America's Most Eligible

America's Most Eligible premieres tomorrow! It's got drama, romance, and everything you'd ever want from a reality TV show. For more on our newest Choices book, keep reading for our writer interview:

Give us the scoop! What's America's Most Eligible about? On a scale of 1-10, how much drama will there be?

Megan: America's Most Eligible is your chance to compete in a reality TV show! You'll get to pick your allies and enemies, friends and flames. Will you rise above the competition? On a drama scale of 1-10, AME is an 11.

Sounds like there's plenty of drama in store! Will there be romance?

Megan: Of course! You're competing to prove you're The Most Eligible Date in America, so you're trying to make everyone fall for you... but you just might end up catching feelings yourself!

Kelsie: Have you seen our cast?! There'll be plenty of opportunities for some romance (or something more casual, if you prefer). Gotta practice those flirting skills somehow!

What's something about America's Most Eligible that you're excited for players to encounter?

Megan: We're taking the relationship system pioneered by Endless Summer and putting a reality TV spin on it! The art team has also been hard at work creating some truly breathtaking backgrounds (and super hot characters).

Cat: The interactions between contestants have been super fun to write. I think players are gonna love seeing who flirts and who feuds. You can also choose to get on other contestants' bad sides, just for the drama of it all.  If you've ever wanted to be a feisty and fabulous villain, now's your chance!

America's Most Eligible, like any good reality TV show, has plenty of twists and turns. What was the most challenging part of writing America's Most Eligible?

Megan: We want the players to feel like they're a part of a real reality TV show, so we've planned plenty of big choices that'll have long-term consequences in the book. But of course, every twist leads to another turn, which can be challenging to pull off!

Do you have a favorite America's Most Eligible contestant?

Cat: Bianca is my main girl... but I might be biased because she's the only character in AME with an official Twitter account! It's so fun to see players interact with her character in the real world. I'm also a sucker for Mackenzie, I have to admit. I love me a tough girl.

Kelsie: I have a lot of love for Mackenzie, Derek and Bianca - they're definitely people I'd hang out with in real life. If you haven't followed Bianca on Twitter (@StyleMeBianca), you're missing out!

(Speaking of Twitter, @StyleMeBianca is not our only foray into character-themed Twitters! If you're a fan of Red Carpet Diaries, check out our @ProfessorHunt account started during our 2015 Hollywood U days... And be sure to follow @StyleMeBianca for Bianca's take on all the reality TV drama!)

Do you have any personal favorite reality TV shows? Got any recs?

Megan: American Idol will always have a special spot in my heart because I used to watch it with my grandma.

Kelsie: Flavor of Love, aka the Citizen Kane of reality TV. New York and Hottie are the greatest icons of our time, tbh. Honorable mention: The Great British Baking Show.

Cat: I'm obsessed with Terrace House, a Japanese reality show that airs on Netflix. I'm actually shocked by how personally invested I become in each of the casts.

Any advice for players about to play the game of love on America's Most Eligible?

Cat: Play this game the way you wanna play it, not how you think you should. You'll be surprised by how much your choices affect the story!

Check back tomorrow for America's Most Eligible! And keep a lookout for what's next... Desire & Decorum, the first of our upcoming historical fiction books, launches later this summer, and it's not the only book coming out in the next few months! Plus, It Lives: Book 2 and Perfect Match: Book 2 will return in the fall. Stay tuned!

-Jessica

From High School Story to Choices

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The finale quest of Pixelberry's very first game, High School Story, will come out later today. If you've played this far, consider us both impressed and endlessly grateful. Over the years, our team has released hundreds of quests and over three thousand poll questions -- getting to Level 36 in the game is no small feat.  

Last week, we took a look back at the early days of Pixelberry and High School Story. (If you missed it, you can read it here.) The game launched in August of 2013. A year later, our team launched a game similar in style, but different in setting: Hollywood U. When it was time to decide what would come after HSS and HWU, we took what we'd learned from the two games and combined that with our team's prior experience in interactive fiction to make Choices.

 Several High School Story writers, past and present, celebrating the launch of HSS in Choices!

Several High School Story writers, past and present, celebrating the launch of HSS in Choices!

Creating Choices felt like coming home. Many on our team got their start in mobile narratives games way back in 2004 with Surviving High School, and later with Cause of Death. The team was excited to go back to our roots with Choices. At the same time, HSS (fondly known as HSS Prime around the office) and HWU left their mark on our team...

From Vince, our go-to HSS Prime QA team member: "High School Story was the first game I ever worked on when I started at Pixelberry Studios (and the only game the studio had) back in 2014. It’s been one heck of a ride. Having stayed with HSS for this long, I feel a sense of pride, the kind a parent would feel watching their child grow up, seeing the many milestones HSS has gone through – the Library, the Fantasy Photo Booth, and much more. The past 4 years have been special working on HSS. A part of me will always live and breathe this wonderful game. I’ll continue to blast “First Day” by Laura Shigihara even after the final day has passed. Farewell, High School Story."

Even as this chapter of our Pixelberry story ends, the spirit of High School Story lives on in Choices in more ways than you might think. Two of the new writers that joined our team after Choices launched were also High School Story fans: Rachel and Wendy. Wendy started out writing on The Freshman, while Rachel wrote for HSS Prime. Eventually, Wendy and Rachel, along with Max (the original writer for Surviving High School), brought High School Story to Choices. For a look at HSS Prime in recent years and how it made the leap to Choices, keep reading:

How did you go about bringing HSS Prime to Choices? Were there any particular highlights or challenges?

Wendy: HSS Choices does have its differences from the original app, but it was important to me that we kept the same heart that made me fall in love with the app originally. I hope I’ve succeeded, and I’m so, so grateful for the opportunity to try.

Max: In the original HSS, it was up to the player who they wanted each character to date. For example, Autumn could be dating Julian, or Wes, or the player, or basically anyone in the whole school! When we started HSS within Choices, we had to make some tough calls about who was canonically dating who at the start of the new school year. Ultimately, we tried to do what was best for the story without upsetting existing fans of the series (sorry Mia/Katherine shippers, but we wanted to give Mia a fresh chance at love with Sydney!)

 From Surviving High School... to High School Story... to Choices! 

From Surviving High School... to High School Story... to Choices! 

The ending of HSS Prime is fairly open-ended. After all, aside from the main storyline, you could be anywhere in other quest lines! But, in HSS Choices, the seniors did graduate. Where do you imagine they will go from here?

Max: I have some ideas about this... but I also don't think this is the last we've seen of Autumn, Julian, Wes and the rest of the crew, so I'll hold my tongue for now!

Jessica: None of this is canon, but... I like to think that in college and beyond, the HSS crew gets together whenever they can. They have a group text going. Payton posts cute animal pictures 24/7, and discusses Silly Little Gossips theories with Julian. Autumn texts inspirational quotes every morning, and Kallie sends the Word of the Day. Nishan and Sakura are locked in a never-ending gif war. Ezra drops links to his music, which Katherine thoughtfully critiques. Koh spams everyone with memes. Mia vents about her classmates, and Wes suggests ways to prank them...

For our fan-turned-Pixelberry-writers, how did you end up here at Pixelberry?

Wendy: Well, it all started back in August of 2013. I’d just gotten my first smartphone and I was looking for games for it and stumbled upon a recent release called High School Story. Within ten minutes of playing, I was in love. Three years later, I was poking around Pixelberry’s website for information about their new app, “Choices,” and spotted a little link at the bottom called “Careers.” I figured, hey, I’m looking for a job, might as well try my luck. Three weeks later, I got hired to work on The Freshman and, eventually, High School Story for Choices.

Rachel: Oh boy. My journey to Pixelberry dates all the way back to high school when I first downloaded Surviving High School. I was immediately hooked and downloaded Cause of Death when it launched. When those ended, I learned the team was moving onto a new game: High School Story. I downloaded it on Day 1, and did the same with Hollywood U, always playing every quest as soon as I could. When Choices launched, I happened to be on the job hunt. After playing through the first three books multiple times within a week, I decided to see if Pixelberry was hiring. I applied, and I got the job!

What was it like going from being an HSS fan to a Pixelberry writer?

Wendy: I’m still not sure I’ve totally wrapped my head around it, honestly. HSS Prime was such a personal thing for me when I was a fan. My own little world inside my smartphone. Then, suddenly, I had the chance to expand that world, and share it with others. That’s just… insane.

Rachel: It was a surreal experience going from fan to writing on HSS and HWU. I loved these characters, and now I was getting to write them myself? I loved creating new stories and adventures, or little nuggets of backstory. When I went from HSS Prime to HSS Choices, it was like stepping into a new world. My favorite part was adding little cameos and trivia for the keen HSS Prime fan. Like, did you catch that The Golden Griddle is from the Logan All-Star quest? Or the quote on Ollie the Tiger is from Friendsgiving?

 A few more HSS Prime writers, past and present! 

A few more HSS Prime writers, past and present! 

Do you have a favorite memory from your time writing on HSS Prime? What about a favorite quest that you wrote?

Rachel: The one memory that stands out was the brainstorm for the quest V is for Victory. It was a quest I got to write after a fan with Myasthenia Gravis sent us a letter about what High School Story meant to him. The team decided to dedicate a quest to him to raise awareness for Myasthenia Gravis. The day of the brainstorm, I pulled out all this research I did on MG, and everyone gave me this look, like "Whoa. You did your homework." That quest was the point when I realized that what I was writing was bigger than me. I could bring joy to people, help them cope through some dark days, and maybe bring awareness to something they've never heard of before. Writing that quest was truly a humbling and amazing experience.

Eshani: Working on the final quest arc has been really exciting, because we've been able to wrap up some character arcs from the very beginning of High School Story. In these last quests, we got to see Payton embrace her wide-open future and visit her sister in Paris. Wes finally reunited with his brother. And the whole gang starting to understand Hearst students a little better. I loved writing "The Transfer Student," which features Hearst High student Derek. Derek really grew on me as someone who seems like he might be a bully, but is really shy and just wants to do good. He became the symbol of what Hearst could be, given the chance.

What does High School Story mean to you?

Eshani: I think High School Story shows us that we can have all sorts of families, especially ones made of friends. I love seeing the gang come together and have wild adventures, take care of each other, and even fight and make up. Once we come to trust other people, we can make it through anything.

Wendy: High School Story is something that’s meant so many different things to me over the years. But I think the biggest one for me is that High School Story is the way the world could be. It’s easy to look at a story where good always triumphs and your friendship is an unstoppable force and say “that’s not realistic.” But when you look closer, you see that there are little moments that feel surprisingly real, from tempestuous friendships to cyberbullying to sexisim in gaming. It’s not a perfect world, but it’s a world where these problems could be solved. And that’s very special.

 Rachel's fabulous High School Story campus! 

Rachel's fabulous High School Story campus! 

Do you have any final messages for High School Story players?

Rachel: It’s a bittersweet feeling to close this chapter of HSS… This was one of the first games I ever wrote on, so it’s near and dear to my heart. I’ve been along on the journey from fan to HSS writer to HSS Choices writer, but when one door is closed, another one opens. I can’t wait to see what the future brings.

Wendy: When I was in high school, I thought my life would be over once I turned eighteen. Turns out, that was when the best parts of my life started. To any high school students reading this: Work hard, have fun, do your best, but don’t take any of it too seriously. The world is so much bigger and better than you think.

Eshani: Just as I'll always look back on my own high school experience fondly, HSS will hold a big place in my heart. Thanks to all our players who have given so many energy and love to the game. Together, we've been able to make something really special.

Jessica: I've worked on High School Story longer than I was in actual high school, so in a way, I relived my high school years alongside all of you. I couldn't have asked for a better community to write for. It's always sad to say goodbye (I may have cried a little writing the finale quest), but to be honest, it doesn't feel like a true goodbye, because these characters and this story will always be a part of me, and a part of Pixelberry.

Thank you again to everyone who has come on this High School Story journey with us. You mean the world to us, and we'll always be grateful that we got to share High School Story with all of you.

Love, The Pixelberry Team

High School Story: Early Days

For many, summer is a time of beginnings and endings: It's the start of summer vacation, and the end of a school year. If you're a senior, summer means graduation and the start of a whole new chapter of your life. Here at Pixelberry, we feel the same way. Our original game High School Story is ending, with its final main quest coming out next Monday on June 18th. (Don't worry, the game will remain available to download and play!) To say farewell, let's take a look back at the early days of High School Story:

Pixelberry started out as a small tight-knit team, working on High School Story all the way back in 2012. Our team has grown a lot since then, but at launch in August of 2013, everything you saw in the game was thanks to a handful of designers, developers, artists, and writers...

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From one of our artists, Bob: "HSS has a special place in my heart, because we literally built the art from the ground up. So when you walk on the grass, visit a hangout, click a button, or notice a seasonal change on the loading screen, I was a part of it. I’ve worked on 30-40 games in my career. Each game offers new challenges and adventure, but I’ll always think fondly of my own story at HSS."

 High School Story when it was still a work-in-progress! Early sketch courtesy of Bob!

High School Story when it was still a work-in-progress! Early sketch courtesy of Bob!

And a note from Oliver: “Just as characters in High School Story matured and evolved over time, so did our team. The best example would be the guy in glasses - Daniel. Before we launched High School Story, Daniel was a high school intern with our team. When he graduated and went to college, Daniel tapped into his love of music and created the music for Choices. And this summer, he’s graduating and starting a full time job with us. We are so proud of him and so excited to work full time with him!”

Since the very start, one of the goals of High School Story was to emphasize acceptance. With that in mind, we partnered with others to promote non-profits to raise awareness about issues such as cyberbullying, body image, and sexism. Some of you may remember our Monster High quest to promote the Born This Way Foundation and our Girls Who Code quest, among other partnerships.

Along the way, new game features were gradually added in, like The Library, where you could learn SAT vocabulary, and Your Voice, a one-stop shop for poll questions on current events and just about everything else. These features helped us connect with players more than ever before. One QA member, Glenda, reminisced about our poll feature: "It was always fun finding out where our players stand on important topics from ‘Favorite YA protagonists’ to other vital questions such as ‘Denim on denim… yea or nay?’ Inquiring minds want to know!"

Of course, there were a few bumps along the road. Edward, another QA team member and the host of our very first livestream, encountered one such bump: "HSS was the first game I worked on, but also the stage for my first big mistake. A bug that got past me was immortalized into the game due to the love of our fans and I will never forget that." An outfit glitch sparked incredible fanart and plenty of jokes from the fan community, and later was the inspiration for an outfit in the game!

 The end result of the infamous outfit glitch - a key part of High School Story history!

The end result of the infamous outfit glitch - a key part of High School Story history!

As the High School Story community grew, so did our love for the creativity and enthusiasm we got to see everyday online. The sprawling community took place across our forums, social media, and even our official Ask Payton Twitter! We decorated our walls with fanart, shared funny and inspiring fan messages with each other, and speculated about how players would react to plot twists and new Classmates.

 One of our (many) fanart-covered walls. 

One of our (many) fanart-covered walls. 

Over the last few years, we've made lasting friendships, held countless board game nights, spotted ducklings, launched whole new games (Hollywood U and Choices!), and so much more. And with each passing month, High School Story's story and characters transformed into an entire world of its own. For a closer look at how the story evolved, read on:

 Neighborhood duck sightings, holiday parties, cutthroat cookie competitions -- every day was an adventure! 

Neighborhood duck sightings, holiday parties, cutthroat cookie competitions -- every day was an adventure! 

What was it like creating High School Story, especially around launch?

Kara: When we started writing High School Story, we really had to come up with everything, like how many lines of dialogue should be in each quest, or how we handled incorporating the quest requirements into the story. It was tricky figuring out new ways to have the requirements make sense ("We need more room for the football field!"). My favorite part was always making the characters. I loved working on the looks for Payton, Mia, and Kara (of course), but my favorite was Katherine.

Jennifer: While I didn’t write the initial first quests for the product, I was brought on pretty early, so we were still shaping the characters. My first quest was all about Autumn, and the most challenging part was making sure her voice felt right for the character we wanted her to be.

Andrew: HSS was the first game I ever worked as a designer on, so it was both amazing and terrifying, like I’d been thrown into the deep end. I remember how fun it was coming up with all the mechanics, with the way stories integrated into gameplay, with the different kinds of requirements that could be fulfilled. Early on, the party building and the date building were the same thing, so you went on dates to recruit new classmates… which we quickly realized didn’t make much sense!

Eric: Close to HSS launch, we all came into the office on the weekend and tested the partying probabilities. We had to throw like a million parties each to make sure we could get all the different types, and that partying worked how we expected it to. We had a bunch of big sheets of paper hung up on the walls, and everyone would write down their results... We were dedicated and excited and nervous about how this big project we’d been sacrificing our time for would be received. A few months later, those same walls were covered with fanart.

Owen: Leading brainstorms for new Classmate types with the other writers was always fun. In the beginning it was easy, but as time went by, we were wracking our brains trying to come up with new combinations and covering our whiteboards in nonsense like “NINJAS?? DOG-WALKERS??” with a million question marks.

 High School Story brainstorms, back in 2013... #ThrowbackThursday

High School Story brainstorms, back in 2013... #ThrowbackThursday

How did you feel when you first started writing for High School Story? What did you enjoy the most? What was the most challenging?

Megan: The thing I enjoyed the most and what I found most challenging go hand-in-hand: working with a team of incredibly talented writers. I learned so much from them every day, even (or especially) when I struggled to live up to their awesomeness. It's been incredible to watch the team grow and learn as we've expanded to HWU and Choices, but I still remember my very first Writers' Sync Meeting where we all fit comfortably in one little conference room.

Jessica: Honestly, I was terrified. I was in awe of all the senior writers, who were pros in the game industry already and also just happened to be BFFs. Plus, the HSS cast all have such unique character voices, and I was afraid I wouldn't get them right. Fortunately, Max took pity on me during training and let me play to my strengths, assigning me a nerdy Nishan-centric HeroCon adventure for my first quest. Since then, I've grown to love writing every member of the HSS cast, but Nishan is still my favorite.

Kathleen: I started out as a poll question writer, then gradually clawed my way into writing quests full time. Learning to write in the fun, lighthearted style of HSS was definitely an adjustment for me (let’s just say there’s a reason why I write for the horror book now, haha). But HSS had this deep emotional sincerity that grabbed me right by the feels and pulled me in. Everyone on the team (not just the writers!) was just so in love with this world we were building together, it was impossible not to get swept up in that wave of enthusiasm. Even when we were stressed out and overworked, we talked about Nishan, Koh, and all the rest like they were old friends.

 At any given moment, writers could be found writing poll questions... or building tables!

At any given moment, writers could be found writing poll questions... or building tables!

Do you have a favorite memory from your HSS writing days?

Kara: When we launched High School Story, we didn't know how quickly people would play through the storyline, but the week we launched, we realized we were going to need a lot more content. I was going on a trip to Oregon, but we had to get the next quest written, so I remember writing our 14th quest, "The Gamer Girl" where you recruit Sakura, while I was riding in the car. It was surreal to have been working on this game for so long and to suddenly have people playing it -- flying through it, really -- and needing to write the thing that would come next before they ran out of things to play!

Megan: Oh man. We had so much fun writing HSS, even when we were in crunch time. Our poll question brainstorms are definitely a highlight. Or all the times we walked to the nearby shaved ice place to brainstorm. Or staying late in the office until everyone left was delirious (and our writing was definitely not shippable).

Kathleen: All the afternoons spent in the gazebo near our old office, trying to brainstorm quests but also laughing so hard at our own ridiculous jokes that we couldn’t breathe. One of those jokes made it into the Black Friday quest: Blurble the Turtle. Fun fact, Blurble the Turtle got name-dropped in Choices HSS, too!

What was your favorite quest that you wrote? What about storyline?

Jennifer: My favorite quest and also the quest I had the hardest time writing was Hope’s Story. When I was asked to write it, I thought of it as a tremendous honor, but at the same time, I knew it was going to be really important, so I was keeping that in mind all the time I was writing. To this day, it’s my favorite because it’s spoken to so many people and has had a real impact their lives.

Andrew: I really loved writing The Games We Play storyline, where Sakura deals with sexism and harassment in gaming. It was the first storyline that I wrote that really tackled some serious real-world issues, and it also let me write my favorite trope, which is building a team of friends to kick some butt. Having Sakura and her crew defeat the bros of the CarnageKings was some of the most fun writing I’ve done in my years here.

Megan: My favorite quest I ever wrote was Snack Attack (originally titled "Proof in the Pudding") where all your friends become homework-loving zombies after eating some poisoned pudding. I also enjoyed writing all of the various date quests and the education storyline with Kallie. Oh, and I wrote the infamous Max / Kara breakup, which was a blast.

Jessica: I loved "The Mild West", because it made zero sense. My favorite storyline would be the Ace quests. When we started brainstorming, Luke said "I know you don't like drama..." and then proceeded to assign me this dramatic, betrayal-filled quest arc. It was awful, but I learned a lot. I'm pretty darn proud of that moment when (spoiler incoming) Ace cuts into a rare steak as he's betraying you, and a trickle of blood pools on the plate. Drama!

Kathleen: One time I got to write a quest where you help your friend Ryan throw a birthday party for his misanthropic cat, and honestly I feel like that’s where I peaked as a writer.

How about a favorite quest that someone else wrote?

Kathleen: It’s a Winterful Life. You get sucked into an alternate timeline where you never founded your school, and then Autumn threatens you with nunchucks.

Jessica: The Zunana quests that Kathleen wrote. And Nishan's Fanfiction by Owen. And Snack Attack by Megan. And Keyan's haunted Oregon train ride quest, which was the moment I started secretly shipping Julian and Nishan. There's so many, I can't just pick one!

If there's one thing you want HSS players to take away or learn from HSS, what would it be?

Kathleen: Everyone is different, and that’s awesome.

Jessica: Don't treat life like a competition. Your worth isn't determined by your success, academic or otherwise. You deserve love and support, no matter how much or how little success you've achieved. That was the underlying message of the Ace quests, and I think everyone could do with a reminder of their inherent worth.

Royal: Whenever people ask me about the games Pixelberry makes, I describe them as games that come from a better future -- a future where a lot of the hangups people have now simply don't exist anymore. One of the examples I point to is the dating in HSS and HWU. We didn't make a big deal about the same sex-dating option, because same-sex dating shouldn't be a big deal!

Jennifer: Friendship really is magic! But seriously, I feel like the one takeaway is that life is full of challenges, and we’re all trying to do our best, but it helps to have support, whether it’s that you’re looking for help and you ask for it from the people who love you, or if it’s that you see someone struggling and you reach out to help them.

 Braiding hair during lunch, and accidental plaid day (spot the Hollywood U fanart wall!)

Braiding hair during lunch, and accidental plaid day (spot the Hollywood U fanart wall!)

Do you have any final messages for HSS players?

Megan: Thank you, for everything.

Royal: Thank you so much for playing! HSS was a game made by real people, and if you follow our blog you know that Pixelberry Studios went through some rough years there. There was a very real chance that the studio would close. Knowing that you were out there, playing, laughing, cheering, feeling... that was the positive energy that kept us going through the tough times. We're so happy that we could revisit HSS in Choices, and we hope you join us for more stories in the years ahead.

Jennifer: HSS will always have a special place in my heart, and I want to thank all our fans for their support throughout the years.

Kara: It's very hard to say goodbye to High School Story. I love these characters like they're my real friends, and I've heard stories from players who feel the same. If I had one hope for High School Story, it would be that -- to make people laugh, to tell them a story, and to give them a place where they can come and have an amazing, funny, quirky, group of friends. The writers here pour our hearts into everything we write. It's incredible to have been a part of something that's resonated with so many people. I'll never forget High School Story, and I can't wait to see its spirit continue on in Choices!

Oliver: I always loved how the core of High School Story was about misfits who weren’t wanted elsewhere coming together to create a great school. In many ways that was the story of the Pixelberry team. At the beginning, we had all been laid off from EA. We were unwanted, executives didn’t believe in us, but because we believed in ourselves, we formed Pixelberry. And with hard work, persistence, and a good helping of fun, we created something that touched the lives of millions, saved actual lives, and continues to live on in our hearts.

We all had a lot of fun taking a trip down memory lane, and we may have gotten a little carried away! As you can see, High School Story shaped so much of what Pixelberry is today, and that's something we'll never forget. This Monday, we've got one more blog post for you about the bridge between High School Story and Choices. We hope you'll follow along and, if you're at Level 36, tune into the High School Story finale quest. Until next week...

Red Carpet Diaries: Book 2

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Lights, camera, action! Red Carpet Diaries: Book 2 is returning with more romance, big budget movies, and plot twists! Where will your path to stardom take you next? Step into the spotlight and find out. Read on for a behind-the-scenes look at Red Carpet Diaries: Book 2...

Hollywood is all about what's new, what's shiny, and the latest drama. So, spill. What's new in Book 2?

Jilly: This book is all about going big! You film on glamorous locations for your massive new blockbuster, make the rounds of the Hollywood gossip circuit, and you even have the chance to pick out a glamorous new home! Also, the clothes. I swear, I want every single thing you get to wear to exist in my IRL closet. That said, just like in Hollywood, all that glitters isn't gold -- readers are going to see the dark side of fame, too.

Will our rising star make any new friends in Book 2? How about enemies? Will we be seeing any familiar faces from Hollywood U?

Jilly: Our heroine will be making some new friends, some in very high places. And of course now that she's the "it" girl, there are people ready to tear her down, like her new costar.

Andrew: Also… by popular demand… there'll be appearances from HWU favorites like Thomas Hunt, Addison Sinclair, and more!

What was the brainstorm process like for Book 2? What's the inspiration behind Book 2?

Andrew: We knew right away we wanted to step up the scale and take you to the next level, from an indie film darling to starring in a major summer blockbuster. So a lot of the brainstorming was just coming up with the most fun and exciting aspects of that, like jet-skiing with a bazooka and filming all over the world. At the same time, we knew we also wanted to touch on the darker side of Hollywood, on the challenges that you’d face.

Jilly: Book 2 is about the thrills -- and risks -- of being on top. That made brainstorming SO much fun. It was a process of 'wait, what would be even more?' We put in everything we'd ever want if WE were famous -- amazing locations, beautiful homes, incredible luxury, you name it! But we also wanted to show another side of fame. It's not all red carpets and brilliant smiles. Hollywood is a larger than life place, which can lead to larger than life problems. I don't want to spoil anything for people, but this book is like a roller coaster -- thrilling highs, and terrifying drops.

Coco: The brainstorm process for RCD is super fun because Andrew and Jilly are always hilarious, so it's great to bounce ideas around together. There has been a lot going on in the Hollywood world recently, and it felt meaningful to touch upon those issues within our Choices universe, as well as see how you as a character can regain agency over your life, narrative, and creative endeavors.

Which Red Carpet Diaries character out of the main cast do you relate to the most?

Andrew: I’m a Seth fanboy, through and through. He’s neurotic and sweet and hides his vulnerabilities behind a layer of comedic detachment. He’s also Choices’ first canonically Jewish LI, which is something I was excited to see brought into the game.

Coco: I'm probably most similar to Teja. I really respect her hustling attitude and would like to be more like her! Seth would be a great best friend though since you'd probably laugh all day.

If you had to co-star in a movie with one of the RCD characters, who would it be?

Coco: I would most likely choose to co-star with Victoria, who I think is a very interesting, multifaceted character. I would probably leave the set completely emotionally exhausted, but I would learn a lot from her. An ocelot cameo would be magical, too.

Andrew: Josh Morello. He’s hilarious!

Give a (quick) closing speech for this interview. Go!

Jilly: I loved the rags to riches story of RCD 1, but I'm extra excited to delve deeper in Book 2. There are some seriously tough issues that we confront, and that I think need to be addressed more openly and more often. The world of RCD is over the top, but the issues our characters face are so universal. I'm really glad we get to bring more of those to the page this time around.

Annnd scene! Roll out the red carpet for the launch of Red Carpet Diaries: Book 2, out tomorrow!

-Jessica

High School Story: Beginnings and Endings

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Our original High School Story game had its first day of school back in August of 2013. With the story rebooted in Choices, we've decided to close the book on this chapter of our Pixelberry story this summer. High School Story will release its finale quest two weeks from now, on June 18th, alongside a final update in the following weeks.

We'll be sad to say goodbye, but we hope you'll tune into this last quest with all your friends -- Autumn, Julian, Payton, Wes, Mia, and so many more classmates. It's been almost five years since High School Story first launched, and this feels like a graduation moment for all of us at Pixelberry who've worked on High School Story in the past and the present.

Over the years, we've poured our hearts into the stories and characters you've come to love. We've lived the highs and lows of trivia bowls, campus heists, haunted train rides, and school district elections right alongside you. The characters of High School Story will always stick with us, whether that's Koh and her epic fort, Ezra with his rock-and-roll career, Sakura and her next level gaming, or Mia in all her no-nonsense cheerleader glory. We're so happy that many of our favorite characters have made the leap to Choices.

At the end of the day, High School Story will always be Pixelberry's very first game. (You can read more on our history with interactive fiction games here.) We set out to create a game that would speak to the power of friendship, the importance of being true to yourself, and the value of education. Along the way, we partnered with different non-profits and focused on current issues facing teens, such as cyberbullying, sexism in gaming, and body image.

We're proud of what we've accomplished, and endlessly thankful that players like you made this game possible. For the last few months, we've been releasing a storyline that brings the stories of characters like Wes, Payton, and Autumn full circle. To send off High School Story (known as "HSS Prime" around the office) in real life as well, we'll be posting some blog posts looking back on our journey from High School Story to Choices.

Thank you so much for playing this game that has been in our hearts for so long. Tune in next week for the second-to-last High School Story quest, and the week after that for its finale! 

Love, The Pixelberry Team

Veil of Secrets

 Check out this early sketch of the Veil of Secrets cover from our art team! 

Check out this early sketch of the Veil of Secrets cover from our art team! 

A wedding awaits you in Birchport, a town shrouded in fog and mystery! Will you be able to track down your missing best friend and reveal the secrets of this strange town? Find out in Veil of Secrets, the latest addition to Choices! Read on for an inside look at the making of Veil of Secrets:

Let's start with an introduction. What's Veil of Secrets about? And what genre does it fall into?

Andrew: Veil of Secrets is a bit of a genre-bender, a romantic mystery. When your best friend Kate O'Malley disappears at her wedding, you set out to find the truth... only to discover there's far more under the surface than it seems in the sleepy seaside of Birchport, Massachussets. It's one of my favorite sub-genres of mystery, the 'corrupt small town' story, where an investigation into a single crime ends up revealing everyone's dark secrets and sinister pasts.

Jilly: I think of Veil as Cape Cod noir. Intrigue, lies, secrets... and boat shoes.

Without giving away too much about the story, what was the brainstorm process like for Veil of Secrets? How do you come up with a mystery story, and everything that entails?

Max: Brainstorming a mystery is a bit like taking apart a nesting doll: There always seems to be another layer hidden under the one you're looking at, stories within stories within stories. As such, our brainstorming process was one of constant derailment as we leapt down the various rabbit holes of the characters' pasts and secret motivations. Hopefully, all of this world and character building led to an intriguing story with some satisfying twists and turns!

Andrew: I always *want* to write mysteries, and then halfway through the brainstorm, remember why we don't do them more often! Brainstorming an elaborate mystery like this is really hard, because it requires juggling a bunch of intricate plot arcs, character motivations, and red herrings, all the while making sure the chapters are fun and exciting. It's a lot of struggling and whiteboarding and back-and-forth, culminating in that great Eureka! moment when it all comes together.

We've done mystery stories before, but nothing quite like this. What are you most excited for readers to encounter in this book?

Max: Our last mystery, Most Wanted, was released to everyone in one big chunk. There was no time for wild fan theories about Tull's true motivation, people wondering what would become of Sam and Dave, or anything like that. This time we'll have several blissful months of weekly releases to watch people theorize to their hearts' content! In addition, I just have to say that this is a beautiful book. The cover, the backgrounds, and the characters are just gorgeous. Our art team really outdid themselves this time!

Jilly: I'm really excited for the "no WAY!" moments when the story takes unexpected twists. I'm betting the readers will have some great reaction gifs ready.

Do you have any mystery books you love? Got any book recs?

Max: How about TV shows? I love longform mysteries like The Killing and True Detective (the first season, at least!). We may try something that tonally dark one day, but we're not quite there yet. Even though it's not a mystery, Revenge feels like it shares a tone and atmosphere with Veil of Secrets.

Jilly: I'm a sucker for Gillian Flynn books (and I'm the perfect audience -- I usually don't even try to guess the twists, I just let them wash over me). I also really loved Broadchurch, if we're talking TV. I think the pacing of that show was really masterful.

Veil of Secrets is just the start of a number of new books launching in the next few months. Are there any Choices books you're personally looking forward to?

Andrew: I'm working on something super top-secret now... Choices' most ambitious book yet!

Max: What's in store for Choices readers? So much. Flirt and scheme your way through London society, all while conquering the pianoforte. Master spells in the face of danger. And take your romance to new heights!

Jilly: All I can say is... this year is going to be almost TOO good!

Looking forward to that! If you haven't already, be sure to check out Veil of Secrets, out in Choices now! What did you think of its launch? Share with us!

-Jessica

Spring News

 Sneak peek of The Royal Romance, returning in June! 

Sneak peek of The Royal Romance, returning in June! 

It's been a busy few weeks here at Pixelberry. As summer approaches, we have a number of new books coming down the pipeline, including Veil of Secrets! But first, since we recently updated the Pixelberry Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, we wanted to answer some common questions that have popped up.

Why are you updating the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy?

We updated our policies to make them clearer for players around the world, and to comply with new changes to European Union law (specifically, the General Data Protection Regulation), which goes into effect May 25, 2018. You may have seen this referenced in other apps and social media platforms you use.

What does that mean for players? Can we still make fanart? What about fanfiction?

We support the Pixelberry fan community, and that's something that has not changed, and will never change. We wouldn't be able to make the games we love without you, the player.

Our studio continues to respect and support fan works, such as fanart, fanfiction, and creative interpretations of our game characters and stories -- as long as they're created for fun and not used for commercial purposes. In fact, you'd be surprised by how much fanart makes its way to Team Pixelberry! We're in love with your heartfelt comments, funny gifs, and incredible fanart. (For legal reasons, we don't read fanfiction on social media, but we're humbled that we've inspired so many talented writers with our games! Keep on writing!)

If content is used in a defamatory manner or in a way that we think may hurt other people, we will enforce our intellectual property rights to make sure your favorite characters aren’t used for bullying or malicious purposes. In addition, please don't post spoilers for unreleased chapters -- be considerate of other fans!

As you can tell, we love and are overwhelmed by how much you all love the stories we’ve created. We know that just as our games come from our hearts, so does your enthusiasm. We look forward to continuing to have our stories shine through all we do together!

Why are you claiming ownership of feedback?

For clarity, our Terms of Service claims the right to use any content posted to Pixelberry's own official channels, which includes fan work sent directly to us or posted on our Facebook page. This allows us to re-post fanart (like in our weekly Fan Fridays on Facebook!) and delete inappropriate posts.

Why do you need access to our game and phone data?

General device details (such as device type and storage space) are sent in along with bug reports. This helps our Support Team members troubleshoot game issues for you. As before, we respect and support player privacy and personal rights. That hasn't changed.

Enough about the Terms of Service! What about The Royal Romance? And new books?

As you know, The Royal Romance is on a mid-book break. The team has exciting stuff planned for the second half of the book, and they're working around the clock to make that happen. (Red pandas may be involved.) The Royal Romance will make its majestic return in June. Red Carpet Diaries will return in June as well!

Book 2 of It Lives is slated to return in the fall. (I've seen the work-in-progress art, and it's haunted me ever since...) We don't have a set date for Hero: Book 2, but it's in the works as well! Most Wanted will return, but currently continues to be on hiatus. As usual, more specifics about all of these books will be posted closer to their release dates.

Back in our February update post, we mentioned that we're working to expand our library with a variety of genres. It's been super tough keeping it all under wraps, but we're excited to share these stories with you in the upcoming months. You'll play romance that takes Choices to the next level, step back in time with historical fiction, discover out-of-this-world sci-fi, and find the magic in a new fantasy story. And of course, Veil of Secrets, our newest romantic mystery, is coming out in June! Keep an eye on our social media pages for the latest sneak peeks.

So what are you looking forward to this summer? Share with us! (If you've got final exams coming up for you or anyone in your family, good luck!) And if you've got any questions or feedback, we want to hear from you. Message us on Facebook or within the Choices app -- our inbox is open. As always, thank you so much for playing Choices!

-Jessica

Endless Summer Finale

Now that choices have been made, tears have been shed, and the dust has settled, it's time for a look back at the end of the Endless Summer trilogy. Read on for the final writer interview (NOTE: Spoilers ahead!)...

It's been almost a week since the finale, and I've cried out all my feelings. How do YOU feel now that it's over?

Taage: To be honest, it hasn't completely sunk in yet. Having lived and breathed Endless Summer for almost a year now, I'm starting to feel just as marooned on La Huerta as the characters! There's certainly a deep sense of relief. Endings can be nerve-wracking to write, especially on a tight deadline, so I'm very happy that it's done and players are enjoying the conclusion of our journey together through time, space, and the self.

Jen: This was the first Choices book I got to write on and I immediately fell in love with the characters from books 1 and 2. It feels bittersweet to not be writing them anymore, but I'm proud of the send-off we gave them.

Luke: This was always a story about letting go and moving on, so it’s time to do just that. These characters meant a lot to us, and we’ll always carry them with us.

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There were three choices in the final chapter. Which would you have chosen?

Taage: I love all three endings for very different reasons... but I'm closest to the option that involves Vaanu.

Andrew: This is a weird answer, but I actually think the Rourke ending. On the surface, it seems bad (and it was a lot of fun writing the Darkest Timeline) but on playing it, I think there's actually a weird hopeful undercurrent, the promise of a new adventure. I really love those 'the battered heroes reunite against impossible odds, fighting together even if it means death' endings, and I think the Rourke ending actually kind of promises that.

Let's rewind. Brainstorms for Endless Summer kicked off during the summer of 2016. I remember the story changed a lot in the process. Diego was called Ben, the title was different, and the trees were sentient... Can you talk about how Endless Summer took shape?

Luke: Whew, this series had a crazier backstory than its characters did. The premise went through a ton of iterations, we almost pulled the plug on it early in the process, and the wedding bride was originally going to be Book 1’s big bad. But after dozens of hours of me and Andrew whiteboarding in a tiny conference room, we came up with the Book 1 we have now.

Andrew: Yeah, Endless Summer went through a LOT of interesting iterations before we hit on the version that worked. There was a version where everyone on the island was your ex, and one where the island was actually the top of the sunken continent of Atlantis. Even the first full outline was pretty different, a lot darker: the island was full of plant-zombies, there was a professor who got eaten, and Aleister ended up being a serial killer! Luckily, we figured out that we wanted something lighter, more heartfelt and adventurous, and I think we were all thrilled with the result.

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What was your favorite part of making Endless Summer a reality? What was the most challenging?

Andrew: From the start, Endless was conceived as an experimental series where we got to try new things, and the most fun I had was getting to go wild with new ideas. The relationship system, the collectibles, the cutscenes, that one chapter in book 1 where I got to design an escape room... it was a total blast, and a huge thanks to QA for testing all our super-complicated new stuff!

The hardest was definitely the overall plot, and finding a way to connect all our ideas and pieces into a frame that both made sense and was emotionally satisfying. I'm honestly kind of amazed we pulled it off: we had a long list of 'mysteries to solve' and we got through almost every single one of them.

Taage: Writing the handfasting chapter may have been my most challenging and transformative experience. It was essentially five weddings in one, which was quite an undertaking. By the end, I'd gone from being a low-key cynic who didn't care for flashy weddings to a full blown romantic with dreams of my own big day. I'm also proud to have worked on some of the puzzles, and Varyyn and Diego's evolving relationship, among other things.

Jen: I got to write a lot of deeply emotional scenes for book three, which I loved doing. What I'm proudest of was getting to write Quinn's Ember scene. As someone who also has an auto-immune disease, it meant the world to me to imbue a character like Quinn with all of the words I needed to hear at the beginning of my diagnosis. Seeing fans with chronic illnesses react to that scene is the current highlight of my writing career.

Some story threads took multiple books to pay off, like who the missing wedding party ended up being. Were there any Easter eggs, details, or callbacks that you think readers may have missed?

Taage: Choices readers have sleuthed out many of the mysteries, and it's been a privilege to write for such an engaged audience. One clue I haven't seen mentioned occurs in Book 2 when Iris sings part of a traditional lullaby about giving her love "a baby with no crying."

Luke: Players may have caught this already, but the three endings were meant to represent reliving the past, holding on to the present, and moving forward into the future. Also, for any old-school Cause of Death fans, Raj got his name from an idea we considered to have him travel back in time and become Raj Mansingh, Natara’s dad. This is absolutely non-canon!

Andrew: Honestly, our fans are so sharp I think they caught almost everything. At heart, Endless Summer is a story about growing up -- about the summer where you graduate college and become an adult, and about the deep yearning to stay in the safety of sustained adolescence versus taking the plunge into the scary world of adulthood. We didn't intend it initially, but Endless Summer wound up with the underlying theme of "Every summer has to end."

What will you be working on post-Endless Summer?

Luke: That's under wraps right now.

Taage: I'm also sworn to secrecy, but look for an announcement later this year...

Jen: I'm working on a really fun new project that I think Endless Summer fans will really enjoy!

Andrew: I'm very busy on Bloodbound (and loving it!), and I'll be doing some work soon on Veil of Secrets. I've also got a couple new projects being outlined that I think players are going to like a lot...

Any final messages for Endless Summer readers before we wrap this up?

Jen: Thank you so much for playing. This story wouldn't exist without the fans who adored it. Thank you for your conspiracy theories and your fanart and your heartwarming messages about how much this story and these characters mean to you. I can't wait to show you all the new projects we're working on!

Luke: Endless Summer was able to reach this point because of dedicated fans tuning in every week. Thanks to each of you for supporting this crazy adventure from day one.

Taage: Here's to adventure! Jake is 5'9'' in boots, pass it on.

 Team Endless Summer! As with all Choices books, it takes a village to raise a series. That means writers, QA testers, artists, and everyone in between.

Team Endless Summer! As with all Choices books, it takes a village to raise a series. That means writers, QA testers, artists, and everyone in between.

*Wipes away a tear* Endless Summer has ended, but we hope that your stay at La Huerta has been memorable. Keep an eye out for updates on what these writers and the rest of the Choices team has planned next!

-Jessica

The Junior

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Junior year is here! The Sophomore: Book 2 ended on a cliffhanger, but the series is back with The Junior. Is everyone okay? Who are you moving in with? And what's next for you at Hartfeld University? Find out! This week, the intrepid team behind The Junior took the time to answer a few questions about this new book:

What's in store for everyone at Hartfeld this school year?

Saran: There’ll be love, laughs, drama, mystery, danger, betrayal, self-actualization, friendship, forgiveness, and tragedy -- but not necessarily in that order. I think this will be one of the most exciting books in the Freshman series so far. We've had so much fun writing it. I don’t want to give away too much, but players will see a whole new side of Hartfeld...

Will we meet anyone new in The Junior? Friends? Frenemies? Or someone else?

Saran: You’ll definitely be meeting new characters! Whether they’ll be your friends, frenemies, or MAYBE even lovers remains to be seen (WINK). And that’s ALL I have to say on the matter, Jessica!

College is about learning, and friendship, and so much more than your outfit. But still: Can you talk a bit about the outfits in The Junior?

Saran: New book, new look! We’ve got a completely fresh closet with a whole bunch of gorgeous outfits to choose from. One of my favorite things about working on this series is getting the chance to impose my fashion whims on the world. I myself run the style gamut from “twee librarian” to “mysterious goth,” but we like to ensure that there’s a whole range of looks available for everyone.

Sara: I think players will love the new wardrobe! Personally, I’d wear every single outfit in the closet, sooooo…

In The Junior, you move in with whoever you're dating (or the true MVP of the series, Zack). What will this next step look like?

Saran: You’ll have lived with friends (and maybe your significant other, depending on who you’re dating) since The Freshman, but moving in with just one other person is a whole other dynamic. You’ll have to navigate some of the challenges of living together (but you’ll also get to enjoy the benefits of having much more privacy). Plus, this time you’re in charge of decorating!

Personality-wise, which character do you relate to the most in The Junior?

Saran: Because I dressed up as her last Halloween, and I happen to share her now-infamous bangs hairstyle, I’m inclined to say I’ve got a bit of Becca in me. Did I make her in my image, or did she influence who I am today? It’s a real chicken-or-egg scenario. But if I’m being honest, I’m 100% Twombly. She’s an unflappable goofball and I strive to attain her level of romantic confidence.

Sara: I wanna say that I’m a hybrid of Kaitlyn/Tyler/Tripp/Edgar but that's getting ridiculous. And my love of Edgar has more to do with my passion for D&D and music than his personality. Kaitlyn/Tyler/Tripp probably covers everything already… Maybe also a little bit of James because he’s a playwright and likes big words? I can't choose!

Shayn: I relate most to James. I wish I could say that I'm edgy like Becca, but the truth is, I'm a big dork, a workaholic, and tragically nice. I also love horror movies and roller coasters like Kaitlyn, though!

At the end of The Sophomore, almost everyone declares their major, which is a pretty major (haha) decision. How did you choose your major? Do you have any advice for college students struggling to decide?

Elizabeth: Choosing my major was pretty simple. I loved reading and writing, so I chose classes that involved reading and writing. Choose a major that gives you work you enjoy doing, and will give you the skills and experience you need to pursue a job you enjoy doing.

Saran: I had already been interested in writing, so in some ways majoring in English was a pretty unsurprising decision for me. But during my freshman year especially, I considered a lot of different possible majors. Your underclassmen years are a really good time to take classes in as wide a range of subjects as you can. Ask older students for courses or professors they recommend. Take this time to experiment!

Wise words... Now that school's in, it's time to dive back into life at Hartfeld! Check out The Junior if you haven't already, and keep an eye out for more teasers for upcoming Choices books. As spring turns to summer, we've got more on the way!

-Jessica

Bloodbound

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Hide your garlic! Night has fallen, and the vampires have arrived in New York City. Turn up the volume and check out the first two chapters of Bloodbound, the newest addition to the Choices library! This time around, we're mixing things up at Inside Choices -- here to talk about Bloodbound is the brainstorm team behind the book:

Give me the lowdown on Bloodbound. What is it? And what genre does it fall into?

Andrew: Bloodbound is a sexy urban fantasy, which means it’s got a bit of everything: there’s plenty of steamy romance but also thrilling action, freaky monsters, and sinister conspiracies. It’s set in a world where a council of elite vampires secretly runs New York City, and follows a young woman who’s just gotten a job as the executive assistant to a billionaire CEO… only to discover his dark secret.

Without giving too much away, can you talk about the brainstorm process for Bloodbound? What did that journey look like?

Andrew: The most fun part of the Bloodbound brainstorm was coming up with how our vampires worked. There’s just so much to draw from that we really got to pick-and-choose our favorite tropes and create our ideal bloodsuckers. We even had a big whiteboard covered with things like “CAN TURN INTO A BAT – NO” and “SUPER STRONG AND FAST – YES.”

Chelsa: The brainstorm process for this book was one of the most fun ones I've ever been involved in, I think because we're already pretty good friends even outside of work. The only downside was that sometimes it got hard to stay on track and remember we have a book to brainstorm!

As you can tell from our Bloodbound sneak peeks, there's quite a few major characters, all at the head of different vampire clans. What was the inspiration behind this?

Andrew: One of my favorite things about vampire stories is all the byzantine power struggles between these ancient families, with secret councils and rival factions and backstabbing and all that. It also lets us create all kinds of awesome supporting characters, like The Baron, a brutal vampire crime boss, and Priya, a fashion designer as hedonistic as she is dangerous.

Owen: Yeah, we wanted to take these supernaturally powerful characters and make them powerful in a whole new way, on a whole new level, which makes the stakes higher, and the villains that much scarier.

And of course, the people must know: Can you date a vampire?

Chelsa: Do you really think we'd give you a vampire book without giving you the chance to smooch up on some vampires? I think (hope) we did a good job in creating a vampire love interest for everyone! I also hope that nobody gets too mad at us that you can't date certain characters because unfortunately... everyone in this book is hot.

Andrew: There’s Adrian Raines, a billionaire CEO. Then there’s Kamilah Sayeed, a vampire queen, and one of the oldest and most formidable vampires in the world. Next, there's Jax… I could tell you more about him, but, SPOILERS. Of course, it’s not ALL vampires. There’s also Lily, your roommate and a genre-savvy gamer with some serious tech skills.

Is there anything about the Bloodbound story that you're extra excited about?

Emi: I'm most excited for everyone to explore this world. These vampires have rules and a society and extensive histories that have shaped who they are. I especially can't wait for everyone to meet Gaius Augustine and learn more about the mysteries surrounding him.

Andrew: There’s a mechanic in the book where you can collect tapestry fragments, and each one unlocks a cool historical flashback of the vampires in earlier times. These ended up being super fun. You get to see whole new facets of the characters and amazing historical outfits.

Do you have any personal favorites when it comes to vampire movies, books, and tv shows? Or paranormal fantasy in general?

Emi: I'm a huge sucker (yay, vampire puns!) for the original Dracula by Bram Stoker. It's one of those books that gets new meaning every time I pick it up and obviously it shaped almost all vampire stories that we have today. I have a soft spot for the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie and What We Do In The Shadows as they always manage to make me laugh.

Jessica: I quite liked Carmilla (the web series, not the classic novel), or at least the ten episodes I watched before I got too scared to continue. Also, The House of Aunts by Zen Cho is a great piece of vampire short fiction. I like stories that explore the human side of vampirism. After all, the first rule of monsters is that they embody human desires.

Owen: I enjoy vampire fiction where action is a big focus. The Lost Boys, the Blade movies... Oh, also "Stakes", the Adventure Time miniseries about Marceline.

If you could choose, would you rather be a human or a vampire?

Owen: A human, because what good is it to achieve immortality if we must forfeit something essential of our humanity, of our soul? ...Also I like McDonald's breakfast too much to be nocturnal.

Jessica: Vampire. I want to strike fear in the hearts of my enemies, and win at all arm-wrestling matches.

Chelsa: I'd rather be a witch.

And that's it for Inside Choices! Be sure to check out Bloodbound, and let us know what you think!

-Shae

High School Story: Book 3

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School is officially in! High School Story: Book 3 starts up where Book 2 left off. There's more drama, romance, and of course, your choice of concert band, cheer squad, or sports. And don't forget prom! Before I give away any more about the next chapter in your high school adventures, let's talk to the writers:

So what's coming up in Book 3 of High School Story?

Rachel S.: If you saw our peek into the future at the end of Book 2, you know that Hearst High shut down, and some of their students have to transfer to Berry High! Get ready to go to school with your favorite Bulldogs — Brian, Zoe, Kara, Max — and some new Hearst faces! Besides Hearst drama, it’s prom season! Just wait until you see all the prom king and queen campaigning, fancy suits and dresses, and of course promposals! It’s going to be a blast.

Wendy: Play your cards right and you might even win prom king or queen!

With everything that's going on, it sounds like we'll be meeting some new friends and foes! Can you tell us about that? Any favorite new characters?

Wendy: Fans of HSS Prime already know that not every Hearst student is evil. In Book 3, you’ll have the chance to meet and befriend some of the good ones. Watch out, though… Rivalries this deep won’t just disappear overnight. As for my personal favorite new character… for some reason, I’m saying Kieran. I think he’s a character a lot of players will recognize from their own high school experiences. Also, we finally remedied the “book full of teenagers and none of them have braces” situation.

Rachel S.: My favorite new character is Jade. To sum her up in three words: strong, tough, and sporty. She adds a lot to the baseball team, and so far, I’m having a blast writing her. I know you’ll love her too.

Rachel Z.: I personally adore Cameron. They add a new spark to band, and their spontaneous creative energy pushes against Aiden's careful style in a really fun way. Each time I write them, I think about how high school me would have been scared to ask them to hang out - because I'd be like, ahh, you're so cool!

What was the best part of writing Book 3? And what was the toughest part of it?

Rachel S.: The best part of writing Book 3 has been the team effort we’ve put in together. *collective aww* I’m so proud of what we’ve come up with, and I hope everyone out there will love it just as much! On a less sappy note, the promposals have been so much fun to write. I just love… love! As for the most challenging part, I’d have to say that's balancing the entire cast of characters. Each character is so fun and unique, but you want to make sure they have their time in the spotlight!

Brianna: Developing relationships between the new and old characters is such a treat! Also, I’ve ALWAYS wanted to write a carousel scene just so I could use this one carousel-specific joke. With Book 3, I’m so thrilled to announce my meme dream has come true.

Wendy: The most challenging part for me has always been and will always be writing about sports. No matter how much research I do, Rachel S. or Brianna will always end up asking me “What is this? Sports don’t work like that!”

If you had to be study buddies with one character in HSS, who would it be?

Brianna: I feel like my grades would soar if I studied with Maria. She’d be extremely effective. I also considered Luis and Nishan, but I get the feeling we might get sidetracked and end up showing each other nerdy videos on YouTube. But Maria seems like she’d stay focused!

Rachel Z.: Definitely Emma. She's a great mix of studious and fun. We'd take frequent breaks, but still get a lot accomplished. And the snacks would be out of this world.

What's your top study tip for students about to take a major exam?

Wendy: Take practice tests. Take a look at what questions you missed, and figure out why. Once you know that, you can figure out strategies that work for you. Oh, and make sure you know exactly how the test is scored and how much time you have on each section. You wouldn’t want to, like, be told to put your pencil down ⅔ of the way through your SAT essay because you thought you had 45 minutes instead of 30. Not that this has ever happened to me or anything...

Rachel S.: Before you start studying, you have to get into the proper mindset: cute puppy and penguin pictures while drinking hot cocoa works wonders. Then, visualize your results. Finally, crack open your book and create notecards. Those did the trick for me, especially for Spanish and French classes. As for the actual exam, I always bring 5 pencils. That way, you’re prepared, no matter what. You know how you’re supposed to break a leg before a theatre show? Break a pencil. Break all the pencils.

Take note! I could've used these study tips in high school (whoops). To everyone reading along: Did you play the first chapter of High School Story: Book 3 yet? What did you think?

-Jessica

Perfect Match

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Can true love really be guaranteed? Find out with the Eros matchmaking service in the newest Choices book, Perfect Match! You'll meet your perfect match (or maybe someone else!), but the course of true love never did run smooth... For a behind-the-scenes look with the writers, read on:

First off, let's do an introduction. What is Perfect Match about?

Coco: In this day and age, online dating apps are so common! Getting set up with someone can be an unexpected adventure in and of itself. We wanted to take that idea — the adrenaline, the uncertainty, the rush of getting to know someone new — and explore it more in the context of a very tailored matchmaking service. What happens when you get what you want… or what you think you want? How do we change from the profiles and labels we’ve given ourselves? This story felt like a good opportunity to explore identity in a way that’s modern and familiar... but maybe has a few surprises along the way.

Owen: Yeah, and at some point there may be a cute dog.

How did you come up with the story behind Perfect Match?

Coco: Max came up with the concept around spring of last year when The Royal Romance first launched. He saw how much our fans loved the “Pick Your Prince” feature and thought we could expand on that further. I had so much fun brainstorming with the team! I remember writing really frantically (and messily) across many whiteboards. We knew mainly that we wanted to create a personality quiz to find your perfect match. One of my favorite parts was coming up with the types of matches and comparing results with everyone in the office.

Owen: The story of this book takes a really interesting turn (or turns?). And it was a lot of fun plotting it out. There may or may not be a twist involved at some point, and let me just say, it's not what you expect... Unless it is! But it's not. OR IS IT?!

In Choices, the team is working to expand the library to include different genres, storytelling styles, gameplay features, and more. What makes Perfect Match unique?

Owen: The Perfect Match Quiz is different from anything we've done so far. Our team wrote a pool of questions, and we've randomized it so that every player sees a different set of questions. And the result you get will change the scenes that you see! If your perfect match is a Champion, you'll read different dialogue than if you're matched with a Pioneer...

Coco: You can also select your love interest's gender and appearance, as well as your own. If you're looking for something more, your match can be narrowed down to those with special skills or hobbies, such as a musician. We hope that this makes the story feel like a personalized experience.

Perfect Match is all about finding that, well, perfect match. Who can you date in this book? (Some spoilers ahead...)

Jaylee: Well, besides your perfect match, who is the ideal date for you (according to Science!), there are two others: Damien is the guy you've known for years. He's got a rough past, but he always has your back... when you aren't picking on each other. Then there's Sloane, the adorable nerdy girl you just met. She's brilliant and can hack into anything, but doesn't know what to do with her hands when she talks. And of course, your Perfect Match has a unique perspective and voice that I love.

Do you believe your perfect match exists IRL?

Natasha: As a Disney geek, I’m a sucker for the idea of a Happily Ever After. Maybe you meet a number of ‘matches’ throughout your life, some more compatible than others. That doesn’t mean they can’t become your perfect match with timing, effort, chemistry and... pixie dust? Basically, it's up to you to decide who you want to build a life with. Or maybe you're just happier adopting a bunch of dogs! People are so different and complex.

Food for thought. Now, a question for our readers: Who is your Perfect Match type in Choices? Let us know!

-Jessica

The Royal Romance: Book 3

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The Royal Romance returns next week on Friday! After everything that's happened, there's still more ahead -- courtly intrigue, poodles galore, and your own Cordonian romance! What does The Royal Romance team have in store for you? Let's find out!

Without spoiling anything, tell us what's next in The Royal Romance: Book 3. Of course, there's romance...

Meagan: Our main character has leveled up, but so have the obstacles in her way. I can't say much without spoiling things, but one of the most exciting aspects of Book 3 is getting to see more of Cordonia and the people who live there.

Olivia: The Royal Romance always has a blend of serious elements like conspiracies and secrets, mixed with Maxwell's dance-offs and an unusual amount of talk about apples. Book 3 is no exception!

Is everyone okay? Is a big, extravagant wedding in the cards? And seriously, is everyone okay?!

Meagan: 'Okay' is relative. Let's start with the big question that's obviously been haunting everyone since the cliffhanger: No corgis were harmed in the making of Book 2. But what happened at the end of the book will have ramifications. Our intrepid group of friends has faced so much in the story already, but never anything like this. We'll be exploring a more serious side to life at court, but don't worry, there's still plenty of fun and romance!

Jeffrey: ...What Meagan said. A big, extravagant wedding is in the deck, but who knows if you’ll draw it into your hand?

With a duchy to govern, will there be any geopolitical drama? Or will it mainly be fancy hats?

Jennifer: After the Book 2 cliffhanger, it's clear Cordonia's got some enemies, and as a duchess of Cordonia, it'll be up to you to help the King find out what's going on. Of course, being a duchess has many advantages, like being able to throw even bigger and better parties!

Jeffrey: One should never underestimate the power of a fancy hat.

Out of everyone, who would you choose to be engaged to?

Kara: I would pick the King. He's a bright spot in the Royal Romance universe. I can't imagine ever having a sad day with him by my side.

Jennifer: Drake, all the way. I have weakness for aloof men who are softies at heart.

Meagan: It's hard to choose when so much of the focus of The Royal Romance is making each of the relationships feel like capital T "The" love story of the book. At the end of the day, though, Hana won me over with her unending faith in you. Though I do occasionally ask my actual fiancé for snarky Drake suggestions, so I guess there's your real-life answer.

Olivia: Hana! She's incredibly talented and infinitely supportive - what's not to like? I think that with Hana by her side, the MC can do just about anything. With that said, no matter who you fell for in Book 2, you're in for an exciting journey.

Have anything to say to the readers before Book 3 comes out?

Jennifer: It's been such a pleasure writing for The Royal Romance, and I think the story's taken some unexpected turns that have surprised even us. We're so thrilled that people are having fun playing it, and we hope you enjoy what happens next!

Kara: Thank you so much for taking a chance on this story! When we started writing it, we had no idea that so many people would fall as in love with it as we have! Our readers are the reason that we get to keep writing and telling these stories that we care so much about, so thank you to every single person out there! You're the whole reason that The Royal Romance even exists, and I can never say how grateful I am that I get to spend my days and nights writing for Drake, Hana, Maxwell, Bertrand, Penelope, Kiara, Olivia, Madeleine, and of course our King.

Meagan: One of the greatest joys of writing The Royal Romance is checking out the Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, etc. on chapter release day to see the fans' responses. It's kind of an indescribable feeling to see characters you care so much about resonate with people. So thank you all for being a part of the story, and I can't wait to see what you all think of The Royal Romance Book 3!

Olivia: This book has been a blast to work on, so I hope you all have as much fun playing it as we've had writing it. Book 3 has plenty of twists, thrills, and (of course) romance in store. We'll see you all in Cordonia!

Jeffrey: Blessed be those who don the fanciest of hats.

Well, you heard it here first: The Royal Romance: Book 3 launches next Friday!

In other news, Perfect Match and High School Story: Book 3 will also be launching on Wednesday. To make sure Bloodbound is the best story it can be, the book has been delayed, and will be launching around April. In the meantime, we've got some fun sneak peeks planned -- be on the lookout for that! 

-Jessica

What's Next

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These last few weeks at Pixelberry HQ have been pretty exciting. The team released several finale chapters packed with romance, betrayal, and cliffhangers. It's been a real roller coaster ride to get to this point, and we've enjoyed following the Choices community reactions -- tweeted gifs, Tumblr fanart, Instagram comments, and lively Facebook discussions.

After all that, what's next? The Choices team has quite a bit planned for the coming months. Books like The Sophomore will continue updating, as usual. Endless Summer: Book 3 is currently on break, but will return in a few weeks. Right now, the Endless Summer team is working around the clock to make the trilogy's finale book as epic and mind-blowing as possible. 

Plus, Book 3 of High School Story and The Royal Romance are in the works. (Check out the sneak peek for TRR above!) Each of the book teams have awesome new characters and storylines planned. (I already have a new fave character in High School Story!) Both series will resume in March. In the meantime, be on the lookout for behind-the-scenes posts and sneak peeks!

As for Hero, It Lives, and Most Wanted -- Hero: Book 2 is also in the works, but we don't have a set release date for it yet. Most Wanted will return as well, but remains on hiatus for now. And as players who have completed It Lives in the Woods know, It Lives will live again (eek!). We'll post on social media when we have more news about these series.

We've also got totally new books in the pipeline! Perfect Match will be coming out at the end of February, and Bloodbound around April. One of the things the team has been working on for Choices is more books that let you choose the main character's gender and a broader range of love interests. Perfect Match will include both of those as part of its storyline: Finding your true love through matchmaking, but with a mysterious twist. Bloodbound will feature a heroine who must navigate the dark world of elite New York City vampires and uncover a vast and terrifying conspiracy. Love interests in Bloodbound will range from your adorably nerdy best friend to an ancient vampire queen as powerful as she is dangerous, and more.

Along with continuing fan-favorite romance titles, we hope to expand our library to include more genres than ever before. We're exploring sci-fi, fantasy, historical fiction, horror, and many others. What genres do you want to see in Choices? Let us know!

Our other big goal this year is to further improve the quality-of-life gameplay in Choices for all players. During the last few months, we've implemented new features such as book Pins and a chapter countdown timer. In addition, we've introduced trial runs for other new features, such as Chat Stories, Key subscriptions, and watching ads for Diamonds. The feedback and results haven’t been too positive yet, but we’ll keep working to refine things so that hopefully we’ll be able to release some of these new features over time to everyone.

With new books on deck, we want to hear from you. What are you looking forward to? What do you want to see more of? Message us on Facebook or tweet us your thoughts! For game support, please contact us within the Choices game or contact us on our site -- these are the best ways for us to connect with you and help troubleshoot! 

To those who have made it this far: Thanks for reading! We hope you're as excited for what's next in Choices as we are! 

-Jessica

New Year, New Update

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Right on the heels of the new year (happy 2018, everyone!), we released a new update for Choices! The team worked around the clock during the holidays to make this happen, and we're so happy that it's out in the world.

What's in this new update? Two new books -- Perfect Match and Bloodbound will be out in the upcoming months. It's been pretty tough keeping this under wraps. (Eagle-eyed followers of Inside Choices may have noticed a hint or two buried in past posts.) There's matchmaking, vampires, and so much more. I can't give anything away, but I can guarantee that thrilling plot twists, more customizable looks, and gorgeous art are coming your way! Keep an eye out for teasers for these new books...

Alongside Perfect Match and Bloodbound, your favorite ongoing books will continue to update every week. As some hit their finales, be sure to follow our social media pages for news on follow-up books, behind-the-scenes, and sneak peeks!

And for the Hero fans out there: Book 2 of Hero is in the works. We don't have a release date set in stone quite yet, but when we do, you'll find out right here on Inside Choices! Our friendly neighborhood superhero team at Pixelberry is working hard on making Hero the epic story it's meant to be. It'll be worth the wait, promise.

In the meantime, we hope you're looking forward to the next chapter in Choices! If you have comments, questions, or need game support, please reach out! Tap the Settings icon and message our Support Team within the game, or contact us here (pixelberrystudios.com/contact-us). These are the best ways for our team to answer your questions, troubleshoot issues, and take your feedback!

So, new year, new update, and new books! What are you most excited for? Who did you Define the Relationship with in Choices? Are you caught up on all the latest chapters? Let us know!

-Jessica

Making a Difference

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This week, Choices is featured in the Today tab of the new App Store! iOS players can check out the post titled "Choosing to Help" here: itunes.apple.com/us/story/id1324930060 (Please note that "Choosing to Help" discusses issues such as bullying and suicide.)

We're really excited to be featured in a story on how games can change lives and make a positive difference. At Pixelberry, our motto is "games with heart." We aim to educate, entertain, and change lives through our narrative-based mobile games: High School Story, Hollywood U, and now Choices. Previously, our team has tackled issues such as cyberbullying, eating disorders, and sexism. We've partnered in the past with Girls Who Code, Cybersmile, and the National Eating Disorders Association through our debut game High School Story.

As our team grows and we continue to create stories, we hope to tap into new ways to make a positive difference through narrative mobile games -- whether that's through diverse representation or sparking community discussions about social issues, we look forward to making that happen with all of you, our readers. Hearing from the community that has grown from our games is what motivates and inspires Team Pixelberry. Thank you so much for giving our games a chance, and we hope that today you'll ask yourself this question: How can you choose to help?

For more on our past partnerships:

Red Carpet Diaries

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Red Carpet Diaries is here! Our newest Choices book is all about the glamorous (and sometimes not-so-glamorous) world of Hollywood. The path to stardom isn't easy, but with a little luck and the help of your friends, you might just make it to the big screen...

Longtime fans of Pixelberry know of our second game, Hollywood U. HWU has similar gameplay to the original High School Story game, but is set at a university where you learn how to make it in Hollywood. Last April, we released the final quest for HWU. We're really happy that we got to share the adventures of Ethan, Addison, and the rest of the HWU cast with all of you.

Red Carpet Diaries is an all-new and different story than its predecessor. But, we wanted to included a nod to some of our beloved characters from Hollywood U, so you'll be seeing a few familiar faces in Red Carpet Diaries. At the same time, the Red Carpet Diaries team wanted to create a fresh, distinct story of fame and fortune that new Pixelberry fans can get into, too...

To learn more about the new book, I talked to the team behind Red Carpet Diaries -- and as a bonus, Eric, the producer of Hollywood U, as well!

First thing's first. Give us the scoop on Red Carpet Diaries! What's it all about?

Jilly: It’s a thrilling tale of your first job in data entry! Will you finish that spreadsheet on time… or will you have to install Excel on your home computer? Kidding, obviously -- it’s a glamorous story of a rising actress’s first days in Hollywood, her path to fame… and obviously her steamy romantic opportunities (you are in the land of the professionally beautiful people, after all!).

How is Hollywood U linked to Red Carpet Diaries? How is it distinct? And will I get to meet any HWU faves, like Addison and Ethan?

Andrew: Red Carpet Diaries can be best seen as a companion story to Hollywood U, something like a spin-off. It’s not a direct adaptation like HSS; instead, it’s an original self-contained story with its own cast of main characters, but set in the same universe as Hollywood U. HWU fans should definitely expect to see a lot of familiar faces pop up (won’t spoil who!), and we’ve worked in some really fun interactions with that cast.

Here's a question for both Eric and the Red Carpet Diaries team: Both Hollywood U and Red Carpet Diaries depict the path to stardom. To you, what does this type of tale mean to you?

Eric: A path-to-stardom tale is all about potential! I love a main character with nothing to their name but a bag of Cheetos and a dream. It can be really inspiring to see that character start to realize that dream. In Hollywood U, it felt particularly rewarding to have your character’s campus and entourage grow the more famous they became. Envisioning yourself as a star is one thing; finally impressing Thomas Hunt is life.

Jilly: In a lot of ways, Red Carpet Diaries is a classic coming-of-age story, just in a much more glamorous setting. You’re facing the same kinds of challenges any young person would: Can you achieve your dreams, make new friends, and hack it in a new town? But of course that town is Hollywood, so there’s also some seriously awesome wish fulfillment built in!

The glitz and glam of Hollywood, the sweet outfits... there's a lot Red Carpet Diaries has to offer. What are you most excited for readers to encounter?

Jilly: Seriously, the outfits in this book are EVERYTHING. I need to be able to buy a “for me” version of at least half of them. I only wouldn’t buy the rest in real life because I don’t attend that many galas. Or, you know… any. Fashion aside, though, I had so much fun writing the side characters. Since the setting is Hollywood, they can be truly over the top! I want to spend an entire book hanging out with your neighbor Gloria--I feel like she has some seriously interesting stuff going on when she’s not hanging out with you.

Who's date-able in Red Carpet Diaries? Come on, spill the beans.

Jilly: The options are SO GOOD. You can ship with your megawatt costars (yes, plural!), the literal boy next door (who also happens to be a hilarious standup), the up-and-coming assistant director whose talent is only outshone by how incredible she looks in club attire… and yes, I might be partial, but I would say yes to ALL of those options.

Any final advice or tips for readers before they step into Hollywood?

Jilly: Forget tabloids, this is going to be where you find your fashion inspiration for the next few months!

Choosing my #OOTD, like, right now. To those reading along: Can you make it in Hollywood? Find out in Red Carpet Diaries, out now!

-Jessica

Home for the Holidays

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It's the holiday season! Here at Pixelberry, the holiday season is about spending time with your loved ones, hot cocoa (with marshmallows!), and new Choices books! The Sophomore came out last week, but we've still got more on the way! Get into the holiday spirit with Home for the Holidays, a heartwarming tale of family, love, and hometown charm. To learn about this wintry tale, keep reading...

First of all, what's Home for the Holidays all about?

Megan: It's about the fun, and romance, of going home to a small town for the holiday season!

Home for the Holidays is as much about family as it is about romance. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Megan: When we started brainstorming, we knew we wanted there to be a strong family element to it to go along with the holiday themes. For so many of us here at Pixelberry, the holiday season is all about spending time with your family. So even though there's a heavy romantic element (and of course, several love interests to choose from), we wanted to make sure the Joy family was a central part of the story.

Cat: Your adopted mom and brother are important characters in Home for the Holidays. Throughout the story, you have a ton of really sweet moments with your family, and you also get the chance to play matchmaker for them.

What was your favorite part of writing Home for the Holidays? What did you consider the most challenging?

Megan: It's basically impossible for me to choose one favorite part of writing this story - I enjoyed all of it! But if I had to choose... I have a soft spot for writing the Scarlett/ Dylan sibling relationship. As someone who grew up in SoCal (and never went skiing or snowboarding or anything), the biggest challenge for me was writing about snow!

Cat: I grew up in a small town and then moved to ~the big city~ for college, so the book's setting felt really familiar for me. I had a ton of fun writing the quirky side characters, and the interactions between you and your love interests are really unique and fun.

This is a holiday-themed book, so I've gotta ask. What do the holidays mean to you?

Megan: I love the holidays. We always get together with my extended family and do a big gift exchange, eat a giant meal together, the works. Especially now that my cousins and siblings have grown older and moved away, the holidays are the one time of year we all make a point of coming home to see each other. Plus my three-year-old nieces insist on calling the garland "garlic", so it's endlessly entertaining.

Cat: This is the Hallmark answer, but for me, the holidays are all about family. Plus holiday movie marathons!

Finally... hot cocoa or eggnog?

Megan: Between those two, hot cocoa. But my favorite holiday drink is a peppermint mocha. :)

Cat: Hot cocoa!

To those reading along, have you checked out Home for the Holidays yet? We at Pixelberry are so grateful that, through these new books, we get to celebrate the holidays with all of you. (Plus, more new books are coming soon!) This season, we hope you get to spend time with your loved ones, whether that's a special someone, family, or friends. Until next time...

-Jessica

New Books and Update

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It's December, which means new books and a new update are coming soon! The Sophomore: Book 2 is out now, but there's more to come... Namely, Home for the Holidays, Red Carpet Diaries, and Endless Summer: Book 3! Which books are you looking forward to? Let us know!

Back in October, we updated James' look. (You can read more about this here.) As promised, we put together a list of other characters who will be getting a new look in the next update. These characters are: Ms. Twombly, Sebastian, Evan, Bill, and Keo. At the current time, we don't plan on changing any major characters or love interests. Thanks to everyone for being so understanding about these changes.

As Choices grows, the team is working on other ways to improve the game. Recently, we released the new Pin feature that lets you pin or un-pin books from your My Books section. Some books now include a timer that lets you know when new chapters are out. We hope to have every Choices book on this system in the coming months. In addition, we've got a few more changes planned to improve the quality-of-life in Choices, though they won't be immediately obvious or available to all players right away.

If you've got any questions or suggestions, be sure to reach out through Facebook message, or in-game support. We hope you'll tune in later this month for new Choices books! The holidays are here, and we can't wait to share new stories with all of you.

-Jessica

The Sophomore: Book 2

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Winter is here at Hartfeld! The Sophomore: Book 2 picks up at the start of winter quarter. The ups and downs of college life await The Sophomore crew. To get the 411 on The Sophomore, I chatted with The Sophomore writers. Read on for more...

So, what do you have planned for fans of The Sophomore in Book 2?

Saran: As always, there’ll be fun, romance, and drama; if you played through the end of Book 1, you’ll know that there’s trouble on the horizon, so a big part of the next book will be resolving those issues! We’ll also be focusing more on the main character and her academic/professional aspirations. Where Book 1 was more about solidifying your relationships with other characters and trying to help them reach their goals, Book 2 is more about seeing that closeness pay off when it’s time for your friends to help YOU. Depending on how much you’ve been there for them in the past, you might even get some special rewards…

A few new friends were introduced in The Sophomore: Book 1. Will this trend continue?

Maya: There will definitely be a few new faces, some friendly… and some not! Apart from that, players are still getting to know the new characters introduced in Book 1, and they’ll definitely continue to play a role this book. We’re also very excited to introduce a few previously mentioned but never before seen family members of certain characters, so we hope players will enjoy meeting them!

What part of The Sophomore: Book 2 are you most excited for readers to encounter?

Saran: I don’t want to give too much away, but I think readers will really enjoy seeing some existing plot lines reach their exciting conclusions. We’re also trying to expand our customization a little—in addition to being able to choose their player character’s look, readers will have a few opportunities to give other characters more comprehensive makeovers as well!

You're caught in a snowball fight! Who would you pick to be on your side in the battle?

Saran: Definitely Edgar. That guy has so many hidden talents, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s secretly got a mean throwing arm. If nothing else, he could probably rig up a snow cannon or something to make short work of our opponents.

Elizabeth: I would definitely pick Kaitlyn. She's the type of person who would always have your back - and she's not afraid to fight dirty!

Sara: A hundred percent, I would pick Amara. She seems like a fighter, and, let’s be real, I would die for her on the field of battle.

Maya: Becca. She’s ruthless (you all saw her in our beloved Halloween spinoff - glad you had as much fun reading it as we did writing it!).

In college, winter quarter can get pretty rough. Got any tips for students about to start their winter quarter?

Sara: Finding a coffee shop like Zig’s workplace really made a difference for my college experience — I even ended up working as a barista there. Especially during winter, enjoying a hot drink, surrounded by other people studying and socializing kept me comfy, caffeinated, and accountable to get my work done.

Maya: Get plenty of sleep! With the shorter days, it’s easier to feel tired and to lose track of the time, so rest up. Winter blues are definitely a thing I’m familiar with when the weather gets colder and the skies get grayer. In college I found that it was really comforting some nights to just curl up with some hot cocoa and a book or a show to watch instead of worrying about homework and projects. It’s important to give yourself time to relax and take care of yourself every now and then.

Saran: Join some new clubs or try a new activity! Even if you’ve already made a solid group of friends, meeting new people is always valuable. If you’re feeling gloomy, sometimes trying something different can shake you out of your funk. But of course it’s good to stay connected to your existing friends too. Life is a balance!

Words to live by. Check out The Sophomore: Book 2, available now! And check back later this month for more new Choices books!

-Jessica