Faery Tale Adventure 3?

Talin
Talin
Jan 2, 2018 · 9 min read

This is part three of a series on the history of the computer game, The Faery Tale Adventure. Here is part one and part two.

Occasionally I get asked if there will ever be another sequel to Faery Tale. The answer to this question is complex.

Commercial Considerations

From a purely commercial standpoint, creating a sequel does not make a lot of sense. The original FTA was popular, but only in comparison to other Amiga game titles of that era. FTA2 was not well-received (for good reasons), and did not sell very well.

Also, the Faery Tale Adventure games don’t have a lot of unique features that make them stand out. Having a large open world with seamless downloading may have been ground-breaking in 1987, but it’s fairly commonplace today. And there are lots of games based on fairy tales.

So, other than pure nostalgia, there’s not a great reason for someone to invest a lot of money developing a game based on the characters and stories of FTA.

There’s another factor to consider, which is that I have other projects that I am working on, projects which have much bigger potential upside (in my opinion anyway).

At this point in my life I am 5 years away from retirement age and am financially secure (I still own a lot of Google stock). I don’t really need to place a risky bet on a game idea that’s 30 years old.

That being said, however…

I have in fact thought a lot about what I would do if I were to create a sequel. In fact, several times I have started to work on this as a side project — once in C++, once in Java, and once in TypeScript.

BTW, who owns Faery Tale Adventure?

First let’s get the legal stuff out of the way. I don’t own the intellectual property for Faery Tale 2, but that’s OK because I don’t need it. I do have rights to the original Faery Tale, or at least I know of no legal impediment that would prevent me from creating a new sequel if I wanted to.

The actual “ownership” is unfortunately a murky situation at this point — partly because some of the people who might conceivably have a financial interest can no longer be contacted. (Joe Pearce even hired a private detective at one point to track people down!)

Share and enjoy

If I were to do this on my own, I would probably make the game open-source. As I mentioned, I don’t really need the money, and I’m much more interested in seeing what other people can do when given access to technologies and tools.

Unfortunately, this would probably mean that I would have to write my own game engine, rather than using an existing engine. As one of my friends complained recently, there’s very little work for game engine developers any more, because Unity and Unreal have basically eaten the market. But I don’t know whether these companies would let you give away your game for free. Fortunately, writing a new game engine is probably the easiest part of the whole project (see below)…

And in fact, if I wanted to reach the maximum number of potential players, I would probably have to charge something to pay for advertising costs. Perhaps something like Patreon would allow earning enough revenue to pay for ads while allowing free access to all the source code and artwork.

There’s another problem with making things open source, which is finding collaborators. I have created many open-source projects on my Github page, some of which are very cool (IMAO) — but I’ve never had anyone come along who wanted to collaborate on them (or even file a bug report!)

Character ideas

I’ve thought a lot about what characters I would use in the new game. Rather than using the three brothers again (Julian, Phillip and Kevin), I thought I would set the story two generations later — one that involves the grand-children of the original protagonists.

Like the three brothers, these characters would be known for their “spiritual” attributes. There would be two male and two female protagonists:

  • Stefan the Diligent
  • Abigail the Unyielding
  • Marcus the Just
  • Eleanor the Wise

In addition, the game might include other spiritual attributes such as Conviction, Wisdom, Compassion, Honor and Fairness.

There might be references to the original three brothers in terms of legendary artifacts — Julian’s Sword or Kevin’s Book.

The game would allow you to form a party of up to three characters at a time. All three characters could be one of the protagonists listed above, or there could be additional characters with special abilities that are recruited into the party at specific times.

Visuals

I wouldn’t be interested in creating another 2-dimensional bit-mapped game. When I look at isometric games today, one of the things that bothers me is that there’s no perspective — parallel lines don’t converge in the distance.

I’ve done a bunch of experiments with creating tiles that are actual 3D objects — so you still have an psuedo-isometric grid where placing a tile is just a mouse click, but now you can zoom in and out, rotate the map in any direction, apply material shaders and other effects, and so on.

Here’s a few examples from my Java prototype to show what I mean:

The trees, pillars and walls were created in Blender3D

Combat Mechanic

As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate games that happen at a slower pace — I don’t have the reflexes that I possessed as a teenager, and I like to be able to take time to think about strategy. This means that I mostly play turn-based games these days.

However, I don’t want the game to “feel” turn-based because then it wouldn’t be FTA.

My idea was to create a “semi-real-time” combat system. The idea here is that each character (PC or non-PC) would have an ‘action budget’. Each action such as moving or attacking would cost a certain amount of points, and if the character has used up their budget, then they have to wait — but waiting doesn’t mean that the character freezes, it means that they go into their ‘wait’ animation — so for example, a waiting monster would make threatening gestures but not actually attack.

When the player gives a command to a party member, that not only fills the budget for that character but all the monsters as well. So as long as the player is giving commands, the action happens in real-time; but if the player pauses, then eventually the monsters will run out of action points and will stop as well.

But…content!

The biggest challenge to making a Faery Tale game is still the same: populating such a large, open world with interesting content.

I know of only three ways to solve this:

Option 1: Human Wave

Hire a large number of content creators. This requires a large monetary investment, probably more than anyone (including me) is going to want to spend on the project.

Option 2: Procedural Generation

I have played around with procedural generation quite a bit.

My own experiments ran along the following lines: the world map would be divided into irregular regions called areas. Each area would be assigned an area trope, which represents the thematic story content of that area. Examples of area tropes would be ‘peaceful hamlet’, ‘bandit outpost’, ‘abandoned ruin’, ‘creepy cave’, and so on.

Each trope would possess content generating algorithms designed to create the terrain, buildings, objects and other items for that region, all which are consistent with that trope.

For monsters, however, the trope only dictates a range of possibilities rather than specifying exactly what kind of monster lives there.

For example, let’s take a bandit camp: initially it might be populated by bandits, with a leader who periodically sends out raiding parties to attack the nearby town. At first, your character isn’t strong enough to take out the leader and his guards, but you can do something about the raiding parties. Eventually, however, you’d become strong enough to defeat the leader, and the bandit camp will be abandoned — for a while. Later, some other leader — perhaps a necromancer or goblin warlord — will look at this nice piece of empty real-estate and set up shop, at which point you now have a new (and stronger) enemy to defeat.

The downsides of this approach is that humans are really, really good at seeing patterns. No matter how many random variables you have in your algorithm, it only takes about a half a dozen examples of a generated town or quest before the player has a pretty thorough idea of the overall probability envelope of the algorithm — at which point there are no longer any surprises or even novelty left.

No Man’s Sky was supposed to represent the pinnacle of procedural content generation, and suffers from exactly this problem — despite investing an enormous effort into algorithmic generation, it all starts to look the same after a while. Every planet is unique, and yet every planet looks like whipped cake frosting.

Option 3: Crowdsourcing

Another option would be to make the world-editing tools freely available and let the users create the content.

There are several challenges to overcome. The first, and possibly most serious is that a lot of people have bad taste. I know it sounds harsh, but as someone who has spent a lot of time fiddling with the details of a landscape to get it just perfect, it bothers me when people throw things together in a way that seems careless and sloppy.

And some people are deliberately tasteless. I remember when EverQuest added armor dyes to the game, you immediately saw lots of people running around with bright magenta and chartreuse armor. Totally destroyed any sense that this was a medieval fantasy world.

Consider the act of placing a tile — just a mouse click, right? Well, if you want the terrain to look natural, you are going to need tiles that contain irregular features inside of them, and each tile must seamlessly match all of its neighbors. A lot of the work I did creating maps was making sure that the tiles matched when placed adjacent to one another.

And that doesn’t even get into creating the tiles themselves, which in my current prototype requires knowledge of how to use Blender3D.

And of course, there’s more to content than just art — there’s also behavior and interactivity. Crowdsourcing would require some means for people to be able to contribute those things as well. I’d want to give people a simpler interface than just writing SAGA files in a text editor, or at least some means to prevent buggy code from crashing the game.

So what’s the solution? Well, you need some sort of editorial control — a way to filter out the quality content from the not-so-great. You need curation.

You also need smart tools that will help creators avoid the most obvious mistakes.

There’s been a bunch of research on building effective collaborations between strangers; any crowdsourced project would want to leverage such research.

One other problem is that a crowdsourced game might not feel very much like a sequel to Faery Tale Adventure. That might not be such a bad thing, but it might also not be what people are asking for when they ask if there will be a sequel.

I think a better approach would be to have the ‘core’ content be created in-house, and then let users extend the world and share their extensions between them. There can be a marketplace of ideas where the most popular user creations are rated and downloaded, something that already exists for other games like Skyrim.

Never say never

So to summarize, I would not say that there will never be a sequel to Faery Tale Adventure. But I think the chances are fairly small.

Talin

Written by

Talin

I’m not a mad scientist. I’m a mad natural philosopher.

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