Knights of San Francisco brings a proc-gen text RPG to mobile next week

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It started with a dream “to create a text-based Skyrim“. Filip Hracek wanted to created an open-world fantasy adventure in the vein of Skyrim, but rendered and played entirely through text and the odd-hand drawn illustration, like a Fighting Fantasy-esque gamebook. A few years later the product of that dream is almost here: Knights of San Francisco launches on iOS and Android on May 4, letting players explore a procedurally-generated fantasy adventure in the ruins of San Francisco in the 21st century.

Knights of San Francisco draws inspiration from modern tabletop adventures like Dungeon World and Dungeons & Dragons 5E, using dice and player choices to drive combat and unfolding text to convey to players what’s happening, like a dungeon master would. But rather than a pre-determined campaign, its “Natural Language Generation” procedurally generates much of the text to create a dynamic experience. (You can actually try a prototype of this system for free in your browser, with a game called Insignificant Little Vermin.)

It’s an intriguing concept, to say the least: a self-directed gamebook in the hands of an AI dungeon master, with the kind of openness that a pre-prepared adventure couldn’t possibly deliver. Procedurally-generated storytelling always raises some eyebrows, too, but it’ll be interesting to see how Knights of San Francisco deals with those hurdles.

As the developers describe it:

Explore what remains of the ancient city of San Francisco and experience dynamic combat in this RPG text game.

What if goblins, ogres, and dragons weren’t imagined? What if our ancestors were, unwittingly, foretelling the future? Find yourself in that future, centuries from now, among the ruins of what was once the 21st century – where these terrifying creatures roam freely…

Heavily inspired by modern tabletop RPGs like Dungeon World, this game puts you in the shoes of a young necromancer on a quest. Battle monsters, raise the dead, and explore what remains of the ancient city of San Francisco.

This game is a labor of love of a single writer-programmer, Filip Hracek, and a single illustrator, Alec Webb. It is relatively short, and can be finished in about 90 minutes.

The gameplay is closer to tabletop role playing games than to traditional computer RPGs. Instead of presenting you with numbers and graphics, the game tells you what’s happening, the same way a dungeon master would. Things are still meticulously tracked in the background, but there are no big tables to look at or tactical maps to read.

Knights of San Francisco launches May 4 on Android and iOS, at a price of USD $2.99. It’s a premium game with no in-app purchases.

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Matthew is a writer based in Wellington. He loves all things pop culture, and is fascinated by its place in history and the wider social context.