As longtime Pixelberry fans know, Pixelberry's journey started with the game High School Story. The same team behind Cause of Death and Surviving High School launched High School Story back in August of 2013. Since then, the Pixelberry family has grown and found new ways to share our love for storytelling.
When Choices first launched, we called our first few books the spiritual successors to SHS and CoD. Over a year later, things have truly come full circle with the release of High School Story in Choices. As the original game (fondly called "HSS Prime" around the office) continues, we are so excited to bring the adventure, drama, and romance of high school into the Choices universe.
What ties this story together even more perfectly is the team behind the new High School Story book... Last winter, Oliver wrote on our blog about one of our new writers, Wendy. Before she joined the Pixelberry team, she was a High School Story fan. She started out writing for The Freshman, but now she writes for the Choices version of High School Story. She -- along with Rachel, another new fan-turned writer, and Max, the original writer for Surviving High School -- has been working on Book 1 for the last few months. (Fun fact: Max first started writing with the team back when he was in college. And yes, he's the namesake of HSS Max... but they're total opposites in temperament!)
For more on the High School Story journey, keep reading for our behind-the-scenes writer interview...
Let's start at the very beginning. What's your experience with High School Story? Specifically the game, not the Choices book.
Max: I loved writing for HSS Prime. One of my favorite quests to write was 'Hope's Story,' which spearheaded our anti-cyberbullying efforts. I loved the original HSS for its blend of humor, heartfelt earnestness, romance, hijinks, and social consciousness. I'm hoping that we've carried that spirit over into HSS within Choices.
Wendy: I started playing the game back in 2013, shortly after it launched, and it quickly became my not-so-guilty pleasure. It's a lighthearted, idealized game, but the challenges the characters faced were grounded in reality in a way that really surprised and impressed me. I never got to write for the game, but I have played it faithfully ever since launch. Working on this new book has been a fangirl's dream come true.
Rachel: So I was a fan of HSS Prime from day one. I remember downloading it the first day it came out on the App Store after I heard about it from the old Surviving High School and Cause of Death days. When I started working for Pixelberry, I had the chance to write for both High School Story and Hollywood U before moving over to HSS for Choices! It's been a fun journey from fan to writer.
Can you give us a quick introduction to the High School Story book? What's it all about?
Wendy: It's been two years since the original HSS game, and a lot has changed. You play as Jordan, a new student who just moved into town, and help him or her make friends, find love, and navigate the always-crazy world of high school.
How does the Choices version of High School Story differ from the original? Will we see any familiar faces? Like, are we gonna see Nishan? This is important. He's my fave.
Max: The biggest challenge of writing HSS for Choices was to make a world that both rewarded returning fans and welcomed new ones. Our ultimate strategy was to feature our existing beloved characters like Sakura, Julian, Wes, and (of course) Nishan, but to also introduce several new, younger characters that could take up the torch and live their own story. I think we ended up with something that's a natural extension of the HSS world that can be enjoyed by new and old fans alike.
Wendy: To me, the biggest difference came about with the shift in genre. In the original game, you were a student at the school, but you were also the founder, and a huge aspect of gameplay was building the school from the ground up and recruiting new students. This time, you're a new student trying to find their place in a world that already exists. In that sense, the game has much more in common with The Freshman than it does with the original HSS.
While this story mainly focuses on a new cast of characters, you'll definitely see some familiar faces! Most of the major characters (including Nishan) from the original game appear in this one as upperclassmen, and a few even have a major effect on the plot. We're also introducing some family members of the original characters, such as Ezra's brother, Caleb, and Nishan's cousin, Myra.
With the original High School Story and Hollywood U, one of our guiding principles has always been to create stories with heart and a positive message. How does that translate to the new High School Story book?
Rachel: I think this has definitely carried over into High School Story for Choices! You'll get a chance to cheer up your friends and be the person to rally everyone together. It might be your first day at a new school when you start out, but if you make the right choices, I can guarantee you'll leave a lasting impression on the school.
At this point, it's practically an Inside Choices tradition to ask, but... who can we date in High School Story? The public must know!
Max: Oh man. This is something that almost broke us, but we've created FIVE dateable characters in HSS (usually for a new book, we max out at three!). In addition, you can play as a guy or a girl! This all led to a massive amount of extra coding and writing, but in a game called 'Choices' we felt like we should be pursuing a truly customized player experience. I think we've delivered that with HSS.
Who's your favorite High School Story character to write? That goes for the original HSS cast or the new HSS. (If we're talking original HSS, mine's Nishan. I'm just gonna keep bringing up Nishan. #Nishan4Life)
Wendy: I have so many feelings about Maria, the type-A leader of the homecoming committee. Teenage girls are not only expected to be pretty, smart, popular, and successful, they're also expected to make it look easy. Maria's story is about realizing it's okay not to live up to that standard.
Rachel: I absolutely love writing the dad! He's so awkward and dorky in such a lovable way! Plus, I love coming up with the dad jokes! I can only hope I make my own father proud... Besides the dad, Frank is a lot of fun to write. He may be a huge defensive football player, but inside, he's a lovable teddy bear who just wants to have fun. I wish I had Frank the Tank as a best friend in high school!
With Book 1 out in the wild, what are you working on now?
Wendy: No spoilers, but we've got some seriously cool plot twists planned. Stay tuned! (Do you say stay tuned for video games? Ah well, you know what I mean!)
Yay, can't wait! We hope High School Story fans will enjoy this fresh spin on the HSS world... and we hope Choices fans will check out the original HSS game! If you haven't started the newest Choices book, what are you waiting for? The first day of school is here, and the possibilities are endless.
-Jessica, Level 8 Nerd and Wallflower