CRASH - The Online Edition
— Issue 13 Contents|
In the Chip Factory
The growth of the computer adventure games market in the latter part of 84 reflects the increasing interest of players in mind games and in fantasy games. It is probably the area where there is yet to be the most development of ideas, the uncharted continent of the psyche. In olden times when explorers were drawing maps, any large area they had been unable to visit and which remained a mystery to them was marked with the warning slogan, ‘Here there be monsters’. Now the world is well charted, but adventure game programmers and scenarists are busy keeping monsters alive and kicking deep inside our computers. Foremost in the development of fantasy role playing games, wargames and adventure games is Games Workshop, headed by writers Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone.
Roger Kean visited Steve Jackson at Games Workshop’s London headquarters and talked to him about the past, present and future.
It is a timely moment to catch Steve Jackson, because any hint that his partner Ian Livingstone has been the busier of the two recently (with Ian’s involvement in Eureka!) is firmly squashed when you see what he is up to. There’s the latest in the Fighting Fantasy series of adventure game books just out, it’s called Talisman of Death, the fourth and final part of the Sorcery series just out, plans to turn the series into a computer game, probably to be released by Penguin, and he is hard at work on the first of a brand new series of computer games with a new concept which will be coming out through Adventure International under The Swordmaster name. On top of this, together with Ian Livingstone, Steve is busy running Games Workshop with its multitude of projects, which include several computer games for release during 85.
I talked to Steve in his large but spartan office in the warehouse building that acts as Games Workshop’s head quarters in Park Royal, London. First off, I asked him how the whole thing had got going and why.
‘Ian and I both come from Manchester. We moved down here about twelve years ago and have never looked back. Originally we used to go to a wargame club in Manchester and I used to run a games club at the university of Keele. We got to know what was happening in games because people would come in and tell us things, so it soon became obvious we knew quite a lot about these games that nobody else had heard of. At the time Diplomacy was the big game, everybody used to play it by post and we played it in all night sessions, we also came across another called The Warlord. And then Avalon Hill wargames came out.
‘But there was this guy called Don Turnbull who edited a magazine called Albion, which was a fanzine for boardwar games, and I got a copy of this from a friend who was a science fiction fan, and I thought, oh I must subscribe to this, and I wrote the address out and it turned out to be about a mile away from where I lived in Manchester. So I phoned the guy up and went round to see him and Ian came as well, and we got quite friendly. Ian was at college in Manchester and he got to know Don Turnbull quite well. Don was really the centre of the games hobby as it was at the time, I’m talking about 200 people scattered around the country playing games by post, and the only place you could get Avalon Hill games was Hamleys and The General Trading Company in Sloane Square.’
Both of these places were in London, and the two wargaming friends realised that there was a market, especially when the role playing games began to grow in popularity. However, university finished and Steve and Ian went their separate ways.
‘I went off doing all sorts of different jobs, and then we all came together in London. Ian had moved down here with another friend and I’d just left a job looking after birds on a bird reserve. I came to London and the three of us shared this flat and that’s where Games Workshop was born. It’s a typical story really, one evening when we were really pissed off with all the jobs we were doing and it was getting up to Christmas, we got very drunk and we were talking about all these different things we could do, oh why don’t we start up a little spare time company, and so on. We got all enthusiastic about it and all the names came out, it was going to be Games Garage, and it was gonna be Megagames Experience and all these horrible things, and Games Workshop was down on this piece of paper somewhere and that was the one that stuck.
‘It started off with John, the third person in the flat, another friend from Manchester, who was a really good woodworker and he used to make chess boards and Go boards and Backgammon boards things like that and do them really well, and Ian was the salesman, he went round places like Harrods and Hamleys sold quite a few of these things, and we started getting some business coming in. At the time I was writing freelance for Games & Puzzles magazine, so I had contacts there who gave us some work to do for them, and that kept us busy for a few months, just about busy enough that I could leave my full time job, and start doing this full time.’
It was about this time that the big break they had hoped for came in the shape of a new fantasy role playing board game from America called Dungeons & Dragons.
‘We were absolutely obsessive about it! I mean, it contained everything we wanted — it was wargaming and fantasy all rolled together into this totally unique game system that no one had ever done before, you could get totally involved in it. We dedicated weeks and weeks to it, designing dungeons, everything. Everyone goes through this thing — when you first discover it, it is your all encompassing passion, well for some people it is for the rest of their lives! But for us it was for about 6 months. Everyone we knew who was vaguely interested in fantasy we would invite them round to play this game, and they would get obsessed with it and the whole thing snowballed. Our first order was, I think, for three copies from the States, and they were gone within two days of the order going off. So we got more of them and we started selling them and they started doing well, and suddenly Games Day was featuring D&D. We started noticing other companies in the States who were producing similar things, so we went over to the States and signed a lot of them up with distribution deals.
‘We just happened to be around at the right place with the right interest at the right time. There’s nothing particularly magical about it and I daresay other people would have done just the same. But we were very fortunate in that the whole thing was just getting going. We started up our own shop in Hammersmith — that was the first of many.’
Writing fantasy or writing about fantasy has been a large part of both Steve Jackson’s and Ian Livingstone’s careers and has led them directly into writing computer games. Before the Fighting Fantasy series was developed, there was their magazine White Dwarf. I asked Steve how that had come about. ‘You see at the time we started Games Workshop, around 75, we used to publish this fanzine called Owl and Weasel. Owl and Weasel it was called because those were the qualities you needed to be a good games player, you need to be wise and you need to be cunning. The first one was written in about three days and cost 40p in 1975! This got sort of tossed around, I’d be editor one month and then Ian would edit it for one month until finally Ian took over as editor all the time. We got up to about issue 25 and Ian came back one day and said, We’re not going to do Owl and Weasel, it’s going to turn into a proper magazine. He said we’ll need four thousand copies, I’ve even got a name for it, it’s called White Dwarf, because it’s, you know, white dwarf the star and white dwarf a fantasy character. I think it was 77 when the first issue came out, and it was like everyone’s first issue of a magazine, it had lots of faults and it could have been a lot better but it has evolved over the years to be, well, something that we’re all proud of, and it comes out every month which is astounding! It’s doing amazingly well, it’s got a circulation of 42,000, doubled in the last year. You only used to be able to get it in games shops, toys shops, model shops, it was all subscriptions and our own circulation, but now we’ve taken the plunge and got a distributor, so it’s more widely available.’
With the increasing experience gained by writing for Owl and Weasel and then in White Dwarf both Steve and Ian felt they were ready to tackle something a bit bigger, something that would involve them more creatively, and it came with the Fighting Fantasy books.
‘Ian and I were walking through Games Day once and Penguin had just released a book called Power Politics. It was a book of political type games you could play with a group of people and Penguin were promoting it so they had taken a stand at Games Day. Ian and I were doing our round of the stands and we came across Geraldine Cook who was one of the editors at Penguin, and we said you ought to do something on this fantasy role playing thing, and she said, Okay, do a synopsis. And so off we went, but we offered her two different synopses. One was a book which was just a review of the fantasy games, how they worked, how you got into them, and the other was a solo adventure. It was just half a dozen sheets put together and a big picture on the front, saying there are two doors and do you want to take the one on the left, or the one on the right? And you turned to different pages and it followed through. And finally you came across a Wight, I think it was, and if you overcame it there was treasure chest in there.’
The two synopses sat around at Penguin for ages until Steve thought that Penguin had given up on them, but one day they received a phone call. The project was on.
‘They had us in and there was Puffin and Penguin fighting over us — this was Warlock of Firetop Mountain. The problem was Puffin was saying I think it ought to be a children’s book and Geraldine was saying no, no it ought to be an adult’s book because it’s adults that play these games. And it went back and forth and they asked us what we thought, and we said, we’ll leave it to you.
‘Eventually Puffin got it, and it got written, and it was a real pain to write. It’s one thing to do these little things, but it’s another thing to do a whole book. It’s all got to branch out then come back in. We split it between us and the way we did it was that Ian did the first half of the book and I did the second half. We spent about three months doing this, typing it, it was really new writing books, so we got all this work done for the deadline and took it in and two days later Penguin were saying that they couldn’t do anything with it. Our writing styles were completely different, well Ian had lots more encounters with rooms, puzzles and traps and so on, whereas I hadn’t got anything like as many encounters, there were more things to do. Penguin felt that there was a real sense of moving from one into the other, so we had to go back and rewrite the whole thing and also work out the combat system which we hadn’t agreed on. Anyway, it all got done and eventually came out as Warlock is now.
The Warlock of Firetop Mountain was published in August 82 and promptly sold out its first print run in three weeks. Penguin immediately asked whether it couldn’t be turned into a series and so Fighting Fantasy was born. Their experiences at writing together led Steve and Ian to writing on their own, which was hardly any slower, and the series grew. Other authors have since been drafted, and now the 11th book in the series (Talisman of Death) is out.
Neither Steve nor Ian are computer programmers, although Steve has certainly had a go.
‘In the very early days when the Commodore PET just came out I bought one of these things — this is the way of the future, I thought — I didn’t know anything about them and I thought I’d better find out how they worked. So I plonked about with it and got obsessed and for six months I would just go home at night and program this thing, and for six months work I got this little tiny routine that did some tiny aspect of Games Workshop’s business, it actually worked out the VAT on mail order! That’s as far as I got. And I realised that even though you could see what you had to do you had to have so much time to do anything useful on it. It was better to have an expert do it!’
The expert in question was Rob Easterby, another PET freak who had produced an early version of the Star Trek trench game.
‘I know it’s old hat now, but at the time nobody had ever done that. And if you look at the graphics now compared to what you get today — well it was just about 8K! But it was quite a good game and everybody who came along to Games Day enjoyed it, and we released this range of six games and arranged quite a bit of advertising for them, and they bombed out completely. It was a terrible disaster! All the copies we made were on our own little PET. That was our best selling game and I think we sold about 60 of them! That was the state of the computer games market. We consoled ourselves with the fact that at least we could say we were ahead of the time. It’s all happened since, but the experience made us think that if we were going back into this again, we’ve got to make sure we do it well.’ Although it was released under Penguin/Puffin’s imprint, the first of the ‘new generation’ Games Workshop computer games was taken from their best-selling Warlock of Firetop Mountain. It was programmed by Crystal. Was Steve happy with it at the time, and how did he get Crystal to do it?
‘I think I can say this safely now, there was a time when I shouldn’t have said this. The Warlock of Firetop Mountain computer game happened because Ian and I went up to Manchester to do a book fair at the library and afterwards I was buying a birthday present for my mother from Argus. And there was a queue and I had all these little leaflets under my arm — ‘Introduction to Fantasy Games’ — and Chris Clarke from Crystal was in the queue behind me, and he noticed the leaflets and said, Oh Introduction to Fantasy Games, and I said, oh do you want one? So we got talking, and he told me that they write computer games and how they have a game that knocks The Hobbit on the head and the graphics are fantastic and it works in real time. And I said, that’s interesting, we’re looking for a computer game which would fit the Warlock of Firetop Mountain. So they came down to London and showed us their Halls of The Things and it looked pretty good. Penguin more or less left it in our hands when we recommended this highly because it looked pretty good, state of the art as far as arcade games went, but there were things we wanted them to do — like, can you take away the maze? We don’t want a maze any more, we want corridors that open up, a bit like the D&D game on Intelevision. Yes that was no problem, and change things like magic spells — they had lightning bolts, we just wanted a sword, and the monsters should be stationed in rooms, so you’ve actually got to enter a room and it becomes more like Warlock. But despite all these suggestions that we made, in the end the game that came out was a sort of version of Halls of the Things. Even basic things they hadn’t changed like it’s got strength, they hadn’t changed that to stamina. It was a case of coming up to Christmas, and Penguin had paid their advance, so poor Phillipa at Penguin, who is a real hero, went up there and supposedly got an awful lot done with them, and even then it was late, so she ended up giving them a deadline that if it isn’t in by next Monday the game’s not coming out. And the minute it was in at Penguin it got tested and it was off for duplication into production copies. And then we said, oh let’s have a look at this thing, and we said, oh this isn’t anything like we said it was supposed to be like.
‘It was heartbreaking really, because we knew exactly what we wanted, a mixture of the situations in the books and something like the D&D Intelevision game. There were some nice features, I mean the way the little man ran about so quickly, that was just great, and I like it when he pulls his sword out, it looks quite disgusting! So now with computer games we are trying to make more like the adventure books because one of the comments we had on that experiment was, what’s this got to do with The Warlock of Firetop Mountain? And what can we say, we had asked for it to be quite close but we hadn’t got it and it was out. You see a lot of people were saying that they wanted adventure games, these are adventure game books, so why not do adventure computer games?’
Games Workshop released three programs under its own imprint, the wargame D-Day, the role playing strategy of Battlecars and the Quilled adventure Tower of Despair. The two most recent releases are also from the Fighting Fantasy series of books, numbers 2 and 3, Citadel of Chaos and Forest of Doom, which are more or less straightforward computer adaptions of the books. But Steve has recently been pursuing his own ideas further in computer games.
‘I’ve suddenly discovered what you can do with computer games on the adventure side. They can be so much more varied than in the books. You can keep so much hidden, although they’ll never replace the literary side of a book, that you can describe so much in a book. It’s horses for courses really — if you want to read and get involved in a story I’d much rather do that in a book than in a straight adventure game. But what you can do with computer is incredible. It probably all sounds a bit old hat! But ever since I started thinking about The Swordmaster thing and the Sorcery thing, I started thinking, oh well computers can do that, you can’t do that in a book. So there’s really lots of new ideas here.
‘Ian and I remember in the early days a customer who came into our shop in Hammersmith had a copy of Adventure running on a civil service computer somewhere! And he invited us down one Saturday morning to have a look at it. We had heard about adventure games going in the States, about this massive program, everybody had a different version of it and they were passing it around these big institutions. So we went down and played it, that was our first glimpse of adventure computer games. Well it was quite compulsive. But I find it rather frustrating, I must admit, that you’ve got to understand the ‘language’. I mean this was adventure’s big thing, wasn’t it? You had to learn everything about the game, there was a language and you had to learn what it responded to, what it didn’t. You started off being plonked in front of a screen and started typing away. And it’s like, you know, monkeys on a computer. Eventually you come up with the words of Shakespeare.’
Computer adventures have come a long way since then, and Steve’s main preoccupation at the moment is the development of Sorcery and The Swordmaster series for Adventure International. Sorcery has been developed from his quartet of books of the same name. I asked him where the idea had come from.
‘I went on holiday in Nepal in 82, just after Warlock was published and it was just such a good place to go then — I mean my head was full of Warlock and working out these fighting fantasy books and suddenly I wound up in Nepal which was such an inspiring country for fantasy. Tolkien based The Hobbit and Lord of The Rings in Nepal. We went on this trek through the hills and came across these people who are just like Hobbits, you know, they’re small and squat and have hairy feet and they always smile. You go trekking around these hills, there are no roads, everything is transported on their backs and you can just imagine monsters being around in the hills. That was where Sorcery came from. I thought, this has got to make a book.
‘Sorcery the computer game is going to be sort of like the book, but not quite. It’s got a lot of new things in it, it’s not just got the text stuck onto the computer, because the thing about Sorcery is that it’s a series of four books that go together taking you right across this kingdom here. What is different about Sorcery, apart from the fact that it is four linked books and you can carry the character you play over from one to the other, is the way the spells work. Originally there was a spell book with it, but they decided to include it in the book. Each of the 48 different spells is identified with a codeword which is related to the spell and you practice this, you do it on a bus, and then you start the adventure, and you can’t look at the spell book once you’ve started the adventure, so when you get to a place when you can use a spell you’ve got to remember what HOB means, and if you can’t remember what HOB means and you just choose it, then the chances are that that things will go badly wrong.
‘I was very disappointed with it at first, it’s been going about a year and a half now, came out as a Penguin initially, now it’s under Puffin, but now, number three has gotg to third place in the children’s book chart.
‘Now Sorcery is ideal for a computer game and I realised this when I was struggling with the spells, because with the spells set out like that you can only give a choice of five at any time time otherwise you’d fill the whole book up with references, but with a computer you can have a matrix which has got all the spells and all the monsters and it cross-indexes them all for you. It’s so much easier to do it. So I wanted that to go in and also I wanted more graphics to go in that aren’t in Forest of Doom, Citadel of Chaos. And there are lots of other things, I’ve just been working on an encounter system for non-playing characters. You come across different characters and it’s not like in Valhalla where it just says, “Odin gives you the stick”, you can have conversations with these characters, and they’ve got useful information for you. I don’t know whether all this is possible yet. The people who are doing the programming haven’t raised any objections, they say it’s going to be expensive in terms of memory, and I say is it possible? and they say, oh of course it’s possible!’
The company doing the actual programming for Sorcery is Scribos, two professional programmers who have done a lot of the Penguin study software. They have never done games before but Steve has been very pleased with their presentations so far.
‘For example you see a little graphic in perspective of your man and you can make him wander around, and as you go off the edge of the screen he comes back in on the other side. Then there’s a maze that joins it all up. And there are certain scenes from the book you’ll recognise, and as you’re wandering around the non-playing characters come along and you can run away from them or stop them. It might be some time before this comes out under the Penguin label.’
In addition to Sorcery, Steve Jackson is also working on another revolutionary type of adventure game which mixes book and computer. We detail the background of The Swordmaster in the boxed section. And on top of that, Games Workshop is preparing for another round of releases. Work is well under way for a computer game of the 2000AD comic hero, Judge Dredd and there are plans for a version of the cult movie Roller Ball. But Steve’s primary concern is with the development of the fantasy side, and he neatly summed up our interview with these words:
‘Well Workshop is expanding at an enormous rate, we’ve had a very good year, and we’ve got lots of plans for 85 about what we’re going into, more shops is definitely on. We’re doing more with miniature figures with our company Citadel Miniatures, and we’re opening up new areas with using plastics for moulding instead of the more traditional metal. But something I’d like to see Games Workshop do is bring in a real role playing game on a computer, marry the two together. There are certain things we are expected to do, like we’re not expected to bring out arcade games because we’re not Waddingtons, adventure games yes, and wargames and that kind of thing, but it would be nice to get a proper computer role playing system going. Turning board games into computer games is an obvious thing. I mean things like Battlecars is a very popular board game and you can imagine that the idea is quite appealing to computer games players. We’re not getting into the top three of the charts with our computer games sales but hopefully we are building up a base of people who think, oh that’s a Games Workshop game, I’ll get that. I’d feel very proud if that happened.’
Some of the ideas Steve Jackson has had for including more graphics in computer adventure games have evolved from his writing background. The Fighting Fantasy books are an obvious departure point and a text-only adventure is an obvious outcome, but the probems start when you want complex graphics and a complex program that can cope with the sort of ideas he has developed for the book versions. Tables for spell casting and for combat encounters start to get out of hand with available memory, especially if there is to be location and character description and graphics. How to overcome the problem?
It may well be that a new game, released by Adventure International and with a scenario by Steve Jackson, will provide the answer. It will be the first of a planned series under the general heading of The Swordmaster. How the idea first evolved is a story in itself, here Steve recalls the events of some years back.
‘A long time ago, while I was working on Sorcery in fact — I went over to the States. We’ve got an office over there, and John, the fellow who actually runs it, he and I were in Washington looking around for sites for an office. It was a Sunday morning, he borrowed the car we had hired and I was left in this bed and breakfast place, right at the top in an attic. Now I only had normal clothes, just a jacket and ordinary shoes, you know, and it had been snowing the night before, and it didn’t stop. It was feet deep, so I couldn’t go out. The nearest shop was at least ten minutes away, and I didn’t have any money either because I had given some to John as he was going off to see his family and left myself with about a dollar. So I sat down and thought what am I going to do? I’ve got no money for food, I cant go out anywhere — and this thing came up and this is what became Swordmaster eventually.
‘It was a combat system in which you learn how to fight and you gain experience and originally it was going to be a part of Sorcery. I thought that’s great, you’ve got this new spell system that’s never been used in a Fighting Fantasy book and you’ve got this new combat system as well. But it became a bit too complicated to include with everything else and I didn’t want the books to get that complicated. So the idea sat around and then Games Workshop were going to use it for a solo fantasy role playing system but we couldn’t decide whether it was going into a book or into a box game and eventually nobody ever did anything with it.
‘The way it works is that for every monster you come across you have a series of numbers. It’s not really complicated, but it sounds it to explain. You’ve got different numbers for different monsters, the numbers are on a sliding table, so that number 20 might be, ‘Leaps at you and attacks’. So you choose your own move (you can do certain things, depending on what you’ve done before) and you cross index these two on the scale and if you leap on him and attack and he leaps on you and attacks then you both do damage to each other. But if you’re defending and he leaps on you to attack, then he doesn’t do any damage, to you. You can actually learn what the numbers mean, and that was the main idea — that you would learn what the numbers mean. It’s a very flexible system because different monsters have different characters, that’s part of it as well — there are some monsters that will race at you and attack and then get tired out and have to rest and that’s when you can do your thing and go into the attack. So you’ve got different characters that you can build up. And because you learn it, it’s very much like real fighting.
‘This was the idea anyway and this was what took me from nine o’clock in the morning until midnight!, working all these tables out, making sure they all operated properly and writing up the rules for it.’
So sitting alone in his foreign snow-bound tower Steve Jackson had planned out a novel combat system which was to sit on a shelf for quite a while until Mike Woodruff from Adventure International came along.
‘Lawrence Miller, one of our shop managers in Birmingham knows Mike Woodruff and he phoned up once to say that they would like to do an adventure game, where I could write the adventure. So we talked about it a bit and the whole thing evolved. It started off that I would write a book and they would link it into a computer, using their graphics — similar to those used in The Hulk, which are pretty good.’
It sounded like a good idea, Adventure International would be freed of memory-wasting description and able to concentrate on strong graphics while Steve would be free to write in as atmospheric a style as he wanted. It also occurred to him, that he had an entirely unused combat system which had been sitting around for two years doing.
‘I thought this is all numbers so it would be perfect for a computer. Mike came round to my place and we went through a couple of combat routines and it worked well. Mike played it again and said, yes that’s all right. So he put a programmer on it.
‘The way it’s working at the moment, there’s this book with a story in it and there’s this combat system on the computer so that when you come across the same monsters you’ll learn about how to fight them, what best to do and what not to do, and you’ll see a graphic on the screen. When you reach a certain point, say you open a door, it says on screen read such and such a reference in the book, so you turn to the book and you can read the character of the room and what’s inside there.’
In effect this is a logical development of the Fighting Fantasy books, but it has a distinct advantage over them, as Steve points out.
‘You see people cheat with these things — you know it says turn to page 79 and they do and they read it and say, oh no I don’t fancy that at all, I’ll go to page 71 instead! But with this system you can’t cheat, because you don’t know where you are or where you’ve got to go to, and if you step out of line then you’re just hopelessly lost and the computer blows up!’
At the time of writing (just before Christmas) Mike Woodruff and his team are still putting the finishing touches to the first program in the series which is called Isodene’s Keep. There have been delays in the schedule, but Steve seems unworried by this and is excited by the way things are going.
‘It was supposed to be out for Christmas, but it’s late which I think is quite a good sign because it means rather than just rush it out we’re going to do it properly. Certainly on the role playing side I’ve never seen anything quite like it before. In The Swordmaster series there’ll be different adventures and other features that we’re trying to build in like you’ll be able to play with more than one player, so that there can be three of four people with different characters, and when you have a combat different people can get involved.’
Mike Woodruff is also excited by the idea. I spoke to him some time after talking to Steve, when development on Isodene’s Keep was more advanced. He told me, ‘You don’t see the combat system calculations on screen, that’s all done automatically as are the updates after a combat. Up to six characters are controllable by the player, or by six players if desired. The monsters are all animated. We have taken our comic strip style graphics even further — the monsters have animated claws, eyes, noses and their tails thrash about.
‘At the top left of the screen messages appear telling you which paragraph to look up in the book. There you’ll see a description of the location, and on screen you’ll be told what movable objects are there such as treasures or traps. The exciting thing is that each game will be different as monsters, treasures and traps are all relocated with every game.
‘I think this is as close as you can get to Dungeons and Dragons with the computer and the book jointly acting as the Dungeon Master.’
So the package will be a book and a tape. The series won’t have a common tape with it because the graphics will be modified each time to suit the storyline; and although the fighting system, which is a large chunk of the database, will remain much the same, both Steve and Mike say they are aware of the development possibilities of this very flexible system.
Steve says, ‘I’m not a programmer so I don’t know how much they’re going to be able to get in of all this stuff. You can also carry your character on from one game to another, at least that’s the plan.’ Isodene’s Keep is due for release at the end of January, beginning of February and at the time of writing, Adventure International are hoping it will cost £9.95, but the final price will depend very much on the costs of printing the paperback book to go with it. The second in the Swordmaster series will be available a month later, titled Guardians of the Frozen Tower. Adventure International have a two year contract with Steve Jackson to produce a whole series of Swordmaster games, and it will be fascinating to see the development of the ideas outlined above as the series progresses.