Sunday 26 February 2017

Let's add a million stories

The 20 year road map

I call this a game for a reason. I am painfully aware that right now it's just a couple of mediocre "choose your own adventure" books. But think ahead.

One day this will have so many stories, and so many links between stories, and editing them will be so easy, that it will feel more interactive than Call of Duty. because you can do anything you can imagine: if it can be expressed in words and/or pictures, you can do it.

This is how we will get there:

It's all about scale. 

I just added a page entitled "Help Us Add A Million Stories"  That's right. A million.

Right now the game has two stories. This week I will add a third. Next week I will add a fourth. I expect to average one story every three weeks - more if I do very simple stories, like Aesop's Fables for example. So on my own I will add around 17 stories per year. In two years that's 34 stories. Still not much, but enough so other people start to notice. I then expect others to add ideas. Remember, a story can be very simple - maybe just three pages. I expect to have 50 stories by the middle of 2019.

With more people contributing regularly, growth should be exponential. 100 stories by the end of 2020. By then I expect to have regular contributors, and moderators to help me handle the load.

I would also expect a medium size news site to mention it favourably. The focus then will be on getting user comfortable about adding stuff. I want people to add a story in the same way that they'd add a thread to Reddit. And drawing will not be a problem. This site is about the story, not the art. Anybody can go to and draw something (their HTML5 tool is really easy and responsive), then save it, upload it to Reddit, and add the URL.


The bottleneck will be human editing: checking that the stuff works and is above a minimum quality threshold. Nothing beats the human touch for stories. My feeling is that every moderator should have their own web space. They are then responsible for uploading game files to there. There is no javascript in this game, so there's nothing to stop it being spread over as many domains as you like. As long as each moderator is trusted. Those mods can then have their own section of the main site, and their own fans. Maybe specialise by genre? Or have their own picks? Make their name as editors, and monetise accordingly. Have ads, their own Patreon accounts, whatever they want.

Automated tools

At some point, maybe in 2022, we'll need to let people draw directly into the game.

That shouldn't be too hard for some tech minded mod to figure out. Heck, I even did it myself in a  previous game - using HTML5 canvas you can get people to draw onto the screen, then use forms to upload the results. Personally, I don't want to touch code any more. My view is that moderators would create their own code, run it at their own risk on their own domains. Their domains would scale, with hundreds then thousands then tens of thousands of stories, manages using wikis, wordpress, whatever. My own central hub would be for my own hand made stuff, and would only grow at one story per month. Let each moderator do things his own way, and reap the rewards.

How big can TEDAgame get?

Automated tools remove any barriers to growth. How big could we grow? The closest thing I know to TEDAgame is They began in 1998 and in under 20 years they had well over six million uploaded stories. So a goal of one million TEDAgame stories in a similar time (20 years) seems realistic.

The results of scale

With massive scale we can increase quality by having the best stories rise to the top. We can also have more and more links between stories, creating a fabulously rich single game world. Although it will be static pages, with so many choice it be just as interactive as anu computation-based game. More so because, as the name says, this is endless and you can literally do anything you can imagine. Though whether some mod sub-domains are allowed to be "R rated" is a question for another day. My own hub will always be family friendly. Or as family friendly as classic novels will allow.


Saturday 25 February 2017

Adding science to the stories

Most of my changes are to make stories more scientific. But you might think this is pseudo-science. So let me explain.

Science or pseudo-science?

Science is a method: observe in a repeatable way, and think logically. Science is not a collection of facts. A collection of facts is an appeal to authority: "it's true because the sacred fact book says so!" Of course, the fact book could be right. Authorities are often right, that is how they become authorities. But it is still an appeal to authority.

"But wait, the fact book can be tested, so that makes it science!" Not true. Religious texts can also be tested: do you get a spiritual experience? Can you dig up the walls of Jerusalem? Being testable does not make thing scientific. The test itself is the science.

Good science is science because it is easy to test. Bad religion is bad because it is not easy to test: "what exactly do you mean by a 'spiritual experience'?" But you can also get bad science (claims that are poorly defined) and good religion (e.g. "accept these metaphors, and a nation will have greater economic growth and better indicators of happiness" - OK, fine, I can test that.)

Good science is easy to test. My stories are easy to test. That is why I call them scientific.

Example 1: the underground sea

Journey to the Center of the Earth has a big underground sea, It is usually imagined as a vast cavern, several miles high and many miles wide, and mostly empty. As Jules Verne wrote, we cannot say it its not there until we go and test it. That's science.

In Verne's day, scientists could not be sure how giant caves would behave. Jules Verne took advantage of that fact. Today scientists have a better idea. So in my story the caverns are relatively near the surface and have multiple supports. I have tested scientists and found them to be generally reliable, but also open to new possibilities.. And I present a story that can be tested: go underground and see!

Science and scientists

If science is a method, what use is peer reviewed data? The clue is in the name: the science is the peers, not the data. You can test these scientists. You might not have your own large hadron collider, but you do have direct experience of people who claim to be scientific,. You, the reader, can judge their reputation. These people then become your tools. They look at the data and say the data is good. You, the reader, are not judging the data (though you can judge ts logical presentation). You are judging the judges.

Example 2: the race of gods

In my version of Gilgamesh I suggest that "the gods" are a distinct tribe of elites. Now probably the reality was messier than this: just as today there would be a tangled mess of priests and traditions and land usage rights. Bt my repeatable, direct experience of life - my scientific observation - tells me that all humans societies create elites based on land ownership. And my direct, repeatable experience tells me that data has to be greatly simplified in order to communicate useful information.

So, I state boldly that my idea of gods is scientific. I have tested it directly. I also acknowledge that as I test more things my views will no doubt evolve. That is also a fact that I and others have tested. So that is also science.


Scientific means tested, or testable. These stories are both tested and testable.

Caves really do exist. I hypothesise that really big caves can exist, if close enough to the surface and with enough internal supports. And you can climb down caves and test that claim. That's science.

Elites really do exist. I hypothesise that ancient elites existed in a certain way. And you can dig up sites like Gobekli Tepe and test that claim. That's science.

In future stories I will explore travel to parallel realities. I will try to interpret the ideas in ways that are both tested, and testable. So it will be science, dude!

Can I write a story in a single day?

Today I try a new writing method. Until now I designed a story in three stages:
  1. Take a book, and edit it down to just the choices the hero has to make
  2. Convert these choices into game pages, so I know what pictures to draw
  3. After drawing the pictures, produce the finished web pages.
Today I try a new, faster method:

1. Read the book and produce the finished web pages as I go (with gaps for pictures)

My goal is to convert a book in the same time it takes to read the book!  Which might seem impossible, but remember that I'm only looking for choices, so I can skim read large sections before slowing down for the decisions. 

Let's see if it works. Today I read H. G. Wells' The Time Machine. Can I have a finished story by tonight? And then draw all the pictures over the next two days? Probably not, but the previous method took six days to write a story, and I hope I can get it down to two. We shall see!

Typos, grammar, spelling mistakes

You know that feeling, when you write something, spell check it, spell check it AGAIN, and upload it, then spell check it again, upload it again, and the next day you find the SECOND WORD is spelled wrong?  ("I justy dug up a clay tablet...")

Help me, Internet, you're my only hope!  I need you to tell me what's bad, because I can't spot it!

When I say this game is "designed by you" I really mean it. My brain is exploding with ideas and pictures, but it comes out - like an explosion! Help me tidy it up! Please!

Friday 24 February 2017

This is a game, not a book

This game is very new. It's like an alpha version: it only just works. But imagine what it will be one day: the world's biggest sandbox. Where you can explore forever, or build anything you want. My goal is to add simple requests within two days. So this becomes like Minecraft, or lego, except that what grows is stories, and the world is shared by everyone.

This is how it will work:

  1. Speedy creation: I need to add stories fast enough, that the game always feels alive. 
  2. Speedy reaction: I need to respond to users fast enough that they feel in control
  3. Connecting stories: I need so many connections between stories that, wherever you are, you feel like anything could happen, and you won't just be pulled back to a linear narrative.
  4. Growth: after five years or so I want enough people to be adding stories that the game grows faster and faster,

This will take time. But every month the game will be more like a game and less like a book. Watch and see!

Being faithful to the original books

This is the "do anything" game, so you can completely ignore the original story and go in any direction! If you think it would be cool if Gilgamesh met an alien and left on a flying saucer,then tell me what to write!

However, the core story does stick close to the original.

Look for pages ending with "00"

Pages that end in two zeroes (100.html, 200.html. 300.html. etc) are my version of the original text. Other pages (101.html., 102.html. etc.) are stuff I added.

Do I change the original story?

I try to get to the choices in a story. Often I fill in gaps, and interpret, but I try not to change the story. Every time a book is adapted for a different medium it has to be interpreted. Let's say you are making  a movie. Even if you convert the book word for word, you add pictures. They might not be the pictures another reader imagines. And I often add scientific explanations, because I want to believe in these stories. Here are some examples:

Example 1: Journey to the Center of the Earth

Journey is pretty much as in the book. Except when the character faces a choice, I try to add what would happen if they made the other choice. Probably the biggest thing I interpret is the underground sea. The book says the cave is enormously and goes on for thousands of miles. I agree, but I take these as maximum numbers. In my pictures I add frequent pillars supporting the roof, that the book just forgot to mention. Because in real life a cave that big would need a lot of support or else it would collapse. I like to imagine it as real, so my cave must have pillars!

Example 2: Gilgamesh

In my story the gods are human. The original text does not say they are human, but I think it works best if they are. In another example, in the original text, Shamhat is a temple prostitute (the word "samhat" meant "courtesan". People often focus on the prostitute part. But I think it makes more sense if we focus on the temple part., So I add several pages on what went on in ancient temples. I think this links very interestingly with Genesis, so I have a page on that as well. I don't change the story, but I give it a very particular interpretation.

"But scholars say"

Many scholars will have a different interpretation. But the bottom line is, this is a game, and it's about ideas. If I think an idea is interesting then I'll add it, and I don't worry too much if it isn't accurate in this world. It could be accurate if a few other things were discovered, and who knows, maybe they will be! This game is a "what if" world of possibilities, and that's what fiction is all about.

About realism

I need all the stories to fit together somehow. The easiest way to do that is to create scientific explanations for everything. They don't have to be detailed, but I just need to somehow connect everything to the physical world. That way I can connect every story without contradictions.

For example, I said that Anu (the sky god) was a human who was just an expert on the skies. Now you might want him to be a supernatural being. That's fine, I'm OK with that! But another story might have a totally different god as creator of the skies. I want as many connections as possible, so I will want them to be the same person. And I want to know exactly how Anu created the skies, so I can see how other stories could link to it.

Just saying "God did it" is not a story, it's a statement. But saying how he did it, and the struggles and conflicts he faced, and how how overcame his limitations, that is a story!

I hope my approach to a story is OK with you.. If it isn't, tell me how to do it better!

How to identify pages

When you add a story idea you'll need to say where it goes. To identify an existing page, just use the URL. For example, "journey-to-center/200.html"

Stories that link other stories together
Linking stories is my absolute favourite thing. Because it makes the game world feel rich: you are not stuck on rails, forced to read in straight line. For example, "Journey to the Center of the Earth" connects to "Goddess of Atvatabar" as they both feature underground worlds.

You can branch off at any time. For example, 
at the start of the book, instead of looking at the piece of paper that falls out of the book (the paper with she secret code), you could maybe jump right into the book he is reading, "The Chronicle of The Kings of Norway" and join the saga of gods and monsters. And later when the professor reads books about code breaking, maybe one of them is a famous book about real code breaking and spies? 

Can you think of ways to link existing stories? Create your own mini-story and I'll add it! 

Tedagame is now live!

From small beginnings mighty acorns grow. Or something like that.

Tuesday 21 February 2017


The latest small changes, due to player suggestions
(big changes, e.g. whole books, get their own posts):
(No changes yet!)

Monday 20 February 2017

Goodbye Photoshop, hello Smoothdraw

For over ten years I have used Photoshop as my main drawing program. That ended yesterday. from now on I use Smoothdraw! You'll see the different about a third of the way into Gilgamesh: more art, less edit.

Photoshop is for editing, not drawing

Photoshop is an editing program, not a drawing one. Yes, you can draw with it as well (and I did) but it is too tempting to polish, nudge, enhance, rearrange, push, tint, etc. This is also true of vector drawing programs: anything that says "fully featured" is all about he polish, not the initial sketch.

With all that polishing, Photoshop, drawings take too long. And that is fatal to this game. Worse, this creates stiff images. May natural style is cartoon-ish. but Photoshop let me draw realistic images  by starting with photos. That was great if I have a nice source photo to work from. Or if I have plenty of time. But for this game I need to spend just ten minutes per picture. So I would often end up using an imperfect photo for reference, and then reusing the resulting image again and again. You'll see that a lot with the muscular characters and gods at the start of Gilgamesh. it looks nice, in one way, but is stiff and I don't like it.

The final straw
The final straw with Photoshop was the endless bugs. Nothing major, just really annoying little things. For example, I planned to launch Tedagame on Saturday, but Photoshop stopped working with the tablet, so I had to postpone the launch. After years of grumbling I decided "enough is enough". No more Photoshop!

Full disclosure: I use Photoshop elements. Maybe the full version is better, but it costs £17 per month: that's over £200 ($250) every single year! No thanks!!

I just want to draw. I don't want Photoshop's little annoyances and distractions. I just want to draw!!! So I tried various other choices: The Gimp, Mypaint,, Pinta, etc, and then discovered Smoothdraw, the program used by Kahn Academy. I love it! So here are...

Ten reasons why Smoothdraw is better than Photoshop

  1. Smoothdraw is more responsive. When you draw with Photoshop, there is a tiny delay between clicking and seeing anything. but Smoothdraw responds more quickly.
  2. Smoothdraw is more creative. Photoshop is a photo editing program. It's designed to edit EXISTING art and photos. But Smoothdraw forces you to create NEW drawings.
  3. Smoothdraw is more efficient. With Photoshop you spend a lot of time polishing an image. That is time you could be spending on the raw idea instead. A simple line drawing will get the message cross equally well. Smoothdraw is all about the idea.
  4. Smoothdraw loads faster. If you have an idea for something, Smoothdraw lets you draw it quickly, while Photoshop is still loading.
  5. Smoothdraw is easier to learn. Photoshop takes hours to begin using, and years to master.  Smoothdraw takes seconds.
  6. Smoothdraw is faster to use. it's stripped down to the minimum necessary tools. So your hand and your mind focus on drawing, not on menus and shortcuts and disalog boxes.
  7. Smoothdraw is more stable (less buggy). Photoshop has some pretty annoying bugs (I can give examples). But Smoothdraw feels solid.
  8. Smoothdraw cooperates with my computer. My Wacom Bamboo tablet sometimes does not work with Photoshop. But it works perfectly with Smoothdraw. When I want to draw something, Smoothdraw just works. 
  9. Smoothdraw works on your computer. Photoshop has heavy requirements. Not every computer can handle it. Smoothdraw is light, so just works.
  10. Smoothdraw is free!! 

PS. the new art style

I mentioned that my natural art style is cartoony. That is how I will draw from now on. Will that cause problems for the more serious stories? I don't think so. The central philosophy of Tedagame is that death is that life is endless. The fun comes from exploring, not struggling. With endless life, death and frustration are no longer a problem. So it's impossible to be too serious about a particular story. To be clear, I'm deadly serious about the ideas. But the ideas are positive: they transcend death. So they are best expressed with a smile. :)

Wednesday 15 February 2017

Gilgamesh map

Parts of this map are seen at various times in the Gilgamesh story. So here's the full thing.
Note that in 2500 BC the climate in Anatolia (the northern part of the map) was much wetter. The forests of the Annunaki were far more impressive than they are today. And note that the northern part of the Persian Gulf extended much farther. but the drying of the region (and diverting the rivers for irrigation, draining marshes, etc.) means the sea no longer comes as far north.

And if you think I am making this up, here is a more detailed map of the middle section. From the excellent "Study of Mesopotamia" blog.

This illustrates why I chose Gilgamesh as the second story in the game. It has everything: real history, important mythology (a major source for Genesis!), the meaning of life, and a fun adventure with superheroes, sex, violence, epic quests, gods and monsters. All wrapped up in what is probably the most important book ever written. (Because it is the first major book, and the most influential one for the formative first two thousand years that mankind had writing. It makes the Bible look like late fan fiction.) 

And of course Journey to the Center f the Earth was first because it's my favourite book, about the most important theme of all: amazing scientific possibilities might be just round the corner. 

Why I love making Tedagame

This game is my excuse to delve into what I love: ideas. Endless possibilities. Alternative scenarios for life, the universe and everything. In the hope that the best ones can come true. That is what fiction is for, and I hope to bring players along with me for the rise.

To illustrate, here is something I just posted on Facebook.

I love old books

I love old books. So Tedagame will be full of old books. They are amazing! For example, today I learned that The Epic of Gilgamesh is reliable history.

Today I start drawing the graphics for Gilgamesh. It reads like history that is written as propaganda (as history often is): the only really unbelievable part is the battle with the monster Humbaba, but a recently discovered fragment of the epic reveals that Humbaba was a human king, and describing him as a monster was just normal hyperbole. So let's have a closer look at the most famous part of Gilgamesh, the flood story.

The Great Flood

As you may know, Gilgamesh contains the earliest account of Noah's flood. Gilgamesh shows how the gods (or rather, their representatives) were human. In Gilgamesh, the flood was a deliberate breaking of dams in the city of Shurrupak, and not anything supernatural. Gilgamesh also refers to burning of houses: the gods made doubly sure that nobody survived (except Utnapishtim/ Noah, who was warned of their plans). So the flood probably refers to the burning of Shurrupak, which archeologists date to circa 2500 BC. Gilgamesh was king of Uruk at around the same time, so his story was almost contemporary.

Gilgamesh implies that the ark floated down the Gulf Coast and stopped on a  sand bank just out of sight of Dilmun (modern Bahrain). So I checked. Yes, sure enough, there is a large sand bank just north of Bahrain (the light part at the top of the picture)!

The sand bank

I checked the distances, and everything fits. The closest part of the sand bank is 11 miles away from Bahrain, so you would need to be 20 metres above sea level to see Bahrain on the horizon. Of course, Bahrain has some high ground, and a boat would have some kind of mast or lookout tower. But also, the ark would have rested on the northern part of the sand bank. So Bahrain is exactly the right distance away: far enough so that Noah thinks there is no land anywhere.

The dove

At first, Utnapishtim/Noah sends a dove out (a homing pigeon?). It either does not want to make a 40 mile round trip, or does so, but comes back because the ark is his home and he always gets fed. But sooner or later a bird does not come back. Or it brings back a twig. So Noah knows land is not too far.

Once Noah knows land is not too far, the obvious thing is to pull some planks of wood off the ark and build an extra high lookout post. Twenty metres above sea level shoud do it (5 metre ark plus 5 metre normal look out plus an extra ten metres?). Then it's a matter of ferrying the contents of the ark across the shallow eleven miles to the coast. it's exactly the right distance. Any closer, and Noah would see the land. Any farther, and Noah could not ferry his animals there.

The lost ark

Where is the ark now? Perhaps without the weight of the contents, Noah managed to free the ark from the sand and sail it to the mainland. Or maybe he dismantled it there. Over the next four and a half thousand years any remaining wood would float away, but who knows, maybe the odd plank is still buried in the sand? But the chances are that plenty of other boats ran aground there as well, so I don't know if it would be worth planning an expedition to find the ark.


As for the Genesis claim that the Ark rested on the mountains of Ararat, that is easily explained. "Ararat" sounds like the Hebrew "har" "arad" meaning "hill of descent". It refers to any hill where you descend from.

Mankind first developed agriculture and settled in towns in the mountains of Turkey. See Gobekli Tepe, Catal Huyuk, etc.) So Turkey's mountains are the the most famous "hills of descent". But Genesis refers to hills covered by water (Genesis 7:19-20), so they are what we could call sandbanks. Genesis describes how Noah rested on one of these sandbanks.

Gilgamesh was practically a contemporary of Noah, around 25000 BC. But Genesis was probably edited (from Gilgamesh and other sources) around 600 BC. That's almost 2000 years later! So it is understandable that when they read "hills of descent" they thought of the more famous "hills of descent". So they assumed the flood must have been much, much deeper than it was. But the earlier people knew another place of descent, the legendary gardens of Dilmun.

The Annunaki

It seems to me that the gods (the Annunaki) were the rulers from ancient times, and lived in the cedar forests of Turkey, just as Gilgamesh said. But when some farmers moved down the fertile crescent and invented writing, they gained their power base. This period when cities expanded is called the Uruk period because it centered on Uruk, and Gilgamesh was its most famous king. So the gods would have followed the farmers and continued their influence. Gods (elites) always grab the best land, so they would have settled in Dilmun, the beautiful region of gardens described by Gilgamesh at the end of hs epic.

Adam and Eve

All of this lets us identify the "lord" in genesis (JHWH), It would be a memory of Gilgamesh, the land lord of the area. But the "gods" (elohim) would refer to the more senior group. "Eden" was the sumerian word for the plains where Uruk's farmers worked, and the forbidden tree would be the cedars in the gods' forests. Adam would be Enkidu, brought in to do the work of Uruk's farmers and hunters. Eve was Shamhat, who made Adam realise he was naked and wanted clothes. I wonder if the serpent was the priest of Marduk, the oe who challenged the gods in the Enuma Elish, as the serpent is the symbol of Marduk. I'm not sure but I will definitely be looking at the Enuma Elish in Tedagame!

Why stories matter

Of course, this is not proof. But novels and a pics are not about proof: they are about possibilities. We are free to write anything as long as it is possible. And the ark resting on this sandbank is a  definite possibility!

Goodbye Facebook, hello again Blogger

I will soon move all updates to this blog, and stop using Facebook as much. Facebook is fine for memes and fun, but not good for depth of any kind. It's much easier to organise and find ideas on a blog.

Plus, blogs don't nag me for money every day. Facebook is always trying to make me "Boost this post" for money, and obsess over how many people read. No thanks. Not interested. If this blog is any good, people will find it. I don't want to spam anybody, thank you.

If people like this game, they will tell friends, If they don't like it they won't. Simple. And if it grows very slowly, that's best of all. Rome was not built in a day. And if Facebook had been invented in 753 BC, Rome would not have been built at all. Romulus and Remus would have been far too busy posting cute wolf videos instead.