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Epic Games Helps Students Bring New Life to the ‘Fighting Fantasy’ Series

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.