6Quest and the Hungarian Gamebook Scene


6Quest is Hungarian interactive fiction based on a gamebook series. The creators are currently running a Kickstarter to have the app translated into English for a wider audience.

I was able to find this list of Hungarian gamebooks by Demian Katz, but I’m not even able to translate the titles, so I don’t have a huge amount to go on. So I asked Paul Muranyi to tell me a little more of the history of gamebooks in Hungary, as well as the current scene and their project.

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A Conversation with Ruber Eaglenest about ZFiles


Z Files: Infection is a project currently being Kickstarted, an interactive comic book set in a zombie universe. I talked with Ruber Eaglenest, aka El Clerigo Urbatain, about the project, and how it works as an interactive comic, as interactive fiction, and in terms of how it portrays its protagonist.

Interactive comic

RUBER: There have been other games that have tried to this fusion, but they are most experiments, or resort to the “infinite canvas”.

EMILY: I think that is an interesting direction. I’ve seen a handful of pieces that do similar things, but I think there is probably a lot of additional room to explore it. IIRC, some of the Tin Man Games pieces do include some comic illustration elements; also a few other things I’ve covered.

RUBER: To be honest, sometimes I’m not at all satisfied about how I try to communicate how interesting is our project compared to other attempts to make interactive comic. I do not want to look as I disregard other attempts, especially when I can climb on his shoulders and improve from there.

We are going to stay inside the pages of a comic, and so, the challenge is to apply the tree structure of CYOA to the finite space of a comic book.

EMILY: What actual constraints do you have in mind here? For instance, are you trying to make all the pages be the same size, or have the same amount of visual space assigned to each node?

RUBER: You see, people and the press likes to praise the infinite canvas because we simply love to see common things applied to new technologies. But when one uses the infinite canvas in a digital or interactive comic, you lose some of the features and inherent properties of the comic format. For example, the ability to close a page narrative, or leave it open with a cliffhanger so that an important revelation occurs at the turn of the page. To play with the structure, with graphic symmetry, among other wonders you can do within the pages of a comic book. For example, in the following conference praising Watchmen, Kieron Gillen explained very well the capacity of traditional structures of comics raised to its maximum capacity of artistic expression.

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Windhammer Prize 2015: After the Flag Fell (Felicity Banks)

The 2015 Windhammer Prize is now running, which means you can download and play any of the 16 PDF gamebooks entered; if you play a reasonable number of them, you may also judge the competition by submitting a list of your top three favorites. (Full details are at the judging site.)


After the Flag Fell tells the story of the life of Peter Lalor, an Australian rebel and politician of whose life story I was embarrassingly ignorant before playing this game. As a piece of historical fiction, it’s pretty light: it serves up an intense-ish scene of battle and wounding and possible amputation at the beginning, but then backs off into a much more summary mode for recounting subsequent events, while allowing very wide branching of Lalor’s life. You can get married or not; you can enter politics (as the real Lalor did); you can run away and hide among Aboriginal peoples. One of the more sustained exchanges after the initial battle involves your romance with another character, and this is portrayed in a highly stylized fashion.

Even for a Windhammer book, this is a short piece. It uses only 63 of its permitted 100 nodes. Of those one is a choiceless introduction, one is a bit that isn’t reachable from anywhere and exists (I think) only to throw people off about how the romance plot might go, and four are easter egg nodes that contain authorial commentary. Brevity is fine, but in this case it also reflects a kind of oversimplification in the story’s later stages. Though the opening of the book suggests that it wants to explore why Lalor behaved the way he did and his effect on Australian history, the segments that deal with the political realities of his age are the briefest and least developed. For example:

“Forgive my impudence, sir, but are you sure you want to prevent women from voting? Your people elected you because they believed you would uphold democratic values.”

I refused to risk the good life I had. Letting women vote was too much.
Go to Page 38.

Under the circumstances, I signed the bill to let women have the vote.
Go to Page 26.

Presenting the situation so starkly gives little sense of how the contemporary people felt about this issue, what ideology (justified or not) might have supported each side, how the politicians were motivated, and how Lalor compared with his colleagues on the issue. So we’re left really only with our own inclinations on whether female suffrage is a good thing, and some of these choices felt to me a bit like “Do you like sexism Y/N?”

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Windhammer Prize 2015: Isaac Newton: Badass Ninja Crimefighter (Stuart Lloyd)

The 2015 Windhammer Prize is now running, which means you can download and play any of the 16 PDF gamebooks entered; if you play a reasonable number of them, you may also judge the competition by submitting a list of your top three favorites. (Full details are at the judging site.)


The previous Windhammer contestant I covered, Tides of Chrome, is an intricate puzzlebox of a game, highly polished, with hints of serious themes. Isaac Newton: Badass Ninja Crimefighter is basically its opposite in every way: a simple plot, fast-paced narrative, and an extremely goofy tone. There are assorted typos and surprising noun/verb agreement errors that make me think maybe the game was drafted in the third person and then changed to second person partway through. There are loads of luck checks and a number of choice points where you have no real reason the first way to guess which of two or three choices is going to be your best bet. I had fun with it, but in a totally different way.

The premise is what it says on the tin, only more so. You are Isaac Newton. You are 53 years old, yet you possess a body like Schwarzenegger in his prime. You can restore willpower and hit points by eating apples. Your study of gravity and optics has endowed you with telekinesis, flight, and the ability to shoot blasts of rainbow power from your hands. You are highly opposed to counterfeiting, and you’re willing to kill any number of guards and flunkies in order to get at London’s most significant counterfeiter. You also have a butler named Alfred, and independently sentient hair. The ninja aspect doesn’t come into it very much.

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Windhammer Prize 2015: Tides of Chrome (Steffen Hagen)

The 2015 Windhammer Prize is now running, which means you can download and play any of the 16 PDF gamebooks entered; if you play a reasonable number of them, you may also judge the competition by submitting a list of your top three favorites. (Full details are at the judging site.)


Tides of Chrome tells the tale of a robot — one of a whole society of robots, with their original “Architects” long since out of the picture — who is sent to explore a damaged ancient underwater station. From there, the story follows many standard tropes of abandoned-base exploration: there are various signs of what different inhabitants were doing here in the past, there are dangerous and/or secret areas, there is evidence that some parts of the station Go Deeper Than You Had Previously Realized.

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Interactive Narrative GDC Talks (Part 1)

Every year GDC talks are recorded and stored in the “GDC Vault”, which is accessible to people who have attended a recent GDC. There are also usually a few talks that are outside the paywall, though — and this year, there are quite a few non-paywall talks that might be of interest to IF and interactive narrative folks. There are also quite a few talks where the actual recording is behind a paywall, but the slides are available for free.

There are so many recommendable talks in this collection that I’m going to break them out over a couple of posts, starting with these fairly IF-specific talks:

Leading Players Astray: 80 Days and Unexpected Stories, Meg Jayanth, Freelance/inkle. (Slideshow, recorded talk.) An entertaining and watchable presentation about the tension between 80 Days’ boardgame mechanics and the story and the way the game tempts players into embracing bad strategy decisions. Meg also talks about the research that went into building 80 Days and the process of constructing the story as a whole.

Adventures in Text: Innovating in Interactive Fiction, Jon Ingold, inkle. (Slideshow, recorded talk.) Talks about narrative structure and tool implementation in inkle products, usable lengths of text, choice design, and a lot else. Well worth a look for anyone working in the choice-based game space.

Classic Game Post-mortem: Adventure, Warren Robinett. (Slideshow, recorded talk.) This is about the construction of the action-adventure game Adventure for the Atari 2600, but it talks about how that game was based on the Crowther and Woods game — and it also gets into a lot of delightfully sticky detail about the memory costs of a lot of the game elements. The latter is something that people working on interactive fiction now only have to worry about rarely, and usually only if they’re doing something either very large or targeted at a very restricted platform. A neat piece of game history with IF relevance.

Harvesting Interactive Fiction, Heather Albano, Choice of Games. (Slideshow only.) Intended to acquaint games narrative folks with recent developments in IF, this talk covers material that may already be familiar to IF veterans. Includes discussion of Hadean Lands, Codename Cygnus, Blood & Laurels, various Choice of Games titles, and much of the inkle collection, among other things. Edited to add: it’s a little hard to work out fully from just the slides, but I meant to mention that Heather did talk a lot about the use of ambiguity in text, and the storytelling leverage that you get from not overspecifying everything (which is sometimes easier when you’re working with words and not a full 3D model). This is an interesting area I’ve heard the Choice of Games folks talk about on various occasions but I’m not sure it’s gotten the discussion traction of some of the other concepts here (such as complicity).