I found (a) Quest

So I’ve started designing a new game. It’s a text adventure based on the Quest engine and it’s an adaptation of Montsegur 1244, my game about the fall of Montsegur in 1244 at the end of the Albigensian crusade in what is today southern France (1).

A digital game 

Up until now, I have only created analog games, mostly tabletop RPGs for game conventions like Fastaval. Creating and publishing Montsegur 1244 in 2008 — 2010 was great fun. 

As my kids grow older, I see a lot of good (and some not-so-good) games on the iPad. I also enjoy playing games on my smartphone. It’s like the smartphone format takes everything down in size, making it a one man project to create and publish a game app. It’s ok that you only play a game for a couple of hours, when you only pay 2 EUR for it. Plus you can reach a large audience. 

While I enjoy pushing cardboard, dice, and meeples in the company of other people as much as any other, I’m also looking at a lot of boxes on shelves (and toys on the floor and books on shelves) and clearly seeing the advantages of digital content. Travel light, travel far. 

So I’ve decided to create a digital game. 

The Old Town of Tallinn from our visit in November 2019. While Norman nobles were busy fighting heretics in Provence, the Danish king took the crusade to the “heretics” in Baltikum. Not far from where I took this picture, the Danish flag, Dannebrog — according to legend — fell from the sky at the Battle of Lyndanisse in 1219. Copyright Frederik Jensen 2019.

Quest 

A few weeks ago I began looking into tools and platforms for creating games on the IPhone. Very quickly I found Quest at http://textadventures.co.uk. It is a platform for creating and running text adventures. 

Quest is open source on the MIT license, which means that you keep the door open for a commercial launch. It is super easy to get started, as there is an online editor where you can create rooms and characters and start playing almost immediately. So that is what I did. The feature set and the stability were good, even if it is a bit slow to play online.

A deadline

Since moving to Stockholm, I’ve mostly played games with my friend Oskar when I found time for playing. Oskar will be 40 next month, and when I asked about what he wanted, he said no presents, please — or to make a donation. 

So I’m thinking to publish the game by then for him to play when he is turns 40. It’s a good time box. Deadlines are good to help focus on what is important. 

Making hard choices

While I enjoyed puzzle games as much as any other (Day of the Tentacle, Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), I don’t want to create a puzzle game for my adaptation of Montsegur 1244. I don’t want players to discover a one true story about the siege, but rather have each play-through generate a story with a statement about why people choose to burn for something they believe in (quite literally in this case (2)). Essentially it is not about finding out how to do what you want but finding out what you want to do and making hard choices in a difficult situation.

Into the trenches

Obviously my ambition leads to more work as Quest aims at scripted events and interactions and now I’m heading into sandbox territory. So this weekend I took a deep dive into writing a custom library in the scripting language of Quest. My goal was to make it possible to sneak past the crusaders but only when it is dark. Something like:

> Wait until evening

You wait until evening. It gets dark.

> Sneak past guards

You sneak past the guards without a sound and escape from Montsegur.

It took a while, learning a new language and new tools, but now I got a time tracker that can keep track of when it is light and dark outside and run the commands above. Furthermore, it triggers events such that characters can go to bed when it gets dark, wake up at dawn and go find something to eat.

So what’s next? I guess I need to model relations between characters and how they influence the decisions at the end of the game.


1. My first idea was actually to create a cat petting simulator, but someone already did that.

2. Trapped inside Montsegur was more than 500 followers of the Cathar Faith. At the end of the siege, they were given the choice to repent or to burn alive. More than 200 chose death.

The best greens

Today’s headline steal from Trump is that he contemplates buying Greenland from Denmark. Maybe he is playing the long game after all? Or maybe he just likes the photo opportunity when he invites world leaders from fossil fuel economies to play golf with him in front of a melting glacier.

I visited Birka a few weeks ago, “the first city in Sweden”. For a few hundred years, it was a trading hub bringing people together near and far. Objects from today’s India, Egypt and Ireland have been found in or near the area. The city was abandoned by the end of the 10th century, some two hundred years before Stockholm was founded. In between, Sigtuna prospered.

Birka today. Burial mounds remain but all houses were made from wood and are long gone. Copyright Frederik Jensen.

One possible reason that Birka was abandoned is the change of coast line as the land rose following the melting of the ice from the last ice age. In this part of the world, near Stockholm, the land has risen 5 meters in the last 1000 years. When you compare it to the sea rise predictions from the melting of the inland ice on Greenland, it’s quite significant.

So anyway, back to Trump and Greenland, if you put your money on that we will fail to reduce the impact of the climate change, buying property in Greenland is a long term bet. It fits into a narrative to delay the burst of the carbon bubble.

200 years ago, people thought buying prisoners of war, sailing them across the Atlantic Ocean and selling them into slavery was a perfectly fine thing to do. 40 years ago, people thought drinking 10 beers and driving a car home was ok. Two years ago people thought burning fossil fuel to fly around the planet for pleasure was ok. Times are changing. Will Trump be on the winning side of history?

I made my claim to say “I told you so” with my 2012 story game Plus 3.0 when it all goes up in smoke and tears.