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

Endless Summer Finale

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

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

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

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

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

inside choices 1.png

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

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

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

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

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

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

inside choices 3.png

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What will you be working on post-Endless Summer?

Luke: That's under wraps right now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Jessica

The Junior

Inside Choices.png

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Jessica

Bloodbound

inside choices.png

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chelsa: I'd rather be a witch.

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

-Shae

High School Story: Book 3

HSS inside choices.png

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Jessica

Perfect Match

PM cover square.png

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you believe your perfect match exists IRL?

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

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

-Jessica

The Royal Romance: Book 3

Choices sneak peek.png

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Jessica