Interview: Jordan Weisman on Adventure Forge

Colin Campbell, Thursday, June 8th, 2023 5:04 pm

Jordan Weisman, best known for developing the likes of BattleTech and MechWarrior, recently unveiled a new project, called Adventure Forge. It’s a creativity tool that allows users to make their own story-based games, ranging from text adventures to isometric RPGs. GameDaily spoke to Weisman about his new project.

GameDaily: Can you explain Adventure Forge in your own words?

Jordan Weisman: Sure, Our goal with Adventure Forge is to empower people to make games that tell the stories they’ve always wanted to tell. As a narrative game designer for more decades than I want to think about – and I have had the honor to be part of some truly great video games – but some of my most rewarding experiences have been in the tabletop space, where people have taken the worlds that I created and made them their own. They created their own characters, their own adventures and told me their amazing stories.

There’s a passion and creativity to that act of creation, which is so special. Most video games contain a codification that constrains the player’s ability to invent and to create their own stories and worlds. We want them to make games and share them with the people in their lives who are most important to them – their social groups, family and friends. But they can also make games for the whole world, they can publish them, and if they want to they can monetize their creations.

Historically the number of people making narrative games has always been small and not as diverse as it could be. We aim to change that.

GameDaily: How do I, as someone with no coding experience and a lack of artistic talent, go about making a game in Adventure Forge?

Jordan Weisman: It works on a couple of different levels. First, we have the universe level where you establish things like game mechanics, abilities, characters, locations, statistics and so on. Then within that universe, you create adventures, which inherit everything that exists at the universe level.

For a lot of our first time creators, we don’t anticipate them building their own universe. We anticipate them using one of the universes that we’ve created as a starting point. They can get right in and start creating, based on the assets and gameplay logic that’s already there. From there they can branch out and start creating their own settings, characters, stories, and gameplay.

There’s no code. There’s no scripting. Game logic is created via highly contextual drop down menus that allow you to create very sophisticated conditional and outcome logical statements. It’s almost like filling out a form. You want this image to show up, you want this dialog to take place, you want this background displayed, and you want these options to be available to the player.

Adventure Forge contains a large set of tools and templates such as the isometric location tool to design game environments, the 2D interface tool that allows you to create any kind of interface including character sheets, interactive maps, seek and find games, puzzles, etc, the conversation tool for creating multi-character interactive conversations, the page template for writing choose-your-own-path style gameplay. Together they empower designers to create everything from text based interactive fiction, to visual novels, and all the way up to rich isometric RPGs like the Shadowrun games we made at Harebrained Schemes.

GameDaily: What kind of games do you expect to see coming out?

Jordan Weisman: I’m excited to see the innovation that creators will bring to the field of narrative games and to in-game conversation structure. People can fail and iterate so much faster. The cost of failure has traditionally held narrative games back as a genre. This makes it faster and less painful to try things that haven’t been done before and to take bold risks.

And because people are able to publish their own games on our platform – a bit like Roblox or Fortnite Creative – we’ll see the kinds of innovations that make traditional publishers nervous. Creators will be able to find their light, they’ll find their audience, they’ll explore stories that aren’t currently being explored.

Another part of the authoring system that I’m excited about is that you can make changes on the fly. If you’re playing through your game and you want to make a change, you can do that, and it will show up immediately in the game. That’s so important because, as every writer knows, iteration is how you get quality. We want to try to keep that loop as tight as possible.

Also, this isn’t just about a lonely writer sitting in their garrett. You can work collaboratively, almost like a shared Google Doc. You have people with different points of view and different skill sets, combining together to make something. Every change that every player person makes is immediately propagated to all of the collaborators. You jump on Zoom, or Slack and have fun working and creating together in real time.

GameDaily: Who do you see as your target audience?

Jordan Weisman: It’s a wide variety of people. You can look at the kinds of people who enjoy storytelling as part of their gaming experience, like tabletop GMs. People who are currently using other game creation tools, or who enjoy making visual novels. People who like to create fan-fic, which has a great crossover with gaming. We’re making our pitch to anyone who wants to tell stories through games, but who are put off by some of the roadblocks, like trying to publish on Steam, iOS, Android, all of which can be a lot of work. We think we have a great authoring environment, but also a distribution platform that’s fast and easy.

GameDaily: How far are you using AI in Adventure Forge?

Jordan Weisman: We think games are made by humans and for humans. We’re not racing towards AIs telling stories. In the short term we are integrating things that can help accelerate the designers’ work, but give them 100 percent editorial control. We have come up with some contextual prompt systems that help with problems like a blank page. For the Universes that we are creating we are working on isometric prop generators trained on the thousand plus pieces of art that our artists created, so that if a designer needs a prop that we didn’t anticipate they can get one that matches the style of the Universe.

GameDaily: When is Adventure Forge coming out, and how will the revenue split work for monetized games on your platform?

Jordan Weisman: We’ll start inviting people into the beta this fall. We haven’t figured out all the pricing and revenue details yet, but we really want creating and sharing with Adventure Forge to be emotionally and economically rewarding. The Adventure Forge authoring tools will be released for Windows and Mac, and the player client on Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android.

Colin Campbell

Colin Campbell has been reporting on the gaming industry for more than three decades, including for Polygon, IGN, The Guardian, Next Generation, and The Economist. © 2024 | All Rights Reserved.