Reboot of award-winning Echo Bazaar offers email sign-up, new stories and new gameplay. Facebook and Twitter not required.
“We want to be an ethical social game” says CEO.
Failbetter Games is delighted to announce the release of Fallen London: a revised and extended reboot of its highly acclaimed online adventure Echo Bazaar.
The re-launched game features an updated interface, new ways to play alone or with friends, many new illustrations and more than 700,000 words of original, interactive stories, adding up to months of free play.
And for the first time, Failbetter Games has introduced an email sign-up, so players won’t need a Facebook or Twitter account to experience Fallen London.
“We want to be an ethical company, so we won’t force players to hand over the keys to their social networks,” says Failbetter founder Alexis Kennedy. “Social games get a bad reputation in the industry, and it’s not controversial to say that some of them deserve it. We want to be clear to our players upfront that Twitter and Facebook are a choice, not a requirement”.
Part Choose Your Own Adventure and part role-playing game, Fallen London takes place in a dark and hilarious Victorian Gothic underworld where your choices affect everything from the price of your soul to your table manners. In its former incarnation as Echo Bazaar, it was named Best Browser Game of the year by the Escapist and has won rave reviews from mainstream media and gaming press alike.
Want to review Fallen London? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for a press code.
NOTES FOR EDITORS
Who are Failbetter Games?
Alexis Kennedy and Paul Arendt formed Failbetter Games in 2009 to create story- driven social games and explore interactive digital storytelling. Their first game, Echo Bazaar, was named Browser Game of the Year by the Escapist. More recently, Failbetter created The Night Circus, a highly acclaimed online narrative based on the bestselling novel, for Random House publishing. They have also carried out narrative consultancy work for Bioware. The company is currently working on two games for younger players for Channel 4 & the BBC.
What is Fallen London about?
The year is 1889. Three decades ago, London was stolen by bats. Dragged deep into the earth by the entity known as the Echo Bazaar. It lies now in the Neath, a cavern of impossible size, on the shores of the Unterzee, a giant saltwater lake. The sun is gone. The tumbling white clouds are gone. There will never be another strawberry.
But Londoners can get used to anything. And it's quiet down here, with the devils and the darkness and Rubbery Men and the mushroom wine. Peaceful.
Well, it was until you arrived.
Whether sleuth, spy, seducer or trader in souls, Echo Bazaar lets players be whoever they want to be whilst finding their way through a vast and complex storyworld, rich with secrets and scandals alike. With uniquely narrative-driven gameplay, Echo Bazaar blurs the line between text adventures and social gaming, enabling the player to make difficult choices with real consequences.
How is Fallen London different from Echo Bazaar?
Fallen London adds a number of new features. These include:
- email sign-up capability.
- A unique narrative crafting system that rewards players with hidden chunks of story for their loot.
- An updated interface that’s cleaner and easier to read.
- New pets to discover, including the Hungover Terrier, the Partisan Messenger Tortoise and the Subtle Mole.
- ‘Living Stories’: occasional, special tales in which the characters contact the player directly via Facebook or Twitter - with the player’s permission, of course.
- Cliques (currently in beta) Form an exclusive social salon with your friends.
- Many new stories and illustrations.
REVIEWS OF FALLEN LONDON AND ECHO BAZAAR
“Intriguing and addictive... The world of Fallen London is a joy to explore, a weird an wonderful playground”
“The developers at Failbetter Games have build a world out of words, every bit as vividly drawn as the worlds build by Rockstar in Red Dead Redemption, or Irrational in Bioshock.”
“A beautifully moody and lusciously written faux-Victorian game set in a London that has been, for nefarious reasons, sold to Hell”
“Simply and brilliantly produced on what can only be a minuscule budget.”
“It plays out like a grand spidery Choose Your Own Adventure.”
“The game offers up some genuinely intriguing story full of tongue-in-cheek moments, mixing serious intrigue with surreal fantasy.”
“The writers of Echo Bazaar use concrete nouns and active verbs. They don't abuse adjectives. They have a sense of rhythm.”
Ethical Social Gaming: an interview with Alexis Kennedy of Failbetter Games
Why are you relaunching Echo Bazaar?
I founded Failbetter because I was interested in new ways of telling stories. Our first project was a social game because that was what everyone was doing in 2009, and it seemed the obvious way to make enough money to fund a team. But... I was never comfortable with the aggressive virals that social games rely on. So we had something that looked and behaved like a social game but was incredibly polite and gentle. And which was a bit quirky to be mass-market, too. Result, we didn't get the giant stack of players that social games do, but we still suffered from the shonky reputation that they have. It was, as I've said a few times, like dressing up as Darth Vader but refusing to use your dark powers.
So we said hang it all, the game stands or falls on the quality of its storytelling and that's what we care about, let's make the social network thing optional. So you can now sign up with just an email address and a password.
And as soon as we started thinking in those terms... we realised this is the bright line that allows us to demonstrate we're going to behave ourselves. If a game insists on getting your social networking details, it might use them responsibly, or it might not. If a game lets you play without insisting on access, then you know it's not just going to be all about the viral marketing.
I don't want to suggest that all social games, or even most social games, take liberties. The Wild West days are long past. There are plenty of responsible, high quality offerings with deep gameplay, and plenty of others that want social network access for good reasons. But we all feel that nervousness in the second after we click 'authorise this application'. I wish there were more games that allowed limited engagement. Too often, it's like someone demanding your phone number before they'll talk to you.
Why "Fallen London?"
Oh, people have been calling the game Fallen London for years. And it's just a better name: it conveys the flavour of the setting instantly. We've sort of had two names for years and we thought we'd use the relaunch to sort it out. Plus, the Bazaar is a character, and one we have fun with. Now its Twitter feed can become a way of injecting additional flavour and character into the storyworld, as well as just a pipeline for announcements. You may have noticed we've already started with that.
Apart from the name and the email sign-up, what else is new?
We have a sexy new interface which makes messages that the game spits out less texty and more appealing. We've got the only crafting system in the *world* that runs on character, dialogue and story. And we've got cliques on the way, as a new focus for socialising and co-operating in the game. They've been on the way for a long time. I'm quite excited about that. But the big thing is Living Stories, which we're just rolling out now.
OK, so, the platform Fallen London uses was always intended to support other projects as well - the only one in the wild right now is Night Circus, but we've got a couple more launching this year. We want the stories that we tell on this platform to be a bit more pervasive than just text on a tab. So first of all, we've got access codes that you can pop into your browser that will unlock extra items or stories in the game. We can give those out from Fallen London characters on Twitter, as the results of mysteries or puzzles, or links from other storyworlds. So you might be watching Mr Stones' Twitter feed and see him link to a story about the Tomb Colonies that'll only run for a month, for the people who find that link.
Second, we've got reactive stories that come and talk to you after the fact. This means we can have characters who mail you a week or two after another story and say "Our old enemy has returned to plague us..." or, perhaps, "I miss you. Is it really over between us?" It means we can mix up ways of pacing stories - so we can still tell them over days or months, but you don't need to do quite as much clicking to see the end of them.
This is early tech and we're only just working out the best way to use it and how to refine it, but it feels like a big deal.
So it’s, like, a transmedia thing?
Yes, it's sort of, like, a transmedia thing.