Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Fighting Fantasy SVGs

To me, and I'm sure to many of you, mapping Fighting Fantasy gamebooks and exploring all of the hidden nooks and crannies is one of the great pleasures of the hobby. Some books are easy to map, because they are logically laid out in geographical terms:

Others, though, present something more of a challenge, either because their geographical layout is not logical (e.g. turning left and right ultimately lead you to the same place), they are not geographically structured (so that the focus is on what you do, and how and when you do it), or their structure is so complex that simple forms of representation just don't cut it. We've all been in this situation, I'm sure:

We're rather far removed from the traditional North-East-South-West or forwards-backwards-left-right type map here; what's important isn't the geographical relations between places, but the relations between paragraphs in a flowchart arrangement.

Unfortunately, unless the adventure is very short or simple, flowcharts of this sort are hard to draw, and end up rather messy and cluttered (and often spill across several pages). But thankfully technology can come to our aid here and do all the hard work for us. Using fairly simple software and code, Scalable Vector Graphics (SVGs) - essentially flowcharts - can be created which lay the boxes out in an economical position and connect them with the necessary lines (with as little overlap as possible). The style and colours of the lines and boxes can be customised and identifying/explanatory text added to the various elements in the chart.

Before you head off and start creating SVGs for the FF books (which is a somewhat laborious process to be honest), have a look here, where gamebook master Simon Osborne has uploaded colour-coded SVGs to his website, The Outspaced Shrine, for all the FF gamebooks and various other gamebooks too. Excellent work, it must have taken hours!

In comments to my post on FF Solutions, Stuart Lloyd pointed out that SVGs are also a kind of solution. This is true if the creator of the SVG highlights the optimal path through the chart, but SVGs are much more, and a bit less, than true solutions. They're more like DNA sequences of gamebooks, laying bare the skeletons of adventures so that their full structure and workings can be appreciated. They really do show how complex gamebooks can be (see, for example, the SVGs for Luke Sharp's or Paul Mason's book - how is that even possible?!). With an SVG, you can see all of the paths through the book, optimal or not, get a feel for how linear the adventure is, and explore particular parts of the adventure exhaustively. I find them really useful for researching particular FF topics in a book (say, for a Titannica article or a blog post) for example. But they aren't quite solutions either - they don't tell you which path to follow unless it is highlighted, nor do they tell you what to do or why.

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