Voyageur: Impressions

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First, a massive disclaimer: Voyageur’s author Bruno Dias is a friend. Also, I often do work for Failbetter, which provided support for Voyageur via Fundbetter. In addition, Voyageur uses procedural text generation features that draw on things I did for Annals of the Parrigues, and I had a number of conversations with Bruno about the game while it was in development. That said, I will try to be as useful as I can, since I’ve been asked for more of an assessment than the simple announcements I’ve been posting.

What is Voyageur? This is a systematic quality-based narrative with procedurally generated textual descriptions, trading, and perma-death — though in the right circumstances you can leave a substantial legacy to a future captain.

To unpack that a bit: you start out on a planet with a little money and a few supplies and something called a Descent Drive. A Descent Drive is alien technology that moves faster than anything made by humans — but only in one direction, towards the center of the galaxy. If you want to take a trip on one, you are never coming home.

So you set out, and each time you do, you have the ability to steer a little. You can typically pick which of 2-5 available planets you want to see next. You know one or two facts about them. Sometimes those facts are enough to tell you which planet is going to be the best place to sell off your current cargo or drop a passenger; sometimes you’re pretty much taking your chances. The descriptions of the planets, as well as the crew you pick up and the trade goods you acquire, are all procedurally generated. Planets have governments, cultures, climates. Trade goods have different levels of quality and other features that make them appealing on different worlds. I particularly enjoyed some of the trade good descriptions that hinted at the surrounding culture: Sea urchin substitute. Generic locust steaks. An artwork consisting of AR decorations overlaid on electronic components.

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Voyageur Launched

The Descent Device: faster-than-light travel at speeds no human should go; an alien mystery. But it only goes one way, falling from star to star towards the centre of the galaxy. Voyageur is a literary RPG where you take the helm of a trader-vagabond vessel, looking for adventure, wealth, and answers in an infinite galaxy full of procedural cultures and civilizations.

I’ve occasionally mentioned here Bruno Dias’ development work on Voyageur, a text exploration and trading game through procedurally generated worlds and spaces. It launches today for iOS and Android! Here’s the launch video:

End of January Link Assortment

Events

February 4th, San Francisco, the SF Bay IF Meetup will get together to play the IGF-nominated Event[0]; several other potential games are also on the agenda.

February 9th, NottinghamHello Words, a new interactive fiction writer’s group, is meeting to talk and play Victor Oujel’s Ariadne in Aeaea.

February 16th, Boston, the People’s Republic of IF gathers for their monthly meeting.

New Releases and Updates

Forgotten is a Twine game made by Sophia Park and Arielle Grimes, with Emilie Sovis providing sound design. It’s a horror piece in which you boot up an old, glitching copy of Forgotten Realms and explore the decaying landscape.

Remanence is a short Twine piece by Stephanie Chan, in which you rob a memory-bank.

20Something is a Twine on Steam, touching on the miseries of dating. (It’s not free, and I haven’t tried it, so I can’t offer much more guidance than that.)

Timecrest, which has been covered before on this blog, has added an accessibility update that provides comprehensive features for users who are blind or vision impaired, and was awarded “Best iOS Game” and “Developer of the Year” by the AppleVis Golden Apple Awards.

February 3, House of Many Doors launches: HOMD is strongly inspired by Sunless Sea, but features procedurally generated poetry and its own particular tone.

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And speaking of procedural generation and large worlds: Voyageur, a procedurally-generated text game by Bruno Dias, is set to release on February 7th. It’s a literary RPG about exploring a galaxy in which the planet descriptions, goods, and choice-based encounters are generated from a custom corpus.

Jams and Competitions

March 9th is the registration deadline for Spring Thing.

Utopia Jam, hosted by Laura Michet and Cat Manning, runs from February 11th to February 27th.

Resources

Jeremiah McCall has put together a basic introduction to links in Harlowe for audiences without a lot of coding experience. Further expansions are yet to come.

John Timmons’ IF Snippets, a collection of short Inform 7 works written as introductory assistance to the form, were broken on the Inform 7 website but have been reposted here.

Carolyn VanEseltine has a useful article about when to decide to build your own IF engine, which addresses a number of “is there any point/market” questions.

Crowdfunding

Several of these this time. Bob Bates’ Thaumistry Kickstarter has already been covered on this blog. There’s also Kevin Snow’s Southern Monsters, an interactive text game about monsters and disability in which you hunt cryptids through the swamps of Arkansas, and which has reached almost 80% of their goal.

And of course, Failbetter launches their Kickstarter for Sunless Skies on February 1st. (Disclosure: I sometimes work for Failbetter and may benefit from a positive outcome of that Kickstarter.)

This situation right here

You who’ve hung out here for a while know that I post politics-related stuff rarely (though here’s a post I wrote last year about immigration). That’s changing a bit now, because we’ve reached a point where I consider silence immoral.

I’ll tag posts for those who aren’t interested in reading those things, or who aren’t interested in hearing them from me.

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Bob Bates’ Thaumistry Kickstarter

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It’s been a while since Hadean Lands kickstarted, but you now have another chance to back a new work of parser IF from a renowned author. Infocom and Legend alum Bob Bates is launching a comedy puzzle game called Thaumistry, which the author describes thus:

Something was lost when our industry moved away from parser-driven games. Players lost the feeling they could try anything they could think of. Games became more claustrophobic. And players especially lost the feeling they were playing with the author who wrote the game.

With this game, I hope to restore that intimate connection. I hope that each player feels they are playing with me. That we can have a conversation. That we can have fun together.

It promises to be a classic spell-casting, hijinx-raising text adventure (and a new TADS release, to boot!). If this is your sort of thing, you know what to do.

Mid-January Link Assortment

Events

PR-IF in Cambridge/Boston has been running a series of IF readings, and they’ve already started with Liza Daly’s Stone Harbor. That reading series continues on Wednesday afternoons, with more events January 18, January 25 and February 1. Next up is Astrid Dalmady’s excellent Cactus Blue Motel.

January 29 is the next meeting of the Oxford/London IF meetup: this is a pub meetup in Oxford. You’re welcome to bring a WIP, or just turn up to talk.

Tool Session Upcoming

Every successful IF system thrives on the feedback of invested beta users, who bend the tool in directions no one had anticipated, and who often become its first evangelists. But with so much going on, it can be hard to attract that engagement and feedback.

It’s not a complete solution, but periodically at the Oxford/London IF Meetup I run a tools session where tool creators can show and share their work, and get questions and responses from possible future users.

The next one of these will probably be May 2017, and I’m hoping to up our game a little bit. In the past, we’ve had a session of 3-4 talks and demonstrations from different tool creators, some local and some via Skype. Those talks will still be the backbone of the program, but I’d like to make the session a bit longer and add more time for hands-on exploration of at least some of the tools.

If you have something you’d like to share, let me know and I’ll follow up about what is involved.

New Games

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House of Many Doors comes out February 3: this is a Sunless-Sea-reminiscent piece featuring eerie locations and procedural poetry, and one of the first beneficiaries of the Fundbetter funding set up by Failbetter Games. Not exactly standard text IF, but very word-focused:

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