DestinyQuest – Michael J. Ward on working in print

heart of fireThis month saw the release of The Heart of Fire, the second DestinyQuest choose-your-own-adventure title, in mass market paperback. Here the author, Mike Ward, discusses the benefits of a second release…

The devil’s in the detail… (part one)

The bug. The glitch. The exploit.

These are the horrors that keep game developers and coders awake at night. They can be elusive, hiding in the shadows, creeping up on you when you least expect it – sometimes, despite even the most diligent of precautions, there is just no stopping those nasty critters from breaking loose and going on the rampage…

Yup, by any other name, they’re essentially Gremlins. Which I personally find rather apt. You see, I’ll let you in on a little secret. All of life’s most important lessons can be learnt from the pop culture of the eighties. At least, that’s my excuse for my bad fashion sense, terrible chat-up lines and my enduring belief that one day I’ll inadvertently put the entire world in jeopardy.

Anyway. Back to Gremlins.

In that movie, the wise Mr Wing takes pains to warn us that ‘With Mogwai comes much responsibility.’ Indeed, it only takes one of the buggers to spawn a whole host of trouble. For Randall Peltzer, his single act (feeding a Mogwai after midnight), unleashes a horde of homicidal Gremlins on small town America. Hunting ‘em all down may have had the Pokeman fans drooling with glee, but for Randall and the good folk of Kingston Falls, it really was the nightmare before Christmas.

Eighties movie lesson 101: no-one wants to discover a gremlin in the works – that irritating error or imperfection that can royally kick the bejesus out of all your hard work. Video game developers accept that no amount of testing is ever going to stop the gremlins from making it through into the final product. That is why, in today’s gaming universe, there is no such thing as a ‘final’ product. When we boot up a modern video game, it is almost taken for granted that a patch will be available on release day – our progress bars happily filling up as the medicine is taken.

Often there will be many more such patches as thousands of gamers are let loose on the product and provide their own feedback, taking to forums and YouTube servers to share evidence of amusing glitches (some may remember the weirdly spinning ghost cat in The Witcher or the backwards-flying dragon in Skyrim) or bemoaning the game-breaking bugs that corrupted their save-files or ate up their coveted +4 club of gremlin-bashing. On the flip side, astute gamers can turn bugs to their advantage, exploiting the game in ways the developers never intended (wizard-invincibility in Diablo3 anyone? Oh yes!)

So, sometimes bugs can be fun. But we know those kind are rare and usually get stamped on and splatted very quickly.  For game developers the patch has become nothing short of a life-saver. After all, no-one wants their work to be remembered for the things that went wrong – we all strive for perfection.

But working in print is another matter entirely…


You can find the online home of DestinyQuest here.

Join us tomorrow for the rest of this piece, and a chance to win DestinyQuest goodies!