Aug 07

2017

Author Interview: Joey Jones, “Trials of the Thief-Taker”

Posted by: Mary Duffy | Comments (0)

In London, 1729, before they had police, they had you: thief-takers, hunting criminals for cash! Fire a flintlock and sip gin in the age of powdered wigs. As a thief-taker, you are paid by the court or hired by the victims of crime to recover property and, for an extra price, bring the culprit to justice. I sat down with the Joey Jones, author of Choice of Games’ latest release, Trials of the Thief-Taker for a short interview. Thief-Taker is out this Thursday, August 10th. 

I loved the 18thC world of Thief-Taker including all the lingo and historic details in the game. Tell me what inspired you to write this period piece. 

My interest was first piqued by reading about the thief-taker, Jonathan Wild. He self-styled himself the Thief-Taker General and took it upon himself to publicly break up gangs and recover stolen items. He even pioneered some modern policing methods like separating suspects during interrogation. Behind this exterior he personally organised the gangs of London and had hanged on false charges anyone who got in his way. He got rich on the fees offered for thief-takers as well as the proceeds of crime. I thought this two-sided nature would make for a great premise of an interactive story.

What kind of research did you do before or during the writing?

For the initial research I buried myself away in the local university’s library, spending a week writing out lists of intriguing period elements I wanted to include, like smugglers, a masquerade, and highway robbery. During the writing I had a guide to the period slang, the ‘cant’, which I referred to throughout.

What did you find challenging about writing with ChoiceScript?

I found it quite straightforward to get to grips with, though there were some tricks that I wish I’d learned sooner! I discovered *gosub and *hide_reuse quite late into writing after developing a mess of workarounds with temporary variables.

Are you a fan of interactive fiction? Any favorite games you’d like to share?

Very much so! I’ve been writing interactive fiction for ten years now, having started with co-writing the philosophy text adventure The Chinese Room. I recommend Jim Munroe’s Everybody Dies. It’s a tightly written illustrated parser game with multiple perspectives. I can also recommend Hana Feels by Gavin Inglis (he also wrote For Rent: Haunted House and Neighbourhood Necromancer for Choice of Games). It’s an interactive story about a young woman dealing with self-harm played entirely through dialogue with significant people in her lives. The characters are superbly realised and the handling of the subject is sensitive and engaging. Of the CoG titles I’ve played, I particularly enjoyed the philosophy of art conversations in Lynnea Glasser’s Creatures Such As We.

What are you working on next?

I always have half a dozen projects on the go. I’ve got a picaresque puzzle game, a one-room game where you play as the room,  a procedurally generated dystopia generator, a game where you organise zoo animals in a revolution, all in various states of completion. It’s quite possible I’ll do another game with CoG!

Short Answer, Bernard Pivot Questionnaire 

Favorite color?

Burgundy.

Favorite word?

Peckish.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

It’d be fun to do something completely different like marine conservation.

Which would you not ever want to attempt?

Insurance salesman.

“Family Bonds” or “Dog the Bounty Hunter”?

I watched a bit of Dog the Bounty Hunter. I find it interesting how it sells itself on the chases, but so much of the show is about heartfelt conversations with unlucky people who’ve made some bad choices.

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