6Quest and the Hungarian Gamebook Scene

6quest

6Quest is Hungarian interactive fiction based on a gamebook series. The creators are currently running a Kickstarter to have the app translated into English for a wider audience.

I was able to find this list of Hungarian gamebooks by Demian Katz, but I’m not even able to translate the titles, so I don’t have a huge amount to go on. So I asked Paul Muranyi to tell me a little more of the history of gamebooks in Hungary, as well as the current scene and their project.

Paul: For first you have to see that Hungary is a pretty small country, with under 10M people. Until 1989 it was under a communist regime, and no type of IF has been released.

After the end of the regime in ’89, small groups of geeks started roleplaying, (mostly D&D) and they started creating gamebooks as well. The most notable person of the early ’90s was Miklos Tihor, who created very casual fantasy gamebooks like “A sárkány háborúja” (War of the Dragon) and “Kard és Mágia” (Sword & Sorcery)

Meanwhile a Hungarian book publisher “Rakéta” (Rocket) purchased rights for the Fighting Fantasy series, and it became a brand known nation-wide as “Kaland, Játék, Kockázat” (“~ Adventure, Game, Risk”). They released about 15 titles until 2000 (starting with the Firetop Mountain) until they went bankrupt.

The role-playing and fantasy hobbists’ number grew rapidly in the ’90s, and a few companies started to publish original RPG systems, along with fantasy and science fiction novels and interactive gamebooks. As far as I know these were all in the fantasy genre.

Also in the ’90s, from ’94-99 there was a series of electronic gamebooks: Revenge on School, Revenge on Army and Revenge on Police. These are vulgar and violent anti-authority stories, with a focus on crude humor, created for fun by the same guy. They had an extremly simplistic design, but were popular among teenagers and shared on floppy disks.

Meanwhile a speculative fiction publisher, Cherubion started a huge series of fantasy IF gamebooks “Harcos Képzelet” (“~Fighter Fantasy”). There were 58 gamebooks published in this series. To be honest, most of them were low-quality products, but they still had their charm, and had a complex game system compared to fighting fantasy titles which made them popular. As far as I know, this series is still in print by Delta Vision. (Starting with the ‘2000s the Hungarian speculative fiction market slowly but gradually got absorbed by a single publisher, Delta Vision. )

Around 2000, other book publishers also found the potential in interactive fiction, so a few non-fantasy gamebooks have been published. These were sometimes trying to explore new concepts. I can remember only one title “Cigánylabirintus” (Gipsy Labyrinth). This is a story about a young gipsy boy, who is just out of orphanage, and goes into the infamous district of Budapest, the 8. District, trying to make ends meet as a member of a minority.

Apart from these there were only some other marginal non-fantasy speculative fiction gamebooks, mostly in sci-fi and cyberpunk genre – no well-known titles spring to mind at the moment. 

The online scene remained undeveloped, consisting mostly of copies and digitalizations of the old printed books, and a few fan made stories. Only one notable exception springs to mind “A bizonytalanság börtönében” (In the prison of uncertainty) which is a self published interactive fiction book, without a deeper game system.

In 2013 we started the 6Quest project, and in 2014-15 it became the most popular IF in our country. Since we got lot of positive feedback from our players, we decided to translate these books to English – and finally to try our luck with Kickstarter. We implemented many features (timed challenges, dialogue systems, moral choice systems etc.) which the paperback format would not allow, and also tried to experiment with more diverse settings and themes (stories without fighting, adult oriented themes, gender equality) as well.

Me: Since your project builds on what was present in the Hungarian-language gamebooks, are you going to release a Hungarian localization of it as well?

Paul: Actually our game is a translation of the Hungarian version. That’s why we started a Kickstarter campaign – we have more than 600.000 words of original interactive fiction in Hungarian language – but have no money to translate the all of them to English. (The address of the Hungarian localization is: http://hu.6quest.com – we already have more than 15.000 players in Hungary)

Me: When you say “moral choice systems”, is this tracking player morality using hidden stats? or something else?

Paul: Our gamebooks has a complex gaming layer, that tracks all decisions in a form of hidden stats. Most of our stories has multiple endings, and the difference is often based on the morality of the choices you have made during the story. For example in the “Crossroads of Destiny” you can fight against the slavery of the dictatoric empire, or not, and in the end your decisions differs – you can be the dictator’s wife and a sinister force behind him (if you were cruel and pro-slavery), or can change the empire’s dictatoric regime to a more democratic state, where are no slaves anymore. Same goes in the Massacre as well – if you go on the easier way, and torture your enemies for information, in the end, you became a mad demonic entity who is an outcast by his own tribe.

2 thoughts on “6Quest and the Hungarian Gamebook Scene

  1. Yes, gamebooks were popular here in Hungary, but Hungarian parser based interactive fiction ended with the C64 era. Nobody could reivive them since the end of C64. Anyway, the writer of Revenge on series, is now a radical political performer, arrested countless times, and infamous person with high level of aggressivity. His name is Tomcat (Polgár Tamás). Nice review, anyway. I haven’t ever heard 6quest, but I’ll check this soon…

  2. Really exciting to hear about IF being created in other languages and cultures and therefore different political constructs. I write IF for kids and have strict self imposed rules about violence. I don’t want to be preachy or moralising but I do like to try and consider alternative cultures and tech and the consequence of choice – not jousting the player but of the world the story occurs in. Reading this I’m inspired to write more stories set in my home country (New Zealand) and try to capture more about the bicultural experience.

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