After playing 80 Days, I discovered a second game design program (actually a Unity extension). What? You haven’t heard of 80 Days?! Okay, let’s change that! 🙂
“80 Days” is a text adventure game for mobile devices, written in a pleasant old-fashioned style. Based on the original story by Jules Verne, the game is currently available for download for €4,99 (English only).
As the adventure begins, you play as Monsieur Passepartout, the recently-hired servant of the wealthy gentleman Phileas Fogg. Assuming the role of the navigator, it’s your duty to successfully plan a route across the globe in eighty days (or less), by land, sea and air.
As Passepartout, you have unique opportunities to explore locations during layovers and necessary stops between destinations. While roaming city centers, purchasing items and interacting with other characters, you’re able to discover more about the fictional Jules Verne universe. Choices you make and conversation tangents reveal precious travel route advice, instantly visible on the game’s responsive globe travel interface.
By consciously selecting Passepartout’s actions and dialogue, you also shape his character and personality: the player decides whether this French gentleman is disgusted by the filthy environment of an old train, or if he views it as “natural”. These small but intricate details initially surprised and perplexed me, but being able to determine the character’s worldview was something that quickly grew on me.
Also very fun and interesting (as this is a gameplay-oriented instead of a text-based feature) are the shop options in each city. An insightful tooltip shows how valuable an inventory item is in other cities on your way, allowing you to plan and stretch your initial £5000 budget to develop lucrative trade deals. In this way, you can strategically manage your time and funds, avoiding insolvency or dependence on banks, which impose delays if one is forced to wait several days for a loan or money transfer.
Until a friend recommended it, I had never heard of 80 Days. When I bought it in the App Store, my initial skepticism was soon replaced by growing interest after I figured out how to travel cheaply and make some money along the way.
My chosen journey led us to the North Pole, nearly freezing to death. I also witnessed a murder on board a zeppelin, and became the hostage of a cruel jungle militia… though I’ve been unable to find Captain Nemo (I read he’s somewhere near the African coast), or win the heart of a mysterious spy on the Orient Express.
The actual 80 Days challenge is quite tricky; I managed to successfully circumnavigate the world on my third attempt (I would’ve made it earlier, if the game was called “93 Days”).
The text area is what initially grabbed my attention and made me want to play further: the visual display and behaviour of the scrolling text is damn pretty. Your own multiple choice options stand out and are pleasantly embedded once you’ve made your decision. That might sound weird or nerdy, but you’ve gotta see it. When I read more about the studio behind the game on sites such as Gamasutra, I learned about Inkle and their text software, the Inklewriter.
In addition to 80 Days, Inkle released inklewriter as an open source download. With this software you can either use an online tool to create multiple-choice stories, or simply download the whole package as a Unity extension. Even an example story, ‘The Intercept’, can be downloaded if you want to play around with a complete working project.
Embedding the Inkle software into a Unity project requires a whole lot more knowledge though. To adjust it to your needs, Inkle offers extensive documentation. This makes the writing process much easier, as it involves shortcuts for variables.
Unfortunately, what kept me from using the Inklewriter any further was the extreme focus on text. While learning to use it, I discovered another extension which offered everything that I needed for my project.
Even if you don’t plan to create an Inkle-based game, I highly recommend having a bit fun with the software. Try out the Inklewriter – it even saves your stories if you register with an email address.
In my next post, I will present the software that I ultimately decided to use. Afterward, we’ll continue with some more actual game content.