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Mar 03

2022

New Hosted Game! Zombie Exodus: Safe Haven: Part Three

Posted by: Mary Duffy | Comments (0)

Hosted Games has a new game for you to play!

Zombie Exodus: Safe Haven: Part Three continues your story as you leave your hilltop outside Nightfall, Colorado with your group of survivors and travel to a new haven, a rural junkyard. Continue your story from earlier parts, or skip right to the new chapters with a new original or pre-made character!
It’s 20% off until March 10th!

In addition: Part 1 is 20% off, and Part 2 will be going up in price from $3.99 to $4.99 on March 10th, so get it now while the price is lower!

With five brand new chapters and another 680,000 words, Zombie Exodus: Safe Haven is now more than than 1,600,000 words in total! That’s 70,000 words each time you play Part Three alone, and more than 140,000 for the full game. Given the number of paths from beginning to end, you can have a unique story every time and still never see all there is in Zombie Exodus: Safe Haven!

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

Feb 24

2022

Revolution Diabolique—Summon demons to win the French Revolution!

Posted by: Mary Duffy | Comments (0)

We’re proud to announce that Revolution Diabolique, 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 20% off until March 3rd!

Summon demons to win the French Revolution! Will you uphold the Republic, restore the monarchy, rule France yourself, or lose your head?

Revolution Diabolique is a 425,000-word interactive dark fantasy novel by Chris Conley. It’s entirely text-based, without graphics or sound effects, and fueled by the vast, unstoppable power of your imagination.

As a demonologist in eighteenth-century France, you study the world’s most dangerous forbidden magic in the safety of your provincial estate. You can summon forth a breathtaking variety of demons: some creep subtly around your enemies to confuse and distract them; some appear as terrifying monsters; some guide you towards unlocking even deeper secrets of the universe.

Now that the flames of revolution are beginning to kindle, you cannot hold yourself apart from politics for long. Every faction—monarchists, republicans, peasants, intellectuals, anarchists—would love to benefit from your power. Where will you send your demons? Will you unleash their power on the battlefield to aid or hinder the Revolution’s armies—or march on Paris itself? Will you lead a political faction with the secret knowledge that you have gained? Will you inspire a new cult dedicated to demons?

But all power comes with a price, and as you rise up, you will need to sacrifice something: your reputation, your fortune, your safety…or possibly even your life.

When the dust clears, will it be you who rules France?

• Play as male, female, or nonbinary; gay, straight, bi, ace, or poly
• Rise to lead a faction of monarchists, aristocrats, peasants, or humanists
• Use your magical might to change the course of history – or to take down your personal enemies
• Build a palace to rival Versailles
• Bring the study of demonology out of the shadows and into France’s loftiest salons and universities
• Crush rebellious provinces with your demonic and military might—or join their uprising against Paris
• Pursue romance amid the Revolution with a Parisian professor, a decorated military veteran, or a mystical philosopher
• Lose your head to the guillotine—or use your magic to transcend death itself
• Enjoy twenty full-color character portraits

Vive la Révolution Diabolique!

We hope you enjoy playing Revolution Diabolique. 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.

Feb 23

2022

Author Interview: Chris Conley, Revolution Diabolique

Posted by: Mary Duffy | Comments (0)

Summon demons to win the French Revolution! Will you uphold the Republic, restore the monarchy, rule France yourself, or lose your head? Revolution Diabolique is a 425,000 word interactive novel by Chris Conley. I sat down with Chris to talk about his evolution as a writer of ChoiceScript games, and the fascinating setting of his latest effort.

Revolution Diabolique releases tomorrow, Feburary 24th. You can play the first few chapters for free now. 


This is your first Choice of Games game, but not your first ChoiceScript game! Tell us about your past work with ChoiceScript.

I first used Choicescript in 2011 for the Indigo New Language Speed IF event. The idea of Speed IF is to create a work of interactive fiction in a short period of time, generally two hours to two days, similar to a game jam. But in this case, because the idea of this particular Speed IF was to learn a new programming language you’ve been interested in but haven’t tried to use yet, it ran for two weeks. My story there was something like one of the old traveling salesmen commodities trading game crossed with Oregon Trail.

My first (and only other finished) commercial work in CS was Machinations: Fog of War, which was published by Hosted Games in 2016.

How did your writing and game design evolve between the two games?

When I started Machinations, I didn’t really have any idea how to approach writing something like it, a novel-length monolithic work. It was going to be my longest complete work by far, whether interactive or traditional. I developed a writing process as I went along, assembled from various sources of advice, including CoG’s blog here, as well as trial and error of various techniques I found or developed myself. Starting out and developing a writing process, I found it incredibly helpful to participate in a writing group online which runs a weekly flash fiction competition. Every week, they run a new writing prompt, and a few people judge the entries, and then the winner is tasked with proposing next week’s writing prompt and judging that week’s competition. Setting a goal like that for yourself, to write something short and complete and to an imminent deadline, again and again, is a great way to develop your own writing process and get in the habit of actually finishing things, which had always been a problem for me.

The most important thing I’ve found is that, in a sense, what you do doesn’t matter: all that you need from your process is that it gets you to write. Exactly what works is going to vary for each person.

In terms of design, I found more efficient ways to code as I went along. Revolution Diabolique gave me the chance to start from scratch applying what I knew and learned from past projects. I had been fumbling around with various ways to structure my writing design throughout the development of Machinations, and it was nearly the end of the game before I had settled onto my current process. With RD, I had that in place from the start, and it just needed some minor tweaking here and there after that. Most importantly, I started RD with a strong plan for the ending states of the story and the various secondary variables that are tracked to lead towards them, rather than deciding I should do that once I had nearly reached the end and bolting it onto my earlier scenes, as I did in Machinations.

On the other hand, RD also ended up being much more structurally complex in terms of code, so that a standard structuring tool like flowcharts became less and less useful, or even possible to use, as I wrote. This was partly because I decided to implement what Emily Short terms a “salience engine”, especially in the fourth and fifth chapters. This is an effective technique to improve the reactivity of the story to the player’s choices, by changing exactly which events happen, and in what order they are presented to the main character, based on the existing state of the game world and past player actions. But it also entails a lot more intensive work than just writing a simpler linear structure. I used a little bit of the technique in Machinations, mainly in the late game, but I may have gone a bit overboard here. I probably won’t use it so much in the future, at least not outside of an engine specifically designed to facilitate it.

Also, RD offers romances, unlike Machinations (where I didn’t really feel like writing a love story involving a robot). And some of those passages are among my favorite parts of this story.

What drew you to the French Revolution as a subject?

I actually started with the name first; “Diabolique” was French, and I asked myself “What period in France would make a good subject?” and the Revolution was an obvious candidate. The French Revolution is still one of those revolutions that exists at the forefront of public consciousness, and has inspired many of the revolutions that came after. It also established many of the political terms used to this day, such as “left” and “right”, named for the parts of the hall in which the reformers and conservative monarchists sat in the first national legislature that convened (almost by accident) at the start of the crisis in 1789.

Plus, at least in the US, it’s fairly familiar because it tends to be presented as a kind of dark flip-side alternate version of the American Revolution. Both arose from complaints about taxation and representation against a monarchy, inspired by Enlightenment ideals, in roughly the same era, and even involved some of the same players. But then of course the French Revolution soon careened out of control and off the rails, and that sort of broad fluctuating chaos offered the idea that a player character would have the chance to get involved and make substantial changes that would not be plausible in a more stable and settled, less iconoclastic milieu. Plus, this setting gave me the chance to research and write history and politics, which I always enjoy.

I love supernatural games and Revolution Diabolique is no exception–what’s been your favorite part about that piece of the writing?

It’s just fun to come up with magic systems and ensure they’re self-consistent and interesting. A supernatural setting also lets me write bizarre and otherworldly creatures and places and events, without needing to be constrained by real-world physics or behavior or places. I especially enjoyed writing the huge powerful demons near the end, because they’re a lot more willful and dangerous than the earlier demons, with actual dialog.

What are you working on next and what other projects would you like our readers to know about?

The next story I’m working on for Choice of Games is a near-future cyberpunk noir. And I aim to actually finish that this year, unlike the three years that these things have tended to take me.

If you want to see more from me, I’m setting up a website with a mailing list and possibly a blog at novelinteraction.com, mainly devoted to subjects along these lines, interactive writing and design; I have some more experimental kinds of interactive fiction and other games up at chrisc.itch.io; if you’re interested in writing parser IF, I maintain the Threaded Conversation extension for Inform 7; and with Meg Eden I gave a talk at MAGFest this year about interactive narrative design.

Feb 10

2022

Brimstone Manor—Lose your heart to an angel or a demon!

Posted by: Mary Duffy | Comments (0)

Brimstone ManorWe’re proud to announce that Brimstone Manor, the latest in our “Heart’s Choice” line of multiple-choice interactive romance novels, is now available for iOS and Android in the “Heart’s Choice” app. You can also download it on Steam, or enjoy it on our website. It’s 40% off until February 17th!

Lose your heart to an angel or a demon and join the battle between chaos and order! Will you fly with the angels or cast a dark spell alongside the demon lord?

Brimstone Manor is a 168,000-word interactive supernatural romance novel by Frances Pauli. It’s entirely text-based, without graphics or sound effects, and fueled by the vast, unstoppable power of your imagination.

You’ve just been hired as the nanny at Brimstone Manor, a job that came with more than you bargained for. There’s something unusual about your new boss, Darien Stone…and your little charge as well. The house itself is full of secrets: What’s in the forbidden basement? Why do your employer’s rivals have an angelic glow about them? Is the big shaggy dog really a hellhound? Have you been hired to work for…a demon?

As you find your feet at Brimstone, you’ll uncover its secrets, care for an adorable demon toddler, learn magic, soar through the air on angels’ wings, and join a battle between heaven and hell—and a battle for your heart!

• Play as male, female, or non-binary; gay, straight, or poly.
• Romance a quirky journalist, a demon, or an angel—or two!
• Learn powerful magic, work miracles, and tame your boss’s hellhound!
• Befriend or defeat a terrifying demoness!
• Fly with the angels or cast demonic spells!
• Reveal the truth about demons to the world or keep your paranormal knowledge secret.

We hope you enjoy playing Brimstone Manor. 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.

Feb 07

2022

Author Interview: Frances Pauli, Brimstone Manor

Posted by: Mary Duffy | Comments (0)

Brimstone Manor


Lose your heart to an angel or a demon and join the battle between chaos and order! Will you fly with the angels or cast a dark spell alongside the demon lord? Brimstone Manor is a 168,000-word interactive supernatural romance novel by Frances Pauli, part of our Heart’s Choice line of interactive romance novels. I sat down with Frances to talk about her work and this latest Heart’s Choice game.

Brimstone Manor releases this Thursday, February 10th. You can play the first three chapters for free, today.

This is your first foray into interactive fiction, but definitely not your first publication! Tell me all about your other work.

I write across a broad selection of genres, but I cut my teeth on romance, and most of my work has strong romantic plot elements. I have a lot of series published, from Fey worlds to Space Opera, and more recently I’ve been writing shifters and stories with animal characters, which have always been a staple in my books. So you could say I diversify a lot, I suppose. But there is always a speculative element, a romantic element, and lots of fun critters.

Brimstone Manor contains a really classic dichotomy for the romance interests: Angel or Demon!?  What drew you to writing a supernatural romance? 

You know, despite all the aliens, shifters, mythical creatures and speculative elements I’ve worked with, I’d never done an angels and demons romance before. The closest I came were the demons in my Dogs of War series, but they’re a very different manifestation of the idea. I thought it would be a fun theme to write, in particular in a format where the reader has choices, and I really did enjoy it a lot.

Did you have a favorite NPC while you were writing the game?

Lucifer won me over hands down. (paws down?) I love writing animals, and if they’re sassy and highly food motivated, even better. I’m fond of Gabby and Lily as well, but as an animal lover, Lucifer was my favorite from page one.

What surprised you about writing an interactive story? 

So much surprised me about this process I’m not sure where to start. First, it was a lot harder than I expected, more challenging. But that’s a good thing, right? At times it felt like I was writing several stories at the same time, or several versions of the same book. It was definitely a new experience for me.

What’s your favorite genre of romance? 

I love sci-fi romance and shifters. I’m not sure I could choose between those two. Aliens and animals. It’s a pretty simple recipe to keep me happy as a reader. So long as you throw in a happily ever after to go with it. If a story has sci-fi AND shifters or animal aliens, then I’m going to be hooked immediately.

Tell our readers what else you’re working on.

This will probably not be surprising, but I’m writing a new series about a family of shifter witches called Brighton Vale. There is a heavy romance lean, but it’s also family saga, and follows an incredibly dysfunctional but very loving family of shifters as they try to navigate romance, danger, and family squabbles while keeping their existence secret. In addition, I’m working on a new serial story that falls along the lines of My Little Pony meets Twilight. Unicorns, and vampire-style Kelpies, and a lot of hijinks.
You can find info about all of the above on my website: francespauli.com

Feb 03

2022

Three new Hosted Games! Community College Hero 2.5: Fun and Games, Super Star Soccer Striker, and Interactive Bonbons

Posted by: Mary Duffy | Comments (0)

Hosted Games has three new games for you to play!

It’s the calm before the storm. Savor every moment of these light-hearted adventures with your superpowered classmates; these may be your final moments of levity and joy before the Diabolical Dozen crushes the world’s heroes beneath its collective heel. But for now, there are small-town monsters to discover, fantasy creatures to battle, and visits from your mother to survive.

It’s 25% off until February 10th!

Community College Hero 2.5: Fun and Games is a 108,000-word superpowered interactive novel by Eric Moser. It’s entirely text-based, without graphics or sound effects, and fueled by the vast, unstoppable power of your imagination.

Set during the fall and spring semesters of your first year at Speck Community College, Fun and Games includes three all-new adventures with an emphasis on comedy, friendship, and exploring fresh settings with nary a superpowered villain in sight!

• Play as male, female, or non-binary.
• Romance any of seven different classmates.
• Just answer a few questions and you’re off! No saves from Community College Hero Parts 1 or 2 are required.
• Join your classmates in an epic tabletop fantasy adventure with bandits, elves, ogres, and even a wyvern! Will you become a champion known throughout the realm or die penniless and forgotten?
• Create your own custom fantasy character and use real die rolls to determine your success or failure!
• Help your friends investigate the legend of the lake monster. When the creature starts terrorizing Hay Springs, Nebraska, can you figure out who’s behind the mayhem before it’s too late?
• The mystery can be played numerous times with different results; the game generates different culprits!
• Dean Tolly invites everyone’s loved ones to visit campus, and it’s just as embarrassing as you might imagine! Do you try to win the day’s activities, appease your mother, or learn more about your classmates?
• The Dean might just have a secret plot – will you figure it out in time?
• Earn up to 47 Achievements, three of which unlock short stories featuring Crook, Stoic, and Dr. Hover.
Enjoy fun and games with your friends at Speck Community College!

NEXT UP…


Super Super Soccer Striker is a 122,000 word sports story by Chris Viola where you can experience the full life of a pro soccer player. Balance your romantic life, personal life, family life and personal reputation against your career. Gain full control of your skillset to become a speed demon who dominates the entire field, a striker with defensive skills, a ball-handling legend, a shooter with pinpoint accuracy or a balanced all arounder.

It’s 25% off until February 10th!

Fend off the media for privacy or embrace it leading to fame. Gain a few extra skills or get rich selling out to promotional material for others. Use your opinion to push your world views or save your reputation and boost your popularity. See cities from all over the world and every continent. Will you stay with one team your entire career to become a club legend or have a mercenary career where you play for winning teams?
• Play as a male, female or non-traditional gender
• Romance a partner of your choice
• Increase your fame and choose a custom skillset
• Play for one of 10 fictional teams, each with its own history and play style
• Travel to over 50 countries from every continent
• Control your personality and have your career and reputation reflect your choices
• Engage in a rivalry with another prime superstar

AND ALSO…


An action-packed arcade with 10 fast-paced text games, complete with sound effects.

Race against Ancient Egyptian Pharaohs, use your diplomacy skills to defuse a tense situation, get in the boxing ring with champions, face down Wild West outlaws, enjoy a spot of tennis, and solve a murder mystery aboard a spaceship in this unique collection of ten interactive adventures.

It’s 33% off until February 10th!

Interactive Bonbons is a 68,000-word interactive text arcade game by Sam Ursu. It is entirely text-based, without graphics, and fueled by the vast, unstoppable power of your imagination.

• Play as male, female, or non-binary; gay, straight, bi, asexual, or poly.
• Contains 10, endlessly replayable interactive fiction mini-games complete with sound effects
• Includes Senet, the world’s oldest known game
• Duel Wild West Outlaws or try your hand at diplomacy
• Fun for the whole family

It’s like a 1980s handheld electronic game but in an all-text format.

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

Jan 14

2022

New Hosted Game! Studies in Darkness by Nathaniel Johnson

Posted by: Kai DeLeon | Comments (0)

Hosted Games has a new game for you to play!

Your submarine is gripped by giant tentacles! You are in a battle of wills with a murdered classmate! You play as every scoundrel in this fantasy heist. Steal a dark power… Escape with your soul!

It’s 33% off until January 20th!

Studies in Darkness is an adventurous 30,000 word interactive dark fantasy novel by Nathaniel Johnson, 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 the haunted gothic city of Doskvol, you control the last surviving members of a secret society. Restore your infamous reputation by heisting treasure from an abandoned laboratory. Use ectoplasm-powered steampunk technology to dive deep underwater for a unique and precious artifact.

Beware, you are breaking into the Morlan Hall of Unnatural Philosophy. You will face the result of centuries of experiments with the occult and the undead. But you are prepared! Unleash the power of alchemy, electricity, and each scoundrel’s unique supernatural abilities!

  • Play as a heist crew of five young men and women.
  • Experience the award-winning Blades in the Dark system, where your every choice is significant and may bring both success AND terrible consequences!
  • Jump between the students’ perspectives in each chapter!
  • Solve a murder mystery by stepping into the realm of the undead!
  • Fight off the corrupt cops that are raiding your school!
  • “Flashback” to key events in the past, revealing hidden stories and special advantages!
  • Tap into your “Stress” resource to overcome impossible odds. Beware, too much stress will drive you mad!

The pressure is rising. Your future has been stolen from you. Steal it back!

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

Jan 13

2022

New Hosted Game! The Soul Stone War 2 by Morgan Vane

Posted by: Kai DeLeon | Comments (0)

Hosted Games has two new games for you to play!

The Soul Stone War 2 by Morgan Vane

You have survived. You have survived and endured, still standing after beating unbeatable odds. But at what cost?

It’s 30% off until January 20th!

One of your companions is lost to you, and your party has been battered down. Secure in his supremacy, Manerkol holds all the cards.

Yet the power of the Gods now runs through your veins. Find allies to your cause, gather more Soul Stones, grow into your legend, and make choices that will change the shape of your world.

Will you accept the hand fate has dealt you, or will you fight against the presence filling your mind with visions of power and domination?

The Soul Stone War 2 is the thrilling 400,000-word sequel to the interactive fantasy novel The Soul Stone War.  Meet characters old and new, pick up on the friendships and romances you began and grow into the hero that you’re meant to be.

  • Play as female, male, or non-binary—with options to be straight, gay, bisexual, or aromantic.
  • Continue your romance or try to find new love in an unexpected place.
  • Choose how to deal with the powerful being now sharing your mind and body.
  • Infiltrate Manerkol’s palace and reclaim your lost companion.
  • Learn one of the biggest secrets in the series.
  • Nurture the bonds of kinship between your group and grow into a power to rival the Lord of All.
  • Find new and innovative ways to tackle problems, utilizing your unique skills, traits, and the new powers granted to you by the Soul Stones.
  • Immerse yourself in a rich world full of magic, sacrifice, and love where every choice has unexpected consequences for everyone.

Rise, Soul Stone Wielder. Your fate lies in your hands.

Morgan 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.

Dec 16

2021

Pon Para and the Unconquerable Scorpion—Raise an army to save reality itself!

Posted by: Mary Duffy | Comments (0)

We’re proud to announce that Pon Para and the Unconquerable Scorpion, 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 December 23rd!

Chosen by the gods, betrayed by your king, you must stop the Scorpion!

Pon Para and the Unconquerable Scorpion is a 742,000-word interactive fantasy novel by Kyle Marquis, and the sequel to Pon Para and the Great Southern Labyrinth. Your choices control the story. It’s entirely text-based—without graphics or sound effects, and fueled by the vast, unstoppable power of your imagination.

The philosopher witch Teijia has unleashed a new weapon: a scorpion-god whose venom poisons the very foundations of reality! As the edges of the world disintegrate, the nomadic Stormraiders make one final, desperate push to defeat the Three Nations and carve out their own kingdom.

This time you’ll need more than the sign of your god and a few friends: to end the war and save the world from destruction, you’ll need an army! Establish yourself as a warlord, crime boss, or divine leader and cross oceans and deserts to find a weapon that can stop the Unconquerable Scorpion!

Old Friends and Enemies Return. Once again find friendship, enmity, or romance with Melaxu the nymph philosopher and Tamur the Desert Empire spy. But beware: the Stormraiders Galimar and Gisla are back too. And what will your own rulers, King Hyras and the Desert Empress, demand of you this time?

New Heroes, New Threats. Recruit Col the satyr general and his young ward Clannath, a crow-woman cursed by the God of Rage. Claim territory across two nations and scheme to protect your followers. But beware the ambitions of the dark priests…and of the priests of Heaven, who still consider you a heretic and enemy of the gods!

The End of Philosophy? Even as King Hyras and Lord Vankred square off to end the Stormraider War, the witch Teijia unleashes her ultimate weapon: the Emissary Beast Magdala, the Unconquerable Scorpion, whose venom can destroy the engines that maintain the World That Remains. What can stop a creature forged by the gods to be unstoppable?

Return to the World That Remains. Make yourself at home!

• Play as male, female, or nonbinary; gay, straight, bi, or ace
• Defeat enemies with sword and spell, or make allies with diplomacy, deception, and the miracles of your god
• Unleash new companions and train them in alchemy, infiltration, diplomacy, or the arts of war
• Explore ancient cities, savage wastelands, and the glittering, deadly palace of the Desert Empress
• Find friendship, romance, or rivalry with nymphs and satyrs, thieves and monarchs, dark warriors or holy sages
• Bring peace to warring nations—or drive them to destruction for your own ends
• Forge an army strong enough to stop Magdala, the Unconquerable Scorpion

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

Dec 13

2021

Author Interview: Kyle Marquis, Pon Para and the Unconquerable Scorpion

Posted by: Mary Duffy | Comments (1)

Chosen by the gods, betrayed by your king, you must stop the Scorpion! Pon Pon Para and the Unconquerable Scorpion is a 742,000-word interactive fantasy novel by Kyle Marquis, and the sequel to Pon Para and the Great Southern Labyrinth. I sat down with Kyle to talk about the Pon Para series, Vampire: The Masquerade, and more. Pon Para and the Unconquerable Scorpion releases this Thursday, December 16th. You can try the first three chapters for free today.

Pon Para and the Unconquerable Scorpion is the second game in an absolutely epic trilogy. And you have very satisfyingly allowed the player to pick up where they left off from the first game, accounting for diverse endings in Pon Para and the Great Southern Labyrinth. Tell me about how you were able to construct this next part of the story.

I planned ahead, which wasn’t easy! The major binary divergence in The Great Southern Labyrinth is whether the city of Mytele survives the Stormraider invasion in the last chapter, and I made sure to script for both possibilities. Labyrinth also ends with you in one of 4-5 positions in the Sea Kingdom, from “army general” to “outlaw,” and with you choosing from one of a half-dozen goals, and the game picks up with you pursuing that goal with the resources you gained from the last game. So if you ended Labyrinth as a high priestess who wanted to learn more about the powers of your god, or a downtrodden clerk plotting to kill the king, that’s where you start in The Unconquerable Scorpion.

The romances are actually some of my favorite parts of the Pon Para series. Any new romantic prospects for our hero this time?

Pon Para adds two new traveling companions almost right away, the satyr general Col and her ward, the crow-ferox Clannath. Together, I think they satisfy two of the most important daring sim archetypes: 1) a big cuddly bear with the maturity to respect your boundaries and 2) a violent, illiterate woman with an ax.

If you’re looking to marry up, you can also romance Princess Hyranni (daughter of King Hyras–this assumes you can free her from Teijia’s supernatural control, of course!), Empress Zoriza, and even Galimar, knight-captain of the Stormraiders. But they all have their own plots and ambitions, which can override their interest in going on nice dates with the main character.

What surprised you about the writing of this one?

Vibe-wrangling is hard!

Meaning: at the end of the previous game, your opinion on King Hyras can be anything from “I respect him despite his mistakes” to “I am literally plotting to kill him.” The same range of reactions applies to other elements in the setting, everything from the Stormraiders and the Dark Ax to the new position you find yourself occupying in Shalmek (the capital of the Desert Empire), as a semi-legitimate “crime lord.” A combination of opposed personality variables and chosen goals influences these things, but tracking them all, and deploying the main character’s mood about all these different elements of the story, at the right time, is complex and required an enormous amount of work.

Since we last heard from you, you’ve also published the first of Choice of Games’ new Vampire: The Masquerade licensed games, Night Road, which was amazing, and honestly some of your best writing in my humble opinion. What are the different pleasures and pitfalls of writing Pon Para and your own worlds versus playing in someone else’s sandbox?

World of Darkness was surprisingly generous with what they let me get away with; one chapter is basically “dark Scooby-Doo with Portal 2 aesthetics and some genocide” and they were like Yeah, sure. But my own work lets me explore cul-de-sacs of culture that don’t get much exposure. Pon Para, for example, is based on the old anime, fantasy novels, and 16-bit JRPGs I enjoyed as a kid. In retrospect, a lot of that material was conceptually empty: retreads of older creators’ surface gloss (Tolkien’s worldbeing being the most obvious example) with nothing underpinning it. Pon Para, I suppose, is an attempt to “fill up” those empty fantasy playgrounds of my childhood, to invest their surface aesthetics with a new kind of meaning. The Oricalchum is an explicit metaphor for this creative act: a fairly normal world underpinned by a system that’s deeply weird and (depending on your character’s personality) politically and morally depraved.

Obviously, we’re already looking forward to the third and final installment of Pon Para, The God of Knots. What can we expect to see, other than the totally epic conclusion to the tale?

If The Great Southern Labyrinth is a classic adventure story and The Unconquerable Scorpion is a higher-stakes drama of war and politics, The God of Knots is really going to delve into the metaphysics of the setting. The World That Remains is falling apart, after all–the Oricalchum that sustains it is a desperate and failing stopgap measure, maintained by enslaved gods–and resolving that (or failing to!) is what the final game will be all about. The trick is providing satisfying resolutions without, hrm…pulling a Frank Herbert.

By which I mean: all the Duneheads are laughing because if the new Dune movies are good enough, they’ll eventually run out of fun desert adventures and have to move into the later books, which are about how fun adventures lead to apocalyptic wars. How could you, the reader, ever enjoy those early books? Don’t you know what they lead to?!

It’s hard to interrogate fantasy without destroying what makes a fantasy story fun, or blaming the reader for wanting to hear about a cool adventure. But interactive fiction has unique advantages over static novels, and I look forward to giving players room to explore the setting in God of Knots and to tell me how they react to it, rather than me telling them what they should think.

Pon Para is the “Christmas release” for us this year–pride of place in our release schedule. What have you asked Santa Claus to bring you this year?

A deadline! Mary, I’ve been without a deadline for months and I’m going nuts because I don’t know what to write next! Please, nail something down on your end and give me something to put on my calendar!

[Ed. Soon, my friend! Very soon!]

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