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Dec 26

2019

An Odyssey: Echoes of War–Fight Poseidon’s wrath to reclaim the throne!

Posted by: Mary Duffy | Comments (0)

We’re proud to announce that An Odyssey: Echoes of War, 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 33% off until January 2nd!

Fight the sea god’s wrath to reclaim your throne, and free yourself from the ghosts of war. Will you live forever as a hero, a sovereign, or as a god?

An Odyssey: Echoes of War is an interactive retelling of Homer’s The Odyssey by Natalia Theodoridou, where your choices control the story. It’s entirely text-based—250,000 words, without graphics or sound effects—and fueled by the vast, unstoppable power of your imagination.

The war is over—Troy has fallen. After ten long years, you, the crown sovereign of Ithaca, have set your sails for home. But Poseidon, god of the sea, has cursed your journey, and now, many trials stand between you and the loving embrace of your spouse and son: Polyphemus the Cyclops, Scylla and Charybdis, the Sirens, the Land of the Lotus-Eaters…you and your companions will even journey to the land of the dead.

And what about the memories that haunt you: the ghosts of those that you slew on the fields of battle? Do you even want to return to your spouse and the burdens of rulership? What if you find love or peace somewhere along the way? Not all homes look the same. And what songs will the poets sing of you—will they hail you as a hero?…Or a murderer?

• Play as a female, male, or non-binary, cis or trans; gay, straight, bi, aro and/or ace; monogamous or polyamorous.
• Lead your crew across the wine-dark sea, home to Ithaca—or fall prey to the many temptations along the way.
• Make your way as a leader, a fighter, or rely on your notorious silver tongue as the protean hero of “The Odyssey.”
• Build your reputation and make sure you are remembered as a hero–or redefine the meaning of heroism itself.
• Prove yourself to the gods and claim your place in the pantheon as a god yourself.
• Face your personal demons and the actual monsters of ancient Greece: the Cyclops, the Sirens, Scylla and Charybdis, and the Hydra!
• Return to the loving embrace of your spouse and son who wait for you in Ithaca, or make a new home for yourself along the way.
• Travel to the underworld—but make sure you can pay the ferryman, and tame the three-headed Cerberus!

They say you can’t go home again…

We hope you enjoy playing An Odyssey: Echoes of War. 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 23

2019

Author Interview: Natalia Theodoridou, An Odyssey: Echoes of War

Posted by: Mary Duffy | Comments (0)


Fight the sea god’s wrath to reclaim your throne, and free yourself from the ghosts of war. Will you live forever as a hero, a sovereign, or as a god?

An Odyssey: Echoes of War is a 250,000-word interactive retelling of Homer’s Odyssey by Natalia Theodoridou, author of the Nebula nominated Choice of Games’ title Rent-a-Vice

The war is over—Troy has fallen. After ten long years, you, the crown sovereign of Ithaca, have set your sails for home. But Poseidon, god of the sea, has cursed your journey, and now, many trials stand between you and the loving embrace of your spouse and son: Polyphemus the Cyclops, Scylla and Charybdis, the Sirens, the Land of the Lotus-Eaters…you and your companions will even journey to the land of the dead.

An Odyssey: Echoes of War releases this Thursday, Dec 26th. You can play the first three chapters for free, today, at the link.


This game is a huge departure from the setting of Rent-a-Vice, which is possibly one of the grittiest and also most moving games we’ve ever seen. An Odyssey: Echoes of War is also gritty and moving, in very different ways. What inspired you to retell The Odyssey?

It was the idea of retelling that felt pertinent to me. In a sense, The Odyssey itself is a retelling. This is an oversimplification, but you can say that it is a written retelling of oral retellings of something that happened, long ago. All of that is a form of remembering. Meter, rhymes and rhythms are mnemonic devices, and, in the end, that is one of the functions of poetry. For me, poetry as technology is not so far removed from the technology that allowed people to share individual experiences, memories, and a sense of selfhood in Rent-a-Vice.

I am at a point in my life where I am continuously and palpably made aware of the importance of the tellings and retellings of stories–stories of nations, of races, of genders: our stories are being told and retold, and what stories we are told about ourselves or are made to tell about ourselves shape our histories, our bodies, our politics, our material conditions, our memories. The world is story, told and retold. Every telling of the story preserves and at the same time erases a bit of the original, because the memory of the storything is replaced by the memory of its retelling, to the point that, in the end, the story exists only in its retellings, for there is no one “thing” to be retold. This is cyclical, of course: you have to presuppose an original in order to recognize something as its version. So one is better off focusing on specific practices of retelling and their particular contexts. Translations, too, are retellings. So is the “original” text of The Odyssey–a version that we have decided to revere and uphold as the original, even though it is, in fact, an assemblage, an articulated and curated collage of fragments. The Odyssey itself is only “an” odyssey. I find that vital to remember on a personal level as I move through the world right now.

I think what I found most surprising about this game is that it’s both…action-packed and poignant. Which I suppose is true of the original, but for me Homer is always sort of steeped in this elegiac tone that makes it hard for me, the reader, to feel in the moment or on the edge of my seat. Tell me a bit about the departures you’ve taken in this game–because it certainly on some level is The Odyssey, but it’s also quite different. 

I enjoyed working with The Odyssey as a blueprint, but the game is in many ways a pastiche full of–fun, I hope!–anachronisms and intertextual references. There are echoes of Greek tragedy, other mythological cycles, and, of course, their reception in modern literature, art, and theatre. Everything and everyone in this game is supposed to be seen as an aspect of or variation on their counterpart in the “original”–however, it’s not a prerequisite to be an expert or even remotely familiar with the original to enjoy the game. I think of each playthrough as The Odyssey from an alternate universe.

One of the things I really regret about the production side of publishing An Odyssey: Echoes of War is that your original title, “Wanderer’s Song,” had to go in favor of a title which conveys more clearly to our audiences what the game is about. I love the title “Wanderer’s Song,” though, and I wanted to hear from you about how you think it captures the nature of Odysseus’ story. 

Carrying on from the previous question, what I had in mind for this game was to use The Odyssey as a theme, or even a motif, on which to elaborate and variate. I wanted to play with the idea of song and music on multiple levels. The Odyssey is, literally, the song of the wandering Odysseus as told to the poet by the Muse. In the game, you have the poet narrating everything that happens in the form of a song that in the end becomes the story of your adventure. But this song is already a retelling of the truth; how well it corresponds to the “original” is always a question of circumstances, contexts, and the agendas of the people doing the singing.

As you know, I studied Ancient Greek and classics in college, so An Odyssey holds a very special place in my heart. Have you spent time with the original text? Are there modern English translations you enjoy?

Modern Greek translations of the Homeric epics are part of the curriculum in Greek secondary education, and I have spent some time with the original text during my undergraduate theatre studies. What I really enjoy is approaching translations as retellings and interpretations and poking them in order to find out what they can reveal about the cultural, historical, and ideological contexts of their creators.

The one modern English translation I adore is Emily Wilson’s. It is often characterized as radical, when it is, in fact, much more faithful to the original than ones that came before it. For instance, not calling the slave girls that Telemachus murders “sluts” and “whores” is not a radical departure from the original, but a radical departure from the misogyny of translations that had denied these girls their humanity.

I could probably spend some hours talking with you just on the nature of Odysseus’ character. We have a lot of interesting Greek words to describe him: polytropos, metis. I’m fond of Emily Wilson’s interpretation of polytropos: “a complicated man.” 

Also a bit of an asshole, if we’re being honest. I appreciate Emily Wilson’s take on polytropos. I think it also speaks to our current cultural moment: the Western literary canon has made allowances for problematic men without necessarily delving into or even naming the things that made them complicated. This interpretation lays it all bare, while preserving the ambiguity and layers of meaning and motivation of the original. I love it.

But to go back to my abandoned title, there is another aspect of polytropos that speaks to me. Tropos in Greek musical terminology refers to a song’s mode, modality, and mood–that which makes music cohere and feel complete. Odysseus is a complicated song.

But of course one of the best things about this game is that we have an incredible supporting cast of characters, gods, monsters. Did you have a favorite NPC?

I am very fond of all my NPCs–spunky Polyxena, broody Ajax, foolish but golden-hearted Eurylochus, disenfranchised Charon, and, of course, the goat, to name a few–but I think my favorite has to be Circe. She has her own history that she refuses to fully share with anyone; it is up to the reader to fill in the blanks through acts of intertextual retelling and cultural leaps of faith. And, most of all, she is not there to be owned, and her story cannot be controlled. Some players will be disappointed that Circe is not a possible romantic interest. I could have easily built that into the story; after all, our understandings of Circe are often bound up with her sexuality, her romantic neediness, her womanhood which is intertwined with and inextricable from her sorcery and her powers of seduction. But this Odyssey is about alternatives to and queerings of the canon; it is about the stories not told yet, the lives not lived. So this Circe has moved on: from her island, from men, from pigs, from romance.

And what are you working on next?

I have long considered myself primarily a short story writer, but it seems that the epicness of this game has rubbed off on me a little bit and I’m finding myself writing longer and longer. At the moment, I feel the need to revisit some of the worlds and characters of my short stories and continue exploring. In particular, I am working on a novel set in the world of “Poems Written While,” a short story published in Uncanny Magazine earlier this year. It is a tale of poetry and stars, and of how storytelling is remembering, and how remembering is storytelling, so not too much of a departure from An Odyssey, in certain ways…

Dec 19

2019

The Magician’s Workshop–Uncover magical secrets of the Renaissance!

Posted by: Mary Duffy | Comments (0)

We’re proud to announce that The Magician’s Workshop, 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 25% off until Dec 26th!

When your master is murdered, you must uncover the magical secrets of Renaissance Italy, before your rival apprentices expose them first!

The Magician’s Workshop is a 190,000-word interactive historical fantasy novel by Kate Heartfield, where your choices control the story. It’s entirely text-based—without graphics or sound effects—and fueled by the vast, unstoppable power of your imagination.

In 1512, Florence is known for ruthless politics, art, and magic. Now that the infamous Medici banking family is back in power, the city is full of dangerous secrets. What would the treacherous Machiavelli do in a situation like this? Just ask him in person!

When your master’s body washes up in the Arno river, you must take over his Maria Novella workshop—the designs, the paintings, the marvelous machines and inventions, and most importantly, his book of spells, written in various ciphers and magical invisible inks. You have inherited a roster of dangerous clients who are losing patience, and two rival apprentices who could prove allies or even lovers, if they don’t turn on you to wrest the workshop from your hands.

Can you use your skills in the arts or sciences to gain allies and buy time? Are you quick enough with a blade to keep yourself safe in the streets? Are you clever enough to decode the master’s instructions to build a terrible new machine, and are you ruthless enough to sell it to the highest bidder? Or will you work together with your fellow apprentices to build the machine in secret and use it to bring stability to the city, and to all of Italy?

• Play as male, female, or non-binary; gay, straight, bi, asexual, or poly.
• Use alchemy, animation and soothsaying to create magical entertainments, win street fights and impress your clients
• Design and build a flying machine, an unbreakable vault, a wall-breaking weapon, an enchanted pen and ink for a philosopher, or a refillable gold purse for bribes
• Uncover the secrets of Florence and rise to power in your own workshop, leading your own team of magicians and artists
• Meet famous historical figures such as Niccolo Machiavelli and the future Pope Leo X
• Paint a fresco in the public square, escape your enemies in a boat chase on the Arno River, or just play cards and talk politics in the taverns of Florence

The master made dark sacrifices to learn what he knew. Are you prepared to do the same?

We hope you enjoy playing The Magician’s Workshop. 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 16

2019

Author Interview: Kate Heartfield, The Magician’s Workshop

Posted by: Mary Duffy | Comments (0)

In 1512, Florence is known for ruthless politics, art, and magic. Now that the infamous Medici banking family is back in power, the city is full of dangerous secrets. What would the treacherous Machiavelli do in a situation like this? Just ask him in person! The Magician’s Workshop is a 190,000 word interactive novel by Kate Heartfield. I sat down with Kate to talk about her second game and the pleasures of blending history and magic.

The Magician’s Workshop releases this Thursday, December 19th.

This is your second game in ChoiceScript, your first being the Nebula-nominated The Road to Canterbury. Tell me how the second time around differed from the first.

The fantastical elements are much more front-and-center in The Magician’s Workshop, so in this game I spent a lot of time thinking about how I wanted players to be able to use magic. It was nice to write a game without having to go through as much of a learning curve in ChoiceScript. I was a little bit looser in my scene-by-scene planning as I went, this time, probably because I had more confidence. That looseness got me into some tangles and gave me quite a few headaches in the drafting process, but it also gave me some space to play and go in fun directions.

These are two games with very different settings! We’ve moved forward in time a couple hundred years. What drew you to write about Renaissance Florence?

I seem to be drawn to moments of political and cultural change. In The Road to Canterbury, that was the Hundred Years War and the class upheavals that followed the Black Death. The Magician’s Workshop is set in a city that went through a series of dramatic changes in leadership while the alliances of Europe shifted around it. Within a generation it had gone through a period of religious fervor under Savonarola and a period of something very close to what we’d call democracy today. In 1512, the Medici family returned to Florence after years of exile, put the political strategist Machiavelli under house arrest and invited the city to celebrate. That moment seemed like an interesting one to explore. This was a city of artists, inventors and philosophers challenging the assumptions of their parents and grandparents and asking questions about the nature of power. What if they had also had the ability to work literal magic?

What were some of the challenges of writing a world with magic in addition to actual figures like Machiavelli?

Even though this is a Florence in a world not quite like our own, I still stuck to the basic facts of history. Every historical figure who appears in the game either was in Florence at that time, or might have been. Machiavelli’s house with its tunnel to the local bar is a real place. Trying to keep history more or less the same helped to give me some boundaries: magic can open up new possibilities, but like all forms of power, it can be slippery and it comes at a cost.

Did you have a favorite NPC you enjoyed spending time with?

So many! The historical figures were lots of fun, especially the sisters-in-law Alfonsina Orsini and Lucrezia de’ Medici, who were extremely powerful women with opposite views on how to wield that power. There’s a mysterious thief of my invention named Dangereuse Clement with whom I’d love to have a drink. But ultimately, I kept coming back to the player’s relationship with the two other top-level artisans in the workshop: invented characters named Piero del Volpe and Fiametta Mazzei. Their views of the world, of the workshop, of magic and of art are so different. The dynamic between the player and those two characters really shapes the game.

What else are you working on?

Surprise surprise, I’m deep into another transitional period in European history. I’m working on a big historical fantasy novel called The Embroidered Book, starring Marie Antoinette and her sister Maria Carolina as rival magicians. The book is due to my publisher soon, and will be published in summer 2021.

Dec 12

2019

In the Service of Mrs. Claus–Save Xmas as her top secret elven agent!

Posted by: Mary Duffy | Comments (0)

We’re proud to announce that In the Service of Mrs. Claus, 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 25% off until December 19!

Let me tell you the true secret of Christmas: Santa Claus died centuries ago. You see, in ancient times, as the Gods began to die, Santa Claus married a goddess. She was worshiped as Bast in Egypt, as Artemis in Greece, Diana in Rome. She’s been called a witch, a hero, an assassin. You call her Mrs. Claus.

In the Service of Mrs. Claus is a 167,000-word interactive fantasy thriller by Brian Rushton, where your choices control the story. It’s entirely text-based—without graphics or sound effects—and fueled by the vast, unstoppable power of your imagination.

When Santa died, Mrs. Claus invested the power of Christmas in Santa’s Heart, which she buried with Santa in a top-security tomb beneath Claus Castle. But now, someone has stolen the Heart. As Mrs. Claus’ top secret agent–her most trusted elf–you must go undercover to recover the Heart and take back Christmas from the forces of darkness.

As you unveil the dark secrets of the Fae, you’ll magic up giant marshmallows and deadly candy canes, romance sweet friends and roguish villains, and vie with the mysterious Krinkle Corporation to save Christmas from ruin. But in the final battles you must decide whether to blast the armies of darkness with your winter elf magic, or join them and betray your mistress.

• Play as a shape-shifting elf who flows between gender, species, and form at will.
• Clash with cults, gods, and giant corporations as they strive to overthrow Mrs. Claus’s empire.
• Use magic to complete clandestine missions as Mrs. Claus’s secret agent.
• Visit earthly children to determine their naughty or nice designations…and presents, if any.
• Decide the fate of Christmas and the Fae world itself.
• Discover the truth about Santa’s death.
• Play nice with your enemies or put them on your naughty list.
• Restore Mrs. Claus to power, betray her, or marry her.

Christmas is coming. You’d better watch out.

We hope you enjoy playing In the Service of Mrs. Claus. 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 09

2019

Author Interview: Brian Rushton, In the Service of Mrs. Claus

Posted by: Mary Duffy | Comments (0)

Let me tell you the true secret of Christmas: Santa Claus died centuries ago. You see, in ancient times, as the Gods began to die, Santa Claus married a goddess. She was worshiped as Bast in Egypt, as Artemis in Greece, Diana in Rome. She’s been called a witch, a hero, an assassin. You call her Mrs. Claus.

In the Service of Mrs. Claus is a 167,000-word interactive fantasy thriller by Brian Rushton. I sat down with Brian to talk about Christmas and our first holiday-themed game. In the Service of Mrs. Claus releases Thursday, December 12th.

In the Service of Mrs. Claus is a highly specific imagining of the world of Christmas spirits/elves/etc. Tell me where that came from.

I’ve always loved elves and faeries, from the stories of the Brothers Grimm and Irish legends to cheesy Christmas cartoons and the Lord of the Rings. I wanted to make a world where all these types of elves and Fae could exist together. These were all thought of by humans, so why not have a world fueled by mortal imagination? And that led to a much larger world than I had originally planned, a world where Claus Castle had to share space with creatures like mythological gods, the Tooth Fairy and Bloody Mary. Looking back, I think that the book The Neverending Story was a big influence on this world, because it also has that ‘big tent’ view where all mythological creatures belong together, influenced by human wishes and dreams.

This is one of the few Choice of Games titles where the PC is non-human, and also not a super-human. Do you think that presents challenges for the player, or does it function much the same way in crafting a PC?

I definitely think there are some challenges! One difference in being an elf instead of a human is that you have no set shape. Elves can change size, gender, and species at will. So the only thing that sticks around with your character is the personality, powers, and friendships.

Some players might feel frustrated that they can’t tailor a character with specific eye color or fixed gender. On the other hand, it can feel freeing not to be tied down to any one body. One of the main skills in the game is Shifting, the power to transform yourself. Several players have mentioned how much fun it can be to turn into a pixie for cooking or a dragon for fighting. So there are definitely some advantages in having a non-human protagonist.

Do you have a favorite part or favorite personal tradition as part of the holiday season?

I think spending time together with family is my favorite. Growing up, we used to have big family parties every Christmas Eve. Most of my cousins could play an instrument, so we’d put together a big band and play Christmas carols together. We had four violins, a flute, piano, a tuba, a clarinet, a few guitars, and I’d play saxophone. Sometimes my grandfather would play washtub bass. We had little green booklets that had the carols arranged for our own instruments, and everyone who wasn’t playing would sing.

Later that night, our parents would let us pick one present to open early. My mom usually tried to get us to pick the fluffy packages that were obviously pajamas. But one year I ended up with a coat (which I wore to bed just to get some use out of it) and another year I opened up an SNES game without the SNES (I ended up reading the manual all night).

My grandfather was the head of all these things, and he passed away this year. So in a way I’d hope that this game could help honor his memory.

This is certainly the only holiday-themed game we’ve published, but tell me why this game would be fun at any time of year.

In the Service of Mrs. Claus is a Christmas game the same way that Die Hard and The Nightmare Before Christmas are Christmas movies. Christmas provides the background and the motivation, but most of the story is not about Christmas itself.

Instead, it’s about questioning your identity in the face of extreme trials. The PC has their core beliefs challenged, gets hunted by extra-dimensional beings, and ends up betrayed by former friends. One beta tester described the theme as “Christmas horror” and I think that’s pretty accurate!

This is not your first IF rodeo, though I believe it is your first ChoiceScript game. Tell our readers about some of your other projects.

My longest game before this was a parser-based game called Color the Truth. It’s a murder mystery set in a 1980’s radio station where their star radio host has been found dead. You have to interview the suspects by playing through their memories, but everyone is lying. If you catch them in a lie by combining clues, you can replay again and see what really happened.

I also partnered with IF author and pixel artist Marco Innocenti to make an illustrated parser game called Swigian, which is a retelling of Beowulf. In contrast to my other games, it’s completely minimalistic, with as little words as possible. I love the way Marco’s art turned out for it!

And what are you working on next?

For the last few years, I’ve been offering a prize in the Interactive Fiction Competition where I make a small game set in the same world as the winner’s game. Right now I’m working on a sequel to last year’s winner, Alias the Magpie, a British crime caper. My game is set on a train, where you have to overcome suspicious servants and a talkative parrot to rob an American oil magnate.

I’m also running (with permission) a tribute competition for the 20th anniversary of Emily Short’s game Galatea, which is still one of the best conversational games out there. It’ll be running next year from March 24th to April 2nd, and it’s a chance for people to have some fun and make something that celebrates Galatea and Short’s other work. Choicescript games are welcome!

Dec 02

2019

Heart’s Choice is here!

Posted by: Mary Duffy | Comments (4)

We’re proud to announce the release of the first four Heart’s Choice games in a new omnibus app on Google Play, Apple’s App Store, and the Amazon Android Marketplace; and as individual games on Steam. Right now you can:

Since 2009, the team behind Choice of Games has created high-quality interactive novels in all genres. Now, our new Heart’s Choice label puts romance at the center of the story, and you at the center of the romance. Heart’s Choice games contain no graphics or sound effects, so we can focus on the story. Every game is filled with vivid, fully-developed characters and complex narratives that respond to your choices.

How will you find your happily ever after?

Nov 30

2019

Heart’s Choice Author Interview: David Monster & Jim Dattilo, All World Pro Wrestling

Posted by: Mary Duffy | Comments (1)

You’re a trainee in the male Erotic Professional Wrestling Federation… and you’re reader to take on all comers. Training includes sparring, matches in the ring against the other trainees, tag team competitions, a battle royal, antics in the showers and locker room, and even ringside seats at the Championship Match.

All World Pro Wrestling is a 310,000-word interactive erotic gay novel by David Monster and Jim Dattilo, one of the first set of games releasing with the launch of Heart’s Choice. I sat down with the authors to talk about writing interactive romance. Heart’s Choice games release December 2nd.

All World Pro Wrestling is part of the first launch of Heart’s Choice games and it’s the first gender and sexuality locked game we’re releasing for gay men. Jim you’ve written non-genderlocked games as well. Can you talk a little about the difference?

JIM:
Writing a gender and sexuality locked game certainly has some advantages. The most obvious first advantage is that we don’t have to code gender pronouns, which saves time in coding and editing.

The next major advantage is in creating the characters. As a writer of choice games you want to give players lots of options. As a writer of fiction you want to give the reader highly specific characters. So in a game like Zombie Exodus, I need to have a huge variety of characters which are all open to various sexualities. Hopefully every player can find someone they are interested in or identify with. It is a phenomenal amount of work. However in All World Pro Wrestling, we can focus on a smaller set of characters, making them highly detailed.

Wrestling is also having a little cultural moment right now, it seems. What informed your decision to write wrestling fetish interactive fiction?

DAVID:
There’s currently a great climate in independent pro wrestling. They seem to be embracing diversity, especially LGBT, in a way that major federations are not. The independents are a lot more entertaining because they have a great sense of humor, especially guys like Joey Ryan, RJ Skinner, Brian Cage, The Golden Lovers, and Jervis Cottonbelly. It’s a lot more appealing to me, because through the humor, they are acknowledging the homoerotic aspect of the sport in a way that’s exciting, amusing, and not derogatory.

After I published my first book, Service, people contacted me to tell me they loved it but wanted more sex and erotica. So, I wrote a gay erotic pro wrestling novel. It’s such a natural, because beyond being a sport, pro wrestling is really a fetish, and along with the homoeroticism, there’s a brotherhood that naturally lends itself to man-on-man romance.

JIM:
I have a lot of gay male fans through my other writing and they provide some of the best feedback on romance. There are so few choice games or forms of interactive fiction focused on LGBT characters that players are more willing to voice their support and criticism. As game designers we need both forms of feedback.

When David and I decided to collaborate, we thought to convert his gay male erotica novel into a choice driven story. His novel already had a rich setting, plot, and set of characters. This is why we wanted to pitch it.

Are you fans of regular wrestling?

DAVID:
Yes, I watch all different kinds of wrestling, mainly on YouTube. I like vintage pro wrestling, like AWA and GWF from the 50s to the 80s. When it comes to current wrestling, I’m a big fan of the independents. They’ve evolved as much more entertaining than WWE, currently the largest federation. I can’t watch WWE anymore. I’ll tune in every ten years or so, and it’s always the same storylines, same choreography. The guys are great-looking, but I need more than that.

I’m also a fan of Collegiate Wrestling. I wish I would have trained in amateur wrestling and grappling. All the great MMA fighters say it’s a necessary foundation for their sport.

JIM:
As a kid I was a big fan of wrestling, back in the early days of Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage. I stopped watching at the time the WWF became the WWE, because as David said, the storylines became recycled. I don’t fault anyone for enjoying it now. Sometimes I’ll see a commercial for a large event and it will pique my interest.

This game is full of different romanceable characters. Tell me about some of them and which ones you enjoyed writing most.

DAVID:
To tell you the truth, I love them all. They all have different attributes that make them special. Rory is an extremely cute blond boy. He’s sweet and kind, but he has the heart of a fighter. He always wants to win but wants all his friends to win, too. Bravon’s a real man, the best athlete in the facility, and a good friend to have. He’s a handsome muscle stud with the most extreme abs. Mandrew’s a cute jock boy and the class clown. He’s funny and always a good time, although he’s straight (or at least he says he is). Marcos is a big, hairy bear, and a total pushover. If you’re a power top, he’s your guy. He’s truly up for almost anything.

Finally there’s Stan. He’s a short little mountain of muscles, and, by far, the toughest guy in the training facility. He’s built is solidly as a wall of concrete which also represents the walls he built around himself to hide his vulnerabilities. He’s a loyal warrior, who is devoted to training but always searching for love.

Beyond these characters, you can have flings with lots of other characters.

Could you talk a little about your collaborative writing process?

DAVID:
It was a learning process for me. I’ve never written a multiple choice game before, and Jim had already done three. He was my teacher and mentor, and taught me things about making a game you can’t learn from a tutorial. Jim’s guidance made me a much better writer.

JIM:
David was the primary writer while I was the developer and coder. After writing a very extensive outline based on his book, we went through several rounds of drafts and edits until we came up with the shell of the game. David would write a chapter in a form of pseudocode, and I would take that document and convert it to ChoiceScript. Along the way we would talk about adding new content and deleting certain parts that weren’t working. David was always willing to do rewrites or punch up some text if needed. Since this was really his subject matter, I had to lean on him for the majority of the content. And he never made me feel like I was working for him. We were always collaborative and equal.

And what’s next for you guys? 

DAVID:
I released the book this game is based on, called Rowdy Armstrong 2 – Pro Wrestling Rookie. It’s available on Amazon, and you can check out the website for pics of all the characters in the book: RowdyArmstrong.com

I hope Jim and I can work on the sequel to this game, very soon. He’s so busy with Zombie Exodus. His fans are constantly demanding more of that story, because he has created a really cool world there.

I have another game, with accompanying book, I hope Choice of Games or Heart’s Choice will host. It’s a non-genderlocked fantasy story that will not involve wrestling.

I have a podcast, called Unimaginary Friendcast, and will continue to talk about this game on it. We have interviewed Jim twice, so search for that. It’s worth a listen, for sure.

Here’s my webpage, if you want to know more: DavidMonster.com

JIM:
I’m continuing to work on Zombie Exodus: Safe Haven, Part 3 primarily. I’m also currently working on a new title for Choice of Games. It’s a secret project, and I hope to share some details on this game early next year.

Nov 29

2019

Heart’s Choice Author Interview: RoAnna Sylver, Dawnfall

Posted by: Mary Duffy | Comments (2)

Find true love and family with a pirate crew at the ends of the universe, where aliens, ghosts, and portals open the space between worlds…and your heart. You are a Navigator, one who creates and guards portals from one dimension to another, wary of the liminal sea between them.

Your universe is made of two worlds: one contains the magic-infused world of Zephyria, and the other, the dystopian space station Eclipse. The worlds are balanced, until one day, an explosive disaster, a deadly energy storm, and an infamous pirate—the Ghost Queen—upend your life and plunge you into a race to save both worlds.

Dawnfall is a 232,000 word interactive romance novel by RoAnna Sylver,  one of the first set of games releasing with the launch of Heart’s Choice. I sat down with the author, RoAnna Sylver, to talk about writing interactive romance. Heart’s Choice games release December 2nd.

Dawnfall has frankly an insanely wonderful setting for a romance game. Tell me about the aliens, the pirates, the ghosts, and the alien-pirate-ghosts. 

Hi there! I’m so glad you think this sounds fun! Yeah, Dawnfall is weird as heck, and that’s one of the things I love about this story. It’s weird in a way I don’t think we’ve seen much of before. I really just tried to put in everything I find fun or interesting, and that I’ve always wanted to write. Dawnfall started out as a total brain-candy project, and runs on pure Rule of Cool. Pirates? Yes. Magic? Yes. A slice of cyberpunk? Hell yes. Eerie ghosts and faerie-tale influences and memory-sharing potions? Giant bird people? The power of rock n’roll? Yes, yes, yes.

And also everybody’s dateable, and in a couple cases, dating each other. We weave a tangled web, but I think it’s a pretty badass and spectacular web.

You seem to really neatly straddle the genre fence here with a romance and sci-fi/fantasy. What was challenging about cramming all of that into one game?

Thank you so much for saying that. I’ve always adored SFF, and there’s so much in this genre-collection, so many extremes and concepts and contrasting colors, that I couldn’t limit myself to picking just one to play with. This weird game-book is kind of a love letter to fantasy and science fiction and haunted house stories and cyberpunk adventures—I thought a lot about the Disney movie Treasure Planet for its genre-blending beauty, and the Bioware game Mass Effect for its array of fascinating, multidimensional alien cuties to interact with and date… and then turned it up to eleven.

I guess you’d expect the challenge to be in making it all fit together/be “believable,” but I kind of threw that out the window. I don’t expect anyone to find it ‘realistic’ (setting-wise anyway; I tried to make every character ring true of course), and I don’t really care if someone thinks it’s silly, or doesn’t take it seriously. It is silly in a lot of ways. DAWNFALL is a giant ridiculous queer space magic pirate adventure, and the only goal is fun. If you have fun, I’ve done my job, and there should be something fun in here for everyone.

Did you have a favorite NPC you enjoyed writing most? 

Honestly I love them all so much in different ways, and I know them so well by now it’s really second nature. Their voices come so easily and they’re all so much fun. The Queen’s swagger is awesome though, and her mental voice/mannerisms probably come through especially clearly. I love Zenith’s vulnerable moments when xie lets xir guard down and lets go of the need to entertain or please. I love Averis’s journey and growth from cute wibbly nerd to a confident swashbuckler (who is also still a cute wibbly nerd). I love how deeply Oz feels, how strongly he loves and remembers and honors memory, and how unafraid he is to show softness and warmth. And I love a certain spoilery ghost-babe and how they’re so full of joy at the beauty of life.

I do want to give special mention to Aeon, though. This is a story about connection, and I wanted to show that sibling bonds are every bit as important and strong as romantic or any other. I also wanted to show a complex, multidimensional antagonist figure who holds heartbreaking secrets along with authority, and is genuinely trying to do what she thinks is the best thing, and wants what’s best for you, the PC, even if you might not always agree. Her balance between being so emotionally guarded and determined and unyielding, while hopefully being extremely easy to read and tell what she wants and fears and loves—spoiler: you; she loves you!—was a challenge I hope I pull off.

…Also I enjoy any time Vyranix gets his pompous feathered ass handed to him. I think we all know a Vyranix, or at least of one, and it’s always fun to take them down, even in fantasy.

Who would you be romancing as a player?

I’m gonna say “everyone,” and here it won’t actually be cheating, because you can romance everyone! At once! In varying degrees/relationship dynamics and attractions. You don’t see a lot of polyamory-friendly games or books or anything really, and this is an incredibly important thing for me. The second I got the idea for Dawnfall I knew it had to let players romance anyone they wanted and show polyamory in a realistic, healthy light. I’m also a-spec (asexual and aromantic), and having not just good representation but being actively included and welcomed and celebrated in fiction is so huge too.

Dawnfall is a romance of course, being part of Heart’s Choice, but one of the single most vital elements for me is making it inclusive for aromantic and asexual players and player-characters. Essentially, I wanted to write a romance that didn’t penalize players for not experiencing the attractions the way we’re otherwise expected or required—and I’m so grateful that my amazing editors and community not only accepted but supported everything I was trying to do here. (It’s so refreshing not to have to fight for inclusion and freedom. It shouldn’t be, but it is.)

And that’s where the concept of “Heart-Stars” and “Same-Feathers” came from. I’ve never seen anything honor queerplatonic relationships like I’m trying to do here, and I want everyone, of every sexuality and attraction, to feel like they have a place here and can experience this adventure without limits. And I wanted to show that it’s a very normal thing, hence this being the same for the human characters as well as alien. (One of the nonbinary characters being human is also no mistake. I love me some wild alien genders, but there are tons of awesome nonbinary humans too!)

…That being said, I think I gave Averis most of my anxiety-issues, and would really just like to curl up with Oz and watch The Great British Bake-Off. That sounds like a perfect night in my books.

What were some of the things you found surprising about the game-writing process?

Coding was definitely the biggest learning curve. I’d never coded anything before in my life, and it’s such a new skillset to learn, entirely different from any kind of writing I’ve ever done. Sometimes it felt rewriting my brain, which did not at all do this intuitively—and also sometimes like I bit off much more than I could chew (first game ever being not only a huge piece of interactive fiction, but a polyamorous romance with aro and ace possibilities, and so many more variables than expected!), but it’s been worth it. Entirely. If my writing makes anyone feel seen and accepted and invited to have fun as they are, it’s worth every bit of struggle.

Also, oddly, interactive fiction is in some ways easier for me than writing a plain old book! Probably because I love AUs so much, and every choice in a game is like writing a tiny AU of the story, so I get to do the same scenes several different ways. My ADHD-brain finds something about this extremely satisfying, most likely because it somehow feels more like multitasking! Several stories in one, and if I like two ideas, I don’t have to pick just one to write!

Honestly though, I think the most surprising part is just being done, and…that I could do this at all. It was so huge, and took so long, and I learned so much, and every day I’m just kind of going “who the hell am I?” about doing all of this. I’m proud of it. I did a cool thing. And trying to get better at saying that.

And, what are you working on now?

I always have about 8 active projects going at once (which shouldn’t come as a surprise after last question!), but my next interactive fiction game is with Tales/Fable Labs! It’s shaping up to be a Dawnfall-sized project, but a little faster-moving and action-y.

It’s called Every Beat Belongs To You, and it’s a romantic thriller that feels like Twin Peaks meets Mr. Robot, with a smattering of Repo: The Genetic Opera. A creepy Pacific Northwest town with a secret (and a rash of ritualized murders), a super-slick medical research company whose flagship product is a 100% perfect synthetic heart, a mysterious new-age group, and a sister who went missing just before discovering how it’s all connected. Also five simultaneously-dateable (including ace and aro ships!) cuties of varying genders! Who will you trust with your heart?

I’m very excited about Everybeat, which should be just as queer, polyam, exciting, and weird as all my stuff! Aside from that, I’m working on Stake Sauce Book 2, its companion f/f vampire series Death Masquerade, and Chameleon Moon Book 3. I’m not always working…sometimes there are videogames, and sleep. But I really hope to have a lot more fun things to share soon!

Oh, and depending on how this weird, fun thing goes, I do have some ideas for prequel Dawnfall stories; maybe games, maybe books, but the ideas are there. The world—worlds, really—is so huge, and I’m not done playing in it yet! I also have some character art drawn, and I want to do a lot more of them. It’s another way to show love.

So thank you so much! I really hope Dawnfall is as fun to everyone to read/play as it was for me to write. I can’t wait to share it with you!

Nov 27

2019

Crème de la Crème – Climb to the very top of the class!

Posted by: Mary Duffy | Comments (0)

We’re proud to announce that Crème de la Crème, 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 Dec 5!

Climb to the very top of the class at your exclusive private school for socialites! Will you study hard, find a perfect match, or embrace scandal?

Crème de la Crème is a 440,000-word interactive novel by Hannah Powell-Smith, where your choices control the story. It’s entirely text-based, without graphics or sound effects, and fueled by the vast, unstoppable power of your imagination.

Gallatin College is a “finishing school” where young people must learn social graces, surrounded by their high-class peers. When your parents fall into disgrace, the rest of high society rejects them. It’s up to you to enroll at Gallatin, to secure your future and restore the family’s good name.

At Gallatin, you’ll dance with royalty, impress decorated officers, and perfect your etiquette. What will you prioritize: a spotless reputation, a prestigious social network, or a pristine report card–and who will you backstab to achieve it? Your year in this sparkling, brittle world is about to begin. But are you a rake soaked in scandal, or a perfectly proper socialite? Sneaking out of class or polishing your ballroom dancing, either way: the road to high society starts here!

• Play as male, female, or non-binary; gay, straight, or bisexual; monogamous or polyamorous; asexual and/or aromantic.
• Make a match with an aristocrat or royalty, develop a romantic connection with a fellow student, or fall for someone below your social standing.
• Enjoy a no-strings-attached fling, or propose a marriage of convenience with a friend.
• Join a clique – officially sanctioned by the college or decidedly not – and build its strength and standing.
• Distinguish yourself by achieving a place at university or on a competitive internship.
• Sabotage your classmates, or build friendships.
• Repair your family’s reputation, or grind it into the dust.
• Uncover Gallatin College’s dark secrets and reveal them to the world – or keep them under wraps.

Will you be the crème de la crème?

We hope you enjoy playing Crème de la Crème. 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.

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