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Jun 21

2018

Author Interview: Tracy Canfield, “I, Cyborg”

Posted by: Mary Duffy | Comments (3)

Being a cyborg copy of the famous outlaw Ypsilanti Rowe comes with plenty of advantages. But when your cybernetic brain begins to fail only a rare and obsolete part can make your systems function again. Journey across the galaxy as you hunt down the missing piece. I, Cyborg is a 300,000-word interactive science-fiction novel by Tracy Canfield, releasing next Thursday, June 28th. You can play the first three chapters now for free! 

I, Cyborg is one of the few “purely” science-fiction games I think we’ve put out. Can you say a little about what the genre means to you? Favorite novels, comics, or films?

When I was in second grade my dad picked out a book for me at the library and said “I think you’ll like this.” The book was I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov, and he was right! I’ve been reading science fiction ever since. (And watching it, too—I saved up my allowance in a candy box so I could buy a Millennium Falcon model kit, which I suppose answers the “favorite films” part of the question!) For me, science fiction is about asking “What if things were different?” and SF writers will never, ever run out of interesting answers.

I still read a lot of science fiction, but there are several books I’ve reread over and over: Robert Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, with its unbeatable mix of high-tech engineering and high-stakes politics as the inhabitants of a lunar colony fight for their rights; Iain Banks’s Player of Games and John Varley’s The Ophiuchi Hotline, both of which deal in very different ways with the problems people still have once they’ve achieved utopia; Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis trilogy, about the Oankali—some of the most believably alien aliens in science fiction—making contact with humans, contact that will change both species forever; and Philip K. Dick’s Ubik, in which a team of psychic security experts realize reality is crumbling around them. And in comics, Andrew Hussie’s Homestuck has an enormous cast of endlessly quotable characters in a time-travel story where the fate of universes—plural—is at stake.

What inspired this story in particular?

I’d actually written a novelette in this same setting before I pitched I, Cyborg to Choice of Games! It’s called “Salvage”, and eventually appeared in the online magazine Giganotosaurus.

“Salvage” had an almost abstract inspiration—I started with the structure I wanted to use for the story, the points at which the subplots would interweave and combine, and then asked “What’s a plot that would fit this structure?” And because that structure kept coming back to key similarities and differences between two characters, the next question was “Who are these characters, and what’s their relationship to each other?”

For me, any story where you see two versions of the same character—whether they’re clones, or come from alternate timelines, or are just good old-fashioned twins—is a very pure version of that central SF question: what if things were different? I settled on the idea of making one character a human being and the other a cyborg with a copy of their mind. The two of them have been living their own lives for years, but now they’re going to end up confronting each other again.

So then, of course, I had to decide what all the rest of the plot was, and I thought of Brian Daley’s space opera novels. I didn’t want to imitate Daley—imitating another writer is playing to tie, when you ought to be playing to win. Instead, I wanted do my own version of everything I loved about Daley: the adventure, the light-heartedness, the wit.

I went with making one character a classic space opera character—an overconfident outlaw pilot—and the other a cyborg with a copy of the first character’s mind. Which is the same place the game starts from! The big difference is that the novella tells one specific story, and the game lets the player decide just who these two people are and what their relationship to each other ultimately is.

What do you think about the looming robotic takeover? I, for one, welcome our new AI overlords.

Since the prehistoric era, every human society has offered its members the same deal: either do something other people value enough that you can make a living, or find someone who’ll provide for you.

But as more and more of the jobs that used to be done by humans are performed by robots and computers – and not just manufacturing jobs; IBM’s Watson has been used for legal research—we’ll reach a point where most humans’ labor will have no value.  And when that happens, what kind of society do we want to live in? Will we make sure everyone has a basic standard of living? Will we require people without skills to do pointless makework in return for food and shelter?  Will the robots’ owners control all the wealth, even as the cost of necessities goes down?

It’s easy to say “there’ll always be enough fulfilling jobs to go around” without explaining how we’ll come up with seven, eight, or nine billion of them. And what happens if we can’t?

What brought you to the world of interactive fiction?

In middle school my dad gave me a book on the BASIC programming language, and my first thought was to write little games with it. Years later I bought a set of the classic Infocom text adventures on eBay—their Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was actually written by Douglas Adams himself. (The eBayer who sold me the games turned out to be a former Infocom employee, too.)

What did you find most challenging about the design and coding of I, Cyborg?

The ChoiceScript language I, Cyborg is written in was developed to allow writers with no programming experience to create text-based games: it’s deliberately simple and straightforward. But since I’d done plenty of programming in other languages (my PhD is in computational linguistics), I sometimes found myself pushing ChoiceScript’s limits.

For example, in Chapter 8 of I, Cyborg, each of the five starships competing in the Galdra Airshow has its own Aerobatics and Gunnery score. We have to rank them from first to fifth based on their total scores—and a ship that doesn’t finish because it’s been disqualified or eliminated has to be at the bottom of the ranking regardless of how many points it’s earned. In many programming languages that would take a line or two of code; in ChoiceScript it’s over a hundred and fifty. (And there’s no step-through debugger!)

Actually writing the story is very different, too. In a book, an author always knows what’s happened so far and what will happen next—so while you’re surprising the reader, you can also make every event build on or develop from what came before. In I, Cyborg, the challenge was to make the story feel like it had a beginning, a middle and an end, with increasing tension as you reach the climax, even as control of what the main character actually does is turned over to the reader.

What are you working on next?

I have a novel that’s on submission to several editors—it’s called Good Girls Want Villains, and it’s about a woman who’s been flirting with a supervillain and decides to get a costume and pull off a heist of her own, and soon finds herself in even more trouble than she expected (and she expected a lot). In the meantime I’m finishing another novel, Maneki Neko, that expands on a novelette (“i know my own & my own know me”) that originally ran in Analog.

Jun 07

2018

New Hosted Game! The Courting of Miss Bennet by Michael Gray

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

Hosted Games has a new game for you to play!

Play through Pride and Prejudice, the classic romance novel! You are a young woman in 1813, hoping to find your true love. But which of your five suitors will you favor? The aloof nobleman Mr. Darcy? The amiable Mr. Bingley? The stuffy Mr. Collins, the kind-hearted Colonel Fitzwilliam, or the villainous Mr. Wickham? It’s 33% off until June 14th!

The Courting of Miss Bennet is a 200,000 word interactive romance novel by 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.

• Find love in the Regency era!
• Play through the classic novel!
• Choose from five different bachelors!
• Experience courting in 1800’s England!

Find your happy ending today!

Michael Gray 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.

Jun 01

2018

New Hosted Game! A Mummy Is Not An Antique by Randy Condon

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

Hosted Games has a new game for you to play!

Battle the amok mummy of a disreputable love potion huckster while filming the story of the century! There is a news story here bigger than any antiques show. How will you cover it without getting killed and to what lengths will you go to bring home the story of the century? It’s 33% off until June 8th!

A Mummy Is Not An Antique is a 52,000 word interactive novel by Randy Condon, 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.

You play as the producer of a PBS antiques appraisal show, dutifully starting another on-site episode while managing the eccentric personalities of your cast and crew. Events go pear-shaped when a guest arrives with a mummified human body, allegedly the corpse of the local legendary Bog Mummy. Quickly a menagerie of forest shamans, a priest, show-security, a southern gentleman and his supposed grandchildren squabble with increasing fervor over ownership of the body.

• Play as male, female, or non-binary.
• Enjoy a comedy-horror adventure battling (and filming) the supernatural.
• Trade quips with the mummy of Professor Thadeus Frost, salesman extraordinaire of love potion and other dubious concoctions.
• Discover the secrets of the mysterious scroll behind all these shenanigans.
• Risk you and your crew’s life and limb to get the story. But how far is too far? You decide.
• Five different endings available, depending upon your choices.

Randy Condon 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.

May 24

2018

Rent-a-Vice — What doesn’t kill you…kills someone else.

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

We’re proud to announce that Rent-a-Vice, 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 May 31st!

What doesn’t kill you…kills someone else, and leads you down an ethical rabbit hole. In the near future, paying users can rent the “virtual experiences” of other people. These “feeders” sublet their own bodies, at the risk of their own lives, so that customers can safely enjoy extreme, potentially self-destructive vices, like binge eating, cliff diving, or worse.

Rent-a-Vice is a 150,000-word interactive cyberpunk-noir mystery novel by Natalia Theodoridou, 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.

You’re a private investigator with a bad habit, an ex, and mountains of debt–troubles so deep that you stand to lose custody of your kid. When a mysterious client asks for your help finding their missing lover in the seamy world of virtual experience, it’s up to you to gather evidence, experience the technology for yourself, and solve the case.

Delve into the darkest corners of the clandestine Rent-a-Vice industry. If you believe the etho-politicians, VE compromises the well-being of society, and normalizes vice and disorder. But what are users after? Is it entertainment, or something deeper? And is there anything in it for the feeders, other than profit?

As for you, will you resist your own vices, or go all in?

• Play as male, female, or non-binary; gay, straight, or bisexual.
• Fight or embrace your personal demons, struggle against the machinery of power, and find friendship in unlikely places.
• Save those in trouble or extort them for your silence, or go rogue and burn the entire industry to the ground.
• Expose corruption or exploit it for your gain.
• Test your skills as a PI while you share other people’s experiences of life and death.
• Trade favors to retain custody of your child; reunite with your ex, or find romance with someone new.
• Become a champion for the marginalized, usher in a new ethical standard, or step on corpses to climb to the top.

We hope you enjoy playing Rent-a-Vice. 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.

May 22

2018

Author Interview: Natalia Theodoridou, “Rent-a-Vice”

Posted by: Mary Duffy | Comments (0)

What doesn’t kill you…kills someone else, and leads you down an ethical rabbit hole. In the near future, paying users can rent the “virtual experiences” of other people. These “feeders” sublet their own bodies, at the risk of their own lives, so that customers can safely enjoy extreme, potentially self-destructive vices, like binge eating, cliff diving, or worse. Rent-a-Vice is a 150,000-word interactive cyberpunk-noir mystery novel by Natalia Theodoridou. I sat down with Natalia to talk about her game, and the challenges of writing dark. Rent-a-Vice releases this Thursday, May 24th.

What inspired you to write Rent-a-Vice?
This is always the hardest question for me to answer. I can rarely trace the process of creating something from inspiration to end result with straight lines; it’s usually made up of fragments, glimpses, half-remembered things. If I could, I would answer every such question with a collage. The one for Rent-a-Vice would include news articles about virtual reality and empathy games, the cost of mediating and sharing individual experience, Being John Malkovich, a Ray Bradbury story in which a girl could see through other people’s eyes…probably a lot more. But, in its core themes, this is very much a personal piece about addiction and self-harm: how we survive, how we piece ourselves back together, how we connect with each other, how we hold on, how we go on.

How did you start in the world of interactive fiction?
Tory Hoke invited me to contribute to the inaugural issue of sub-Q, a magazine for interactive fiction, back in 2015. I love experimentation and trying out different literary formats, so I was immediately hooked by the new possibilities afforded by the genre. The piece that resulted was “Sleepless.” It takes place in this world where people gradually stop sleeping, and interactive fiction allowed me to explore things that would have been impossible in any other medium: hallucinations, the double vision of sleeplessness, things flickering in the corner of your eye. In the end, “the story itself” was inextricable from the medium; that’s what I like most about interactive fiction. It is impossible to tell this story in any other way, and that’s how it should be.

Rent-a-Vice is arguably the “darkest” game we’ve ever released. What were some of the challenges in writing it?
My writing tends to be rather dark, so some of the challenges I faced with Rent-a-Vice I face with everything I write: how to produce something that talks about dark themes without causing harm (hence the heavy content warnings with which this game comes), and without being utterly depressing. Or, if it is, there needs to be some other use for this darkness: building empathy or understanding; letting some stranger out there know that they’re not the only person on earth to have thought this terrible thought or to have felt that horrible feeling; taking a walk in someone else’s head for a minute–something. I do like fiction that is uplifting and hopeful, but I don’t think that everything always has to be that way; both as a creator and as a reader, I find that rather oppressive. Sometimes, sharing someone else’s darkness can be all you need to make it through the day. You know that Oscar Wilde quote, “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars”? Sometimes you don’t even need the stars; you just need to know there’s someone else down there with you, or that there’s someone else out there who has been where you’ve been.

Because Rent-a-Vice is a game as well as an interactive novel, there was the additional challenge of making this material compelling enough to sustain multiple playthroughs, and to explore a dark situation without imposing thoughts and feelings on players. I think that, ultimately, the difficulty this caused was also my reward: I got to hold these themes that mean so much to me up to the light and explore them from multiple angles, inhabiting different attitudes and points of view. This was a real gift.

How do you find working with ChoiceScript?
I absolutely love it. It’s incredibly writer-friendly and intuitive, but also robust enough to guide a writer towards setting up the game in a way that works. Writing with ChoiceScript really drives home the idea that a single playthrough is always a complete story, but it’s never the whole story. I think this helped me become a better writer by forcing me to interrogate the choices my characters make even in non-interactive stories–to take into account the ghosts of all the choices not made, the paths not taken. It may have also infected my life in the same way a little bit.

What are you writing next?
I am off to the Clarion West Writers Workshop soon, so I will be working on short fiction this summer, but after that I plan to go back to longer work. I would also like to try my hand at another game–something more plot-focused and fun this time. Hopefully.

May 17

2018

New Hosted Game! Community College Hero: Knowledge is Power by Eric Moser

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

Hosted Games has a new game for you to play!

You survived the fall semester, but things are heating up this winter in Speck, Nebraska! A new villain with mysterious motives emerges to terrorize your city! New professors push you and your classmates harder than ever before! New information is revealed about Zenith-training schools in New York and San Francisco! And if that’s not enough, one of the world’s deadliest villains has promised to return before the end of the semester to finish what she started in the fall! It’s 20% off until May 24th!

Community College Hero: Knowledge is Power is a superpowered 200,000 word interactive novel by Eric Moser, 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.

• Seek retribution for your classmate’s death or focus on protecting the innocent!
• Pursue Zenith power, study battle tactics, or plan to revive the villainous mantle of Dr. Stench!
• Match wits with a mysterious new non-Zenith villain!
• Travel to other cities to rub shoulders with world famous heroes!
• Prepare with your friends and professors for the return of the murderous Manipulator!

Eric Moser 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.

May 10

2018

New Hosted Game! The Kepler Colony: Evacuation by Andy Why

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

Hosted Games has a new game for you to play!

It is the year 2090. An asteroid has been found on a collision course with Earth. There is no stopping it. You have been assigned the task of creating an interstellar spaceship to travel the stars to Kepler 62e, the only confirmed life supporting planet discovered. It’s 33% off until May 17th!

The Kepler Colony: Evacuation is a 170,000 word interactive science fiction novel by Andy Why, where your choices control the story. It’s entirely text-based, and fueled by the vast, unstoppable power of your imagination.

You and your team of advisers will face many challenges along the way. When should you notify the public? How will you allocate tickets on the ship? What sacrifices will you make to ensure your project is successful? Time is on your side—for now.

• Play as male, female, or nonbinary; gay or straight.
• Play as over 40 different countries, or make your own.
• Choose between a cryogenic ship or a generation model. Why not both?
• Trade with other nations as they battle to build their own spaceships.
• Decide who’s gets to be saved—and who’s left behind.

The fate of your nation is in your hands.

Andy Why 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.

May 03

2018

Choice of Games Contest for Interactive Novels – Winning Entries Announcement

Posted by: Mary Duffy | Comments (0)

We are proud to announce the winners of the first Choice of Games Contest for Interactive Novels.

1st Place
180 Files: The Aegis Project by Megan Hall
A tense spy thriller full of twists, gadgets, and emotional depth.

2nd Place
Tale of Two Cranes by Michelle Balaban and Stephanie Balaban
An epic story of war, peace, magic, and politics in ancient China.

3rd Place
The Twelve Trials by Douglas DiCicco
A high-stakes fantasy competition judged by the gods themselves.

Honorable Mention
The Aegis Saga by Charles Parkes
A fantasy epic that pushes the boundaries of narrative and ChoiceScript.

Finalists (alphabetical by title):
The Butler Did It by Daniel Jonathan Elliot
The Lawless Ones by Avery Moore
The Magician’s Burden by Samuel Harrison Young

There were 21 qualifying games in all. The author pool included both first-timers and veterans; and the genres ranged from high fantasy to gritty dystopia to steampunk. We were thrilled with the enthusiasm, creativity, and hard work that we saw in all the contest entries—and even more, with the active, engaged, supportive community of ChoiceScript authors that the contest fostered.

We’re still considering the possibility of a second contest in the future.

Thank you to everyone who entered! Completing a full-length ChoiceScript game is an achievement in itself.

If you’ve got a finished ChoiceScript game of your own, please consider submitting it to our Hosted Games label.

We hope you’ll all keep writing and playing!

May 01

2018

New Hosted Game! NE By NW Oz by Ron Baxley, Jr.

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

Hosted Games has a new game for you to play!

Become a village junk collector with high, magic ambitions to rule in Northwest or Northeast Oz. Multiple cases of mistaken identity involve everybody in Oz from the original Frank L. Baum Oz characters to even yourself. You will be thrust into intrigue and suspense at every turn as you try to replace the dead Wicked Witch of the West and Wicked Witch of the East. It’s 50% off until May 8th!

NE By NW Oz is a 30,000 word interactive novel by Ron Baxley, Jr., 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.

You may soon discover that some may or may not want you to have any of this roles but to remain as you are.

Ron Baxley, Jr. 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.

Apr 26

2018

The Road to Canterbury — Enter the world of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales

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

We’re proud to announce that The Road to Canterbury, 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 May 3rd!

May the best story win! Enter the medieval world of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, where your journey, and the stories you tell, will change history.

The Road to Canterbury is a 175,000-word interactive medieval adventure novel by Kate Heartfield, 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.

London, 1375. The Black Prince of England is dying, and peace with France hangs in the balance.

You are a young pauper on a secret mission. Join a pilgrimage to Canterbury with the powerful noblewoman Philippa de Roet, co-sister-in-law to the Black Prince, and Philippa’s husband, Geoffrey Chaucer himself, the customs agent, spy, and occasional poet. Your mission is to persuade Philippa to change the course of history.

You’ll fight raiders and knights, aid or foil an assassin, fire up a peasants’ revolt, and change your luck for the better or worse. And of course, there’s a storytelling contest with a big prize—one you intend to win.

• Play as male, female or non-binary, and as gay, straight, bi, asexual and/or aromantic
• Travel the ancient route of Watling Street from Southwark to Canterbury
• Win a prize in the storytelling contest
• A quest, a joust, a trial by combat? All in a week’s work
• Persuade an influential noblewoman to change her politics
• Find love with a knight, a squire, or a traveler from distant lands
• Become a knight, or the head of an abbey, or a powerful player in London’s merchant guilds
• Solve the mystery that haunts your family
• Declare your loyalty to England or to France and determine the outcome of the Hundred Years’ War

The Hundred Years’ war is heating up: will you stoke the flames on the Road to Canterbury?

We hope you enjoy playing The Road to Canterbury. 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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