Today, at The Gadget Show Live in Birmingham, four teams of student developers will bring Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone's Fighting Fantasy series to the iOS audience in a brand new way. We've had the chance to look at the games in development, and they're looking pretty hot.

The Make Something Unreal Live competition is the sort of opportunity most folks who've dabbled in game development would kill for. It's organized by Epic Games and Train2Game. Student teams were given access to the Fighting Fantasy IP and, basically, told to go nuts with it. They've spent the last few months building games based off that IP using the Unreal Development Kit. Working with industry mentors, they've created new interpretations of the beloved books. Now they'll go on stage and put the finishing touches on their titles with help from some of the industry's biggest names.

If you don't know the Fighting Fantasy IP, it's a series of roleplaying gamebooks that were super popular in the 80s and 90s. A number of them have been brought to iOS in classic interactive fiction form by Big Blue Bubble, but this is the first time they've been reimagined for the platform as full 3D games.

There are four teams of students competing in Make Something Unreal Live, each with members with expertise in art, design, programming and QA. Each team set out with a different title: The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, Armies of Death, The Citadel of Chaos and Deathtrap Dungeon. We've had some time with each of the titles, and they're shaping up nicely.

Digital Mage is the team responsible for Armies of Death: Rise of Agglax. It turns the tale of Armies of Death on its head. Players will command the undead forces of Agglax as they travel down lanes destroying the heroes and defenses of the kingdom of Allansia. Defeating enemies releases their souls, which provide the power needed to raise the undead.

The levels of the game are inspired by events from the original book. Though we were only able to try out the early stages of the game, Digital Mage says that the final product will boast a lovingly crafted story that expands of the tale of Armies of Death.

Indigo Jam showed us its take on Deathtrap Dungeon. Like the book, the game pits players against rooms of devious traps and vicious enemies. It's a first-person action adventure with areas and traps designed on a grand scale. From what we've seen so far, stealth will play a large role in the game, and sneaking around unseen is the surest way to survive while you try to solve the deadly puzzles of the dungeon.

The Citadel of Chaos: Dire Consequences is a wave-based first person action game built by Derp Studios. Players are tasked with protecting Dree Village against waves of monsters. You begin with a sword and shield, but with each wave you survive you'll have the opportunity to purchase and upgrade spells with the souls you earn in combat. Players who survive 10 waves unlock new levels, and ultimately win after 20 waves.

Derp Studios plans to bring in a story mode as well. This will take place after the final moments of The Citadel of Chaos.

Finally, we took a look at The Warlock of Firetop Mountain: Lost Chapters, by Commando Kiwi. Though we won't know which game takes the grand prize at Make Something Unreal Live until next week, this one really caught our attention. Built as a third-person RPG, it already has a progression system in place and some promising looking item collection. But the combat system is where it stands out.

Lost Chapters uses an active-time style combat system, with a selection of abilities that operate on individual timers. To capture the element of luck that the Fighting Fantasy titles so relied on, blocking is left to good fortune. Each time an enemy attacks the player is presented with three cards. Each has a shield on the other side, one red, one yellow and one green. If the green card is drawn, damage is escaped. The red card hits twice as hard.

The four teams will show their games off today at The Gadget Show Live, and they'll receive feedback from the advisory board. The judges include Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone themselves, as well as industry leaders that include, no joke, Peter Molyneux and Cliff Bleszinski. Teams will work to bring the games to their full potential over the course of the show, providing regular updates and showing their work off to an audience of over 100,000 attendees on the show floor. The winning team will be announced on Sunday, and it will get to take home a commercial Unreal Engine 3 license.

The games should all be heading to the App Store soon, though it sounds like the winning team might have a leg up on the others. The builds we played were still far from being ready for release, but they had real potential. Here's hoping the final releases follow through, because we're pretty jazzed about seeing more original RPGs and action-adventure titles on the App Store. So good luck to all the teams—we'll be keeping an eye on what comes next.

  • Radd Berkheiser

    I've actually been having a fantastic two months paying attention to KickStarter as the devs of old have been resurrecting their original IPs from the depths of several decades of pointless IP dilution that earned little money and lots of ire. Fans of original IPs are fans of more than the generic settings and loose plots those games had.

    This seems the wrong direction to go to me, especially when we've been seeing so much success with crowdfunding as of late for creating things true to original IPs for fans who remember and love those IPs.

    I know that sounds harsh, but I do enjoy hack'n'slash & action rpg/fantasy games, and these titles may all be fantastic in their own right… I'm just not sure I see the point in grabbing an IP that most hack'n'slashers have never heard of and diluting the story out of it so it's so generic that it's barely the same IP anymore. This reminds me more of the PS2 interpretations of Baldur's Gate (which was ok for what it was) or Fallout (console Brotherhood sucked) or 360's Shadowrun (ugh)… when you remove the very essence of the IP, what's the point?

    I guess it's nice that somebody is trying something and giving students a chance to play around… but I tend to think that an "IP" is more than can be summed up in a paragraph about setting and basic plot.

    Good that some industry vets are doing something for the up-and-coming soon-to-be devs... just not feeling the joy of possibly seeing another old classic IP diluted for the sake of people who were never fans of it to begin with.

    Eh... I'll probably play them anyway.

    • Jack Lothian

      I kind of agree with you Radd, but at the same time I'd love to see a good action RPG version of Warlock out there too. The DS game was alright, but there's never been a game which really captured the essence of the book. But, like you say, it could just end up like another Fallout : Brotherhood...

      • Radd Berkheiser

        Maybe I'd be more into the idea if it was Steve Jackson Games being more involved and making sure the IP was kept intact.

        I do like that students are getting support... just not sure I trust them to take care about someone else's IP from game books published in the early 80s.  I don't hold out much hope for the Credence on that one.

        But yeah... if they're "good", sure.  Who doesn't want good games?  😀

      •!/NissaCam Nissa Campbell

        Jackson and Livingstone are guiding and restricting the IP use, but based on what we've seen so far I'm not sure how strictly they're constrained. I personally hope Deathtrap Dungeon turns out well - I missed the (ps2?) original 3D remake of it, and it seems like it could make such a fun game.

      • Radd Berkheiser

        I'd completely forgotten about that one... and I actually have it for PS1.  It was basically Tomb Raider's engine adapted for the scenario.  It wasn't bad, as I remember, but it wasn't quite the same either.  I think the books have stood the test of time better, personally.

        Maybe it's just my jaded nature, but I think at the core of my reservations is this:

        I feel like I've got a device that's great for reading and new styles of play... yet often iffy at best with the typical on-screen joystick controls you get in a lot of these 3rd and 1st person affairs (Tho Armies of Death looks more like yet another tower defense game).

        We've seen some truly thoughtful use of touch-controls as of late... and some truly new gameplay styles that only come from re-thinking games as they would fit with purely touchscreen devices.  I don't much care for games that simply shoehorn game styles better suited to other systems into iOS... and here we were with an IP and gaming approach that might have, if re-thought in a more unique way, made for something stellar and new.

        Not that these games can't be good... they might be quite fine...

        ... but I'll still likely feel that this was a lost opportunity given the uniqueness of our devices and the uniqueness of the source material.  Gamebook + iPad's new unique game styles should sound like a match made in heaven... yet I see that Citadel of Chaos screenshot and I just facepalm.

  • John Usher

    I can only hope that these will turn out good. I love the fighting fantasy and gamebook series but the screen shots IMO look like its just spoiling the source material.

  • Mike

    Is this based on the original pc game "Deathtrap Dungeon"?

  • whatshit

    I would love to see Steve Jackson and Ian Livingston team with say.. Spiderweb games oR similar developer to remake the game book titles. Not students whith arguably not much experience. Agree with radd the books x iPad should somehow be awesome if done well. But the screens and descriptions don't seem so great to me.

    Having said that lets wait and see hopefully the games will be good.