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Mar 24

2017

How We Judge a Good Game—Part 2

Posted by: Rachel E. Towers | Comments (0)

As part of our support for the Choice of Games Contest for Interactive Novels, we will be posting an irregular series of blog posts discussing important design and writing criteria for games. We hope that these can both provide guidance for people participating in the Contest and also help people understand how we think about questions of game design and some best practices. These don’t modify the evaluation criteria for the Contest, and (except as noted) participants are not required to conform to our recommendations–but it’s probably a good idea to listen when judges tell you what they’re looking for.

If these topics interest you, be sure to sign up for our contest mailing list below! We’ll post more of our thoughts on game design leading up to the contest deadline on January 31, 2018.

Last time we gave some concrete ways in which our Guidelines connect with our Judging Rubric, covering Inclusivity, Length and Coding Efficiency, and Setting and Plot. For a refresher, here’s the previous blog post. This time we’ll cover our more game design and coding related categories: Creative Stats, Balanced Choices, and Conflicting Goals with Satisfying Endings.

Creative Stats (10% of score):
Stats reflect the main purpose of the game, and as such stats that reflect standard RPG scores like Health, Wealth, and Reputation generally do not lead to compelling decisions and rich end-states. Games that only include stats like that are likely to receive a low score in Creative Stats, and are also likely to have low scores in Conflicting Goals and Balanced Choices because they lack the necessary depth in tracking how the player character has reacted and presented themselves. Creative stats should be unique to the game or universe, should fit in the genre and style of the story, and should also compel a player to think about what the stats mean to them personally. For example:

  • Je Ne Sais Quoi in Thieves’ Gambit: The Curse of the Black Cat is an interesting stat. It represents the PC’s ability to act and speak in a smooth manner, and is very much in the spirit of the heist genre. It is creative and unique in that it is distinctive to the game’s genre. A “special something” being one of the primary way in which the player interacts with the world is unique.
  • Sleep in Choice of the Deathless is actually more creative than you might give it credit for at first glance. While almost everyone knows what it’s like to go without sleep, it takes on a special meaning in the context of working in a field such as law, where it’s very common to go a long time with only a few hours of sleep a night. It also acts as a foundation for the player’s understanding of the world, helping the fantastical to both appear more magical, and to be more relatable, because of that connection to the real world.
  • The robot’s stats in Choice of Robots are a good source of internal conflict for the player, forcing the player to balance what they want very carefully. Autonomy and Empathy are naturally compelling (the game does a lot to build a natural parental feeling for the robot) but those come at the cost of Military and Grace, which help to save human lives more directly. In addition, Autonomy and Empathy are a unique application of stats to a story about artificial intelligence, a subject most people won’t encounter in everyday life.

This is not to say that more “standard” stats must be omitted. If they assist in telling a better story they should certainly be used, but a game with only such stats lacks a certain depth that more individualized stats can give.

Stats should also be consistently applied throughout the game. This means that, at the very least, it should generally make sense why a stat is changing. From reading the text preceding a choice, the player should have a general idea of how the options and stats are tied together (although this is also a factor of the design of the choices). You should also be clear and consistent about what makes a particular stat rise or fall: for example, if the option “I put on a baseball cap” raises Charisma in Ch 3, the same option in Ch 6 shouldn’t raise Stealth instead. Finally, you should make sure that you don’t suddenly change how stats are tested: for example, if the game’s mechanics generally favor having multiple stats at medium levels, suddenly have the final few choices require one stat at a very high level can make the game feel very difficult and unfair.

Games with interesting stats that help to bolster the rest of the game, and that are both interesting, and consistent in their use, are likely to score higher in this category. A game which contains only very simplistic, uncompelling stats that do not give the player any sense of engagement, which fail to use stats in a consistent way, or which fail to track stats a significant amount of the time, will likely score low in Creative Stats. A game which simply does not track a player’s decisions with stats will most likely receive an 0 in Creative Stats.

Balanced Choices (15% of score):
Most, or even all, choices should have three or more options, none of which should be “do nothing” options. If the player can choose to not do anything, it should only be in direct pursuit of a goal. For example, “I keep silent in order to pressure the culprit into confessing on their own” is a perfectly valid option, while “I’ll wait and see, because that will let me get more information” is a little more suspect (why not just give the player the information without them asking?), and “I don’t join the adventure” should not ever be an option.

No option or path should be better or worse than any other—that means both in terms of how interesting the decision you’re offering the the player is, and in terms of the stat effects each option has—the options in your choices must be balanced.

When reading the choice, a player should have at least a rough estimate of what the outcomes of the different options are going to be. If the choice is testing stats, they should have an idea of what option tests which stats, while if it’s going to raise, lower, or set stats or variables, the player should be able to gleam which stats are being changed. For example, “I put on a baseball cap” doesn’t tell the player much, while “I put on a baseball cap because it looks good on me”, or “I put on a baseball cap because I can pull it down to hide my face” indicate what kind of stat they may be raising. (More on Intentionality can be found in this blog post by Becky Slitt)

Games which compel a player to think deeply about the choices before them, or that encourage a player to play again to see all the other options they could have chosen, can score higher in Balanced Choices. Games with options which are uncompelling, or which continually encourage only one path (either one specific path, or choosing one path early and never deviating), are likely to score lower in this category. A game which contains many choices with only two options, with unbalanced options, or with options that routinely do not contain enough information, may receive an 0 in Balanced Choices.

Conflicting Goals with Satisfying Endings (15% of score):
Every game should have multiple goals that the player can try to achieve. Ideally, these goals should conflict with each other: the player cannot pursue all the goals at the same time, and must choose among them. The outcome of the game should never simply be “did you win or did you lose?” There should always be multiple ways to win.

More structurally, no ending should come earlier than about 75% of the way through the game. There should also be something dramatic and satisfying about every ending, even if the ending is unhappy. It’s fine for a game to have tragic endings, such as the player’s character valiantly giving their life to achieve at least some of their goals, but endings where a player simply fails everything should not appear.

While it is fine to have some endings be less satisfying, especially for failing a test near the end of the game (e.g. the player tries to push their loved one out of the way of an attack, but doesn’t have the speed to do it, and so while they save their loved one, they die in the process, while if they succeeded, both of them would have lived), there shouldn’t be any endings which are obviously more satisfying, and there certainly shouldn’t be an ending which is the most satisfying. For example, if the player has a choice between succeeding at running a small business doing something they enjoy or a big business they hate, that’s a good conflicting goal. If they can change the big business to be something they like, or can just purchase the small business at the end, that becomes an obviously more satisfying goal and all sense of conflict is lost.

The player should always understand why they reached the ending that they did. Having an ending come from nowhere, or an ending which feels like it’s not accounting for something leaves a lasting bad impression. Endings that ignore stats (e.g. no matter your ‘swordfighting’ skill you lose the duel at the end to build tension), insert a standard piece of epilogue which doesn’t work (e.g. you always settle down to a quiet life after the adventure, even if you were a bloodthirsty barbarian during it), or come out of nowhere (e.g. you make a wrong turn, fall off a cliff, and die) are not satisfying. No matter the case, if a player feels like it assigns qualities or actions to them that don’t fit, it detracts from any feeling of satisfaction. (Read through this blog post by Adam Strong-Morse for more about writing conflicting and independent goals.)

Games with multiple interesting goals, and that require players to decide what they want, will score higher in this category. Games with few goals, or that don’t have balanced or interesting goals, are likely to score lower. If a game has only one goal or a goal that is obviously far more important than any others, or only unsatisfying endings or endings that come suddenly, early, or leave the player wondering what they did wrong, it may receive an 0 in this category.

Next week we’ll finish explaining our Rubric by talking about Original, Interesting Characters, what exactly does Prose Styling mean, and give a bit of personal insight with the Judge’s Choice.

Mar 17

2017

New Hosted Game! The Lost Heir 3: Demon War by Mike Walter

Posted by: Dan Fabulich | Comments (1)

Hosted Games has a new game for you to play!

Defeat the rampaging demon horde, save the Kingdom of Daria, and avenge the death of your parents in the thrilling conclusion to this epic three part series! You’ll need all the power you can muster to finish building your legend, tapping into any of the dozen new prestige classes, including Druid of Decay, Dragon Knight, and even fighting the demons with their own fire by becoming a Demon Master!

The Lost Heir 3: Demon War is a 250,000-word interactive fantasy novel by Mike Walter—the conclusion to the trilogy—where your choices control the story. The game is entirely text-based—without graphics or sound effects—and fueled by the vast, unstoppable power of your imagination. It’s 20% off until March 24th!

Face betrayal, seek romance, battle enemies in war, and navigate the intrigues of court. The fate of the kingdom of Daria is in your hands.

  • Play as male or female, gay or straight.
  • Pursue romantic interests, get married, have a child!
  • Acquire legendary magical artifacts.
  • Reach one of seven different endings! Restore peace and harmony to the Kingdom of Daria or plunge the world into chaos, the choice is yours!

Mike developed this game using ChoiceScript, a simple programming language for writing multiple-choice interactive novels like these. Writing games with ChoiceScript is easy and fun, even for authors with no programming experience. Write your own game and Hosted Games will publish it for you, giving you a share of the revenue your game produces.

Mar 17

2017

Hosted Games Life of a Wizard and Life of a Mobster Now on Steam

Posted by: Dan Fabulich | Comments (0)

To celebrate the launch of The Lost Heir 3: Demon War, we’re also announcing that two of Mike’s other games in our Hosted Games program, Life of a Wizard and Life of a Mobster are out now on Steam! They’re both 25% off on Steam until March 24th!

Write an archmage’s autobiography in this 80-year 130,000-word interactive fiction. Play good or evil, man or woman, as you bring peace to the kingdom or take over the world with your sorcery. Brew potions, raise the dead, summon mythical beasts, control men’s minds, and blast away your enemies.

Life of a Wizard is an epic interactive novel by Mike Walter where you control the main character. In each chapter, your choices determine how the story proceeds.

Will you find romance, get married, or have children? Will you become the arch-mage, grand bishop, nature-loving druid, hardened battle-mage or even an undead lich? The choice is yours!

Join the mob and rule the city! Will you become a celebrity mobster, or rule from the shadows?

Life of a Mobster is a thrilling 145,000-word interactive novel where your choices control the story. The game is entirely text-based–without graphics or sound effects–and fueled by the vast, unstoppable power of your imagination.

Will you betray the five families to win the heart of a good-looking FBI agent? Will you end up as a prisoner, a senator, or FBI director? The choice is yours.

Mar 14

2017

Author Interview: Amy Griswold and Jo Graham – “The Eagle’s Heir”

Posted by: Mary Duffy | Comments (0)

Choice of Games’ latest release will be The Eagle’s Heir by Amy Griswold and Jo Graham. The Eagle’s Heir is a steampunk alternate history game of political maneuvering, airship adventure, and romantic intrigue. Will you bring liberty to France, or plunge Europe into bloody war? I sat down with the authors to learn more about their game and their experiences writing interactive fiction. Look for The Eagle’s Heir later this week, releasing on Thursday, March 30th.

Eagle’s Heir is an alternate history or uchronia, in which Napoleon actually won at Waterloo. There’s also a bit of a steampunk flavor to it, because in this world there are airships used in combat situations. It’s a very fun, very exciting world. Tell me what drew you to invent it.

Jo: I’ve been writing in this period for a long time with my Wars of Revolution series of novels, The General’s Mistress, The Emperor’s Agent and the forthcoming The Marshal’s Lover. Madame St. Elme (grandmother in The Eagle’s Heir) is the main character of that series. As I work on it, I asked the inevitable question “What if they’d succeeded? What if Elza and her friends had won?” One thing that was clear to me in telling her story is how very close they came to winning. It only takes a tiny tweak here or there.

The point of departure in The Eagle’s Heir is that on the second day of Waterloo, d’Erlon reinforced Reille at Hougoumont Farm, forcing Wellington to withdraw from what had become a trap for him. Wellington pulled back before Grouchy arrived, allowing Ney to defeat Grouchy when he came up unsupported. Wellington then retreated to the Channel, as British Expeditionary Forces do, allowing the French to take Brussels. This caused a crisis in Parliament and Castlereagh’s government fell. A Whig Prime Minister was asked to form a government, and he signed a more favorable peace with France than the Tory government actually did in 1815. Consequently, Napoleon has remained Emperor for twenty years. He has embraced technological superiority, including giving free rein to the inventions of American Robert Fulton, which has caused a leap forward in steam power. As the game opens, France, England and Austria have been engaged in something of an arms race to the air.

One of the things I love about this world is that it’s not fantastic at all. It’s our world with tiny, plausible changes. Many of the main characters, like Alexandre, Victoria, Conroy, Madame St. Elme, and Franz, are all real people. Many of the others are based closely on real people as well. For example, the fascinating and romance-able Julien Lamarque, the news reporter, is based on young Alexandre Dumas, author of The Three Musketeers. I hope players will enjoy this visit to a world that might have been.

Amy: I’m always fascinated by the Victorian era and its mix of the entertainingly strange and the frankly awful. Here we’re at the boundary between Regency and Victorian, with Princess Victoria about to ascend to the throne (or not, depending on some of the players’ choices!) –the period of early Charles Dickens and the setting of Les Miserables. There’s a tremendous amount of energy devoted to the idea of “progress,” and a great deal of flailing around trying to define what progress might look like and what price should be paid to achieve it. Playing in an alternate universe lets us explore some different ways that people might have tried to change the world.

Also, it lets us have the heirs to Napoleon’s empire battle it out in airship combat over the Tuileries, which was just too much fun to pass up.

As a writing team, how did you divide up the work? Do you prefer writing with a partner and how did you decide to do this project together?

Jo: Amy does the coding and we divide up the writing by chapters and scenes. For example, the country house party is Amy and the pirate attack is me. The theater scene is Amy and the scene with Napoleon is me. (I love writing Napoleon, and I’ve written him quite a bit before.)

Amy: In the early chapters, we divided the writing up into larger chunks (as Jo says, I wrote almost all of “Lions of England,” and she wrote almost all of “The Old Eagle on His Crag.”) In the later chapters, there are some individual choices where some branches were written by me and some were written by Jo.

Jo and I have co-written a number of times before, particularly on the Stargate Legacy series of tie-in novels for Fandemonium Books, and I enjoy it. It’s great getting to bounce ideas off each other and work out a story together, and I think we both brought our own strengths to this project; I’m more comfortable with the coding, and Jo’s experience writing and running tabletop role-playing games was very useful in our game design.

What did you find challenging about the process of writing in ChoiceScript/our game design?

Amy: There was definitely a learning curve involved in learning ChoiceScript, and I’ve gotten intimately familiar with pretty much every error message ChoiceScript can produce (plus the error messages I inserted to check for certain persistently recurring bugs, like “You shouldn’t be buried if you haven’t died!”) In terms of game design, experience with tabletop RPG campaigns where early decisions can lead to numerous possible states for later situations was very helpful. Probably the biggest challenge was making sure that there weren’t “wrong” choices – that every choice a player could make had advantages (and, usually, also disadvantages).

Are you a fan of interactive fiction in general? Any favorites you’d like to share?

Jo: I love a bunch of Choice of Games stories, and I’ve been playing a while. My absolute favorite is Choice of Alexandria! I also love Affairs of the Court (which I’ve played through twelve times!), Choice of Broadsides, Choice of the Rock Star, Hollywood Visionary, and Saga of the North Wind.

Amy: I also particularly liked Affairs of the Court, but I’ve enjoyed a number of the games from Choice of Games, and I find Twine games generally interesting. In terms of narrative games defined more broadly, I’m a longtime player and fan of Fallen London and its Victorian space bats.

What are you working on next for Choice of Games?

Jo: Our next story is called Stronghold, and it’s high fantasy.

Amy: It’s a game about defending a town, finding a family, and building a community, and we’re excited to be starting the outline stage again with this project!

Mar 10

2017

How We Judge a Good Game—Part 1

Posted by: Rachel E. Towers | Comments (1)

As part of our support for the Choice of Games Contest for Interactive Novels, we will be posting an irregular series of blog posts discussing important design and writing criteria for games. We hope that these can both provide guidance for people participating in the Contest and also help people understand how we think about questions of game design and some best practices. These don’t modify the evaluation criteria for the Contest, and (except as noted) participants are not required to conform to our recommendations–but it’s probably a good idea to listen when judges tell you what they’re looking for.

If these topics interest you, be sure to sign up for our contest mailing list below! We’ll post more of our thoughts on game design leading up to the contest deadline on January 31, 2018.

Since we announced the contest and posted our game design guidelines we’ve received a number of questions that show some folks interested in entering the contest are having some difficulty understanding the connect between our judging rubric (below) and the game design documents.

  • Original, Interesting Characters, 15% of score
  • Original, Interesting Setting and Plot, 15% of score
  • Conflicting Goals with Satisfying Endings, 15% of score
  • Balanced, Intentional, Interesting Choices/Options, 15% of score
  • Inclusivity, 10% of score
  • Prose Styling, 10% of score
  • Creative Stats, Consistently Applied, 10% of score
  • Length and Coding Efficiency, 5% of score
  • Overall, Judge’s Choice, 5% of score

In order to draw that line a little more closely, consider the following analogy: our guidelines are like a recipe. You need to stick to the recipe or the cake will fall, or won’t cook through. Now, that doesn’t mean every game is alike: some games will be almond cakes, some will be sachertortes, some red velvet, some will even be babka or Boston cream pie. But almost every cake is made with flour, sugar, butter, right?

So too, with our guidelines. In determining the winner of the contest, each game will be scored based on the judging rubric above, and while there is a lot of variation in the types of games that can be submitted, games which don’t hew to our guidelines in some very basic ways will likely receive a 0 in the category they fall short in. Such a score in any one category is enough to ensure your game will not win the contest, because the game will have failed in such a way that no amount of high scores in any other categories would allow it to win.

First, you should study the guidelines document closely before you begin writing your game, but to supplement that over the next few weeks we’ll be giving you the concrete ways in which the Guidelines connect with our Judging Rubric. For this week, we’ll begin with a couple of the most commonly asked points, Inclusivity, and Length and Coding Efficiency. We’ll also cover one of the earliest design decisions in a game, the Setting and Plot.

Inclusivity (10% of score):
To be inclusive games must, at a minimum, not be gender or orientation locked. That means that a player must be able to play as male or female, and gay or straight if either are at all mentioned. It is, however, an option to omit these things (i.e. never mention the player character’s gender and/or have no romances). If a game does offer romances, they should be equally satisfying no matter the player character’s gender and orientation. Games that offer trans, nonbinary, romantic asexual, aromantic, polyamorous, and other gender and orientation options can score higher in this category.

Additionally, non-player characters should have a mix of ethnicities, genders, orientations, and other other marginalized groups. They should also not play into stereotypes of race, gender, ethnicity, etc. For instance, leaders shouldn’t all be men and shouldn’t all be white; nurturers and victims shouldn’t all be women; criminals shouldn’t all be people of color; same-sex romances shouldn’t all end in tragedy; women shouldn’t appear only as motivation or reward.

The details of how this is expressed of depends on the game, of course. If your game is set in feudal Japan, for example, the absence of characters of African descent is not a problem. Likewise, if your game is in a setting that was historically single-gender (as in the case of Choice of Broadsides), then it’s possible to have the majority of NPCs be the same gender, so long as there’s an option for the PC to genderswap the environment. However, unless there is a specific, compelling reason not to do so, games should include substantial diversity.

Games which include plenty of robust, inclusive characters can score higher in Inclusivity, while games which do not make a substantial effort to include diversity are likely to score low in this category. Games which force the player to play as a preset gender or orientation, or which reinforce negative stereotypes, will receive a 0 in Inclusivity.

Length and Coding Efficiency (5% of score):
To understand what we mean by length, you need to first know what we measure the total length of a game by the number of words in ChoiceScript files, including code. (This is the “length” we use in most places.) We then also measure the average number of words that players read each time they play; we call this the “playthrough length.” We’ve found one of the biggest factors in how well a game is received, is just how long it is. Players simply tend to rate our bigger games more highly than our smaller ones.

At a minimum the total length of your game must be 100,000 words without repeating large swaths of text. Games that are longer without repeated text, and that efficiently use *goto, *gosub, *fake_choice, and *if/*else commands to ensure that text is not repeated unnecessarily can score higher in this category. Games which are longer without feeling drawn out, or that otherwise feel as though they are precisely as long as they need to be to tell their story, can also score higher in Length.

Of course, this is all about how much different text a player can possibly see, so while longer games will tend to score higher, a game which repeats large amounts of text or code, or has large amounts of code that adds little to the story, will tend to score lower, and may possibly receive a 0 in this category depending on its total length. Games which are under 100,000 total words will receive a 0 in Length no matter their playthrough length.

Setting and Plot (15% of score):
The setting and plot of your game should have a certain level of originality and creativity without becoming inaccessible to a larger audience. A good way to measure this is by seeing if you can give an “Elevator Pitch” of your game. Try to condense your game down a single sentence, and see if it’s both understandable, and still feels interesting. If it’s extremely easy to explain your entire game in a single sentence, or you can do it by just pointing to a genre or another story, it’s possible your game may be lacking originality. If you simply can’t, then your concept might need to be simplified a bit.

Consider the following examples: all of these games’ elevator pitches are creative, but grounded enough to be understood with a single sentence pitch.

Creatures Such As We: You play a tour guide on the moon who is obsessed with a video game.
The Orpheus Ruse: You play a psychic spy who can inhabit other people’s minds and bodies.
Versus: You play an alien who can travel through time and space, and absorb others’ powers in a game of intrigue.
For Rent: Haunted House: You play a real estate agent who must rent a haunted property or risk losing their job.

Sometimes games may embrace the tropes of their genre, but even then they should still find distinctive stories within those frameworks. For instance:

A Midsummer Night’s Choice: You play a Shakespearean-style child of a nobleman who escapes to the forest to find true love.
Psy High: You play a high schooler with supernatural abilities who foils an evil plot.
The Hero of Kendrickstone: You play a novice adventurer—warrior, wizard, rogue, or bard—just setting out in the world.

Games with a gripping premise make readers curious (without confusing them!) and which execute that idea well, with good cohesive plot development and a clear, well developed setting, are likely to score higher in Setting and Plot. Games which are very difficult for the player to follow, or which are devoid of engagement and creativity, are likely to score low in this category. Games that lack any real setting (such as collections of short stories, or mechanics based dungeon crawlers) may receive a 0 in this category.

Next time we’ll continue explaining our Rubric by seeing how a baseball cap will help us to explain Creative Stats, Balanced Choices, and Conflicting Goals with Satisfying Endings.

Mar 05

2017

New Hosted Game! The Great Tournament by Philip Kempton

Posted by: Dan Fabulich | Comments (3)

Hosted Games has a new game for you to play!

Play a young peasant boy who becomes squire to a legendary knight. Travel the realm competing in jousts, archery, and melee competitions. Train hard in order to become a powerful knight and eventually compete in The Great Tournament to decide the fate of the realm in this medieval story.

The Great Tournament is a 180,000 word interactive fantasy novel by Philip Kempton, 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.

  • Enjoy the story of a young boy’s rise from lowly squire to powerful knight in this epic story that takes place in medieval times.
  • Choose your attributes and train your skills in order to win in tournaments.
  • Become a hero of the realm or use your power to take control over the kingdom.
  • Unique combat and character generation ensures no one game is the same.
  • Fight for glory, love, or power in the Great Tournament.
  • Multiple endings with different story lines.

Philip developed this game using ChoiceScript, a simple programming language for writing multiple-choice interactive novels like these. Writing games with ChoiceScript is easy and fun, even for authors with no programming experience. Write your own game and Hosted Games will publish it for you, giving you a share of the revenue your game produces.

Mar 05

2017

New Hosted Game! Spacing Out by Ivailo Daskalov

Posted by: Dan Fabulich | Comments (1)

Hosted Games has a new game for you to play!

Explore the planet of nightmares with your small team of warriors. Retrieve a powerful artifact from the claws of adversaries or die trying. Meet an enigmatic race of insectoid beings and befriend their hybrid queen, helping her bring peace to a captured hatchery. Get assisted by a powerful Pleiadian woman who mingles with the structure of time itself. Claim the artifact and embrace the options it gives you to forge a future of your desire.

Spacing Out is a 50,000 word interactive fantasy novel by Ivailo Daskalov, 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.

  • Enjoy a personal tale of exploration, intense battles and reestablishing yourself in a world of your choice.
  • Lead a small team of futuristic warriors.
  • Evolve your expertise at sniping, close-range combat, melee combat, healing and forcefield generation.
  • Get saved by a beautiful Pleiadian woman.
  • Meet the enigmatic race of the insectoids and befriend their queen.
  • Claim a powerful artifact and decide what to do with it.
  • Play as male or female, gay or straight.
  • Choose between 3 optional romances.

Ivailo developed this game using ChoiceScript, a simple programming language for writing multiple-choice interactive novels like these. Writing games with ChoiceScript is easy and fun, even for authors with no programming experience. Write your own game and Hosted Games will publish it for you, giving you a share of the revenue your game produces.

Feb 23

2017

Runt of the Litter — Steal and raise a baby war gryphon!

Posted by: Dan Fabulich | Comments (1)

We’re proud to announce that Runt of the Litter, the latest in our popular “Choice of Games” line of multiple-choice interactive-fiction games, is now available for Steam, iOS, and Android. It’s 25% off until Mar 2!

Steal and raise a baby war gryphon! Will you fight dragons together to save the empire, or defy the empire and lead your people to freedom?

Runt of the Litter is a 150,000 word interactive fantasy novel by Kelly Sandoval, 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.

The gryphon keepers hold all the power in the Empire of Vaengrea. They make the laws, patrol the borders, and only give gryphon eggs to their chosen heirs. As a poor stable hand, a “thrall,” you know you’ll never have a chance to prove yourself.

But then, you find the egg. Small, neglected, nudged out of the nest by a disapproving mother. But you can feel warmth growing inside.

Now your gryphon is in terrible danger, both from the other gryphon keepers and from a deadly plague that’s wiping out the Empire’s gryphons. Can you keep your gryphon safe? Where will you hide your new hatchling? Are you skilled enough to hunt its food or clever enough to steal it? Which of the gryphon keepers can you trust? How will you shape the young gryphon’s mind?

Wyrm riders invade from the north on their fire-breathing dragons, the natural enemy of the gryphons. Will you and your gryphon fight in the war, seizing your place among the elite? Or will you defy the empire and lead your fellow thralls to revolution?

Can you keep a runt gryphon safe with the whole world against you? The life of your gryphon, and the fate of an empire, is in your hands.

  • Play as any gender and as gay, straight, or asexual
  • Choose from a variety of unusual gryphon breeds
  • Raise your gryphon with a gentle hand or demand obedience
  • Find romance among your fellow thralls or steal the heart of a gryphon keeper
  • Rise to the rank of gryphon keeper or lead your fellow thralls to freedom
  • Battle fire-breathing wyrms to protect your empire
  • Find a cure for the devastating gryphon plague

We hope you enjoy playing Runt of the Litter. We encourage you to tell your friends about it, and recommend the game on StumbleUpon, Facebook, Twitter, 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.

Jan 20

2017

New Hosted Game! Evertree Inn by Thom Baylay

Posted by: Dan Fabulich | Comments (5)

Hosted Games has a new game for you to play!

A mysterious tavern with a deadly secret! Check-in to this magical tale of murder and mystery where not everything is as it seems. Explore the tavern in secret or in style, meet and mingle with guests and staff, wield weapons and magic and uncover clues before the killer strikes again!

Evertree Inn is an immersive 265,000 word interactive experience by Thom Baylay, 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.

What will you do when an overnight stay in a highway tavern turns into the biggest mystery of your life? Will you rise to the challenge, or will you resist your destiny? Are you in it for the money, for the thrill of the chase or are you secretly hoping for romance? Enter an open world, where the choices you ignore matter as much as the ones you explore and where every interaction has a reaction. Choose your path as elf or dwarf, human or halfling or even the elusive brownie and find out if you have what it takes to survive the night at Evertree Inn?

• Immerse yourself in the fully open and explorable tavern where your actions have real consequences.
• Play as any one of five races, each with their own unique abilities and dialogue options!
• Overcome obstacles with brute strength, keen perception, natural cunning and even magic.
• Battle with any weapon you can imagine or unleash an impressive arsenal of spells.
• Boldly confront guests and staff or lurk in the shadows as you uncover clues.
• Make enemies and friends and maybe even find true love.
• Play as male, female or non-binary.
• Play as gay, straight, bisexual or asexual.

Thom developed this game using ChoiceScript, a simple programming language for writing multiple-choice interactive novels like these. Writing games with ChoiceScript is easy and fun, even for authors with no programming experience. Write your own game and Hosted Games will publish it for you, giving you a share of the revenue your game produces.

Jan 13

2017

Choice of Games LLC Supports the Affordable Care Act

Posted by: Adam Strong-Morse | Comments (2)

With Congress considering whether to repeal the Affordable Care Act (the “ACA,” sometimes called “ObamaCare”), the partners and staff of Choice of Games feel the need to strongly state our support for the ACA and to explain its importance to the creative community. The ACA enables our work in two important ways:

  1. Choice of Games is a small company, with 6 staffers, spread across 5 different states. It’s essentially impossible for us to get group health insurance for our partners and employees at a reasonable price. We’re too small and distributed. The ACA allows for an effective affordable individual market for health insurance, even for our employees with serious pre-existing conditions. That allows us to pay our employees some additional salary that they can use to secure adequate health insurance in place of providing health insurance directly. Without the ACA, some of our staff would likely be unable to secure health insurance as individuals, which would mean that they would have to work for a larger company that could provide them with group insurance instead of working for Choice of Games. And because some of our staff have serious pre-existing conditions, even a brief period of being uninsured without the ACA could mean bankruptcy or death because of inability to pay for necessary medical treatment.
  2. In addition to its staff, Choice of Games depends on a large number of creative independent contractors—the authors of most of our games, artists, even copy-editors. We’re like most publishers in this regard. As independent contractors, our authors and artists don’t receive health insurance from Choice of Games. We’re not directly privy to their health insurance decisions, but it’s very likely that some of them also rely on the individual markets enabled by the ACA for their health insurance. Without access to that option, they would have to find another way to secure health insurance: giving up writing as a full-time business so that they could get health insurance through an employer, perhaps, or remaining dependent on a spouse’s job for insurance regardless of whether that makes sense for them. The ACA allows independent contractors like our authors and artists to get health insurance while continuing to pursue creative efforts as a full-time business. That’s critical to the continuing functioning of Choice of Games and many other creative businesses.

Without the ACA, Choice of Games and its independent contractors would face terrible choices. Some of our staff and contractors might have to abandon their creative work to instead take other jobs, simply to secure health insurance. If they chose to continue to pursue creative work, some of them would risk bankruptcy. And the inability to pay for life-saving treatments could literally kill some of our staff or authors.

The ACA isn’t the only, or even necessarily the best, solution to these problems. Many of us would prefer a single-payer system of health care, paid for out of general tax revenues. Nonetheless, repealing the ACA without another system that would guarantee access to health insurance, regardless of employment or pre-existing conditions, would be a disaster for Choice of Games, for the creative writers and artists we contract with, and for the United States. If you care about Choice of Games and our work, please contact your Representatives and Senators to urge them to oppose any repeal of the ACA that does not preserve the ability of all people, regardless of employment or pre-existing conditions, to secure affordable health insurance.

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