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Joe Dever's Lone Wolf gamebooks reborn as a mobile e-book/RPG hybrid

The Lone Wolf role-playing gamebook series by British author Joe Dever is being given a fresh start as an RPG/e-book hybrid for mobile devices.

Originally published between 1984 and 1998 as a series of choose-your-own-adventure books written in the second-person, Lone Wolf follows its protagonist of the same name through the world of Magnamund, a planet over which forces of good and evil constantly battle.

Developer Forge Reply's interactive novel for iOS switches between a classic e-book view for users to read the narrative, and tactical combat scenarios featuring fully-rendered 3D cutscenes. The game is currently in pre-alpha and is being built using Unity 4.

"We didn't want to make just a straight digital book," Forge Reply's Alessandro Mazzega told Polygon. "We didn't want to just take the text and put it on the screen; we wanted to do something different, but still keep the book part."

Like classic RPGs, players will have access to an inventory packed with items, a world map and character stats, and Lone Wolf will take hits in battle that drain his health points. Mazzega said the game's role-playing mechanics and art style were largely inspired by CD Projekt Red's The Witcher, giving the game a medieval, rural feel.

Forge Reply's Lone Wolf takes the protagonist to a mining town in the countryside on the heels of an unraveling mystery. The story is an all-new adventure that takes places between the third and fourth books, 1984's The Caverns of Kalte and 1985's The Chasm of Doom, with direct contribution from original author Dever.

In the books, players had to manually keep track of Lone Wolf's health, inventory, loot and locale, and the outcome of battles were determined at random. By bringing the game to a digital platform that will record this details automatically, players can focus on the story at hand.

During a demo played at the 2013 Game Developers Conference, I began with Lone Wolf stuck in a house. I could either smash open the door or use magic to try and open it. An icon appeared at the end of a block of text and offered me a set of icons, each one presenting one of these escape options. I chose to use my strength against the door and had to repeatedly tap the screen in order to succeed. From there, I continued reading text until I stumbled into a battle, triggering a 3D scene. I selected weapons by tapping on them, or tapped a special set of icons at the bottom of the screen to use magical abilities or items like health-restoring potions.

So why make a digital gamebook for Lone Wolf?

"Dever really wanted to make a game from his books Four years ago a company from Singapore acquired the license, but after two years went bankrupt," Mazzega explained, adding that a resurgence in popularity of the books in Europe brought them to the developer's attention. "Forge Reply acquired the license and went to Joe with the concept of a gamebook melded with 3D combat, and he really liked the idea."

Three more digital gamebooks for Lone Wolf are in the works. Mazzega says these will allow players to port save data from previous titles into new ones as they are released.

Forge Reply hopes to release Lone Wolf for tablets and smartphones this July.