Perfect Match Finale

Last winter, we kicked off 2018 with Perfect Match, the first of several all-new books! Now, with 2018 ending, the series is coming to a close. We hope you enjoyed the twists and turns of Perfect Match. To wrap things up, here's a look back on the series with the writing team behind Book 2 (spoilers ahead!)...

First things first. How do you feel, now that Perfect Match is over?

Coco: It feels like the end of an era! We first started brainstorming and working on Perfect Match so long ago. Since then, the team has grown and evolved, and it's been exciting to add new faces to our squad, not unlike the Perfect Match cast in the story! While nostalgic, new beginnings are also exciting. We hope you enjoy the finale and seeing how the characters have grown over the course of their adventures!

Taylor: I’m really sad because I’m going to miss not only the characters, but also working with the entire team on this particular book. But I think we gave the gang the endings they deserved in this finale — now they can finally relax, and be safe, happy, and silly with each other for the rest of their lives. I feel good about where we’re leaving them, even if I'm sad to do so.

Some of the biggest twists in Perfect Match were planned from day one. Others, I imagine, were discovered along the way. Way back when you were first planning where the series would go and how it would end, did you expect Perfect Match to end up where it did?

Coco: We knew Hayden’s twist since long before we started Book 1, but didn’t know until later that our unsuspecting crew from Brooklyn would be saving world leaders! They’ve come a long way. (Be careful what adventures you sign up for when you swipe on dating apps!) We also knew the general path of Eros and the Matches, but had to do more complex world-building when it came down to writing those chapters. It's been an adventure!

What was your favorite part of writing Perfect Match? Favorite scene?

Taylor: My favorite part was seeing reader reactions! Seeing everyone’s thoughts and theories every week was so exciting for me, and it made me feel really connected to the Choices community online. I think my favorite scene to write was Damien’s family scene!

Natasha: As a fellow Indonesian rebel, getting to introduce Miss Alana Kusuma to the Choices-verse means a lot to me. She's the epitome of someone "shattering the glass ceiling," and I'm glad she was warmly received. The hardest scene to write, which turned out to be my favorite, is definitely Hayden's Dolores Park scene. Hopefully, we made up for the heavy conversations with a kiss in the rain!

Jaylee: Getting to write polyamorous relationships was so near and dear to my heart, and every small moment exploring that was fantastic. And I loved getting to see both Alana and Damien grow throughout the series. Alana's final airport scene and Damien's "I love you" moment were incredibly emotional for me to write. They've both come so far! I'm so proud of them!

Real talk. Would you date a robot if they were your perfect match?

Natasha: No doubt, no doubt, no doubt.

Taylor: My Tinder profile specifies "Robots only."

Jaylee: To be honest, I would date a robot even if they weren't my perfect Match...

Got a message for our Perfect Match readers?

Coco: There are a lot of moments in Perfect Match when the characters doubt themselves and their ability to take down the obstacles in their way. It’s been great to see characters like Hayden and Sloane grow in confidence. We can be our worst critics, so I hope you know that whatever’s in your path, you can get through it and come out even stronger. (Especially with the help of a support system and Armadillo Power!)

I’ve also really enjoyed seeing Hayden explore all the facets of their identity more, from their style, to their spirituality, to building a new life... I hope all of us can enjoy the process of exploring the boundaries of who we are and who we could be, and never feel restricted to any label, definition, or preconceived notion! We are always evolving.

Taylor: Identity crises aren’t unique to Matches. If you take anything from Perfect Match, I hope you take the lesson that no matter what you’re going through, you are strong enough to overcome it. You are capable of incredible things, and you are worthy of love and respect. (And if you ever forget, call in Nadia to remind you!)

Jaylee: Thank you so, so much for loving our characters just as much as we do.

Natasha: Thank you for every hilarious comment, thoughtfully-crafted tweet, beautiful fanart, and heartfelt message. You all inspire me every single week.

*Sheds a single tear* So what's next for you after Perfect Match?

Natasha: I can't say quite yet, but I think readers who enjoyed stories like The Royal Romance and The Crown & The Flame will be particularly excited by the type of book I'm hopping onto next.

Jaylee: I'm moving to High School Story: Class Act! Skye, Rory, Ajay, and the twins are all so fun, and I'm looking forward to seeing them grow!

Taylor: It's a secret! But rest assured, it will have a lot of smooching, sweetness, and hilarity!

Coco: What's next for me is also a secret! But here's a hint: it'll be stylish, fun, and every bit as jet-setting!

Innnteresting... I guess we'll find out what the future holds! To everyone who's stuck with Perfect Match from beginning to end, thank you for reading along!

-Jessica

The Heist: Monaco

Case the joint, assemble a crew, and make off with the score of a lifetime... all in The Heist: Monaco! Now before the book launches next week, let's hear from the intrepid crew of writers behind our newest Choices book:

Without sharing the blueprint of the whole book, tell us a little about The Heist: Monaco!

Owen: The Heist: Monaco is our take on a classic heist-style caper! You play as a master thief preparing for one big job, but along the way, you're going to assemble a crew of specialists from a really fun cast of characters. It's slick, fast-paced, and a ton of fun.

What goes into assembling a crew? (And, ahem, can we date anyone in our heist crew?)

Owen:  A lot of planning! You're gonna travel around the world meeting cool, ridiculous, badass criminals, and then decide which of them gets to be on your team.

Iris: Each potential crew member you'll meet has a specific skillset as well as a unique personality, and whoever you choose will be with you for the rest of the book... so don't be surprised if you find yourself agonizing over who to pick! Good news is, you can always play it again with a completely different group of characters. As for the second question... we're all thinking it, so I'll just say it: Being a criminal mastermind is sexy. Safe to say, some members of your heist crew will think so too!

Jen: A lot goes into pulling off the crime of the century. You need someone who's good at distraction, someone with some serious sleight-of-hand skills, and obviously an awesome getaway driver. As the leader of a crew, you'll get to hand-pick people for these roles. And clearly, when things get tense, romance can happen in the heat of the moment...

What was it like brainstorming this book and, of course, planning a whole heist in the process?

Owen: A lot of maps, charts, devious scheming, and brainstorming fun character voices. Also a lot of coffee, but that was mostly me.

Jen: It was kind of intense at first. There's a lot of moving pieces to manage, but I'm proud of what we've come up with!

Iris: The early brainstorms really gave me a new appreciation for how much planning goes into a heist! Many diagrams were scribbled on whiteboards. But my favorite part was thinking about how different crew members will banter with each other in fun, personality-clashing ways.

If you were recruited to pull off a heist, what role do you think you'd play?

Owen: I'd probably be some sort of wisecracking thief who is largely comic relief until one unexpected clutch moment in the end where he pickpockets the pope's car keys or something.

Iris: I think I'd be a hacker. That way, I could keep out of danger and hang out in front of a computer screen from some remote location, probably eating candy bars, guzzling caffeinated drinks, and listening to pop songs that help me get in the 'zone'. Which, come to think of it, doesn't sound too different from my current daily life.

Jen: I'd probably be a grifter-type that distracts the authorities while the real cons slip in. Knowing my luck, I would probably make a huge mistake, but somehow I'd still end up successful. Just not the way I intended.

Any final tips for players about to pull off the ultimate heist?

Owen: TRY AGAIN. Seriously. Play it a second time with a completely different crew, and see the different interactions and conversations you unlock. Or... play it again and do poorly. We've planned MULTIPLE endings, so go see what trouble your characters get into if your plans go awry...

Iris: Every good heist involves some reckless improvisation, so remember to enjoy the journey and take risks along the way! Sure, the heaps of riches you can get are a plus... but honestly it's just so fun getting into trouble with a group of quirky criminals.

Jen: Just try to remain calm under pressure! There's a lot of tense moments in here with some quick decision making. If you keep a cool head, and focus on the job, you'll make off with the score, no problem!

Get ready to scheme and steal your way to the top in The Heist: Monaco, launching next week! What books did you love in 2018? Are you liking the new Choices update? We want to hear from YOU! And thank you for playing!

-Shae

What's New - Choices Update

update.png

This update is our biggest and most ambitious yet! What's new in this update:
- A crisp, clean, new look. We're talking total makeover!
- Improved app navigation!
- Smart recommendation features to help you find new books you'll want to play!

But that's not all... our team has worked hard on a number of behind-the-scenes improvements and bug fixes including:
- Improving and fixing diamond rewards for ads.
- Reducing common crash issues.

Next, you've asked, and we've listened. In this update, we've increased chapter completion rewards! (And shhhh... don't tell anyone, but we're working on additional diamond features for a future update too.)

All that, and we haven't even talked about our new books yet! Coming soon:
- Make a big score in THE HEIST: MONACO
- Elegant romance awaits as DESIRE & DECORUM continues
- Find fame and win hearts in the next season of AMERICA'S MOST ELIGIBLE

Finally, on a personal note, this is the update to Choices that we've all been dreaming, hoping, pushing, and striving for since Choices launched. This update places Choices on a firmer foundation to add more new features that you guys will love. Knowing that you guys are out there playing, loving, and living passionately makes every day (even hard ones) a joy. We can't say it often enough, or shout it loud enough... thank you for playing!

Royal
Level 1 Director

Pixelberry Updates, Answers, and More!

pixelberry.png

Hey everyone! As the end of 2018 approaches, we at Pixelberry wanted to take the chance to look back, reflect, and give you the latest update on what's new at Pixelberry. But before we get into that, we just wanted to say a big thank you for playing Choices!  

First off, Choices is undergoing a makeover! Our team is about to release an update in the near future that will improve game experience and navigation in Choices with a fresh, new look. We also plan to address some issues, such as the diamond reward bug and common causes for game crashes.

The last few months have been a little rocky for us here at Pixelberry. Alongside releasing a number of new books, Choices experienced more than a few bugs, and we can't apologize enough for these issues and inconveniences. During this time, we came to truly appreciate how patient and encouraging you all are. The Choices community is one of a kind. Thank you again!

In this blog post, we'd like to go ahead and answer a few commonly asked questions! On social media and via Support messages, the Community team and the Support team do their best to provide you with the latest news, but a Facebook comment or game message isn't the best place to go into detail... So we're going to do that here! And now, let's get down to business:

What's next for The Royal Romance?

We're excited to announce that The Royal Romance writers are hard at work on a new follow-up series! We can't give away too much at this stage in the process, but the new series will start directly after the events of The Royal Romance. The writers are really excited for what they have planned! We'll have more news for you in the upcoming months.

When will Bloodbound: Book 2 come out? Is there a release date?

Right now, Book 2 of Bloodbound is being worked on! We hope to release it in the spring of 2019. We know it's been a while since Book 1 ended, but we promise that it'll be worth the wait. There'll be plenty of bloodcurdling adventures and heartstopping romance! Stay tuned for more early sneak peeks and news. In the meantime, we have another paranormal book planned, one that'll make you howl at the moon...

When will Hero return with a Book 2?

We don't have a release date for Hero: Book 2, but when we do, the Choices community will be the first to know. The writing for Book 2 is in progress, but we're not sure when we'll have the art ready, especially given its unique art style. We want to get Hero 2 right -- unfortunately, that means it may launch in 2020.

When will Most Wanted come off hiatus? Will we get a Most Wanted: Book 2?

As you know, Most Wanted continues to be on hiatus. While we love Sam and Dave, we just haven’t had the right writers available at the right time to start work together on this book yet. When the time is right, we intend to revisit Most Wanted. And of course, we'll let you know ASAP if there's new developments!

When is Across the Void coming back? Why is it on break?

Across the Void is on a mid-book break right now as the team gears up for more interstellar adventures! In the past, books like The Royal Romance and Endless Summer have gone on break to give our team more time to put out the best chapters possible without placing too much pressure on the writing, art, and QA teams. Across the Void should return this spring. When it's ready for take-off again, we'll post online with more news!

Why do you make new books instead of completing sequels?

Going into 2018, our team wanted to try out new stories and expand the Choices library. With this goal in mind, we worked to release stories and genres we've never tried before -- such as paranormal romance, sci-fi, and historical fiction. That's how we ended up with Bloodbound, Perfect Match, and many others! Exploring new stories taught us a lot and helped focus our vision for 2019.

Deciding which books to make often depends on a variety of factors -- like popularity, resources, art budget, what's right for the story, timing, and other elements. At any given time, we often have several books, both new ones and sequels, in development. Different books have different teams, so when a new book comes out, fear not! This doesn't affect the progress of a separate sequel book that’s in development.

What about the sequels to America's Most Eligible, Desire & Decorum, and Red Carpet Diaries?

They're all in the works! Desire & Decorum: Book 2 and America's Most Eligible: Book 2 will be returning this winter. Keep an eye out for sneak peeks, cover reveals, and release dates... And thanks to everyone who voted on who should return for AME Book 2! As for Red Carpet Diaries, we don't have a release date for it yet, but your Hollywood adventures will continue in 2019!

Pro-tip: If you want the latest news, just follow us on social media! Our most up-to-date info is always on social media, guaranteed.

Will we get more free diamonds? When will the diamond rewards bug be fixed?

First and foremost, we apologize if you've encountered issues with the diamonds-for-ads feature. That's something we've been working on fixing, and hope to address in the next game update. We’ve been experimenting with ways to give more diamonds while still making money to support the creation of even more books. Expect to see the first fruits of these tests coming soon!

Why do some books have a female-only player character? Will there be more gender options in the future?

We absolutely hear you on this front. As to why, it depends on the book. For books like Red Carpet Diaries, A Courtesan of Rome, and Desire & Decorum, the player character's gender is a specific and integral part of the story and setting. Other times, it comes down to resource constraints - at times, we decided we’d rather have some books be single gender so that we can devote other resources to telling new stories. In the coming year, we'll be launching a mix of single gender books and books with more gender options. And for those asking: Yes, The Heist: Monaco will have male and female player character options!

Are there going to be new books and genres in 2019?

You know the answer to this one: Yes, absolutely! We're super excited to share all the books we have with you -- new books and sequels alike! Get ready to run from the law, solve medical mysteries, sail the open seas, and much, much more! If you liked our 2018 books, just wait for 2019...

I've got more questions! How do I get them answered?

Good question, hypothetical Choices reader! You can always message our Support Team via the Choices app (Settings > Help > Message). You can also reach out to our Community Team by messaging us on Facebook, or tweeting us on Twitter. It's that simple! Contact us if you need game support, have questions, or just want to say hey. We'd love to hear from you!

And how about a behind-the-scenes look back on 2018?

For our team, this year has been about growing our capacity to tell more stories. With the encouragement of Nexon, we continued to grow the number of writers, artists, designers, engineers, QA, and other teams at Pixelberry. They actually asked us to grow even faster, but we wanted to make sure we don’t grow too quickly, so we can remain a tight-knit studio with a focus on excellent storytelling.

At times, when we found really great writers, we grew a little faster than anticipated. While this stretched us more than expected, it also will make this December our most prolific yet when it comes to number of new chapters released. And thanks to our office coordinators, we've kept that fun Pixelberry spirit alive with launch parties, birthday celebrations, and boba runs.

We also had a blast this year branching out into new genres with stories like Desire and Decorum, Perfect Match, and Bloodbound. Behind the scenes, we’ve revamped our production process to handle many more books being worked on simultaneously than we were able to do last year. (We hit a few bumps in the road along the way, for which we're very sorry.)

One of our biggest challenges this year was finding great engineers to help us release new features for Choices. But we did hire a Director of Engineering who hit the ground running and has recently helped us add more engineering capacity, which will let us add features faster next year.

Overall, we're so grateful to be ending 2018 with a larger, stronger team ready to go full-steam ahead creating new Choices adventures in 2019. But what we're most grateful for are all of you who have supported us with your 5-star reviews, encouraging messages, stunning fanart, patience when we make mistakes, and constructive suggestions for improvements. Every day, people on our team share their favorite comments, tweets, and fanart to our “discuss-buzz” channel. Your passion powers us through brain blocks, problems, and stressful times. Thank you so much for that. We truly feel blessed to have a fan community that shares our love for stories.

-Jessica, Oliver, Kara, Jennifer, and the rest of the Pixelberry team


A Courtesan of Rome

A Courtesan of Rome.png

Fall is almost over, but we've got one more new Choices book for you! A Courtesan of Rome makes its debut on November 14th, and we couldn't be more excited for our second work of historical fiction. This time around, you'll fight for vengeance, seek out love, and navigate the treacherous waters of the political scene in Ancient Rome. Before all that, let's check in with the writers...

Set the stage for us. What's the story of A Courtesan of Rome?

JBH: In ancient Rome, courtesans occupied a really unique place in society -- as the only women allowed in many men-only spaces, they were educated, politically active, and influential in a way that wasn't possible for most women at the time. "A Courtesan of Rome" begins as you make your debut as a courtesan during one of the most dangerous and difficult times in history, the rise of Julius Caesar and the beginning of the fall of the Roman Republic.

A daughter of a former chieftain of Gaul, you were captured by Caesar's forces years ago. Now that you've risen to move as an equal among the senators and elite of Rome, you must seek your vengeance on the men who massacred your tribe, search for your scattered family, and perhaps find unexpected love in a city where everyone is an enemy.

A Courtesan of Rome is a step back in history for Choices. What do you think sets A Courtesan of Rome apart from other Choices books? What kind of story are you trying to tell?

JBH: A Courtesan of Rome is a romantic historical epic. While romance is a huge part of the storyline, it takes place on a backdrop of dramatic historical events, giving you a chance to take part in gladiatorial blood sports, religious mystery cults, brutal battles, and Machiavellian political maneuverings... and even shape history in unexpected ways.

I think what really sets "A Courtesan of Rome" apart is the epic scope. The fall of the Roman Republic is one of the most consequential times in all of European history, and the people involved are household names more than two thousand years later! Giving players a window into what it must have been like living in Rome at that time -- and a chance to shape that history in large and small ways -- is extremely gratifying to me as a historical fiction buff.

Jake: In this book, it's not always cut and dried who your friends and enemies are, and we really let you pull the strings in all this political intrigue if you play your cards right. Also, we get to write gladiator fights, and it's sweet. There's something in this book for everyone!

As with any historical book, lots of research is a must! How did you go about tackling research and brainstorming?

JBH: I've had a long-standing interest in Rome (ever since high school Latin club!), so getting to write this book was a dream come true for me. There were definitely a few different historical fiction epics that were big influences on this story, including Manda Scott's "Boudica" series and Kate Quinn's "Mistresses of Rome" series (both set a little later in the Empire), and Robert Harris's absolutely amazing Cicero trilogy which covers this exact time period from the point of view of Caesar's enemy Cicero.

The more moment-to-moment research was sometimes difficult because there is just so much information to sift through. What we think of as "Rome," lasted for over a thousand years, and included an early kingdom, the Republican period we're set in, and many hundreds of years of Empire after. So, it's not always easy to find exactly the information you want!

This means I should probably put the standard historical novelist disclaimer here: While we tried to stick to the broad outline of the important events that happened at this time, the needs of the story always took precedence. So, if there was ever a question of "this character was really married at this time, but we think he would be a really great love interest..." -- we have consistently chosen what will be the most fun for our players, even if that means occasionally playing fast and loose with some historical facts.

Who are you rooting for in this book? Who's your fave character?

JBH: Haha, as a writer, I'm always rooting for my characters to suffer as much as possible, and for players to walk away from a chapter desperate to know how they can possibly survive! My favorite character to write for this book was definitely Marc Antony, who is a really fun combination of puppet master and rule-breaking anarchist. He and the main character start as enemies, but when sparks fly between them, players will have to decide whether or not they want to risk using that sexual tension to manipulate Antony.

Jake: My favorite character to write is probably Sabina. Her character arc throughout the book was really special to me. I feel really lucky to be able to address some more serious topics with her. I hope our fans connect to her struggles and her character.

The people must know. Will we get to date any historical figures?

Jake: There might be one or two, though they're a lot hotter in A Courtesan of Rome than their statues are.

JBH: I guess I just gave that away in the last question! Yes, both Marc Antony and Cassius Longinus (who eventually masterminds the conspiracy to assassinate Caesar) are love interests in the book.

And lastly, any final words for our players about to play A Courtesan of Rome tomorrow?

Jake: Those who are about to read, we salute you.

Check your Choices game tomorrow for A Courtesan of Rome! Winter's nearly here, and that means more of Choices -- you'll need your skills, your wits, and the right people for the job in our next Choices book! We hope you're loving The Elementalists, It Lives Beneath, High School Story: Class Act, and more. Thanks so much for playing!

-Shae

The Elementalists

Boo! Halloween's almost here, and at Pixelberry, we're celebrating with new spooky and spellbinding stories. On Wednesday, The Elementalists launched with its first chapter. Now that Chapter 2 is out as well, let's chat with The Elementalists writers... But make sure you've played Chapter 2 first!

I know you can't spell out everything that happens in The Elementalists, but can you tell us a little bit about it?

Chelsa: This project has been a dream of mine ever since I started working at Pixelberry two years ago, and it's still hard to believe they actually let me take the reins on this one. I won't spoil anything, but I can tell you that the whole team - writers, art, QA, everyone involved - put many, MANY long hours and their blood, sweat, and tears into this project. So basically, if you don't like it, I'll cry.

Maya: Well, if you've ever dreamed of being sucked through a portal and spit out at a magickal university, your dreams are about to come true! Essentially, you're pulled into a world you don't believe you can be a part of at first, but it doesn't take long for your powers to start revealing themselves. But if you didn't know you could do magick, what other mysteries about you have been hiding just beneath the surface?

The Elementalists is our newest fantasy story. What about this fantastical world are you most excited for players to encounter?

Chelsa: We've got a lot of new features and art in this book that I'm very excited to show off to players! The cool spell graphics and amazing new backgrounds are just the tip of the iceberg. And of course, learning spells...

Maya: Magick! Magick in The Elementalists feels so welcoming to me. The friends you meet are so excited to introduce you to the world, and there's something wonderfully intuitive about the magickal system we've created...

Emi: Honestly, I think I'm most excited for readers to meet the main cast and watch them grow. Every good fantasy has a core group of friends fighting for what they believe in, and I hope players fall in love with ours as much as we have.

How did you tackle worldbuilding for The Elementalists? What was the inspiration for the element attunement system?

Chelsa: This is definitely something I've spent a loooong time thinking about (see question 1). I wanted to create something familiar, with all of the elements that fantasy fans love about a fantasy school book, while also creating something that feels entirely new. This book is a frankenstein of things that I love, things that got the team excited while we were brainstorming, and things that we thought the fans would go crazy over. One of the first things that I decided was that Penderghast would be set in our world, current day, but hidden. The Attuned understand technology, are involved in Attuneless politics, and live alongside the Attuneless -- though of course, they still have to keep magick a secret to maintain the status quo. It's the very best of both worlds!

Maya: We wanted to create something familiar and accessible, but not wholly done before, so we talked a lot about things we've seen in fantasy that we enjoy, as well as things we wished to see. I think this world is so dear to us because it's an amalgam of so many things we cherish, imbued with our own magickal spark.

Jessica: So when I was a wee child attending Chinese school (shoutout to all the Asian American kids who had to go to Saturday school!), I learned that Chinese words all have core components called 'bushou' -- wood, heart, power, etc. During Elementalists brainstorms, we riffed on the premise of having a core something as the base for creating meaning, or in our case, magick. We settled on the classical elements as the foundation, and threw a few of our own into the mix as well. To perform magick, you have to channel the elements, and of course, everyone has an affinity to one or two -- kind of like having a college major, but also general education requirements!

Emi: While building the Attunement quiz, I spent a lot of time delving into the history and uses of elements in different cultures... You should see the number of research docs I made! I wanted the Attunements to feel linked to the classical elements, but to also have their own unique spin. We spent a couple brainstorms figuring out the quiz answers and how they related to their elements. We tried to create a quiz that players could answer honestly, without necessarily guessing which answer is linked to which Attunement.

And of course, what's your attunement?

Chelsa: Air-Att 4 life!! (I am also a libra, so it's very fitting.)

Emi: I'm a Metal-Att! Let me make a detailed and organized plan to tackle any challenge!

Maya: I was expecting to be an Earth-Att, but was pleasantly surprised to find out I'm a Wood-Att instead!

Jessica: Earth, which is weirdly fitting for me. I feel called out.

Do you have a favorite character in The Elementalists? Which character do you relate to the most?

Chelsa: My absolute favorite character to write is... one that I can't talk about yet! But aside from CHARACTER NAME REDACTED, it's definitely Beckett. He's just such a pain, and I love writing people who are difficult to get along with.

Emi: Aster is my girl! I love how excited and eager she is to learn about the world. I just want to give her a big hug. As for character I relate to the most, probably Beckett. I was 100% that over-achiever in school who was always showing off.

Maya: My favorites to write are hands down Zeph and Beckett. They seem so different, but neither are as put together as they'd like you to believe (#relatable). Though there's also something about REDACTED'S personality that speaks to my soul...

Jessica: I can't stick with one fave, so I'll say Shreya and Griffin. Shreya's just a whole lot of fun, and someone I would want to date IRL. And I love seeing Griffin, this chill Sophomore, thrown into the trials and tribulations of all these hapless Freshmen.

Any final tips for readers about to embark on their Penderghast adventure?

Chelsa: You'll have many opportunities to gain new spells throughout the book. My tip is to try to learn them all. You'll never know what a situation will call for...

Emi: Your Attunement will play a role in how you use magick and how you react to the events of the story! I recommend playing to your strengths.

Maya: Watch your back... Danger lurks in the shadows.

Bring on the magick! What's your elemental attunement? Let’s compare notes! And follow along online for sneak peeks of what's next in Choices... a journey back in ancient history!

-Shae


It Lives Beneath

It's October, and you know what that means: Spooks and scares and the launch of It Lives Beneath! Turn off the lights, turn up the sound, and tune into It Lives Beneath for the fright of your life... But before that, let's talk to our resident horror writers!

Now that we've left the woods for Pine Springs, what's happening in It Lives Beneath?

Kathleen: It Lives Beneath is set in the same world as It Lives in the Woods, but with a new town, new cast, and new monsters hiding around every corner. You play as a college student who has no experience with the supernatural... that is, until <SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER> happens. You quickly find yourself thrown in the deep end, as it were, questioning the very nature of your reality. In this book, we really wanted to build on the mythology of the Power that we established in Book 1.

Will we see any old friends from It Lives in the Woods in this book? (And by that, I mean, where's Andy Kang?)

Kathleen: I don't want to give away too much, but I will say that while we've moved on to a new setting, life has continued on in the little town of Westchester. You may see familiar faces here and there, and an old friend may show up to offer help in a time of need. It all depends on where you left things at the end of Book 1!

So, a new story means a new cast, new friends, and new people to date! Who's your favorite date-able character?

Kathleen: Tom, no question. He's a total nerd, but he's also an extremely thoughtful guy and the most loyal friend you'll ever meet. Honestly, I've been waiting for this ever since we first got his art back and said "Oh no... he's hot." (We tried to make him look dorky by adding glasses, but it only made him stronger!)

Brandon: Probably Imogen. I love all of our children equally, but she's really fun to write for. And Imogen's character art is just *chef's kiss*. Major props to our art team!

It Lives in the Woods introduced a particularly harrowing Nerve score system. Will there be more of that in It Lives Beneath? What are you looking forward to players encountering?

Brandon: Nerve scores will be returning, though the system won't be exactly the same as players remember. Without spoiling too much, one of our goals for It Lives Beneath was for Nerve to have more of an effect throughout the whole book, rather than the final fates at the end. (But rest assured, you and all your friends can totally still die.)

Kathleen: What Brandon said. When we rolled out the Nerve score in Book 1, we learned a lot about what worked well and what could use improvement. Hopefully, the tweaks we made will make Nerve even more compelling in Book 2!

I've definitely seen some pretty terrifying stuff from It Lives Beneath. (Thanks for the nightmare fodder, guys.) On a scale of 1-10, how scary would you rate this book?

Nicky: 10/10. We went above and beyond with the scariness for Book 2, and I think we’re gonna knock everybody’s socks off!

Brandon: In Ancient Rome, the numeral XVII was considered a sign of omen, as its letters could be rearranged to spell the word "VIXI" — Latin for "my life is over". So I'd give it a 17.

Kathleen: *High-pitched evil cackling*

Any final tips for readers as they plunge into the terrifying world of It Lives Beneath?

Kathleen: I've been told that this book should not, under any circumstances, be played at night.

Brandon: Practice holding your breath.

Nicky: Get ready to scream!

Eep! Hope you're all ready for the latest terrifying addition to the Choices library! And stay tuned for more news and magickal (yes, magick with a k) sneak peeks from The Elementalists!

-Jessica


High School Story: Class Act

hss inside choices.png

The show must go on, and it will -- with the return of High School Story! This time around, High School Story is back with a new cast in the new school year, and more drama than ever before. Yes, we're talking theater! Let's chat with the team behind the newest Choices book to get the lowdown on High School Story: Class Act...

High School Story: Class Act is a different take on High School Story. What's new? Fill us in!

Wendy: It’s a new year at Berry High! This time around, you play an incoming freshman with a major love for theatre. As you step into the spotlight, you might just fall in love! But the course of true love never did run smooth, and neither has the path to stardom. You’ll meet a new cast of main characters, including actors, jocks, cheerleaders, and more! Make friends, defend yourself from enemies, and flirt your way to romance. Good luck!

Will we be seeing any familiar faces from previous books? Any friends? Enemies?

Wendy: While this book features a new main character and several new main cast members, you’ll be seeing plenty of returning characters, especially the original High School Story main character. As for enemies... you'll see.

Brianna: The main character of High School Story books 1-3 will be playing a big role in the drama this time! And an old enemy will have a surprising link to someone you know. I’m super excited to see how people react to these connections.

Aside from the drama of theater, how much drama will there be in this book? What about romance?

Wendy: It wouldn’t be High School Story without drama, would it? Watch your back... As for romance, you can choose between Rory, the boy/girl next door, the ambitious perfectionist Ajay, and Skye, the awesome goth girl.

Rachel Z.: The play is your chance to prove yourself to your classmates and reinvent who you are. And you might just develop feelings for others working alongside you on the production!

Who in High School Story: Class Act are you most excited for everyone to meet? Do you have a favorite character to write?

Brianna: I’m the most excited for everyone to meet your twin! Sibling relationships are some of the most entertaining things for me to write, and I hope our players enjoy their silly banter as much as we do!

Emily: I really like Ajay, our director extraordinaire. I relate to how serious he is about his passion (though mine was for the school newspaper), as well as his reservations about romance. He’s also very sassy and quick-witted, which was fun to write. But I have to say, as a former redheaded emo girl — writing Skye was like looking in a mirror.

What's your connection to theater? Do you have any favorite memories from drama class?

Rachel Z.: The theater was my home in high school. I did the whole gamut, from acting to writing and directing. I attended a small all-girls' Dominican school where the nuns had to approve our theatrical productions. My freshman year, we somehow got away with doing The Rocky Horror Show...

Brianna: I love watching plays, but I was never a theatre kid myself — I’ve only done skits in English class, and I was quite bad at them. At the risk of sounding like some kind of stone-cold killer, my favorite acting experience was when I played Othello and murdered my wife Desdemona, who was played by a guy friend of mine.

Emily: I really only did theater when I was a child, but got back into it in college. My Generalized Anxiety Disorder really made theater very scary for me, which was why I didn’t pursue it in high school. I tried to be braver in college and ended up taking a class called “Actors and Acting.” I learned a lot about the craft and got a lot of compliments on my performances, but theater actually played a part in changing my life — I met my now husband in that class!

Wendy: I’ve always been a theatre kid, so it’s no surprise that it eventually crept into my writing. My favorite theatre class memory actually comes from college. There was this one technique that everyone else in the class seemed to be making progress on, but I just couldn’t get it. I ended up in my professor’s office, crying, expecting to be told that acting just wasn’t for me and I should quit now. Instead, he explained to me that there is no magic line between “good” and “bad”. You just have to focus on improving. That way of thinking really changed my life. (And, yes, I did eventually have the breakthrough I was looking for.)

And scene! Thanks so much for reading, everyone. And don't forget to tune in Wednesday for the fright of your life with It Lives Beneath! We've also got some magical sneak peeks from The Elementalists brewing...

-Shae

The Senior

choices sneak peek.png

It's time to head back to Hartfeld in The Senior! We've come a long way from the early days of Choices with The Freshman: Book 1, and it's exciting to reach the culmination of your college years with The Senior. Now let's talk to The Senior team!

What's going down in The Senior? Tell us everything. 3... 2... 1... Go!

Sara: Well, I can hardly tell you everything, but I will say that, since it’s your final year of college as well as the final book in the series, you and your friends will be feeling the crunch! The Senior is all about going out and finding inspiration. In this book, you’ll jump into writing a thesis, getting guidance from your advisor, completing a bucket list of adventures, and taking big steps in your relationships! With the future coming up so quickly, will you live in the moment, look to the past, or plan ahead?

There are quite a few milestones and big moments in The Senior. Want to drop a few hints about that?

Saran: Graduation is coming up for the Hartfeld crew, so that’s a major milestone right there! Accordingly, players will also have to prepare to present their senior thesis, but they’ll need to take opportunities to strengthen their work. And of course, there are some big decisions ahead of you, like choosing a career and deciding what you want from your romantic relationships.

Who will we be seeing in The Senior? Any familiar faces or new friends?

Sara: It wouldn’t be a book in The Freshman series without a few new friends! A few might even be of the fluffy, cuddly variety... You’ll also get to spend a little more time with your mom and dad! As for familiar faces, you’ll certainly get some insights into mentors past and present. For one, you can look forward to some new insights about a certain lovably cantankerous writer!

Senior year is no joke. Who out of the cast would you pick to be your study buddy for your final year of college?

Saran: Definitely Grant’s dog, Burpy. Can you imagine? A book in one hand, and giving that pup a belly rub with the other? No human measures up. I would look forward to studying every day if I got to snuggle with him.

Sara: My impulse is to say Tyler, because STUDY BUDDIES for life, but I also wanna say Kaitlyn. A) I love her. B) She would have the BEST studying playlists. I have a playlist dedicated to and inspired by Kaitlyn, and it rocks. And C) I do my best studying when I can help someone else with the material, so a less extreme version of cramming-with-Kaitlyn would be great for both of us and fun at the same time!

Elizabeth: Edgar Lucas. That dude knows his way around a D&D handbook, a study guide, AND an electronic lute. Plus, he's totally famous from trying to crash America's Most Eligible!

Shayn: I would pick Zack, hands down. I think I’d probably do about average on whatever test we took afterward, but I’d be living my best life.

Got any wisdom for students starting their senior year of college?

Saran: Make the most of your last year as much as you can, but don’t feel bad if you’re not as plugged into everything as you may have been in the past. Senior year can get really busy, and that forces you to prioritize the things and people that you really want to invest your time in. Some stuff is bound to slip from your schedule, and that’s okay!  Also, don’t freak out if you don’t know what you’re gonna do after you graduate, because I had NO CLUE and I turned out okay.

Elizabeth: Don't let the stress take away your ability to enjoy the moment. Take breaks, breathe deep, have fun. Enjoy your last few months before you have to leave college!

Shayn: Focus on that finish line! I had a lot of other things trying to distract me, and it would've been easy to fall behind or even quit. Keep going! Whatever hurdles pop up in your path will be in your past soon enough.

Sara: Rolls a wisdom check... Let’s see... Play D&D. I found an RPG group my senior year and they became some of my closest friends, and helped my creativity and writing. But in all seriousness, my advice is to find something fun and exciting to help combat that serious case of Senioritis. If you open yourself up to new activities, you open yourself up to new friends, new passions, and maybe even new crushes! Who doesn’t fall hard for their DM every now and then? ;)

And finally: no one’s college career is the same. Maybe your senior year is your victory lap. Maybe you changed majors late in the game, or added a major (or a minor or two…), or realized that college wasn’t the right path for you and pursued a different dream. Just because your college experience is different from others, doesn’t mean it’s not just as valid!

Take note, everyone! Check back tomorrow to reunite with Kaitlyn, James, Chris, Becca, and Zig in The Senior. And stay tuned for Big Sky Country (launching 9/21!), and the return of It Lives and High School Story later this fall! Along the way, you might just get the chance to study at the most prestigious magical university around...

-Jessica

Looking Back on The Royal Romance

 Behind-the-scenes shenanigans from The Royal Romance team!

Behind-the-scenes shenanigans from The Royal Romance team!

Today marked the final chapter of Veil of Secrets and The Royal Romance: Book 3. While Veil of Secrets is a relatively new book, The Royal Romance is a series that dates back to April 2017 (For a throwback, read about Book 1 here!). Now that Book 3 has wrapped up, let's take a look back on the series with the writing team:

It's been a pretty intense race to the finish line for The Royal Romance: Book 3. How are you feeling? Are you doing okay?

Jennifer: I think we've mostly made it out alive. As the saying goes, you can sleep when you're dead... or when you've completed all the chapters of all three books of your series.

Kara: The Royal Romance has always had a really tight schedule, but Book 3 pushed us to our limits! There were a lot of late nights, a lot of weekends spent writing. We really wanted to get this right (or as right as possible in the time we had!) and give readers an ending they'd like. Our motto for the last 8 weeks has been "Fall across the finish line," because we knew we just had to wrap up chapter 22 and then we could collapse.

Jeffrey: But in our trials and tribulations, we found enlightenment. Now, we spend our days upon a mountain in divine bliss, drinking tea, sampling pastries, and petting corgis.

tweet 1.png

(Okay, sure, Jeffrey.) The Royal Romance started out as a lighthearted fairy tale romance. Did you know all along that it would end up here -- a story with political intrigue, enemies-turned-allies, and one very adorable corgi?

Kara: TRR always had darker elements lurking in the background, even from the first book, but the deeper you go into court life, the more dangerous things are. Coming off of writing The Crown & The Flame, I always love when Jennifer and Jeffrey let me put in some darker twists. Players will probably be happy that they didn't let me kill off as many characters as I wanted to. I wanted Bastien to die at the start of Book 3. I wanted Madeleine to die when she got poisoned. Whenever I'm involved, the body count tends to go up...

Jeffrey: "Kara's trail of bodies" was a phrase we used in brainstorms.

Jennifer: Like Kara said, we did always have some darker themes written in between the lines, so it was less a matter of 'will the story end up being about political intrigue and your enemies?' and more like 'when will the story turn?' I will admit, I was delightfully surprised when we decided to take a small scene in the ceremony chapter and refashion it into an all-out battle between your bridal party and the assassins.

Early on, some readers picked up on a few connections between The Royal Romance and The Crown & The Flame. Those connections were front and center in Book 3. When was that planned? Were there any plot details that readers may have missed?

Jennifer: Well, what happened was, back when we were creating Book 1, we wanted an evil redhead to be your antagonist, and Kara said, "Oh, what if we used Zenobia, but the twist is she's a Nevrakis descendant?" Ever since then, we set a precedent that little TC&TF details could populate the TRR world, and I regret nothing. I think Olivia being a Nevrakis descendant is my favorite connection, but other details that pleased me were that Kenna's portrait hangs in the palace dining room and that Lucretia is wearing the very necklace that Val stole in TC&TF.

Kara: I was really sad to leave The Crown & The Flame, so I was delighted that we got to put in some connections. I think most have been caught, except I don't think anyone has mentioned how the little girl in Lythikos is named after Val. My favorite link is Leon’s Ram’s Head Mace and Val's Dead Man's Flail making an appearance.

Olivia: My favorite references are actually some of the smallest ones. I live for every brief, snarky line Olivia throws in about her ancestors - with that Nevrakis history, there's an endless well to draw from.

Jeffrey: I'm going to go with Maxwell’s Coney Island outfit with the necklace of Bubbles, the baby kraken.

tweet 2.png

Out of the whole series, what was your favorite moment?

Jennifer: There are so many! But I'd have to say my favorite moment was in Book 1 where you follow Drake out into the snow and he explains why he dislikes the court and how he let his sister down. We'd purposefully written Drake up to that point as being slightly antagonistic, but this was the kind of the moment where I could see the main character falling for Drake. (Though, having said that, I definitely teared up reading both the proposals and the marriage vows.)

Jeffrey: Given my answers in the previous Inside Choices, I’m obligated to say the moment a series of hat jokes paid off in a magnificently gaudy hat. In non-hat-related moments, I really enjoyed showing off everyone’s house outfits during the costume ball in Book 3. Hats off to the art team!  

Meagan: Hmmm… I really can't say that I have a favorite moment. There are way too many! I might have to pick the reveal of our corgi in a tuxedo, because it felt like the culmination of my own behind-the-scenes quest to add adorableness to everything. I'd say probably the most satisfying scenes for me to write were the proposals and Anton's ultimate defeat. As enjoyable as it is to see the culmination of your positive relationships with the people you've grown to know and love, it's also very satisfying to finally see everyone work together to defeat the enemy that has taken so much from them.  

Olivia: I think I have to go with the wedding vows your love interest recites. We really wanted the wedding to show just how far you and your love interest have come together, and that moment in the cathedral captured so much of what we love about each of these characters.

If you had to form a Royal Council, who in The Royal Romance would you pick as your top advisor?

Olivia: Hana! She knows almost as much about the court and kingdom as Liam, and she has the kind of generosity and empathy I'd want my Royal Council to live by.

Meagan: I'd pick the little girl from Lythikos who won her spot as one of their fiercest warriors by doing 'a tactical analysis of the greatest battles in Nevrakis history.' She's going places.

trr book 3.png

Do you have anything you'd like to say to The Royal Romance fans?

Jennifer: It was New Year's Eve 2017 when Kara and I were hanging out and talking about how fun it would be to write a story about a girl trying to win the heart of a prince. It was a long path to get here filled with a lot of brainstorms and a lot of late nights riddled with feelings of self-doubt, but I wouldn't have changed a second of it. Thank you for reading our story. It was a privilege to write it for you.

Kara: First, I'm sorry to anyone that we've let down. TRR was an ambitious series that tried to do a lot of things with an already challenging schedule, and we didn't always pull off what we wanted with the flawless execution we envisioned.

Second, I've been working on The Royal Romance for the last year and a half. We've released 3 books. 60 chapters. Writing for Choices -- the weekly deadlines, the pressure, the multiple plotlines to keep straight -- it's intense, but it's also the most amazing writing I've ever done. I fell in love with these characters like they're my real friends -- at midnight, I'd be messaging Jennifer and Jeffrey with ideas. Everyday I feel grateful and excited for the stories I get to tell and the team that I get to tell them with, and that's completely and entirely because of all of you. Thank you, thank you, thank you for making The Royal Romance possible!

Jeffrey: Thank you for coming with us on this wild journey that we’ve been on since last year. We’re sorry for the bugs we hit during the wedding. Thank you for bearing with us through the fixes.

Meagan: The Royal Romance was the first project I worked on at Pixelberry, and you have all made it such an incredible experience. The community of fans is truly astonishing and inspiring to me. You are writers, you are artists, you are culture critics, and so much more. Thank you for using your talents to celebrate these characters who are so dear to us. Most of all, thank you for making this past year working on The Royal Romance an amazing, unforgettable experience.

Olivia: The Royal Romance was also my first project here, so it'll always have a special place in my heart. Knowing that this series means as much to our readers as it does to us makes all the late nights, in-depth brainstorms, and hat jokes worth it. Although our plot includes intrigue, drama, and romance, the heart of this story is about an unbreakable group of friends. It's wonderful to see people finding that same kind of friendship through the stories we get to tell, and I hope you'll carry your memories of these characters with you for a long time. I know we all will!

Finally, what's next for The Royal Romance team? And of course, what's next for The Royal Romance series?

Jennifer: Onwards and upwards! I'm turning my attention to a different project for the time being. As for the future of TRR, while we haven't definitively planned anything after Book 3, we do feel there's more story to tell, so it might not quite be curtains for these characters...

Kara: We've promised that you'll see these characters again, and you will! Now that Book 3 is wrapped up, Jennifer, Olivia, and I will be brainstorming and working hard to figure out what form that will take. Whatever comes next, we want to make sure we have an exciting, fun, and new story to tell. But unfortunately, it could be months or even a year or more before we'll be able to release something, so please hang in there, and play all the other amazing stories coming out in Choices in the meantime! If you love and miss TRR, the best thing you can do is keep supporting Choices the way you have been: Leaving 5 star reviews, sharing the game with your friends... and trusting that we're hellbent on making whatever comes next even more awesome!

Olivia: As Kara mentioned, I'll be working with her and Jennifer on whatever the future of these characters may be. We can't share any details yet, but just know that we'll do our very best to make it a worthy new chapter in the Choices universe! In the meantime, I'll also be writing for America's Most Eligible, which serves up a very different kind of drama than what we've seen in Cordonia.

Meagan: I'll continue to work in the realm of courtly romance and intrigue as a writer for Desire and Decorum! I'm going to miss Riley, Liam, Hana, Drake, Maxwell, Bertrand, Olivia, and the rest of the TRR crew, and I can't wait to see what they get up to in the next chapter of their story, whatever that may be.

Jeffrey: I’m moving onto a top secret undisclosed project about [redacted] and lots and lots of [redacted] with a side helping of [redacted].

That's all for The Royal Romance (for now!). When we've got concrete news about the future of this series, we'll let you know. But for now, we hope you'll stay tuned for what's coming this fall: The Senior, Big Sky Country, It Lives 2 (real title still to come...), High School Story, and perhaps a magical adventure...

-Jessica
 

Perfect Match: Book 2

Choices sneak peek.png

Perfect Match returns tomorrow with more romance and adventure than ever before! Book 2 takes the story of Perfect Match to the next level as you face down danger, travel the world, and explore what love means to you. But first, let's talk to the writing team! Make sure you're all caught up on Book 1...

Book 1 ended on a major cliffhanger. What's the story with Perfect Match: Book 2? Will all our questions be answered?

Coco: The stakes are definitely higher in Book 2! You'll peek behind the veil of Eros and learn what they have in store... but they'll always have more secrets! We hope to provide another globetrotting adventure, in which you'll also get to deepen your friendships and relationships. Life on the run can take its toll, and it'll be important for you and your companions to carve out moments of normalcy and connection.

This sequel definitely builds on Book 1. What are you personally most excited about in this book? 

Coco: I'm so excited for you to learn more about our more mysterious characters, such as Alana and Cecile. The origin and early days of Eros are also very intriguing! We've got some sequences and flashbacks that are rather dreamlike, and I can't wait for players to encounter these moments.

Taylor: The stakes are higher than ever in Book 2, but honestly, the parts I’m most excited about are the quieter moments -- the ones where we really get to see how everyone is dealing with what’s been happening in their own way. There’s a lot of growth and healing in this book, and those gentler moments are some of my favorites.

Will we meet anyone new in Book 2? See any familiar faces?

Natasha: Yes and yes! We'll be delving deeper into Rowan and Cecile's backstories, and a few familiar faces will come to your rescue. Plus, someone else will be playing a bigger role...

Taylor: There's a bunch of new characters too, which we’re really excited about! Some will be friends, and some will be foes.

Coco: And there may or may not be a very, very cute robot pet companion!

Perfect Match: Book 1 delved into the theme of identity and what it means to be, well, you. Will Book 2 explore these themes more?

Natasha: Definitely. I think someone's identity is made of different facets: your ideology, where you're from, your family, how you express yourself, your interests. We'll touch base with all of these aspects for Damien, Sloane, Hayden… even Nadia!

Jaylee: We delve more into each character's past and where they come from in this book -- how important it is to connect with your own personal history, and how much that informs who you are in the future. Even with Hayden, we get to learn more about the history of the Matches and how they came to be the way they are, and what parts of that history Hayden wants to keep as part of themselves.

What was the brainstorming process like for Book 2? How did you decide what direction to go with this book?

Coco: The brainstorming process for Perfect Match is pretty unique because our writing team is spread all over the globe! Australia, Indonesia, Kansas, and California... We like to joke that we have writers working from the future. Because of the geographical distance, having the time to regroup and brainstorm all together as a team is really special. (We may even use our writer's experience and expertise to visit Indonesia later on in the book!) In terms of direction, we knew that we wanted to lean into the adventure and mystery of Perfect Match, while still keeping the themes of romance and identity at the heart of the book.

Last, but not least, what’s your Perfect Match type?

Taylor: My Perfect Match is the ‘Best Friend’ -- outgoing, sweet, humorous, and impulsive.

Jaylee: Artist! Which is a little ironic, given how the Matches feel about art...

Natasha: Diplomat, which I thought was the most appealing out of all the Matches before taking the quiz. So... yay Eros?

Coco: I got Executive, but I also know how the quiz works, so it's hard to take it objectively! Maybe I cheated to get the result I wanted... But now I think I like the Joker more, so I think you and your Perfect Match type are always evolving!

There you have it! Who's your Perfect Match? What books are you looking forward to playing this fall? Share with us! And stay tuned for The Senior, Big Sky Country, It Lives, High School Story, and much, much more! Thanks for reading! 

-Shae

Across the Void

inside choices atv.png

As promised, more Choices books are here! The first two chapters of Across the Void launched today in Choices, marking the beginning of our first space opera book! You'll explore the galaxy, save the day, and maybe even find love in this interstellar adventure. For more on Across the Void from the writing team, keep reading:

Greetings! Take me to your leader... and give me the lowdown on Across the Void.

Ariel: In Across the Void, you get to play as the main character, as well as your siblings Eos and Pax. These three siblings are all part of an alien race called the Cyber, the most technologically advanced race in the galaxy, whose genetically designed bodies have been fused with biotechnology. Players will get to captain their own luxury transport ship, defend the galaxy as a keeper of the peace, and act as a spy in the civil war.

The people want to know: Can we date an alien? And is it true that everyone's an alien?

Ariel: Yes. It's all true. :D

Coral: Across the Void is a human-free universe! You can date aliens from all over our galaxy, from royalty with flowers growing through their hair to admirals with stars on their skin. You’ll have to play to date ‘em all!

Across the Void is like nothing we've done before in Choices. What was the worldbuilding for this book like? And what are you excited for readers to encounter?

Ariel: There are over a dozen different alien races readers will encounter in Across the Void! Each has a different look, style, and comprehensive history of their planet and society. The amazing art team working on Across the Void designed every alien, planet, and spaceship with breathtaking detail. They really made everything in our galaxy come to life!

There's a lot going on in Across the Void (in the best possible way!) -- family drama, a galactic war, and so much more. Can you talk a little bit about that? What were some of the challenges and highlights of writing Across the Void?

Ariel: Along with playing your main character and their siblings (who each have their own set of love interests!), you'll get to choose who you side with in the galactic war. As the story continues, players will gain allegiance points for either side when making key decisions.

Coral: I think my favorite part of working on this project was collaborating with the music team to come up with Across the Void’s unique sound. We had a lot of different themes to hit—the war, the sense of discovery, and moments of lighthearted fun. For example, it was difficult to pin down a somber song to fit the range of all our somber scenes. One of the highlights was getting to work in a completely new universe, unlike anywhere we’ve ever visited in Choices before. I got to really exercise my creative muscles to stay true to all the unique rules in this galaxy.

Finally, what's your favorite work of science fiction?

Ariel: Science fiction is my absolute favorite genre! I'm a MASSIVE Star Wars fan with an ever-growing collection of memorabilia from the franchise. Scifi is amazing in any medium, from books like Primary Inversion by Catherine Asaro, Putting Up Roots by Charles Sheffield, Lost Stars by Claudia Gray, Rogue Planet by Greg Bear, Being by Kevin Brooks, and Red Handed by Gena Showalter to television shows like Firefly, Kyle XY, Travelers, The Orville, Almost Human, and Stargate SG-1 to movies like Upside Down, Annihilation, District 9, and Sunshine.

Taage: Philip K. Dick really knew how to create evocative dystopian futures where every facet of society was fully realized and placed a different pressure on the protagonist. I grew up watching the movie Bladerunner regularly (a family fave) which was based on one of his stories, so he's an inspiration for sure!

Coral: I know we have a lot of Mass Effect fans out there, and I’m no exception! I grew up watching plenty of sci-fi, but never really connected with it until I played through the trilogy. Shepard’s journey to save humanity--and the galaxy--from destruction really stuck with me, and I loved getting to know all the characters, from the wisecracking pilot, Joker, to the emotionally compromised sniper, Garrus.

To everyone reading along, hope you've embarked on your space adventure! Also, in case you missed it, Perfect Match: Book 2 launches this September! It Lives, High School Story, and The Senior will be returning in the fall as well, along with Big Sky Country. We've come a long way since Choices launched 2 years ago, and we hope you'll stay tuned for what we have planned next!

-Jessica




 

Desire & Decorum

D&D inside choices.png

Step back in time to Regency-era England for our newest Choices book! Desire & Decorum launches this Monday on July 30th. This book is filled with romance, drama, and witty retorts -- everything you love from your favorite Jane Austen book, and then some. For an early behind-the-scenes look at the making of Desire & Decorum, let's talk to the writing team:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a new Choices book must be in want of an introduction! So tell us, what's Desire & Decorum all about?

Rachel: Desire & Decorum (or D&D, as I love to call it — no, not the kind with dragons. Sorry to disappoint!) is a Regency romance set in England in the early 1800s. When you become the heiress to the grand Edgewater Estate, you’ll have to navigate high society to cement your place among the British elite and even have a chance at love along the way!

What are you most excited for readers to encounter in Desire & Decorum?

Rachel: There’s so much to be excited for in this book: the art (Have you seen that cover? Shout out to our AMAZING art team!), the gorgeous music, and the love interests! I cannot wait for readers to be whisked away to this brilliant world, and hope they fall in love with the time period, just as I have.

JBH: We have absolutely gorgeous new artwork for the various estates you visit in the course of the story, along with all the different period dresses! I’m also excited about the ways in which we tried to bring diversity to what usually ends up as a very white and homogeneous genre. We really looked at how the population was changing within England at the time and tried to bring in elements like the black Americans who fought for England in the Revolution and War of 1812, and Britain’s changing relationship with places like the Ottoman Empire. We wanted to make sure that all of our players would feel that they had a way to connect with this story.

"It's court or be courted" in Desire & Decorum! Can you talk a little bit about what that will entail? (No major spoilers, please!)

Rachel: Well, in true Choices fashion, you'll have several love interests to pursue, but be warned that the course of love never did run smooth... or quick. A big thing in Regency romance is matchmaking — there’s a reason Mrs. Bennett was trying to marry off her five daughters! In D&D, we’ll explore some of that matchmaking, along with the complex social scene. Perhaps you’ll find a suitor who suits you, even if your family doesn’t approve.

Ali: Being the daughter of a powerful family means it's all about the London Season. Will you choose to marry someone above your station or give everything up to follow your heart?

This book is our first foray into historical fiction (and certainly not our last!). What were some of the challenges of writing in this time period?

Rachel: There’s so much RESEARCH! No joke, but I currently have six Regency books on my desk. We’re talking reading a ton, scouring the internet for info, and binge watching every Jane Austen movie/show ever, as well as Doctor Thorne and Downton Abbey. A group of us at the office even went Regency dancing to get into the spirit! (Fun fact: Given the nature of the dances and the ratio of men to women present at a particular gathering, same-sex dancing wasn't unheard of.) A lot of research went into this, and we’ve tried to stay as true to the time period as possible. I think it paid off, but that’s something readers can judge for themselves!

JBH: I have to give a shout-out to all the amazing Regency romance writers who maintain so many blogs and websites specifically dedicated to research on the Regency period! They made it so easy for newcomers to learn things like: “What kind of carriage would an earl’s daughter ride in?” or “How did people decide who to dance with at a party?” or even “What operas were playing in London in 1816?” Romance authors are so generous with their time and knowledge. It really made working in this period a pleasure.

Ali: We tried to strike a good balance between historical jargon and language that would be more friendly to our modern-era readers. Matching this voice was a bit of a challenge for me... but also a good excuse to watch nothing but Regency-era tv shows and movies for a few weeks straight!

What's your favorite Jane Austen (or Regency-era) novel?

Rachel: I have a soft spot for Pride & Prejudice myself, as the first Austen novel I ever read. Darcy and Elizabeth are such strong characters with great arcs and a wonderful love story. I love the sass and the sparks that fly between the two of them. And when Darcy declares his love for Elizabeth? I squee every single time. “In vain I have struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”

JBH: I tend to prefer modern writers’ takes on the Regency period. I particularly enjoy Mary Balough and Julia Quinn. As far as Austen movies, I was a big fan of the Gwyneth Paltrow “Emma.” It really captured the subtle humor of the genre. That’s something we definitely tried for in Desire & Decorum -- Austen wrote the original romantic comedies, and we wanted to make sure that players get plenty of laughs with their friends in between the big romantic moments.

Ali: Oooh, I have to go with Pride & Prejudice! I'm a sucker for both the book and the Keira Knightley movie.  

Swoon! All of us at Pixelberry are counting down the days until Desire & Decorum launches. And of course, stay tuned for what's next! We've got It Lives and Perfect Match returning in the fall, along with The Senior and the next High School Story book! We've also got more romance and sci-fi on the way as well. Get ready to make your debut in high society this Monday!

-Jessica

 

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

inside 1.png

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!&nbsp;

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!&nbsp;

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!&nbsp;

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...

inside 1.png

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.&nbsp;

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!&nbsp;

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

0 RCD SNEAK PEEK.png

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

hss announcement.png

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!&nbsp;

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!&nbsp;

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