Over the past three years or so since I first published my “Take Pride in your eBook Formatting” series of tutorials here on the site, a lot of people have asked if I would make the tutorials available as an eBook as well. For a number of reasons I never created an eBook on the subject, in part because I simply could not spare the time to put it together. If I wanted to release something like this as an eBook it would clearly have to be cleaned up and expanded upon in order to warrant any sort of price tag attached to it.

Well, over the past few weeks I took a look at the tutorials again and I have finally decided to create an eBook on the subject of eBook formatting. Since my tutorial series has become the de facto standard in the industry and is being used by countless authors to prepare their books for the market, I felt it was finally time to take it to the next level.

As I pointed out above, creating a mere reprint of the blog tutorials is not at all what I have in mind. Instead I have spend these past weeks reworking the instructions to give the entire process a clearer structure, but also to add many of the topics and elements that I did not touch upon in these tutorials. The tutorials were designed, really, to get people started, but with a book I feel it requires a lot more in-depth information to be of any value at all. It needs to be more complete, and as a result, the book will consist of a section with basic techniques that will get you to your first eBook, much the way the tutorials did, but in addition, the book will contain a section with advanced techniques in which I will describe how to achieve certain effects and how to handle certain formatting challenges that pop up every day, but require a bit more explanation and additional skill. Naturally, I am trying to keep it very accessible still to ensure readers can easily follow the instructions and examples.

Over the years I have seen many blogs that touch upon the subject of eBook formatting and some of the posts I came across were frightening—in the sense that they promoted techniques that are highly unsafe. While they achieved the goal for that particular individual, oftentimes the approach was nothing short of reckless, using very specific device capabilities without pointing out to the user that this behavior is not supported by other devices or that it can actually create unexpected behavior and lead to page corruption. Clearly, these authors never had the time to fully explore the techniques they were proposing, or didn’t have the foresight that their suggestion could create more problems than they actually solved.

In my book I have maintained my long-held stance that eBook compatibility is one of the highest priorities. The goal is to create eBooks that look good on any reader out there, whether it is a tiny cell phone or a large desktop computer. I am a professional eBook formatter (Click here for more information if you are interested in my services) and I have prepared more than 700 books for release in the market, by an enormously wide range of authors and styles. Of these 700 books not a single one has been known to cause formatting problems, clearly showing that with insight and forethought, it is possible to create eBooks that are compatible even in a market as fragmented as eBooks.

I am sure it won’t surprise you that many of the techniques outlined in my book will cover the subject of eBook formatting from that angle, offering up safe solutions, or, where no safe solutions are available, at least pointing out the risks and challenges and how they can be minimized by the formatter.

Filled with tips, tricks, techniques, examples, screenshots and plenty of code, the book will hopefully become a one-stop solution for all authors who want to dive in to the technical side of their eBook projects.


Would you like to use my services?

Need help with an eBook project? Check here for more information.

Do you need a cover for your book? Check here for more information.

In need of an author website or blog? Email me at for more information.

We are heading into year six of the digital book revolution and while there have been tremendous advancements in the sector, one thing has not changed a bit. There still is no magic bullet for eBook formatting. It’s not even anywhere on the horizon.

Dragonlance1In a time where eBook readers have become increasingly powerful and capable, and where more authors than ever put their content out in the market, one would think that formatting manuscripts to publish them as eBooks should be as trivial as exporting them from a word processor, but alas, that is not the case. Whether it’s releases from small indie authors or titles from major publishers, I continued to stumble across eBooks that are shoddy at best. Just a few months ago I was re-reading the Dragonlance Chronicles by Hickman/Weiss—a staple of high fantasy literature that has been in print for 30 years now, and yet, the eBook versions are an abomination in many ways. While it is evident that some work went into the books, they are nonetheless riddled with formatting errors that clearly show that no one at Wizards of the Coast took a single look at the books once they were formatted, let away read them before they went out the virtual door.

Is that truly the promise of the digital age? That we have to content ourselves with mediocre quality and sloppy presentations? It is just because it’s easy and cheap to produce and anyone with a computer can do it? Or is it because price points have come down so much, resulting in content creators and publishers no longer caring about the products the way they used to, because it’s all considered shovelware, anyway?

I’ve said it many times, but it is well worth repeating. The formatting of your eBook is every bit as important as your cover and your story. If your book becomes unreadable because line breaks are mutilated, margins jump all over the place, fonts get butchered, graphics become indistinguishable or errant page breaks destroy the flow, you are in trouble. I have put aside more than a handful of books after a few chapters because I found the reading experience too egregious — and I am sure that I am not the only one. (I remember vividly, the first one this ever happened to me was Charlie Courtland’s “Dandelions in the Garden,” for which I paid $9.99 on the Kindle and had to put down after two chapters because every single page was riddled with a multitude of typos, grammatical errors and formatting flaws-all of which the author herself considered a matter of personal taste and absolutely acceptable.)

Sure, the temptation is enormous as a writer. You have finally completed your book after a year’s worth of writing and—hopefully—tweaking, and without a publisher to hold you back for another year, you are eager to put your work out in the market, in the hands of readers. Nothing wrong with that. The problem really starts when you believe that the “Export as ePub” function in your word processor is your road to an instant release.

Kitt PirateWord processors are a great piece of software, but they are designed to write text and to do a bit of layout work, perhaps. All of it with your computer screen or a printed page in mind. Absolutely nothing in a word processor is designed for the requirements of eBooks. The famed “Export as ePub” function was nothing but an afterthought in that software, that has been included because someone thought it may help sell a few extra copies of the word processor or entice the growing army of aspiring digital authors to finally upgrade their software package.
eBooks have very specific requirements, capabilities and limitations, and they are not adequately represented by word processors. Things that look right on the screen or the printed page may not work the same way on an eBook reader.

While it is possible to create a good eBook with a word processor, it requires intimate familiarity with the software’s features. If, for example, you do not know what the difference between a soft and a hard line break is, let away how to create each, or if you do not know how to properly space text and paragraphs, the odds are, you won’t be able to create a solid eBook output. If you’re not familiar with your word processor’s style functions and are not religiously and obsessively using them, or if you do not know how to properly create an automatic bulleted list in your word processor, chances are that you are not ready to export your manuscript as an eBook using the “Export as ePub” feature. The list goes on like this.

I am not here to make you feel bad, because considering how complex word processors are these days, few of us truly master the software. But that’s not the point. You don’t have to, if you’re a writer. Your job is to write a cool story, pack it all up nicely in a suspenseful and engaging way that keeps readers glued to your words. Making sure it fits the technical limitations of an eBook reader is someone else’s job. Or rather, it should be. Someone with an understanding of the technical side of things, and with the ability to whip your writing into such shape that it works on any device. It’s a specialized field of expertise where the experience you purchase will save you countless hours of headache and will protect you from having to deal with potentially countless upset readers and customers.

It may be fulfilling to see your complex layout with text flowing around images and wonderfully elaborate drop cap initials on your iPad after exporting it as an ePub file from your word processor, but have you ever wondered, what the book may look like on another device? An early-generation Kindle, a Nook, perhaps, or the Kobo reader? What about a tiny cell phone or a retina computer retina display? Not all devices that people read your books on are equal. There are huge gaps in capabilities between various devices, and your software exporter cannot—and will not—accommodate them. It won’t even try. It will try to create what the programmer who wrote it deemed best, even if it means that in the real world you are leaving 90% of the market by the roadside.

Even within device families there are enormous capability differences. The Kindles, for example, by far the most popular eBook readers, range from a device that is barely capable of displaying an image (Kindle 1) to a full-blown tablet that can do virtually anything, including play games. Most Kindle devices have serious glitches and firmware bugs that got progressively worse with each generation. I made a blog post about the subject three years ago and it is frightening to see that Amazon never addressed as single one of these “10 Things Amazon should correct in the Kindle”. So, when you format an eBook, you definitely need to be mindful of these differences and idiosyncrasies at all times.

But back to even the general capabilities. Amazon for all the great stuff they’ve been doing for the eBook revolution, has completely dropped the ball on various fronts over the past years, clearly indicating that the company simply looks forward without ever trying to patch up previous mistakes. As a result there is no easy way to bridge these different capabilities in any workable way.

Ideally you would want the ability to create dedicated eBooks for devices with different capabilities, but sadly Amazon and every other distribution outlet does not allow for that. You have to have one build of your book that serves all devices. While Amazon allows a bit of conditional formatting, it is in reality very basic stuff that is so rudimental that it is mostly useless. Therefore you are forced to build your eBooks for a common denominator and you have to make sure it will work on all the devices out there.

No “Export to ePub” feature does that, which brings us back to the point that you should work with people who specialize on that kind of thing. As you may know, I have written an extensive eBook formatting tutorial some time ago, and I am offering eBook and print formatting as services. The truly amazing thing about the tutorial is that over time it has become the de facto standard for the industry and that that even now, four years after I wrote it, it is still valid and applicable in every single aspect. In a world where technology moves at such a rapid pace, it is clearly a testimony to the quality of the underlying fundamentals of the tutorial. Every book formatted following the tutorial still works on every device out there, and it is still the same general process I apply when formatting my clients’ eBooks.

On the IslandIf you would rather focus on your writing and leave the technical aspects of your ebooks to people like me, feel free to send me an email. I have formatted over 700 books, all of which are available in eBook stores worldwide, and many of them are full blown bestsellers selling hundreds of thousands of copies. And among these roughly 700 books, not a single one has caused any problems in the past!

If you want to make sure your readers are happy with the eBook you sold them, and if you want to make sure the books won’t be returned because of weird glitches or formatting errors, feel free to take a look at this page where I am outlining my services and my fees. I am happy to work with all sorts of authors and publishers, big and small, to make sure they can publish their books with confidence.

Forget about the promises of a magic bullet. It does not exist. Instead, take the proper steps to ensure the quality of your eBook from the inside out.

For more information and professional tips and tricks, please make sure to also check out my new book Zen of eBook Formatting, which is now available on Amazon.

Look what I found…

While I was going through materials and documents I just stumbled across this 1999 interview with GameWeek Magazine. The magazine is no longer around and folded in 2002.

It’s a bit of nostalgia and one of the interviews I like and remember most coming out of my “Planescape: Torment” era. Since many of you may never have seen this, or may not remember, I thought I’d post this little gem for you.



Click on the image for an enlarged version

It’s always fun to find little things like this one somewhere in your stash. I hope you will enjoy the read.

The Deathfire Kickstarter is live!

If you’ve been following the development of my current game project, “Deathfire: Ruins of Nethermore,” you may be aware of the fact that we are currently trying to find this project on Kickstarter.

Here is a short trailer for the game, which taken from the full Kickstarter pitch video. Check it out and see if this is something you like.

So far we’ve already raised almost $40k, but it will be a long, hard way to the end, to get the full funding in place for the game, which is necessary to make the Kickstarter succeed.

Fortunately, you can help – even if you’re not into games and even if you don’t care for this one in particular perhaps. Why? Because your friends, relatives or acquaintances might be interested, and all I would ask of you is to share the good news. And to make it really easy for you, I have even prepared a couple of buttons, so that with three simple clicks, you can do a tremendously good deed and support our efforts. Just click on the link below, if you would,and my eternal thanks will be guaranteed. not to mention that your karma will go through the roof!

deathfiregame.com/ks/share/Share.html

As you may recall, “Deathfire: Ruins of Nethermore” is a single-player party-based fantasy role-playing game that combines deep characters and solid storytelling with turn-based combat. One of the really cool things about the project is that we have a great team, consisting of people I have known and worked over the past 25 years or so. Some of our team members go back with me as far as “Shadows over Riva.” How cool is that?

It is a fun project to develop, and we’re trying to make something that truly harkens back to the traditional role-playing games of the Golden Era, when we all glued to our screens playing “Realms of Arkania,” “Wizardry,” “Might&Magic” or “Dungeon Master” and such. Creating the same kind of depth and attachment, but wrapping it in new technology and a beautiful visual presentation, we hope that “Deathfire” will truly speak to people who love classic role-playing games. After all, it’s what we know how to do best.

The Deathfire Development Diary has moved

I know that I have been remiss on this, and I apologize, but we opened the official website for my current game project “Deathfire: Ruins of Nethermore” a little while ago and have transferred all the Development Diary entries over there. Instead of updating both blogs constantly, I think I will stop posting these updates here and will do them on the official site instead.

In case you missed the past update, we released a series of screenshots recently, showing some of the interiors of one of the game’s dungeons. You can find the post here, complete with a bit more background information.

Today, I have also posted a new Development Diary update, talking briefly about a number of new members who have joined the “Deathfire” team recently. Make sure to stop by and check it out, because the post also sports two new screenshots showing off some of the improvements we have been working on in the past weeks, to increase the visual impact and atmosphere of our scenery in Unity.

While venturing through the catacombs somewhere in the depths of the Ruins of Nethermore the other day, we stumbled across a strange set of notes. They seem to be coming from the pages of a diary. In fact, someone suggested, they might be a diary entry from the great elven wizard Tesselar.

Tesselar

Long and heated discussion broke out over this suggestion here in our offices, but the more we did our research, the more it became evident, that the handwriting does indeed seem to match that of the legendary Tesselar. We also discovered hints in various reports that the elusive wizard-who-walks-the-ages has been seen approaching the Nethermore Mountains some weeks past, shortly after the initial outbreak of the undead plague. Tesselar’s appearance is significant, of course, in many ways, because the wizard magister had not been seen for many years prior, and the only explanation for his presence in the Nethermore region is that he has been following the same goal as ours… to find the source and stop the horrors of the walking dead, just as these mysterious notes indicate.

You are skeptical? Well then, read for yourself…

Tesselar's Diary

Earlier today, I reached an intersection in the tunnels deep beneath the Nethermore Mountains. The stench that lay heavy in the air down here was so overpowering that my knees began to buckle. I had to lean heavily on my staff as bile rose in the back of my throat, triggered by the stench of decay and rot that surrounded me. I was wrestling with the many emotions that flooded over me at the sight that lay before me. So bizarre was it that I have to commit it to paper in detail. No part of it must be lost or forgotten. For some reason, I have a sense that what I’ve been looking at is more important than it may seem just now, and I may need to rely on my notes at some later point.

The path before me was rough. Here, deep beneath the Earth, the bedrock had chiseled its own path, the force and sheer weight of tons of granite forcing itself between the old walls of the catacombs, creating deep rifts, and cracking the overhead structures with ease. I was surrounded by silence, except for reluctant drops of water that echoed in the distance as they dripped to the ground. The soft, shimmering light from my staff struggled to penetrate the darkness before me.

The peaceful silence was deceiving, for I was surrounded by at least one dozen animal carcasses; cadavers that appeared to be clawing at each other even in the moment of death that had caught up with them no more than two days ago. Reluctantly, I stepped toward the rotting flesh, careful not to trip on the brittle ground. Wet and black from the sewage and blood, my rope was steeped up to my ankles. As I looked closer, the light of my staff revealed that these were no animals. At least not ordinary animals. Their rat-like bodies were decidedly humanoid and must have been at least as tall as a man. The cadavers were clad in armor and carried weapons, as far as I could tell from their shredded remains.

As my gaze roved across the floor I noticed another dead creature among them. Amongst the rat-like warriors lay slender, insect-like body parts, their severed heads staring at me with dully facetted, expressionless black eyes. What a massacre… what rage… not a single victim that was left intact.

But then, from the corner of my eyes I noticed a single rat, somewhat separated from the others. Lying partially obscured in the shadows, this one was not humanoid, but instead it was enormous… easily the size of a fully grown Worg. The animal had deep cuts on its head and hideous lacerations along its flanks – wounds far beyond anything that healing powers could salvage, and yet, a last dying spark of life was still glimmering in the eyes of this animal.

I took another step closer and slowly reached out my hand. I could sense the animal’s wealth of emotions. This was clearly no ordinary animal. Its sense of sadness swept over me, so profound that it threatened to bring tears to my eyes. I felt its exhaustion from the battle and the deathly wounds. It was intelligent… comparable to the mind of a child, perhaps, but intelligent nonetheless. And it was dreaming… the feverish hallucinations of a life dwindling away with every heartbeat.

I had to know what had happened here! Especially in light of the fact that I have to continue on this path through these very catacombs. I gently place my hand on the animal’s matted fur, right between its dimming eyes. Only barely did I register the saddle on the animal’s back at that point, because already, its confused memories that wound their way through its dying mind began to appear before my own mind’s eye.

Rat

Giant rats were battling in the ruined halls of some ancient temple. Side by side with their humanoid, armor-clad brethren, the giant rats fought with the desperate ferocity of cornered animals, as wave after wave of their opponents broke upon them. Humans! The images I saw were blurred and out of focus, and I felt the animal was passing quickly now, its heartbeat already slowing to a crawl. Among the carnage I witnessed an opponent’s torso being ripped to pieces, its human body crashing lifelessly to the ground. As it lay there in rivulets of crimson blood, it began to regenerate itself and the corpse rose yet again to continue the fight. As more and more rats fell, the odds became overwhelming, and before this horde of relentless, undead warriors, the surviving rats eventually fled into bottomless pits and uncharted sewer channels to escape the bloodshed.

That is where it all started, I realized! The undead flood. The walking dead. The ancient temple ruins. This is where I will have to go!

Another image appeared before my mind’s eye just then, of another battleground. Dank cave tunnels this time. The rats were tangled up in fighting yet again, only this time without their humanoid brethren by their sides. An emotion came with the vision of the battle scene, a different sensation… hunger. The rats were starving. I witnessed as flitting images of eggs danced before my eyes. Food for the rats, much of the shells cracked and empty. Food aplenty. And there were flashes of weapons! Guards! A number of insectoid creatures, heavily armored in their chitin shells, were pummeling the rats, slowly driving them back, away from the eggs. A froth of saliva shot from the insect creatures’ mouths like projectiles, as they poisoned the rats, paralyzing them and finally capturing them as they lay helplessly on the floor.

As I tried to piece together the fragmented vision that had spun through my mind, it appeared to me that the rats must have been pillaging an insectoid nest for food, when they were surprised by guards defending the nesting grounds.

The rat twitched under my touch, as its heartbeat became irregular. A last series of images flashed before me. The giant rat was fighting once again, but a strange red color tinges everything this time. I recognized the surroundings, the fight was taking place right where I stood… in these primordial catacombs… this very place… but there was more. In horror I observed that the rat was fighting its own humanoid brethren! Movement in the corner of my vision caught my attention and I was able to see her companions, fellow giant rats with fiercely glowing red eyes. Rats with saddles fastened on their backs, carrying the chitin monsters as they sliced the wooden pole arms of the humanoid rats with razor sharp claws. The humanoid rats were fighting back with a vengeance, but their expressions were unmistakable. They were horrified and stunned by the fact that they were facing their own kin in battle.

Insectoids fell dead from their saddled thrones in the slaughter, but driven by some emotionless impetus, the giant rats continued to fight their own brethren tooth and nail. With sharp claws they pulled the humanoid rats to the ground, then ripped their throats with blood-stained teeth. All the while, their brethren fought back vehemently, piercing their attackers’ lungs and stabbing them to death with daggers made from bones. The massacre ended when all humanoid rats lay dead, when most of the chitin monsters had ceased to breathe. The few who lived moved on, down the tunnel to nurse their wounds. Only this lone rat remained, dying…

When the last of its life ebbed from the rat’s body and its skull slowly grew cold under my touch, the enormity of what I had just witnessed jerked me back to my senses. The path that lies ahead of me had just become a whole lot more challenging, for now I know that there is not only the plague of the undead to deal with. The dark tunnels ahead of me hold promise of a violent conflict between two different races. A conflict I do not wish to be dragged into. But I realize that, in time, my hand will be forced and I will have to choose. But what choice will it be?

A few weeks ago we ran a small focus group among Deathfire fans, as you may remember. Many of you have been eager to hear about the results of this focus group and as I had promised, today I want to share with you a closer look at the outcome.

The focus group was designed to help us find a final name for the game. Deathfire has always been a spur-of-the-moment kind of name that we used as a project title for lack of a better alternative. In the time leading up to the focus group, we made lists of other titles that we liked, and began whittling them down. We voted over and over again to slim down the selections, and to get something that we felt represented the game the best.

Then we put together a series of questions that would allow us to gauge people’s response to certain keywords and names we had on our ultimate shortlist. And that is how we entered the focus group…

We asked people to give us impressions on titles such as Deathfire, Nethermancer, Endergast, Realms of the Beyond and Ruins of Nethermore without giving them any explanation what these words might mean in the context of a game. We simply wanted to get people’s reactions and thoughts on those words. The responses were very interesting and, in many ways, reflected our own impressions. But there were also some interesting and unexpected trends evident. For many, for example, “Deathfire” indicated a game that did not sound like a role-playing game at all. We had not expected that, but what was uniquely striking was the fact that almost everyone associated this particular title with an action-oriented game.

In the case of “Nethermancer” many of the participants felt the dark vibe this title gave off. Although many did not know exactly what a Nethermancer is, everyone understood that this is about very dark magic, automatically implying that magic would be the main focus of the game.

“Endergast” was an interesting one. It is the name of one of the villains in the game and we felt the name simply has a certain ring, even if it did not have a meaning per se. Most of the participants did not know what to make of it and responses were all over the place, as people drew from names that were familiar to them and remotely reminded them of the name. This often resulted in associations that had absolutely nothing to do with the game we are actually trying to make.

“Realms of the Beyond” also created associations that went beyond what we are making with the game, obviously giving participants an impression of a plane walker who travels different universes. In addition, it gave participants a sense of an epic adventure, of many worlds and mystical realms to be explored. Not quite what our game is, altogether.

The last option we explored was “Ruins of Nethermore” and, much as expected, it instantly created a classic RPG vibe with most participants. However, exact details fell into two ranks, essentially. One group consistently commented that they would expect a traditional dungeon crawler when they heard of a game with such a title, while the other group referred almost in unison about a mysterious city, lost civilizations and cultures, curses, magic wars and undead remnants. While neither exactly hit the nerve of what we’re doing – “Deathfire” is neither a mere dungeon crawler, nor does it truly explore lost civilizations – it was clear that it definitely hit the traditional fantasy role-playing mark.

At this point the participants still did not know, exactly what these terms/titles meant, so we took them to a poll where we asked them to grade a list of titles. This would give us a base line and also an indication how “popular” certain titles were, regardless of how they relate to the game. Participants had to assign a grade to each of ten titles. Each grade was unique so it was not possible to have multiple favorites. We really wanted participants to commit to which title they liked better than the others.

The titles in question were once again “Deathfire,” “Nethermancer,” “Endergast,” “Realms of the Beyond” and “Ruins of Nethermore,” along with “Neothera,” “The Beyonder,” “Flames of Nithera,” “Bones of Endergast” or any title of their own creation, which they were allowed to write in.

The results were stunning. Honestly. We were glued to our screens in fascination as we watched the results come in. I don’t want to go into too many nitpicky details, but it was clear that there were a few titles our participants were simply rejecting. “Endergast,” “Bones of Endergast, and “The Beyonder” were titles that received universally low ratings, whereas most of the others were a mixed bag. As expected from the comments before, “Ruins of Nethermore” received high grades, as did “Realms of the Beyond,” surprisingly.

Then came the moment of truth. We explained to our participants what all these names and terms meant, and let them grade all the titles once more. With a new understanding of the terms we expected some change in how people would rate the titles, but to our surprise, it became a completely new ball game!

The opinions became much more polarized. Suddenly people either loved or hated a title. A lot of the middle muddle was gone and people now had real opinions. For us that was great news. When looking over the graphs that we made from the grades, we could now instantly eliminate titles such as “Endergast” or “The Beyonder” from our list. They simply did not jive with people. “Neothera” and “Realms of the Beyond” suddenly had a big hump in the center, meaning virtually everyone was ambivalent about them, and “Flames of Nithera” did not fare much better.

But there were also clear winners, and one was “Ruins of Nethermore.” Not quite unexpected after the feedback we had received in the first round. “Nethermancer” suddenly became much more popular as well, but the ratings indicated that people were truly polarized over this. The grades for this title were either really high or really low.

The biggest surprise for us, however, was that suddenly “Deathfire” had become one of the favorites. With very few low grades, a clearly visible uptrend and a solid number of really high grades, the title “Deathfire” had, in fact, become one of the fan favorites.

For us this was every bit as satisfying as it was surprising. For months posters in various RPG forums had been ranting against the title, and the constant dissent over the name had truly raised concern in us. However, if the focus group has shown us anything, it is that one of the key reasons why people do not seem to like the title “Deathfire” is that they do not know what it means. The numbers clearly showed us that once we had explained to everyone that it is the name of a horrific, outlawed spell, suddenly people took a liking to it. And strongly so.

Overall it was very interesting to observe how a little bit of additional information created a real bias within participants, how middle-of-the-road undecidedness became opinion that people expressed. The comments that came with the re-rating of the title, clearly showed that now people felt quite strongly about the names, and in the feedback section that concluded our focus group, it became evident even more so how people felt about the title of the game.

I should also point out that there were some pretty good naming suggestions coming in as well in the “Suggest your own name” part of the grading. One or two of them we really took into consideration but ultimately felt they did not represent the game well enough.

So, where does all of this leave us? Well, with the game’s final title. After reading and interpreting all the result and after taking all those comments and advice to heart, we decided to call the game “Deathfire: Ruins of Nethermore.”

Logo

We decided to use a two-part name for a number of reasons. For one, it gives the game a more epic scope, indicating that it may be part of a series. While we do not have exact plans for future sequels of the game, there certainly is the possibility, depending on the game’s overall success.

The other reason we decided to use this two-part name was that it allows us to reflect the different aspects of the game. “Deathfire” is the part of the title that suggests a dynamic game, filled with combat and dark powers, while “Ruins of Nethermore” clearly plays up the traditional aspects of the game with a title that conjures up associations with classic computer and pen&paper role playing games.

As you can see from above, we also have a brand new logo for the game. It is a logo that we spent a lot of time tweaking and fine-tuning – and when I say “a lot,” I mean really, A LOT. We feel it nicely incorporates all the elements we think are important to understanding the game, while also having the power to stand on its own, representing the game we are making.

We hope you like the new title and the logo as much as we did and would certainly love to hear your comments, so don’t be shy and let us know.


With nailing down the name and the logo out of the way, now is the time for us to brand the game properly. This means, we need to get the word out into the world big time. And for that we would like to recruit your help once again. Help us spread the word about “Ruins of Nethermore” or “Deathfire,” whichever way you prefer to call the game now. Tweet it up, share the news with your friends, post the logo on your Facebook wall or your blog… just get active and help us tell the world about this exciting project we’re working on.

South Park / SpartacusTo make the deal a little sweeter for you, I’ll be giving away some movies again this time, among all those who help us get the word out. I will be giving away a copy of “South Park: Season 15” to one lucky winner, and a copy of “Spartacus: Season 2” to another lucky winner.

Interested? Well, just make sure you collect entries for the give-away below, and don’t forget, you can obtain more entries every single day for the duration of the give-away, simply by tweeting about Deathfire: Ruins of Nethermore. So, now, go out there and post the hell out of it. Spread the logo and the name all over the world!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I recently did a lengthy podcast interview the great folks over at Darkstation and I thought I’d let you all know that the podcast is now live on their site in the “Darkcast” section.

Darkstation Logo

The podcast has the title Making Zombies with Fire and covers a lot of ground. Not only did we talk about my current game project, Deathfire, but also about some of the games and projects I’ve worked before, including a brief discourse into my literary forays with the Jason Dark dime novels.

Interestingly, the discussion also revolved around things such as general game design philosophies and how my approach has changed over the years, as well as other very interesting topics that fans of my games may find interesting. So, waste no more time. Head over to the Darkstation Darkcast and listen for yourself.

Let me tell you a story

One by one they are disappearing
Friends, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers
When they return they aren’t who you think

They look the same. They sound the same
But they are no longer the same…

The most unholy of spells incanted,
Undead fire burns in its victims’ eyes…

The Nethermancer has spoken
His was the last voice they heard…
Before they were perverted into monsters with familiar faces

In a world without heroes
Who can you trust?

In a world where the dead are rising
Who can you turn to?
No one.
No one is safe

Can you save the world from everyone you ever cared about?

This, my friends, is the promotional snippet for Deathfire, designed to whet your appetites. Because of my vacations and all the stuff going on here, it has been a while since my last Developer Diary update, but today I thought, I’d give you a bit of a glimpse at the game’s story.

As you can certainly tell from the blurb above, there are some sinister things going on in the world. From villages, people are disappearing at random. Families are torn apart and the people are mourning and heartbroken.

But that is not all there is to it. At the same time, hordes of zombies appear and threaten the once peaceful villages. Flesh-eating monsters that tear into anything that lives. The worst part, however? These are the same people who went missing… These are the fathers, mothers, sons, sisters and friends… and they do not distinguish friend from foe. They simply… feast!

Rumor among the villagers has it that it is all the doing of an evil Nethermancer, who is hiding out in the hilltop runs of the old Apocryphic Temple. Abandoned long ago, haunted they say, and a cesspool for wicked and foul creatures, the Temple can no longer be reached directly. Thickets and forests, ravines and collapsed bridges make it all but impossible to reach the ancient structure. And yet, as its ruins claw at the sky like skeletal fingers, flickering lights can be seen among the walls. Shrieks of the tortured souls can be heard emanating from its crumbling walls and a strange, unholy glow permeates the place, as fell creatures prowl through the woods, spreading further and further, spewing forth the undead in a never-ending stream of walking death.

This is the premise of Deathfire, a story in which the Nethermancer Endergast has uncovered an ancient spell so devastating, so frightening that it had been banished for centuries. By burning his victims’ souls with an undead flame, he reclaims their bodies to do his bidding. He is gathering an army and soon, the legions of the undead will outnumber those of the living.

So this Nethermancer is really just a Necromancer, you may be tempted to think, but alas no, let me allay that misconception right here. The craft of Nethermancy is far more vicious. Unlike Necromancy it reaches out not only into the realms of the dead, but also… hey, what am I saying? I wont spoil this for you. You’ll find out in the game, because this is where you come in.

When your father has disappeared like so many before him, you rally a small group of adventurers. While you know there is no salvation for the poor souls taken and destroyed by the Nethermancer, at least you can try to put their bodies to rest and put an end to Endergast. And if you will find the same grisly end as all those around you, at the very least you died, trying!

This is only the “front end” of story, of course. The part that we present to you, the prospective player, in order to get you intrigued in the game’s premise. Once you enter the game you will very quickly find that there is a lot more to it. Nothing is as simple as it may seem and with many plot twists and turns, the story will quickly take on a much more elaborate and grander scope than you may initially suspect. In a way, I wish I could share with you many of the cool ideas we have prepared for the game’s plot, but that would truly spoil the fun for you. However, throughout the story there will be encounters with various other characters and I think in the weeks to come I may introduce you to a few of those. It may give you a better understanding of the various factions and key players in the game and hint at some of the dilemmas you may encounter as a player.

Meanwhile I hope this little glimpse into the game’s story has gotten your attention and will rev up your own imagination as to what Deathfire will hold in store for you. In my next update, however, I plan to give you an update on the Focus Group we did a little while back. Not only will I tell you in detail what it was about, but more importantly, I will break down the results for you so that you, too, can see how other role-players felt about some of the questions we posed. Naturally, the post will also let you know what conclusion we came to on our end, and finally reveal the actual title of the game. Remember, up to this point Deathfire has always been merely a project title, in reference to the Nethermancer’s horrific spell. So, stay tuned. Until next time…

While cleaning up my hard drive just now, I stumbled across a neat image that I thought I’d share with you. Here, for the first time, I assume, is a look at the original artwork for Shadows over Riva without any logo and without any cropping. This is the artwork that as it was delivered to us by Ugurcan Yüce, the artist who created the artwork not only for our Realms of Arkania computer role-playing games, but also for virtually all of the “Das Schwarze Auge” pen&paper games the “Reams of Arkania” games were based on.

Ugurcan is not only an incredibly talented artists but also a very nice guy and I remember visiting him in his home numerous times, watching and admiring him at work while his wife would serve me traditional Turkish treats. At Attic Entertainment Software, we commissioned the covers for many of our games from him, not only the “Realms of Arkania” games, but also covers for titles such as “Fears” and “Der Druidenzirkel.”

Most strikingly, every time Ugurcan did a cover for us, he was nice enough to actually allow us to keep the original paintings for good. This is something very few artists will ever do—or only at a significant cost—and shows you just what kind of a guy he is.

Anyway, I thought I’d share this little gem with you real quick because I know there are many die hard Realms of Arkania fans out there. Enjoy!

Shadows over Riva cover artwork without logo