The Thirty-Nine Steps uses John Buchan’s original text as its framework to bring the story to life, mixing on-screen text with multimedia fragments, such as images, audio and video. It also has an array of intuitive interactive elements (Story Mechanics), that are used to give the player control over the story, so no player experience will ever be exactly the same.
The product is also being built using the Unity 3D engine, which is allowing the creation of over 200 ultra-high definition locations with real-time visual FX. On their journey, players will be infused with the story world, where they can explore key locations and examine objects, they will also collect items and gain awards according to their progress and play style. The development is supported by Creative Scotland.
The Thirty Nine Steps announce a special contest that allows a limited number of lucky fans to see their name appearing in the project. Entering the contest is easy, it just requires a post on Twitter (@storymechanics) or Facebook (Digital Adaptations), using the hashtags #39steps and #digitaladaptations.
The Story Mechanic’s creative mastermind, Executive Producer and Lead Developer Simon Meek today also allows some more insights into the games actual genre, being somewhere between video games and a classic reading experience:
“What we’re making is a version of a story that immerses the audience in the world in which it is set – allowing the audience to see, hear and feel the world that the narrative exists in. The audience can explore tangents, but the driving factor in the experience is the story and its progression and route from beginning to end is not dictated or derailed by any gaming skill”, explains Simon Meek.
In other words: The Thirty Nine Steps will be read and experienced, but doesn’t force anyone to solve puzzles or prove any other skills. The digital adaptation of The Thirty Nine Steps allows to experience the story by taking the core text and interpreting the words in a multi-sensory way. “We use words when words work best, and audio and visuals when they are based in a storytelling mechanism”, explains Simon Meek.
Speaking of storytelling mechanisms: This is where developer The Story Mechanics uses classic gaming mechanisms, but without turning The Thirty Nine Steps into a game. While progressing through the story, users will face these mandatory and optional mechanics:
- Events (mandatory story mechanic): The whole story is split into events, allowing to separate the core story from additional story elements that can be consumed optionally, or skipped. Created from locations and scenes, these events are arranged into an event tree, occasionally allowing choices in the event consumption, such as an alternative order of events. Still, users will be consuming the original story of The Thirty Nine Steps, without any alteration (e.g. Hollywood would require to make a story work on the big screen).
- Progress (mandatory story mechanic): The fundamental methodology and core-experience is the progress. Here, the user is in control of the flow of media – a combination of text, image, audio, video. This mechanic makes use of HD environments in 3D space, with real-time vfx and originally composed atmos. The story is projected on these canvases – telling the story “from inside out”.
- Encounter (mandatory and optional story mechanic): All dialogue elements in the core story-text are treated as theatrical performances, using professional, well-known voice actors (such as Nick Underwood, Greg Hemphill, Robin Laing and Benny Young). Characters, though, are purposely abstracted. There is an inbuilt scope for interaction through questions that occour in the dialogue – where multiple questions are used to explore non-core narrative.
- Recall (mandatory story mechanic): Recall offers a different visual experience that is tied into the media of the era the story is told. These sections relate to times in which characters tell stories about themselves – effectively creating a “story in a story”. These sections allow to play around with different styles – in terms of The Thirty Nine Steps, this can mean, 1914-typical silhouette plays are used to depict a sequence.
- Control (mandatory and optional story mechanic): Users will be put in the position of a character, and use gesture controls to maneuver around.
- Discover (optional story mechanic): This option allows the user to mine the story for more information on themes that have been raised in the core narrative.
- Explore (optional story mechanic): Environments are very important – the explore mechanic allows the player to delve deeper into these locations and find their secrets – story information that has often been alluded to in the core text, but also experiencing elements of the world in which the story is set and letting the story breathe.
- Examine (optional story mechanic): Stories use objects and items to impart valuable information. This will be recreated using highly detailed renderings of the objects described in the text, allowing to consume even more details and background information on, for example, a setting. A typical object that can be examined could be a newspaper, for example, when mentioned in the text.
Well-known Scottish theatre actors and TV celebrities, including Nick Underwood, Georg Hemphill, Robin Laing and Benny Young, will lend their voices to Buchan’s characters in this digital adaptation for PC, Mac and iPad, which uses the original book text as its framework, mixing it with multimedia fragments, such as images, audio and video, and interactive elements.
Nick Underwood, well-known from Coronation Street, Hollyoaks and Emerdale, as well as radio and theatre appearances, will be starring as protagonist Richard Hannay. Other famous names in the cast list are Greg Hemphill, known from the sitcom “Still Game”, Robin Laing, Benny Young (both acting in BBC’s drama “Garrow’s Law”) and Scottish theatre actor Mark McDonnell.
Written by John Buchan and originally published in 1915, the novel The Thirty-Nine Steps is one of Britain’s first spy thrillers and is termed a classic of literature. It gained worldwide fame in 1935 when the book was adapted by visionary film-maker Alfred Hitchcock.
In The Thirty-Nine Steps, Richard Hannay acts as protagonist and narrator. One day, Franklin P. Scudder turns up at Hannay’s London flat, desperately looking for a hideout. Scudder reveals to Hannay that he actually is a spy and discovered a political plot involving Britain, Germany, and Greece, for the outbreak of a war.
A few days later, Hannay finds Scudder murdered in his flat – and now has to flee from the police as well as Scudder’s pursuers. Hannay eventually decides to continue Scudder’s work, decipher his legacy and try to alert the politicians. There are just three weeks left, in which Hannay needs to escape his foes, survive and find someone who is listening to him and his apparently ridiculous story…
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