Feeds

Interview: Steve Jackson, role-playing game titan

Fighting Fantasy creator and gaming prof talks to the Vulture

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

From pages to pixels

Moving away from Fighting Fantasy’s dice rolling was a tough call. There is, as all Fantasy players will know, a sense of control in rolling a pair of dice that’s missing from a simulated on-screen dice roll.

“If you play with physical dice, you pick them up, you kiss them, you think you influence them. If you press a button, or shake your iPad, it’s not quite the same thing. You never get more excitement in a game than when somebody needs a five or a six to win, the solution is in their hand, they’ve got the die. It’s a psychological thing but it’s something I don’t think you can reproduce [on a digital device],” he says.

Steve Jackson's Sorcery!

No more steenkin’ graph paper: Inkle’s take on Sorcery! brings the map to the fore

Even so, computer technology largely supplanted adventure books, and role-playing and table-top board games, in the 1990s. No surprise, then, that Jackson - and Ian Livingstone - moved in that direction themselves. Livingstone joined publisher Domark after he and Jackson sold Games Workshop, and went on to run Eidos after it acquired Domark in 1995. Eidos released a 3D game based on Livingstone’s popular Fighting Fantasy book, Deathtrap Dungeon.

Jackson himself went on to co-found Lionhead with ex-Bullfrog co-founder Peter Molyneux. At Lionhead, Jackson worked on the development of Black & White and The Movies. He left in 2006 when Microsoft bought the company. These days he’s Professor of Game Design at Brunel University, teaching new generations of would-be developers how to create compelling game experiences.

“I don’t play video games as much as I used to but I’m much more excited by apps these days. I’ve been playing Diablo III recently, but today's [big budget] triple-A games are pretty much all the same, they just look better than they used to. You can’t get excited about a new one that comes out. But you trawl through the App Store and you come across really great games. Like Spaceteam, it’s just the most ludicrous game you’ve ever come across.”

Steve Jackson's Sorcery!

Sorcery!'s combat is interactive - but not quite as tension-building as rolling dice

Indeed, Henry Smith’s multi-participant game gives each player a randomly designed spaceship control panel. Players bark technobabble commands at each other. If they fail to keep up their ship explodes and the game ends.

“You very rarely see a game come out that breaks new ground, and that’s the disappointing side of things really,” the professor adds.

For Jackson, then, it’s all about novelty and the challenge of continuing to keep games fresh. He’ll do another Fighting Fantasy game book, he says, “as long as it’s something I haven’t done before. If you look at the ones I did they were always different. I did a science fiction book [Starship Traveller], a horror one [House of Hell], superheroes [Appointment with FEAR], one where you’re the monster [Creature of Havoc].

Steve Jackson's Sorcery!

Spell checker

“But I’m more interested in the apps than the books, as there’s more you can do with them. If apps publishers are looking for new ideas, new developments, that’s when I’d get back into them.” ®

Steve Jackson's Sorcery! is out now for iOS via the App Store.

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
PEAK APPLE: iOS 8 is least popular Cupertino mobile OS in all of HUMAN HISTORY
'Nerd release' finally staggers past 50 per cent adoption
Tim Cook: The classic iPod HAD TO DIE, and this is WHY
Apple, er, couldn’t get parts for HDD models
Apple spent just ONE DOLLAR beefing up the latest iPad Air 2
New iPads look a lot like the old one. There's a reason for that
Google Glassholes are UNDATEABLE – HP exec
You need an emotional connection, says touchy-feely MD... We can do that
Microsoft fitness bands slapped on wrists: All YOUR HEALTH DATA are BELONG TO US
Wearable will deliver 'actionable insights for healthier living'
Lawyers mobilise angry mob against Apple over alleged 2011 Macbook Pro crapness
We suffered 'random bouts of graphical distortion' - fanbois
Caterham Seven 160 review: The Raspberry Pi of motoring
Back to driving's basics with a joyously legal high
prev story

Whitepapers

Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
Internet Security Threat Report 2014
An overview and analysis of the year in global threat activity: identify, analyze, and provide commentary on emerging trends in the dynamic threat landscape.