Saturday, 4 August 2012

Windhammer Entry: Emancipation

I have just released a new short gamebook by the name of Emancipation. It is also my entry to this year's Windhammer Competition. The Windhammer guidelines don't say anything about posting your entry in other domains, so I have put it here to show you. Emancipation was written in late April early May, and hasn't been released until now due to the number of errors and details I needed to add.
Emancipation is much more "Story" and less "Game". To give you a one sentence summary: You wake up in what you perceive as hell, and must figure out why you are there and how to escape. Those who manage to find their way to the last section won't be disappointed. 
Looking at the mechanics based on my posts about Linearity and Combat Mechanics.
I would classify this gamebook as Convergent under my linearity rating system, however it has a GCI of infinity. This is because is uses a mechanic similar to La Cité aux 100 Mystères of having the reader explore in a divergent way before having them return to where they started, albeit more knowledgeable from their explorations. La Cité aux 100 Mystères used this mechanic to give the player the sense of exploring a full city, while I used this mechanic to create the feeling of being trapped and helpless.
There is no combat system and therefore no character attributes; the story didn't call for character attributes and playing out combat, so I didn't add any of that. There are codewords and items to collects, though it can be quite difficult to figure out when and where to use them.
Please read it, review it, comment on it, vote for it in the Windhammer competition and enjoy it!


  1. What I'm liking about reading your gamebooks so far is the innovation you show in systems and design. I may not agree with every decision you make, but I really respect that you're asking these questions and actively investigating better ways to do it.

    In emancipation, I was intrigued by the technique of allowing you to use any item or knowledge at any time by adding the number associated with that item/knowledge to your current section number to see if it makes sense. I wish I'd thought of that! I haven't come across it before; did you see that somewhere else, or is it original?

    Some of the pitfalls this runs into, just for the sake of completeness, are: 1) the risk of spoilers, if you flip ahead to a section to *try* and use an item, but can't, and find something else out about the game that you shouldn't have known yet, and 2) the risk of using out of game knowledge of the numbers themselves to help solve puzzles.

    For example, in my case, I knew that the concluding entry was 27, because you stated so in the intro. When I saw I had two knowledges that added up to 27, I realized what I was supposed to do. But it did not feel like a rewarding game experience; I felt like I had cheated, rather than earning it, because I did have the clues of the numbers.

    So that's just some food for thought. Other than that, I thought the way it forces the player to ask at any given time, "Can I use this item here" was brilliant, and really brings you into the world a lot more, since you no longer feel restricted by just want options the text offers to you. It's challenging, but also kind of exciting to have that freedom.

    Oh, and also the story was great :) At first, I didn't completely buy into it, but by the time you understand what's *actually* going on, I realized that the oddness early on is intentional. Things aren't supposed to quite add up. Actually, it really did hit me a little bit when I realized the truth. Good reveal at the end.

    Note to other readers: DON'T READ CHAPTER 27 FIRST! I skipped ahead, myself, after a few tries, and just glanced at it when I was near there anyway, but I would have enjoyed it more if I'd saved it for when I actually earned it.

    Great gamebook! Cheers, Ashton

    1. Well the earliest time in gamebook history that adding the numbers of items to turn to a new reference in a gamebook was used is in The Warlock of Firetop Mountain when you have to use the keys to open the treasure chest(as far as I know, feel free to correct me if I'm wrong). As for using the system of not giving the player clear instructions on when to use the items, as much as I would like to take credit for it, I'm pretty sure there are other gamebooks that have used this mechanic (can't think of any off the top of my head however).

      You're right about the "trying" problem and the "out of game" one. I have an idea to remedy the "trying" problem; sections you are supposed to flip ahead to start with the name of the item or information using. e.g: if the new section you turn to after using Razor7 starts with the word RAZOR, then you are using the item properly keep reading, otherwise don't keep reading so it won't spoil anything.
      As for the "out of game" problem, that one might be harder to remedy. I might have to remove the instructions at the beginning about reaching 27, and instead tell the player they must reach a section that ends with the words "you win" or something. Albeit most of my play testers who played it before found it very difficult to figure out how to get to the true ending without all the extra hints. I will have to put more work into that.

      I'm so glad you enjoyed the ending :) It's true that most of my play testers were confused until they reached the final conclusion; which was as it should be :p

      I'm glad you liked it, and I hope to bring many more enjoyable gamebooks into the world :)

  2. This seems like a very intresting gamebook; I'll give it a try later this evening.

  3. There was much to like here: a compelling narrative and an interesting mechanic. The idea that having to start again from the beginning was not a loss seemed original to me as I have never seen it in the five gamebooks that I have previously completed. In a way, this approach is similar to text adventures that I have played, in that there is no issue in returning to any room repeatedly if desired.

    ----- SPOILER ALERT: I will be discussing specifics below-------

    Despite your instructions, I was not clear as to how to use certain items. I still don't understand how to use either Epiphany 12 or Apocalypse 15, as I never saw any reason to use them. I did use Razor 5 to get to §27 from §22.

    A drawback of the gamebook is that are only two choices in those sections that have choices. This allows a player to easily backtrack to a winning strategy. For example, my first time through the book, I used the sequence 1-20-13-22-9-3-1; realizing that §3 always lead to §1, I then used 1-20-13-22-9-19-Die. Thus, §9 was ruled out as a useful place to go. My third time through, I used 1-20-13-22-6-21-Win. This, of course, was lucky for me, but I was able to do it so easily because I had so few choices at the end. If there had been three or more choices in some (or most) of the sections, I would not have had so easy a time of it. (In solving mazes, this backtracking strategy is called a Depth-First-Search or Tremaux Algorithm.)

    Similarly, I was able to rule out another group of sections because I had exhausted all of the possibilities within them. This may have been my fault, because I didn't use either Epiphany 12 or Apocalypse 15.

    There are a few errors: in §11, there is a sentence: Few you have been down. I don't understand its context, as the sentence before states that the side passages and staircases are familiar to you. You might want to change the last few sentences of this section. In §6, "hear" is misspelled. In §27, the doctor tells you that "it's all uphill from here." If your meaning is that things will get easier, I think you want him to say that "it's all downhill from here."

    Thanks for the gamebook. I enjoyed playing it and I hope you do well in the Windhammer competition.

    1. I'm so glad you didn't find the returning to the original room mechanic to be an issue; that was my greatest concern with this gamebook. In most gamebooks you don't revisit the same location a lot; in fact La Cité aux 100 Mystères is one of the few gamebooks I can think of that use the exact technique I use.

      --- SPOILER ALERT: I will be discussing specifics below---

      Oh dear I must have really messed up with the instructions :( the Razor5 was actually the rather useless item; it unlocks 1 hidden ending if used when on section 7. Also I mentioned in the instruction that knowlege is supposed to be used to answer a question; the only question asked in the game is "You know why you're here?" asked by Lucian when you are in his office. Then you use Epiphany12 or Apocalypse15 to reach 27, the true ending. I believe I'll remedy this by elaborating on the instructions and also adding in my solution to Ashton's "trying" problem above.

      I know of the Tremaux Algorithm, and in Emancipation it will only lead you to the false endings; the true ending is reached not by in-text given decisions, but by using the pieces of knowledge Epiphany12 or Apocalypse15 at the right time. The ending at 21 may seem good at the time you read it, but when you reach the true ending at 27 you realize it isn't so great.

      Thank you for telling me about these errors :) I will fix them along with all my other corrections.

      Thanks for your kind words :) and I'm glad you enjoyed it :)

  4. Don't feel too badly that your instructions were misunderstood. It happens all the time.

    When I was much younger, I was a scientific/technical writer, among other things. I would spend an enormous amount of time and effort trying to be as clear as I could be. Nevertheless, when others read my output, it became clear to me that there were things that were still not clearly explained. I'll be specific here with Emancipation.

    In the instructions, you devote six paragraphs to the explanation of how to use an item, including the example of how to use Date17 and Time2. OK; I was waiting for a question about the end of the world or some type of divine truth for using Epiphany12 or Apocalypse15. Perhaps I was dense here, but I think the relationship to the items and the question in §5 is too tenuous for many readers. In addition, you devoted all of this space for instructions that are only used once in the story, albeit to win the game.

    You also were inconsistent in your instructions, and that really threw me off. In a paragraph starting "(For example if you were reading section 1...," you instruct adding the section number to the item number and turning to the section that was the sum of the numbers. Yet later, in the paragraph starting "(For example: Some one asked you...," the instructions do not include adding in the section number to the sum; the same goes for your instructions within the body of the story. Thus, there are two different and inconsistent examples. Because of this inconsistency, I could not get to the proper use of Epiphany12 or Apocalypse15. Like Ashton, I realized in retrospect that 12+15=27, but I also needed to add in a section number, and that didn't work.

    I would also offer formatting suggestions. I found the document hard to read because of the way paragraphs are formatted. I suggest either separating paragraphs with a blank line (the way the are formatted in your responses above) or indenting the first word of each, or both.

    You are also inconsistent and sometimes incorrect in punctuation. Take a look at the beginning of the two paragraphs I quoted above. You start both with "For example" and use nothing after these words in the first instance and a colon after these words in the second (I might suggest using a comma in both instances).

    Sometimes at the end of sections, when you instruct the reader to proceed to a section, you write "Go to.." and other times you simple list a number. Please be consistent in this.

    Finally, a pet peeve of mine. I **hate** the Times Roman font. It is very harsh on the eyes. I humbly beg you to use something else.

    I know I'm being picky here, and I could be even more so if you wish. However, I don't want to see your otherwise fine entry lose consideration because of very fixable problems.

    Good luck!