1001 Odysseys

Created by Chris Cieslik

An adventure board game with storybooks full of journeys to visit new worlds, meet quirky aliens, and make many, many branching choices. 1-4 Players, 30-60 minutes per chapter.

Latest Updates from Our Project:

History in Space
about 1 month ago – Sun, May 22, 2022 at 07:20:35 PM

Hello Friends!

Thanks to those of you who were able to stop by and see us at PAX East, it was grand to talk about the game and to share the new passport folder in person. It folds, it holds, it's amazing and bold design! We look forward to seeing more of you at Gen Con this summer and PAX Unplugged in the fall. Plans for demos at those shows will be announced closer to those dates!

Art Update

The Artists continue to work away on the images that will bring Insula to life for everyone. We are getting dangerously close to spoilers in the art realm, but we felt good about showing you this image:

A Timtillawink educational moment, art by @MisterCrowbar

There will be adventure! Our next art projects are more in the graphic design side of things, so:

Graphics Update

We've been capturing the odd moments from the edges of working on the narrative tree to continue working on the graphics that sit around the beautiful illustrations and bring the whole thing together to create the feeling of being on board the Odyssey with your crew. 

We've had prototype / partially completed art for our location, momentum, and focus cards for a while, and we're now putting the finishing touches on to them to make them as cool as they deserve to be (it turns out, all cards want to be cool, it's just a thing that cards do). We expect to have much of this to show off in our next update! 

Stories and Writing Update

Specific text continues to fall firmly into the spoiler category, but we are still writing, and also revising. We're reading through some of the older work with fresh eyes which gives us the opportunity to laugh at it all over again and to improve it for overall continuity.  

With the updates to our Tech, we've been able to fill in some of the missing blurbs that we'd been waiting to get into the database (more on that next), so we can lock in some of the chapters that were 95% done. Hurray! 

Technology Update

New computers have been installed, and after a bit of motherboard drama everything is up and running!  Did we also install a big fancy new air conditioner so that the office won't be a billion degrees this summer? Yes! This is especially relevant as Boston braces for...95 degree May (what the hell?) weather this weekend. Benchmarks are now showing our traversal algorithms running between 5x-20x as fast on this machine as our previous cloud options, so a traverse that would've previously taken a day can be completed in a matter of hours. This is extremely helpful, and will accelerate our work both writing and verifying chapters. 

The next tech project (for me, Chris) is in now upgrading the presentation of our virtual-play website, to display a fancier simulated version of the Mission Control Board and game state. This is what we'd planned to share available to the public late last year, but got sidetracked with writing/upgrades/etc. 

What's Next?

More writing! More tech! We're getting closer to done with parts of the game, and we'll be starting efforts on translating words stored in the database into words that're properly laid out in a PDF that we can print out and do a physical test of some of the chapters in the game (with maps! and cards! and boards!). The goal is to have that in place before Gen Con, and if things are amenable to full demos there, we'll run them. If not, we'll put together a stream of us doing it here at home. Maybe even with some special guests! 

...the special guest is Ivy. Happy Spring and almost beginning of Summer, everyone :) 

Databases: Anyone got a Space Age Computer?
3 months ago – Fri, Apr 08, 2022 at 07:35:27 AM

(Oops, Sarah made a minor edit after me so it says the post is by Sarah, but it's actually by me, Chris! Sorry for the confusion :D )

Hello friends, and happy Spring to everyone in the Northern hemisphere! The winter chillies are fading, and being able to go outside again? Yes please.

April is a busy month for us, we (Julia and I) are traveling for the next week, and then we (Sarah, Julia, and I) will be at PAX East the week after! We're going to be in Tabletop in the Foam Brain Games booth, and we'd love to see anyone who wants to stop by :)  We will have the same super-mini-demo of 3 cards that we had at PAX Unplugged, as required-masks makes playing full chapter demos somewhat untenable. Say hello! Wave from a distance! Air hugs! It's all the social-distancing rage. 


Let's talk about some numerical progress: Writing-work has continued, and we've now got 1,112 paragraph-entries in the database. Things are going well, and our writers just wrapped up a 2 hour writey-feedback-slack-meets, as is Thursday Tradition. Ivy (cat) oversaw this meeting from far above the computer. She liked what she saw between naps.

These paragraphs and their commands represented a total of 7.9 million unique pathways that are traversed while playing through the game so far.

Now, you might be saying, "That sounds like a lot of pathways. How's your database feeling?"

In response, the database let out a fascinatingly unique noise that represents a combination of a 56K modem, the sound of finding a treasure in The Legend of Zelda, and a slide whistle. 

It's a few too many paths, as it turns out.

The Database

Much of my (Chris) work this winter and spring has been refining the database to make it do the things we want it to do to support the writers. There're four main things the database does.

  • Centralizes all the writing work so everyone on the team can see it. This part is quite fine, and behaves like a wiki. (We also have a wiki for backstory and whatnot!) 
  • Allows our Narrative Architect (Sarah) to enter the commands that follow each written paragraph into the system, which allows for the next two functions:
  • Dynamically creates entries for the new paragraphs that will be available to players based on all the commands from previous paragraphs. (Essentially, it builds out the chapter as we go.)
  • Tests every single possible set of choices that the players could make in a chapter, providing statistics, verification of unreachable blurbs, and verification that there are no dead-ends.

The last two functions are where the heavy work has been ongoing. Our original traversal algorithm blazed straight through the whole chapter, trying everything, doing it all with style, and then it hit a particularly tall, wide, and branchy chapter and basically exploded. 7 million of those 7.9m paths came from one chapter and would've taken 49 hours to fully execute on the server (too many, especially when the traversal must be run multiple times as we add commands and build out chapters). 

Over the past several weeks, I rebuilt it with a heavier focus on converging identical states at various checkpoints, and have been testing it thoroughly. Here's what this looks like, functionally:

You can see that there're some percentage estimates of how often a specific paragraph is likely to appear in a segment of playthrough, and also how likely it is to reach game states approaching this area (we call them Nodes!) .

The further you get into the chapter, the more potential game states there are! Ones that the database has run through are in green, pending states are red. This is from some testing I was doing today:

This view is for me and Sarah, the rest of the writers do not have to worry about our shiny-computer-totally-not-Evangelion-interface. Writers see something much more reasonable, like this:

Hey look, it's the start paragraph from the first chapter of the first book of the game!  

What this allowed us to do is identify the area of the offending-7-million-path chapter that had the problem paragraphs, trim down a couple options, and reduce it to a much more reasonable 500,000 paths (which, with the new improvements, runs much faster). Hurray! 


We had planned to open up online-playtesting of some chapters to backers in the past couple months, but getting the database functioning properly for writing the game took priority - we still want to get that functionality out so that you can try out some chapters, and I'll be back to working on that after PAX! 

Priority 1 is getting these stories finished so that you all can enjoy the game on your tabletops, and we remain hard at work toward that goal! 

Passport to the Stars
4 months ago – Sat, Feb 19, 2022 at 07:02:56 PM

Greetings backers, friends, and future space explorers,

It's winter here in the Northern hemisphere. For us that means cold snow, warm cats, and steady work on 1001 Odysseys. Today we have a first look at our new Passport graphics and some other status reports.  

Graphics Update

We've shared the Mission Control Board and various Map components in previous updates. Now we're ready to show you something new for the Information Officer. The Passport is where you and your crew can keep a record of your journey through Insula. Before we begin, we must stress that these are not final production images. Each Passport will be designed to support its own Storybook. The title and number will of course match, but the Passport will also include a checklist for Chapters that you have unlocked, Items and Contacts that you have collected, and spaces to record your Achievements. Each of these lists will only be long enough to store the information needed to complete the Storybook. You'll be able to tell how much you have left to discover.

The Passport Folder is also designed to literally contain the physical minicards that represent Items and Contacts, as well as Chapter Data Sheets from past play sessions. It took some trial and error, but we believe that we have come up with a format that will do a very good job of keeping everything in place even when you tilt and shake the game box. 

Now let's introduce you to some visuals (Spoiler warning: text may contain actual titles of Chapters, Interludes, or Storybooks).

The Passport exterior (back and front) has space to store Achievements. Shown folded. (Graphics not final)

 First, we have the exterior of the Passport. Triangles on a diagonal sash show you where you can keep your Achievements stickers as  you earn them. You'll also notice a tab on the right that secures a small flap, keeping the whole thing closed when it's not in use. Lifting that flap opens the Passport.  

The interior of the Passport has checklists for Chapters, Items, and Contacts and a place to store Passport Cards and Chapter Data Sheets. (Graphics not final)

Inside we have space to keep track of and store our Chapters, Items, Contacts, and Chapter Data Sheets. The Chapter list is on the left flap, and includes a space to check off Chapters as you unlock them through the Storybook. We have also added Interludes to this list. Interludes are a new very short collection of blurbs that take place in between Chapters which we've added to improve the experience of replaying a Storybook. 

Checklists for the Items and Contacts are located on the top and bottom flaps so you can gauge your progress at a glance. The minicards showing the details of these Items and Contacts fit in the space between.

The Chapter Data Sheet will come as a notepad of several identical sheets, with the idea that you can use them to play or replay any Chapter that you've unlocked. Each sheet includes a place up to six Missions. It also includes checkboxes for several Events that will help the Commander determine where to turn in the Storybook.

To get a real sense of how this will feel in practice, we built a simple working mockup. Beware! This is only a rough demonstration of how the Passport generally works. Materials will change, graphics will evolve, and dimensions may change as we work with our manufacturer to put these into the game. (Spoiler warning: Text may include actual titles.)

Here is how we imagine the Passport opening at the start of a play session:

And here is how we imagine it closing when it's time to clean up between sessions:

We're very satisfied with how the Passport is working now, and we look forward to seeing it in action.

Art, Writing, Stories!

Usually we show a pretty new map with updates, but...we've already showed almost all of them!  The last map, Araveen, is scheduled to be painted over the next month or so. Our artists were busy with non-Odysseys projects and things for the first few weeks of the year, but we're back to drafting the remaining chapter header images and then we'll be on to the small spot illustrations for Items and Contacts, plus Almanac bits. We're not going to show very many of those in updates, because they're spoilers for the most part. Most of our artistic efforts have been on graphic design (like the Passport above), which we'll continue to refine as we get final specs from the factory on what's feasible! 

In the world of Writing and Stories, we've begun the process of translating Old Story 4 into New Story 4 (much writing was done for a previous set of mechanics - most is fine, with a few tweaks here and there), and getting it into the Database. This is moving quicker than normal writing, and we hope to have most of Story 4 fully implemented by early Spring. 

I (Chris) had planned on having a website version of some stories available for backers to play around the new year. Apologies for not having that in place yet, I'm working on it and hope to have it available soon. 

Scheduling and Manufacturing Updates

We've been in talks with manufacturing partners on how to make the folders for the Passports, and it all seems pretty viable! This was our last real physical-item concern, and we'll continue to mock up prototypes to make sure they work well in practice. 

January was slow - it was cold, snow happened, sick happened, staying inside to be safe from omicron happened, but we got a reasonable quantity of things done. All of those things have begun to change (hopefully!) and we aim to get lots more done in the rest of Winter and the start of Spring. 

We have some booth space at PAX East, and a couple of us will be at Granite Games Summit. Hope to see you all soon, and we remain excited to get this game into your hands as quickly as we can! :)

Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse!
6 months ago – Tue, Dec 21, 2021 at 09:15:58 PM

Hello Friends!

As we approach the end of 2021, we've got significant progress to report. We're now at a point where we can update our schedule with more solid projections.  Get the details below!

Art Update

Betelgeuse is now completely colored! We're delighted to show you this strange and fantastical landscape where thoughts take flight.

Betelgeuse, the homeworld of the Mindweavers. Artwork by Sam "Mr. Crowbar" Henry.

This brings the game-essential artwork very close to completion.  The beautiful illustrations for all four of our large Maps are complete. Five out of the six small Maps are also fully complete, and Araveen (the last Map for this group of Storybooks) is inked. The box cover art is also ready to go.

The supporting artwork is our next focus, though we have already completed 29 out of 39 chapter header illustrations. We will also be making a few dozen-ish (number deliberately made vague to prevent spoilers) small Contact and Item illustrations for you to add to your Passport, though we have only just begun this part of the process. They will be our primary art task during the Winter.

Graphics Update

Keen observers will note that we're still making tweaks to the Map graphics above to improve their legibility. We're also revisiting the graphics on other game components, including the Mission Control Board, the Momentum and Focus Cards, the Navigation Board, and the Passport. Functions are the same, but we're tweaking the look for maximum clarity and fun!

A digital mockup of the new Mission Control Board graphics in play.
New Momentum Card graphics help single out a specific card type at a glance.

The Operations Officer now has a newly designed Mission Control Board. To make it easy to fit multiple Focuses on the same Mission, we're using D.I.S.C.s that sit on top of the Focus Cards. The Momentum Cards slide into place, and visually complete a circuit when it's time for a Mission Update. The Operations Officer is both encouraged and required to make boop and woosh noises when sliding cards and cubes into position.

The Navigation Board has a place to hold extra D.I.S.C.s and yet-to-be-discovered Location Cards.

In addition to the new Map, Navigators can look forward to a new board to hold their Location Cards and D.I.S.C.s.

Passport graphics are coming along in a similar style, but are not yet ready to share. Never fear, future Information Officers, your Passport will be ready soon.

Stories and Writing Update

Writing continues at a steady pace. We're adding new blurbs to the Storybooks and composing the text that goes in each one. We're also migrating the very first Storybook we wrote (which is not the first story you will read) into our module so we can run tests on it. We continue to tap-tap-tap away at our keyboards! Bit by bit, everything's coming together.

You might be looking for a quantifiable "number" of writing that has been done. Now that we've begun testing out layouts, we can report that the stories written to date comprise about 215 pages of text (8.5x11"), or 95,000 words. There's still more to be done, but our little corner of the galaxy gets a bit bigger every day. They grow up so fast. :')

Micro Adventure

To face the unique challenges of demoing 1001 Odysseys at a convention right now, we made a neat solution: a micro adventure! It was designed to fit on three postcards, so that we could hand it to people to read on their own time, rather than try to play through a longer demo in masks. We handed out several hundred sets of postcards at PAX Unplugged and everyone loved it! It was wonderful to see people in person and share even just a little taste of the game again. And now, we're going to share it with you in PDF form. There are clickable links in the document to bring you to the next blurb in the tree. 

So what's it about? The beach! Who wouldn't like a nice day at the beach?

The Micro Adventure is presented at conventions as three cards, click to download the cards in .pdf format.

Website Testing

We're still working on the website portal for testing out stories - we'll have more on it in a separate update when it goes live (hopefully in the next 2-3 weeks!). 

Schedule, Funding, Plans

Obviously, 2021 was not the escape from 2020 we all hoped it would be. Writing bright and vibrant stories during it all has been extremely challenging, but we've pushed through as best we could to get more of the art and stories done. There's still some more work to do, but (fingers crossed) things seem to be on the path toward improvement, and we honestly hope that 2022 will be a better year for everyone (writers included)!

Some folks have expressed concern that the project will run out of money and not be delivered, and I want to address that explicitly: we're in good financial shape, and we will be able to complete work on the game, print it, and send it off to you all. Our plan is to accelerate the pace of writing during Q1 of 2022, with additional writing and editing happening in Q2. If all goes well, we'll be in position to push a Print Button in Q3.

The state of logistics, printing, and shipping has been a mess in 2020/2021, but we're hopeful that things will be back to reasonably normal by then. The print operation for 1001 Odysseys isn't particularly difficult. It's books, cards, and paper, and some chipboard + tokens. No fancy molding to worry about!

What we really want, and what we've always wanted, is to have this game on tables in your homes and at conventions, with people reading fun, cute, interesting stories to each other, smiling and laughing. It's why we do what we do!

We thank you all again for your infinite patience and support, and for backing and believing in this project.

A Closer Look at Exo-Cartography
8 months ago – Sun, Oct 24, 2021 at 05:33:46 PM

Happy Autumn to everyone except for those of you on the other side of that pesky Equator - happy Spring to you instead! As I write this update, our cat Ivy is sitting on my shoulder, because it is unacceptably cold outside. She wanted to make sure you all knew. Very important. 

Art Update

Today in the realms of art, we have the in-process map of Betelgeuse, which is in the sketch/inks stage before coloring. Usually we wait to show the finished fancy and vibrant version, but I wanted to give another peek into the process of map development. We have a big channel on our Slack for maps, which winds up littered with dozens of reference photos of real-world buildings, fake-world movie buildings, landscapes, biomes (and cats, because always cats), which our artists use to bring the locales of Insula to life.  

In the sketch below, you can see some blue and orange card-shaped overlays, which we use to make sure that all the location cards we currently have planned will actually fit on the maps at the same time. Those dots all represent places you'll have a chance to visit on Betelgeuse! Remember, different choices can lead you to different locations, so the locations available to the Odyssey crew can shift on each playthrough.

Coloring on this map will begin soon :) 

Stories and Writing Update

Let's take a look at some numbers, because everyone loves numbers (Fact: not everyone likes numbers. For example, the Letters-Only Sect in the Elysian Region of Sarynthia VII forbids numbers and all things math. They're great with acronyms though.) As of this moment, there are 640 paragraph/blurbs in the database which result in 143,000 branching paths. About 80% of those are in a writing-completed state. The numbers can be a bit volatile, as empty placeholders tend to be added in big batches. Some are long, some are short, some are paradoxically both long and short (shh, don't tell anyone we're violating the laws of write-physics). 

We've been having more readthrough sessions, and those have gone wonderfully. It's easy to forget just how fun the stories are until we hear them repeated out loud by someone else! It's one of the most important parts of our writing/editing process.

Conventions: PAX Unplugged and 2022!

We're happy to announce that we've got a booth at PAX Unplugged and will be doing...something with it. Currently the requirements for PAX U are that all attendees wear masks, which does make demoing and playing 1001 Odysseys difficult, but safety is important and we're glad they're taking things seriously. We plan to be at PAX East, Gen Con, and PAX Unplugged in 2022, and maybe some other shows as well. Definitely hoping next year is a lot more fun than the past year! 

We hope to see you all soon, and thanks again for having faith in our writing efforts. We're working hard to make the cool stories you pledged for :)