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Aug 16

2022

Heart’s Choice Author Interview: Fay Ikin, Heart of Battle

Posted by: Mary Duffy | Comments (0)

Battle for love as a gladiator in this epic romance of swords and sandals! As a prisoner of Coritan City, you had two options: rot in a dungeon or battle in the gladiatorial arena. You chose to fight—and as a star gladiator, you have the power to sway public opinion as nobody else does. Heart of Battle is a 255,000-word interactive gladiator romance by Fay Ikin. I sat down with Fay to discuss their experience writing interactive romance.

Heart of Battle releases this Thursday, August 18th. You can play the first three chapters for free today.

This is not your first foray into interactive fiction, but it is I think your first romance title! Tell me what led you from writing Asteroid Run to writing a gladiatorial romance?

Both my editor and I noticed that some of the most positive feedback on Asteroid Run was about the romanceable characters, their subplots, and the relationships that the player is able to build on their ship. When Becky suggested that I consider pitching Heart’s Choice ideas, I was intrigued and excited. I love writing about hot people doing sexy things, really, so a romance title seemed obvious!

As far as the genre shift goes, I’ve always enjoyed writing both sci-fi and fantasy. In fact, I’ve got more words under my belt for Heart of Battle’s genre – a fictional world, some magic, and lashings of angst – than anything else.

What sexy, muscle-y goodness can players anticipate in this game?

You’ve got epic duels with your loved ones, getting to protect strong folks from peril, and some nice softer moments too, like intimate chats by the fireplace with a dreamboat in a billowing silk robe. There are some excellent spicy scenes, as well as asexual, muscle-y goodness for players looking for compelling, touching romances that are less on the physical side.

I wanted to make sure that all the love interests have their strengths and specialties, and moments where they shine as competent and interesting people; but they’re all messed up being in this terrible system of prison and forced fights. Kisses and/or cuddles are a must.

How did you find writing a Heart’s Choice as compared to Choice of Games title? Or did you think it was largely the same for you?

Oh, it’s been so freeing to write a romance-driven game rather than a plot-driven game. Both are rich with the story, don’t get me wrong. But before, I would never have put the player in a situation where no matter what they choose, they get what they want, with successes and failures changing the consequences for it. The ability to occasionally use those moments in Heart of Battle meant I didn’t have to worry about the plot taking me into a multi-chaptered branch into a totally different story. (Thanks, Asteroid Run, and those 30,000 extra words.)

These kinds of shifts in choice and narrative structure mean I’ve really been able to hone in on what matters: characters, relationships, and spicy scenes.

Do you read much romance? Favorite authors?

So, I’m a voracious reader of fanfic – epic, novel-length hurt-comfort AUs are my jam. When I do read published romance I need it to be lush and queer, so of course the Jo Graham shelf has pride of place at home. And I love other kinds of romance games. The Dream Daddy jingle lives rent-free in my head most days!

What are you working on next?

Well, I don’t want to go into too much detail early on in a project, but Heart of Battle’s reception from beta readers and players on the forum has been positive enough that my next project will be set in the same universe: new characters, a different place, and very different challenges. I’m always up for the challenge of writing interactive fiction with Happy Ever Afters available for every love interest…that’s inspired by the sad and brutal tales of 19th century failed arctic expeditions. Watch this space!

Aug 11

2022

Paranormal Preparatory School—School’s not hell, but it is on top of it!

Posted by: Mary Duffy | Comments (0)

We’re proud to announce that Paranormal Preparatory School, 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” app. It’s 33% off until August 18th!

This boarding school for supernaturals isn’t hell, but it is on top of it! Can you make peace between the vampire and werewolf students, close the portal to hell, and save the world?

Paranormal Preparatory School is a 340,000-word interactive comedic dark fantasy novel by David Spain. It’s entirely text-based, without graphics or sound effects, and fueled by the vast, unstoppable power of your imagination.

You’re the only mortal human student at Cavalcade Academy, a school for supernatural beings. Zombies, werewolves, vampires, and more live and study within its ivy-clad walls. Centuries of hatred between vampires and werewolves have led to deep divides between the two species, and this school is the latest battleground. Your eldritch magic powers will be essential to earn the respect of your peers.

With the opening of the elite St. Mary’s Academy next door–a private school full of pampered, privileged mortal humans–your fellow supernatural students will face their first interaction with humanity. Your school’s reputation is at stake, to say nothing of what the wealthy upper-class St. Mary’s students will think of their paranormal neighbors!

And now, as a portal to hell opens beneath Cavalcade Academy, you’ll need to ally with vampires, werewolves, humans, a ghost, and a cyborg zombie to close it. Make the wrong decisions, and it could mean the end of you, your classmates, and perhaps even the entire world.

Oh, and don’t forget to study for your math exam!

• Play as male, female, or nonbinary; gay, straight, bi, asexual, or poly
• Choose a side in a centuries–old feud: ally with the vampire clan or werewolf pack; or try to heal the rift between them.
• Save the world from the encroaching flames of hell that rise through the portal near your school.
• Help your classmates promote undead rights–or flee back to the mortal realm.
• Infiltrate the elite neighboring school to discover the origin of your frightening visions.
• Accept a vampire’s kiss, return a werewolf’s passion, or transcend the boundaries of death to love a zombie.

It’s the end of the world. Don’t be late for class!

We hope you enjoy playing Paranormal Preparatory School. 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.

Aug 08

2022

Author Interview: David Spain, Paranormal Preparatory School

Posted by: Mary Duffy | Comments (0)

This boarding school for supernaturals isn’t hell, but it is on top of it! Can you make peace between the vampire and werewolf students, close the portal to hell, and save the world? Paranormal Preparatory School is a 340,000-word interactive comedic dark fantasy novel by David Spain. I sat down with David to talk about his upcoming game and the nature of horror and supernatural fiction.

Paranormal Preparatory School releases this Thursday, August 11th. You can play the first three chapters today for free.

You’re an author of horror fiction, but this is your first foray into interactive fiction, I think? Tell me about yourself and your work.

Yes: this is the first interactive work I’ve ever done, though I definitely regret not trying this form sooner. My other works – novels, scripts, and screenplays – have all been linear pieces: a set ending for the story to reach, and the enjoyment’s come from experimenting within that structure. In terms of horror, I’ve written two screenplays: Partake is a class-based horror (think Eyes Wide Shut meets the Tory Party), while Homecoming, which I wrote with my cousin, Joseph Morgan, is a horror-comedy about a village who want to burn a young woman at the stake, only to find that she’s got her own views when it comes to that plan, as well as a vast assortment of weaponry. Joseph and I have also written A Murder at Thornton Manor, a golden age-style murder-mystery play in which the actors die while the characters stay alive.

I live in the Gateshead, in the North East of England, which is where I worked on (wept over? drank through?) my PhD in Creative Writing. For that, I wrote a political novel, A Northern Exit (its working title, Naked Upon Brexit, was rejected for not treating politics seriously enough, which seems a tad unfair at this point). That was actually a lot of fun, particularly when I had to change the entire narrative on two separate occasions to accommodate the results of the EU Referendum and the 2016 US Presidential Election, and the whole experience has led to an enduring love of political fiction and a mild-to-moderate ache in my liver.

Actually, although it’s not supernatural fiction, A Northern Exit is probably the work that’s most closely related to Paranormal Preparatory School thanks to the narrative tone. Its protagonist, Tom, tends to describe both local and national politics with a deadpan cynicism that would seem very familiar to anyone playing Paranormal Preparatory School . Just replace vampires with Conservatives, werewolves with Geordies, and the hellmouth for the regrettable brutalist architecture you can find in Newcastle upon Tyne.

Why a prep school?

I think that schools offer a lot of possibilities as a setting, particularly for an adventure like this. You’ve got vampires and werewolves still locked in an ancient blood feud, but they’re in a social structure where they still need to behave, look smart, and not fight. And then there’s the contrast between the species conflict and the far more universal struggle between school students and teachers who assign you a four-page essay on whether or not Vincentio in Measure for Measure needs to start taking his job a bit more seriously. Which is a fun dynamic.

There’s also the escapism angle, which is always linked with school for me (catch me paying attention in a maths lesson at fifteen years old). If someone told me today that I had to close a hellmouth and save the world, I’d probably tell them that I’d not had the requisite training and they’d need to get in touch with my line manager, who’s on a two-week holiday. But if they’d asked me while I was at school, I’d happily have picked up the nearest hockey stick and charged headlong towards the flames and, more importantly, away from a double period chemistry class. It’s the kind of cheerful, anarchic sense of purpose you can only dream of as an adult.

What did you find most enticing about writing in this new format?

I think it was discovering just how much you can do with it and how much oomph it adds to a story. What I’m trying to do whenever I write a story, no matter the form or genre, is reach a reader and provoke an emotional reaction from them. So doing that with a piece of fiction where the reader is actually making the decisions has been an amazing experience.

There’s also the culpability of the reader in this format. They’re not just reading an account of events, but actively participating, which really amplifies the emotion, whether it’s satisfaction, relief, or horror. What I really hope is that people playing Paranormal Prep get moments where the consequences of their actions really resonate with them.

And what was most challenging for you?

Sort of linked to my last answer: the amount of stuff that you could do by intertwining the code and the narrative is amazing, and the real challenge was finding out new stuff and wanting to include it. I came to this completely new to coding of any kind, and I really wish I’d known more about it before starting.

The other part was multiple endings. Usually, my writing style is knowing how my story ends and carefully building everything towards it. In this case, dealing with all the what-ifs and but-onlys was a very different experience to anything I’d done before, and there were moments of staring at my notes or screen without knowing what the hell I wanted to say next.

But honestly, these are the kinds of things that have made this such a fantastic experience. I love getting challenged and having to learn new things, and this has been a format that’s made sure of both.

What do you hope our players will notice about Paranormal Preparatory School ?

If I had to choose anything, I’d say the humour. Terry Pratchett was the author who made me realise that I wanted to be a writer (while Robin Jarvis was the one who made me realise I loved horror), and the sheer brilliance of his narrative, whether from the wordplay, the innuendo, or the masses of different references, is a huge part of that, and it’s something I’ve tried to include in my own writing voice. Hopefully, anyone playing this game will really enjoy that element.

Is writing in a supernatural world a departure for you or within your personal bailiwick of horror?

Actually, yes: I’ve used supernatural settings and characters in other works, but my horror’s always been rooted in reality so far: human monsters and the real world. That’s not out of any particular ideology or anything – I think Hereditary is just as effective as Midsommar, for example – but rather a case of not having written everything I want to write yet. Basically, whatever I find scary, I’ll use it. I would definitely like, at some stage, to write a pure vampire horror; it’s just a matter of getting around to it.

What are you working on next?

God, so much. I’ve got a bunch of projects I’m involved in at the moment: Joseph and I are working on a fantasy comedy at the moment (Lord of the Rings meets Death of Stalin seems like the best description) as well as a sci-fi comedy about trying to escape a parallel universe. I’ve got some other collaborations on the go too, specifically crime and horror movies, which are a lot of fun to work on.

As for my independent work, I’m finishing off the editing on a fantasy novel called The Royalists and starting on a science-fiction story that I’m consistently failing to think up a title for. The plan is to keep writing until I die, or until there’s some sort of legal action. Either/or.

Aug 04

2022

A Mage Reborn: Book One by Adam Alamsyah

Posted by: Jason Stevan Hill | Comments (0)

Hosted Games has a new game for you to play!

Walk the path of a legendary mage, and uncover the dark secrets of your heritage! Will you seek revenge, or pursue a path to reconciliation? It’s 25% off until August 11th!

“A Mage Reborn: Book One” is a thrilling 154,000-word interactive fantasy novel written by Adam Alamsyah. It’s entirely text-based—without graphics or sound effects—and fueled by the vast, unstoppable power of your imagination.

You’ve spent many years on the run from your turbulent past, outmaneuvering your darkest demons for as long as you can remember. After a short stint of hard-earned peace in a village where no one knows your secrets, you are once again thrown headfirst into danger and excitement. An expansive web of royal politics and magical intrigue threatens to swallow the continent whole, and you find yourself right in the thick of the action.

The world churns with danger and arcane secrets at every turn, and the task of navigating it has fallen to you. Will your fearsome powers see you safely to the other side? What kind of legacy will you leave behind?

  • Play as a man, woman, or non-binary.
  • Walk the path of a legendary mage, combining four different schools of magic to devastating effects.
  • Find love with a warrior king or an aspiring saintess, weaving the start of a romance that transcends lifetimes.
  • Sift through the memories of your past, and decide how they will determine your future.
  • Uncover the secrets of your dark heritage, and harness the tremendous powers that course through your bloodline.
  • Strike a bargain with arcane deities beyond your ken, and invoke their powers on the field of battle—at a steep price.
  • Rise to lofty heights as the right hand of royalty, and navigate a fall from grace that results in your execution.
  • Prime yourself for revenge or reconciliation, while the truths of the world slowly unfold around you.

Adam 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.

Aug 04

2022

Pride and Prejudice and Murder—He’s proud, she’s prejudiced, someone’s dead!

Posted by: Jason Stevan Hill | Comments (0)

Hosted Games has a new game for you to play!

Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are finally tying the knot. Their friends and family have gathered around them to celebrate the happy occasion. Nothing could go wrong…until the unimaginable happens and a murder is committed. It’s 40% off until August 11th!

“Pride and Prejudice and Murder” is a 210,000 word interactive murder-mystery novel by Abigail Shaffer Fuller and Michael Gray, 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.

In a room full of loved ones, one of them is a coldblooded killer. Who can be trusted? And what secrets lie hidden underneath a well-crafted murder?

Solve the crime by navigating through multiple pathways and multiple choices. Read the story through the narrator of your choice in order to see different perspectives. You never know where the next clue will lie, or who has the darkest secret to expose.

  • Expose a killer in this thrilling sequel to Jane Austen’s classic novel
  • Watch the mystery unfold through more than 10 different narrators
  • Play out multiple endings
  • Interact with all of the classic Pride and Prejudice characters
  • Choose where you want the story to go

Abigail and Michael 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.

Jul 28

2022

The Dragon and the Djinn—You hold a djinn in a bottle. Make a wish!

Posted by: Mary Duffy | Comments (0)

We’re proud to announce that The Dragon and the Djinn, 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” app.

It’s 40% off until August 4th!

You hold a djinn in a bottle. Make a wish! Will you slay the dragon, or overthrow the emir? Or will you free the djinn, and accept the consequences?

The Dragon and the Djinn is a 710,000 word interactive Arab epic fantasy novel by Athar Fikry, 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.

A dragon terrorizes the grand city of Ghariba – the same dragon that slew the city’s emira. Now a new emir, Alaaeldin, sits upon the throne. He throws lavish parties for the nobility while religious and social unrest churns beneath the city’s surface – and as the dragon’s devastating attacks worsen day by day.

You have come to Ghariba in pursuit of your sister. She stole the magical sword that you made, claiming that it is her destiny to slay the dragon.

But your destiny finds you instead. Jaafar, the Grand Wazir, hands you an unexplained gift, the most precious and dangerous thing of all: a djinn who will grant your every wish. (You may wish as many times as you like! Wish and wish and wish, until your djinn has had enough, twists your words against you, and destroys you with your own wishes.)

With your djinn in your hands, every faction is now vying for your aid. You must use your wits, your words, your strength, and your magic to navigate the politics of the palace, the city, and even the world beyond.

How will you use your wishes? Will you protect Ghariba from the dragon by helping your sister? Will you slay the dragon yourself? Will you listen to those who consider it sacred and want to keep it safe? Will you be able to unravel the mystery behind the dragon’s sudden appearance? Or will you simply take advantage of the chaos to make yourself the richest person in Ghariba?

• Play as male, female, or nonbinary; gay, straight, or bi; cis or trans; aromantic, asexual, or both, with many shadings of asexuality!
• Race through the skies on a magic carpet.
• Use your djinn to wish for information, wealth, and more – or free the djinn and discover even more wonders.
• Slay a dragon – or save it, and help it speak so that it can tell you its secrets.
• Achieve your destiny as a grand magician, a silver-tongued poet, the protector of the realm, or something even greater.
• Secure the reign of Emir Alaaeldin or join forces with those who would depose him—and even take the throne for yourself!
• Find love with a dragon-slaying warrior, a charming court poet, an idealistic prophet, a lofty priestess, a wealthy noble—or even a djinn!

Be careful what you wish for…

We hope you enjoy playing The Dragon and the Djinn. 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.

Jul 25

2022

Author Interview: Athar Fikry, The Dragon and the Djinn

Posted by: Mary Duffy | Comments (0)

You hold a djinn in a bottle. Make a wish! Will you slay the dragon, or overthrow the emir? Or will you free the djinn, and accept the consequences? The Dragon and the Djinn is a 710,000 word interactive Arab epic fantasy novel by Athar Fikry. I sat down with Athar to discuss the genesis of the game and its lore. The Dragon and the Djinn releases this Thursday, July 28th. You can play the first four chapters for free, today. 

This is such an incredible game, vastly different from anything we have published before. Tell me about your background and the genesis of this story.

Thank you, you’re far too kind. Here’s hoping for a slew of games in The Dragon and the Djinn’s vein to follow!

The genesis of this story, now that I think about it, probably started when I was listening to a podcast summarizing the original Aladdin story. Now, I’m Egyptian, so the Aladdin story and other stories from 1001 Nights have been a sort of ambient noise in the background for a lot of my life. There was a local radio series about them ages ago, plenty of pop culture references and so on, but listening to it in English was a different experience. I’m sure other bilinguals can relate—things live in different parts of my brain in different languages, and the fantasy writer part is in English.

So when Aladdin wished for a palace and servants and riches, my fantasy writer brain sat up and said, “Hang on, where did they come from?”

Because djinn aren’t all-powerful. They can’t create from nothing. In the Muslim tradition I was raised in—and take this with a grain of salt, because I’m not Muslim anymore—it’s emphasized that even when djinn can seem to have knowledge of the future, for instance, it’s only because they eavesdropped on heaven. No phenomenal cosmic powers here. So if Aladdin’s genie can’t know the unknown or click his fingers and make something from nothing, where did it all come from?

Then I smashed that together with my fascination for people adjacent to Chosen Ones and here we are, a truly absurd number of words later.

What about the djinn legends intrigued you as a setting for interactive fiction?

The thing is, djinn aren’t quite legends here in Egypt. Not really. They’re mentioned in the Quran and therefore many people consider them very real, just the sort of real you don’t tend to talk about. For me, djinn have always lived in that sort of in-between space where you scoff at the superstition in the bright light of morning and then it’s half-dark and you’re alone in the house and rushing past a mirror in your hallway, chased by the whisper of what if?

Djinn are versatile too, which is very fun. Supposedly, they live in a world adjacent to ours, but also in the hidden spaces of our world. They have different powers and rankings, some are good and some are bad, some are tied to you and some want to lure you to a horrible end and some live their lives as far away from humans as they can get. There’s a lot of material to play with here.

You’re obviously very steeped in fantasy lore–what books, games, artwork, or films inspired you as you were writing this game?

I have a very distinct memory of this one time I was reading S.A. Chakraborty’s The City of Brass on my phone at work, and I remember coming across the word aywa which means yes in Egyptian Arabic, and just…the sheer delight of recognition there. It’s such a small thing, that aywa, but I am often very skeptical of books set in Egypt—more often than not they’re actually set in what I like to call Pyramidland and they just don’t know it—and the bright fizzle of, “Oh that’s mine, I recognize it!” was very heady. Invoking that feeling in others has driven a lot of my writing for this game.

Otherwise, I could go on about my fantasy touchstones—Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series for its voice, the effect of Guy Gavriel Kay’s The Lions of Al-Rassan as the first time I saw an Arab protagonist in a fantasy novel—but truthfully when I was actually writing, I was grabbing inspiration from everywhere I could and very little of it was from epic high-fantasy books.

I looked to translations of Arabic novels like Basma Abdelaziz’s The Queue to see how the translators grappled with communicating the society to a foreign audience. I looked to other SWANA fantasy writers to see how they handled bringing their cultures into made-up worlds, and Somaiya Daud’s Mirage comes to mind. I played a truly ridiculous amount of rpgs to get a feel for choices and when they worked for me and when they made me feel cheated and, needless to say, Disco Elysium was a revelation. I found a lot of inspiration from live play ttrpgs like Dimension 20 for how gleefully they take from, riff off of, and gently poke fun at fantasy tropes. I’ve also been pickling myself in horror audio dramas for the past several years, each a master class in developing atmosphere and distinct character voices. I’m especially fascinated by what Malevolent is doing right now, as an interactive podcast.

But strangely, looking back, I think the most inspiration I got was from a twitter thread. I wish I could find it again now, but I think it was a conversation (or maybe multiple conversations) started by author Jeannette Ng, which emphasized how often creators of color who choose to bring their non-Western cultures to their writing face a certain pressure for their stories to be historically accurate and capital-C Correct and how we should get to be silly with it. So often people expect our creations to be educational and representative of our cultures, and meanwhile European-based fantasies can swan about mixing eras and languages and architectural styles and having potatoes and all sorts of fun. So I decided I also wanted to have fun with my setting.

Don’t get me wrong, I still did an absurd amount of historical research—did you know the Abbasids had ice-based desserts?—but Ghariba is not meant to represent one specific city in one specific time, per se, so much as evoke the general feel of one. I combined historical details with some details of my day-to-day life here in Cairo, mixed Arabic dialects in some cases and in other cases entirely avoided naming things, so as not to tie them to a specific region. I took what I thought was cool and threw away what wasn’t, remixed myths and stories to my liking, and then there’s a bunch of stuff I just invented whole-cloth. It’s been an interesting experiment, and I hope readers have as much fun in this setting as I did.

This game is 700,000 words long, and so is quite the fantasy epic. What were the challenges for you of writing such a long game?

Okay I’m going to be glib for a second here: the main challenge of writing such a long game was…the writing.

No, hang on, hear me out.

The issue was twofold. First, I hadn’t realized quite what a behemoth this game would turn out to be. I knew it would be big, obviously, but it’s a bit like I’d psyched myself up to eat an elephant and then just as I’d finished snacking on its trunk, I realized it was actually just a third of a dragon’s tail and whoo boy, I still had a lot to go. In hindsight, of course, I should have known, considering I start chapter two with the player in four possible locations (pro tip: don’t do this) but when I was mired in the middle it felt like an insurmountable thing. Especially as I started having to deal with the consequences of my very many branches and figure out what could and could not be trimmed back and how to fit it all together. It took me a good long while to just push through.

Second is that…well, it took me a good long while to push through.

I started writing The Dragon and the Djinn in 2018. Now I don’t know about you, but four years is a very long time. I switched careers, got my ADHD diagnosis, developed carpal tunnel, lost my gender somewhere along the way, not to mention witnessed the world becoming, broadly, a trashfire. Each of those things influenced me and changed how I work, how I write, how much I can write, and what I want to write, and so my earlier chapters had to be changed to reflect that as well and whatever couldn’t be reworked, I added to later on. I’m glad I had the time to let the draft grow and develop this way (and I have a lot of appreciation for the CoG team for being flexible enough to give me that time) but the changes I needed to make certainly weren’t helping the workload any.

What do you think will surprise players about The Dragon and the Djinn?

Ooh, that’s difficult to say. I mean, surprise relies largely on expectations, right? And it’s difficult to predict what players’ expectations will be, going into this game. I suppose players may end up surprised by how much Arabic they’re osmosing, because I sure do use a lot of it, or how many stories and myths I’ve chopped up and stuffed into various nooks and crannies throughout.

Or by my horrible Disney’s Aladdin-based jokes because I couldn’t resist.

I also really, really hope my fellow aro and ace players are pleasantly surprised by some of the relationship options I’ve written.

What are you working on next?

I’m currently a contributing writer on Emerald Templars, a dark fantasy ttrpg, and I’ve been having a blast slowly wading into the ttrpg space. I have a few short ttrpgs of my own in the works as well, including at least one that will be set in the world of The Dragon and the Djinn. It’s a Honey Heist hack wherein players are flying carpets, and I think it’s going to be very fun.

Otherwise, I’ve been focusing on short stories, mostly to remind myself I am indeed capable of finishing projects without them turning into nonsense behemoths. To prove me wrong, a new game concept has decided to gently gnaw on my brain. I suppose it was only a matter of time before all the horror I’ve been consuming consumed me as well, and IF seems like the perfect medium for exploring the agency (or lack thereof) of a horror protagonist. Whether it’s with this concept or something else, though, I doubt this will be my last foray into ChoiceScript. I just hope my next will be more…contained, shall we say.

Jul 20

2022

Statement on M.A.R. Barker, Tékumel, and Choice of the Petal Throne

Posted by: Becky Slitt | Comments (1)

In spring 2022, it came to light that, under a pseudonym, M.A.R. Barker, the late creator of the Tékumel universe, wrote an antisemitic novel and served on the editorial review committee of a Holocaust denial journal.

When Choice of the Petal Throne was published in 2015, neither the author nor Choice of Games was aware of this work by Barker, or of his antisemitic views. Neither the author nor Choice of Games included any antisemitic content in Choice of the Petal Throne.

We condemn antisemitism in all forms. We condemn the denial of the Holocaust.

As a company, we are committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion. We believe that the rising rate of antisemitism in the world today is extremely dangerous, and we will continue to do everything we can to combat it.

We have agreed with the Tékumel Foundation that no further revenue from Choice of Games or Choice of the Petal Throne will go to the Foundation, Barker’s estate, or any organization connected to Barker. We will not publish any additional works set in the Tékumel universe or any other setting created by Barker.

Instead, Choice of Games, the Tékumel Foundation, and Danielle Goudeau, author of Choice of the Petal Throne, have agreed that all revenue from Choice of the Petal Throne from the beginning of 2022 onward will be donated to Jewish Family Services of the East Bay, specifically to their Holocaust Survivor Services program.

Jul 14

2022

Author Zachary Sergi on the 10th Anniversary of Heroes Rise

Posted by: Mary Duffy | Comments (2)

To celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Heroes Rise, we’ve commissioned brand new game art for Heroes Rise: The Prodigy, new line-art headers for the original Heroes Rise trilogy, and placed all the Sergiverse games on sale until July 21st! We’re proud to publish author Zachary Sergi’s reflections on this occasion below.
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The year was 2011. I was one year out of college, trying to find my footing in Los Angeles as a TV writer. I had hustled my way into a Disney Channel original movie think tank, a process that introduced me to my first (short-lived) manager. This matters because that manager did one thing for me: he told me a new company called Choice of Games was looking for fiction writers to pitch ideas for interactive novels.

I had studied fiction all through high school and college, and had written contemporary novel-length works before. Far more importantly, I grew up loving to invent my own RPGs with my action figures and obsessing over pathways in the Goosebumps: Reader Beware…You Choose The Scare CYOA-style novels. I even tried my hand at constructing my own interactive stories in elementary school: a teen slasher called Killer Central and a superhero team-up called The Mega Force Saga (lol).

A lifelong Marvel Comics reader (X-Men, specifically), I also always had a super hero world in my head, one based on an American Idol style competition that funneled into The Avengers, but that was also queer and diverse (having grown up as a gay teen on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, this kind of inclusion felt mundanely everyday to a naively-younger me). While I kept building this superhero world in my mind, I had never actually written about it—my high school and college classes demanded contemporary fiction only, at the time.

Heroes Rise was one of a few pitches I submitted to Choice of Games, expecting another rejection to add to my growing pile—but they bought it. Now, at age 23, I had agreed to write a full length novel, in a genre I had never written in before, in a format that didn’t really exist in a way I could find at the time, in a coding-format language I didn’t understand, for a brand new company, which would publish exclusively digitally on an app. For context, I still had a Blackberry then. I didn’t really even understand what an app was, and in those days it was kind of unfathomable that anyone would pay for one, since virtually all apps came free.

Basically: I thought there wasn’t a chance in hell anyone would actually read this novel. The pressure was off, in that way. I was free to just write what was in my head, without worrying if it was commercial or sellable or fitting within any typical genre confines.

The learning curve was steep, but I found I really enjoyed writing in this coding-formatting, half-game, half-novel style. My brain swam in both lanes faster than I expected. Choice of Games had developed a very clean language and an even cleaner vision for choice pacing/styling (which has evolved over time, but the core remains equally pristine). I also felt free not having to live within the perspective of a static main character—that had always been the weakest point of my early fiction writing, but the second person MC openness meant I didn’t even have to worry about that. The perspective had to be weak, to allow the reader to fill in the cracks.

The biggest challenge was trying to outline an enticing story full of plot twists and interesting characters, but that also allowed for some degree of reader control/flexibility. I saw my primary job to tell the best story possible, and my secondary job to build compelling choices and game structure within that story. I found the choices that mattered most to me were defining the Main Character, navigating their relationships, and encountering morally-loaded sociological dilemmas. The choices were designed to make the reader stop and think, not necessarily have vast control over the story. (This has become a cornerstone of my own particular interactive style, which is subjectively loved and hated).

I also know that, during that year, I was reading the 4th-7th Harry Potter books for the first time. I had read the first three when they came out, but literally couldn’t carry the larger hardcovers on the subway with me. Looking back, I think you can see the more whimsical spirit in that first Heroes Rise as a result. I was also really miserable in my personal life the first couple years out of college, graduating into a recession and living in a city where I didn’t have many existing friendships. So much of my drive for a big writing career, a big love, and a sense of belonging in Los Angeles was infused into The Prodigy. Even though this novel wasn’t real-world contemporary, so much of who I was and what I knew was still infused. Grandma was based on my own, Jenny was inspired by my dearest friend at the time, Chelsea. I was living with my parents (who I adore), but needed some self-defining separation from. And then the orphan, Jury, and Victon vibes came straight from Harry Potter. Then, as always, there’s X-Men social allegory and The Avengers fame fun.

It was a genre-blending brew—turns out, that’s another cornerstone of what I write. The final element came straight from college, where I took a class purely studying utopian literature (and discovered my then-much-lesser-known favorite novel, The Handmaid’s Tale). Writing about societal constructs via utopian/dystopian themes was also something I always intended to explore. Looking back, Heroes Rise: The Prodigy was a mad explosion of myself coming together for the first time, empowered by a company that didn’t edit me into any corners (to their infinite credit), and from a space where unafraid to fail—because to me back then, failure was already implied. I remember saying to my mom late one night: “No one will read this, but if I die tomorrow, I at least got to write something fully and wholly me.”

Naturally, absolutely zero people in my life understood what I was doing, literally or career-trajectory wise. But I was 23. I was allowed a year to write a passion project, especially one that was paid. Life would go on afterwards.

Sometime before the July 2012 release, I got an iPhone (so I could buy the book, mostly). I was also blown away when the cover drafts came in—it was the first time I had ever seen a character I wrote brought to life visually. That one detail emboldened me enough to try and treat this like a traditional book launch—I made social media accounts and planned a little book launch party at the writing office I used then. People came to the party, but no one understood what the book was. Is it a game? Is it a novel? Wait, it’s an app? It’s about superheroes, but it’s not Marvel or DC? And it’s about societal allegory and fame culture? Well, thanks for the free cheese board…

I was right about one thing: to this day, the majority of my family and friends haven’t read Heroes Rise. But do you know who did? All you readers who somehow found The Prodigy (I still don’t quite know how that happened). Reader emails and messages started coming in. Fan art of the characters started popping up (mind fully blown every time, with that one). People from other countries were somehow reading it. I even got some hate mail and awful reviews—but I was thrilled. People cared enough to do all that? Turns out I was very wrong about no one reading this thing. I was so startled that this interactive novel on this new platform reached anyone, especially something that was so idiosyncratically me. It was a revelation, one I’m grateful for to this day.

I guess I should say, even though I didn’t expect this outcome, I did hope (and plan) for it. I had designed Heroes Rise as a trilogy, in typical Young Adult fiction style. (Oh yeah, I started calling my stuff Young Adult too, because it was easier to “sell and pitch” myself in the various businesses. I still don’t know if Heroes Rise is really YA, but I also don’t think it matters). I didn’t pitch The Hero Project in the original Heroes Rise because I didn’t want to potentially give away my best idea to an unknown home. But this home had made itself fully known.

Thankfully, Choice of Games agreed. Not only that, but the founders of the company saw the ravenous need for queer, diverse, and inclusive representation in superheroes and gaming. This was years before those things became “trendy” marketing talking points—and I still wish we were further into this movement, especially amidst all this recent queer book-banning.

Mostly, I tried to listen to the audience, thankful for having one to begin with. I knew I needed to evolve the overly-simplistic gaming structure and choice style (especially now that I actually knew what I was doing). In the decade since, I’ve made huge steps forward (and sometimes backward) working out ways to expand interactivity—while still meeting the publish-once-a-year deadlines. I also wrote so many storylines requested by you readers: romances with Jenny, Jury, and Prodigal (which never would have occurred to me). I also remember posting screenshots of homemade strategy guides, then getting dozens of emails from blind readers asking for text-versions so voice-assistive technology could read them aloud. We had blind readers? Time for representation in that community (hello Weaver, among others).

I also learned how to navigate the tricky waters of writing about societal and political constructs, sometimes favoring my own beliefs unfairly. This is how I came to define my mission statement as a writer: to always empower readers; to expose you to new worlds & ideas and let you decide for yourselves what to think & believe. Additionally, I always focus on LGBTQIA+ representation and exploring issues of intersectional inclusion, funneled through a (usually Young Adult) genre-mashing blend of humor, action & drama.

Looking back on these early days building out the Sergiverse (as social media coined it, and I wholeheartedly adopted) via the Heroes Rise Trilogy, The Hero Project Duology, and the Versus Trilogy, I mostly wish I had the stamina I did in my 20s to write 150+ thousand words a year while also developing TV shows. (Now in my 30s, my body and brain require a lot more care). There’s so much I’d handle differently with the benefit of hindsight, but mostly I’m proud of what we all built together.

Having now finished the eight-part epic I dreamed up in my 20s last year with Versus: The Deathscapes (that warrants its own essay, let me tell you), I’m lucky to have gotten the chance to help establish another interactive precedent. I wrote Heroes Rise: The Prodigy when I was 23, and ten years later at 33, I got to publish a first-of-its kind hardcover Interactive Novel, Major Detours. And next year, my first-ever Hosted Games project will publish on January 5: Fortune the Fated, where I’m experimenting with yet another totally-different (for me, at least) interactive plot structure.

Exactly a decade later, I also have another superhero world bubbling and half-written. It’s in the same spirit at Heroes Rise, but with a focus on allegory for professional sports (if you’re thinking The Hero Project: The Legend of Korra meets Friday Night Lights, you’d be right). I’ll hopefully find a publishing home for that project soon, but it strikes me now, how I feel compelled to return to this spirit of storytelling a decade later—kind of like a call to come home.


Truly, every inch of this started with Heroes Rise: The Prodigy and the visionary founders of Choice of Games. Those same founders have been gracious enough to create a special 10th Anniversary cover for The Prodigy, one that captures its spirit perfectly. I think it’s maybe time I fully re-read it, myself? As always, I have the same question: Will you take this journey with me?

Jul 07

2022

The Sword of Rhivenia by Ayan Mammadli

Posted by: Jason Stevan Hill | Comments (1)

Hosted Games has a new game for you to play!

The War of Three Brothers, which took place ten years ago, changed the unknown fate of Rhivenia. The Sword chose Prince Charles to rule; however, his brothers dared to go against its choice. Prince Charles gained victory over his brothers, who were the victims of their greed. Executing all the traitors, he strengthened his reign and became the rightful king of three kingdoms. He’s been living a peaceful life with his two wives and four children until an unexpected enemy shows up. It’s 30% off until July 14th!

You play as one of the heirs, who may be chosen by the Sword once King Charles dies. Are you worthy of the throne? Or do your siblings deserve it more than you do? What kind of heir will you be?

“The Sword of Rhivenia” is a 750,000 word interactive medieval fantasy novel by Ayan Mammadli, 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.

  • Play as prince or princess.
  • Customize your appearance and personality.
  • Build friendships and make enemies.
  • Be chosen by the Sword or stay as prince/princess.
  • Betray your kingdom or be loyal.
  • Get married and start a family.

Ayan 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.

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