I’m not getting one, but I have to say these iPads are pretty intriguing, and I’d love to play around on one. Wil Wheaton has found a possible case of buying one after initial scepticism – board games. Complex board games like Car Wars and Arkham Horror. And reading that post, and the comments, made me think of the movie Big, with Elizabeth Perkins and Tom Hanks. Towards the end of the movie, Hanks’ and Perkins’ characters make a presentation about an “electronic comic book”:
You see it won’t be like these where you just follow the story along. You would actually make a whole different story appear just by pressing these buttons.
An electronic comic book? That’s amazing!
Yeah. An electric comic book. It’s gonna be different every time.
This is incredible. You’re brilliant–you know that?
If you like one you could see it, you know, over and over and overÂ again.
You really like it?…You think Mac will like it? You know, what we could do…We could do like sports comics… or like if you’re going to steal second or something like that…You’d have sports books… baseball, football…really, it works with almost any sport there is. Hockey!
Later on they give a presentation which goes into more detail, including interchangable “disks” with new stories on them.
There’s this flat screen inside with pictures on it and you read it. And when you get down to the bottom you have to make a choice of what the character’s going to do… Like if he going to go in and fight the dragon then you have to push one of the buttons.
See, there’s a computer chip inside which stores the choices, so when
you reach the end of the page, you decide where the story goes. That’s
A kid makes his own decision.
This is really possible?
Yeah. In fact, it’s a very simple program. Isn’t that right?
So what happens when you run out of choices?
Well, that’s the great thing. You can just sell different adventures. Just pop in a new disk and you get a whole new set of options.
We could market this on a comic book rack.
How much would the unit cost?
Well, our initial figure is around… around $7.00, with a retail cost of around $18.95.
You expect a kid to pay $19.00 for a comic book?
Only the first time, you racketball-playing dick, Paul. The disks would be a lot cheaper, and you could have serial stories, new heroes, the possibilities are literally (OK not really) endless!
Talking of Big, Cassie and I like the bit when he calls his Mom, pretending to be his own kidnapper, to say he’s safe and will be coming home soon. She forces the “kidnapper” to sing the song “I used to sing to him when he was a little boy” to prove he’s safe.
Oh, I got it! I got it! “Memories, like the corner of my mind. Misty water color memories, of the way we werrrrrrrrrre. ScatteredÂ pic-tures…”
The Choose Your Own Adventure books from Bantam weren’t a big success in the UK, but Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone’s Fighting Fantasy books certainly were, from the classic (and infuriating) Warlock of Firetop Mountain to the stranger Sword of the Samurai and more complex Starship Traveller. I had a few of these, and they were well-thumbed and covered in rubbed-out pencil marks. I also had a few of Joe Dever’s Lone Wolf books, which had a much more (IMHO) immersive story and better (and more creepy) artwork. These were similarly thumbed and marked, so in the end I got my Dad to photocopy the score page, so I could keep the pages free of scribbles.
Searching around, I find that the series is now freely available to download, or even play online, complete with links between pages, and all the beautiful artwork. You can also view an SVG flowchart of the pages! The HTML version looks like an ideal candidate for iPad play – but you still have to maintain your own scores and inventory, which would be a pain. Easy to implement though, I guess.
It looks like there would be a range of complexity for electronic comic books, from a simple text document with built-in choices, to added features like hit points and skill levels, item inventories and magic spells. It would be a blurred line between that and the old text adventures like Zork, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, and, er, Ship of Doom. But rather than having to type in directions, like simple VERB NOUN stuff, or the more flexible Level 9 parser as used in my old favorite The Saga of Erik The Viking, it would be preferable to use on screen buttons. But the text parsers could allow a huge variety of commands, whereas a button interface would be limited. You could just display the set of commands possible at a particular moment, but that would make the game a case of just trying all the available possibilities, instead of thinking around a problem. I suppose it depends on how good the on-screen keyboard is.
Of course, it goes without saying that a Linux-based tablet would be more open, flexible and probably cheaper, and would allow all sorts of experimentation along these lines without being forced through the Checkpoint Charlie of Apple’s walled garden. But then I would say that, wouldn’t I?
This should be interesting.