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Apr 07

2016

First Year Demons: Teaching Through IF and Games

Posted by: Becky Slitt | Comments (1)

This is the first in a series of blog posts about the Hosted Game First Year Demons, which was released on April 8, 2016. In this first post, I’ll talk about why and how IF can be used as a teaching tool, especially its combination of immersive first-person perspective and concrete dynamic feedback. In the second post, I’ll talk about the process of developing the story, particularly why we chose to set it in China, and how I approached the process of writing a game whose characters inhabit a culture that isn’t my own. In the third post, I’ll talk about the way the game changed as I turned it from an educational exercise into a more story-centered game.

Where Did This Game Come From?

First Year Demons had its origins in a pilot project to assess the effectiveness of interactive fiction as a way of teaching cultural literacy.

Recent studies show that reading fiction can improve empathy and understanding. Interactive fiction and RPGs take this principle one step further by allowing the player to inhabit a first-person perspective. The player isn’t just learning about another culture; they’re imagining that they live in that culture.

So the pilot project’s team hypothesized that people would learn more effectively about other cultures through the first-person perspective of IF and roleplay than through third-person texts. Imagining themselves as insiders – navigating social situations, making the choices that a person in that culture would make, enacting cultural values – would allow a much deeper understanding than simply learning about that culture as an outsider.

The team planned to teach three groups of people the same information, each in a different way – third-person nonfiction, first-person IF, and live-action roleplay – and then assess how well each group learned that information. First Year Demons was going to be the IF text used in the experiment.

Unfortunately, the project was discontinued before we got to actually teach anyone or discover how well they learned. But in the course of developing the stories, we learned a lot about how to teach through IF.

 

Teaching Through Games

Obviously, the word “game” covers an enormous variety of activities, and there will always be exceptions to the rules that I’m setting out here. But games in general have some qualities that make them inherently good teaching tools, and especially for teaching cultural principles.

First, they offer concrete goals. Hit the ball far enough that you can run around the bases. Reach the other side of the board. Capture all of your opponent’s pieces. These goals can easily be made to serve an educational purpose. Get the rocket to land in the right place – for which you have to figure out the equation for its trajectory. Build roads that will deliver goods to the Inca emperor in the shortest amount of time – for which you have to learn about the technology and history of the empire.

Second, games provide instant feedback that tells the player whether they succeeded in moving towards their goal, and lets them try again if they didn’t. This cycle helps the player learn, and – more importantly for our purposes – allows them to demonstrate that they have learned.

In a ChoiceScript game, that feedback registers in multiple ways. First, there’s the stats screen: you can see the bars moving and numbers changing depending on the choices you make. Second, there’s the text itself, which can be made to comment on the results of your choices. This commentary can be both explicit (direct responses in the authorial voice) or implicit (narrative cues, character reactions, context, etc).

Those strengths – instant feedback, concrete goals, explicit and implicit social commentary – were what we wanted to draw on when we taught cultural norms through interactive fiction.

In the next blog post, I’ll talk about the process of developing the original concept, and how I adapted the ChoiceScript game design model to fit our experimental and educational needs.

Supported by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) via Department of Interior, Interior Business Center, contract number D13PC00246.  The U.S. government is authorized to reproduce and distribute reprints for Governmental purposes notwithstanding any copyright annotation thereon.  Disclaimer:  The views and conclusions contained herein are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as necessarily representing the official policies or endorsements, either expressed or implied, of IARPA, DOI/IBC, or the U.S. Government.

Mar 29

2016

New Hosted Game! “Guns of Infinity” by Paul Wang

Posted by: Dan Fabulich | Comments (2)

There’s a new game in our Hosted Games program ready for you to play!

Guns of Infinity

As commander of a squadron of cavalry, what will you sacrifice to win the war of gunpowder and magic? Return to the battlefield as a gentleman-officer of the Royal Tierran Army in this long-awaited sequel to “Sabres of Infinity.”

Guns of Infinity” is a 440,000 word interactive novel by Paul Wang, author of “Sabres of Infinity,” “Mecha Ace,” and “The Hero of Kendrickstone.” 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 40% off until April 1!

Will you befriend, betray, or romance the nobles, rogues, and spies of this epic world? Will you keep your men alive, or sacrifice them to your own greed in a bid for power and riches? Will you fight for power, riches, love, or glory?

  • Play the role of a gallant hero, or a self-serving scoundrel.
  • Use cunning, force, or sheer bravado to fight the Antari forces.
  • Train and drill your men for success on the battlefield.
  • Support your family financially, or leave them to fight off penury alone.

Combat, intrigue, and romance await in “Guns of Infinity!”

Paul 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 we’ll publish it for you, giving you a share of the revenue your game produces.

Mar 29

2016

“Sabres of Infinity” available on Steam

Posted by: Dan Fabulich | Comments (0)

To celebrate the launch of Guns of Infinity, we’re also announcing that Paul’s earlier game in our Hosted Games program, Sabres of Infinity is out now on Steam!

Sabres of Infinity

Fight for glory as an officer of the Royal Tierran Army in a rich, low-fantasy world where gunpowder and magic rule the battlefield. Choose a horse, pick a sergeant and lead a unit of Royal Dragoons through five years of brutal war.

Sabres of Infinity is an epic interactive novel where you control the main character; your choices control the story.

Battle your enemies with your mind, your wits or with pistol and sword. Earn the loyalty of your subordinates and the friendship of your fellow officers, or betray them for your own gain. As armies, heroes and philosophies clash in the forests of the north, your choices could mean the difference between everlasting glory and an ignominious death.

Mar 11

2016

Two New Hosted Games: “Scarlet Sails” and “Magikiras”

Posted by: Dan Fabulich | Comments (3)

There are two more games in our Hosted Games program ready for you to play!

Scarlet Sails: A fantastical pirate romp on the high seas!

Scarlet Sails

Hoist the Jolly Roger and set sail to find the legendary Titan’s Treasure! Do you fight with a cutlass, or with magic? Are you biding your time until you can shoot your captain in the back, or are you the reason the rum is gone?

Scarlet Sails is an 80,000-word interactive novel by Felicity Banks, author of Attack of the Clockwork Army. Your choices control the story. It’s entirely text-based–without graphics or sound effects–and fueled by the vast, unstoppable power of your imagination.

  • Enjoy an 80,000 word adventure on the high seas.
  • One of the top ten games in the 2015 Interactive Fiction Competition.
  • Choose your personality, fighting style, and magical skill.
  • Choose who to love, including options for singlehood or polyamory.
  • Face the horrors of your past, and of the deep.
  • Find treasure, treachery, and maybe even true love.
  • Play as male or female, gay or straight.

Magikiras: Don powered armor to fight against terrorists and eldritch beings!

Magikiras

Magikiras is a 1,100,000-word story by Gabriel Chia that takes place in a near future where magic and technology exists side by side. Don powered armor as you take on terrorists and eldritch aliens in the not too distant future! Modify your armor to suit your needs and stand tall against your foes.

  • Choose your team and your enemy for different sides of the same story.
  • Play as a normal soldier or one with magic at their command.
  • Modify your powered armor to better suit your needs and preference.

These authors 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 we’ll publish it for you, giving you a share of the revenue your game produces.

Mar 04

2016

Bundles in the iTunes App Store!

Posted by: Becky Slitt | Comments (2)

We’re excited to announce that we’re selling some of our games in a new way: as bundles on the Apple iTunes App Store.

We hope that this will introduce new players to classic games and give everyone the chance to find more games in their favorite genres.

You’ll still be able to buy each game individually. But if you’ve been looking for an easy way to stock up on a lot of games at once, or an easy way to find more games like the ones you love, this is your chance!

Here are some of the bundles we’ve got for you:

  • Sci Fi: games featuring spaceships, robots, and other elements of the future. Includes Choice of Robots, Mecha Ace, and more.
  • Urban Fantasy: games in a modern setting with a supernatural twist. Includes Choice of the Deathless, Psy High, and more.
  • Swords, Sandals, and Sorcery: classic fantasy in an ancient or medieval setting. Includes Pendragon Rising, Champion of the Gods, Hero of Kendrickstone, and more.
  • Our Hidden Gems: some of our highest-rated games. Includes Reckless Space Pirates, Thieves’ Gambit: Curse of the Black Cat, and more.
  • Literary: games with intricate plots and exceptional prose. Includes Hollywood Visionary, Slammed! and more.

If you already own one or more of the games in a given bundle, you can choose the Complete My Bundle option to get the others at a discount.

Check it out!

Feb 12

2016

The Daring Mermaid Expedition — A scientifically inaccurate romp, plus pirates!

Posted by: Dan Fabulich | Comments (0)

The Daring Mermaid Expedition

We’re proud to announce that The Daring Mermaid Expedition, 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 33% off until February 19th!

Take a scientifically inaccurate romp in pirate-infested waters! Will you prove to the Royal German Marinological Society that mermaids really exist?

“The Daring Mermaid Expedition” is a 71,000-word interactive novel by Andrea Phillips, author of “The Daring Adventures of Lucy Smokeheart.” 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 are an up-and-coming researcher, tasked with proving the existence of mermaids in order to be admitted to the exclusive Royal German Marinological Society. With a member of the Society as your patron, you’ll brave pirate attacks and dubious academics to fight your way to Broken Shell Island and scientize the mythical mermaid kingdom. Play as a vengeful mermaid-hater, dispassionate scientist, or soft-hearted daydreamer. Or just chuck it all and embrace piracy on the crew of the infamous Lucy Smokeheart herself!

Will you join the illustrious ranks of the Society, or wind up in prison for scientific fraud? Spend the rest of your life living underwater, or be devoured by carnivorous fish-people?

You’re on a mermaid expedition—it’s time to sink or swim.

  • Ten distinct endings to discover!
  • Develop statistics like academic rigor, credibility, and blood loss!
  • 100% gender-neutral. Play whatever gender and sexuality you choose! We’re not the boss of you!
  • Dozens of achievements! Or maybe one dozen. Or more? Actually we’re not sure how many, we lost count! But there are definitely achievements!
  • Guaranteed to be at least 92% scientifically and historically inaccurate!
  • Navigate tricky interpersonal situations with wit, charm, or awkwardness!
  • Seduce your patron – or become bitter academic rivals!

We hope you enjoy playing The Daring Mermaid Expedition. 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.

Feb 12

2016

New Hosted Game! “Wizardry Level C” by Jac Colvin

Posted by: Dan Fabulich | Comments (1)

There’s a new game in our Hosted Games program ready for you to play!

Wizardry Level C

The discovery of an old magic book turns your life upside down. Will you succeed in becoming a guild wizard? Or instead travel a different path, striking out on your own, moving to a different plane of existence or perhaps not even remaining human?

Wizardry Level C is a 100,000-word interactive novel by Jac Colvin, 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.

Jac 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 we’ll publish it for you, giving you a share of the revenue your game produces.

Feb 05

2016

All of our games are 25% off or more in Steam’s Lunar New Year Sale

Posted by: Dan Fabulich | Comments (0)

Steam

All of our Steam apps are 25% off or more until February 12!

Jan 29

2016

New Hosted Game! “The Lost Heir 2: Forging a Kingdom” by Mike Walter

Posted by: Dan Fabulich | Comments (3)

There’s a new game in our Hosted Games program ready for you to play!

The Lost Heir 2: Forging a Kingdom

Unite the kingdom to take back your capital city! You’ll need dragons, elves, and perhaps even demons to avenge your parents’ murder in this fantasy epic! In The Lost Heir 2, you’ll continue as the prince or princess of Daria displaced from your palace after the murder of your parents. Face betrayal, seek romance, battle enemies in war, and navigate the intrigues of court. The fate of the kingdom of Daria is in your hands.

“The Lost Heir 2: Forging a Kingdom” is a 250,000-word interactive fantasy novel by Mike Walter—the second of a trilogy—where your choices control the story. The game is entirely text-based—without graphics or sound effects—and fueled by the vast, unstoppable power of your imagination.

  • Play as female or male, gay, straight, or asexual.
  • Meet elves, dwarves, gnomes, and more as you explore the furthest reaches of the land.
  • Learn amazing new abilities from legendary teachers and search for powerful artifacts to help you on your way.
  • March into heated battle and lead your army to victory!
  • Fly a dragon, raise an undead army, discover alchemy, summon new demons and more!

Mike developed “The Lost Heir” series 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 we’ll publish it for you, giving you a share of the revenue your game produces.

Jan 29

2016

“The Lost Heir: The Fall of Daria” out now on Steam

Posted by: Dan Fabulich | Comments (0)

To celebrate the launch of The Lost Heir 2: Forging a Kingdom, we’re also announcing that Mike’s earlier game in our Hosted Games program, The Lost Heir: The Fall of Daria is out now on Steam!

The Lost Heir: The Fall of Daria

Take back the throne that was rightfully yours! When demon-summoning usurpers assassinate the king and queen, the right of rulership falls to you, their only child. Develop your own unique prince or princess, discovering a world of fantasy, magic, mystery, and adventure.

“The Lost Heir: The Fall of Daria” is an epic 145,000-word interactive fantasy novel by Mike Walter—the first of a trilogy—where your choices control the story. The game is entirely text-based–without graphics or sound effects–and fueled by the vast, unstoppable power of your imagination.

Develop your own unique prince or princess, for good or evil! Become a noble knight, a greedy thief, an evil priest, a nature-loving druid, a charming bard, a deadly assassin, a wise monk, a well-traveled ranger, a martial cleric, a kind priest, a brutal thug, a steadfast guard, a powerful wizard or any combination you choose.

Your highness, the kingdom of Daria awaits you!

  • Play as male or female, gay or straight.
  • Pursue love interests, make friends, or be a loner.
  • Uncover the mysteries of demon summoning.
  • Uncover and collect legendary magical items and treasure.

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