Heroes Rise: Text Adventures Coming To Steam

By Graham Smith on June 18th, 2014 at 12:00 pm.

It’s 2014. Despite the creative rennaissance enabled by the likes of Twine, text adventures and interactive fiction are one of the few genres yet to experience a commercial revival from the rise of new funding models and digital distribution. There’s still hope, though. Choice Of Games, one of the few companies trying to make a living from making such games, have just announced that their Heroes Rise series is coming to Steam. They’re the first text adventures to join the platform.

So what’s your plan of attack?

i) Head straight to Steam to buy Heroes Rise: The Prodigy and Heroes Rise: The Hero Project, perhaps as part of a discounted set. You like superheroes, and you like games which offer you the choice to be who you want to be.

ii) You’re curious. Intrigued, even. But you don’t have money to throw around on whims and you know that strong writing is required to keep you engaged over the long haul of a text adventure. You visit the Choice of Games website to try out the demos, which offer the first five chapters of the game. You start with the original, Heroes Rise: The Prodigy.

iii) You’re a miserable contrarian and other people’s fun serves only as fuel for your own embittered heart. You point out that slavish devotion to old genres is nothing more than techno-romanticism, and the limited audience for text adventures is because people have quite reasonably moved on. Isn’t Steam already full of visual novels, and aren’t those conceptually identical but with greater flair? These Choice Of Games games don’t even seem to have a parser, the main differentiating detail that might make the genre worthwhile. I mean, when you thi–

iv) Skip to the comments before reading this far; you’ve just thought of a good pun.

Or you can keep your fingers in all the pages while you go the Heroes Rise Steam pages and Choice Of Games announcement post for more information.

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107 Comments »

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  1. rustybroomhandle says:

    I believe Depression Quest is also on Steam, so this would not be the first. (has been Greenlit, at least)

    • Philomelle says:

      Depression Quest passed Greenlight, but then the author didn’t announce a release date, didn’t update or comment on the Greenlight page in any form, and generally seems to have forgotten about their work entirely.

      • Niko says:

        Maybe he’s depressed.

      • razgon says:

        Sadly, it got pretty ugly after the Greenlight’ing of the game. There are way too many bad people out there.

      • wu wei says:

        “We were putting a nontraditional game directly in the line of sight of very traditional gamers. And some traditional gamers have huge issues with women, and huge issues with games being anything that aren’t space marines or plumbers! People were saying things like, ‘This isn’t a game. This is terrible. You should go kill yourself,’ ‘Depression isn’t real,’ or ‘You’re just pushing pills.’ And then it started intensifying offsite, the threats started rolling in by emails, and then somebody sent this really detailed letter to my house about how they wanted to rape me.”

        (From an article on Edge)

        Yeah, I wonder why they might have decided to not bother…

        • Premium User Badge

          Martel says:

          Jesus. I know people are terrible, but that’s just so disgusting. How can people like that survive in society? They have to have jobs, clearly they don’t act like that at work.

          Edit* And why hasn’t RPS covered this issue? I want an interview with the dev.

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            JamesTheNumberless says:

            If I were her I’d probably not be too keen on more public exposure at this point. Hopefully she’s off quietly making something brilliant, depressing or otherwise.

          • Premium User Badge

            Martel says:

            Fair point. I was mostly going off the article linked above me where she made a few comments that sounded like she was sick of hiding.

          • Premium User Badge

            jrodman says:

            I view this as directly related to “it’s funny to insult people”.

            This is a frequently believed lie. It’s not funny to insult people. If you are really good at humor you can maybe come up with something funny that happens to involve an insult, but the insult itself is not the funny part.

            This is closely related to “trolling” culture which says “it’s funny to act like a horrible person”. Nope, that’s not funny either.

            People who steep themselves in these lies act awful on a regular basis and when called on it insist that others “can’t take a joke”. Some of them don’t have a sense of proportion and end up doing this kind of thing. There are also psychopaths among us, and some may not really realize what they are.

            But the most useful thing that you and me can do about this is not accept it when people insult others and act awful thinking that they’re being funny.

        • Philomelle says:

          Not to be harsh, but your interpretation of her words in the article is confusing.

          So you’re saying that she’s trying to fight against people who are trying to suppress her own work by… suppressing her own work? In the nicest and most civilized words possible, what in the flying fuck?

          • The Random One says:

            Those don’t look like fighting words to me, and capitulating in this situation seems to be a rather sensible choice.

  2. dE says:

    Choice of Games are quality titles, at least the ones I played. I really suggest giving Choice of the Dragon a try, to see what their games are all about. It’s great, it’s fun, you play a dragon for crying out loud – and they’re well written and a good indicator what to expect.

    https://www.choiceofgames.com/dragon/

    • frightlever says:

      I would echo that sentiment.

    • BooleanBob says:

      I’m a fan. Nice to see them getting onto Steam.

      • Premium User Badge

        Harlander says:

        I’d love some kind of bundle deal for all the CoG stuff.

    • Brinx says:

      Currently trying it having a tab open at work and ever so often playing a little. Seems to me like these kinds of game are especially made for such a situation.

      • Brinx says:

        Update: Just got killed by what the game calls “the gods”. Awesome.

  3. Knurek says:

    I believe CoD: BlOps has the distinction of being the first IF on Steam (full playable Zork bonus).
    Also, depending on your definition of text adventure, stuff like Analogue: A Hate Story, Narcissu or Go! Go! Nippon! ~My First Trip to Japan~ could count.

  4. DrMcCoy says:

    All this whining on the Steam forums about how this is “not a game” makes me sad.

    • rustybroomhandle says:

      Just went to look. Yeah, what a bunch of idiots. I’d go so far as to say that this is more of a game than ours, since ours is quite a bit more linear. (well, act 1 is, at least)

    • Niko says:

      Those people treat the term “game” very loosely, apparently only stuff they like can be called a game.

    • Runs With Foxes says:

      In fairness they’re right. By what definition would interactive fiction like this qualify as a game?

      But Steam also sells productivity software and films, so not being a game isn’t a barrier to being on there.

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        Harlander says:

        1. An amusement or pastime

        :p

        • elevown says:

          Not really.. Lots of things that are both of those are NOT games- like stamp collecting or train spotting.

          If an IF has a LOT of choices/branches – like choose your own adventure books- then id say it is without doubt a GAME – and these qualify. The ones with zero choices or just 2-3 simple ones, its more accurate to call simply digital novels basically.

          • Premium User Badge

            RobF says:

            I don’t get it. Text adventures and IF (with varying levels of complexity in interaction) have been accepted as part of the gaming landscape, -as games- since the seventies when Colossal Cave entranced players. During the eighties they’d sit side by side on the shelves of game stores every bit as relevant as an arcade game, an action game or a simulation game or a war game or an experimental game or an educational game. No-one questioned whether they were actually really games or not then because we were too busy being expansive, broadening the field of what games could be and what games could achieve. And we still are.

            Except now there’s this weird niggling attempt at formalist checklist awfulness, is a game [tick], isn’t a game [tick], prove it with definitions, define the word to prove this title is worthy of being a game, being a videogame. And it’s the biggest crock of exclusionary terribleness that shows such a tremendous ignorance of the entire history of videogames and a preposterous level of arrogance to think that a small subset of people get to decide what can and cannot be a game by shouting loudly rather than letting things continue to be expansive, continue to evolve and push at the edges of everything we can do with videogames.

            This is every bit a game in the grand tradition of videogames and it has more claim to being so than an FPS given the history and heritage of the genre. It’s just shameful that we put so little faith in our own history, *have so little knowledge* of our own history that we’ll sit here and question something like this. That we’ll sit there and question whether something in the field of videogames is a game or not and whether game x can be.

            If we’d have thought along these lines in the seventies, eighties and nineties, most genres people love would have been exorcised or pushed to the sides much earlier than they were. So why this has become so important now, aside from “to keep people out”, is beyond me entirely.

      • Keyrock says:

        game noun \ˈgām\
        : a physical or mental activity or contest that has rules and that people do for pleasure

        A physical or mental activity or contest? check
        Has rules? check
        People do for pleasure? check

        Seems to fit the definition to me.

        • Runs With Foxes says:

          I’d rather a definition from someone who’s studied and analysed games, because “mental activity with rules” is absurdly broad, but allowing for that… It’s the “rules” bit I’d question with interactive fiction. The implication of having “rules” needs to be more complex than you’re suggesting, otherwise choose your own adventure books are games (which I’d suspect would come as a surprise to authors of choose your own adventures, but who knows), or even reading in general. Certainly browsing the web would qualify as a game too by that standard.

          • SanguineAngel says:

            I am struggling to think of anything that fits that definition that I would not consider to be a game. I would consider choose your own adventure books to be games. I certainly played a few of those when I was younger. I am not sure that browsing the internet fits the definition

          • Keyrock says:

            Choose your own adventure books are absolutely games as far as I’m concerned.

      • Ergates_Antius says:

        Given that it’s a word that can already cover Rugby, Monopoly, Poker and Quake, it’s hardly a stretch to call these games.

    • Premium User Badge

      OctoStepdad says:

      I am picturing this is what is on the steam forums….

      “YOOOUUUU HAVE TO READ???? NO GRAPHICS???? THIS IS NOT A GAME!!!!!”

    • Michael Fogg says:

      Maybe these people are *anti-choice*.

    • DrMcCoy says:

      Well, it seems the king of hyperbole is there too: this is the reason all our games suck now.

  5. kwyjibo says:

    But who really wants to read interactive fiction on a PC screen? It’s the kind of thing you’d want on a tablet or an ereader, where Steam has no reach.

    • Philomelle says:

      “It’s the kind of thing you’d want on a tablet or an ereader, where Steam has no reach.”

      No, it’s the kind of thing you’d want on a tablet. Where other people want their interactive fiction is entirely up to them.

      • dE says:

        Aye. The best part: The games are on all these things, Appstore, Googleplay and even the Kindle. And now Steam as well. So… just pick an option you like.

        • Philomelle says:

          Pretty much this.

          I work from home and spend a lot of time in front of my PC as a result, which also means I centralize a lot of my entertainment (gaming, movies, reading) around the very same PC. Leaving home often means I want to disconnect from all of those mediums and have some “alone time” with my own brain, which would make tablets terribly counter-productive in terms of what I find entertaining while on the move.

      • kwyjibo says:

        But you don’t want to buy the titles again and again on all the platforms.

        You just want to buy once for access to the website where it’s hosted.

        Buying it on Steam, and getting some HTML files saved to your Steam folder is rubbish user experience.

        • Philomelle says:

          The way you’re wording your comments makes it sound like you know what I want to do, where I want to buy my games and how I want to access them better than I do. It makes you a very rubbish social interaction experience. Stop doing it.

          Again, I’ll decide where I want to buy my interactive fiction. If my choice is Steam, then that’s the way it is.

          • Frank says:

            You two made my day, particularly the closing line “It makes you a very rubbish social interaction experience.”

            :D

          • kwyjibo says:

            Phil, that’s cool that you want to do that. Maybe you want to print your IF onto postage stamp sized pages and flick through them at random, that’s cool. This doesn’t stop Steam from being a poor platform for IF.

            Some people (seemingly you) like shit design and shit user experiences, I’m providing you with that, be grateful. I’m sure this will look great on your Galaxy Gear.

          • Philomelle says:

            No, it is your opinion that Steam is a poor platform for Interactive Fiction. I could argue that the consistent success of visual novels on the platform is proof that you’re wrong, but then I would be doing the same thing you’re doing right now – accusing people who don’t share your opinion of lacking taste and poor judgment. Which would be all kinds of bad and unfortunate.

            Personally, if I was releasing interactive fiction (or plain books) on Steam, I would definitely spruce it up by adding customizable fonts and backgrounds, as well as latch a soundtrack onto the whole thing. But that’s a sense of personal aesthetics, not an attempt to create rules on where and how a user prefers to enjoy their interactive fiction.

          • Zeewolf says:

            IF has always had its natural home on the computer. It’s been on the computer for 40 years. I’ve played IF since the eighties, and I’ve never once felt the urge to do it on a tablet. That IF is now available on the main distribution channel for PC-games is only a good thing, and I am _this_ close to buying these games myself. The only thing holding me back is the theme.

          • Ergates_Antius says:

            Given that IF usually involves typing, a tablet would seem an awful choice of platform.

    • frightlever says:

      So apparently my Windows 8 tablet just doesn’t exist…

      No, seriously, I’m holding out a shred of hope that that’s the case and that it was all just a horrible nightmare.

    • Keyrock says:

      But who really wants to read interactive fiction on a PC screen?

      /raises hand

  6. Premium User Badge

    strangeloup says:

    The demos are also available via Steam, and I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the writing. The bundle seemed like a good deal for just over £3, and being on Steam means I’ll actually remember I have these games.

    I think RPS posted an article on ‘Slammed!’ the pro-wrestling text adventure by the same people, which managed the same thing as Heroes Rise – having sufficiently good writing to make me want to engage with a genre I’ve otherwise only a passing interest in. It’s good to have them in their own program, rather than browser based or on phone, though I can see them working quite well on a tablet.

  7. Gilead says:

    Good news. It would be nice if this opened the way for interactive fiction more generally to be able to achieve some kind of commercial success on Steam.

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    JamesTheNumberless says:

    Sooner or later there will be a MUD revival and online role playing will once more be a thing people actually do.

    • rustybroomhandle says:

      MUDs are alive and well. A company called Iron Realms have quite a few RP-heavy ones at http://www.ironrealms.com/

      And there are also more fancepantsy ones like Bat Mud http://www.bat.org/

      • Premium User Badge

        JamesTheNumberless says:

        Oh yes I know, I just think they’re due a bit of love, a bit of a revival, especially as people become more disillusioned with graphical MMOs. MUDs themselves never really had their glorious moment of recognition before being overwhelmed by the likes of UO and Everquest. I don’t think most gamers even knew that MUDs existed before suddenly WoW was everywhere. You forgot to mention the best one of all : http://t2tmud.org/

    • malkav11 says:

      In my experience people roleplayed on most MUDs roughly as much as they do in MMOs. Which is to say most people just went around killing shit, but a handful of people would get together in a corner and emote at each other.

      Now, MUSHes, MUCKs, and other sundry MU*s…well…they’ve mostly been glorified chatrooms with the occasional typefucking session in my experience. But in theory the point is roleplaying. MUDs were the gameplay-oriented ones, the others much more freeform.

  9. Geebs says:

    So, is interactive fiction the same thing as “text adventures without a parser”? Because all text adventures ever were terrible (yes, all of them), whereas the multiple choice paradigm seems better..

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      Harlander says:

      I think Interactive Fiction is most commonly used to describe text adventures, Inform stuff and the like, but it makes sense to use it to describe stuff like this, Twine etc.

    • karthink says:

      > Because all text adventures ever were terrible

      Ooh, blanket statement alert. Have you played any of the newer ones? Anything post 1999, made with Inform or TADS? It still takes some effort to gauge how much complexity the parser can follow, but once established it’s a pretty smooth experience.

      I’m thinking Floatpoint, say, or Everybody Dies.

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      JamesTheNumberless says:

      I made one around 1988, it was awesome. The “parser” consisted of a direct string comparison. If you didn’t type one of the possible responses in any given room, exactly right, the game would crash. If you chose the wrong option at any point, you died. It was THAT hardcore! And it pushed my 8-year-old coding skills to the MAX ;)

      You’re more or less right though, most text adventures weren’t that great, I never really got on with any of them very well but as soon as I learned how to do If statements, take keyboard input and master the subtleties of GOTO I realized I could actually use this to make a kind of game. I think a lot of bedroom speccy/C64(if you were rich)/BBC Micro(if your parents were teachers) programmers can say something similar and have a nostalgic view of text adventures as a result.

      • Geebs says:

        I was being excessively antagonistic (because the article implied that somebody would, and I love to fulfil expectations), but really I was referring to the “classic” adventures. All of them seemed really exciting when you bought them but turned out to be a terrible waste of time because 30% of the game was wrestling with the parser and 20% realising that the author never bothered to show their logical working, and just expected you to either read their mind or stumble randomly on the answer.

        The other 50% was singing along to the sounds the cassette deck made as the game loaded, and was by far the most enjoyable part. Whoop-dong, whoop-dong, chssssssssssh.

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          JamesTheNumberless says:

          Yeah I can agree with that. People love to look back on games like The Hobbit or Hitchhiker’s Guide with rose tinted plastic spectacles (bought for 100 pesetas in a Spanish family resort along with that pair of “jelly shoes” that you believed made you invincible to jellyfish stings) but they were terrible really. The completely crazy games like the Zork series were fun mostly because of the insane things that could happen but that was more or less the limit of the appeal. Progression wasn’t much fun and your reward for progression was just another infuriating room. Not at all like playing a MUD, which is whole other pot of cephalopoda.

          • Arglebargle says:

            I loved the Hitchiker’s Guide game so much that I cut up the floppy with a pair of scissors. Guess the verb/word games deserve to be thrown in a very deep pit.

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            JamesTheNumberless says:

            I used to throw them at the walls, side on. Often they split in two and I remorsefully put them back together once I’d exhausted my rage. I miss the days when if a game pissed you off you could physically smack the shit out of it.

          • Ergates_Antius says:

            Until you’ve played “Behind closed doors” you’ve not lived.

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          JamesTheNumberless says:

          R Tape loading error, 0:1

    • Jason Moyer says:

      A Mind Forever Voyaging was not terrible.

  10. iucounu says:

    I love Choice of Games – Choice of the Dragon and Choice of Broadsides are both great and, I believe, available to play for free online.

    I didn’t much like Heroes Rise, though, on iPhone – it didn’t seem as well-written as the two above, and indeed weren’t written by the same people. CoG have a pretty nifty scripting language called ChoiceScript and at one point at least were inviting people to write stuff using it and partner with them to publish as apps. That may be what’s happened in this case?

    • The Random One says:

      Yeah, the Choice games are truly brilliant. It seems that Choice of Games had a lot of bad turns – they apparently opened their engine to anyone who wanted to make a game of it but no one made anything a tenth as good as themselves, and then Google pulled the rug out of their feet and cut what was their main revenue model. That was their reward for making really nice IF and trying to show it to more people.

  11. Frank says:

    I like Choice of Games, but not enough to buy another right now. If valve do open the floodgates to IF, I hope they think about improving library management, because there are a bajillion IF games out there.

  12. malkav11 says:

    Choice of Games does some cool stuff and it’s interesting to see their content making its way to Steam, but Heroes Rise is an extremely questionable choice to lead off with. It starts off promisingly, but the writing gets really, really bad by the end and the “choices” make zero difference to outcomes. It delights in forcing failure on the PC using deus ex machinae and consequences that have nothing to do with your choices and everything to do with where the author wants the story to go. Similarly, “successes” aren’t earned by smart decision making but are arbitrarily awarded based on the actions of other characters in the narrative. And there’s some pretty creepy content involving the mandatory romance character.

    I’m also kind of weirded out by their decision to charge for a “this may be a bad idea” warnings and a game roadmap as separate DLC, but I guess at least they’re cheap?

    • DrMcCoy says:

      separate DLC, but I guess at least they’re cheap

      Well, the bundle with all the DLC is currently going for 3.99€, while the games alone are 4€ (2 x 2€).

    • internisus says:

      I agree. I would love to see interactive fiction find a market on Steam, if only for the selfish reason that it would give me pleasure to have it in my library, mingling with the vidgames. But this seems like a weak starting point, unfortunately.

  13. Shooop says:

    It finally happened. We’re regressing to the days when people didn’t even need to write more than a single letter-sized page of code to make a game. Indie devs are in a race to the bottom to make their games more and more primitive for the sake of nostalgia.

    I can’t wait until someone makes a Kickstarter for a new punch-card computer.

    • DrMcCoy says:

      You are a part of what’s wrong with the world.

      • Shooop says:

        Shouldn’t luddites like you be screaming at your mouse cursor for being the work of demons?

        • DrMcCoy says:

          Seeing that one of the things I do for fun is reverse-engineering point-and-click adventures, which do use a mouse, well… No, I shouldn’t. :)

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          Aerothorn says:

          He’s a medical doctor aboard a starship. Pretty sure he’s not a luddite.

    • Premium User Badge

      JamesTheNumberless says:

      Right, because the more code there is, the more fun and rewarding the gameplay is. This is why, as everyone knows, Duke Nukem Forever is vastly superior to Pacman.

      Also by that token, anything written in punch cards is infinitely superior to anything written in C, since you need about 60 filing cabinets worth of them for the equivalent of 1000 lines of code.

      • Berzee says:

        Man, the shipping and handling on Steam purchases is gonna go through the roof.

      • Shooop says:

        And how fun and rewarding is a choose-your-own-adventure novel compared to Planescape?

        People like you should question why they even own a computer.

        • Premium User Badge

          JamesTheNumberless says:

          Planescape is not better than choose your own adventure because of the amount of code it took to write it.

          • Shooop says:

            It’s a lot more complex and allows for much more interesting storytelling because of the work that went into it.

            We’re regressing to the point people are going to start slapping out some BASIC and coast on the waves of nostalgia.

          • Premium User Badge

            JamesTheNumberless says:

            I expect the game I posted here to pop up on greenlight any time now. It runs on the cutting-edge javascript spectrum emulator quite nicely!

          • Arglebargle says:

            So, should we also be denigrating those old analog things called ‘books’? So last century. So little programming. Must be luddite, right?

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          JamesTheNumberless says:

          People like me own computers so they can make games like Planescape :P

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          jrodman says:

          Shoop, i don’t remember you being this much of a troll in the past. What happened?

    • Jason Moyer says:

      Can you link me to a Z-machine parser whose code consists of a single letter-sized page? Thanks in advance.

      • Premium User Badge

        JamesTheNumberless says:

        As terrible as his comment is, he does have a point. Choose your own adventure is not the same as a text adventure, doesn’t involve any parsing, and is basically the following code:

        10 CLS
        20 PRINT “You are in a room, you can go north, east or west”
        30 PAUSE 0
        40 LET A$ = INKEY$
        50 IF A$ = “n” THEN GO TO 100
        50 IF A$ = “e” THEN GO TO 200
        50 IF A$ = “w” THEN GO TO 300
        60 GO TO 30
        100 CLS
        110 PRINT “You fall down a hole in the ground and die.”
        120 GO TO 1000
        200 CLS
        210 PRINT “A tiger leaps out and eats you, you are dead.”
        220 GO TO 1000
        300 CLS
        310 PRINT “You found the grail. You Win!”
        320 GO TO 1000
        1000 PRINT “GAME OVER”
        1010 PRINT “press y to play again, any other key to quit”
        1020 PAUSE 0
        1030 IF INKEY$ = “y” THEN GO TO 10
        1040 REM The measure of a real program is whether or not it ends in “GO TO 10″
        1050 REM My ZX BASIC may be a little rusty

        Fits on a postcard?

        • Jason Moyer says:

          Yeah, TBH games like the one featured in this article remind me more of Infocomics minus the awesome animated artwork (or at least, I remember it being awesome at the time) than the glory of full Infocom parser-based adventuring.

  14. Lion Heart says:

    id rather have zork tbh

  15. JFS says:

    Android has gorgeous IF/choose your own adventure-stuff. Tales of Illyria, Sorcery!, Lone Wolf, you even get some game with your game, not only a monochrome clickfest.

    Text adventures, of course, are a different matter, but the Choice of… games really aren’t text adventures.

  16. Ako says:

    RUINING GAMING GNAAAAAH

  17. Saarlaender39 says:

    So what’s your plan of attack?

    This:

    i) Head straight to Steam to buy Heroes Rise: The Prodigy and Heroes Rise: The Hero Project, as part of a discounted set.

    I love Text Adventures /Choose your own Adventure games.

    • The Random One says:

      I subtract 100 from the current chapter and get the secret choice, “Quietly wish that the follow-ups to Choice of the Vampire also are released while hiding the fact that despite Twilight you still enjoy romantic vampires”.

  18. DrMcCoy says:

    Well, I’m having immense fun with Heroes Rise: The Prodigy, at least.

    It’s well written and the setting, with all the weird heroes awakening, reminds me of the Wilds Cards novels. Neat stuff.

    And for 2€, I’m certainly not going to complain.

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    tumbleworld says:

    Gah. It’s really depressing, but RPS is starting to get to the popularity level where the comments become a toxic mire.

    I’m going to have to remember to stop looking down here :(