Awwww: Storyteller Development Put On Hold

Storyteller is a rather novel thing, both in that it’s unlike pretty much any other game and that it offers very convenient opportunities for wordplay. The comic-book-esque mini-story creation puzzler has been in development for quite some time, and each peek offered by developer Daniel Benmergui has only increased the flow of questionable liquid from my slavering chops. I wants it, precious. I wants it. I am, then, somewhat disheartened to hear that he’s putting Storyteller on temporary hold, choosing to instead focus developmental fire on a commercial version of his free “quick RPG” Ernesto. Don’t get me wrong: it’s very good, but perhaps not quite as potential-packed as Storyteller. Fortunately, this detour is still worthwhile, not to mention (hopefully) brief.

I can’t really fault Benmergui’s reasoning. He’s been tinkering around under Storyteller’s leather-bound hood for ages, and he’s in desperate need of something different to put re-spice in his creative juices. He explained in a blog post:

“I love Storyteller, I think it’s an important game and I want it to be released soon, but I’ve been working on it for three years now and I am starting to feel creatively numb from always dealing with the same project. There are a few important things to work out before I am able to release it, so there’s no way I can rush it to completion. Storyteller still needs time and more hard work to be a great game.”

Benmergui doesn’t plan to spend an equal number of eons reforging Ernesto, though. He’s hoping this one will take three months – not another three years. After that, he’ll go right back to Storyteller. Granted, game development is kind of a minefield, so you never know what’ll actually happen.

Ernesto has its own shiny new development blog, and you can play the original version for free right here. It’s remarkably elegant and addictive, role-playing distilled down to an imagination-stoking cauldron of possibility. Also a grid. But it’s a big grid where lots of randomized things can happen/kill you. Give it a go, and watch that productive day you were so excited about melt away. Kind of like mine just did :(


  1. jrodman says:

    I doubted this idea would work well (not sure why, just a pessimist I guess), but I loved the premise and definitely wanted to try it out.
    I’m a little sad. Hopefully it gets rounded out at some point.

    • Jason Rohrer says:

      Kind of amazing… but it actually DID work well.

      Like, perfectly well. Like, “How the hell is he doing this??” well.

      He has explained it to me, how it works under the hood, but I really don’t understand it. On the outside, it just “works”.

      You drag these people and objects onto the panels, and based on what you put where, his engine deduces the only possible story that makes complete sense, given what you’ve put there.

      Drag a guy into panel 1. Then leave that guy out of panel 2, but put a tombstone there. That guy must have died, so the engine makes it HIS tombstone. But now add that same guy to panel 3. The engine deduces that he must not have died (because here he is, alive in panel 3), so it reverts the tombstone back to the stone of an unknown person.

      That’s the simplest example, but his engine goes way beyond that, deducing all sorts of twisting and convoluted stories out of pretty much whatever you throw into the panels. The results are shocking and hilarious.

      It was by far the most innovative game I have seen in all my days. If you told me someone was working on this, I would have said, “Oh, good luck, that’s impossible.” But he didn’t tell me he was working on it until he showed it to me.

      It was so outside the realm of possibility that I didn’t even know what I was looking at, at first.

      • jrodman says:

        Well, I’m familiar with deduction systems. That part I didn’t really doubt.

        It was more about whether it would really make a compelling game. Would there be the right amount of unpredictability and preditability, the right amount of variation. How long could the experience go before it feels ‘solved’ by the player?

        Of course if it’s funny regardless, that counts for a lot.

  2. The Sombrero Kid says:

    I was really looking forward to this.

  3. zytos says:

    Seen it before, on the VIC-20.