Aug 212017
 

Consumer Virtual Reality is kind of dead, and that’s great news… It’s as though an alien spaceship fell on earth and all the aliens died… and now we have to figure out how to use this strange technology for our very human desires. (From Stranger Playthings: Remaking a VR Counterculture)

VR is weeeird. So we made a weird game with it called Manimal Sanctuary. It’s a lurking simulator where you play a creature that’s part coral reef, part Cthulhu, who feeds off of the emotions of humans.

It’s also weird to exhibit VR games: “Hey, mind strapping this box to your head in a way that effectively blinds you and makes you look silly?” And it’s boring for the people who aren’t wearing the headsets.

We addressed those issues… by doubling down on the weirdness.

Continue reading »

Jul 282017
 

The last six months or so I’ve been writing and designing a VR game prototype:

Manimal Sanctuary is a lurking simulator. It leverages low-end VR technology to enable every player’s ultimate fantasy: to play a creature part coral reef, part Cthulhu, who consumes human emotions. Set on the Toronto Islands after the rest of the city is consumed by gibbering monstrosities, you eavesdrop on the survivors and their dramas involving things like bad potato crops and graffiti tags. And if those everyday emotions aren’t filling enough, you can always uncover some devastating secrets…

UPDATE: The free demo is available now for iPhone and Android phones that can run Google Cardboard apps.

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May 082017
 

Does your mom like puzzles and historical mysteries, and own an iPhone? Why not surprise her on Mother’s Day by installing Wonderland?

Wonderland is an audio drama game set circa 1914, in Toronto’s rough-and-tumble Junction neighbourhood. The end of each chapter poses a puzzle — solve it, and unlock the next one. Stuck? Just put your iPhone in your pocket and go for a walk… every 100 steps, one of the letters in the puzzle is filled in.

Just in time for the start of prime walking season, Wonderland is free for the month of May. Walking simulators are so 2012 — take our walking stimulator for a stroll instead!

Install it for free here

Oct 182016
 

Cover by Trish Lamanna

You're at Burning Man, with six choices to make before the world goes white.
 Choose wisely. Or wildly. The dust storm won't care.
 [ PLAY BLACK ROCK CITY ]

As a linear storyteller, branching narratives have been challenging for me. I usually have a story I want to tell, and in writing choice-based games I often found myself having to write a bunch of branches I wasn’t as interested in, and I always looped them back to converge with the main story. I preferred making parser games because it felt like I was giving the player more autonomy, even when new parts of the story were gated by puzzles.

But upon reading Sam Ashwell’s “Standard Patterns in Choice-Based Games” I liked the idea of trying different structures, and was taken by what he calls Time Cave. In the past I think I’ve regarded this structure as inefficient somehow — inferior because it didn’t reuse writing in a clever way. But seeing a bunch of these typical structures side-by-side in the article let me drop the notion that there’s a “proper” way to do CYOA, and I decided to try the Time Cave. There’s something pretty beautiful about the way it spreads out exponentially. It does need a lot of writing, but I like writing a lot. Continue reading »

Jul 112016
 

Pretty Sure

I’m very proud to announce the official release of our interactive fiction authoring tool, Texture!

Logo design by Beehive Design

At the top of the post is Jonathan Wyke‘s cover art for Pretty Sure, the first game I made with it. It’s about parenting after Earth is colonized. You can play it on anything with a web browser but it’s especially nice on a tablet.

Juhana Leinonen and I have been chipping away at Texture for a few years, and it started with wanting to make an interactive fiction interface that was approachable and touchscreen-friendly. Continue reading »

Apr 172016
 

credit: Jonathan Wyke

I’ve never written every day. When I write novels, I write 1250 words 4 times a week — each session generally taking 3-4 hours — which gets me to 100,000 words in six months. When I’m writing I write on a schedule, but often I go months without writing fiction.

Just to try out a new approach I decided to write a complete story in an hour every day. For a month I posted a daily story to Twitter, Medium, and Wattpad. Now I’ve also published them as a free ebook in .epub, .mobi and .pdf formats with a cover featuring Jonathan Wyke’s excellent illustration above. Below I share some of my qualitative and quantitative results. Continue reading »

Mar 022016
 

what the internet wants

Ever wonder how the Hilton and the Marriott families feel about Air B&B?

What would happen if the heir to a hotel chain empire gets fed up and decides to rebrand the sharing economy… as the scaring economy?

Take two minutes to find out in THE INTERNET WANTS, our webseries concept trailer. This is a new project I’m hoping to make with Postopian Pictures, the guys I made Haphead with. Whether it gets the green-light depends on views, so please share if you like it!

There’s a longer synopsis of what it’s about below.

Continue reading »

Jan 262016
 

somm-blog

It’s a little strange to realize it’s been almost six years since I last published a book, Sword of My Mouth. It’s something I did pretty regularly for a decade, putting out five books between 2000-2010 — and then I just stopped. A couple of reasons conspired to make this so.

The first one was kind of a heart-breaker. Continue reading »

Dec 082015
 

ancientmars-web

Each day for the past two weeks I’ve been writing a story in one hour, taking a screenshot of it, and attaching it as an image to a tweet — they’re generally a screen long and definitely a violation of Twitter’s 140 character limit. It’s fun to scope a story to super short pieces, explore whimsical sci-fi ideas, try different tones and styles, and spend a moment or two with some characters.

The other day me and Sean were over at Mathew Borrett’s place and he showed us how he’d ported some of his mind-blowing HyperNurnia series created for 2D display into virtual reality. A few minutes after I took off the Oculus goggles I knew what my one hour story was going to be that day. Above is the landscape that inspired the following story, click to enlarge and if you have a VR headset and the wherewithal here’s the stereo file. After the story, deets on how to get my graphic novel, Therefore Repent!, for free.


David watched his son rock back and forth in his chair and knew it was just a matter of time before he fell over and hurt himself.

“Harry,” he said.

His son stopped, stared at him defiantly. “What?”

“You know what.” Continue reading »

Nov 232015
 

Illyana from the New Mutants, the first comic series I loved

Continuing the 15th anniversary giveaway: my free ebook this month is An Opening Act of Unspeakable Evil. My original title for this was Hipster Hellspawn — in fact I think the title might have come first. I was convinced by one of my early readers that this was a bad title, that the H-word alienates everyone — one of the most pronounced aspects of hipsterism is that it disavows itself. I have a theory that this discomfort in its own skin is the way that it evades being co-opted — or at least gives its skin a slipperyness that makes it difficult to bottle and sell. Maybe that’s why in the over 10 years since I wrote the book the term hipster hasn’t been totally replaced. (I vote for “coolster”.)

And apparently these hipster-adjacent ideas have followed me into middle-age as in the last month or so I have been toying with the idea of a comedy webseries named Moustache Shoppe. It’d never be entirely clear what happens in the Shoppe — grooming? consultation? trims? — but if you have to ask, you probably don’t belong there. Comics who particularly enjoyed Movember should drop me a line! (And yes, I know: there’s lots of signs Peak Moustache has already occurred. But a small, carefully coiffed fringe of hair above a man’s lip is still very delightful.)

Read on to grab the free ebook!

Continue reading »