Sunday, August 4, 2013

Production Update on my New Game 'Singapore!'

Here's a map I made for my latest Far-East trading text adventure game, Singapore! You can play it here: Link.

Several months ago, I discovered the game Tai-pan!, which is based on the book by James Clavell. I enjoyed reading the book about a year and a half ago, primarily during glorious summer afternoon sittings outside The Volunteer in deepest Surrey, with a pint of ale beside me as I read. The game is just as good - it's an old game, and pretty simple, but with enough nuance to keep it interesting. It's pure gameplay, with virtually no descriptions, atmosphere or plot, however.

I took inspiration from this to create a game using Inkle, the same online interactive-fiction generator that I used to create the well-received Sand and the Scarab back in January 2013. The premise of Singapore! is that the player is the heir to a small Far East trading company. They can travel around an open-plan world, voyaging between different ports, transporting goods and wheeling and dealing. I did a fair bit of research into what these places may have been like in the 1840s, the period during which the game is set, and had a lot of fun filling out the world with period details. There's pirates, troublesome British authorities, smuggling, and dirty-dealing unsavoury characters. Like most of my projects, I wrote the bulk of the game in intense, whiskey-fuelled sessions over a couple of weeks, then lost interest. Several months later, I picked it up again and found that I quite liked it. I'm now endeavouring to finish it.

Making the game completely open-ended produced some problems with the software. Inkle is a brilliant, if simple programme that focuses on allowing the creator to write and not worry too much about programming. There are some simple commands that you can insert so that the game knows which paths the player has taken, and it can modify the experience because of these. But with the player's ability to carry out a large number of tasks in any order, I began to run into some of the limitations of the programme. Some of these I have been able to overcome with some creative game-structuring; some of them I've been less successful with. So far, there's still a few places where scenes repeat and things don't quite happen in a logical manner, but these should only be noticed if player's are doing slightly odd things, such as repeating the same patterns where they don't need to.

Since the initial writing sessions, I've spent a bit of time in Singapore for real. I can't say that I've changed a lot of the game since then, as Singapore today is an ultra-modern city that largely scorns any architectural links with its past. But my trip to the East has certainly reignited my interest in the project.

I'm taking the step of having some friends playtest this game rather extensively before I present it to the world, as it's large and complex enough that it's now difficult for me to spot every logical inconsistency. If anyone reading this is interested in playtesting and sending me some feedback, you can play the game here. I'd appreciate anything you may have to say!

The map above shows the different ports the player can travel to. I was hoping to have it show up at the beginning of the game, but Inkle doesn't allow you to control the size of images used in the games, and it's currently showing up far too small to be of any use.

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