What are Episodic Games?
If you can think back to when music videos first premiered on MTV, you had to see one to know what a music video was. You could say, it's a little bit like a mini-movie, but, uhhh, it isnít, cuz itís for music. Music videos were really hard to describe at the time because it was a brand new concept.
Thatís sorta the situation with the episodic game novel. In the B-school lingo, episodic games combine and take the best elements of the traditional retail CD and on-line games. And to stay with this business model, Digital Tome has had to re-invent ways of thinking to deliver the best gaming experience to the consumer.
Put simply, in Siege of Avalon, youíll get all the game play elements of a traditional RPG story, the instant gratification of an Internet download, and more control than ever in shaping the story. You donít have to deal with the frustrations of on-line games - yíknow, slow connectivity, instabilities, access problems, and complications to do with connecting to a game server.
OK, back up, remember I said this was hard to explain? Just bear with me. Unlike the massively multiplayer on-line world where stories can get muddled, Siege of Avalon offers the richly textured story line of a traditional CD game in a single-player mode.
Since Siege is a ďpilotĒ release, it will complete a full story in just 6 chapters. Pillars and all other episodic game novels afterwards will have many more chapters. Basically, everything Iím going to explain about Siege will be bigger and better in Pillars. You can think of Siege as a prequel to Pillars. They both take place in the same fictional world, but Pillars is 400 years after Siege.
OK, so what are these chapters? Are they levels or what? I havenít seen it so I canít tell you for sure, but this is what I can ascertain. You know how those epic fantasies, like The Lord of the Rings, will have a trilogy or a bunch of books in a series? They all take place in the same world and continue the story, yet each book is fulfilling in itself. Thatís the gist. Sure, I canít pretend that a 40 MB download every 4 to 6 weeks is going to be equivalent to a 600-page book, but it could be. It really depends on you, the player.
The initial 94 MB download of Siege is free and will be available here on the website. Itís got a special ďresource libraryĒ that will be used by all of the other chapters. The other chapters are about 40 MB, available at US$9.95 each. Or get all 6 chapters for US$40. Each following chapter will be released periodically (perhaps 4 to 9 weeks each). However, all the chapters will remain available for download after their release so itís not like youíre on somebody elseís schedule.
Moreover, you can pick and choose and play the chapters you want. There are 3 ďKeyĒ chapters that are essential to the story arc and the others are ďExpansionĒ chapters. Expansion chapters give the opportunity to explore the world and your characterís abilities further. These chapters can be done in any order, except the first and last chapters, of course.
IMHO, a good, compelling story is often whatís lacking in a game. I can see how the episodic game novel is a perfect format to address this issue. Itís not a book, itís not a movie. Itís a game, and although it has the interactivity, thereís the same elements of a good book or a movie.
listening to southpacific... if youíre in Toronto, check this band out! Theyíre on Turnbuckle Records (www.turnbuckle.com)
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