love games. ♦ It's the little kid in me who refuses to grow up, the very same child who plays "let's pretend" all day in his office and gets paid for it. ♦ I write highly improbable stories about people who find themselves living in a t>ery unusual landscape: a morid populated by fantastic creatures, ancient magics, and rogues and villains of all stripe.
I've wasted hours in front of computers playing games when I should have been working, like most every one of you. My first encounter with a computer game was the infamous Adventure. I played it on the university's computer when I should have been typing runtime exercises for my class in programming. Rather than work, I'd sit up all night in the computer center facing the alien-green screen of a flickering TTY terminal trying to find whatever silly item I needed to get to the next room where I'd find another silly item I needed somewhere else. And, like most of you, every once in a while I'd think, "Why can't these games be more like a good fantasy adventure novel?"
But games are one thing and books are another, right?
Seemed that way for years. Computer role-playing was either a glorified arcade game — with names of fantasy characters hung onto a computer graphic with no other relationship to the literary work it was based upon — or it was basic fantasy role-playing run by a computer: kick down a door, kill something, get treasure, go up in power, get better at kicking down doors, killing things and getting treasure, so you go to the next level where the doors are harder to break down, the monsters are tougher, and the treasure's harder to find. After a while, it's all pretty much the same.
Then over the last few years some folks introduced problem-solving. Sure, you still had to kill a lot of ugly-buglies to get the Wand of Chaos; but once you got it, you could defeat the evil wizard Wartface and save the kingdom.
Still a pretty pale imitation of a good fantasy novel, right?
So then folks added more colorful graphics and pretty pictures and sound and animation... and it's still pretty basic stuff. For the most part.
By their nature, books and games ask you to do two different things. A book asks you to fasten your seatbelt while the author takes you for a ride. A game asks you to participate and make decisions. Given the nature of computers today, no matter how fast they evolve there's still a limit to the amount of information you can put in a computer on your desktop, while the author of a novel can take you anyplace and show you anything. I have an unlimited special effects budget when I work and I don't have to fret over memory size or how fast a CPU the reader owns. The mind is still the best computer for dreaming up wonders!
So, when John Cutter and the folks at Dynamix said they wanted to "design a game that felt like one of your books," I said, "Right," with a knowing wink and a nod. But, being polite, I listened and we talked. And we talked some more. You're now about to experience the result of those talks.
Games can never be like books, but this new game, Betrayal at Krondor, is as close as I've seen a game get. How'd they do it? Dynamix put a lot of thought into doing more than drawing nice characters on the screen and giving them names from my books as they jump over trolls and duck fire blasts from wizards. They have more here than a simple arcade game or a simple fantasy game. They've put time and energy into saying, "What if the player was going to act as a character in a new book, one that takes place after A Darkness at Sethanon?"
Dynamix didn't just license a game, hang character names on generic icons and call it a Riftwar Game! They spent hours talking to me about all manner of things in a heartfelt attempt to "get it right." The object of the exercise was always to be the first computer game that felt like it was part of a good adventure novel.
Which is what this game has evolved into being. You possess what will be, I hope, the first in a series of games that, I believe, reflect the feeling of my work or as much as is possible in a game. When you cross paths with Prince Arutha or Jimmy and Locklear, they act pretty much as I expect them to act and, when you have decided what to do next, they react to your choice pretty much as I would expect. When you travel across the map of the kingdom, it's pretty much the same map as you find in the books.
I feel pride and satisfaction that I was the author Dynamix chose to include in this project, that my work was the model upon which these beautiful works of "computer fiction" were based. I thank everyone at Dynamix for thinking highly enough of my original words to want to do it, and for listening to me when I put in my two cents worth. For those of you familiar with my novels, I think you're going to recognize the landscape and for you who haven't read any of my work, I hope you'll enjoy this visit enough to want to read some of the work upon which it is based.
So quit reading this and go play the game! Enjoy your visit to Midkemia.
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