We’re really chuffed that approaching 50,000 people have now played The 39 Steps! In a world where unusual titles from smaller developers are often lost in the shadows of the giants, it’s great that we managed to capture an audience and generate an overwhelmingly positive response to our notion of a ‘digital adaptation’. To everyone who purchased a copy – thank you! And for those who are yet to try The 39 Steps, we urge you to do so and let us know what you think.

Ever wondered what was written in Scudder's notebook? Here's Hannay's solution to its cipher

Ever wondered what was written in Scudder’s notebook? Here’s Hannay’s solution to its cipher

For our experimental efforts in creating The 39 Steps, we – and our creative lead Simon Meek – managed to get a mention in The List’s ‘Hot 100’, placing us at number 33 (the only games developer in the list outside of Rockstar in Scotland, which takes the no.1 spot). Adding this accolade to our being a finalist for a Develop Award earlier this year and the recent -secret(ish)- news that The 39 Steps has been member-voted into the BAFTA Games Judging Selection for 2014 (fingers crossed!), we’re very happy bunnies.

With all that said, we are also sad to be saying a farewell to Simon Meek, who is leaving The Story Mechanics to set up The Secret Experiment. We urge you to follow Simon and his latest venture and we’re sure some very exciting stuff will be coming out of it in the near future.

Author: The Story Mechanics team

The Story Mechanics’ creative lead, Simon Meek, was lucky enough to present at the Dare Indie Fest and tackled the subject of The Player VS Player Character and the conflict that can arise when the audience’s role in an experience is not clearly defined. For those of you who weren’t at the event, we’ve condensed the thoughts and considerations into this blog post. Let us know what you think, and hope you enjoy reading it!

The Player VS Player Character: Who am I? What should you say? What would she do?

    • The Player VS Player Character Conflict arises when the player questions his/her intended role in a game and the capacity in which they are meant to act.

Bioshock Infinite: Are you Booker DeWitt?

    • Contrary to current design trends in games, making players ‘stop and think’ about a narrative choice is not always a good thing and should ring warning bells. Every narrative choice – often located within dialogue interchanges – has the potential dislocate the experience if the audience role is not clearly established.
    • If you are presenting the player with a choice, consider whether you’re asking them to make it as a game-player (ie. thinking about the best outcome), a role-player (ie. acting in character) or as themselves (ie. a personal reflection of their moral self). All are valid approaches, but if there’s any confusion it will act to the detriment of the story and overall experience.
    • Defining the audience’s role is a universal requirement across all art forms. Literature uses the narrative voice and point-of-view to place the reader within its story; film relies on cinematography and juxtaposition; theatre and installation arts use physical space; and all have experimented with the audience’s role in their experience. (A few good examples would be Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights, Big City; Michael Haneke’s Funny Games; and Punch Drunk’s Sleep No More.)

Punchdrunk’s incredible Sleep No More

    • Traditional storytelling media will turn to interactivity for experimentation, yet the default in video games (and all gaming, for that matter) is to have an interacting and participating audience (aka players). The default state is that player is of puppeteer or controller. If developers want to change the notion of game-play into role-play – where players take on a new role – this needs to be designed into the game system and communicated directly to the audience, empowered with a toolset by which this transformation can be made and understood
    • It is not the instance of interactivity and story combined that causes the player versus character conflict, however. Nintendo’s Mario games have managed to weave the two perfectly for 30 years. This is because Mario is a vessel of game-play, not role-play.

Mario: a vessel for game-play

    • The Player VS Player Character conflict arises within an interactive story construct where there exists both choice and (player) reflection. This reflection part is key: in order to act in a way that feels natural, the player needs to know what role they are playing in the game, such that when a choice is presented to them they instinctually know how to react to it. For example, in Bioshock Infinite, ask yourself: Are you Booker Dewitt?

The talk went on to explore ‘role-theory’ and the ‘power of speech’ – where we can see online-multiplayer games (of the with-headset variety) as noisy experiences, with plenty of role-play, and the single player – in contrast – as a very silent affair. Perhaps vocal interaction is a powerful tool when asking the player to embody the player character?

Overall, the very existence of the Player VS Player Character conflict is an amazing problem to have – it signals progressive experimentation in interactive storytelling. The take-home is that game designers should consider asking ‘what is the players role?’ at the top of any design document, as the answer may not be as obvious as you first think.

Author: Simon Meek

We wanted to let you know that we’ve added a new section to our website, which contains reports of the various #storylabs that we hold. If you pop over there now, you’ll find the first full-report – a breakdown of the discussions and presentation from last month’s lab on ‘story, emotion and immersion‘.

Mel Gibson was there! Well, sort of…

Is there anything we can learn from Martin Riggs when it comes to improving audience immersion?

Want to make sure you know when new #storylabs are coming up and our latest reports appear? Sign up to our blog (avert your eyes top-right of this page to see how)!

Out Now!

We’re excited to tell you that The 39 Steps is now available on Steam for Mac and PC users! And there are 20 Steam achievements to be had over the course of the adventure.

Want to know more? Click here

Not a Steam user? We’re also available via the AppStore and MacAppStore, as well as a number of other quality outlets (see them all here).

A shot from Event 1 in The Thirty Nine Steps

Be transported back to 1914 London, where Richard Hannay finds himself framed for a murder he didn’t commit.

Android release coming to Google Play very soon.

Thanks for all your support, and please do tell us what you think of our remake of John Buchan’s The Thirty-Nine Steps.

Author: Simon Meek

As much as we want to painstakingly go through 39 reasons as to why you should go get the iPad version of The Thirty-Nine Steps, we don’t want to delay your story experience any longer. It’s out now! and published through Faber and Faber (conveyors of all things brilliant in the literary world), and the app icon looks something like this:

Click the image to go to our AppStore page

We would love to hear what you think about the product once you’ve played it – we’ve worked night and day to try and create something that can be seen as a breakthrough product in digital storytelling, and we hope you enjoy it as much as we did making it.

Oh, and remember, if you don’t have an iPad you can pick up the product on Windows, OSX, Linux and – very soon – Android 4.0+ tablet! Check out all the places to buy

If you want to know more about the product, check out our dedicated The 39 Steps page (this is a work in progress, and will be magically transformed into something special over the next few days, with reviews, gameplay footage and other good stuff).

Author: simon meek

The 39 Steps

Click image to go direct to our Amazon product page

At long last, our digital adaptation of The 39 Steps (aka The Thirty-NIne Steps) is available for you PC, Mac and Linux users out there!

If you’re after the shiny boxed product, you can get it on Amazon.

Or, if the digital version is more your thing, you could try Gamersgate or Gameolith (incl. Linux) or MacGameStore.

Oh, and the product will be available for download on Steam next week! And on via the AppStore the week after (iOS and OSX), then Google Play! Exciting times.

You might also see the product in WHSmith and Morrisons – so make sure to make big noises when you do.

And please do let us (and everyone else!) know what you think. Hope you enjoy it!

Author: Simon Meek

Onwards to part 3 of our secrets of… series. This time, we wanted to give a little insight into the pre-production process and show off some of our initial storyboarding of The Thirty Nine Steps.

Part 3: Storyboards

Our digital adaptation of John Buchan’s novel is intended to be, above all, faithful to the original story – which is incredible – and faithful to the world in which it is set.

The whole experience is also delivered using location as our storytelling canvas – the only thing that remains from the book is the text that’s written in it. And when you come down to it, it’s the words and the story they tell that we all really love. So, there’s no page turning in a digital adaptation, unless you’re examining a newspaper or book within the story!

The idea of having location as our primary visual focus threw up a few interesting challenges – which we will tackle in more depth over the coming weeks – but primarily it meant we needed to deconstruct the story, map out its geographies and design a collection of visual images to support the action that takes place throughout. In other words, we storyboarded the book… from a reader’s point of view.

Our lead environment artist, Paul Scott Canavan, took up the challenge with great gusto, taking text-descriptions straight from the book and transforming them into cinematic masterpieces. This storyboarding was developed alongside the text – making sure we never had too many words over-relying on just one shot, and that the framing worked to emphasise the emotional resonance of the text that would be displayed on the screen.

The shots we were working up also had to have enough scope to be moved about within, and contain enough depth to allow for our vfx artists to break the images up into layers, and have them react to camera movements as if they weren’t static images. (That last bit deserves a secrets post in itself – look out for part 4!)

So without further ado, here’s a selection of storyboards from Event 6, which we call Sanctuary of the Inn. (There’s 19 Events in the final product, btw – that’s around 6 hours of story!) 

scene004_batch001     scene004_batch002scene004_batch003     scene004_batch005scene004_batch004     scene005_batch001


Author: Simon Meek