Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Cross a walking-simulator with a novel and you get a...

My post to the forum at gamedev.net:

This seems like a good place to start looking for advice and information on developing an unusual hybrid of ebook and game, but if I've missed the mark, I apologize. I've been wanting for a while to add media and interactivity to the e-novel, but my experiences with Sigil haven't been too encouraging. In theory, HTML5 and epub3 should allow the addition of music tracks and embedded puzzles to ebook text, but my results on a previous project when outputting tests to iBooks and Kindle-for-PC were iffy. I have seen that companies like iClassics Productions offer multimedia books, so I know it's possible, at least in what seems like 2.5D. What I'm picturing for my current novel is allowing the reader to go back and forth between a standard ebook with page-flipping and resizable text, and a 3D walking-simulator environment like Everybody's Gone to the Rapture, Firewatch and Gone Home. Fortunately I'm not looking for financial success with this project, because expanding, say, Gone Home out to novel length would interest only a very small market. But it's a project I would like to create just to push the boundaries of the e-novel. Who knows—in the future, students may be able to experience War and Peace as both a novel and FPS.

Briefly, my story uses the theme park as metaphor for how we view the real world. Because political polarization in the US has reached such an extreme level with the last election, I want to explore left and right political philosophies as the central character, an influential theme-park designer, pushes for changes in a new theme-park design as his own politics move from right to left. Which will, of course, eliminate any interest in this project from conservative game developers. The movement from right to left simply reflects my own political shift over the years; an equally valid story by another writer could be based on a shift from left to right.

The way the novel is shaping up now, the reader would experience the project as a walking-simulator embedded within a novel. The project currently begins as an ebook with title-theme orchestral music underscoring the front-matter pages. The walking-simulator isn't accessed until Chapter 2 (although that's not set in stone). But the project would probably have to be constructed, perhaps in Unity, as a walking-simulator with the novel embedded within it. I've been approaching the project up till now as a one-man-band, but simultaneously climbing multiple learning curves is something I would've been happier to do when I was a bit younger. So it occurs to me now to seek help, or at least information regarding focus.

A reel of my LightWave 3D models is at https://vimeo.com/159571874 and my author page at Amazon is at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B002ES921O.

Thanks a lot for reading!

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