The Royal Romance

It's been an exciting few weeks at Pixelberry! Spring is in full bloom, and with it, we've seen the release of the newest The Crown & The Flame book and Endless Summer's grand finale -- and yes, Endless Summer: Book 2 is currently in the works.

But that's not all we've got in store for you! We just released The Royal Romance, a thrilling whirlwind of love that doubles as a spin-off of Rules of Engagement. It's the first of several new books we're hoping to unveil throughout the spring and summer.

The Choices team is pretty much constantly hard at work on current and future books... but I did manage to snag the two writers from The Royal Romance for a quick chat:

Let's hit the basics first. What is The Royal Romance about?

Jennifer: 'The Royal Romance' is about a normal girl who has one magical night with a prince and makes the spontaneous decision to travel to his kingdom to try to win his heart. But will you end up with him or fall for someone else along the way?

Kara: We'll sometimes start off with a guideline, kind of like a one-line prompt. For Rules of Engagement, for example, our goal was something more dramatic than The Freshman and following four different characters. For The Royal Romance, our premise was to write a fish-out-of-water romance about a normal girl who gets swept into the world of royalty. We knew we wanted there to be some kind of competition element to it, so what we ended up with was something like a cross between The Bachelor and The Prince and Me--all of the thrill of falling in love with the adventure of traveling and trying to compete for the person you love.

It's always fun spotting the crossovers in different Choices books and seeing the universe grow. How did you settle on the idea of creating a Rules of Engagement spin-off?

Jennifer: We'd already started developing the kingdom of Cordonia for Rules of Engagement, and when we found out we'd be making a romantic, royalty-focused book, it seemed like a good opportunity to expand the world and dig deeper into what it's like there since you don't see it very much in Rules.

Kara: Technically, The Royal Romance is also a continuation of The Crown & The Flame, though that may be a little more subtly done! One of the characters, Olivia, is a descendant of Zenobia, who appears in book 2 of TC&TF. Readers can probably tell that we love crossovers. Part of that's because we all love seeing what the whole team is working on, so we play all the Choices books. But part of it's also because writers will switch books when we need to help out with something else. For example, Jennifer moved from The Freshman to help launch Rules of Engagement. The writers from Most Wanted are currently working on Endless Summer and #LoveHacks, as you might have figured out from all the mysteries and jokes! Braidwood Manor had a writer from The Freshman on it, which is why there's some cameos there.

Sometimes it can be hard when you work on a story for so long to then move on to start up another book. Leaving The Crown & The Flame to focus more on Rules and The Royal Romance was really difficult for me because I love those characters so much, but TC&TF was fortunate to have two other amazingly talented writers to keep it going. We're always excited to get the chance to tell new stories, tackle new genres, and experiment with new ideas, but I think we all also have so much love for the other characters and worlds we've created that it breaks our hearts to leave them behind. I think that's why we have so many crossovers in the whole game! It's our way of taking our worlds with us.

What do you personally love most about The Royal Romance? And what are you most excited for our readers to encounter?

Kara: One cool thing we really wanted to do was have people get to pick their prince. This is the first time we've let you customize a love interest! Another thing I'm excited for is that because we're using the same customizable character as #LoveHacks, we were able to get more skin tones and facial features so players have more options for how to customize their own character, too.

Jennifer: Also, we've had a lot of fun building up the characters around the Prince, and if dating a prince isn’t your cup of tea, it’s quite possible there are other lady and gentleman suitors for players to encounter.

All of our books have, to varying degrees, some romance in them. But this book is unabashedly about romance - it's in the title! What are your thoughts on romance as its own genre?

Jennifer: I love romance and reading romance! Whenever I talk to people about it, though, they usually bring it up in a guilty way like maybe it's something to be embarrassed over or perhaps because some don't really see it as real literature. It makes me sad when people feel like they need to be ashamed of what they like! It feels sometimes like certain genres are deemed less literary or worthy, and I feel like the genres that get called out are often ones that are loved by women or young adults. A certain genre might not be for everyone, but that doesn't make it less important to the people who care about it.

I think romance stories have a lot of heart, and that's something I love in storytelling. To me, ultimately, a good romance is about seeing how people relate to one another and find meaning in their life. Connecting with people--whether it's romantic or not--is a fundamental part of existing, and romance stories have the opportunity to explore that. And if you can find something real in what you're reading, then isn't that the point?

This book came together while you were simultaneously working on Rules of Engagement. That's taking multi-tasking to a whole new level. How do you do it? Just how much coffee do you drink in a day?

Kara: Sometimes it feels like we never stop working! When you love the stories and the characters as much as we do, it can be really hard to stop thinking about them, even in the middle of the night. Plus, Jennifer and I have been best friends since high school, so we spend a lot of time outside of the office together, and when we're excited about a project, we can't stop talking about it. On New Year's Eve this year, we were brainstorming The Royal Romance while everyone else was watching the ball drop.

At the end of the day, though, this isn't just a job to us, and I hope it shows in the stories Choices puts out. It's crazy how much we end up caring about the characters and the stories we're telling. I think that's the hardest part. We love writing and we want to do our best, tell the best story, and write something that will touch people. In most other forms of writing, you'd get a lot more time to agonize and revise, but we've got to hit weekly releases, so when Wednesday comes, time's up. There's a lot of pressure to write well, write fast, and, in this case, to build something new in a very short amount of time. The scariest thing is feeling like with so many things that go into every chapter and every book, and so many deadlines to hit, we might mess something up and let our fans down. But when it all goes right and we put out something that readers love, it makes it all worth it!

Finally... I've got to know. What's your favorite fairy tale princess story?

Kara: Sleeping Beauty! I was convinced after I heard that story that my parents would some day reveal that I was actually a princess in hiding...

Jennifer: Cinderella. I love it as a transformative rags-to-riches story and also as a tale that you can see told across many different cultures. I do tend to favor more modern interpretations though, like the novels Just Ella or Ella Enchanted which are two of my favorite books.

Thank you for taking the time to chat! And to all of you reading along, The Royal Romance is out now -- check into your game for a whirlwind of love, adventure, and more! Hope you love it just as much as we do.

-Jessica 

Hollywood U Reflections

Not long ago, we released the final quest of Hollywood U (Pixelberry's 2nd of 3 games), something I'd been a writer, story lead, and producer on. This big moment caused me to take a step back and remember the long journey we've made together.

We launched Hollywood U two-plus years ago in December of 2014. What's crazy is that we did so in a matter of months. The energy in the office then was electric, with everyone scrambling around trying to hit their impossible deadlines.

We seem calm here, but the excitement on launch day was through-the-roof...

After our launch, we celebrated with an on-theme film festival. Several brave souls dug up embarrassing videos of themselves for everyone to watch.

The team has always been passionate about whatever it works on. And that passion comes through in cosplay... 

Recognize these characters?

...in dedication. Many of our writers wrote quests week in and week out. But we still managed to have fun together in our writing and in our brainstorms.

...and in collaboration. Here we are blitz-writing hundreds of dates for HWU's Couple's Corner. It was a very busy lunch.

The best part of Hollywood U was, well, all of you. Your creativity and enthusiasm -- expressed through fanart, headcanons, ships, and messages -- was what drove us to keep writing and doing our best. Eddie, who you might know from our livestreams, had this to say:

"To all the HWU players, thank you for all the love you've given us, thank you for the hours of livestreaming, and thank you for this adventure that was a big part of my life." -Edward

Some of you have already played the Hollywood U finale and even reached out to us about how the game has influenced you. That means the world to us. The next game update for Hollywood U will be its last, and weekly quests will no longer be released... but the spirit of Hollywood U continues to burn bright.

And for those Choices players who have no idea what I'm talking about... I hope you'll take a minute to check out Hollywood U and see this awesome game now that the story is complete. There's literally hundreds of hours of romance, adventure, and Hollywood excitement that we've poured our hearts into bringing to life.

When I look around our office, I see the Choices team dedicating the same hard work, creativity, and love that they put into Hollywood U. As we shift focus to Choices, the team will grow and evolve, but our love for storytelling remains the same.

It's been a long journey, but we're glad we made it with you.

-Eric

The Crown & The Flame: Book 3 News

For everyone up to date on The Crown & The Flame, you know that Book 2 ended on a huge cliffhanger. Since then, the team behind The Crown & The Flame has been working hard on the most epic Book 3 possible. That means new characters and even more grand adventures... Kenna will be tested like never before.

The Crown & The Flame team is beyond excited for Book 3 to come out. It's currently still a work-in-progress. There's a lot of work, writing, and of course, new art that is going into this book, and we hope you'll find it worth the wait.

I wish I could tell you more, but I don't want to give too much away. Keep an eye out for Book 3 near the start of April! In the meantime, I can give you an exclusive sneak peek of what's in store. Here are some new faces you'll meet in Book 3:

A while ago, two of the writers were sketching their vision for the cover of Book 3. Of course, I had to get a picture. No promises that the cover will look anything like these sketches, but I have it on good authority that the final product is going to be incredible.

Hope you're looking forward to Book 3! And of course, more will be revealed as the release date draws near. Be sure to look out for new The Crown & The Flame adventures around the beginning of April. Thanks for your patience, and thank you so much for playing!

- Jessica

An Inspiration for Others

Our story games through the ages. Notice how small the first Surviving High School was.

Every once in awhile, while I look around at our studio, I get amazed by how much things have changed for our team.

I remember back to 2004 when our team was the first to create story games for phones. At the time no one had thought about creating stories for phones. In fact, when we first came up with the idea, we didn’t even have a writer on our team yet. We ended up finding a talented student, Max, at Stanford who would write for us at night after class. He’s now our Head of Content and namesake (but not inspiration) for High School Story’s Max. 

We launched our first story game, Surviving High School, in 2005. It was the first and only story driven game on cell phones for many years. We thought a text based game was a perfect fit for cell phones that were limited by screen size and power. Our belief was that with limited information, our players would use their imaginations to fill in the blanks. And even though our art has greatly improved from the pixel art of a decade ago, that basic premise continues to today.

Surviving High School grew in popularity and became the #3 game on the biggest “app store” at that time, Verizon’s Get It Now service. It did better than well known brands, like Pac Man and Madden Football. Story had proven its appeal.

Later at EA, our team developed a brand new version of Surviving High School for iPhone and Android. We followed up with Cause of Death. And later, as Pixelberry, we launched High School Story, Hollywood U, and Choices. Even though we’ve been with four different companies - Centerscore, Vivendi Games, EA, and now Pixelberry - it’s always been the same team. 

Through the years, our story games have inspired many other companies to follow. But as pioneers of the space, we take great care in making sure that the quality of our current work rises to the expectations of the many fans we’ve delighted over the years.

And together, as a team, we’ll keep on innovating in the space.

- Oliver & The Pixelberry Team

Trust

As the new year begins, I’ve been thinking a lot about the past year. 2016 was a difficult year for our studio, and today I’d like to share a behind the scenes story of Choices… a great example of why I love the Pixelberry team.

By the time May 2016 was starting, our team had been working hard on Choices for many months. Our writers were deeply enmeshed in writing all three launch series, our artists were creating the characters and backgrounds for the game, our engineers were making the game come alive, our testers were hammering on the game, and our designers were tweaking features on the fly. The office was filled with a buzz, you could feel the energy as everyone pulled together to finish the game.

But despite our best efforts we knew that we weren’t going to have our first three books ready for a July launch. Only The Freshman would be done in time.

Normally, we’d push the launch back, but we also faced another problem. Pixelberry was running out of money. We projected that after we launched in July, we’d have only one month of cash left and we’d need that month as we waited to receive our first earnings from the game.

As we explored our options, I came up with an alternative plan that I presented to the team for a vote. We could launch in July as planned or if everyone took a 20% pay cut for several months, we could postpone the launch of Choices to August. We would take a blind vote and the majority would win.

An overwhelming majority voted to take the cut. This type of outcome is pretty rare in the workplace and the results were a testament to the team believing in both Choices and in each other.

Afterwards, multiple people approached me about concerns that even though they voted for the cuts, they were worried that a reduction in salary might be too hard for someone else on the team, especially those buying a home or with babies at home. I was even asked if they could cut their salary deeper to spare the cuts for others. We declined because leaders of the studio were already planning to spare from cuts those for whom it would be too much of a hardship. But it was so touching to see that people on the team cared for each other in such deep ways.

Thanks to you, our players, Choices had a great launch in August. A week after launch, everyone’s salaries were returned to normal and several months later, the cuts were paid back. Today, the studio is investing the money we are making into hiring more writers so we can create more and better stories.

And as the new year begins, we go into it knowing that the people we work side by side with every day genuinely care about Pixelberry, the game we're making, and each other.

- Oliver

The Haunting of Braidwood Manor

With two new books and The Freshman: Book Three, the Holiday of Choices is still going strong! To cap off this season, we're releasing our final book for the season: The Haunting of Braidwood Manor!

Many of you have been asking for a horror book, and we heard you. The Haunting of Braidwood Manor is a gorgeous and eerie tale that takes place within a haunted manor. For more on our newest book, we turned to The Haunting of Braidwood Manor's story lead:

Tell us about The Haunting of Braidwood Manor. What's going down? Will there be ghosts?

'The Haunting of Braidwood Manor' is just what it sounds like: a haunted house story. But like all good haunted house stories, there's much more to it than faces in the windows and bumps in the night. This is a deeply personal story about one girl's journey to understand life after death - a journey that brings her to a place stranger and more mysterious than she could ever have imagined.

As for whether there will be ghosts... I'd say that's something for the readers to find out on their own. Assuming they're brave enough, of course.

What are you most excited for the readers to encounter in this book?

Can I say everything?

To start with, the art is absolutely incredible. Braidwood Manor itself is a fascinating setting because it's creepy and possibly haunted, but it's also one of the most beautiful houses ever. If it was a real place, I'd move there in a heartbeat, ghosts or no ghosts.

Speaking of ghosts, this book has some of my favorite Choices characters yet. I can't wait to see how our readers react to them... especially if those reactions include fan art!

Finally, I'd recommend that this book be played with the sound on and the volume turned UP! Music is one of the key ingredients of horror, and 'The Haunting of Braidwood Manor' is no exception.

This is a horror book, but the people need to know. Will there be any romance?

Horror doesn't necessarily preclude romance. After all, what could be more terrifying than telling someone how you feel about them?

On a scale of 1 - 10, how spooky is this book?

Jessica, they haven't invented a scale that could possibly quantify just how spooky this book is.

Eek! Check into your game for the release of The Haunting of Braidwood Manor and so much more. The team has been working around the clock to make the Holiday of Choices happen, and we're so excited to share it with you! Happy 2017, everyone!

- Jessica

Warmth for the Holidays

We received a really well written and heartwarming letter this past week. Although it doesn’t relate directly to Choices and instead focuses on another one of our games, High School Story, I thought this letter would be great for the holiday season. Victor, thank you for letting us share your letter. Because of you, our High School Story team is now considering a MG storyline.

- Oliver

Dear Pixelberry Studios,

Hi! My name is Victor and I’m a huge High School Story fan! I’m a regular player, and I’m also a new player to Choices! I absolutely love your mobile games, and I even bought the official High School Story shirt! I wanted to reach out to you for a few reasons, but first I’d like to tell you about my story that led to Pixelberry.

I was born with a rare autoimmune disease called Myasthenia Gravis (MG for short). It is extremely rare in children, yet I acquired it at age five. Basically, it weakens all of the muscles in the body, making it difficult to breathe, walk, eat, and complete simple tasks such as opening a water bottle, or a jar of pickles. Over the years, I’ve had multiple surgeries, appointments, and a lot of missed school due to recovery from surgeries and tests. Unfortunately, I’ve had to miss quite a lot of my “high school experience” due to my body’s limits, such as my inability to participate in sports, stay late at football games, be included in after school clubs, participate in PE, and even make friends. Eventually, I was forced to be homeschooled online because I couldn’t physically make it through a day of walking from class to class. Overall, it was hard for a teenager in high school to live with a disease that is constantly making me weak and unable to participate in regular teenage activities.

Then, my sister introduced me to High School Story. My siblings and I are big Laura Shigihara fans, so when we discovered her video where she sings “Best Day” live on YouTube, we had to check out your game! Since I had to stay home a lot, often recovering from surgeries or regaining strength, I became quite a gamer in my spare time at home. I have multiple consoles, and I’m into all types of genres. High School Story really got me hooked within the first few quests, as I was interested in the type of game that makes me feel like I need to continue out of curiosity of what will happen next, like reading a mystery novel. I absolutely fell in love with your game, and was soon playing it daily!

After playing for awhile, I realized that I was a big fan. I had my favorite characters (Julian, since he is just like me, and Autumn, since she looks and acts just like my sister, along with Payton, Mia, and Nishan topping my favorite), along with my opinions on the characters and anticipation quest after quest, which I would discuss with my siblings. The character development of the characters was so good that I felt attached and proud to be a High School Story fan! (Big props to the writers and developers, by the way). I would get so worked up when Kara and Max were bullying the characters, or when Ace betrayed the Avatar. I would laugh out loud with some of the stuff that came out of Payton and Nishan’s mouths, get excited when I heard a reference from other franchises like Star Wars, and happy when all of the characters came together and were there for each other. It was surprising to me, that I was getting emotionally invested into a mobile game. Now, I realize that maybe it’s because that’s what I was missing out on in the hospital. I was feeling the “high school experience” vicariously through this game.

It wasn’t until now that I realized that this game was such a good outlet for me. It was disappointing and upsetting to understand that I couldn’t get the typical high school experience that everyone else had. I felt very left out. Playing the game, however, felt more fun and raw than my real-life high school, since it showed every side of the students -- students who had real problems and relatable struggles and feelings. Your game made a very positive impact on me.

If you’ve read so far, thank you so much! I really appreciate how you listen to your fans. A major reason I wanted to contact you is because I was wondering if it’d be possible to include a Myasthenia Gravis patient as a student in your game. The MG community is very unknown to the public, and I believe that recognition in such a successful and widespread game would contribute great awareness to their community. I’ve seen Pixelberry team up with inspirational foundations, such as Girls Who Code and Cybersmile, so I was hoping there would be something we could work out. One of the things I love about this game it how relatable it is with the struggles of high school, such as character with bad home lives, kids feeling pressured, disabled characters (Ryan with the robotic arm), wildly diverse characters, and questioning and changing the stereotypes of high school overall. It shows people how a jock isn’t just a jock, or a nerd isn’t just a nerd. I believe it’s very important for kids and teens to realize that it’s not about having the typical high school experience, but more about understanding each other’s differences and learning to embrace everyone for who they are. Also, it’s about enjoying the moment as it is, and being okay with having your own type of experience in high school, and in life in general. I think adding an MG patient would truly help prove that all types of teens can triumph through adversity.

Thank you again for your fun, addicting, and amazing game! I truly appreciate everything it has taught me, and how it helped me get through high school. Now a senior in high school, I hope that I will be able to teach others the values your game revolves around. Even if I never get a reply from this, I am so glad I wrote to you, because not only do I want you to know the positive impact it had, but also because I feel like I was able to leave my insecurities about missing high school behind, and move on to enjoy life as it is. Thank you!

Sincerely,  

Victor 

~Class of 2017~

~A Fan from Seattle~

Pixelberry's Holiday Snafus & Warm Wishes

Earlier this week we launched our new Choices update on Wednesday, but did not launch this week’s new chapters until Thursday. It turned out that there were more problems with The Freshman Book 3 than we were expecting and it held up all the chapters.

In general, we try to launch new chapters every Wednesday and we know that’s many of your expectations, too. But there have been a few days when our launches have slipped back to a Thursday. We apologize for that. Even though we’ve hired new Quality Assurance testers and writers, moving to supporting chapters for 4-5 series a week has been pushing our capabilities. We’re really trying as hard as we can. But it’s more important for us to ship new chapters with as few bugs as possible. We do try to let players know on Facebook or Twitter as soon as we know the DLC is delayed.

Unfortunately, we will also be delaying the premiere of The Haunting of Braidwood Manor one week from December 28 to hopefully January 5. I just played a new build of it and it definitely has a more suspenseful feel to it than our other stories. When you play it, I hope you will think it was worth the wait! 

While some of our team has been traveling this week across the country, a majority of our team was still in the office today - enjoying a holiday lunch together and working hard on getting new chapters ready for release next week. It might be the holidays, but we wanted to make sure new chapters are there for you, especially for those who may need a pick-me-up or escape during this time of year. 

Happy holidays! Whether you’re with family or friends or on your own this holiday season, we hope it will be a time of peace, joy, comfort, and fun!

Oliver & the Pixelberry Carolers

#LoveHacks

LoveHacks.jpg

Bundle up and grab some hot cocoa, because the party's still on with the Holiday of Choices! Next week, we'll be releasing our next book: #LoveHacks!

With #LoveHacks, we're introducing a fun, laugh-out-loud adventure set in the heart of San Francisco, alongside even more new features. To tell you all about #LoveHacks, we handed the mic over to #LoveHacks's story lead:

First off, what is #LoveHacks all about? What was the inspiration behind it?

#LoveHacks is a sitcom-style story about a writer making viral, clickbait articles about love and dating in San Francisco. Social media and viral content are a part of the way we think about everything nowadays, so we wanted to do something that felt very “now”. It’s a story about dating, of course, but one that pokes some fun at modern culture. It’s romantic comedy for the #meme generation.

Judging by the title, I'm guessing there'll be romance. What's in store for the readers?

Our main character is going to have to go on a LOT of dates for work research, so expect some fun and some drama there. But, just like any good sitcom, we also have a colorful core cast of characters, and you’ll play as each of them throughout the book, helping them find love, success, or just an apartment with reasonable rent in San Francisco.

There's a new feature appearing in #LoveHacks. Can you talk a bit about the Closet?

The Closet lets you open a menu and browse through all the outfits you’ve unlocked so far, and change your look right then, in the middle of the story! It also opens up a bigger view of your character, thus answering the age-old question of “Do Choices characters have legs?”

(We’re so excited to show off long dresses, fiiinally!)

What IS a #LoveHack? Got one for us?

#Lifehacks are shareable tips and tricks to make your life easier. LoveHacks do the same for your love life! For example:

In a rush? Break up with bae via text to save precious time!

…I’m kidding, don’t ever do that. But seriously though, the characters in #LoveHacks are WAY more savvy about dating than I am. Check them out in CHOICES!

Tune in next week to play #LoveHacks! And don't forget, we've got one more new book on the way after that: The Haunting of Braidwood Manor. Let us know what you think of the new books!

- Jessica

 

Endless Summer!

As part of the Holiday of Choices, we’re super happy to introduce you to our newest book: Endless Summer! 

This is the first of several books we’ll be releasing in the upcoming weeks. Each book has new features, storylines, and art. The team has been working hard to create something unique and fresh for every book. We're excited to see what you all think! 

To celebrate the release of Endless Summer, we decided to check in with Endless Summer's story lead: 

Endless Summer is a departure from anything else Choices has done so far. That goes for the narrative, as well as the art style. What is Endless Summer about? 

Not to give away too much of the surprise, but what we can say is: You and ten of your classmates win a vacation to a Caribbean island resort… but when you get there, you realize that this paradise is built on secrets. 

At its heart, this is a story about finding the adventure in your life, whether it’s your friendships, your love life, or figuring out who you want to be as a person.

What's the story behind Endless Summer's new look?  

With this story, we set out to expand the definition of what CHOICES can look like. We found that a vibrant cartoon look is perfect for these larger-than-life characters against the backdrop of a gorgeous, mysterious island. We hope our players love the style as much as we do.

Which part of Endless Summer are you most excited for? What do you hope readers will get out of this book?

We designed a couple new features that I can’t wait for our players to get their hands on, and you’ll see them pretty much as soon as you start Chapter One. One of them adds spectacular kinetic visuals befitting this soaring adventure, while the other opens up whole new avenues of gameplay, where every single choice you make has even longer lasting consequences.

Okay, but is summer REALLY endless? No spoilers. 

I like to think that summer is a state of mind, so really your endless summer is totally up to you!

And there you have it! If you haven't already, log into your game to play Endless Summer, and let us know what you think! 

- Jessica

Completing the circle

I'm always super excited when we add new people to the Pixelberry team. But at the risk of offending our other new hires, I have to admit that I was extra excited for the addition of one of our newest writers: Wendy!

Why? Because she’s one of you! She was a Pixelberry fan before she became a writer for us! It was so exciting to learn that Wendy has been playing High School Story since our launch in 2013. Like many of our most passionate fans, she was initially skeptical that High School Story would be a fun game, but once she started playing, she realized the story was deeper than she thought. And by the time she got to references about Firefly (a favorite Pixelberry show), she was sold on our games.

Fast forward three years to when Wendy started looking for a job and saw that Pixelberry was hiring. She happened to apply right before we launched Choices and by the time of her interview, she was already a fan of The Freshman. She quickly accepted our job offer and moved all the way from Washington D.C. to the San Francisco Bay Area to join our team. And now she’s a writer on The Freshman, including this week’s holiday special!

If like Wendy, you have a passion for writing, are willing to relocate to the San Francisco Bay Area, and want to complete the circle, we are looking for more writers and would love to hire more fans. You can learn more at our website.

http://www.pixelberrystudios.com/careers/

Spinning in circles of joy,

Oliver

A Holiday of Choices

This December we’re super excited to be celebrating a Holiday of Choices with you. We’ve been growing our team and our newest writers have been preparing a two-part holiday special for The Freshman and are helping us plan for Book 3 of the Freshman. We’ll also be increasing the number of Choices series in December from 4 to 7!

Our 5th series is launching within the next two weeks. Endless Summer was designed as an escape for players facing chilly winters. In this tropical island mystery, you’ll meet Quinn, Jake, Diego, Michelle, Sean, and others. I played chapter one for the first time last week and loved it. I think many of you will, too!

(Notice which Fox color the writers picked!)

(Notice which Fox color the writers picked!)

Our 6th series, #LoveHacks, will follow the lives of 6 friends in San Francisco. It's a fun, heartwarming story that will be especially beloved by fans of The Freshman.

Our 7th series, targeted for the end of the month, introduces a new genre to Choices. One that’s a pretty major departure from our existing series - Horror! 

Chills.

Make sure to check back every week this month to enjoy a Holiday of Choices with us!

Oliver, Endless Summer's newest fan!

 

Diversity in Gaming

At Pixelberry, we’ve always strived to have a diverse cast in our stories that reflects the real world - whether it’s based on ethnicity or sexuality. This has always been important to us, especially since many of us have faced discrimination simply for being ourselves. Hopefully, from playing our stories, like “The Freshman”, you can tell from both the romantic interests and friends in the story that diversity is important to us.

But recently, we failed you. We launched “The Freshman”, with 4 different skin tones that you could choose for your character. We tried to provide a wide range of skin tones, but we didn't succeed in doing that. We’ve had African American and other people of color tell us that they weren’t represented. We messed up and we are very sorry.

In order to correct that, we just launched new skin tones in “The Freshman.” Looking at the side by side comparisons of the new and old skin tones, it’s obvious that our initial range of skintones was too limited.

Step by step we are learning on this journey with you. We truly appreciate your feedback, and our entire team is working hard to make stories that we hope will make you laugh, make you cry, or make you fall in love--but we never want them to make you feel excluded. We hope you'll keep letting us know how we're doing so we can keep making Choices better and better for all of our players.

Oliver and the Pixelberry Team

What Does The Fox Say?

Last week’s post was pretty heavy, so we thought we’d share something lighter this week. As the chill of winter creeps into the Northern hemisphere, we’re getting ready to transport you somewhere warmer with our newest story, Endless Summer

We’ve been debating back and forth on the color of the fox-like character. We’ve gone from red to light blue to green. I asked to see purple and “Snorlax” blue. The artists came back with the last two shades below.

What do you think? (Find out which one we picked in December!)

Oliver

Choices

What an election. Half of America woke up elated, the other half very sad, and around the world people are processing what happened.  It’s clear that America, like much of the world, remains very divided. One of our team’s goals with Choices has always been to create greater empathy for those people and values we don’t always understand, regardless if you’re conservative, liberal, or in-between. We hope that our game will play a role, no matter how small, in creating more empathy across the globe.

Separately, I’ve recently lost someone important to me. It’s been hard. But in that sorrow, I’ve seen the power of games first hand. Games can be more than just entertainment. Games can bring people together, bridge generations, bring smiles amid tragedy, and in their own way they can heal.

Line by line and chapter by chapter, our team hopes to build stories that sometimes will be frivolous or simply fun, but at other times will have meaning, will have an impact, and will be greater because of the understanding they create. Thank you for being a part of our journey so far and we hope you continue to join us in making this happen.

Oliver

One of Pixelberry’s founders

Key Problem Fixed

Yesterday, we pushed out a new update on Android that solved the key overcharge problem. We released the same update for iOS today (we had to pass Apple testing first.)

Make sure you update to build 1.4.1 to avoid getting double charged for keys. Once again, we are very sorry for this problem! We are continuing to monitor our support channels and social media closely to make sure that the problem really has been solved.

Later, we will do an internal post-mortem on what went wrong, recap what happened to you, and apologize again. We feel really bad about this and we thank you for your patience as we worked on solving the problem.

Oliver, Pixelberry's CEO

Key Problems Update

Thank you for your continued patience as we fix this issue. Our devs have been working really hard. They've identified the problem and are now working on the fix. The problem occurs most often when you finish a chapter, quite the app, and then restart a chapter later - the way most of you play.

If all goes well, we hope to push an update out for Android later today. We are going to ask Apple to expedite an update, so we hope that gets released today, but depending on their testing, it may take a few extra days.

If you have encountered this problem, please let our Player Specialists know. To send us a message, tap the gear icon, tap Help, and tap Contact Us.

Key Problems

We were excited to push out yesterday’s new update with The Freshman’s Halloween themed story. But somehow in that update we introduced a new problem. At times, but not always, the start of a new chapter will use two keys instead of one. Somehow the game is sending start chapter / end chapter / start chapter commands all at once when it should only be sending one start chapter command.

Our developers have been rushing to isolate the problem. While they are trying to find the cause, they’ve also identified 3 different “band aid” fixes. They are working to implement all of them right now.

  1. Our developers are going to disable game state compression. They think the introduction of smaller save files in this update may have caused this problem.
  2. They are going to modify our server code so that any quick sequence of start chapter / end chapter occurs, it will be ignored.
  3. They are also going to create a client fix to correctly handle any error calls the server sends that relates to this problem.

Thanks for your patience as we work quickly to solve this problem. We’ll update this blog as we have more information.

Oliver

Unspoken Bonds

Our team has gone through so many things, but through it all, we’ve managed to stay together.

We first started working together at Centerscore. Vivendi acquired us and then sold us to EA. Later we started Pixelberry. Through it all we’ve been one core team, adding people along the way, each one making us stronger.

We’ve been through hardships, like seeing each other get laid off in bits and pieces at EA or voting to take pay cuts to ship a better Choices.

We’ve also been innovators, launching Surviving High School, the first story game for mobile in 2005.

We’ve seen successes, like cheering when High School Story broke into the Top 10 and saving lives with Cybersmile.

But our most enduring results have been in the friendships and relationships that have formed from the team, including two couples meeting and getting married.

Not every day is happy. We go through our fair share of arguments and serious conversations. But the one thing I can rely on, especially when life outside of work is filled with death, illness, and other no good, horrible things, is knowing that when I go to work, there is a team I can rely on -- with people who care about me, people with whom I share experiences that bind us together in unspoken ways.

For all of that, thank you team.

Oliver