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01 November, 2015

"Dark, Bloody, Gritty and Grim" - Interview (Part 2) with Richard Morgan on Dark Fantasy Gamebook A Land Fit For Heroes

Grab It caught up with veteran video game writer Richard Morgan to find out some world exclusive details on his upcoming digital gamebook, A Land Fit for Heroes

Yesterday we posted Part 1 of our interview with Richard Morgan on the upcoming digital gamebook adaptation of his widely esteemed dark fantasy series A Land Fit for Heroes. Today, in Part 2 of our interview, we have even more juicy details including some world exclusive information on how the trailer blazing multiplayer component will work. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

For those who may not have read your novels, how did you ensure that A Land Fit for Heroes remains accessible to newcomers and not just those well versed in the lore of the series? Is any prior knowledge needed to make sense of the story?

Well, as I mentioned before, we are dealing with a whole fresh cast of characters, and these characters have their own encounters with the Land Fit for Heroes fictionscape, they have to make sense of it on their own account. And that’s the journey the gamebook players will make. So while people who’ve read the original trilogy will feel a sly sense of familiarity about some aspects of the story from time to time, anyone who hasn’t will get along just fine without. And of course, if their appetite has been whetted when they’re done with the gamebook, they can always go back to the original trilogy and immerse themselves there as well. In fact please do!

One of the biggest issues I have with story driven games based on player choice is that players are often only presented with the illusion of choice. Often, decisions are only reflected in superficial dialogue changes or non-core story paths. How did you ensure that player choice is meaningful and impactful?

The beginning and the end of the game is something that’s more or less fixed. I mean, the characters start from where they start and arrive at the end of the game, yes. But the way they do that is not fixed. You have plenty of choices – and not only superficial ones - you can be harsh and aggressive, you can kill everybody you meet, you can be cooperative, you can be thieving – that’s up to you, and it’ll be defined by how you see yourself as both a player and a character.

Thing is, I think with the exception of a (very small) handful of open-world games, all stories are shepherded to some extent. Because if not, then what you have isn’t actually a narrative experience at all, it’s just a sandbox. And with Land Fit for Heroes, we are very much about giving you a narrative experience. Within that, we introduce elements like behavioural preference and even the ability to choose your sexual orientation, all of which has a great effect on the story. But given that this is a series of gamebooks and not a single one, the ending must be more or less fixed so we can pick up the line in the next book. But HOW you get to the ending (was it easy? did you die 5 times? so you have allies or enemies?) will have a great impact on the story.

Given that players will be able to experience the story from the perspective of three separate protagonists, the idea of multiplayer seems like a natural fit. Was A Land Fit for Heroes built on the idea that there would always be multiplayer, or was it added as simply a good idea later in the development process?

It was always meant to be a multiplayer book. The original trilogy has three protagonists and we wanted that to be reflected in the game as well. Of course, you can play the game solo as well, reading the different chapters of the three main characters one after the other – just like you’d do with a regular novel. But it’s more fun to play with your friends!

Are you able to provide some more details about how the multiplayer aspect will work?

Alright. So the three heroes start out separately and then work their way towards each other. Along the way, they’ll find a way to communicate with each other (represented as a chat option in the game mechanism) so they can exchange vital clues. For example, at a certain point Kirellin, the Trelayne noble will intercept a courier who carries critical information for Ilaria, the young thief, which enables her to identify the true identity of someone in her expedition. So the players need to communicate all the time, sharing information and exchanging ideas.

Finally, they actually meet up and the game changes from first person narrative to third person narrative. Along the way, players have to make joint decisions about their progress... Do we want to read on? Shall we replay this? Later on, when the characters are together, it becomes a question of how to proceed physically in the narrative space - do we go this way or that way? So forth. Obviously, if you play solo you miss the fun of interacting with your friends, but the story will still be as complete as in multiplayer mode.

I absolutely love the art style! The bright and splotchy watercolour effect catches the eye instantaneously, while managing to stand in stark contrast to the more dark and mature themes of the game. Was this something you thought about when bringing the gamebook to life? More broadly, what did you want to convey through the art style?

Thanks! To be honest, we just briefed the design team, then left them alone, and a couple of weeks later they came up with this. We all loved it, so we gave them green light to run with it. And as the narrative was put to bed and all the illustrations arrived, it just felt like a perfect match. And obviously, the dark background with the blood and metal are going to feel like a natural fit for anybody who’s read the books. Dark, gritty, bloody, grim… Just like the game itself!

So, the countdown on your website…I take it that’s when we’ll be able to get our hands on A Land Fit for Heroes?

We certainly hope so!


Well, there you have it. We hope you enjoyed our in-depth interview with Richard Morgan, whom we want to thank for his generous offer of time for the interview. And as for our last question, there is a little over 2 days remaining on the countdown so not long to go until we can experience the masterpiece in the making for ourselves.

Stephen Mitchell

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