Friday 29 June 2018

Fighting Fantasy Audio Dramas

The team at FoxYason Productions have now completed the vocal recordings for The Fighting Fantasy Box Set, due to be released later this year.

The cast includes, among others, Rachel Atkins (returning to play Vale Moonwing, from The Warlock of Firteop Mountain: The Hero's Quest), Lisa Bowerman (as Evelina of Dree), David Warner (as Yaztromo the wizard), Charlie Higson (as Baron Sukumvit), Richard Rycroft (as Throm the Barbarian), Peter Noble (as Volgera Darkstorm), Sophie Roberts, Russell Bentley, Frazer Blaxland, Deirdra Whelan, and Amy Stratton, as well as Fighting Fantasy superfans Lin Liren and Bryan Howarth. Jonathan Green, author of many FF gamebooks and the popular You Are The Hero - A History of Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks, has recorded a cameo role for Deathtrap Dungeon: The Last Champion.

The producers are planning on posting more updates as they work through the post-production phase, so make sure you keep checking their Facebook page to see how it's all developing.

Fighting Fantasy Audio Dramas writer David N Smith (left), and and director Richard Fox (right).

Friday 22 June 2018

Andy Green and the Pixels of Doom

If you are a regular visitor to the Fighting Fantasy Facebook groups, you have possibly already encountered the work of Andy Green. But in case you haven't, the Warlock summoned him to the depths of Firetop Mountain to interrogate him about his Pixel Art and his near-magical methods...

The Warlock: How do you go about creating your incredible pixel art images?

Andy Green: I started pixel art on the ZX Spectrum in the 1980s using programs like OCP Art Studio (Rainbird Software), or, The Artist (Softechnics), purely for my own amusement. These were either doodles or crude attempts at copying game inlay artwork. These were saved onto cassettes but sadly I no longer have them so you'll have to take my word for it! Fortunately, those I did on the Amiga using DPaint III, were saved and since converted to a PC format which are on my Facebook page.

I returned to ZX Spectrum pixel art in 2017 (only three decades late!) and drew a loading screen for a game that never had one called Stop the Express (Hudson/Sinclair, 1983). This received positive reactions from various Spectrum Facebook groups and as a result, I've been doing them ever since, adopting my style and improving with each one I've done.

The program I use is Multipaint (Windows), which emulates various 8-bit home computers with the ZX Spectrum resolution and palette being one. The drawing tools Multipaint provides are limited and reminiscent of the above Spectrum art programs but these are perfect for me since I draw all my pictures free-hand (with a mouse), all I require are basic geometry shapes, lines, and a magnify mode to add minute details.

As for the process of creating an image, most are copied from video games inlay art, or book covers, depending on what media is available. The majority of these tend to be portrait so I pad out key objects to make them landscape without losing the focus of the main picture too much - City of Thieves being a prime example. I use a grid method to copy artwork - overlaying the original image with this that matches the width and height of the ZX Spectrum resolution. I then draw out roughly outlines of key objects using a combination of geometry shapes, lines and solid attribute blocks (to reduce colour clash). Once that is done, it's a simple case of filling them in with all the detail, shading and colour.

When I remember and don't get too carried away, I save my progress using a numbered file method (i.e. WIP 1, WIP 2, etc.). Once a picture is complete, I put together a time-lapse video that shows a picture being drawn from start to finish.

TW: What have been the most challenging aspects of converting Iain McCaig's classic cover images into pixel form?

AG: Colour clash! The ZX Spectrum palette only permits two colours per 8x8 attribute square and is well-known for its infamous "colour clash" in many classic games. To compensate, some games ended up being monochrome (two colours). When it comes to pixel art, the same can be said for giving original artwork the Spectrum treatment especially if they contain a lot of colour in a small area. Fortunately, with Iain McCaig's brilliant artwork, colour distribution is quite minimal so makes for transferring to the Spectrum more painless. In theory!

TW: Do you have a favourite FF pixel piece you've created?

AG: I originally drew The Forest of Doom picture back in 1995 on the Amiga which took roughly a month to do. Fast-forward to 2018, and I decided to set myself a challenge of re-drawing The Forest of Doom on the Spectrum. Bearing in mind the Amiga version had 64 colours and the Spectrum 7 (14 if you include non-bright mode). I'm quite pleased with the result. As there's such a huge FF gamebook fanbase, it made sense to do another; City of Thieves, presently my favourite piece.

TW: How do the Amiga art images differ from the Spectrum ones?

AG: There's no colour clash on the Amiga for starters! Plus, you can choose from a range of screen resolutions and colours. The most common number of colours most Amiga pixel artists use is 32 or 64 with a screen resolution of 320 x 256 pixels. Whereas the Spectrum resolution is 256 x 192. As you can imagine, Amiga images take much longer to draw as the only limit is your imagination. Whereas on the ZX Spectrum, images take around 5 to 10 hours to draw depending on level of detail.

TW: Which was the first FF gamebook you read?

AG: The Warlock of Firetop Mountain. I was with my parents aimlessly walking round WHSmiths looking for a new book to read having finished either Magician (by Raymond E. Feist) or one of Stephen King's books. I can't recall which one exactly. Might had been The Dead Zone. I was a bit of a horror fan for a while! The words "A fighting fantasy gamebook in which YOU become the hero!" on the front cover certainly caught my attention. I didn't hesitate to buy it with my hard-earned pocket money. I was engrossed from the start and the novel idea of the battle system making use of the dice to defeat enemies to me was ground-breaking and original.

TW: Do you have a particular favourite?

AG: Definitely The Forest of Doom. Out of all those I had read (up to around FF gamebook 20), there was just something about this book that kept me re-playing it over and over. I guess my Amiga/Spectrum pixel fan art is proof of that!

TW: Who was your favourite FF artist?

AG: Ian McCaig for his brilliant covers on the first editions of The Forest of DoomCity of Thieves and Deathtrap Dungeon. I'm not surprised he went on to create several characters for the Star Wars series including Darth Maul. A very talented artist.

TW: Is there another piece in particular that you would like to produce?

AG: All of the FF gamebooks (59?*)! Come back in 10 years and I might had finished them all! Joking aside, Seeing as The Warlock of Firetop Mountain got me addicted to the FF books, I did make a start on this one a while ago but due to other projects, and 'real life', it's been put on the back burner. I'll get there eventually and finishing this one for me would be quite nostalgic.

TW: Did you ever play any of the FF Spectrum games back in the day?

AG: Yes, although one, The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, bears little resemblance to the book. This was literally a variation of another game called Halls of the Things, in which you roam a randomly generated maze collecting keys to open locked doors and killing enemies with a bow and arrow. A good game though, nevertheless. The other, The Forest of Doom, was more faithful to the book with a battle system included. Sadly, those were the only two released on the ZX Spectrum. A third was planned (The Citadel of Chaos) but only got released on the Commodore 64.

The Warlock of Firetop Mountain

The Forest of Doom

In fact, I was quite disappointed that only a couple of FF gamebooks made it to the ZX Spectrum so I decided to have a go at programming my own but kept running out of RAM (memory). So that idea got abandoned!

TW: Which is your greatest '80s-themed passion? Fighting Fantasy or the Sinclair ZX Spectrum?

AG: The ZX Spectrum. While I loved the FF gamebooks, I became addicted to home computers and video games ever since visiting my cousin in 1981 and seeing the Sinclair ZX81 up and running with no sound and crude blocky black and white graphics. I was over the moon when I received one at Christmas the same year. At Christmas, 1982, I got the rubber-keyed Spectrum 48K. Original and ground-breaking games were order of the day and even now I'm astounded how programmers managed to squeeze top games into 16K or 48K of memory. It's certainly been an amazing journey seeing how games have evolved over the years.

Of course, it wasn't all about the games, the ZX81 and ZX Spectrum introduced me to the world of BASIC, and I spent many hours typing in programs from magazines and expanding them adding my crazy ideas.

Drawing on the ZX Spectrum didn't happen until around 1984 after being constantly impressed by the quality of some game loading screens and basically wanted to have a go myself. Despite doing a few pictures on the Amiga, my world was turned upside down in 1995 with the loss of four members of my family, months apart, and I completely lost all interest in gaming and pixel art. These days, it's thanks to the Internet and the huge retro communities that keep the memories of systems from the bygone days alive plus new games are still being made for them, which keeps me busy drawing custom loading screens, which I do on request.

Thank you to Andy for taking the time to answer my questions, and if you haven't already, you can check out his astounding pixel art here.

* Actually 67 now - or 71, if you include Steve Jackson's Sorcery! quartet.

Saturday 16 June 2018

Win a copy of Nomad Games' Fighting Fantasy Legends this Free RPG Day!

This Free RPG Day, you could win one of 10 Steam keys for Nomad GamesFighting Fantasy Legends.

All you have to do is 'Like' and 'Retweet' this Tweet, and then reply, completing this statement: "If I could step through a portal to the Fighting Fantasy world I would..."

Entries must be submitted via Twitter and the 10 winners will be selected on Sunday.

Friday 15 June 2018

Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone appearing at the Edinburgh International Book Festival

If you happen to live somewhere north of Salamonis - say, the foothills of the Icefinger Mountains - then you will be pleased to hear that Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone, the co-creators of Fighting Fantasy and co-founders of Games Workshop, will be taking part in the Edinburgh International Book Festival this year.

On Sunday 12th August 2018, between 2:00pm and 3:00pm, join Messrs Jackson and Livingstone at the Baillie Gifford Corner Theatre to take part in a thrilling interactive audio experience in which YOU become the Hero. As the story unfolds, you will be asked to make all the decisions, bringing the worldwide bestselling series of gamebooks to life.

Will you live to see the end of the event?

Tickets go on sale at 8:30am on Tuesday 26th June and cost £5.00 each. The event is recommended for players aged 10-14 (or people aged 10-14 about 30 years ago).

Friday 8 June 2018

Fighting Fantasy at UK Games Expo 2018

Last weekend, Ian Livingstone attended the UK Games Expo and was greeted by a host of grateful fans, who asked him to sign their much-loved and well-thumbed Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, or took selfies with the gaming legend, or interviewed him for their podcasts and YouTube channels.

Highlights of the event included Ian's live reading of Deathtrap Dungeon, in which he lured The Dark Room's John Robertson to his death again and again and again. The tables were turned later than same evening, when Ian was lured to his death in The Dark Room, although he did walk away with a flamboyant potato for his troubles.

On the Saturday, Ian gave a talk about the history of Games Workshop and also broke the exclusive news that Nomad games are launching Fighting Fantasy Legends Portal later this month.

All Rolled Up were also there, selling their Fighting Fantasy licensed products, including dice trays and bags.

Thank you to everyone who came along to Stand 2-C2 over the course of the weekend to say hello, and it was great to see so many fans passing the torch to the next generation. May your STAMINA never fail!

Wednesday 6 June 2018

Fighting Fantasy Classics now available on Steam

As of today, Wednesday 6th June, Fighting Fantasy Classics is available on Steam, ready to be downloaded to you PC or Apple computer.

Ready your sword, pack your provisions and prepare to embark upon quests in which YOU are the hero! Choose what happens at every turn of the page with Fighting Fantasy Classics – text-based role-playing adventures remastered.

The game is a free-to-play download for all Steam users, with every player receiving one full-length gamebook for free with their download - the swashbuckling pirate adventure Bloodbones!

Bloodbones sees you take on the role of a traveller seeking vengeance against the powerful Pirate Lord Cinnabar. The dread Captain raided your village and murdered your family many moons ago, and YOU have journeyed to the Port of Crabs to hunt him down and have your revenge.

Written by Jonathan Green, the original gamebook is notorious for being the 'lost' Fighting Fantasy title and although it was written during the books' Puffin paperback run of the 1980s and 90s, it wasn't published until 2006 by Wizard Books. Now, Bloodbones makes a triumphant return as part of the Fighting Fantasy Classics library.

There are currently seven other classic Fighting Fantasy gamebooks available for purchase, including The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, The Citadel of Chaos, The Forest of Doom, City of Thieves, Deathtrap Dungeon, Island of the Lizard King, and Caverns of the Snow Witch, all of which are currently 25% off!

So don't delay, pick up Fighting Fantasy Classics today! And may your STAMINA never fail!

Saturday 2 June 2018

Asmodee Digital and Nomad Games announce Fighting Fantasy Legends Portal

The news has broken this weekend, at the UK Games Expo, that Nomad Games are releasing a sequel to their hugely popular and successful game Fighting Fantasy Legends...

Fighting Fantasy Legends Portal is a gateway to adventure in the Fighting Fantasy world!

Play as a novice adventurer and rise up through the ranks to saviour of the world in this epic tale of deadly traps, fearsome monsters and devious adversaries. Play three classic Fighting Fantasy gamebooks by author Ian Livingstone - Deathtrap Dungeon, Trial of Champions and Armies of Death.

DEATHTRAP DUNGEON is an adventure through a deadly labyrinth. Countless adventurers before you have taken up the challenge, but none have survived.

TRIAL OF CHAMPIONS sees you return to the deadly labyrinth where new traps and terrors, mazes and monsters, await your every turn.

ARMIES OF DEATH approach from the east, and you must build up a force of veteran fighters to confront Agglax the Shadow Demon.

Re-live these exciting adventures in a whole new way - powering up your Skill and Luck dice and collecting powerful cards to help you on your quests.

These three books are just the start of your adventure - more content will be added!

Features List

  • Officially licensed game based on the multi-million selling Fighting Fantasy gamebooks.
  • A card-based RPG with Rogue-like elements.
  • A detailed branching narrative system ensures that no two games are ever the same.
  • Uses the classic Skill/Stamina/Luck attributes from the gamebooks.
  • Unlock monster cards in your Creature Codex.
  • Earn XP and level-up your Skill & Luck dice.
  • Three difficulty levels.
  • Take on powerful beasts from the Fighting Fantasy world such as the Bloodbeast, the Pit Fiend and Agglax the Shadow Demon.
  • Unlock character Titles based on your choices.

Fighting Fantasy Legends Portal is published by Asmodee Digital and will be available on Steam (PC/Mac), Google Play and the App Store soon.

Friday 1 June 2018

Ian Livingstone at the UK Games Expo 2018

In case you've been stuck in Deathtrap Dungeon since 1st May and haven't heard the news already, co-creator of the Fighting Fantasy series, co-founder of Games Workshop and all round gaming living legend, Ian Livingstone will be attending the UK Games Expo on Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd June.

On Friday 1st June, from 5.00pm to 7.00pm, in Toute Suite at the NEC, join Ian for a live reading of Deathtrap Dungeon and help raise funds for charity. Ian will be doing his best to lure intrepid adventurer, John Robertson - star of The Dark Room - to a horrible death, helped by the audience.

And then, on Friday 1st June, from 10.30pm to 11.30pm, in the Pavilion at the Hilton, the tables will be turned, and Ian will become the victim when he plays The Dark Room hosted by John Robertson.

Tickets for both the Deathtrap Dungeon live reading and The Dark Room, starring Ian Livingstone, can be purchased here.

On Saturday 2nd June, at noon in Toute Suite in the NEC, Ian will be giving a talk about the early years of Games Workshop and how the Fighting Fantasy series came to be, as part of the Expo's free seminar programme.

Gamebook author and historian Jonathan Green will also be in attendance and is marking 25 years since the publication of his first Fighting Fantasy adventure Spellbreaker with a special prize draw.

He will also have hardback copies of YOU ARE THE HERO Part 2 to sell.