Bloodbound

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chelsa: I'd rather be a witch.

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

-Shae

High School Story: Book 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Jessica

Perfect Match

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you believe your perfect match exists IRL?

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

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

-Jessica

The Royal Romance: Book 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Jessica

What's Next

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Jessica

New Year, New Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Jessica

Making a Difference

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

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

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

For more on our past partnerships:

Red Carpet Diaries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Jessica

Home for the Holidays

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finally... hot cocoa or eggnog?

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

Cat: Hot cocoa!

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

-Jessica

New Books and Update

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

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

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

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

-Jessica

The Sophomore: Book 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Jessica

Endless Summer: Book 3

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Even though it's nearly wintertime for us here at Pixelberry, we've got summer on the mind! Endless Summer is on the horizon, with Book 3 slated to release in late December. The book is packed full with exciting adventures, and the team is hard at work on making it happen during the holidays! In anticipation, check out this interview with the Endless Summer: Book 3 writers (mild spoilers for previous books ahead)...

The plot twists were non-stop in Endless Summer: Book 2. Without getting into any major spoilers, can you tell us what Book 3 will be about?

Taage: Yeah, I think the cover is probably spoiler-y enough! Book 2 was quite a ride, providing many startling revelations about La Huerta and its inhabitants. In Book 3, players will be able to bring even more pieces of the puzzle together and ultimately make decisions that will impact the entire island. This is your home now, after all.

Are there any new game features, characters, or storylines that you're particularly excited for in Book 3?

Taage: If you’ve been dating someone, you’ll have the opportunity to take the next step with them in Book 3. I can’t say too much, but when it comes to soulmates, “when you know, you know”, right?

Jen: There’s a couple new characters that show up this book that really balance out the group dynamic and have been a joy to write. I’m really excited to see how the fans react to them, and hope they love them as much as I do.

Things are looking pretty dire for the Endless Summer heroes. Will they be okay?

Taage: That’s really the main question of the series. I think at its heart, Endless Summer is a story about a group of people trying to navigate a difficult transition. Most of the characters are on the brink of finishing college and getting ready to officially start their lives. There’s no turning back from adulthood at that moment, yet it can be very hard to make the jump. So in a way, I think Sean, Diego, Quinn, and the rest needed this time of exploration, and the challenges they face in La Huerta are serving to help them figure out who they are. I have faith that there’s hope for the gang, but of course it’ll all come down to a matter of good decisions.

Imagine that you're going on a summer road trip with the Endless Summer crew. Who do you pick to go in your car? I'd go with Estela, just 'cause she'd have the best life stories to tell during the long drive. What about you?

Taage: I hate to pick favorites, but I think everyone knows I’m pretty partial to Diego and Varyyn. I also really enjoy Quinn’s philosophical perspective. She’d be a great person to have a long, mind-expanding conversation with while Variego entertain us with their quirky chemistry.

Jen: I would take Sean, because of his born leadership qualities, charming/easy going nature, and cause he’s G O R G E O U S. I imagine he’d have everything planned and mapped out, and probably want to do a fair share of the driving. I would take Grace, because I feel like she would love stopping spontaneously at roadside attractions like a giant crater or geological park or something rad like that. Diego to make sure we have enough puns, Varyyn because I’d love to see his reaction to a classic American road trip. I’d take Yvonne, to make sure someone gets us in trouble, so we can tell stories about how we got out of trouble. And I’d take one more character, who the fans haven't met yet, but would totally be necessary for long days on the road.

Any final words of advice for players as they gear up for Book 3?

Taage: Prepare to be shook all over again!

So ready! To those reading along, check back in late December for the finale book of the Endless Summer trilogy! What are you looking forward to in Book 3? And what do you think will happen next (spoiler alert!)? Let us know!

-Jessica

Teaming Up

For the past year, we’ve been trying to grow Pixelberry as fast as we can while improving the quality of our storytelling. But by putting new stories first, there are a lot of things we want to do that we haven’t gotten to yet, like sequels to some of our one-book series, more ways to earn diamonds, or trying new genres.

While we’ve been growing, we’ve had a lot of different companies approach us about partnering. But we’ve wanted to make sure that if we did join with someone, it would be with a company who shared our long term vision for making Choices a long-lasting home for mobile fiction. We think we’ve found that partner. Today, we’re excited to announce that we’ll be teaming up with Nexon. 

They will provide us with additional resources to help us grow faster. Although not everyone is familiar with Nexon yet, we have a ton of fans of their game, MapleStory. In fact one of the things that really impressed us about Nexon is that MapleStory is still successful 12 years after it was launched in 2005. That’s also the same year in which our team launched our first story game, Surviving High School. We love that Nexon is serious about a long lasting approach to their games, and that they want to help us grow Choices into a long term app.

At the same time, Nexon realizes that no team has as much experience writing mobile story games as we do, so they will let us run independently and still be Pixelberry. We’ll be the same wacky, nerdy, and occasionally hip team, with the same writers, artists, engineers, QA, marketing, data, and player specialists, all making sure we continue to tell the stories of intriguing characters.

The biggest change from teaming up will be that we’ll have more resources to expand faster. And over time, we hope to leverage Nexon’s global experience to spread our games to more people around the world. 

We hope you are as excited as we are to partner with a company that wants to help us grow for the long term. 

The one other change we’d like to announce today is a new Pixelberry logo. It’s based off our old logo, but adds in some more Pixelberry personality. Sharp eyed players might have seen early versions of this on the Pixelbaby onesies we give out to the youngest members of our Pixelberry family.

With Nexon’s support, we look forward to giving out many more of these onesies far into the future.

With Pixelberry love,

Oliver

Level 10 Nerd

CEO, Pixelberry Studios

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My Books

A new Choices update is available now! Be sure to go get it if you haven't already. This update is a small one, but it includes one new feature that we're really excited about!

Several months ago, the My Books section was introduced to Choices. Players reached out with their feedback, requesting a way to add or remove books to the My Books shelf. That feature is now here! To add a book to your My Books shelf, you can tap the blue pin button in the bottom right corner...

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You can also remove books from your My Books shelf by tapping the pin icon.

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Books you're currently playing through are automatically pinned in your My Books shelf.

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And there you go! Those of you keeping an eye out know that we've also got Endless Summer: Book 3 and Red Carpet Diaries on the way. What books -- new or current -- are you looking forward to? Let us know! And if you have comments, questions, or just want to say hey, you can get in touch with us via in-game message, email (pixelberrystudios.com/contact-us), or Facebook! As always, we'd love to hear from you.

-Jessica

Rules of Engagement Series Finale

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When Rules of Engagement: Book One launched back in September of 2016, everyone at Pixelberry was over the moon and, to be honest, pretty nervous. This was the first completely new book to come out after the initial three launch books, and we didn't know how it would be received.

Before that, the Rules of Engagement team had spent months brainstorming, outlining, and writing the planned trilogy. The art team magicked together luxurious cruise ship art in record time. What started out as the jokingly coined "love on a boat" book transformed into a globe-trotting adventure. The series is now over, but will return for a short holiday special book titled Newlyweds. For a final look at Rules of Engagement, I interviewed a few of its writers...

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The curtains have closed on the Rules of Engagement trilogy. First, I've gotta ask: How do you feel?

Kara: I'm sad to see the story end! I can't believe it was just over a year ago that we came up with these characters and their stories. It's been a crazy ride, particularly since the Rules team pushed themselves pretty hard (we launched Book 2 and 3 with no break in between, which is really hard on the team!). I've really come to love all of the characters, even those that seemed less lovable at the start, and it's been such a fun product to get to explore the different voices of the siblings and their friends and love interests. I wasn't very involved in Book 3 other than the brainstorms, so it's been such a delightful surprise to see how the new writers have steered the ship.

Coco: It's very nostalgic for me. Rules of Engagement was the very first series I worked on when I started working at Pixelberry, so it's been a great cruise ship journey seeing the series through from joining in on Book One all the way to the end. We're all headed to other exciting projects after this, but Rules and its characters will always be very special to me!

Did the series go the way you expected? Were there any surprise detours along the way?

Ariel: A huge surprise for me was liking the cousin! Her arc felt really genuine, which is part of why it was easy to understand her point of view. Playing from her perspective really helped us see the good in her, as well Chaz's bird's-eye view of her. He brings out the best in her, and now they're the cutest couple!

Jennifer: This is kind of a spoiler alert for book one, but an unexpected thing that came out of Rules was tying Leo being the prince of Cordonia to the Prince in The Royal Romance. We'd always planned on doing a romantic royal adventure, but this twist wasn't part of the original picture. Kara and I are having so much fun working together on The Royal Romance right now, and doing it this way, as a spin-off, feels so perfect.

The Rules of Engagement cruise took the crew all over the world. What was your favorite place to visit, story-wise?

Coral: Istanbul was really different art wise and provided a look into cultures we didn’t get to see much of for a lot of the cruise. It was so cool to write scenes around the architecture there and and explore what made the city special. It also might be my favorite because so many important storylines converged there, such as the cousin and bookish sister coming together to light the lantern, and being able to emotionally connect.  

Coco: I absolutely loved getting to visit Iceland! The Aurora Borealis is high on my list of sights to see, and the art in that cutscene is so beautiful and colorful. It felt meaningful that we got to pair that setting with a very emotional talk between the bookish sister and Audrey that illuminates parts of Audrey's life that we hadn't gotten to hear about previously. My hope is that getting to travel virtually through Rules inspires people to look around their surroundings for the next adventure, even if that just means looking at your own backyard with a new perspective or curious lens!

There were plenty of plot twists, alongside heartwarming and hilarious scenes. What was your favorite moment of the whole series?

Kara: My favorite moment was when William Sloan takes you out for gelato in Italy way back in Book 1. It was one of the first dates I've written for Choices and I felt like I was getting to write the perfect date.

Ariel: One of my favorite moments was the scene where Chaz and the brother were shipwrecked on the island together. Every part of it was so fun from Chaz remarking on the beautiful shells to them falling in the hole. It made me laugh out loud!

Will we ever see the Rules of Engagement family again? Any plans for crossovers?

Kara: There are plans for an epilogue-style mini-book that'll take place after a slight time jump. While the story of Rules is complete, we wanted to show what life is like off the boat for the family... and what's next for them after the wackiness of the inheritance tasks has ended!

Coco: Yep! This shorter holiday special will explore how the family adjusts to life after the cruise, and especially how they struggle to remain close in spite of the many changes in their lives. We hope that it'll also be fun for players to experience the romance and excitement of newlywed life!

Finally, what's next for Team Rules of Engagement? Aside from Rules of Engagement: Newlyweds, of course.

Coral: I’m the newest member on the Rules team, so it’s really exciting to be able to keep working with a great teammate like Ariel on a new project. We have some amazing ideas we’re excited to share when the time is right!

Kara: Rules is probably the series that has had the most writers work on it over the last year. You can see that reflected in the zany humor, heartwarming sibling stories, family cultural heritage, and other elements that made it into each book. Every writer contributed something valuable and wonderful throughout this journey. Earlier on, some of the team moved off Rules to work on newer series, like LoveHacks and The Royal Romance (and another new book that's coming soon!). Others are just now getting ready to start exciting new projects that won’t launch until next year...

Can't wait! To those reading along, we hope you enjoyed the journey on Ember of the Sea. The holiday season is just around the corner, and the Choices team has a few surprises planned for the winter months!

-Jessica

Growing from "Rant ahead, be aware."

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While looking through Tumblr posts this week, one of the longer response posts caught my eye. The post was well written and though titled “Rant ahead”, was a well reasoned commentary on things that bother the post’s author. Since the post brought up many points that other players have also expressed, I thought replying as a blog post so everyone has a chance to see the response would be appropriate.

Thank you to lauraotaku2234 both for your thoughts and for permission to share it in our blog. The post is bolded below.

From the Tumblr post “Rant ahead, be aware”:

I just love how Pixelberry reblogs fanart and nice messages about the game. But when fans are actually pointing out errors and mistake the game has done… they just ignore it. They have decided to close a bubble to them.

This is a very fair point. Our team really does read a lot of the feedback generated by our players. But even though we may be working on fixes or things that address the critiques, most of the time people on our  team don’t give a firm answer for fear of making a situation worse or suggesting something that might end up not happening in the future. Because I lead the team, I have a lot more latitude in responding to critiques, but I’ve been focused on a lot of different projects which means that I haven’t responded as often as I should.

I hope this post helps to provide some more light on many of the below issues.

Now, there is a difference between the: “We want more diamond options” and the “James situation”. Here’s why:

On the diamond thing, I doubt PB will change that, mainly because they get their money from us buying diamonds, the more options we get, the least money they make. So its understandable. Yet, the money they make is supposedly to get better staff and equipment so the game can improve and be better. A year has already passed and I still can’t find what the improvement is or was.

You’re correct, it is harder for us to change the diamond economy. We have been experimenting with different options that try to balance our ability with making money and giving players a better experience. As a player, myself, I totally get the complaints. I don’t have anything new to announce right now, but we are working on different features and will see if things like rewarding diamonds for watching ads will help in providing that balance.

It also makes sense that you and other players can’t find what improvements have been made. But I’m hoping that is partially because we’ve been slowly building and rolling out improvements over time and that you’ve gotten used to some of those changes. 

One of our most popular requests is launching more weekly content. And in the past year, the biggest change we’ve made by far is expanding from 3 books at launch to a much more robust library. When we first launched Choices, we had about 10 people writing with two new chapters per week. We now have over 30 writers and sometimes release as many as 6 new chapters a week with other new series in production, too. Along with all these writers, we’ve added more artists, producers, testers, and other roles to increasing our capacity for weekly storytelling.

It’s something you can’t see, but when I walk through the doors into our offices, I love hearing the buzz in our office and seeing all the people working together on Choices. And when all the writers assemble for their weekly “Writer’s Meeting,” I still get the chills seeing so many writers gathered around a long table talking about how they can improve their craft together.

So, I hope you really do believe we’ve been investing a lot in growing our team because we treat the future of Choices very seriously.

(As an aside, some people on the team have suggested maybe doing a Fan meet-up in the office - in the Bay Area in California - or maybe sending writers to different book conferences next year, so that maybe some of you can see that growth in person, too.)

Now… The James thing. PB common, you can do better than that. I wouldn’t be upset if you they gave us an actual reason as of why. Also, we need an explanation about what “other characters” means. Will the rest of the character change too? Will it only be a few one’s? I’m replaying every single finished book to find what other faces may have been changed. It has to be done, I don’t want to play The Royal Romance to find you changed Hana’s character appearance just… because.

You are right. We should have told you about the change ahead of time. Also, I wish I could go into more details about the change, but in my previous post, I tried to say as much about why we made the change as I already could. We know this really upset many of you. We understand. It’s our bad for disappointing you.

In regards to “other characters”, we have not rolled out the changes yet, but our Tumblr fandom is pretty clued into what other characters will likely be changed. We will make specific references to those characters when it happens. We will not be changing any other Love Interests (LIs), so Hana and others are safe.

The only book I’m not replaying is ROE, why? Because is a waste to my keys and time. The storyline got old really fast. It was actually a really good story, and I remember the First Book Finale actually left people with their mouths open, but they ruined it when they brought a third book, and now a fourth. I mean, it’s a plot that can be solved with a Snap. Adding more tasks as a way of length[en]ing the story was a stupid move and only brought fans rage. Most fans agree with me when I say: Endless Summer should have as many books as The Freshman, The Crown and The Flame shouldn’t have ended in the third book, The Haunting of Braidwood Manor should’ve been longer, Most Wanted deserves a second book, and even tho The Freshman is my favorite series, The Sophomore plot isn’t going anywhere, it’s like Love Hacks at its beginnings and it’s tiring.

As I mentioned before, Most Wanted 2 must happen. It’s the book every fan is waiting for, including me. It has an amazing storyline with amazing characters, yet, they decided to shut it out, and even erase it from their AppStore/PlayStore menu.

It’s pretty clear that much of the Tumblr fandom has the least love for Rules of Engagement (ROE.) But we have other fan groups and other people who really like this series. Just as we actively try to promote diversity in our characters, we do try to balance the resources we put into genres for various fandoms and individuals playing through our stories. We aim to have something for everyone, and all of our writers pour their hearts into everything they work on.

As the RoE series wrapped up, the writers of ROE moved on to a “mini-book” that would tie the series up in the right way. The book will probably finish too quickly for fans of ROE and not fast enough for fans of other series, but this book length fit the purposes of the story arc. Also because we have such a wide variety of writers, each with their unique storytelling talents and skills, continuing a romance series such as RoE doesn’t actually affect some Tumblr fandom favorites, like Endless Summer or Most Wanted.

Part of what we’re trying to do with Choices is to try new series and genres which is why we sometimes will end, or pause a series faster than fans want so that we can try new things. Most Wanted didn’t do as well financially as our other two launch series, so we moved that team onto Endless Summer and LoveHacks, where they could excel at leading new projects. One of those writers, Andrew, has moved onto managing another project. But Luke continues to be a part of Book 2 and 3 of Endless Summer (which we are aiming to start releasing in December.) And Owen is working on a secret new project, now that LoveHacks has completed!

I really do hope and think that when it makes sense, we will start work on Most Wanted 2. But it will be a matter of the right timing in terms of having one or more of the original team ready and balancing the start of Most Wanted 2 versus other new series we want to start. Dave and Sam will eventually return.

I respect Pixelberry as a company a lot. But with these changes and empty storylines, I just wonder where the old Pixelberry went. It seems like they just ran out of imagination to make stories, so they just continue old ones and create new ones with similar plots but shorter books that in the end everyone likes.

Thank you for respecting us. It’s clear in the thoughtfulness of your “rant” and in the praises and critiques of our fandom. Even when you think we’re ignoring you, we hear many, many of the messages. And I admit that some of the critiques really hurt and sometimes the ones that hurt the most are the ones that ring the most true. But we also recognize the strength of the critiques often is also a measure of how much our fandom cares.

I really, truly hope that as we release new chapters, books, and series that you’ll see that the creative wells of our teams has not run dry. And when a writer is being blocked, a designer is confused by the path forward, or a tester doesn’t know how to reproduce a problem, the creativity of the fandom often breaks that block, clears the path, and helps us keep moving forward. Whether it’s beautiful art, all the “Jomes” jokes, Brian’s Ask Blogs, the many forms of Cetus, faceclaims (yes, it’s okay to keep doing them), and other posts, your creativity motivates us.

As you continue to share on Tumblr or Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, we’ll continue reading, digesting, and modifying our plans. But if you have specific problems or want to ensure we hear what you have to say, I encourage you to contact us directly via our in-game Help. Or if the game is down, reach out via Contact us via our website. We have experienced Player Specialists who listen, solve, tally, describe, and share your thoughts with the right people on our team. They are the first to alert the rest of the team to major problems and Trina, the leader of that team, also shares motivating, poignant, or key messages to the whole studio. Also you can tweet story related questions to @PlayChoices. Jessica will often check with individual writing teams to see if it’s something they can answer. 

To all of our fandom everywhere, thank you for your love. We understood that love isn’t just fun and compliments, but it also comes with teasing and obstacles. And the best love comes with hard talks, accountability, and growth. When we stumble, we promise to honor our side of the relationship by continuing to learn and grow. And we hope that you will continue to rant, tease, and grow with us.

On behalf of our whole team,

Oliver

 

It Lives in the Woods

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BOO! Halloween's almost here, and we at Pixelberry love celebrating the spookiest time of year. We've got pumpkin carving, tons of candy, and a new horror book! The newest Choices book It Lives in the Woods is a nightmarish look at past and present terrors. Can you fight off the monsters that lurk in the woods? And will your friends survive the encounter? It's all up to you in It Lives in the Woods!

I followed the sound of eerie, haunted wails to find the writers all crouched around a single laptop in the woods. To find out what the writers behind It Lives in the Woods have to say, keep reading... if you dare!

It Lives in the Woods is the second horror book in Choices. What is this one about?

Kathleen: Okay without spoiling too much, It Lives in the woods is a lighthearted woodland romp full of fuzzy friends and cool nature facts! It's fun AND educational! ...LOL, JK. Do not go into these woods. There's something in there. Something old and powerful. Something you and your little friends should never have toyed with. Now it's reawoken, and it wants you to come back to play...

Are there any new gameplay features in It Lives in the Woods? What's the deal with Nerve? More specifically, are we all doomed?!

Kathleen: The major one is Nerve Scores, which are basically a measure of how well a character is at dealing with the terrifying stuff happening to/around them. Nerve scores start out high, and are gradually chipped away over the course of the book as things get scarier and scarier. I think horror stories are most compelling when you can see the toll that the scary events are taking on the characters. With Nerve, we're trying to incorporate that feeling in a way that's realistic, but still gives players some control over the outcome (certain choices you make can boost those scores back up!). Other than that, we've got some awesome animations, and a sick new inventory system that I'm really stoked about :D

This is basically standard procedure for Inside Choices at this point, so you know what I'm gonna ask. Who can we date in this book?

Kathleen: So many people, hahaha. We've got guys and gals, tough rebels and popular kids, all super cool (and hot) in their own way.

To be honest, I was pretty freaked out playing the first two chapters. (I may have screamed in the office.) Do you ever scare yourself when you're writing?

Chelsa: Very few things scare me, except for like repaying my student loans and, in general, dolls. I will say I got chills playing some of the scenes in these first few chapters and there was some screaming involved, though less of the scared kind and more of the 'YAAAAASSSS' kind.

Kathleen: Never, except for those times when I was mid-spooky scene and you suddenly tapped on the window that's right next to my desk because you are an EVIL PERSON, JESSICA.

#SorryNotSorry, Kathleen! So in this book, you've got both friends and foes. Who is your favorite character?

Brandon: Ava is really fun (snarky characters all day every day). I'm also enjoying writing for Andy a lot. In general, it's just pretty cool to write for such a diverse cast as It Lives has. It can feel a little scary sometimes—putting these characters through the unsavory stuff that pops up in a horror story, while still trying to be inclusive and respectful—but it's also super important. It's exciting to explore the kinds of characters and subject matter that videogames don't tackle very often.

Chelsa: Ava hands down. Around the office we've been describing her as 'if me and Kathleen had a baby' but somehow more sarcastic? I also really love Britney, but I will never say no to writing a mean girl.

Kathleen: Hahaha, I was gonna say Ava but I had a feeling everyone else would pick her too so I'm gonna talk about someone else. I have a special soft spot for Jocelyn, partially because physically intimidating women are so rare in fiction, and partially because she's a much-needed source of comic relief in a pretty dark story. Here's hoping she learns the error of her ways and stops being such a jerk to people.

What's it like to write for a horror book as opposed to a series belonging to a different genre?

Chelsa: When I first started working for Choices I was asked what my dream book to work on would be and horror was number 2 on my list. Up until now I've been leading The Sophomore, so working on It Lives was definitely a change but one that I couldn't be more excited about! It's been really fun branching out and working in the romance genre, but working with these guys on It Lives feels like getting back to basics.

Brandon: So, when I wrote for The Crown & The Flame, one thing I think I leaned on pretty heavily was a lot of big florid event texts and descriptions. In practice, though, those don't work very well in a horror game, as they really kill the momentum. So that shift has entailed a lot of adjustment. And red ink. And sobbing.

Kathleen: I'm just stoked that I get to use modern slang in dialogue. Writing in fantasy-speak all the time is hard, man.

Sounds like It Lives in the Woods will be the ultimate test of courage. Any final advice for players?

Chelsa: For the maximum spooky experience, PLAY WITH YOUR SOUND ON. I guarantee you won't be disappointed.

Kathleen: Be nice to your friends <3

Brandon: (frantically scribbled in blood) RUN

Yikes! To those reading along: What do you think of the new horror book? With the holidays on the horizon, we've got plenty planned - including a brief return to Rules of Engagement with Newlyweds, a holiday special epilogue, and other new books that might just be set on a certain mysterious island...

-Jessica

Choices Update

As you all know, in recent weeks some of you have been experiencing new game crashes. We're really sorry about this, and hope the game is now working for you after the latest update. Thank you for your patience.

With the new version update, besides the crash fixes, there have been a few changes. That includes an update to James' appearance in The Freshman and The Sophomore. We know that many of you, like us, are very passionate about James. We don’t like changing our characters and didn’t do it simply because we wanted a new look for James. We made changes to James and some other characters, too, so that there would be no doubt that these are fictional characters. We apologize for the abrupt change and any confusion it may have caused.

As always, we appreciate your feedback. Please don't hesitate to contact us if you have comments, game support queries, or questions. You can send us a message on Facebook, message our Support Team within the game, or email us at support@pixelberrystudios.com. Thank you for sticking with us and continuing to share new adventures in Choices with us.

-Oliver

LoveHacks Finale

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After many jokes, clickbait titles, and San Francisco shenanigans, the #LoveHacks series finale has come and gone. The #LoveHacks story is one that many of us on Team Pixelberry relate to -- that millennial life, amirite? -- and we're sad to see this laugh-out-loud story of friendship and love end. For a final behind-the-scenes look at #LoveHacks, read on:

This Series Finale Will Blow Your Mind! You Won't Believe What These Writers Have To Say -- ah, who am I kidding? I can't do these clickbait titles. So how do you feel now that the series is over?

Megan: It's definitely a bittersweet experience. We've been working on LoveHacks for almost a year now, and while we're proud of what we've done, it feels weird to not be hanging out with Dani, Brooke, Cole, Horatio, Mark, and Sereena each week as we write new chapters.

Owen: Ditto to all of that. Writing LoveHacks felt really unique and was a lot of fun. It's great to move on to different things, but #LH always will hold a special, ridiculous place in my heart.

What did you love about writing #LoveHacks? What did you consider the most challenging part?

Megan: I loved so much about writing LoveHacks, it's hard to choose just one thing! Exploring the different relationships between Dani and Mark, Ben, and Leah was a lot of fun, but I think writing the friendships between the core group was my favorite. The biggest challenge for me was keeping things funny week after week (and trying to keep up with our resident jokester, Owen!).

Owen: I loved getting to write PB's first foray into a sitcom-style story, and being able to push the jokes a bit further. The challenge for me was balancing unbridled tomfoolery with delivering the romance and drama that Choices fans love. Luckily, Megan's an amazing Book Lead and kept us on track... Like, originally, I wanted Cole's real name to be "Cole Minor", so that I could joke that it sounded like "coal miner"... In retrospect, Megan was right to veto that one.

#LoveHacks was chock full of jokes, situational gags, and quirky characters. What was your favorite joke?

Megan: My favorite joke was one Owen wrote:

Owen: I loved the figurative "death" scene we did during the paintball fight! (Also I hadn't written combat in a while, so it was fun to do a nod back to the action sequences and death scenes of Most Wanted and Cause of Death.)

Out of curiosity, who do you think you identify with the most in the #LoveHacks group?

Megan: I identify with our heroine Dani a lot, especially in Book 2. She's at such a crossroads in her life, and there's a lot of freedom in that, but also a lot of stress!

Owen: I like to think that Ben is essentially me, but much hotter and more Korean. This is wishful thinking of course, but I aspire to the ideal of a geek who is charming because of his geekiness, not in spite of it.

Where do you think the #LoveHacks crew is headed after the series finale? What's your headcanon (or is it just canon)?

Megan: A sneak peek at our headcanon of the future... Flash forward to a year later. Dani, Leah, and their blog are kicking butt, and Andi interns for them after school. Ben is preparing to do a Solaris panel at the Seattle HeroCon. Mark and Isaac bond over Isaac's success running Dopey Cat and the sequel, Dopey Cat Bros. Sereena has finally graduated, and Aiyana has moved in with her. The friends meet up for a drink at the Double Tap, and toast together just like old times.

Owen: ...And also Horatio's a cyborg now. 

Give us one last #LoveHack. For old time's sake.

Megan: Be picky. You're worth it.

Owen:  Be as strong as Sereena, but as kind as Horatio. And don't underestimate a good cologne.

What's next for the #LoveHacks team? Tell ussss.

Megan: Sadly, the LoveHacks team is splitting up! (RIP) But I'm really excited about my next project! I can't say much more about it right now, but keep an eye out for something new in the coming months!

Owen: I am a wandering swordsman, going from team to team, wherever the people cry out for a hero. (I'm actually literally doing some writing on Hero with Keyan right now). But soon I'll be teaming up with Coco from the Rules of Engagement team for a different TOP SECRET PROJECT that I am honor-bound not to disclose.

Like Brooke said, this feels like the end of an era. LoveHacks will be missed, but I'm sure the jokes, the friendship, and the spirit of Dopey Cat will live on in my heart and the hearts of many others. To everyone who took the time to read this finale post, thank you! We hope you're looking forward to whatever's next for Choices.

-Jessica

The Royal Romance: Book 2

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Just this spring, The Royal Romance: Book 1 kicked off with a dance in the palace ballroom of Cordonia. The whirlwind romance of the first book ended with a courtly plot against you. Who in the court can you trust? And how will you fight back?

All will be answered in Book 2... The Royal Romance will return at the end of September! To read more about the upcoming book, check out the interview with the team behind The Royal Romance below:

Soooo... how's book two of The Royal Romance going? What's next for our Cordonian crew?

Jeffrey: Well, next I'm probably going to go home, cook some vegetables, listen to a podcast, then socialize with some friends through the interwebs--

Oh, you meant the characters, not us. Well... In Book 2, we want to take the main character's journey in a more experimental direction where she really discovers who she is and what she wants. First, she was living under the expectations of her role as a waitress in New York, then she escaped into the trappings of high Cordonian society. Now's her chance to pursue her true self.

Kara: Even though we're not releasing chapters right now, we actually started Book Two right after we finished Book One! I finished writing the last few lines of the Coronation and then immediately started writing the first chapter of Book Two! We actually had to do most of the planning while we were still working on Book One. We've got a lot of fun planned--even though things can get a little dire in the Royal Romance, the fun of being at court and spending time with your friends is still there. We're going to travel the world, meet new people, build a barn, and probably talk more about hats.

It's a pretty big understatement to say Book 1 had quite the cliffhanger. Can you tell us a little bit about where this is going?

Kara: I think the most striking thing about the reactions to the end of book 1 are how people interpret what happened differently. It all happens so quickly, and we only gave people a few lines to read into, but it really isn't very much to go off of. You don't know exactly how the Prince is feeling, or why he picks who he does. From the writers' perspective, we jump right into writing Book Two, so there's not much of a wait. I wish our players didn't have to wait either, because a few weeks of being in suspense can go a long way! In Book Two, you'll be able to finally fight back and figure out who framed you and Tariq in Book One.

Jennifer: I don't want to say exactly where Book Two is going, but questions that were brought up during our brainstorming were: Who sent the blackmail note? Will Olivia come back? Who tried to sell the bachelor party photos?

I need to know. Will we get our happily-ever-after?

Jennifer: I think you can really tell by a writer's favorite novels what kind of outlook they have on endings. My favorite novel is Pride and Prejudice, so you could extrapolate how The Royal Romance will end from that. On the other hand, Kara likes Wuthering Heights, and Jeffrey really likes Hamlet, so... take from that what you will.

Hm... interesting. Now given Olivia's ancestry and other factors, Cordonia is essentially the modern day version of Stormholt from The Crown & The Flame, which had quite a bit of worldbuilding. What does worldbuilding look like for The Royal Romance?

Jeffrey: Worldbuilding is a delicate and intricate process. First, I like to devise an economic system because economics answers a few questions on how we organize ourselves. For The Royal Romance, we developed an export market for the Cordonian apple sector by defining the exchange rate between the Cordonian currency versus the Euro. We have spreadsheets, graphs, and everything. It's very professional. In fact, if you look closely, you can see a subplot where Cordonians attempt to tackle the housing crisis and rising inequality.

Once you have an economic framework which people organize themselves around, you can move on to the stories engrained in the national identity. What do they believe and how do their surroundings and past traditions influence them? What are the dissenting points of view?

With these two pieces in place, you can finally embark on a 10-volume historical record following the rulers of Cordonia, which will prompt a body of work on Cordonian history from the perspective of the common people. When you can recite the third edition of the Encyclopedia Cordonia, the writing can begin.

Jennifer: Jeffrey will be publishing his next novel, "Cordonia: An In-Depth Look At A Glorious Peoples" in Spring of 2028.

Very funny. (Just so we're clear, Jeffrey is joking. Sort of.) Out of curiosity, who's your favorite character to write in The Royal Romance?

Kara: I love writing Maxwell. In the first draft of The Royal Romance Chapter 1, he actually didn't exist, and Bertrand was your only host. But that world felt too flat and un-fun. I realized we needed someone more playful to be opposite of Bertrand, so that's how Maxwell was born! (He was originally just "Nobleman 2"). Right away, everything in the group felt like it finally clicked, and everything got a lot more fun to write. Even though we had to do a lot of last minute changes to the plot, I think it was worth it. Now he's such a major part of the book that it's hard to imagine a world without him! I also love writing Hana and Maxwell together because they're both very sweet and playful but in very opposite ways. Hana also kind of reminds me of Jennifer and Jessica in some ways... XD

Actually, it's very striking to me how each of the three Royal Romance writers for Book One has influenced the world and cast. Jennifer gives everything a touch of formality and courtly grace, and Jeffrey brings in a lot of wacky humor about horses and hats and poodles. If I've added anything, it's probably making Bertrand meaner, throwing in more silly group moments with your crew, and probably having Drake drink too much whiskey. (I don't even like whiskey.) But overall, it's really thrilling to see the world and the characters that come out of this combination.

Jeffrey: Madeleine. It's fun to write someone who's constantly trying to spin a situation to their benefit, and making power plays along the way. I've actually been writing for Madeleine since her appearance in Rules of Engagement: Book 2, so we're practically besties.

And who's your favorite love interest? *wink* *nudge*

Kara: I love them all! I probably end up writing the most Drake, but I often get to write some of the Prince's speeches to you, and I love how considerate and loving he is. There's nothing selfish or mean about him. He's the kind of person that you'd want to be around in real life.

Jennifer: In my personal game, my love interest is definitely Drake, and I totally make Kara write him just so I can read his scenes and enjoy the romance. =) Writing-wise, I enjoy Hana the most because I feel like we have a lot in common, and some of her struggles with trying to please while simultaneously trying to figure out what will make her the most happy in the long-run really resonate with me.

Is there anything you'd like to tell the fans before Book 2's release?

Jennifer: We hope you'll enjoy the twists and turns we have planned for Book Two!

😱 🤔 Well, that's something to look forward to! To everyone reading along: Check back at the end of September for the start of The Royal Romance: Book 2! And as always, we've got more on the way...

-Jessica