Blog

Dec 12

2019

In the Service of Mrs. Claus–Save Xmas as her top secret elven agent!

Posted by: Mary Duffy | Comments (0)

We’re proud to announce that In the Service of Mrs. Claus, the latest in our popular Choice of Games line of multiple-choice interactive-fiction games, is now available for Steam, Android, and on iOS in the Choice of Games Omnibus app. It’s 25% off until December 19!

Let me tell you the true secret of Christmas: Santa Claus died centuries ago. You see, in ancient times, as the Gods began to die, Santa Claus married a goddess. She was worshiped as Bast in Egypt, as Artemis in Greece, Diana in Rome. She’s been called a witch, a hero, an assassin. You call her Mrs. Claus.

In the Service of Mrs. Claus is a 167,000-word interactive fantasy thriller by Brian Rushton, where your choices control the story. It’s entirely text-based—without graphics or sound effects—and fueled by the vast, unstoppable power of your imagination.

When Santa died, Mrs. Claus invested the power of Christmas in Santa’s Heart, which she buried with Santa in a top-security tomb beneath Claus Castle. But now, someone has stolen the Heart. As Mrs. Claus’ top secret agent–her most trusted elf–you must go undercover to recover the Heart and take back Christmas from the forces of darkness.

As you unveil the dark secrets of the Fae, you’ll magic up giant marshmallows and deadly candy canes, romance sweet friends and roguish villains, and vie with the mysterious Krinkle Corporation to save Christmas from ruin. But in the final battles you must decide whether to blast the armies of darkness with your winter elf magic, or join them and betray your mistress.

• Play as a shape-shifting elf who flows between gender, species, and form at will.
• Clash with cults, gods, and giant corporations as they strive to overthrow Mrs. Claus’s empire.
• Use magic to complete clandestine missions as Mrs. Claus’s secret agent.
• Visit earthly children to determine their naughty or nice designations…and presents, if any.
• Decide the fate of Christmas and the Fae world itself.
• Discover the truth about Santa’s death.
• Play nice with your enemies or put them on your naughty list.
• Restore Mrs. Claus to power, betray her, or marry her.

Christmas is coming. You’d better watch out.

We hope you enjoy playing In the Service of Mrs. Claus. We encourage you to tell your friends about it, and recommend the game on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and other sites. Don’t forget: our initial download rate determines our ranking on the App Store. The more times you download in the first week, the better our games will rank.

Dec 09

2019

Author Interview: Brian Rushton, In the Service of Mrs. Claus

Posted by: Mary Duffy | Comments (0)

Let me tell you the true secret of Christmas: Santa Claus died centuries ago. You see, in ancient times, as the Gods began to die, Santa Claus married a goddess. She was worshiped as Bast in Egypt, as Artemis in Greece, Diana in Rome. She’s been called a witch, a hero, an assassin. You call her Mrs. Claus.

In the Service of Mrs. Claus is a 167,000-word interactive fantasy thriller by Brian Rushton. I sat down with Brian to talk about Christmas and our first holiday-themed game. In the Service of Mrs. Claus releases Thursday, December 12th.

In the Service of Mrs. Claus is a highly specific imagining of the world of Christmas spirits/elves/etc. Tell me where that came from.

I’ve always loved elves and faeries, from the stories of the Brothers Grimm and Irish legends to cheesy Christmas cartoons and the Lord of the Rings. I wanted to make a world where all these types of elves and Fae could exist together. These were all thought of by humans, so why not have a world fueled by mortal imagination? And that led to a much larger world than I had originally planned, a world where Claus Castle had to share space with creatures like mythological gods, the Tooth Fairy and Bloody Mary. Looking back, I think that the book The Neverending Story was a big influence on this world, because it also has that ‘big tent’ view where all mythological creatures belong together, influenced by human wishes and dreams.

This is one of the few Choice of Games titles where the PC is non-human, and also not a super-human. Do you think that presents challenges for the player, or does it function much the same way in crafting a PC?

I definitely think there are some challenges! One difference in being an elf instead of a human is that you have no set shape. Elves can change size, gender, and species at will. So the only thing that sticks around with your character is the personality, powers, and friendships.

Some players might feel frustrated that they can’t tailor a character with specific eye color or fixed gender. On the other hand, it can feel freeing not to be tied down to any one body. One of the main skills in the game is Shifting, the power to transform yourself. Several players have mentioned how much fun it can be to turn into a pixie for cooking or a dragon for fighting. So there are definitely some advantages in having a non-human protagonist.

Do you have a favorite part or favorite personal tradition as part of the holiday season?

I think spending time together with family is my favorite. Growing up, we used to have big family parties every Christmas Eve. Most of my cousins could play an instrument, so we’d put together a big band and play Christmas carols together. We had four violins, a flute, piano, a tuba, a clarinet, a few guitars, and I’d play saxophone. Sometimes my grandfather would play washtub bass. We had little green booklets that had the carols arranged for our own instruments, and everyone who wasn’t playing would sing.

Later that night, our parents would let us pick one present to open early. My mom usually tried to get us to pick the fluffy packages that were obviously pajamas. But one year I ended up with a coat (which I wore to bed just to get some use out of it) and another year I opened up an SNES game without the SNES (I ended up reading the manual all night).

My grandfather was the head of all these things, and he passed away this year. So in a way I’d hope that this game could help honor his memory.

This is certainly the only holiday-themed game we’ve published, but tell me why this game would be fun at any time of year.

In the Service of Mrs. Claus is a Christmas game the same way that Die Hard and The Nightmare Before Christmas are Christmas movies. Christmas provides the background and the motivation, but most of the story is not about Christmas itself.

Instead, it’s about questioning your identity in the face of extreme trials. The PC has their core beliefs challenged, gets hunted by extra-dimensional beings, and ends up betrayed by former friends. One beta tester described the theme as “Christmas horror” and I think that’s pretty accurate!

This is not your first IF rodeo, though I believe it is your first ChoiceScript game. Tell our readers about some of your other projects.

My longest game before this was a parser-based game called Color the Truth. It’s a murder mystery set in a 1980’s radio station where their star radio host has been found dead. You have to interview the suspects by playing through their memories, but everyone is lying. If you catch them in a lie by combining clues, you can replay again and see what really happened.

I also partnered with IF author and pixel artist Marco Innocenti to make an illustrated parser game called Swigian, which is a retelling of Beowulf. In contrast to my other games, it’s completely minimalistic, with as little words as possible. I love the way Marco’s art turned out for it!

And what are you working on next?

For the last few years, I’ve been offering a prize in the Interactive Fiction Competition where I make a small game set in the same world as the winner’s game. Right now I’m working on a sequel to last year’s winner, Alias the Magpie, a British crime caper. My game is set on a train, where you have to overcome suspicious servants and a talkative parrot to rob an American oil magnate.

I’m also running (with permission) a tribute competition for the 20th anniversary of Emily Short’s game Galatea, which is still one of the best conversational games out there. It’ll be running next year from March 24th to April 2nd, and it’s a chance for people to have some fun and make something that celebrates Galatea and Short’s other work. Choicescript games are welcome!

Dec 02

2019

Heart’s Choice is here!

Posted by: Mary Duffy | Comments (0)

We’re proud to announce the release of the first four Heart’s Choice games in a new omnibus app on Google Play, Apple’s App Store, and the Amazon Android Marketplace; and as individual games on Steam. Right now you can:

Since 2009, the team behind Choice of Games has created high-quality interactive novels in all genres. Now, our new Heart’s Choice label puts romance at the center of the story, and you at the center of the romance. Heart’s Choice games contain no graphics or sound effects, so we can focus on the story. Every game is filled with vivid, fully-developed characters and complex narratives that respond to your choices.

How will you find your happily ever after?

Nov 30

2019

Heart’s Choice Author Interview: David Monster & Jim Dattilo, All World Pro Wrestling

Posted by: Mary Duffy | Comments (0)

You’re a trainee in the male Erotic Professional Wrestling Federation… and you’re reader to take on all comers. Training includes sparring, matches in the ring against the other trainees, tag team competitions, a battle royal, antics in the showers and locker room, and even ringside seats at the Championship Match.

All World Pro Wrestling is a 310,000-word interactive erotic gay novel by David Monster and Jim Dattilo, one of the first set of games releasing with the launch of Heart’s Choice. I sat down with the authors to talk about writing interactive romance. Heart’s Choice games release December 2nd.

All World Pro Wrestling is part of the first launch of Heart’s Choice games and it’s the first gender and sexuality locked game we’re releasing for gay men. Jim you’ve written non-genderlocked games as well. Can you talk a little about the difference?

JIM:
Writing a gender and sexuality locked game certainly has some advantages. The most obvious first advantage is that we don’t have to code gender pronouns, which saves time in coding and editing.

The next major advantage is in creating the characters. As a writer of choice games you want to give players lots of options. As a writer of fiction you want to give the reader highly specific characters. So in a game like Zombie Exodus, I need to have a huge variety of characters which are all open to various sexualities. Hopefully every player can find someone they are interested in or identify with. It is a phenomenal amount of work. However in All World Pro Wrestling, we can focus on a smaller set of characters, making them highly detailed.

Wrestling is also having a little cultural moment right now, it seems. What informed your decision to write wrestling fetish interactive fiction?

DAVID:
There’s currently a great climate in independent pro wrestling. They seem to be embracing diversity, especially LGBT, in a way that major federations are not. The independents are a lot more entertaining because they have a great sense of humor, especially guys like Joey Ryan, RJ Skinner, Brian Cage, The Golden Lovers, and Jervis Cottonbelly. It’s a lot more appealing to me, because through the humor, they are acknowledging the homoerotic aspect of the sport in a way that’s exciting, amusing, and not derogatory.

After I published my first book, Service, people contacted me to tell me they loved it but wanted more sex and erotica. So, I wrote a gay erotic pro wrestling novel. It’s such a natural, because beyond being a sport, pro wrestling is really a fetish, and along with the homoeroticism, there’s a brotherhood that naturally lends itself to man-on-man romance.

JIM:
I have a lot of gay male fans through my other writing and they provide some of the best feedback on romance. There are so few choice games or forms of interactive fiction focused on LGBT characters that players are more willing to voice their support and criticism. As game designers we need both forms of feedback.

When David and I decided to collaborate, we thought to convert his gay male erotica novel into a choice driven story. His novel already had a rich setting, plot, and set of characters. This is why we wanted to pitch it.

Are you fans of regular wrestling?

DAVID:
Yes, I watch all different kinds of wrestling, mainly on YouTube. I like vintage pro wrestling, like AWA and GWF from the 50s to the 80s. When it comes to current wrestling, I’m a big fan of the independents. They’ve evolved as much more entertaining than WWE, currently the largest federation. I can’t watch WWE anymore. I’ll tune in every ten years or so, and it’s always the same storylines, same choreography. The guys are great-looking, but I need more than that.

I’m also a fan of Collegiate Wrestling. I wish I would have trained in amateur wrestling and grappling. All the great MMA fighters say it’s a necessary foundation for their sport.

JIM:
As a kid I was a big fan of wrestling, back in the early days of Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage. I stopped watching at the time the WWF became the WWE, because as David said, the storylines became recycled. I don’t fault anyone for enjoying it now. Sometimes I’ll see a commercial for a large event and it will pique my interest.

This game is full of different romanceable characters. Tell me about some of them and which ones you enjoyed writing most.

DAVID:
To tell you the truth, I love them all. They all have different attributes that make them special. Rory is an extremely cute blond boy. He’s sweet and kind, but he has the heart of a fighter. He always wants to win but wants all his friends to win, too. Bravon’s a real man, the best athlete in the facility, and a good friend to have. He’s a handsome muscle stud with the most extreme abs. Mandrew’s a cute jock boy and the class clown. He’s funny and always a good time, although he’s straight (or at least he says he is). Marcos is a big, hairy bear, and a total pushover. If you’re a power top, he’s your guy. He’s truly up for almost anything.

Finally there’s Stan. He’s a short little mountain of muscles, and, by far, the toughest guy in the training facility. He’s built is solidly as a wall of concrete which also represents the walls he built around himself to hide his vulnerabilities. He’s a loyal warrior, who is devoted to training but always searching for love.

Beyond these characters, you can have flings with lots of other characters.

Could you talk a little about your collaborative writing process?

DAVID:
It was a learning process for me. I’ve never written a multiple choice game before, and Jim had already done three. He was my teacher and mentor, and taught me things about making a game you can’t learn from a tutorial. Jim’s guidance made me a much better writer.

JIM:
David was the primary writer while I was the developer and coder. After writing a very extensive outline based on his book, we went through several rounds of drafts and edits until we came up with the shell of the game. David would write a chapter in a form of pseudocode, and I would take that document and convert it to ChoiceScript. Along the way we would talk about adding new content and deleting certain parts that weren’t working. David was always willing to do rewrites or punch up some text if needed. Since this was really his subject matter, I had to lean on him for the majority of the content. And he never made me feel like I was working for him. We were always collaborative and equal.

And what’s next for you guys? 

DAVID:
I released the book this game is based on, called Rowdy Armstrong 2 – Pro Wrestling Rookie. It’s available on Amazon, and you can check out the website for pics of all the characters in the book: RowdyArmstrong.com

I hope Jim and I can work on the sequel to this game, very soon. He’s so busy with Zombie Exodus. His fans are constantly demanding more of that story, because he has created a really cool world there.

I have another game, with accompanying book, I hope Choice of Games or Heart’s Choice will host. It’s a non-genderlocked fantasy story that will not involve wrestling.

I have a podcast, called Unimaginary Friendcast, and will continue to talk about this game on it. We have interviewed Jim twice, so search for that. It’s worth a listen, for sure.

Here’s my webpage, if you want to know more: DavidMonster.com

JIM:
I’m continuing to work on Zombie Exodus: Safe Haven, Part 3 primarily. I’m also currently working on a new title for Choice of Games. It’s a secret project, and I hope to share some details on this game early next year.

Nov 29

2019

Heart’s Choice Author Interview: RoAnna Sylver, Dawnfall

Posted by: Mary Duffy | Comments (0)

Find true love and family with a pirate crew at the ends of the universe, where aliens, ghosts, and portals open the space between worlds…and your heart. You are a Navigator, one who creates and guards portals from one dimension to another, wary of the liminal sea between them.

Your universe is made of two worlds: one contains the magic-infused world of Zephyria, and the other, the dystopian space station Eclipse. The worlds are balanced, until one day, an explosive disaster, a deadly energy storm, and an infamous pirate—the Ghost Queen—upend your life and plunge you into a race to save both worlds.

Dawnfall is a 232,000 word interactive romance novel by RoAnna Sylver,  one of the first set of games releasing with the launch of Heart’s Choice. I sat down with the author, RoAnna Sylver, to talk about writing interactive romance. Heart’s Choice games release December 2nd.

Dawnfall has frankly an insanely wonderful setting for a romance game. Tell me about the aliens, the pirates, the ghosts, and the alien-pirate-ghosts. 

Hi there! I’m so glad you think this sounds fun! Yeah, Dawnfall is weird as heck, and that’s one of the things I love about this story. It’s weird in a way I don’t think we’ve seen much of before. I really just tried to put in everything I find fun or interesting, and that I’ve always wanted to write. Dawnfall started out as a total brain-candy project, and runs on pure Rule of Cool. Pirates? Yes. Magic? Yes. A slice of cyberpunk? Hell yes. Eerie ghosts and faerie-tale influences and memory-sharing potions? Giant bird people? The power of rock n’roll? Yes, yes, yes.

And also everybody’s dateable, and in a couple cases, dating each other. We weave a tangled web, but I think it’s a pretty badass and spectacular web.

You seem to really neatly straddle the genre fence here with a romance and sci-fi/fantasy. What was challenging about cramming all of that into one game?

Thank you so much for saying that. I’ve always adored SFF, and there’s so much in this genre-collection, so many extremes and concepts and contrasting colors, that I couldn’t limit myself to picking just one to play with. This weird game-book is kind of a love letter to fantasy and science fiction and haunted house stories and cyberpunk adventures—I thought a lot about the Disney movie Treasure Planet for its genre-blending beauty, and the Bioware game Mass Effect for its array of fascinating, multidimensional alien cuties to interact with and date… and then turned it up to eleven.

I guess you’d expect the challenge to be in making it all fit together/be “believable,” but I kind of threw that out the window. I don’t expect anyone to find it ‘realistic’ (setting-wise anyway; I tried to make every character ring true of course), and I don’t really care if someone thinks it’s silly, or doesn’t take it seriously. It is silly in a lot of ways. DAWNFALL is a giant ridiculous queer space magic pirate adventure, and the only goal is fun. If you have fun, I’ve done my job, and there should be something fun in here for everyone.

Did you have a favorite NPC you enjoyed writing most? 

Honestly I love them all so much in different ways, and I know them so well by now it’s really second nature. Their voices come so easily and they’re all so much fun. The Queen’s swagger is awesome though, and her mental voice/mannerisms probably come through especially clearly. I love Zenith’s vulnerable moments when xie lets xir guard down and lets go of the need to entertain or please. I love Averis’s journey and growth from cute wibbly nerd to a confident swashbuckler (who is also still a cute wibbly nerd). I love how deeply Oz feels, how strongly he loves and remembers and honors memory, and how unafraid he is to show softness and warmth. And I love a certain spoilery ghost-babe and how they’re so full of joy at the beauty of life.

I do want to give special mention to Aeon, though. This is a story about connection, and I wanted to show that sibling bonds are every bit as important and strong as romantic or any other. I also wanted to show a complex, multidimensional antagonist figure who holds heartbreaking secrets along with authority, and is genuinely trying to do what she thinks is the best thing, and wants what’s best for you, the PC, even if you might not always agree. Her balance between being so emotionally guarded and determined and unyielding, while hopefully being extremely easy to read and tell what she wants and fears and loves—spoiler: you; she loves you!—was a challenge I hope I pull off.

…Also I enjoy any time Vyranix gets his pompous feathered ass handed to him. I think we all know a Vyranix, or at least of one, and it’s always fun to take them down, even in fantasy.

Who would you be romancing as a player?

I’m gonna say “everyone,” and here it won’t actually be cheating, because you can romance everyone! At once! In varying degrees/relationship dynamics and attractions. You don’t see a lot of polyamory-friendly games or books or anything really, and this is an incredibly important thing for me. The second I got the idea for Dawnfall I knew it had to let players romance anyone they wanted and show polyamory in a realistic, healthy light. I’m also a-spec (asexual and aromantic), and having not just good representation but being actively included and welcomed and celebrated in fiction is so huge too.

Dawnfall is a romance of course, being part of Heart’s Choice, but one of the single most vital elements for me is making it inclusive for aromantic and asexual players and player-characters. Essentially, I wanted to write a romance that didn’t penalize players for not experiencing the attractions the way we’re otherwise expected or required—and I’m so grateful that my amazing editors and community not only accepted but supported everything I was trying to do here. (It’s so refreshing not to have to fight for inclusion and freedom. It shouldn’t be, but it is.)

And that’s where the concept of “Heart-Stars” and “Same-Feathers” came from. I’ve never seen anything honor queerplatonic relationships like I’m trying to do here, and I want everyone, of every sexuality and attraction, to feel like they have a place here and can experience this adventure without limits. And I wanted to show that it’s a very normal thing, hence this being the same for the human characters as well as alien. (One of the nonbinary characters being human is also no mistake. I love me some wild alien genders, but there are tons of awesome nonbinary humans too!)

…That being said, I think I gave Averis most of my anxiety-issues, and would really just like to curl up with Oz and watch The Great British Bake-Off. That sounds like a perfect night in my books.

What were some of the things you found surprising about the game-writing process?

Coding was definitely the biggest learning curve. I’d never coded anything before in my life, and it’s such a new skillset to learn, entirely different from any kind of writing I’ve ever done. Sometimes it felt rewriting my brain, which did not at all do this intuitively—and also sometimes like I bit off much more than I could chew (first game ever being not only a huge piece of interactive fiction, but a polyamorous romance with aro and ace possibilities, and so many more variables than expected!), but it’s been worth it. Entirely. If my writing makes anyone feel seen and accepted and invited to have fun as they are, it’s worth every bit of struggle.

Also, oddly, interactive fiction is in some ways easier for me than writing a plain old book! Probably because I love AUs so much, and every choice in a game is like writing a tiny AU of the story, so I get to do the same scenes several different ways. My ADHD-brain finds something about this extremely satisfying, most likely because it somehow feels more like multitasking! Several stories in one, and if I like two ideas, I don’t have to pick just one to write!

Honestly though, I think the most surprising part is just being done, and…that I could do this at all. It was so huge, and took so long, and I learned so much, and every day I’m just kind of going “who the hell am I?” about doing all of this. I’m proud of it. I did a cool thing. And trying to get better at saying that.

And, what are you working on now?

I always have about 8 active projects going at once (which shouldn’t come as a surprise after last question!), but my next interactive fiction game is with Tales/Fable Labs! It’s shaping up to be a Dawnfall-sized project, but a little faster-moving and action-y.

It’s called Every Beat Belongs To You, and it’s a romantic thriller that feels like Twin Peaks meets Mr. Robot, with a smattering of Repo: The Genetic Opera. A creepy Pacific Northwest town with a secret (and a rash of ritualized murders), a super-slick medical research company whose flagship product is a 100% perfect synthetic heart, a mysterious new-age group, and a sister who went missing just before discovering how it’s all connected. Also five simultaneously-dateable (including ace and aro ships!) cuties of varying genders! Who will you trust with your heart?

I’m very excited about Everybeat, which should be just as queer, polyam, exciting, and weird as all my stuff! Aside from that, I’m working on Stake Sauce Book 2, its companion f/f vampire series Death Masquerade, and Chameleon Moon Book 3. I’m not always working…sometimes there are videogames, and sleep. But I really hope to have a lot more fun things to share soon!

Oh, and depending on how this weird, fun thing goes, I do have some ideas for prequel Dawnfall stories; maybe games, maybe books, but the ideas are there. The world—worlds, really—is so huge, and I’m not done playing in it yet! I also have some character art drawn, and I want to do a lot more of them. It’s another way to show love.

So thank you so much! I really hope Dawnfall is as fun to everyone to read/play as it was for me to write. I can’t wait to share it with you!

Nov 27

2019

Crème de la Crème – Climb to the very top of the class!

Posted by: Mary Duffy | Comments (0)

We’re proud to announce that Crème de la Crème, the latest in our popular Choice of Games line of multiple-choice interactive-fiction games, is now available for Steam, Android, and on iOS in the Choice of Games Omnibus app. It’s 30% off until Dec 5!

Climb to the very top of the class at your exclusive private school for socialites! Will you study hard, find a perfect match, or embrace scandal?

Crème de la Crème is a 440,000-word interactive novel by Hannah Powell-Smith, where your choices control the story. It’s entirely text-based, without graphics or sound effects, and fueled by the vast, unstoppable power of your imagination.

Gallatin College is a “finishing school” where young people must learn social graces, surrounded by their high-class peers. When your parents fall into disgrace, the rest of high society rejects them. It’s up to you to enroll at Gallatin, to secure your future and restore the family’s good name.

At Gallatin, you’ll dance with royalty, impress decorated officers, and perfect your etiquette. What will you prioritize: a spotless reputation, a prestigious social network, or a pristine report card–and who will you backstab to achieve it? Your year in this sparkling, brittle world is about to begin. But are you a rake soaked in scandal, or a perfectly proper socialite? Sneaking out of class or polishing your ballroom dancing, either way: the road to high society starts here!

• Play as male, female, or non-binary; gay, straight, or bisexual; monogamous or polyamorous; asexual and/or aromantic.
• Make a match with an aristocrat or royalty, develop a romantic connection with a fellow student, or fall for someone below your social standing.
• Enjoy a no-strings-attached fling, or propose a marriage of convenience with a friend.
• Join a clique – officially sanctioned by the college or decidedly not – and build its strength and standing.
• Distinguish yourself by achieving a place at university or on a competitive internship.
• Sabotage your classmates, or build friendships.
• Repair your family’s reputation, or grind it into the dust.
• Uncover Gallatin College’s dark secrets and reveal them to the world – or keep them under wraps.

Will you be the crème de la crème?

We hope you enjoy playing Crème de la Crème. We encourage you to tell your friends about it, and recommend the game on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and other sites. Don’t forget: our initial download rate determines our ranking on the App Store. The more times you download in the first week, the better our games will rank.

Nov 26

2019

Heart’s Choice Author Interview: Nicola R. White, Jazz Age

Posted by: Mary Duffy | Comments (0)

Find love, fame, and fortune in New York, with an intriguing cast of flappers and federal agents! Temptation is everywhere in this steamy 1920s romance!

It’s 1926 and there’s no place on Earth like New York City. You left the small town you grew up in to seek fame, fortune, and romance on Broadway, but success and true love have both proven more elusive than you imagined. You never dreamed you’d be torn between helping one lover save their illegal speakeasy, while another lover tries to destroy it!

Jazz Age is one of the first set of games releasing with the launch of Heart’s Choice. I sat down with the author, Nicola R. White, to talk about writing interactive romance. Heart’s Choice games release December 2nd.

This is your first time writing interactive fiction, but it’s not your first time writing romance. Tell me a little about where readers can find your other work.

I also write paranormal romance/urban fantasy and romantic suspense, which are available on all major platforms (Amazon, Kobo, Google Play, iTunes, Barnes & Noble). Occasionally, I also release short stories, and readers can find links to all of my published work at www.nicolarwhite.com. One other fun project I’ve been working on is a graphic novel called Wild Rose, which is a re-telling of an Irish folktale. You can find out more about it at www.wildrosecomic.wordpress.com.

What did you find most challenging about creating a romance novel told in a multiple-choice fashion?

Once I got the hang of coding ChoiceScript, the most challenging part was trying to keep all the potential endings and variables straight in my head! It’s tough to make all possible choices and endings equally satisfying, but I enjoyed the challenge. I was determined to make it impossible to “lose” the game, which in romance (to me) means having an outcome that is consistent with romance genre conventions. Most romance writers define romance as having an HEA (happily ever after) or HFN (happy for now) ending.

Jazz Age has a lot of characters that really put the reader right in the 1920s–a government agent, a speakeasy owner, a theater impresario. What were some of your points of inspiration for writing in this period?

I did a lot of research to make sure Jazz Age is historically accurate! The characters are inspired by a number of different historical figures, including entertainer Josephine Baker, Prohibition agent Eliot Ness, and big names on Broadway like George and Ira Gershwin. Josephine Baker was an American-born French entertainer and worked as a French resistance agent during WWII. As a black woman in the entertainment industry, she faced prejudice and discrimination but she travelled the world and lived life on her own terms. Eliot Ness became famous for leading a team of law enforcement agents dubbed The Untouchables by the media. Based in Chicago, he was famous for his run-ins with notorious gangster Al Capone.

Romance novels often promise their readers a happily ever after ending, but here you had to concoct multiple ways the story could come out. 

There are plenty of different happy endings available to us nowadays, and I made sure this variety of identities and experiences is reflected in Jazz Age. Regardless of a player’s gender expression or sexual orientation, this game allows them to choose an ending that fits their definition of a satisfying emotional arc.

What are you working on next?

I always have more ideas than time! I’m currently working on the next novel in my New England Furies series, which is paranormal romance based on Greek mythology, as well as the next issue of Wild Rose. I’m also tinkering with a YA steampunk manuscript and an F/F sports romance. Aside from writing Jazz Age this year, I also became interested in filmmaking and wrote/directed two short films. In the future, I would love to write another game for CoG.

Nov 25

2019

Heart’s Choice Author Interview: Lisa Fox, A Pirate’s Pleasure

Posted by: Mary Duffy | Comments (0)

Sail the sea of love as a pirate queen! Seek gold, glory, and epic romance with a rogue, a warrior, or a nobleman. The Golden Age of Piracy is winding down and life is changing in the Caribbean—and as a pirate, you must change with the times. England has renewed its interest in the Bahamas and the time has come for you to choose a side, decide your future, and maybe find true love. 

A Pirate’s Pleasure is one of the first set of games releasing with the launch of Heart’s Choice. I sat down with the author, Lisa Fox, to talk about writing interactive romance. Heart’s Choice games release December 2nd.

This is your first time writing interactive fiction, but it’s not your first time writing romance. Tell me about your other work and how you came to be a romance writer. 

I write a lot of short stories and novellas. They are mostly contemporary romances, but there is also some paranormal stuff in the mix.

I have always wanted to write professionally, it has been my goal since birth basically, but honestly, I never thought I’d write romance. I’m a huge fan of horror. HUGE. When I sat down to write my first novel, it was supposed to be scary, but as the work went on, I found that I enjoyed writing more about the relationship my two main characters were developing rather than all the spooky, scary stuff they were supposed to be facing. Somehow, that book morphed into a romance—not a very good one I might add, it never did get published—but it was the start of my romance writing career. Once the genre found me, I never looked back.

What advice would you offer romance writers interested in writing something interactive, whether it’s for Heart’s Choice or some other label?

I think that they really need to be prepared for the monumental undertaking a project like this is. It’s not just working with the code—which is a gigantic challenge in and of itself—it’s more all the different levels and layers of writing that need to be done. You as the author cannot dictate the player character’s personality. You have to write in all kinds of tones and options for how the person playing might want to respond to the situation you are putting them in.

For example, you can’t just write that the main character walks into a room and smiles. What if the person playing doesn’t want to smile? You can’t just decree that kind of stuff, not like you can in a straight narrative novel. You have to leave those feelings, those responses, all in the hands of the player. It was hard at first to make that kind of adjustment in my writing and I think it’s something new authors should really be aware of when they begin writing their own interactive adventures. It’s an important thing to keep in mind at all times.

A Pirate’s Pleasure is a fine piratical tale. What drew you to this genre in particular?

Thanks so much! I really appreciate that!

As for choosing the genre, well, I mean, who doesn’t love pirates? The freedom of the open sea, the romance, the adventure, the mystery and intrigue—the pirate life has it all!

And pirates are such charismatic characters. They are rebels, fighters, lovers, and sometimes, black-hearted villains. I’m a huge fan of Black Sails, I love the Uncharted game series, and I’m deeply infatuated with the Captain Hook from Once Upon a Time. I also spent quite a few years crushing on Errol Flynn. All these characters, and the real-life men and women straight out of history, they are all so iconic, so sexy, so daring. Who wouldn’t want to be a pirate—or fall in love with one?

If you were going to romance one of your characters in A Pirate’s Pleasure, who would you choose? 

Oh, no, I hate this question! I love them all dearly, but in entirely different ways.

I love Alexander for his sweetness, his honor, his drive. Nathaniel is the epitome of ostentatiousness, a dashing pirate captain to his core, and I would love to take to the streets of Nassau with him by my side. And Caleb is my quiet warrior, a man whose placid manner belies a deeply passionate nature.

How could I possibly choose between men like that?

What are you working on next?

I’ve been playing around with an idea for a romance series set in a restaurant in New Orleans for some time, so I’ll probably get to work on that soon. NaNoWriMo is coming up. I might make that my project for the month.

Of course, I would love to do another interactive adventure like A Pirate’s Pleasure, but maybe something Mafia related next time. Wouldn’t that be fun?

Nov 25

2019

Author Interview: Hannah Powell-Smith, Crème de la Crème

Posted by: Mary Duffy | Comments (0)

Climb to the very top of the class at your exclusive private school for socialites! Will you study hard, find a perfect match, or embrace scandal?Gallatin College is a “finishing school” where young people must learn social graces, surrounded by their high-class peers. When your parents fall into disgrace, the rest of high society rejects them. It’s up to you to enroll at Gallatin, to secure your future and restore the family’s good name.

Crème de la Crème is a 440,000-word interactive novel by Hannah Powell-Smith, author of Blood Money. I sat down with Hannah to discuss her new games and the foibles of all high school experiences. Crème de la Crème releases this Wednesday, November 27th. 

Crème de la Crème is set in a second world’s version of Europe at Gallatin College, which is a finishing school. I think our readers may be confused by “college” referring to what we call high school in the U.S., or secondary school elsewhere, and also confused by what a finishing school is in this world (or in our world.) In the U.S. we have a long 19th-C forward tradition of finishing schools for young women, but those that still exist today focus strongly on academics like a prep school, rather than…deportment and husband-hunting skills. And Gallatin is co-ed! So please, lay it all out for us.

Gallatin is a co-ed finishing school for young people to get a genteel education so they can fit in with the upper crust of society, and the age range of boarders is around 12 to 18. In Crème de la Crème, you’re in your final year, having completed most of your education elsewhere. Etiquette, deportment, and general manners and bearing are some of the most important aspects of Gallatin, but the college also prides itself on turning out well-rounded students, so you’ll learn about the arts, philosophy, fancy sports and so on as well…mostly so you can impress your fellow guests at dinner parties.

Although the environment is highly exclusive, the students at Gallatin aren’t expected to become political or military leaders, to have major careers or be hugely academic. Mostly, they’re expected to become socialites and live a life of leisure, or make a good match to an eligible partner–but there are plenty of options in the game for those with ambitions in other areas.

I was inspired by Swiss finishing schools, or “charm schools” for young women in the late 19th to early 20th century. They were a strange, rarified environment which combined immense privileges and social restriction. Nowadays, such places are less gendered–in theory–and often focus on business etiquette, which has a host of interesting class biases in itself. In Crème de la Crème, I wanted to play with the idea of a charm school while reducing some real world marginalizations–same sex marriage is accepted, women aren’t the only ones who are expected to adhere to the rules of a debutante–while keeping a feeling of constrained, weird, class-stratified social mores.

This is your second COG, your first being Blood Money, and I have to remark on what a departure Crème de la Crème is! What took you in this direction?

I’ve written a lot of dark fantasy in my time and wanted to try out lighter fare, experimenting with making stakes and tension feel high while not necessarily being life or death. There are darker things going on beneath the surface at Gallatin, but you can’t just take a hit out on someone like you can in Blood Money, and I liked the idea of pushing the player to deal with problems in different ways!

While writing Blood Money, I’d been mulling over school stories, reading books like The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Sparks, Laurinda by Alice Pung, and Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld, and had been playing a lot of Monsterhearts tabletop games. The pressure-cooker, rigid environment appealed to me as a surefire way of creating characterful drama. I also wanted to try my hand at a game where romance and friendship were brought to the forefront. Blood Money is more family orientated, and I liked the idea of focusing on different–though still potentially fraught–relationships. I love a bit of figuring out how to deal with difficult people in games!

There are a few thematic similarities. Blood Money has aristocrats draining literal lifeblood from people to power their dodgy schemes. Crème de la Crème has aristocrats who are…well, less literal bloodsuckers, but are exploitative, and blinkered about their place in the world. Also, I love writing about fancy parties and outrageously opulent outfits. Blood Money has a touch of that, which I enjoyed a lot, and in Crème de la Crème, I got to let my imagination loose when describing evening wear!

This is a pretty massive game, coming in at 400k+, so even longer than Blood Money. And yet, you wrote it relatively quickly. Tell me a little about your process. What was easier the second time around?

Making and polishing up the outline was much easier having made one before, and I found that having that sense of the broader plot affected everything positively. I still had points where I changed my mind about scenes or chapter events, but I felt much more clear about what I was doing.

After the outline was greenlit, I wrote broad strokes summaries of scenes and major choices for the chapter I was about to start. I then coded everything with placeholder text, and did automated testing often to check that it all worked, and to check balance. Then I filled in the writing. I’d often shuffle things around at that stage, but it was great to have it in place first. I learned that that method suited me partway through Blood Money, and it’s served me well.

On the nitty-gritty side of things, ChoiceScript now has functionality which makes it much easier to implement variably-gendered characters. I had more experience, so was more confident about coding things like repeatedly calculating who likes the main character the most, or using RandomTest to balance difficulty. I had a better understanding of using *bug to weed out unlikely but game-breaking situations, and the code is generally more efficient. And honestly, I also was more confident this time round because of having a game under my belt already.

I would not necessarily recommend including ten romanceable or befriendable NPCs, though–that’s where a lot of the 400K+ words went. I love my characters and I hope players love them too, but whew, that’s a lot!

Do you have a favorite NPC?

It’s so hard to choose, but I think the Honourable Florin Kraemer, from Archambault Academy, a neighbouring school to Gallatin. The two establishments have a longstanding rivalry. Florin has very little to worry about in life, is a notorious flirt and treats people carelessly…but gets some nice one liners, and I had a lot of fun writing a character who doesn’t take things seriously. Florin’s not as readily accessible as some of the other characters like the Gallatin classmates, but I always know what they’d say or do in any given situation. It’s usually something annoying.

What sort of student were you in high school? Do you have an analogue at Gallatin?

I was as cool as you might expect from someone who made a lot of romance mods for RPGs, but I was fortunate enough to have a circle of close friends who were very important to me. My school was very academically focused which I think helped me fit in–everyone was nerdy to a certain degree. I worked very hard, loved English Literature and the humanities, and hated PE.

I think my closest analogues in Gallatin are Freddie (high achieving, nerdy) and Delacroix (gothy in my late teens, told off for reading Tarot cards in the library at lunchtime). Though I hasten to add that Delacroix’s family bears no resemblance to mine!

And what else are you working on now?

I’ve just started working at Fusebox Games, a UK-based game studio, which I’m really excited about! By night, I’m drafting a mobile game about small-time teens summoning demons, and have done work on Fallen London about creepy competing aristocrats. Both will be out in the wider world at a later date.

As for CoG games, I currently have an idea set in the Crème de la Crème universe, and others more in the dark fantasy vein–between them or potential ideas for romance-focused games, I’d love to make more ChoiceScript games in the future.

Nov 21

2019

Heart’s Choice is Coming Dec 2nd!

Posted by: Mary Duffy | Comments (0)

How will you find your happily ever after? The choice is yours! Become the main character of an interactive romance novel and choose your path to love.

Since 2009, the team behind Choice of Games has created high-quality interactive novels in all genres. Now, our new Heart’s Choice label puts romance at the center of the story, and you at the center of the romance.

We’re proud to announce the December 2nd release of the first four Heart’s Choice games in a new omnibus app on Google Play, Apple’s App Store, and the Amazon Android Marketplace; and as individual games on Steam. Right now you can:

Here are some of our first exciting titles:

  • Jazz Age: Sing your heart out in Roaring 20s New York! Will you find love with the owner of a Harlem nightclub, or with the dangerous G-man trying to enforce Prohibition? Play as male, female, or non-binary, gay or straight. [PG-13]
  • A Pirate’s Pleasure: When a pirate finds her heart caught between her rival captain and the noble governor, which man will she choose? What does she value most: her love, her treasure, or her ship? Play as a straight female. [PG-13]
  • Dawnfall: Find true love and family with a spaceship pirate crew at the ends of the universe, where aliens, ghosts, and portals open the space between worlds…and your heart. Play as any gender or orientation. [PG-13]
  • All World Pro Wrestling: What happens when professional wrestlers feel things start to heat up in the ring – and how hot will it get when they’re out of the public eye? Play as a gay male. [NC-17]

As with Choice of Games, Heart’s Choice games contain no graphics or sound effects, so we can focus on the story. Every game is filled with vivid, fully-developed characters and complex narratives that respond to your choices.

Every path is always open to you; we never charge extra for the best options or most interesting storylines. Whatever gender or orientation you want to play, there will be a Heart’s Choice game for you in our catalogue! And whether you like your romance sweet, spicy, or smoking hot, you’ll be able to find a story that you love.

Subscribe by E-mail