In the last month and a half, we’ve had some more great review coverage of The Ice-Bound Concordance, presented it at GDC, and have even seen some fan-inspired creations.
“We were collaborators. One of us was a ghost.”
Jack de Quidt did an Ice-Bound ‘Wot I Think’ for Rock Paper Shotgun, which does some great summarizing of the complicated project:
So that’s where you come in. Descending through Carina Station, yes, but not as a scientist or researcher – you’re instead something like a co-writer, trying to make sense of various fragments of plot as their long-dead creator politely talks you through them. “What did you think I was going for here?” he’ll ask, and you’ll have the opportunity to affect the story both directly (“I think the Professor should slip and fall,”) and thematically (“I feel this is a chapter concerned with spiral imagery”.) As you and KRIS mirror the character’s explorations deeper into the station, you gradually refine the story more and more into what you feel it should always have been about.
de Quidt writes quite a bit about the feel of the possibilities opened up by our combinatorial narrative system: we were really glad to see a reviewer dig into this aspect of the game.
The deeper we travelled, the more the scope of the game impressed me. …The more I pressed for the story to contain elements of the fantastic, the more KRIS seeded fragments with impossible stairways, twisting libraries, figures made from icicles. A love triangle I’d accidentally wrangled from the light permutations was forgotten about for three layers then re-appeared suddenly further down. When I realised quite the extent to which the story was procedural and responsive, it felt like a dizzying pit had opened up.
We also saw a great, meaty review on Gamasutra by Katherine Cross, who calls it “a masterfully layered game about the significance of both writing and editing.” Cross digs into the themes and meta-themes of Ice-Bound (AIs without rights, the interplay between physical and digital) but ultimately keeps returning to the relationship between writers, their output, and their readers that was so central to our original thinking about the project:
Those of us who write, fiction or non, are always lurking between our words. We spell out our DNA on the page, and traces linger after even the most antiseptic of editing.
Ice-Bound is about discovering what remains of the author between his words and pulling him free from them. In the process, whether you and KRIS finish Ice-Bound or not, the sweep of the book comes to tell an unexpected story that evokes postmodern and magical realist fiction, with resonances of Borges, Joanna Russ or David Mitchell.
Cross has some good critique about characterization and how smoothly everything comes together, but ultimately concludes that Ice-Bound Concordance is “a magisterial game… the book leaves a glitchy, pixelated impression on one’s mind long after one is done playing/reading, and that’s no small triumph.”
We’ve cropped up a few other places recently, too.
- Another Gamasutra story from Richard Moss, “7 Examples of Game AI That Every Developer Should Study,” singled out our combinatorial narrative engine as a real step forward for dynamic story in games.
- Aaron spoke about the game at the Game Developer’s Conference in March, on the “Narrative Innovation Showcase” panel. The full video of the panel is a free talk in the GDC vault, and Aaron also posted his slides and talk notes.
- How do you “Let’s Play” a game that involves reading a physical book? Byron Campbell strapped on a helmet-mounted webcam and gave it a go.
- We haven’t seen any fan art or cosplay yet (props to the first person who dresses up as “the man with icicles in his beard, icicles down to his knees”), but we were definitely ticked by James Iles’ 200-word RPG inspired by our project, “Ghostwriter”, a game for “one human and one construct.” Katherine Cross also made a Carina Station-inspired Lego set in between writing insightful commentary, which tends to be what our creative process is, too.
It’s been delightful to see reviews and reactions keep coming in, and we’d love to hear more. You can find out more about the game on our website, and if you’re a reviewer and would like a review copy of the book, please get in touch. In the meantime, keep in the loop via our Twitter or Facebook, and stay safe, wherever you’re exploring.