The Storytellers' Web

Greetings!

Please let me introduce myself – my name is Kostya, and I am the senior producer on the MetaArcade team. As we get closer to the release, I would like to share some information on a feature we are all very excited about: our Social Hub that lies at the core of the new MetaArcade Platform.

As a lifelong gamer, I have always considered games to be a social activity. Those of us who played Prince of Persia on ancient PCs and dreamt of Metaverse are now vindicated: the extreme popularity of game streaming, world tournaments in various cybersports disciplines and the meteoric rise of tabletop RPG social gaming phenomena such as Critical Role prove that the future of entertainment is truly interactive and social.

So, when we started thinking about the things that we would need to create a successful interactive fiction platform, we realized that we needed to build a social network. It was, quite literally, a dream project for me! And so, the MetaArcade Social Hub was born.

What is the MetaArcade Social Hub? Put simply, it is the glue that binds all other components of the platform together: the Player client, the Creator tool, and – of course! – you, the adventurer and the author.  

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The first aspect of the Hub I would like to talk about is the blog engine. On the first day of our launch, any registered user will be able to create blog posts and leave comments on the posts of others. If you are passionate about a certain genre, or would like to share news about an adventure you are working on, you may find this feature very useful. Of course, you can subscribe to the blogs of other people, and customize your feed so that you only get relevant news and information.  

The second feature involves user communities. Anyone will be able to create and join user groups – places where you can discuss various topics, collaborate on content creation, or share interesting news. Groups can be public (meaning anyone can join) or private, and, of course, you can belong to several groups at once.

The third, and possibly the most exciting, feature is the global adventure catalog. Our vision is to create a ‘Netflix of interactive fiction:’ a single place where anyone can find content they like, share it with their friends, and contribute their own stories. So, the new MetaArcade website will feature all adventures – both created by us and the community – in a unified, searchable library. Once you find a story you like, you’ll be able to launch it in the Player with a single click.

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How is it all tied together? With a MetaArcade account. Once you register, you will not only be able to access the social features on the website, but also to use this account to log into the Player and Creator software. Information about the adventures you own and played will be tied to your account and stored in the cloud; an account will also be required to publish adventures you create. In the future, performing various activities on your account will also earn you achievements, and help you explore the enigmatic MetaNarrative, should you wish to do so.

Most of these features are coming in Closed Beta, which is planned for February, but you don’t have to wait if you want to join the community! In our Discord channel, adventurers rally as we speak, intrepid heroes are being called to arms, and interesting fireside chats occur. Join us as we count down the days to the first public release of the MetaArcade Platform!

Safe travels,

Kostya

First Look at the RPG System

Hey everyone—David Reid, founder of MetaArcade, back again for this week’s blog. It is indeed February and we remain on track to start the beta of the new MetaArcade platform tech with you in just a few weeks!

Before I jump right into it, I want to thank you all for joining us on this most exciting leg of the journey! We have really enjoyed seeing your reactions to Sam’s blog on the new Creator software and the newly remastered Tunnels & Trolls and Cthulhu Chronicles art we shared last week. Your feedback is a critical part of driving us to build a better product, and hearing about the universes and adventures you plan to create inspires us to get you the features you need to make your visions into reality.

On that note, I want to share the early plans for the RPG system you’ll have on the MetaArcade platform. The core purpose of the platform is to empower anyone to turn their stories into interactive works, with branching narrative accompanied by art and audio. Branching stories, such as you find in the Choose Your Own Adventure series of books and Netflix’s recent release of Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, are pretty compelling on their own—especially when accompanied by art and audio. But for most RPG fans, that’s not really enough to scratch the RPG itch as a player—or as an adventure creator.

If you’ve played either of our first two releases, you know we like to spice up interactive stories with RPG mechanics like combat and skill checks. In our first release, Tunnels & Trolls Adventures, we worked to authentically translate the rules of the tabletop game for digital platforms. You created a persistent character, rolled dice on screen for combat and saving rolls, and added points to your attributes as you leveled up. In Cthulhu Chronicles, our second release, we leaned more towards the approach of creating an interactive novel.  You selected one of six pre-generated characters, and we abstracted the dice rolls into the “Wheel of Cthulhu,” retaining the elements of chance and impact you have as a player with a lighter amount of RPG crunch.

As we began development on the new Creator tech, we steeped ourselves in the feedback you had on those two game systems with our focus squarely on empowering you to create your own RPG adventures. And as we envisioned thousands of you creating your own universes and adventures, we realized we needed to rethink the RPG system itself, with one primary goal:

Everyone should always be able to play any adventure written by any author with any character they’ve created.

Part of the fun of playing RPGs is having your character persist and progress as you adventure. And when we open the Creator for you in the community to author your own adventures, we want everyone to be able to play your stories with their favorite characters. This goal required us to think differently about the core RPG system, and what it would mean to create persistent characters who progressed over the course of many adventures.

Where we’ve landed for our initial release will likely remind veteran tabletop RPG players of systems like GURPS, where characters are built on a set of rules which apply across a wide range of universes. Additionally we’ve added a dash of tabletop mechanics adapted as much from board games as RPGs.

As we dive into some details here, please keep in mind much of the art and layout is still placeholder and work in progress. And even after the initial beta release, we’ll be working to continually update and improve things, so things will likely look very different as we iterate with your feedback.

Characters will have three primary attributes in each universe. In our initial universes of Tunnels & Trolls, Cthulhu Chronicles, and Old Roads, those attributes will be Strength, Dexterity and Intelligence. When you create a new character, you’ll select which of those three attributes will be your Primary and Secondary attributes—for example, if you wanted to create a combat-focused character, you might pick Strength as your primary attribute and Dexterity as your secondary attribute. This would leave Intelligence as your lowest attribute. And naturally different archetypes come to mind when thinking of Dexterity or Intelligence as the primary attribute.

As you progress through an adventure, you’ll be presented with different “conflict resolution” mechanics, and it will be to your advantage to make choices which align with your primary attributes. The mechanic we’ll discuss in detail today is skill checks, which are dice rolls you make based on your attributes.

Skill checks are rolled on six-sided dice, with each die having a number of “success” sides corresponding to how you ranked your attributes. In the character sheet mockup below, you’ll see the warrior character has 3 success faces on his Strength die, 2 on his Dexterity die and one on his Intelligence die.

When this character rolls dice for a Strength skill check, each die has 3 success sides and 3 blank sides, meaning each die is 50% likely to roll a successful outcome. Those odds get worse for Dexterity checks, where each die only has 2 success sides compared to 4 blank sides, and worse again for Intelligence checks.

So let’s look at how this works in an adventure. In the image below, you’ve elected to inspect an idol you found in a dungeon, and you’re presented with three choices on how to go about it. While the text doesn’t explicitly tell you this, each option aligns with one of your attributes: moving the idol is a Strength check, searching it for clues is a Dexterity check, and invoking the spirits is an intelligence check.

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Naturally, your odds for success will be higher if you choose the option which lets you use your Primary attribute.  If Strength is your Primary attribute, you’ll have better odds trying to move the idol than searching it or invoking the spirits—but you can try any option you like, and as your character progresses, you’ll find ways to improve your odds for checks related to your Secondary and Tertiary attributes.

At beta release, rolling a skill check consists of 5 dice based on the attribute the skill check is testing, and each skill check is classified as simply “Easy,” “Medium,” or “Hard.” To succeed on an Easy skill check, you’ll need to roll at least one success on your five dice; Medium skill checks require you to roll at least two, and Hard skill checks require you to roll at least three. Making an Easy skill check on your Primary attribute should indeed be pretty easy—but succeeding on a Hard skill check on your Tertiary attribute will be a very rare accomplishment!

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This facet of the RPG system is one example of how we’re aiming to keep the chance and impact of RPG mechanics woven deeply into the MetaArcade platform while remaining focused on letting everyone create interactive narrative with those game mechanics. We think we’ve landed on something which you’ll enjoy while both playing adventures and creating your own. But it will be your feedback that keeps calibrating us on making this a fun, compelling system. Is the difficulty curve too easy? Too hard? Should we have more or fewer dice on screen? These are the kinds of things we would love to hear from you on when the beta release comes out.

As we get closer to release, we’ll have more to say on other aspects of the RPG system, but this blog gives you a glimpse into the foundational elements. As always, please do let us know your thoughts—and the easiest way to do that is to join us in Discord, where we have our weekly Fireside Chats every Friday at 6 pm Pacific. Beyond that, you’ll likely find someone from the MetaArcade team there at most hours of the day—so don’t be shy and let us know what you think!

Thanks and hope to see you in Discord!

David

The First Universes

Thanks for the exciting response to our announcement last week: we’re bringing the MetaArcade platform out in closed beta in February 2019, just a few weeks away! Soon you’ll be able to create your own adventures using our platform, so for today’s blog I thought we’d tell you a bit more about the first universes you’ll have a chance to create in.

Naturally, we are thrilled to begin with Tunnels & Trolls, the second RPG ever published and our first endeavor here at MetaArcade in partnership with T&T’s stewards, the Fellowship of the Troll. Tunnels & Trolls has a deep, rich history in tabletop RPGs, which we proudly recounted in one of our first videos. Created by Origins Hall of Fame RPG designer Ken St. Andre, T&T provided gamers with a rules system evoking the feel of reading a Marvel comic: fast-paced action, interesting character dilemmas, and a proper sense of humor. Dozens of T&T solo adventures have been published over its 40+ year history, exemplifying some of the finest Sword & Sorcery to be found in any RPG. In fact, Buffalo Castle, the first T&T solo adventure created by Rick Loomis, predates the first Choose Your Own Adventure book, establishing T&T as one of the true pioneers of interactive storytelling.

In remastering T&T for digital platforms, we’ve incorporated much of the classic black and white art from the game’s archives. And with our expanded development team, we’ve been able to give this unique art spanning the history of tabletop RPGs the proper framing it deserves. Here’s a quick sneak peek of how we’ll be presenting the art in closed beta:

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Our second project, Cthulhu Chronicles, is also making the leap to the new MetaArcade platform. Created in partnership with our friends at Chaosium, Cthulhu Chronicles is the official Call of Cthulhu interactive fiction game. We’ve aspired to bring H.P. Lovecraft’s universe of cosmic horror, the Cthulhu Mythos, to life through adventures comprising both remastered Chaosium CoC modules and new works of our own. Cthulhu Chronicles places characters in a universe where otherworldy terrors lurk just outside our awareness. The existential dread reflected in Lovecraft’s original writing and the CoC RPG is often too much for our fragile player characters to fully comprehend, and as they learn more about the Mythos, they struggle to retain their sanity.

Call of Cthulhu and Lovecraft’s writings are set in 1920s America. So for our original Cthulhu Chronicles release on iOS and Android, we used a combination of Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu art and an array of public domain photos reflecting life in that era. And while players loved the immersion the art provided, we felt it was appropriate to create one coherent art style across the various sources we used. Here’s a quick look of some “before” and “after” images, showing some of the art as it originally appeared in Cthulhu Chronicles alongside the treatment we’re giving it for the new platform.

Today we’re excited to announce our newest universe: Old Roads. We at MetaArcade have been intrigued with the idea of bringing the great mythologies of the world into our interactive storytelling format. Players will walk along the Old Roads, interacting with the folklore of various cultures within a fictionalized version of history, weaving in and out of stories featuring fantastical creatures and ordinary humans alike. In the end, players will make choices and decisions which impact the people around them; the moral of the story—if there is one—is completely up to the player.

Old Roads spans the globe. Our first Old Roads campaign is based on Slavic mythology, and the first adventure arc in our “Tales of Baba Yaga” campaign will be set in a fictional version of old Russia. We’re excited to work with you in the community to take this approach to adapting folklore and mythology across the globe. There are so many roads to travel down, and we can’t wait to walk them with you.

With each of these three universes, we’ve aimed for different balances of narrative vs. game mechanics. Tunnels & Trolls is heavier on the RPG side, with more skill checks and combat as befits its origins. Cthulhu Chronicles is heavier on the storytelling, with a lighter application of game mechanics to let Chaosium’s and Lovecraft’s narrative shine. Old Roads strives for a balance between the two, and as you create your own adventures in these universes, you can feel free to go in whichever direction you choose. We’re keen to hear your thoughts on the various approaches and can’t wait to get all this into your hands!

Of course, the real magic of what we’re aspiring to do at MetaArcade is to let you create your own universes—and that too is a major part of next month’s closed beta. Stay tuned for our next blog, where we’ll share more detail on how you’ll be able to use our tools to create adventures in any universe you choose.

Thanks, and happy delving!

David

Calling All Creators!

Those of you who have been watching MetaArcade closely might have noticed that I’m coming up on three years with the company; we were “born” on February 9, 2016.

Like any startup, we’ve had—and continue to have—great successes and commensurate challenges. And with our three-year anniversary just around the corner, we’re excited to share what we’ve been up to these past few months.

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From the beginning, the vision of MetaArcade has been to empower people to create, publish and monetize their own interactive stories. We started in RPGs because we are passionate RPG players and fans. And that passion for the hobby taught us something very important: RPG players are the best interactive storytellers in the world, as we’ve created, shared, bought and sold interactive narrative for decades in the form of our adventures and campaigns.

As a company, we’ve had great fun and learned a lot from our first two products. With Tunnels & Trolls Adventures, we aimed for an authentic remastering of the iconic tabletop game for digital play. Players loved the dice, the level progression, and the classic solo adventure feel. For Cthulhu Chronicles, we explored new ideas like pre-generated characters and the “wheel of Cthulhu” to let you focus more on the narrative horror of Lovecraft’s universe—in short, we leaned into the idea of an adventure as an interactive story.

Today we’re announcing what’s next. We’ve taken your feedback and the lessons we’ve learned from creating and operating T&T Adventures and Cthulhu Chronicles. Your feedback has shaped what we believe is a truly powerful and complete expression of our vision. And we’re bringing it to you in closed beta next month—February—so we can hear your feedback on this part of the journey. Naturally, it’s very early and a bit raw, but we’re far enough along that we’re ready to hear your thoughts.

We are bringing you the first iteration of our full platform, and it is called, simply, MetaArcade.

Part of what we’ve realized by developing, launching and operating two games is that, at the end of the day, the MetaArcade vision isn’t about making games per se.

It’s about building the platform where all of us, and all of our friends, can play every adventure ever written by anyone. For any RPG system, and ultimately any story in any genre of fiction, in a satisfyingly interactive game. For any player at any time, regardless of whether they are new or veterans. Without having to learn a bunch of different rule systems.

Let’s learn the stories of each adventure in every campaign for every RPG, including ones we created and our friends created. If we want to learn more about the specific mechanics of what makes a game special, we can go get the tabletop game. MetaArcade will be the place where you can discover, play, create and share any adventure you can think of.

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Here's some of what’s new in MetaArcade:

  • All universes will exist in one app. When we launch closed beta next month, you’ll find some Tunnels & Trolls, some Cthulhu Chronicles, and a little of a new universe we’ve created ourselves. And we’ll grow from there—both with other universes we partner with, adventures you create in those universes, and new universes you create.

  • Adventures will be monetized with a ‘premium content’ approach rather than a ‘free to play’ approach. In plain language, you’ll charge prices for your adventures in simple currencies, and players who purchase will own them outright forever. This is how RPG players have been buying adventures on pen and paper for decades, and it’s how we conduct PDF purchases now.

  • The platform will be on PC and mobile. After all, you may want to play on mobile and then create on a computer. We’re adding unified accounts so your content will be available to you across devices—play on your computer or your phone as you prefer, and all your content will always be available on any device.

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There’s a lot more detail to share, and a few surprises we still have in store. We’ll update you here in the MetaArcade blog every week until closed beta kicks off in February. If you’re keen to get a little closer to the metal, drop us an email to AskMetaArcade@MetaArcade.com and you can also join MetaArcade’s public Discord Channel to get even closer to the action by visiting this link: http://bit.ly/MetaArcade_Discord. The entire team hangs out together and we’ve got a great community who can answer any of your questions! Well, any questions that aren’t breaking an NDA that may or may not exist. 😉

Thanks for your support and feedback thus far. It means the world to us, and we are looking forward to taking the next step with you.

Stay tuned and Happy Delving!

David