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Lionhead No Longer Going On An Ink Quest

I hope you got planning permission for that.

Instead of just allowing a cancelled incubator project to fall down the side of the game dev sofa like so much pocket fluff, Lionhead released details of game-which-might-have-been, InkQuest.

The story involves a girl called Sophie who fails to heed the well documented problems surrounding literature consumption in entertainment media. As such she is literally transported to another realm as she reads and thus becomes trapped within the novel. There’s a degree of charm to what’s in the trailer and the papercrafty art style is very attractive but it’s the more experimental aspects of the prototype which caught my attention.

Lionhead actually refer to InkQuest as a hybrid rather than a game – “part magical map, part audio book, part adventure game”. Reading that sentence with the game unfinished is frustrating because the possible implementations range from the exciting to the mundane. Magical maps could mean resculpting the entire world by refolding the map or it could just mean you click on a location to fast travel there. Audio book could mean parts of the game remove all visual cues leaving the story to continue in innovative ways or it could mean “we are pleased with our cutscene narration”.

This sentence is far more exciting and less ambiguous! “We explored worlds made entirely from words and investigated different ways of telling stories within them.” Which would, I guess, be a kind of House of Leaves approach to gaming, using things like formatting and typography as part of the story creation. A kind of ergodic literature in gaming? That, to me is exciting.* Unless they mean they just discovered that books are worlds made from words and this is their way of saying “We wrote a book.” That’s also a thing which might have happened, I suppose.

From their post it sounds like Lionhead want to share more of these ideas which don’t make it to full production. I’d assume that’s to showcase interesting work from the studio in order to tempt in new talent rather than to tease excitable readers with what could have been. There might also be an element of dangling potentially interesting IPs into the waters of the internet and seeing if anything bites. Then hoping whatever has bitten is someone who could license and develop that IP rather than it turning out to be a giant digital pike or something.

Anyway, the upshot of all of this is that the post concludes with the exhortation to tweet or email the incubation project if you’re interested in them sharing more. Lionhead, if you’re reading this please can you check your inbox for something marked “WORDS!” Cheers.

*Disclaimer: other things I find exciting include developments in copyright law, salted caramel, and the buttons you press at road crossings.

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Philippa Warr

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