exponentially increase in size every time you had to do this. Other options include leading into the section by asking the reader whether or not they stole the biscuits (not ideal as this gives too much warning) or writing your book in short, standalone chapters (the downside being that this reduces the reader’s freedom to explore). One device I used was to lead into a similar section with an apparently unrelated question; let’s say, “Have you acquired the blue ring”? If you’ve made it so that the blue ring could only have been obtained from the biscuit theft- don’t ask me how, maybe it was a free gift in the pack or something- then that solves the problem without giving too much away.
There will be plenty of other hurdles too, not least when you attempt to format the thing (here speaks the voice of bitter experience), but I find that one of the great joys of writing is solving problems your own way; there’s something special about that moment when you feel the whole project’s hopeless and then an idea strikes you that sorts it all out.
Hopefully this hasn’t put you off too much, just let you know what you’re getting into. Choose You Own Adventure games are tough to make, but rewarding. No other style of writing allows you to have quite the same relationship with your reader, nor them to experience the story in quite the same way.