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Aug 15

2019

Google Warns Developers that All New Android Apps Require Three Days for Approval

Posted by: Dan Fabulich | Comments (3)

In conversation with Google Play Store developer support today, they confirmed to me that all new Android apps now require at least three days for approval.

When releasing today’s newest game, Psy High 2: High Summer, our app was greeted with a warning banner, saying, “To help better protect our users, we’ll take more time to thoroughly review your app. Learn More

In a chat with Google support, they confirmed:

    • All new apps are getting the “we’ll take more time” banner. “We’re taking more time to thoroughly review every app.” Plan for at least three days between submitting your app and going live. We’re professional developers, and we can definitely plan a few days in advance, but that then raises another, bigger problem.
    • There is now no way to schedule the release of a new app. When you submit an app for review, it will automatically go live whenever it’s approved, even if the app is approved days before the planned release date. Google offers a “timed publishing” feature, but it only works for app updates. (We discussed using the “closed alpha” process, which also undergoes Google review, but closed alphas go through a separate review process; you still have to plan for three days buffer when promoting a release from closed alpha to production.)
    • Google offers no way to expedite review. “Unfortunately, there is no escalation path, and there is nothing that can be done to expedite the review process. I completely understand your frustration, and I would love to be able to help you get your app approved immediately, but there is nothing I or my team can do.”
    • Developers were not notified of this change ahead of time.

Google’s Warning Appears Too Late, After Submission

The “we’ll take more time” banner appears only after you submit your app to go live in production. There’s no way to know that you have to submit three days in advance until it’s already too late.

Google’s failure to communicate this change is extremely disappointing. Back in April, Google announced on their Android Developer Blog that they were planning to take more time to review certain apps.

Separately, we will soon be taking more time (days, not weeks) to review apps by developers that don’t yet have a track record with us. This will allow us to do more thorough checks before approving apps to go live in the store and will help us make even fewer inaccurate decisions on developer accounts.

We’ve been a developer on the Google Play Store since 2010, so we didn’t think this would impact us. We were wrong.

If you click “Learn More” on the banner, Google doesn’t provide much additional detail; it’s the all-purpose documentation for publishing apps in general. But it does include this note near the top:

Note: For certain developer accounts, we’ll take more time to thoroughly review your app(s) to help better protect users. You’ll receive a notification on your app’s Dashboard about how long this should take. We recommend that you adjust your planning to include a buffer period of at least three days between submitting your app and going live.

“Certain developer accounts?” That didn’t sound like us. We have dozens of games published on the Google Play Store; we’re a developer in good standing.

It turns out that instead of just “developers that don’t yet have a track record,” all new apps are undergoing additional review. App updates may go through quickly if the app itself has earned Google’s trust, but each new app starts with an empty track record.

Luckily, we did submit Psy High 2: High Summer in time to get it approved today. Next time, we’ll have to submit to Google a few days in advance and “soft launch” our app, not announcing the release until the official release day.

Here’s the transcript with Google Play Store developer support.

Dan Fabulich: Our app release for Psy High 2 com.choiceofgames.psyhigh2 seems to be held up in extra delay. We’ve scheduled marketing for today’s release. Please help!

Liz: Thank you for waiting.

I apologize for the delay. Please note that we’re currently still reviewing your app. Due to recent changes, we’re taking more time to thoroughly review every app to help better protect users.

I see your app was updated yesterday, and moving forward, we recommend that you adjust your planning to include a buffer period of at least three days between submitting your app and going live. You can learn more about these changes here: https://support.google.com/googleplay/android-developer/answer/6334282.

We do take developer feedback very seriously and I will be happy to pass any you may have regarding this process to the appropriate team for you. Please note you can also learn about new features in our blog here: https://android-developers.googleblog.com/.

Dan Fabulich: Will this delay apply to app updates as well?

Liz: The delay should be less than 3 days, but recommend still planning for 3 days for the review process to complete

Dan Fabulich: Is it possible to request expedited review for Psy High 2?

Liz: Unfortunately, there is no way to expedite the review process

Dan Fabulich: When did this change roll out? Were developers notified that we needed to add a three day buffer?

Liz: I am not sure exactly when the changed rolled out except that it happened a few weeks ago. I do not believe developers were notified, but the Play Console has been updated to reflect this information. I apologize for the inconvenience and the lack of clear communication

Dan Fabulich: Where has the Play Console been updated? The only information I see about this is in the documentation site and a banner on the app we’re trying to release. I just checked a few of our other apps and there’s no sign that we need to add a buffer.

Liz: Yes, there is a banner on the Play Console that states “To help better protect our users, we’ll take more time to thoroughly review your app. Learn more.” Also, if you hover on the question mark next to Processing update, it states “We’re currently reviewing your app. This usually takes a few hours, but can occasionally take more. Learn more”

Dan Fabulich: That banner only appears (only appeared) after submitting the app for review.

Dan Fabulich: There was no way to know that we needed to add a buffer until it was already too late.

Liz: I apologize again for the inconvenience. I will be sure to let our engineering team know that there needs to be more notification given beforehand

Liz: Do you have any other questions for me today?

Dan Fabulich: Liz, I’m sorry to do this, but are you able to escalate me to the next tier of support? It was impossible for us to add buffer without being notified, and we need someone to take action to get our app approved in a timely manner.

Liz: Unfortunately, there is no escalation path, and there is nothing that can be done to expedite the review process. I completely understand your frustration, and I would love to be able to help you get your app approved immediately, but there is nothing I or my team can do

Dan Fabulich: Can you clarify for me how to submit apps without making them go live immediately upon approval? I see that it’s possible to use timed publishing for app updates, but that doesn’t seem to be possible for new apps.

Liz: You could submit your app to a closed Alpha track first, and once everything looks good to go, you could promote it to the Production track

Dan Fabulich: Do closed Alpha tracks undergo submission review? (I’m pretty sure they don’t/didn’t last time I used alpha tracks.)

Liz: Yes, closed Alpha tracks undergo a submission review. We again recommend having a three day buffer. There is also a review once promoting to the Production track

Dan Fabulich: Will we need a three-day buffer when promoting to the production track?

Liz: It should be slightly quicker, but again we recommend three days just to be safe

Dan Fabulich: Well, that’s my question: we want to undergo production-track review before going live, without automatically going live after review, so we can control the date of our release. How can we do that?

Liz: Unfortunately, there is no functionality available for that. As you mentioned previously, we do have the timed publishing feature, but that only applies to updates. I will be sure to also let our engineering team know that developers would like this type of feature

Liz: Do you have any other questions for me today?

Dan Fabulich: Do you have any recommendations for how to submit new apps and release them on a particular calendar day?

Liz: Unfortunately, I do not have any recommendations on how to submit new apps and release them on a specific calendar date.

Dan Fabulich: When you communicate with the engineering team, please mention that we used to be able to release apps on a day of our choosing, but now, due to these changes, that’s impossible.

Liz: Yes, I will definitely be sure to let them know. I am very sorry again for the inconvenience, and thank you very for the feedback

Liz: Is there anything else I can help you with today?

Dan Fabulich: That’s all, thank you.

Liz: You’re very welcome!

Liz: Thanks for supporting Google Play. Have a nice day!

Aug 15

2019

Psy High 2: High Summer — What if summer could last forever?

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

We’re proud to announce that Psy High 2: High Summer, 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 Omnibus app. It’s 35% off until August 22nd!

What if summer could last forever? With your psychic powers and a little time magic, it can!

Psy High 2: High Summer is a 270,000 interactive teen supernatural mystery novel by Rebecca Slitt, and the sequel to her 2014 smash hit, Psy High. It’s entirely text-based, without graphics or sound effects, and fueled by the vast, unstoppable power of your imagination.

One year after saving Kingsport High at the junior prom, you’ve graduated, and you’re working as a counselor at a sleepaway camp before heading off to college. Your power to read minds certainly comes in handy when you’re in charge of a cabin full of nine- and ten-year-olds! You’re responsible for taking care of them and teaching them everything you know. But you’re also enjoying a summer of freedom: you’re away from your parents and on your own.

Camp Cedarcrest has its share of mysteries. Why do the people in the camp’s photos look like they never age? Why is the groundskeeper always lurking on the edges of the camp? Why can’t your friends remember what happened last summer? And what about the ghost stories? Generations of campers tell stories about seeing “the White Lady” floating through the woods.

All your friends from Kingsport High (and their powers) are just a text away: you can always look to your best friend for support, ask the editor of the school newspaper to help with research, or sneak a date with your hometown sweetheart.

But in order to make it through the summer, you’ll have to find the truth about Camp Cedarcrest. And when you discover a powerful source of time magic, you also learn that it comes with a high price. How far are you willing to go to preserve or destroy it?

• Play as male, female, or nonbinary; gay, straight, or bi.
• Find summer love with your co-counselor or a mysterious stranger; or deepen your relationship with your high school sweetheart.
• Sing songs around the campfire, eat s’mores, make friendships that will last forever.
• Learn magic from a powerful mentor, and teach magic to a new generation.
• Earn your campers’ love – or just ignore them and have your own fun.
• Win Colorwars!
• Save Camp Cedarcrest – or shut it down for good
• Explore a secretive society and its powerful magic.
• Be a good influence on your campers, or teach them to be troublemakers, just like you.

We hope you enjoy playing Psy High 2: High Summer. We encourage you to tell your friends about it, and recommend the game on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and other sites. Don’t forget: our initial download rate determines our ranking on the App Store. The more times you download in the first week, the better our games will rank.

Aug 12

2019

Author Interview: Rebecca Slitt, “Psy High 2: High Summer”

Posted by: Mary Duffy | Comments (0)

What if summer could last forever? With your psychic powers and a little time magic, it can! Psy High 2: High Summer is a 270,000 interactive teen supernatural mystery novel by Rebecca Slitt, and the sequel to her 2014 smash hit, Psy High. One year after saving Kingsport High at the junior prom, you’ve graduated, and you’re working as a counselor at a sleepaway camp before heading off to college. Your power to read minds certainly comes in handy when you’re in charge of a cabin full of nine- and ten-year-olds! You’re responsible for taking care of them and teaching them everything you know. But you’re also enjoying a summer of freedom: you’re away from your parents and on your own.

I sat down with Rebecca to talk about the challenges of sequel writing and the pleasures of writing her second game in the series. Psy High 2: High Summer will be available this Thursday, August 15th.

It’s been five years since you published Psy High and oh my gosh a lot has changed since then. Maybe less has changed inside the world of Psy High. Tell me what our favorite characters have been up to.

First, the light-hearted answer! It’s a year later, and everyone has just graduated from high school. Some of our friends are looking forward to college – Haley is thrilled to be going off to Stanford to study journalism! Some are less happy: Carl/a has a dead-end retail job, and is uncertain about what’s coming next; and Alison/Andrew is getting a lot of family pressure to do something useful. And some are just enjoying the free time: Taylor/Tyler is jetting off to Paris for a very fancy vacation. Kingsport High has a new principal: who that is depends on what happened in Part 1. And also depending on what happened in Part 1, the town of Kingsport itself might be pretty much the same as it was at the beginning, or it might be very different. In case there are any new readers coming in, I won’t spoil it by saying how!

And second, the serious answer: I’ve always tried to keep the world of Psy High slightly disconnected from current events in certain ways. For instance, slang changes by the minute, so whatever words I’d have the characters use would be obsolete by the time the game came out, let alone several years from now! The prom-posal songs in Part 1 were probably the most time-sensitive plot points; they’re all songs that were on the radio in the summer of 2014. People have smartphones and Netflix, and they text a lot, but that’s really the only thing that pegs the action to a specific time or place. I never mention any public figures or political events.

But current events were always in my mind – how could they not be, with the world the way it is now? I started writing this game in spring 2017, so the world changed while I was writing it, too. I remember writing one particular scene just after the midpoint of the game, and thinking “well, this NPC has just gotten a lot angrier about people who stand idly by while injustice is being done.”

I had always intended Part 2 to be more serious and more morally complicated than Part 1: that’s part of growing up, after all, and I wanted to show that broadening awareness of the world and its complexities in the PC’s story. I just couldn’t have anticipated how much these discussions of justice, privilege, power, and altruism would matter outside the game, too.

We’ve been working on quite a number of sequels this year: Psy High 2: High Summer, Grand Academy II: Attack of the Sequel, The Superlatives: Shattered Worlds, and Exile of the Gods. Each one has had their unique challenges in creating a game that satisfyingly picks up where a player may have left off. What were your struggles with this, if any?

When I finished Psy High, I had absolutely no plans to write a sequel! So I made wildly different branches in the ending – which was one of the fun things about writing it, and one of the things that readers responded to really positively. But unfortunately, it meant that I wrote some endings that were great ideas at the time, and satisfying in themselves, but would make it impossible to continue to Part 2: if the PC was in jail, for instance, or had given up their powers. So when I started Part 2, I had to make some choices about which endings could continue on and which couldn’t. Fortunately, most of them could.

I also knew early on that in Part 2 I wanted to play with a different YA genre – the summer-camp story rather than the high-school story – so the game was going to take place in a different location. That made some parts of writing easier, because I didn’t have to track every single point of difference forward from Part 1 to Part 2. But I still needed to have some continuity. First, to show continuing players that their choices had made a difference and were still making a difference; and second, because a lot of players really love building up relationships with NPCs and would want to carry those friendships and romances forward.

Which is a very long way of saying that the biggest challenge was trying to anticipate which elements of Part 1 players would find most meaningful, and therefore would most want to see in Part 2. As it turns out, I was right about some and wrong about others. Beta feedback was really valuable here! So I hope I’ve struck a good balance between continuity and forward motion. There are some visits home, and a lot of opportunities to keep going with friends and romances from Part 1; but also a lot of new people and new ideas.

What was different this time around, with five years of editing games other peoples’ games under your belt?

It is so much easier to write a second game than a first game!

Being an editor has definitely made me a better writer. As an editor, I get to see a lot of code, and that lets me learn new techniques that I might not have thought of on my own. It also helps me work much more easily with ChoiceScript, since I’m immersed in it every day.

Conversely, being a writer has also made me a better editor: I have a better perspective on what authors are trying to do with a certain scene or a certain bit of code because I’ve been there myself, and can advise them more effectively on how to get there. And I can help authors understand what they take for granted because they can see all the code, and help them better craft their text so that they can communicate more effectively with the player.

It’s harder to see some aspects of a game when you’re in the middle of them, of course; when I was going back over my game near the end of the writing process, I realized how utterly tangled some of my code had gotten in the middle. I would absolutely have been able to spot that much earlier in a game I was editing, and been able to advise the author how to sort it out than I was able to advise myself!

As a company, we’ve learned, too: having released so many games in the last five years, we’ve learned a lot more about what players like and don’t like; what’s important to them; and what kinds of game design do and don’t work. I hope I’ve put those lessons into practice effectively.

(And on a smaller note, in the responses to Psy High, I learned how many people really loved Taylor/Tyler, and were really sad about that breakup. Never fear, Taylor/Tyler fans: you are still together in Part 2 if you want to be! But the larger lesson to learn from that is that if a player chooses for their PC to start a romance with an NPC, they really really want a lot of agency in directing that relationship.)

Do you have a favorite NPC you like writing and spending time with?

In the spirit of sequels, I’ve got one each from Part 1 and Part 2.

From Part 1,
definitely Carl/a. When I started writing Part 2, getting to Carl/a’s first scene felt like putting on a favorite comfy old sweater. I instantly slipped back into the rhythm of that voice: snarky, funny, brave, rebellious, flirty, with that not-quite-secret heart of gold. I knew instinctively what jokes Carl/a would make, and what s/he would take seriously. It was hard not to let Carl/a’s scenes take over!

From Part 2, Felicity. You’ll meet her about halfway through. She was actually a late addition to the story; a replacement for another character that just wasn’t working. (Another thing about writing your second game: you can have the confidence later in the writing process to just say “no, this character isn’t working, so I’m going to scrap them and put another one in.”) Once I added Felicity, though, she just blossomed. She’s fun to write because she’s so enthusiastic and curious: she loves asking questions and finding out new things about the world around her, so her voice flows very easily. And, on the other end of the emotional spectrum, one of her speeches actually made me tear up while I was writing it.

What’s the power you would most covet for yourself?

Of the ones that appear in the games, telekinesis would be pretty useful. I could fetch things from across the room without getting up, and I’m really short so it would be super-convenient to be able to get things down from high shelves! I actually wouldn’t want telepathy, the power that the PC has. Being able to send thoughts would be cool, but reading minds? I’d feel really intrusive, looking into people’s thoughts without them knowing – and it would probably not be fun to find out what they really thought of me!

The power I’d love the most of all, though, is to be able to teleport. How excellent would it be to be able to instantaneously travel long distances? I’d never have to sit in traffic again; I could visit my friends who live far away; and I could travel to all of the distant places that I’ve been dreaming of visiting.

When can we expect Psy High 3: Higher Education? 

Well, now that we’ve got time magic in the Psy High-verse…how about yesterday?

Jul 25

2019

Heroes of Myth — Are you a hero, a liar, or both?

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

We’re proud to announce that Heroes of Myth, 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 Omnibus app. It’s 30% off until August 1st!

Everyone thinks you saved the world three years ago. It was all a lie. The truth is, the “dark lord” you and your friends supposedly slew never existed; you used magical illusions to fake a prophecy. But now, as you relax into a life of fame and luxury, the omens from your false prophecy are happening again, and this time, you had nothing to do with it.

Heroes of Myth is a 560,000-word interactive novel by Abigail C. Trevor, 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.

Naturally, everyone expects you to save the world again, but you’re just an illusionist, and your friends have scattered to the winds. Will you become the hero all the songs say you are, or find new ways to fool them all again? How far will you go to protect your friends’ secrets–or are there stronger alliances to be made by betraying their trust?

This is the trouble with pretending you’re a hero: occasionally you have to become one. Craft clever illusions, charm suspicious royals, and face shadowy demons from beyond your realm. In the end, is the story you told worth more to you, or to the legions of people who believed it?

• Play as male, female, or non-binary; gay, straight or bisexual; monogamous or poly; asexual, and/or aromantic
• Intercept messages, stage scandals, and guide your preferred ruler to the throne
• Romance a prince, a bard, a long-lost friend, a false prophet, or a visitor from realms beyond
• Defend castles, villages, and your own mind from demonic assault
• Help your friends protect their positions, or sacrifice them in the name of the truth
• Triumph in a tournament of the greatest mages from across the land
• Slay a centuries-old monster—or swear yourself to his cause

Are you a hero, a liar, or both?

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

Jul 22

2019

New Hosted Game! One Minute Mysteries by Michael Gray

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

Hosted Games has a new game for you to play!

One Minute Mysteries is a collection of fifty-five short, challenging mysteries by Michael Gray. Join Andy Carson and Sandy Crewe as they tackle hidden clues, tricky puzzles, wacky suspects, and relentless riddles! Each mystery is under 300 words long, so you can read it in under a minute! It’s 25% off until July 29th!

• Follow the detectives as they investigate crimes.
• Confront liars, cheats and kidnappers.
• Meet fun and interesting characters.
• Test your wits against a wide variety of difficult puzzles.
• Who did it? Only YOU can figure it out!

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.

Jul 22

2019

Author Interview: Abigail Trevor, “Heroes of Myth”

Posted by: Mary Duffy | Comments (2)

 

Everyone thinks you saved the world three years ago. It was all a lie. The truth is, the “dark lord” you and your friends supposedly slew never existed; you used magical illusions to fake a prophecy. But now, as you relax into a life of fame and luxury, the omens from your false prophecy are happening again, and this time, you had nothing to do with it. Heroes of Myth is a 560,000-word interactive novel by Abigail C. Trevor, a staff member of Choice of Games. I sat down with Abby to talk about her first game with us and the challenges of writing long. Heroes of Myth releases this Thursday, July 25th. 


Abby, this is your first game for Choice of Games, and you’ve been on staff for just over two years now, right? Tell me a little about how you managed to write Heroes of Myth and work, and stay sane?

Well, the simplest answer is that I worked during the day and wrote at nights and on weekends. Since 2015 I’d had a system in place where I wrote something every day, though that makes it sound a little more stringent than it really was: it was more like I’d do something related to writing every day, which would sometimes be actually making progress on my current project and would sometimes be plot notes, worldbuilding, outlining, or even drawing maps or charts. I also never gave myself any word count requirements: some days would be fewer than 10 words, some near the end of the Heroes of Myth writing process were over 4000, and the vast majority of them were somewhere in between. I started this to finish a (currently unpublished) novel and switched over to Heroes of Myth a couple of years ago. I’d already been in college or working for most of the time I’d been doing this, so having the discipline to work consistently on the game wasn’t too big an adjustment.

Of course, when the later chapters of Heroes of Myth started to get over 70,000 words long, I was looking at far more writing in a shorter period of time than I’d ever had to contend with when I was working alone on my novel with no deadlines. It was taking over my non-work hours a little more than I would have preferred by the end, but fortunately I managed to finish the game before it got too overwhelming. And aside from beta testing, I’ve been taking a bit of a break from writing since then, which was much needed.

Heroes of Myth is going to be followed pretty closely by another staff-written game, Psy High 2: High Summer. Do you have favorite Choice of Game titles, either from before you started working here, or since, or even ones which are still in the works?

I can’t remember if Affairs of the Court: Choice of Romance was the first Choice of Games title I ever played, but it was definitely the one I fell in love with, a few years before I started working here. Our game design has gotten more sophisticated since then, but I still have a lot of affection for it, and I still remember the glee I felt on first scheming my way to the throne (and the only slightly concerning texts I sent my friends about how much I was enjoying all the different ways the game let me eliminate my competition). I also really enjoyed Cannonfire Concerto and Thieves’ Gambit: Curse of the Black Cat when they were first released, and I ended up doing some of my early editorial and QA training with them once I started working here, which was particularly cool. With the music and the intrigue, Cannonfire Concerto features a combination of things I really adore, and the heists in Curse of the Black Cat are a ton of fun.

Since I started working here, there are lots of games I’ve really enjoyed playing and watching develop. Just a few of these are Heart of the House, Blood Money, The Mysteries of Baroque, and Asteroid Run: No Questions Asked, all of which have beautifully-drawn characters in deeply compelling settings. As for upcoming games, I’ll cheat and say I’m very excited about all the games I’m currently editing – one of which, Crème de la Crème by Hannah Powell-Smith, is currently in full draft review, and might be familiar to some forum-goers!

What part of Heroes of Myth did you enjoy writing most? World-building, NPCs, interesting choices, fight scenes?

Characters and dialogue are always my favorite parts of anything I’m writing, and Heroes of Myth is no exception. In more linear writing I always have to resist the urge to let conversations I’m enjoying writing spiral on forever, and while that isn’t necessarily any more advisable in interactive fiction, I love creating conversations that can branch in multiple directions. Figuring out how a character might respond to all the different things the PC might conceivably say is so much fun. Some of my favorite lines in the game are hidden in relatively insignificant dialogue branches, and I dearly hope people find them!

If you had it to do over, what would you do differently?

Anything that would keep the game from taking over my life quite as much as it did in the final chapters – whether that’s figuring out a better schedule, writing a shorter game, or getting a better sense of how long something will be before I write it, I’m not sure. People always talk about interactive fiction ballooning out of control as the branches accumulate, which is certainly part of the problem, but I’ve never written anything that didn’t come out much longer than I was intending it to be, interactive or otherwise.

Which part of the process surprised you, despite knowing exactly how things go behind the scenes here?

I was only a few months into working here when I started the game, so I certainly didn’t know everything about how things go behind the scenes then, and I’m not sure I’d say I do even now – there are always still new things I’m learning! One thing might have surprised me precisely because I’m familiar with how the process works, which is how quickly things moved once the game was submitted. Which is not to say that we have routine catastrophes or anything, just that I was well aware of all the places where the game could get bogged down, and that more or less didn’t happen. That said, it hasn’t actually been released yet, so I should probably stop talking and may have already said too much.

And what do you want to write next!?

As I mentioned, I’ve been taking a writing break, so I’ve only recently started thinking seriously about concepts for my next game. After the doomsday prophecies of Heroes of Myth, I’d love to do something where the stakes are just a bit lower than the apocalypse – but where the choices you make feel just as important, of course! And somewhere in there I’d like to work in revisions to the novel I mentioned, but I’ve discovered I love writing games too much to put that down for long. When I get all of that ironed out, you’ll be one of the first to know!

Jul 12

2019

Choice of the Dragon, now on Alexa! Hear your roar!

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

It’s Choice of the Dragon as you’ve never heard it before! Enjoy this classic Choice of Games title on your Amazon Alexa!

In partnership with Matchbox Mobile, we’ve newly edited this game to optimize it for audio, with revised options, vivid sound effects, character voices, and more. Thanks to the Amazon Alexa’s text-reading capability, you can get the same customized experience that you could on the page.

Choice of the Dragon is a thrilling interactive novel by Dan Fabulich and Adam Strong-Morse, where your choices control the story.

Tyrannize the kingdom as a fire-breathing dragon who sleeps on gold and kidnaps princesses for fun! Battle heroes, wizards, and rival dragons in your insatiable thirst for gold and infamy. Start by dominating a local tribe of goblins, then usurp the kingdom, defending and expanding your despotic regime to annex neighboring kingdoms, incinerating the peasants in their thatched-roof cottages.

Find the skill here, or just say, “Alexa, open Choice of the Dragon.” Play the first part for free! It’s $0.99 to unlock the rest of the game once, and $2.99 to unlock unlimited playthroughs.

O, mighty dragon, spread your wings and let your shadow fall over the terrorized nation beneath you – and listen to the sound of your roar!

Jul 11

2019

Exile of the Gods — Wield the chains of destiny, or shatter them?

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

We’re proud to announce that Exile of the Gods, 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 Omnibus app. It’s 30% off until July 18th!

In the great war between the gods, will you wield the chains of destiny, or shatter them forever?

Exile of the Gods is a 460,000 word interactive epic fantasy novel by Jonathan Valuckas, 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.

Our story begins twenty years after the action of the first game, 2015’s Champion of the Gods. Which ending did you get? Start this game as the Champion, a warrior born to serve the gods, and follow the holy destiny the Weavers have crafted for you. Or start this game as the Exile, enemy of the gods, and forge a new life for yourself in the faraway land of Khovros–where mortals are free to choose their own fates.

Champion and Exile alike must unravel a deadly conspiracy, and confront the brewing war upon their gods. Will you vanquish this invading force, or use its power to free your realm from its ruthless creators forever? Take revenge on the gods who exiled you, or steal this chance to prove your worth to the pantheon, and seize your destiny of glory?

The gods made you what you are. Now, you will show them what you are made of.

• Play as male, female, or nonbinary; gay, straight, bi, or ace
• Take the role of your realm’s beloved savior, or that of a vengeful warrior living in exile
• Explore a world inspired by the myths of Ancient Greece
• Fight land and sea battles inspired by the military campaigns of antiquity
• Unravel a divine conspiracy that spans two realms, complete with shocking twists
• Use the power of Inspiration to endow your companions with unearthly prowess, or wield Rapture to stun your enemies with bliss
• Move the hearts of your foes with your sincerity, or harness the power of deception to spin a lie that suits your fancy
• Play the game in standalone mode, or import your skills and backstory from “Champion of the Gods” to unlock new storylines–and a terrifying bonus power
• Confront golems, fire-wielding mystics, and the armies of the dead
• Receive a horoscope for your character, based on their virtues and humors

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

Jul 11

2019

Author Interview: Jonathan Valuckas, “Exile of the Gods”

Posted by: Mary Duffy | Comments (0)

 

In the great war between the gods, will you wield the chains of destiny, or shatter them forever? Our story begins twenty years after the action of the first game, 2015’s Champion of the Gods. Which ending did you get? Start Exile of the Gods as the Champion, a warrior born to serve the gods, and follow the holy destiny the Weavers have crafted for you. Or start as the Exile, enemy of the gods, and forge a new life for yourself in the faraway land of Khovros–where mortals are free to choose their own fates. Exile of the Gods is a 460,000 word interactive epic fantasy novel by Jonathan Valuckas. I sat down with Jonathan to talk about his latest game and how it feels returning to this world after four years. Exile of the Gods releases today, Thursday, July 11.

Champion of the Gods is one of our most popular Choice of Games titles, and it has a special resonance for me. It was the first game I worked on, my first week at Choice of Games, which was its release week. And that was four years ago almost to the day! Tell me about Exile of the Gods. What was the biggest challenge in continuing the story?

First and foremost, happy anniversary! I love that Champion was your inaugural title. I was in the midst of a big job-related move while I wrote it, so it’s also cool to see I am not the only person who associates this game with a “new office.”

Another fun fact about Champion (and I promise, I am segueing to the question!) is that it used to end with your character’s funeral. The idea was, we were going to make your character a god in the second game, and depending on how well you’d done in Champion, you would either become a deity or not. That was how you’d know if you “won.”

But this knowledge that you weren’t going to make it out of the game alive gave me free rein to twist the action of the penultimate chapter in all kinds of weird directions, so I started letting wildly different things happen during playtesting. Want to have your family at your wedding? Sure you do! Want to run off with your fighting companion? Why not! Want to get exiled yourself? But of course! It didn’t matter that I was complicating things, because your character was just going to die anyway, and then we’d make the sequel about something entirely new and different. Done and done!

Needless to say, that is not how things worked out. The more complex the endings got, the more the funeral started to feel like a cop-out. In fact, a lot of these new endings just didn’t feel like endings anymore; they felt like the beginnings of new stories. So we cut the funeral at the last minute, and wound up with all these endings that shot off all over the place–which was great for people finishing the first game, and not so great for the poor schlump who had to write the sequel!

At least I can say that I have only myself to blame.

What did you most enjoy about the writing process the second time around?

For one reason or another, most of this game was written on the go: much of it at shopping malls in New Jersey, and the rest of it on trains, at train stations, at various casinos (I have family in Las Vegas), and at our nation’s many Paneras (my wordcount can be measured in cinnamon crunch bagels).

Writing this way made the game feel like a travelogue where I wasn’t allowed to explicitly mention any of the places I was going, but it also translated into a really fun writing experience–one that’s made revising the game like opening a scrapbook. I’ll scroll through the code and be like: “Aww, remember the time we were at the Starbucks between the Venetian and the Palazzo, and we wrote the part where the player confronts the archivist in the Hall of Law? Good times, good times.”

Which NPC in Exile do you like spending the most time with, as a writer?

Cephiel, hands down. Please don’t @ me here, I realize she’s done questionable things! But in the second game, especially in the pathways for continuing players, I feel like we start to see this other side of her. She tries to atone, in her way, for the mistakes she has made. And even if she isn’t successful, I feel like she’s the one god out of all of them that you could have a good conversation with. In fact, I may not actually be speaking as a writer here, because I would 100% go to lunch with Cephiel in real life.

Is this story over for now, or is there a third game there?

I have the sinking suspicion there will be a third game! I have only the vaguest idea what it would be about at this point, but there is a lot of potential there. And speaking logistically, about as many open-ended plot points show up at the end of Exile as we resolved at the beginning, so it’s conceivable I could write a third volume that will not take twice as long to write as this one did. (Nobody quote me on this, please!)

What else are you working on?

I have a novel that’s due for a fourth draft before anyone should be subjected to it, so I will be digging into that. It has pretty dense world-building in it, despite technically taking place in this one.

I’m also going to start doing stand-up! I have been talking about doing stand-up incessantly for years, but saying it would have to wait until the game was out, so now that the game is out I’m officially trapped. I get a weird level of satisfaction from public humiliation, so it should be fine.

And finally, I’m going to watch non-documentary movies! I have this oddball allergy to watching new fiction whenever I’m working on fiction. I can leave Investigation Discovery and HGTV on all day, I can even watch fictional movies I’ve seen before, I just can’t watch anything new. So before I hit the novel, there is this window where I have to try to cram in the last six years of film, while resisting the urge to watch “Profondo Rosso” over and over again instead.

Jul 10

2019

Android Omnibus for Hosted Games now available

Posted by: Dan Fabulich | Comments (0)

There’s a new app from Hosted Games available on the Google Play Store called Hosted Games. It’s an “omnibus app,” just like the iOS omnibus we’ve had for more than a year now, but now it works on Android.

If you have an Android phone that supports the Google Play Store, please give it a try!

What’s next:

  • We’ve submitted the “Hosted Games” app to Amazon to review; we expect the HG omnibus to be available on the Amazon Appstore for Android in a few days.
  • Soon, we’ll also release a “Choice of Games” omnibus app for the Google Play Store. We’re going to let the HG omnibus sit for a week or so, then release the Choice of Games omnibus when we’re pretty sure we’ve fixed major bugs.

No doubt you have a lot of questions, so we’ve written up an Omnibus FAQ. It answers these questions in more detail:

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