Pixelhunter – Interview with Neil Rennison of Tin Man Games

Choose your own adventure novels undoubtedly exerted a massive influence on video games (particularly RPGs and Point and Click Adventures), but now they are making a comeback in digital form thanks to devices like the iPad, which ironically provide the ideal platform for these lo-fi narratives. I caught up with Neil Rennison, the head of Tin Man Games, the company responsible for releasing Gamebook Adventures, and the forthcoming digital versions of Fighting Fantasy to discuss these trends and his books.

Neil Rennison, whose Gamebook Adventures are leading the charge.

Pixelhunter:  Most of your books are set in the fictitious land of Orlandes, how did you develop this world?

Neil Rennison: The map was actually developed over 20 years ago by myself and a local group of AD&D 2nd Edition players! I was the Dungeon Master and designed the world for my friends to play in. When it came to developing Gamebook Adventures, I needed a playground for all these stories. This led me to crawling back into my parent’s loft and pulling down a dusty box full of old Orlandes material! I then got the writers to set their stories there and over time they have actually populated the world and given it much more depth than it ever had.

PH: You’ve just acquired the licence to publish the Fighting Fantasy books. What can we expect?

NR: We’re currently finalising Blood of the Zombies and working on House of Hell too. We’ll be aiming to cover some of the newer and older titles of FF over the next year or so. Our treatment will be very “Tin Man Games”, so if you’ve read GA at all you’ll know what to expect. We are developing some new features for the FF titles though such as the ability to ‘cheat’ by going backwards and opening up all the links.

The first two Fighting Fantasy novels to get the Tin Man treatment

PH: The achievement system is a really nice touch. What made you decide to include this?

NR: We knew that a lot of our readers/players would be a younger generation, new to gamebooks. These kids are used to seeing achievements in games, so it was a no-brainer to make sure that we implemented these. It also makes sure there is a level of replayability too, so that it encourages the readers to explore other parts of the story.

PH: Do you see any parallels between what you do at Tin Man Games and the point and click adventure genre? What’s your favourite point and click adventure?

NR: Yes I see lots of parallels. Point and click games evolved from text based adventures and at their core they are very similar. My favourite point and click would have to be Loom and I still own the original Amiga boxed version! Also I was a big fan of Indiana Jones Fate of Atlantis and Beneath a Steel Sky back in the day too.

You’ll never have to hunt for dice again!

PH: Are there any plans to develop the multimedia aspect of the books in the future?

NR: Actually no! We feel that “gamebooks” have a certain feel about them and we want to retain that element. I think if we added too many mini-games or such, it then goes away from being what a gamebook is. It’s almost like turning a 2D point and click game into a first person shooter – it then loses what made it feel special in the first place. If we had oodles of cash I would love to take Orlandes into a more graphically-intensive game genre. If I could play a game like Skyrim set in Orlandes, that would blow my mind.

PH: You recently published Judge Dredd: Countdown Sector 106. What was it like to work with such an iconic franchise?

All together now: “I am the law!”

NR: It was fantastic! Judge Dredd is such an amazing character to write and design a game around. It did pose some challenges as usually in a gamebook or RPG you build up the character from a low level during the course of the story and can design the game difficulty around that. For Dredd though he already kicks ass, so we needed to implement another way of choosing how you distributed your skills which would impact later parts of the interactive narrative. We did this using the Sector House at the beginning and making the reader choose which of their skills they wanted to fine tune. They only have three options out of a possible six so those earlier choices are almost akin to rolling up a new character.

PH: Devices like the iPad seem to be the perfect medium for experiencing adventure books, do you think that audiences for the genre are growing?

NR: Yes! We are seeing a slow rise in people adopting adventure books on tablets and this can only keep on rising.

You can find out more about Gamebook Adventures by visiting their website


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