UPDATE: This story has now been picked up by Ars Technica - http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2013/06/heirs-of-infocom-where-interactive-fiction-authors-and-games-stand-today/

It has often been said that the best graphics card you will ever have is the human brain and your imagination. That is why so many of us choose to sit down with a new novel by a favorite author rather than sit down to watch a movie or play a video game. However, while the best authors can conjure up scenes of the story in your mind by simply using the written word, there is one limitation: the story unfolds in the exact order the author lays it out. So, like everyone else, you open the book at chapter one and continue through to the end. Of course this is great if you're also a member of a book club since it also means everyone in your club has the exact same reading experience.  When it comes time to discuss the book you have all been reading, you have all followed the exact same path laid out by the author.

Isn’t it time to shake up the literary world a bit (and I don’t just mean with eBooks)? What if you could open a new book anywhere, with an arbitrary starting point? You can choose which chapter to start with, and read from there. It may sound like a crazy idea, but it works. You open this new book in Windows 8 (and soon Windows Phone 8) and you are presented with a series of chapters. You get to pick which one is the most intriguing to you at that time. Having read that chapter, you can then go on and pick other chapters. Think of this as a cleverly linked series of scenes that, by the end, you do not feel as if you have read a set of disjointed chapters. Instead, the experience is that you feel as if you finished reading a novel, except the guy next to you will also have finished it, but his reading experience will have been different than yours.

Imagine, now, that the story does not end there. This new literary form does not reveal its entire contents to you and, therefore, as you read, the system monitors what and how you are reading and will then reveal new chapters to you. Over time, the full expanse of the book will be laid out and, finally, you will have got to the end of a wonderful new form of literature. You will be able to say you had a very unique reading experience on your Windows 8 desktop/laptop/tablet or, soon, Windows Phone 8.

Are you intrigued yet?

The creative talent behind this new form of entertainment is none other than husband and wife team, the Berlyns. You can read Mike’s profile here as he has been very active in the entertainment world for years. Let’s just say he and his wife (and creative partner) Muffy really know how to tell a good story that has more plot twists than a bowl of spaghetti! - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_Berlyn

If I still have your attention, head over to the download page and check it out
http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/app/reconstructing-remy/ea0b6e26-9475-46c1-a930-164a08655e1b and, if you like it, please post a review.

I will let you into a little secret: I already mentioned, with Mikes permission, that a Windows Phone 8 version is coming very soon. However, the really compelling thing that Mike and team have  done is to create a new literary experience, and have actually built it around an engine complete with authoring tools. Imagine being able to go to your favorite author and have him write a version of his next award winning book for this platform, and all without writing a single line of code… not even a scripting language!

In fact, that same author could potentially use this platform to build a complimentary literary experience that could help drive sales of the original book. I have no idea if Mike is planning to license his technology but I am sure if the right author came along, Mike would certainly want to talk.

But there is more.

Reconstructing Remy is a new reading experience, but where does that leave the poor gamer who really wants an adventure? There is a story for you, too.

Mike’s engine and authoring tools can also be used to create more of a game experience where you are tasked (in the first two titles) with identifying the murderer — think of it as a whodunit for a new generation. In this case, suspects and locations, questions and evidence appear rather than chapters of a book, although in the second title, Carnival of Death, you will additionally be rewarded for your success with new chapters in an original work of fiction. You can find these titles here:

The Art Of Murder
http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/app/the-art-of-murder/fa712cd0-c75d-404a-84b6-a85d703cbb48

Carnival Of Death
http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/app/carnival-of-death/4fd95ffd-ed7e-4bfa-a1c3-6192feddd5e7


Mike and his team from http://www.flexibletales.com appear to be onto something new with this engine, authoring tools and first titles. After reading Remy, just don’t blame me when you open a book in your favorite book store and curse out loud because you have to start at chapter one.

With Mike's and Muffy's technology, Chapter 1 is no longer the beginning. 

 

John O'Donnell, Technical Evangelist, DPE
Microsoft Corporation
http://blogs.msdn.com/jodonnell
http://www.twitter.com/jodonnel