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Dec 14

2017

Tally Ho — Only a perfect servant can solve a perfect mess!

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

We’re proud to announce that Tally Ho, 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 16% off until December 21st!

Only a perfect servant can solve a perfect mess! Being the perfect gentleman’s gentleman or lady’s lady doesn’t make you an angel. Can you untangle your employer’s knottiest problems with elegance and unruffled grace? As the valet or lady’s maid of Rory Wintermint, you’ll go head to head with recalcitrant aunts, light-handed houseguests, manage a fox hunt and corral exotic birds!

Tally Ho is a 600,000 word interactive comedy of manners by Kreg Segall, 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.

It’s England between the wars, and the 1920s are roaring! When your employer, a proper young gentleman or lady named Rory Wintermint is summoned to their aunt Primrose’s country house Ritornello for a weekend, it’s up to you to make everything run smoothly…or not! Glide gracefully behind the scenes to arrange everything from the flowers to their love life, or leave Rory to their own devices as you pursue crime, adventure, and romance! Will you lie, cheat, and steal to ensure your employer’s happiness, or will you insist upon personal integrity?

• Play as male, female, or non-binary; gay or straight.
• Help Rory sort out their love life, or sabotage it utterly.
• Solve the case of a mysterious sneak-thief–or join them on a crime spree.
• Aid spies, evade the law, calm flighty flappers, and unruffle Aunt Primrose.
• Win an Exotic Animal Show and a boat race fairly, or cheat!
• Dance the lindy hop, or a graceful waltz—or just tut disapprovingly.
• Ride trains, motorcycles, zip-lines, bicycles, horses, and rusty jalopies!
• Jazz it up in the Jazz Age, or remain aloof and cool as a cucumber.

You’ll be swinging from the chandeliers or serving the canapes in this madcap, but altogether elegant comedy.

We hope you enjoy playing Tally Ho. 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.

Dec 13

2017

Author Interview: Kreg Segall, “Tally Ho”

Posted by: Mary Duffy | Comments (0)

Only a perfect servant can solve a perfect mess! Being the perfect gentleman’s gentleman or lady’s lady doesn’t make you an angel. Can you untangle your employer’s knottiest problems with elegance and unruffled grace? As the valet or lady’s maid of Rory Wintermint, you’ll go head to head with recalcitrant aunts, light-handed houseguests, manage a fox hunt and corral exotic birds! It’s England between the wars! When your employer, a proper young gentleman or lady named Rory Wintermint is summoned to their aunt Primrose’s country house Ritornello for a weekend, it’s up to you to make everything run smoothly…or not! Glide gracefully behind the scenes to arrange everything from the flowers to their love life, or leave Rory to their own devices as you pursue crime, adventure, and romance! Will you lie, cheat, and steal to ensure your employer’s happiness, or will you insist upon personal integrity? Tally Ho is a 638,000 word interactive novel by Kreg Segall. I sat down with him to talk about his latest game, which releases tomorrow, Thursday, December 14th.

Tell me about the world of Tally Ho. This is inspired (maybe even a little more than inspired) by the works of P.G. Wodehouse, with a touch of Dorothy Sayers.

The world of Tally Ho is very much the idyllic world of P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster novels and short stories. The setting will be utterly familiar to anyone who has read the novels or seen the TV adaptation, but also very easy to ease into for people unfamiliar with the source material.

The world is a totally idealized and comic version of the leisured class in early 1930s England. The most serious problems are domineering aunts, lost jewelry, getting engaged, getting out of engagements, and keeping the employ of one’s temperamental pastry chef. Wodehouse’s characters are rich, leisured, romantically perplexed, and often rather dim, but always lovable. In this chaotic setting, the only one who can restore order is Jeeves, the nearly omniscient gentleman’s gentleman. He is able, with his enormous brain and knowledge of the psychology of the individual, to set things right.

My game takes that frothy setting and poses a few questions to it: What happens when the protagonist of that narrative is the servant, rather than the employer? Is it possible to have a fully-realized love story or even tragicomedy in a setting so totally light and comic? I wanted to take that genre and see how far it bends.

Wodehouse is of course the patron saint of this work, but I was also inspired by Downton Abbey, Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day, and Agatha Christie as well.

What drew you to want to set a story in this period, with these types of characters?

Wodehouse’s stories contain certain characters who absolutely must put in appearances if you want to be true to the source material: the imposing aunt, the idle goof, the maddening ingénue, and so forth. Most of the characters in Tally Ho were sparked by one or more classic Wodehouse characters. There are a few who I added in, though, that Wodehouse would never have dreamed of including, who I created to help me play with genre more.

But Wodehouse, for all of his genius at plotting, doesn’t try to make his characters wholly three-dimensional, because he’s writing farce. So what interested me is figuring out how to take a setting and group of characters that are designed for farce, and create a story that can shift (depending on one’s choices) back and forth from outright comedy to really touching love stories and other emotional moments.

It was a lot of fun to research the time period, but really, this world exists in a pastoral, between-the-wars neverland. The big forces of history can’t intrude on Aunt Primrose’s estate.

This is not your first rodeo with Choice of Games. What was different for you this time around, design-wise and writing-wise?

I could talk here about getting more familiar with ChoiceScript and designing a careful outline, but the biggest difference, by far, was that while I was writing Tally Ho I was reading and participating on the Choice of Games forum regularly. I was able to have a back-and-forth with writers and players about design and effective stat mechanics, about creating more satisfying endings, and about how to account for many different types of main characters.

For example, in chapter seven, the game could potentially end, and I expected some players would be taken aback by what might be perceived as a “bad ending.” For my previous game, I would have worked this out on my own, but for this game, I had a big community of seasoned players and designers moments away to help me craft that sequence to be as satisfying as possible. The Choice of Games forum is extraordinary.

600,000 words. But are they efficiently coded? And how on earth did you manage?

I just looked at the files, and I’m getting a bit north of 638,000 for word count.

Are they efficiently coded? Well, I’ll put it this way: they are more efficiently coded than Midsummer!

As for how I managed–I am a college professor, so I was lucky enough to have much of last May, June, July, and August to write. I wrote for perhaps six hours a day, and wrote chapters seven, eight, and nine over the summer. Chapters eight plus nine together are as long as the entire Midsummer game, which took me a full year to write!

During the school year it is much harder: I wake up early and write for an hour before heading to school, and I try to squeeze in an hour at night if I am done grading and preparing lectures for the next day.

Here’s what I value most in interactive fiction. In addition to lovely prose, I want to feel that the narrative is generous. What I mean is that I want to read and be rewarded for my choices with story that acknowledges my choice, that cares that I am crafting the narrative in a particular way. I want to be surprised by how expansive a narrative is, and I want to notice all of the twists and turns that I am choosing not to take, knowing that when I return to explore them, they will be worth the exploration. I call that “generous” because I know how much time and effort it is for a writer to spend the time honoring choices with unique prose, to create callbacks to choices made much earlier. It is a moment of communion between the reader and the author. That is largely the feeling I am going for in Tally Ho, and that’s what kept me going, even in the thick of it. I want to feel that choice 7 out of 13 is as special and hand-crafted as choice 1. I never want to feel like I am in the choice that the writer didn’t especially want to write.

The other thing that took a lot of time is that I wanted the player to feel like this game has their back. If you succeed in a stat check, great! You did something that you wanted to do. If you failed, you ended up creating a new plot point, probably something funny, but nothing that is going to mess up your story or stress you out. I believe very strongly in the idea of failing forward–if you fail, you made something else happen, and let’s explore that. It’s sure to be ridiculous, but I as the author am pulling for you, not serving as the hand of fate condemning you to losing the game. And so in that way I hope to create the feeling of collaboration. And that takes a while to write. So, yeah. 638,000 words!

Any new IF you’ve enjoyed you want our readers to know about? COG or otherwise?

Since writing A Midsummer Night’s Choice, I’ve worked through more of Choice of Games’ offerings. Over this year I especially enjoyed Choice of Robots, Slammed!, and Cannonfire Concerto. I made it a point to play Hollywood Visionary while writing Tally Ho to write a few scenes that were influenced by Hollywood; I just loved that game as well.

Aside from Choice of Games, I want to point in particular to Ebi-hime, a writer who I think is doing really interesting things with genre and narrative in interactive fiction, specifically interactive visual novels. Certainly, she has been the biggest influence on my own writing as far as her experiments with creating stories that dare to have their feet in high comedy, romance, dark tragedy, and other genres, sometimes whipping back and forth with great speed. I recommend in particular The Way We All Go.

What’s next for you?

Before anything else I am doing some scholarly writing about some of Edmund Spenser’s short narrative poetry. I have two pieces that I’m in the early stages of planning.

I am also filled with lots of idea for more games for COG, and I am in the process of refining some pitches. While Tally Ho is a complete work unto itself, I am not sure I am done exploring this world. I’ve been thinking in the voices of these characters for over a year now. I don’t think I’m wholly ready to let them go!

Dec 07

2017

T-Rex Time Machine — Face the world’s fiercest dinosaurs—on their turf!

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

We’re proud to announce that T-Rex Time Machine, 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 December 14th!

Face the world’s fiercest dinosaurs and make it back to the future in one piece! You’re a physics student with a dream: travel back in time and document the world of dinosaurs. Can you survive the terrors of the Tyrannosaurus rex?

T-Rex Time Machine is a 170,000 word interactive adventure novel by Rosemary Claire 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.

When you successfully convert your Land Rover into a working time machine, you set your sights on traveling to the age of the Tyrannosaurus rex, triceratops, and pterosaur where you’ll study dinosaurs and film a thrilling documentary. The only problem is the competition: your rival and enemy Darien Vance has claimed your work for his own, accused you of plagiarism, and had you kicked out of graduate school. When you travel back in time, you’ll have to prove you got there first, redeem your good name, and make it home safely.

• Play as male or female, gay or straight.
• Dodge stampeding triceratopses and sickle-clawed troodontids.
• Find love with your best friend or one of your time-traveling classmates.
• Feed a baby duckbilled dinosaur and let it imprint on you.
• Film and debut your dinosaur documentary—as a scientific masterpiece or a heartwarming nature film.
• Master time travel as you repair your Land Rover on the fly.
• Prove your rival stole your time machine plans, or forge a new partnership with him.

Explore the Age of Dinosaurs–if you dare!

We hope you enjoy playing T-Rex Time Machine. 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.

Dec 01

2017

New Hosted Game! Samurai of Hyuga Book 3 by Devon Connell

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

Hosted Games has a new game for you to play!

Life isn’t getting any easier for our favorite ronin! The journey continues in the land of silk and steel, where fantasy and reality clash and tough choices await you on every page. Get ready to prove why you’re the toughest ronin around. It’s 33% off until December 7th!

Samurai of Hyuga Book 3 is the mind-shattering 230,000 sequel to your favorite interactive tale by Devon Connell, 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.

Become the judge, jury and executioner of your peers. Walk the path of the detective, unravel a demonic mystery—or be consumed by it! Face your past and fight for your future as the student becomes the teacher. Discover the line between lover and monster, and be prepared to cross it.

• Take the law into your own hands as you bring justice with sharpened steel!
• Unravel a demonic mystery and discover the truths you were never meant to know!
• Find love (or something like it) as you do battle against true despair!

That and so much more await you in the third book of this epic series!

Devon Connell 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.

Nov 22

2017

Broadway: 1849 — Fight your way to box office glory in old New York!

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


We’re proud to announce that Broadway: 1849, 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 November 29th!

Fight your way to box office glory, while fending off the gangs of New York! Manage a theatre in a game of high-stakes business, dangerous romance, and risky alliances set in the rough-and-tumble world of 19th century New York. You’ll brave riots, fires, and political spies as you take on a city of jealous rivals, brilliant artists, and stalwart politicians.

Broadway: 1849 is a 150,000-word interactive historical adventure novel by Robert Davis. It’s entirely text-based, without graphics or sound effects, and fueled by the vast, unstoppable power of your imagination.

Will you succeed by your smart business sense or enlist the city’s gangs to push your competition out of business? Can you manage the diva personalities of your actors? What about a ghost haunting your theatre’s stage?

Are you a flashy producer playing to please the crowd with circus acts? Do you try to earn the respect of the city’s leaders with fine art? Can you wrangle the press into writing the best reviews?

• Play as male, female, or non-binary; gay, straight, bi, or asexual.
• Compete with rivals to stage the biggest shows and gain the largest audience!
• Choose a cast from the city’s brightest talent.
• Investigate the hidden secrets of your theatre.
• Rush to defuse a deadly bomb, or let it explode and plunge the city into chaos.
• Nurture young talent or feed your own ambition for the spotlight.
• Rub shoulders with the city’s most notorious criminals, or bring their misdeeds to light.
• Help a deserving friend escape the clutches of an unscrupulous businessman.
• Join forces with a criminal gang or side with the mayor’s push for order.

When forced to choose you’ll decide whether to fight for peace or let the city burn.

We hope you enjoy playing Broadway: 1849. 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.

Nov 20

2017

Author Interview: Robert Davis, “Broadway: 1849”

Posted by: Mary Duffy | Comments (0)

Manage a theatre in a game of high-stakes business, dangerous romance, and risky alliances set in the rough-and-tumble world of 19th century New York. Broadway: 1849 is a 150,000 word interactive historical adventure novel by Robert Davis, and Choice of Games’ latest release. You’ll brave riots, fires, and political spies as you take on a city of jealous rivals, brilliant artists, and stalwart politicians. When forced to choose you’ll decide whether to fight for peace or let the city burn. I sat down with author Robert Davis, to talk about the game.

Broadway: 1849 releases this Wednesday, November 22nd.

Tell us what inspired you to write about the theatre in the 1840s. This is your background, right?

Yes, I am a nineteenth-century theatre historian and the simple answer is that I love the period. By our standards, New York at the time would have been quite bizarre, almost like the old west. While it had its business centers like Wall Street, and grand hotels and the like, this was also a city that still had pirates sailing up the river. Gangs prowled the streets, and they almost always went to the theatre, where they could expect to spend a night watching two or three plays, eating, drinking, and throwing stuff at the actors or other people in the audience.

There are so many amazing stories from this time. Take, for example, Ned Buntline (real name: E.Z.C. Judson), one of the main characters in the game. He was a sailor, soldier, and writer. A few years before the game starts, he was involved in an affair where he was shot in a courtroom, after which he jumped out the window, got caught and hung. He escaped, and came to New York, where he wrote bestseller novels, got involved in politics, and was eventually put in prison. Later, after the game, he surfaces writing dime novels and plays featuring Buffalo Bill Cody, whose career he more or less launched. I wanted to make sure that stories like his were told. Or, more like: who doesn’t want to go up against that kind of guy?

What kind of world is Broadway set it? It seems like you’ve done a nice job of melding history with modern sensibilities as well as a little of the supernatural.

The 1840s was also probably the decade when New York had the wildest nightlife. Ever. There was food, dancing, gambling of all sorts, and sex alongside art exhibitions, classical music, and moral lectures. You’d find brothels right next to police stations and churches.

This was a time where the audience was very active. The lights in the auditorium weren’t lowered, so everyone could see everyone, and a night at the theatre could have been a raucous affair, even for the educated elite who only wanted to hear some good Shakespeare. We have stories where audiences did things like go on stage to make sure the climactic duel in Richard III was a “fair fight.” There’s even one time where some people smuggled in a sheep carcass to throw at an actor they didn’t like. I actually didn’t put those in the game because I thought they wouldn’t be believable!

I tried to stay as close to history as I could while telling a good story. Almost every character, place, or incident in Broadway is from history or melodrama and dime novels. Your main goal is to produce successful plays, but I wanted to immerse you in the world of the time, so there are incidents and character arcs that I think show what kind of rough-and-tumble world this period was.

As for the supernatural, the first thing you find once you start spending time in theatres is that they all have their ghosts…

What did you find challenging about the process of writing the game?

The way all of the branches and variables can come together is a vast puzzle. The game is so twisty at times and making sure it all fit had me tearing out my hair and drinking extra coffee at times. That said, what I love about ChoiceScript is that storytelling challenges are coding challenges. Anytime that I wanted to handle the plot differently, or introduce a new way to do something, I had to figure out the way to script, which would end up totally changing how I would tell the story. That was (and is) a fascinating, deeply rewarding part of the process.

Are you a fan of interactive fiction in general? 

Yes! I love it, but I am actually pretty bad at playing IF. A couple of summers ago, I was taking our cat on walks in the backyard and I had nothing to do, so I played a lot of games. Choice of Broadsides was my gateway drug. Then Meg Jayanth’s 80 Days blew my mind. The way it deals with history and narrative is still an inspiration. I also love anything by Porpentine, Ryan North, and Abigail Corfman.

Can you tell the readers why it’s spelled “theatre”?

Now you’ve asked a question that I’m really passionate about! Today, we generally consider “theatre” to be the European spelling and “theater” to be the American version, but that is actually propaganda! There is actually a lot of scholarship on this (and a colleague of mine is currently writing an article about it), but long story short: some writers and dictionary-makers in the nineteenth century wanted to change a lot of words so that American English would be different than English in Great Britain. At the time of the game, “theatre” would by far have been the main way people spelled the craft, the building, and everything inside it.

What are you working on next for us?

Right now I’m working on an outline for a story that I think can be fairly described as Anglo-Saxon history meets the X-Files. Plus Vikings. You’ll be a chronicler who travels around England investigating mysteries that lead you right into a high-stakes conflict between the English, Northmen, and Faeries. It’s really about answering “what is the point of history?” but there will also be elves, ghosts, and maybe the chance to wield Excalibur.

Short Answer, Bernard-Pivot Style

Favorite word?
Absquatulate.

Favorite flower?
Sunflower.

Profession other than your own you’d like to attempt.
Ship’s captain or archivist.

Profession you’d never want to attempt?
Anything where you have to talk on the phone.

Musical theatre or straight plays?
I like almost anything, as long as it’s old!

Nov 09

2017

Choice of Rebels: Uprising — Lead the revolt against a bloodthirsty empire!

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

We’re proud to announce that Choice of Rebels: Uprising, 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 30% off until November 16th!

Lead the revolt against a bloodthirsty empire! You grew up under the iron fist of the Hegemony. Now is your chance to end their blood-fueled magic, as you forge a ragtag outlaw band into a rebel army.

Choice of Rebels: Uprising is a 637,000 word interactive fantasy novel by Joel Havenstone, 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.

As an outlaw rebel in the greenwood wilderness, you must steal to survive your first brutal winter, or watch your people starve if you can’t feed them. Win yeomen, helots, merchants, priests, and aristocrats over to the rebel cause…or turn them into your worst enemies. Will you defeat the army of the Hegemony’s Archon and the elite force of evil blood mages sent to destroy you, or will a personal betrayal put an end to your rebellion when it’s just barely begun?

• Play as male or female, gay, straight, or ace
• Fight as a renegade aristocrat or defiant slave
• Lead your outlaw band as a self-taught mage, a general, or a mystic priest
• Reform the empire’s religion or start your own
• Master the arcane magic of Theurgy and demolish the blood harvesters of the Hegemony
• Find romance amongst your fellow young rebels
• Root out spies, betrayers, and fend off a mutiny
• Survive attacks from assassins, mages, and the mutant Plektoi hounds

Will you gain a reputation as a compassionate idealist or ruthless insurgent? Can your rebels survive the winter and a vengeful army?

How much will you sacrifice to rebel, and save your homeland from an oppressive empire?

We hope you enjoy playing Choice of Rebels: Uprising. 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.

Nov 08

2017

Author Interview: Joel Havenstone, “Choice of Rebels: Uprising”

Posted by: Mary Duffy | Comments (3)

Lead the revolt against a bloodthirsty empire! You grew up under the iron fist of the Hegemony. Now is your chance to end their blood-fueled magic, as you forge a ragtag outlaw band into a rebel army.

Choice of Rebels: Uprising is a 637,000 word interactive fantasy novel by Joel Havenstone, and Choice of Games’ latest release. As an outlaw rebel in the greenwood wilderness, you must steal to survive your first brutal winter, or watch your people starve if you can’t feed them. Win yeomen, helots, merchants, priests, and aristocrats over to the rebel cause…or turn them into your worst enemies. I sat down with the author to talk about the game. Choice of Rebels: Uprising releases Thursday, November 9th.

 
Rebels is seven years in the making. Tell me a little about the history of this game. 

I started writing Choice of Rebels as soon as I played Choice of the Dragon.  (Well, probably after about the sixth playthrough.)  I’ve always loved telling interactive stories, but my earlier attempts to do that on a computer always fizzled out thanks to my weak programming skills.  With ChoiceScript, I’d finally discovered a language that I could get my head around.

The story grew out of a college Dungeons and Dragons campaign I ran years and years ago. A couple of CoG authors were players (Adam of Choice of the DragonBroadsides, and Affairs of the Court, and Rebecca of Psy High and First Year Demons). That campaign centered on a slave revolt against a magic-wielding empire; the players had to weigh their desire to bring down a terrible social order against the dangers of anarchy and the likelihood of even worse rulers filling the gap they’d created.

There are a couple of reasons it took me seven years to complete the first Rebels game. One is that it’s been very much a spare-time project, during a time of my life when I’ve had to juggle demanding day jobs and the arrival of two kids. The other is that as a fan of long, branching stories, I wrote some pretty long branches. I enjoy following ideas and seeing where they lead. Some of the length also stems from wanting to allow meaningful variety between characters; allowing the main character to come from either extreme of the social spectrum, or to be a wizard, religious founder, or military commander, required writing quite a lot of variation into the game.

What kind of world is Rebels set in? What influenced you in writing it?
It’s set in an empire that survives by killing its slave class through blood extraction. This system is also in growing crisis, ripe for the rebellion you launch — though only hints of that crisis are evident in this first game, which is entirely set on the empire’s periphery. Your home province is a sort of Britain colonized by Byzantines, where much of the high culture vocabulary comes from Greek rather than (as in our world) Latin. The world itself appears to work on many of the principles believed by ancient Greeks: four elements, humor theory of disease, an unmoved mover at the heart of the cosmos, and so on. The religion is a sort of nightmare version of my own evangelical Christianity which has thoroughly lapsed into divinizing the social order.

As for influences, can I say “the world of the 2010s”? The game’s evil empire takes its strength from a particular technology, one which it was the first to master and which now underpins its agriculture, transport, security, and industry. That technology requires the sacrifice of life, and while its collapse is foreseeable, it’s built so deeply into the system that it’s hard for the people in power to imagine changing it. Religion and national identity are being used both to challenge and to shore up an oppressive system, and some of the challengers are markedly worse than what they’re fighting. I didn’t and don’t want to write a straight-up allegory, but the parallels sometimes write themselves.

Are you a fan of interactive fiction? What are some of your favorites? 
I grew up devouring the paper kind, CYOA and Joe Dever’s Lone Wolf series, and played some early Infocom games like Zork and Hitchhiker’s Guide. These days, I enjoy a range of stuff in the broader IF genre, from Telltale’s Walking Dead to Hadean Lands.  There’s a lot of good stuff in CoG and Hosted Games, of course. I particularly loved Choice of Robots and A Study in Steampunk, as well as Sabres of Infinity and its sequel.

What are you working on next?
The next Choice of Rebels game.  If this game describes the “Robin Hood” phase of your rebellion — bandits in the wilderness — Game Two will see you spreading the insurgency across the countryside and cities of your homeland.  I’m planning five games in all, as your revolt expands beyond the borders of your province and ultimately succeeds in toppling the Hegemony. Then in Game Five, you’ll have to see what kind of new order you can build in the rubble of the old. It’s a big vision, and I don’t plan on working on any other writing projects until it’s done.

Did I mention George R.R. Martin in my list of influences? I probably should have mentioned George R.R. Martin. I’ve got a feeling we’ll be seeing that comparison more as the years go by.

Short answer, Bernard Pivot-style Questionnaire

Favorite color? Green.
Favorite word? Winsome.
Profession other than your own you would like to attempt? Trail maintenance in national parks.
Profession you would never wish to attempt? Politician.
Helot or aristocrat? I’m inescapably an aristocrat, but if I’m playing Rebels, helot all the way.

Nov 01

2017

Inclusivity in Choice of Games

Posted by: Becky Slitt | 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.


Choice of Games is strongly committed to inclusivity. Our audience includes people of many different genders, races, orientations, abilities, ethnicities, and life experiences. We want our games to immerse readers in a world that shows the same diversity, and for people from all backgrounds to see themselves fully reflected in that world.

Therefore, in our contest, inclusivity is worth 10% of the score. When we assess whether a game is inclusive, these are the criteria we use:

  • Do the characters reflect the full diversity of the society in which the game is set?
  • Are all types of people (especially groups traditionally underrepresented in media) treated respectfully and non-stereotypically?
  • If there is romance in the game, are there equally satisfying romance options regardless of the player character’s orientation?

At minimum, if the PC’s gender is stated, then the PC must be playable as male or female. If there is romance in the story, the PC must be playable as gay or straight. Games which do not offer this do not simply receive a score of 0 for inclusivity, they aren’t eligible to be published as Choice of Games titles.

For the last criterion – how to offer good options for romanceable characters – our Author Guidelines give a lot of details and examples. So this blog post will focus on the other two points. We’ll discuss what those criteria mean, give you some best practices for creating an inclusive world, and offer some resources that will help you through your writing process.

Learning how to write inclusively is an ongoing process. We can’t possibly teach you everything there is to know about it, or cover every single detail, in a single blog post. What we hope to do here is to give you some starting points for your own learning process and some tips for how to approach the task. Keep reading; keep learning; keep listening.

Inclusive Environments

Choice of Games titles give the player a first-person perspective within the story. The PC always takes action as “I,” and the narration always addresses the PC as “you.” It’s what makes our stories feel so immediate and immersive: what’s happening to the PC is happening to you.

That means that many players like to construct PCs that match their real-world selves: the same gender, orientation, appearance, etc.  Therefore, we want to make sure that as many people as possible can see themselves in the main character. One way to do this is to include as wide a range of options as possible for the PC’s fundamental character traits. Offer names and backgrounds that make it clear that the PC can have many different potential ethnicities, races, and origins. Think outside traditional binaries of gender and orientation. ChoiceScript’s method of handling pronoun variables makes it very easy to add more options. So for gender, include the option for the PC to be nonbinary, genderqueer, genderfluid, transgender, etc. For orientation, include the option for the PC to be bisexual, asexual, aromantic, etc.

But being inclusive means more than having diverse options for the PC alone: it means having that diversity fully integrated into the world where the story is set.

To achieve this, you’ll have to think very carefully about some things that you might usually consider to be “neutral” or “default”. As Chuck Wendig recently said, “not being inclusive is also a political choice” – or, to put it another way, as Foz Meadows wrote, “default narrative settings are not apolitical.” What we consider “defaults” actually reflect deeply embedded structures of power and politics – for instance, the idea that a white character is “neutral” and characters of any other race need a “reason” to be in the story. Make sure that you’re mixing up your defaults, and including diversity in your minor NPCs as well.

Historical settings, both in the real world and in historically-flavored fantasy worlds, are especially susceptible to misconceptions. Kameron Hurley has written very eloquently about how difficult it is to overcome these preconceived ideas. Medieval Europe in particular was much more diverse and egalitarian than it’s often depicted as being. See the end of this blog post for some resources that will help you build an accurate medieval or medieval-fantasy setting.

So, if you’ve got a sword-and-sorcery fantasy game in which the PC is a knight, and the PC can be of any gender, that’s a good first step. But if all the NPC knights are men, then that’s not really inclusive. Likewise, if you include romance in your game and leave open the possibility for the PC to have a romantic partner of the same gender, that’s a good first step – but if all the other relationships that you depict are straight couples, then that’s not really inclusive. The NPCs should represent the same wide range of genders, orientations, ethnicities, abilities, etc. as the PC.

You don’t have to make this a major plot point; in fact, it’s usually more inclusive to not make a big deal about it. Normalizing diversity communicates to the player that the PC is part of a world that contains many other people like them – in other words, showing the player that the PC belongs in that world and isn’t an exception.

There are subtler ways to promote inclusivity beyond the types of people that fill a story. The language that we use communicates ideas about the world and its power dynamics.

Countless casual phrases perpetuate destructive stereotypes. “Man up” implies that only men are strong. Using “crying like a girl” as an insult implies that crying shows weakness, that girls are weak – and therefore, that girls are inferior. “Psycho” demeans people with mental illnesses. Describing a disabled person as “confined to a wheelchair” implies that wheelchairs are a punishment, when many wheelchair users say that wheelchairs give them more freedom and flexibility than they would otherwise have. Like those “default narrative settings” mentioned above, these phrases are so deeply embedded in our common language usage that many people don’t even realize the potential hurt that they can cause, or how they reinforce stereotypes. Being aware of the phrases you use can help you create a more inclusive environment within your game.

At the end of this post, you can find some links to useful websites that will help you fine-tune your prose to make sure that you’re using the most inclusive language possible.

Best Practices

With all of this in mind, here are some ways to work towards an inclusive environment for your game. Again, this isn’t an exhaustive list; no single list can be! These are some starting points for your thought and research.

  • Think about the structures of power in the gameworld: think carefully about who’s in power and why, and about what kinds of people you place in positions of leadership. Are all the assertive leaders men and all the nurturers women? If so, you should mix things up.
  • Be aware of the tropes in fiction that perpetuate stereotypes or destructive patterns of power. For example, don’t give tragic endings to gay couples, or magically cure a disability. Even “good” stereotypes can be harmful in that they limit our perception of what certain people can do, and what roles they can play in the world: don’t make your only Asian character a math genius or martial-arts expert; and don’t make your only black character a giver of folksy knowledge, or only there to assist a white character.
  • Pay attention to the way you construct scenes. Try switching around the genders or races of the characters: does the dialogue still feel authentic? Does the switch reveal some unconscious assumptions? If a man is chasing another man down a dark alley, it’s a standard action scene, but if a man is chasing a woman down a dark alley, then the scene acquires a very different kind of fear and tension.
  • Pay attention to the way you describe NPCs. Make sure that when you’re “looking” with the PC’s eyes, you don’t assume what the PC will find attractive or not. Make sure that you don’t assume that one race or gender is the default and another is “exotic” or “different.”
  • Get a diverse group of beta readers. The more first-person perspectives you can get on your writing, the better information you’ll have about how your audience will respond to your work. You may even want to consider getting an expert reader or sensitivity reader for some more targeted feedback about best practices for representing specific groups of people.
  • Listen to your feedback. If a reader alerts you to a problem, look closely at that problem and see what you can do to fix it. If you’ve made a mistake, apologize, fix it, learn from it, and do better next time.
  • If you do choose to include discrimination in your game, either because of the historical setting or to create narrative drama, handle it with respect and care. Understand that discrimination is something that many players have experienced in their real lives. Seeing it represented in a game can make that game feel more authentic, but it can also stir up painful memories and emotions. Take it seriously, don’t treat it lightly, and be considerate of the players’ experiences.

Further Reading

These are some useful starting points for your research about how to write inclusively. There are many many more resources out there on the internet!

Oct 26

2017

Heart of the House — Chase ghosts from the heart of a haunted manor!

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

We’re proud to announce that Heart of the House, 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 30% off until November 2nd!

Destroy the evil at the heart of a haunted manor! As an orphan, you discovered your ability to commune with the spirit world and ghosts. When your uncle Kent mysteriously disappears, you’ll embark on a journey find out what really happened. With your trusty companion Devanand at your side, you make your way to Darnecroy Manor, where Kent was last seen. It is…The House.

Heart of the House is 360,000-word interactive Gothic novel by Nissa Campbell. It’s entirely text-based—without graphics or sound effects—and fueled by the vast, unstoppable power of your imagination.

Within the manor, you’ll encounter the master, Lord Bastian Reaves; his mysterious servants, Oriana and Loren; and the thousands of spirits teeming around and in this haunted mansion. But will you shatter the power that binds the ghosts to the House, or claim it for yourself? Can love bloom in a haunted house? Most importantly, how will you escape, when the House comes for you?

• Play as a male, female, or non-binary; gay, straight, bi, ace, or poly
• Explore the halls of the House, even as they seem to shift before your eyes
• Encounter ghosts, spirits, and echoes, as you search for your lost Uncle Kent
• Fight against an ancient evil or embrace its demonic gifts
• Indulge in steamy, chaste, sweet, or provocative romances, or go it alone
• Exploit the secrets you find for self-serving ends or use them to help your friends
• Defeat your greatest fears in bone-chilling moments of terror…if you can.
• Choose whom you can save, if anyone, from the horrors the House contains

For some, there may be no escape from The Heart of the House.

We hope you enjoy playing Heart of the House. 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.

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