Although a new release, I'd like to select @Bill_Ingersoll 's Woban Island . I think it's just Ninja that's gotten to it so far, so it should be good to get some reviews and discussion headed over there. She doesn't look like a short story, and with most of the book club having thanksgiving, maybe this could be a two week job?
Sorry for the lack of participation from me over the past few weeks, I've been pretty busy with school stuff but that wraps up fairly shortly so I should be good to go from here.
Well this is a pleasant surprise. Thanks!
Yes, at 77,700 words it would take a while to get through all 29 endings. But to get the full effect of the story, there are three main endings I'd recommend. I didn't include any epilogues this time, so you'll recognize the endings when you come across one of these phrases on the last page:
I hope everyone enjoys the story.
I will finish this tomorrow, not sure when the deadline was. Also Mammon was a cannon ending? I took that as the longest part of a long, branching dead end...
If you're still at the Mammon ending, you might to backtrack to the last choice and also see what Meredith has to say.
In my original version of this story, there were three "winning" endings, and what is now Mammon was one of them. When I was rewriting this, I thought it would be dull to put the jewel in the one place where everybody thinks it is, and then have three ways to get there. So in this new version, there is a backstory (never explained in full) that tells how the jewel has been moved around a bit.
So the three endings I listed are what would've been wins in the original story. Now only one is, while the other two serve to add a piece of that backstory. The gimmick I'm going for is to keep the reader in the story, and one method to do that is to include a few anticlimactic endings: just when you think you've done everything you should... go fish.
I get that, and I think it does add something. One complaint I have (Having not yet found the winning ending yet) is that on every branch when you find out "Meredith's secret" you immediately die before you can use the info. So far, on the branch where you do find the stone you don't get or use the info, you just get lucky choosing a random choice between two made up words and one of them gets you the stone; the other is instant death.
It is very engaging and very good, but I was really hoping that I could learn Meredith's secret, find a way to live on the same branch, and use the information I got to make a choice that led me to finding the stone. Instead, I learned her secret on three different occasions, died in 5 different ways, then went back and got the stone from the random choice. Mind you Meredith dies before you learn her secret on this branch... I LOVE the twist, I just wish i had more choices after it was revealed to me so I could make practical use of it.
I was planning on putting that in my comment.
You might want to go back to that original choice... There are three primary branches in this story, and by what you have described you have already read two of them...
And to be clear, those two words aren't made up. They are from an existing language (used within the U.S.) fictionalized for the purpose of this one storygame. It's not like I'm such a good writer I can create my own language...
I plan to get to the rest today. I have to finish up the branch I am on with the stone (currently camping with some drunk doctor, running gets me killed, so I am staying with them now), and then I will go back and work for the other employer. If what I am describing happens on the other branch then I apologize for drawing a hasty conclusion.
I assumed the Woban language was something based on reality, since there is so much dialogue, but I was not trying to figure it out... If you included all the dialogue so people could guess the language that is clever, and I applaud you, but to be honest I just skimmed those pages and read the all English paragraphs.
I think this is a great suggestion! I'll get to it.
Finished and left a long comment (coppied below). I also should mention that I did not read the "Stay at Auri island" side-branch in the intrest of time. I did find all three cannon endings Bill mentioned, though.
This is a long and well written game! It is good, despite taking awhile to get into (in my opinion). Not having played the board game did not affect the enjoyment of the story, and it was a great exploration game! That being said, it was not without flaws. I always include spoilers, so enjoy the game before you read the comments.
Grammar did not have much to talk about. The game was well polished with few mistakes. I never felt it was hard to read the game because of grammar or mechanics. I will list a few MINOR things I did notice, though.
-general- The use of em-dashes was a bit strange to me, but this could be because I am not used to them. The first page had a lot, as if the author was excited to finally use them in a story, but they were all correct. My understanding is that em-dashes replace commas while adding emphasis. Overusing them made them lose their effect on the first page. Likewise, in places where the sentence was "text--text,text" I was confused. Is this being emphasized or half-emphasized? Not that this is a big issue...
-pg 18- The sentence about Walter's life philosophy has a sentence that goes "independent clause: independent clause: independent clause." This is correct but repetitive. On the same page, when first talking about Woban island, there is a sentence that reads "it's next to Auri island, isn't?" This needs an "it" at the end.
-pg 3- 1st para- ", however;" should be "; however," (I think)
That is it for grammar stuff that I found, nothing there really matters... I will move on to the actual story and plot next.
- The beginning was slow with very few choices. This made it hard to get into the story, despite being well written. I did not think a lot of the info was important, like in Marooned on Giri Minor when the author had to create a fantasy world, so it was hard to tackle the text walls. So much time was spent on getting to Fenway Park, describing it, and making sure you knew the protagonist didn't like baseball, that I expected the Woban's to have a baseball team. They did not. That being said, all the descriptions were amazing and you felt like you were there. On a similar note I have never seen "Cheers" so the intro to that branch didn't appeal to me. I did think the "Cheers" branch got off to a quicker start.
-Port and Starboard are nautical terms and would not be used on an airplane, again, this does not really matter.
-A note about "death pages too soon"- I get that the author doesn't like to put death pages too soon into the story, but I did not feel the one early death scene took anything away from the start. If anything it added to it, and I might have wanted more options early on to break up the text walls... even if they were quick deaths. This is a major preference/opinion thing though. I got bored when I made one choice in the first 5-6 pages on my first play through (Walter branch).
Once you got on the island:
- There was some great imagery, metaphors, and similes. These descriptions were so good I felt like I was really at the island, and the story picked up considerably here.
- Everything on the island was exciting, even the quick death branches. The only exception was the Woban dialogue. I feel like a lot of effort went into making that, with pages of conversations between Wobans. If the author did this so someone could figure out the Woban language I am impressed and in awe of the creativity; however, I simply skimmed these pages for English and got no value out of it.
- I really liked the Meredith and "Meredith's secret" twist, but I feel like it was fumbled. After learning Meredith's secret (which you can do on several branches) you always die within two pages. You never get the info and get to make an intelligent choice with it. It added to the story, and I get that there is a limit to branching in terms of the size of the story, but I wish I could have used the info. One branch where Meredith tells me her secret, I live, and we stop climbing the mountain to look for the real stone would be appreciated. What is the point of "Meredith's Secret" if you never use it? To make things worse you find both the real and fake stone by sheer luck choices, without knowing what Meredith knows on those branches.
- I did not like that there was no way to get the real stone on the Walter branch, although I really loved the writing and thought all of the paths that do exist are well done. This might just be a preference thing.
-The author never just says you die; rather, he makes a fun little branch with one or two choices and several different, elaborate deaths that are just as entertaining as a victory branch.
- The choice between two words I didn't know was a little frustrating. It was easily fixed by picked both choices, pressing back, reading the dead end first, and continuing, but still it was the classic "left or right with no foreshadowing" choice. Again, if there was a way to decipher the language I am very impressed and take this back, but I didn't sit there and think "I wonder if I can crack this language and understand it!" There was even a linguist you met that implied he figured it out, but never told YOU how to translate. You also die a page or two after talking to him regardless of choice... I will say that I can not think of a better way to write this scene, and it was very fun and well written regardless. I liked the story, but it did have these frustrating parts.
-The Cheers employer and branch is better, in my opinion, but I did think it was very strange that the only "winning" ending was on a branch that starts with you trusting a... Hitman? Goon? Not sure what to call him, but you have to randomly trust a shady figure on a plane to get to the only winning branch. It is really good, but seems counter intuitive.
Ultimately, this story is exciting and fun once you get to the island. Even the deaths are amazing stories worth playing! The downsides are that you didn't feel in control with your choices, often choosing between dying in 3 pages or dying in 4 on an elaborate no way to win branch. I still highly recommend it, but prepare to be mildly frustrated as you think "there is literally no way to accomplish this mission!"
P.S. If you started this wen 13 I am very impressed. Your original game book looks really cool, and your 13 year old self may have been a better author than I am now.
I think it was well written and framed the story well, but I was not as intrigued. I really enjoyed the opening to Marooned on Giri Minor, but I struggled to get through this for some reason. I am usually not one to complain about lengthy descriptions; actually, I usually really like them. This one just... bothered me for some reason. It is impossible to please everyone though. I will admit that is all opinion based and there is nothing "wrong" with it.
This is an interesting review! I agree that not everyone will appreciate the opening sequences equally, although I'm not sure I'd go so far as to say they are "text walls." After you make that initial choice, the pages that follow are dialogue scenes, where you learn about your employer and the world he or she inhabits.
Because this is a book about a game, I thought it was key to establish the dynamic between the "player" (Walter Berringer or Diane Chambers) and the pawn, i.e. the nameless main character. Both scenes are intended as satire, but the Berringer branch is also important for character development, since one seemingly minor character follows you onto the island.
Wobani is a decipherable language, and not really something I made up from scratch — it's not Klingon, for instance. For the purposes of the story, yes, they are speaking a language that only a handful of outsiders understand. I wanted the reader to get the sense that these seven-foot-tall, three-eyed people were all the more menacing because they couldn't be understood. It was intended as immersion; if you felt frustration having to choose between "apopo" and "i keia la," well so does the main character, whose life is at stake even if s/he doesn't fully understand why.
But the Wobans (and Auris) are having real conversations, speaking a real-life language that is indigenous to the U.S., and specifically a state that is mentioned briefly in both branches. That being said, back-translating the language might be an issue... and I never recorded what I intended the native dialog to be in English. The language I borrowed for this book didn't translate easily even when I was trying to pick the right phrases, and so the translation feature built into most web browsers may not be perfect. I just checked, and Internet Explorer doesn't seem to have the capability to translate this particular language. I use Chrome, and that does work, although the translations don't always come out as intended. The "apopo / i keia la" scene was not intended to be read in English, but if you do figure out how to translate it, it's kind of funny.
As for the useful knowledge that you learn in one branch but can't immediately use... all I can say is, you're going to struggle with SotGP. As in real life, we sometimes have to make choices without knowing all the facts — and sometimes events beyond our control can suddenly change our own circumstances. The effect I'm trying to achieve is less literal ("I found the key! Now let me insert it into the lock!") and more metafictional, meaning that even if the main character can't profit from some nugget of information, the reader sure can. In Grass Planet, most readers will probably go a long time figuring out where Dr. Munro is not, and hopefully deduce by the process of elimination where she really is. Along the way, I hope they are enjoying all the exploration they are doing on the planet Folvan.
If the goal was to string all of the important facts and scenes into a single main path, what would be the point of having any branching at all?
By that logic there wild be a branch with choices like "continue to climb the summit" or "explore the ruins at the bottom of the mountain", but there is never a chance to use Meredith's knowledge anywhere. It does make more sense when you find the poor rival of yours in the (for me) third branch after reading that. When I found the stone it was the last branch I had to search, and I never once thought "the stone might be here, I'll look for it." It was just the only choice that didn't lead to a quick death when I scrolled to the bottom of the pages. That being said, every branch was fun, and I enjoyed exploring the island. Perhaps I should have stayed it more in my review, but even dying was glorious in this game. Which is fortunate because nearly every choice gets you killed, as is expected for a dangerous uncharted island.
I'm not saying that everything had to be on one branch, but I am saying that the big twist never impacted a single choice I made. Perhaps that is how you wanted it, to make it harder to find the correct branch in the web of danger you spun, but it seemed like a poor use of that twist to me. I mean, Meredith follows you up the summit when she knows the stone isn't there and is on the north? (I forget what side she died on) side of the island. Granted, Meredith seems terrible at this line of work... but it just felt like the info was more anecdotal and less important. I also feel bead for anyone who found that branch first and didn't have the long search with anticipation and fake jewels like I did.
I like your description of the relationship between the "player" and "pawn" and did not consider the fact that you might be going for that. I still think it was a bit draggy for me, but I can appreciate how it added to the story and was (perhaps) necessary.
Also choices don't require having all the facts, and it is more fun to choose between two logical choices (opposed to "wake up" and "don't wake up and die" being the choices); however, some of the choices felt backwards or unimportant. All of your writing was entertaining, but if trusting the college student and not trusting him both get me pushed in the river, do I really need that choice? Likewise, if the main character says "trusting people who approach you is usually a bad idea" right before I am choosing to trust him or not, seems like the cannon choice should be turning him down... or at least it feels like something desirable should be achievable in that direction. I do think that the third path (choosing to trust the goon) was the best, or at least my personal favorite, but still seems a bit backwards to me.
"…so Cricket or someone could hold me to it."
"…so Cricket or someone could hold me to it."
I'm not judging. We all have real-life commitments.
I have been intending these snippets of the original version of Woban Island I wrote when I was in the seventh grade. There was no internet in 1988, so when I say I was writing gamebooks back then, I was literally writing them by hand... in pencil, on note paper. I had someone laminate the pages for posterity, but otherwise very few people ever saw these, let alone read them. I did a total of 9, all but 2 of which were completed.
The plot of the original Woban Island was essentially the same as the one here on CYS, with the identical amount of branching. I did add quite a few characters to the new version (Meredith Nowitki, Diane Chambers, the Goodcheer-Fellows) and change up several others. Also, for some of the branches the original story wasn't that interesting, so I took the opportunity to make some improvements. There were no visits to Cheers of Fenway, for instance, and originally there were three ways to win.
But the real juicy tidbit is that I also attempted to illustrate these stories as well. All I can say about that is... I did get better at drawing later.
This was the original cover, giving myself duplicate credit for both the writing and the illustrations. The character in blue is the "you" avatar, drawn somewhat androgynously in the tradition of 1980-era CYOAs. The guy with the glasses was Dr. Robert Brown, renamed Martian Pop in the 2019 version.
Jimmy and his plaid suit. In the original, you meet him on a Greyhound to Schenectady, not on a plane to Boston, and he is simply "James."
Walter Berringer's office. Instead of an executive suite at Fenway, the best I could come up with in 1988 was a stuffed owl, a fish tank, and a mural of a woodland scene.
Getting run over. Quick endings are a tradition in CYOAs, and in these old stories I used them freely. The trick in 2019 was to give them plausible explanations.
You and Dr. Bolt getting ready to paddle over to Woban Island. I'm not sure what it says about me that my 13-year-old self never thought to make her, ah, more au naturel.
This is from one of the secondary plotlines that wasn't good enough for the new version. Originally, after landing on Woban Island there was an option to rescue a panther from some quicksand, and then choose whether or not you wanted to befriend it. Being a child of the 80s, I was fully versed in the reruns of Scooby Doo and Gilligan's Island, so I was under the impression that quicksand was an eventuality I'd have to deal with in real life someday. Now I know better, so this branch became rededicated to the Goodcheer-Fellows... one of the scenes I had the most fun writing.
Meeting the young Woban who challenges you to a duel. The original scene was excessively lame (after knocking his spear from his hands, he gives you directions to the jewel) so this was another branch that got a major rewrite.
In the original story, after you defeated the young Woban you had to choose whether or not to follow his directions... which led you through this cave.
Encountering the three Woban guards at the entrance to the cave. When the natives spoke in the original version, it was in English. In the new version, they speak "Wobani." (I'll leave it to your sleuthing to figure out what Wobani really is.)
Campsite at the top of the cave, from which you see the campfires from the other jewel seekers below you in the jungle.
The rope bridge... just as dangerous in 1988 as it is in 2019, albeit for somewhat different reasons.
The temple ruins, wherein the jewel is found. The image is blurry, but that's the jewel on a pedestal directly in front of "you."
After obtaining the jewel, the next step is getting it off the island. This scene survived the cut and made it into the 2019 version... with some slight modifications.
Probably the best drawing in the book.
Professor Robert Brown and Ligru. My ability to dream up interesting character names hadn't been developed yet, obviously. In the new version Prof. Brown is Martian Pop... and yes, that is a real name that has been bestowed to real people in human history, at least in Romania.
In the original, it was a rickety wooden bridge in a heavy rain. In the new version, it's a half-rotten log.
Thanks, but I already read this on another site.
Seriously, this is the coolest thing ever. It's so lavishly produced!
Thanks. I did these for several years, then went through a brief DIY comic book phase.
I hope we get to see more re-makes of your CYOA books in time to come.
This was an interesting project, although I don't want to be another M. Night Shyamalan. This was an interesting project, revisiting a world I thought I'd never inhabit again, but you can only spend so much time looking backward.
13 years, but yes. "Committed" is another word that comes to mind, with the double meaning that word implies.
I apparently couldn't count well, though. The cover says there are 30 endings, but there are in fact only 29. I had to do a double-count when I was doing the new version, worried that I had missed something.
Looking at my drawings from 1988 again, I see that Prof. Brown / Martian Pop is wearing a women's blouse. It wasn't intentional, but can anyone see what I'm talking about?
What would Avery say?
Thanks for the second review!
Some random comments:
That scene with Doug the Uber driver was written during the playoffs, not long after Houston eliminated the Yankees, but before the World Series began. What he was complaining about is that the Red Sox finished the year with a winning record (i.e. won more games than they lost) but still missed the post season. The purpose was to add some color, setting up the following scene where you meet Meredith Nowitki and Walter Berringer.
I find it funny that you picked up on the Big Papi reference, but not the name of the boat in the other branch. I realize that Cheers has been off the air for a very long time, but I never imagined that it has become such an esoteric subject matter. Used to be you couldn't turn on a TV without coming across a rerun as you flipped through the channels.
The stolen Rembrandts are from a real-life unsolved case, although I doubt the real paintings are being displayed in a luxury suite at Fenway. The fact that he has a Rhode Island #1 license plate framed underneath the paintings is a jab at those small New England states, where things like that are a big deal.