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DestinyQuest – Michael J. Ward part two and a competition

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

Click here to read the first part of this post, and we also have a competition below. 

Once a document hits the printers, that is it – there is no going back. I remember the nail-biting moments as a magazine editor, getting copies hot off the press every month and just praying there was no ‘howler’ of an error staring back at you. With print there is no ‘release day’ patch – the errors are there to stay, jumping up and down for everybody to see. And they don’t go away.

When I designed and wrote The Legion of Shadow, the first book in the DestinyQuest series, I was very much aware that there would be ‘no patch’. This inevitably puts a greater onus on getting it right first time – and as each DestinyQuest title is, to an extent, a videogame in book form, I had to test it and test it, and test it again. Normally with a novel, you ‘only’ have to obsess about grammar and story elements, such as continuity and flow. But with a gamebook, you have the added pressure of ensuring all the links work correctly. There is nothing worse than being told to ‘turn to paragraph 93’ to open the treasure chest only to find an unrelated paragraph that starts with the line ‘You have decided to leap into the dragon’s jaws…’ Epic fail.

Numbers can trip you up. Numbers for paragraphs, numbers for items, numbers for attributes. Like many gamebook obsessives I still remember stumbling across the infamous Giant Mudworm in the Fighting Fantasy book, The Crimson Tide. An editor’s oversight had resulted in a single wrong number (a 12 instead of a 6). This meant the Mudworm was impossible to beat. The only way of progressing was to ‘cheat’. I was OCD. This was abuse.

I had to be wrestled off the phone to the Samaritans.

Haunted by such memories, I was determined to get everything right. And I’m pleased to say, I pretty much got there. But like George Lucas, you always crave the opportunity to go back and tweak your work. And with the reprint of the books for the Mass Market Paperbacks, Gollancz were essentially giving me that holy grail of gaming goodness – the patch!

So, yes – with The Legion of Shadow I revisited the text and made a number of amends, mostly based on the feedback I had received from readers. Essentially, these were statistical in nature  to make the game easier to play. With The Heart of Fire there was no call for such changes, however a few annoying errors (entirely of my own making, I hasten to add) did creep into the first edition – so correcting those felt particularly satisfying. Gremlin. Microwave. Splat.

Both DestinyQuest books are now available in their new (and improved) MMP format. Like computer games, they have benefitted from the input of the fans – and my own constant vigilance to get everything right. I’ve learnt to accept that you can never achieve 100% perfection, but these ‘patched’ editions are a significant step closer. So I hope you enjoy.

And so to book three…

<equips +4 club of gremlin-bashing>  Let’s get to work.

MJW

You can find the online home of DestinyQuest here.

And to win one of five sets of each of the books, as well as some exclusive trading cards, answer this question: What is eighties movie lesson 101? Email your answer to competitions@orionbooks.co.uk, with the subject header ‘Heart of Fire’, including your postal details, by midnight on Monday 5th August 2013. Full terms and conditions are here