Monday, November 26, 2012

There Are More Kickstarters in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, Than Are Dreamt of in Your Philosophy

Hey, here's something I haven't plugged yet!

Ryan North has created To Be Or Not To Be, a new Kickstarter for a choose-your-own-adventure-style gamebook that allows you to play through the story of Hamlet. This combines many of my favorite things into one delicious package:
* The comedy stylings of Ryan North, as exemplified through projects such as Dino Comics and B^F.
* The dramatic stylings of Shakespeare, and specifically, my favorite play from The Bard.
* Humorous japes at honored literary institutions (see also: Bored of the Rings, Fool)
* Text adventures
* Choose-your-own-adventure books
* The artistry of Kate Beaton!
* The artistry of Jeffrey Rowland!
* The artistry of Randall Munroe!
* The artistry of Andrew Hussie!
* The artistry of Anthony Clark!
* The artistry of Chris Hastings!
* The artistry of David Malki!
* The artistry of Jess Fink! (Link NSFW!)
* The artistry of KC Green!
* The artistry of Matthew Inman! (Wow... while typing out this list, I'm belatedly realizing how much I missed when collating my earlier list of webcomics artists I enjoy, if more occasionally than I would like.)
* Sword fights!
* Kickstarter projects

Ryan has already written the book, so the funds are all going to making as great a package as possible. It raised his goal in just over THREE HOURS, and since then has grown more than tenfold. We have now funded full illustrations for all of the hundred-plus deaths in the book, a prequel mini-adventure (Poor Yorick!), multiple free ebooks of Dino Comics collections, a promise at a sequel (no decision yet as to what, although the comments have been cheerfully agitating for a comedy like Measure For Measure or As You Like It), a sweet multi-partite bookmark perfect for maintaining multiple states within the book, etc. And so far the project hasn't shown much sign of slowing down, so more rewards are getting added and knocked away quickly.

I really like the direction he's taking the project. It's very funny, of course. The setting is grounded in Shakespeare's story, and if you want to, you can play the story through to its original conclusion (though, as he notes, he WON'T skip the pirate fight, and also, the original ending is kind of a bummer). Much of the book will let you explore alternate approaches and different perspectives, though... you can also play as Ophelia, or as Hamlet Sr. (a g-g-g-g-ghost!) investigating his own death.

The language is... well, it isn't Shakespearean, but I love it. Very in keeping with Ryan's voice, which I enjoy immensely.

If you're at all curious, check it out! The pledges start at just $15, which was originally only for the ebook but is now picking up a bunch of stretch goal bonuses. I'm currently pledged at $20, which gets a nifty printed and signed copy of the book, but I'll probably upgrade at some point so I can take advantage of the new goodies added to higher levels.

One of the nicest aspects of this project that I didn't anticipate (but perhaps should have) is the really cool community that has swiftly sprung up around it. Checking out the comments section always makes me smile. Ryan is definitely encouraging people to participate through the very clever device of letting us make a new choice in the book each time a new fundraising goal is reached, so we're essentially playing it as a group. What's really wonderful, though, is the high quality of contributions. People argue for their idea with passion, cleverness, and/or good humor. I've seen Shakespearean sonnets! Copious references to my best-loved lines from Dino Comics! Heartfelt arguments for extra material focusing on Horatio or Rosencrantz and Guidenstern. Anyways... it's the most activity I've seen on a Kickstarter project since Shadowrun, and I have to say that the value of the average contribution here is quite a bit higher.

In totally unrelated news:

I'm writing this post on board a Southwest Airlines flight from Chicago back to San Francisco. I'm extremely frugal at heart, and this is the first time I've been able to make myself pay the measley five bucks to get online. It's... interesting! This is probably the best example I've seen so far of a high-bandwidth, high-latency connection. Hitting a site like Google News might take over 30 seconds to start loading, but once it does, it all arrives almost instantly. I don't think this would work too well for streaming or stuff, but it's been surprisingly bearable for playing turn-based web games like Fallen London and generally keeping me awake. Definitely worth the five dollars, but keep your expectations low.

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