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Stonewall Penitentiary Release Date Set!

Posted by: UnimatrixProductions on April 2 2018.


Well, it’s certainly taken some time to get here, but I’m finally ready to announce a release date for Stonewall Penitentiary.  The game will officially release on May 14, just over a month from now!


This is an exciting time for me, and I cannot wait to share this game with you all, especially since it has been in on-and-off development since 2005.  Not only is Stonewall Penitentiary the first full-fledged adventure in the Storycentric Worlds series, but it is also presented in a unique visual style reminiscent of graphic novels.  While the game is different from the past few text-focused gamebooks, those who played those games will still recognize comment elements, making this a natural transition for the series.


The game can be found on Steam here.  Be sure to add the game to your wishlist!



Stonewall Penitentiary Approaching Beta
Posted by: UnimatrixProductions on March 3 2018.

Hey all,

Just a quick update that Stonewall Penitentiary is approximately one week away from beginning beta testing.  Expect to see an official release date announcement in the coming week or two!


Stonewall Penitentiary Updates
Posted by: UnimatrixProductions on December 11 2017.

Hey all,

To those of you in the US, I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  Regardless of where you are, I hope that you are all set to have a fantastic holiday season!

Development on Stonewall Penitentiary is coming along well, and a new batch of screenshots are going up shortly.  We're deep into the game now, and things are getting exciting.  We are still on target for an early 2018 launch.

I can't wait for you to explore the prison and discover "whodunnit"!


Happy Halloween, Everyone!
Posted by: UnimatrixProductions on October 31 2017.

To all the horror-lovers out there, Happy Halloween!

Development on Stonewall Penitentiary continues, and it's going great!  Life circumstances have forced us to take an unexpected move, and so we are unfortunately a bit more behind schedule than we'd like, so I would expect to see a release date some time early 2018.  That's the bad news.

The good news is that development itself is going far more smoothly than we anticipated!  The game is coming along, and it's looking great.  I am very eager to share this title with you, as well as news of future titles in the coming years.

In any case, I just wanted to post a quick update for everyone.  I hope you all enjoy Halloween, and I should have some new screenshots to share with you all in the coming months.

In other news, our existing three games, LifestreamShady Brook, and The Filmmaker, will all be on sale this month, and may even be part of a bundle coming soon.  More details on this soon...

Cheers, everyone!


New Stonewall Penitentiary Screenshots
Posted by: UnimatrixProductions on September 4 2017.

The Stonewall Penitentiary demo has been out for nearly two months, and I thought it well time for another update.

First, some unfortunate news:  development has been set back a month or so as a result of a family emergency.  The good news is that we're back to work again, and development itself is going well.

As those of you who have already played the demo know, there is a short survey upon its conclusion.  We've received some wonderful feedback from gamers and are making some rennovations to our engine as a result.  Thanks to everyone who took the time to fill out the survey.  We will be closing the survey in a few weeks, so this will be your last chance to voice your thoughts on the demo.

A common question we've been hearing is whether or not the entire game takes place in the dark, as the demo portion of Stonewall Penitentiary relies on lanterns to provide light.  The answer is definitely not!  Shortly after the conclusion of the demo, players will find a way to restore power to the prison, allowing you to explore it without the use of a lantern.  So don't fear--let there be light!

And now it's time to get back to development.  But first, I thought I'd share some new screenshots of scenes we are currently working on, which can be found here.  Enjoy!


Stonewall Penitentiary Demo Released!
Posted by: UnimatrixProductions on July 12 2017.

Wow, it has certainly been some time since our last update.  I hope that everyone has had a wonderful summer so far!

I have some exciting news for everyone that has been a long time coming:  the Stonewall Penitentiary demo is now available on the PC!  Download it for yourself here.  This is your chance to see what we've been working on for the past six months, based on your feedback--a brand new engine that combines adventure game mechanics with those of visual novels!

Yes, it's taken a long time to get this far.  But the road ahead is bright:  now that our brand new engine is complete, development on the remainder of the game should be swift, and we hope to release Stonewall Penitentiary by the end of the year.

More excitingly, future games will be made much faster, since the engine work is now complete.  That means that I'm hoping to have multiple games out next year!

For those of you who prefer the format of our previous three games, never fear:  we aren't abandoning our text adventures and will be releasing games in both formats in the years to come.

Please let me know what you think of the demo, and make sure to sign up to our newsletter, if you haven't already.  Now that the demo's out, I plan to update you all more frequently in the months ahead.

Thanks, as always, for your continued support.  Stay tuned!


The Filmmaker Earns an A Rating and Small Stonewall Penitentiary Update!
Posted by: UnimatrixProductions on April 10 2017.

Two reviews of The Filmmaker have gone up!

The first, on Gameboomers, states that the game is "better than the original" adventure on which it is based.

The second, on Just Adventure, rates the game a perfect A, calling the title "the best that Unimatrix has released so far."

Thanks for the positive reviews!

And now I'm back to work on our next game, Stonewall Penitentiary.  As I'm sure you've all noticed, it's been a while since you've heard any major updates, and I apologize for that.  Developing the next iteration of the Storycentric Worlds engine took a great deal of time and means that it will be a while before our next game is released.  The good news, however, is that the new engine version is good-to-go and we are hard at work on the game.  From this point forward, games should come out on a fairly consistent basis!

As always, stay tuned...and don't forget to sign up to our newsletter!


The Filmmaker Launches on Steam!
Posted by: UnimatrixProductions on March 8 2017.

Hey all,

I'm thrilled to announce that The Filmmaker is now available on Steam!

To celebrate, we're offering 15% off the list price for the first week!  This is the perfect time to pick up the last remake of our original game trilogy!

If you've already purchased the game on itch.io, you're eligible for a free copy.  To get it, simply log into your itch account and go to the game's download page.  A link to obtain your free key will be right beneath the download.

The Filmmaker on Steam

I apologize for the lack of updates of late...I promise we're still around, and we're hard at work on our next title.  We've made some major rennovations to the Storycentric Worlds engine, and I'm eager to share those changes with you.  Don't worry--you'll like them!

News is coming soon...I promise!


Quick Update
Posted by: UnimatrixProductions on December 20 2016.

It looks like we were just off by a day.  The iOS version of The Filmmaker is now available here.  Enjoy, folks!


The Filmmaker Premiers Worldwide!
Posted by: UnimatrixProductions on December 19 2016.

Hey there movie fans,

This is the day we've all been waiting for!  The Filmmaker, a tribute to the classic Hollywood B-Movie, is now available on the PC and Android!  I won't waste any more of your time, so here are the direct links:

PC version


Android version

"But wait," you say.  "What about iOS and Kindle?"  Well, here's the thing:  we're still waiting on approval from Apple and Amazon to get the game on those platforms.  Once we are approved, we'll update this news entry to provide those links, as well.  Hopefully, it won't be more than a few days.

So what are you waiting for?  If you're still unsure, a demo is available on the PC, and the Android version is free to download and try out.  Check the game out today, and please don't forget to vote for The Filmmaker on Steam Greenlight!


The Filmmaker Demo Now Playing on a PC Near You!
Posted by: UnimatrixProductions on December 10 2016.

Relive the days of classic gaming with The Filmmaker, a cheesy, puzzle-focused text adventure tribute to the traditional Hollywood "B-movie" in which players take on the role of young cinephile Brianna Auberon as she explores a haunted theater.

The Filmmaker combines the best elements of interactive fiction, visual novels, and gamebooks with a graphic user interface that emulates the look of early 1990s text adventures. It features beautiful artwork and cinematic music. In place of a text parser is a context-specific multiple choice menu. A compass allows you to travel from room to room, and separate inventory, map, journal, and character screens are available at the push of a button.

It plays like an interactive novel. You make a series of choices that determine what happens next in the story. But unlike in traditional gamebooks and visual novels, The Filmmaker also features more advanced adventure-based game mechanics, including locations to explore, items to interact with, characters to meet, and puzzles to solve.

  http://www.unimatrixproductions.com/filmmaker_demo.zip

Fans of interactive fiction are encouraged to vote for The Filmmaker on Steam Greenlight to help support the growth of text-based gaming: http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=784775707

The full version of The Filmmaker premiers on December 19, so check back soon!


The Filmmaker Preview & Black Friday Sale!
Posted by: UnimatrixProductions on November 22 2016.

Hello fellow adventurers,

I've got some good news and bad news.  The bad news is that The Filmmaker is, sadly, delayed until early December, due to some fantastic suggestions for additions to the game from our beta testers.  The game will be better for it, though, so stay with us.

The good news is that tester and reviewer Eric Arevalo has written up a fantastic and detailed preview of The Filmmaker to hold you over until its release!  You can read the preview for yourself here.

Lastly, another piece of exciting news:  in celebration of Thanksgiving, our other games, Lifestream and Shady Brook, are both 33% off starting tomorrow, November 23 and lasting through November 28!  You can also pick up both games as a package for 40% off on itch.io.  With the upcoming release of The Filmmaker, This is the perfect time to delve into these unforgettable adventures.

And now it's back to work for me, both to finish up The Filmmaker and to begin preproduction of our next game, the one many of you have been waiting for:  Stonewall Penitentiary.  Exciting times are ahead, so stay tuned!

Oh...and happy Thanksgiving, everyone!


Shady Brook on Steam, The Filmmaker on Greenlight!
Posted by: UnimatrixProductions on October 24 2016.

Hey everyone,

 

Have you played Shady Brook yet?

 

If not, this is the perfect time to check it out, because this Twin Peaks-inspired text adventure is now available on Steam!  Check it out for yourself over at http://store.steampowered.com/app/545850

 

If you’re one of the awesome people that have already supported us by buying a copy on itch.io, then you’re in luck.  As a “thank you” for getting us to this point, we will be making Steam keys available to you FREE OF CHARGE!  Check your itch.io account in a few days, and you’ll be able to activate your very own key with ease.

 

As if that’s not enough, listen to this:  I’m proud to announce that the next game in our Storycentric Worlds series, The Filmmaker, is coming soon.  VERY soon, in fact, as in NEXT MONTH!

 

The Filmmaker is a puzzle-focused tribute to the classic cheesy Hollywood B-movie.  It remains the most successful of our previously-released titles, and this remake greatly expands upon the original by introducing a new female protagonist whose emotional journey drives the story!

 

If you have a Steam account, please take a moment to vote “yes” for The Filmmaker on Steam Greenlight by going over to http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=784775707.

 

With your help, we might just be able to get The Filmmaker on Steam before its official release—a first for our games!

 

As always, I’d like to end by giving a quick shout out to all of you—the fans who have supported this endeavor from the start.  Without you, Storycentric Worlds would have never made it this far.

 

And believe me when I say that THIS IS WHERE THINGS GET INTERESTING!  Why?  Because The Filmmaker is the last remake.  After this, is all BRAND NEW titles, and the next four are already in early production.

 

Exciting times are ahead, so stay tuned.  And in the meantime, please check out our games on Steam today!


Lifestream on Steam and Shady Brook on Greenlight
Posted by: UnimatrixProductions on September 19 2016.

Just a quick update for you today, as I'm hard at work on our next game.

Lifestream is finally available for purchase on Steam!  You can get your very own copy here!  Existing customers will be receiving details on how to receive a complimentary key within a day.

To coincide with the release of Lifestream on Steam, we've put Shady Brook on Greenlight.  Please vote for the game here!

Thanks to everyone for your continued interest and support!


More Various News Bits
Posted by: UnimatrixProductions on September 11 2016.

I have three small bits of news for everyone today.

First, and most excitingly, Lifestream has been greenlit!  For those that don't know, this means that Lifestream will soon be available on Steam.  Existing PC customers will be receiving a complimentary key as a "thank you" for supporting us!

Next, another Lifestream review--this time of the demo--has gone up.  GameSkinny has rated the demo an 8/10!  You can read the review for yourself here!

Lastly, a quick note that we have added a preview image of our next game, The Filmmaker, to the games page.  More details will be released in the coming months.

That's about it for this time.  Stay tuned for news about Lifestream's Steam release, along with the upcoming launch of Shady Brook on Steam Greenlight!


News, Reviews, and More!
Posted by: UnimatrixProductions on August 29 2016.

Wow, it's been a while!  The lack of updates to the blog have been a result of our working fulltime on our next game, The Filmmaker. But I'm getting ahead of myself, so let's take this one step at a time.

First off, the official Shady Brook codex has been released and is available for download exclusively for owners of the uncensored PC version of the game. Those who own copies on other platforms should not feel disappointed, however, as it will be released to everyone down the line. The codex contains background information on all the characters and locations featured in each Storycentric Worlds game to-date, and it will continually be updated with the release of each new game.

Speaking of Shady Brook, the positive reviews are flowing in! Mediaman Reviews praised the game, calling it a "must play" for fans of the genre. Just Adventure called the game an "immersive experience" that is "infinitely more engaging than pure reading." Both reviews are available to read at their respective links. Keep those reviews coming!

Now, back to The Filmmaker. The third game in the Storycentric Worlds series (and the final remake), The Filmmaker is a tribute to the classic Hollywood B-movie. In the game, you play the role of a movie buff who explores a classic theater and goes inside several black-and-white films! Unlike the past two games, The Filmmaker is puzzle-focused, so make sure to put your thinking caps on before embarking on this adventure, which we plan to release before the end of the year.

So that about wraps up this update. If you own Shady Brook, please make sure to give us a rating, as ratings help us to spread word about our games. And if you don't, you can always pick up your own copy right here on our site.

Until next time, everyone!


Various News Bits
Posted by: UnimatrixProductions on August 6 2016.

Hello everyone,

Feedback for Shady Brook is starting to come in, and we are thrilled to see that players seem to be enjoying the game!

Here at Unimatrix Productions, we are already hard at work on the next game in the series, our final remake: The Filmmaker. This one will be a little different from the others, and you'll hear more news about that in the coming months.

In the meantime, we are also working on the codex for Shady Brook. For those who don't know, the codex is a kind of offline, non-editable wiki that contains background information on the characters, places, and events from each Storycentric Worlds game. As the series continues and more and more story threads begin to crossover, the codex will become essential for tracking all of the various story threads.

Beyond that, the codex is also just plain fascinating, as it provides added depth to all of the elements of each game. For example, take a look this short excerpt, which contains the background of Shady Brook's protagonist, Jake:

Jacob Joseph Torrent was born in September 1978 in Trenton, Oklahoma to his father Wayne, and mother, Brenda. He was always close with his parents, and they lived together in a modest cottage in seclusion from the rest of the city. Jake and his parents were introverts. They were not the most sociable people and had few friends; but they had each other, and that was all that mattered.

In school, Jake excelled in the subjects of English and Literature, and he showed an early interest in writing, which his father cultivated with the purchase of a child's typewriter. When Jake started college, he immediately chose to major in Creative Writing but dropped out in his junior year to help support his parents when his mother developed cancer and quit her job as a caterer. Jake worked as a mechanic for several years to help pay for her treatments. In his spare time, Jake began to write his first novel. Nine months later, he submitted the novel Auburn Hair to a multitude of publishers, and one chose to publish it. Thus began Jake's career.

Jake used a substantial portion of his earnings to help support his parents. He quit his job as a mechanic and began to work as an author on a full-time basis.

Jake released a second novel, The Lone Stranger's Call, two years later, and a third novel, The Flowing Dress in the Wind, the year after that. While Jake's novels were mildly successful, his earnings could barely afford to pay the bills. Still, Jake did his best to support both himself and his parents.

Shortly after Jake began to write his fourth novel, The Sweater, his publisher went bankrupt. Two months later, Jake's mother passed away. No longer able to pay both the mortgage to his parents' home and his own apartment, Jake chose to move with his father to a small, budget-friendly home in the small town of Shady Brook.

The codex, which also contains information on Lifestream , will be available free of charge to all PC customers by the end of the month. Mobile customers should not fear, as we plan to make the codex available to all customers at a later date.

Fun things are on the horizon, so stay tuned! If you haven't played Shady Brook yet, make sure to pick it up here on the platform of your choice. Enjoy the game, and I'll post again soon!


Shady Brook Now Available on the PC, iOS, and Android!
Posted by: UnimatrixProductions on August 1 2016.

It's here!  Shady Brook, the second game in the Storycentric Worlds series, is now available on all platforms.  Click here to check it out!

In Shady Brook, players take on the role of author Jake Torrent in his search for a small town's dark secrets.  Inspired by the television series Twin PeaksShady Brook features a dark, mature storyline that spans over 117,000 words--the equivalent length of a novel!  If you thought Lifestream was good, you haven't seen anything yet.


Shady Brook Demo and Release Date
Posted by: UnimatrixProductions on July 24 2016.

Hello, everyone, and thank you for your patience!  I'm back to work full-time on Storycentric Worlds, and that means two giant bits of news.

First and foremost, the Shady Brook demo is now available for download on the PC!  Pick up your very own copy here.  In the demo, you'll get to play through the first 20% of the game.  If you like it, you can install the full version right over the demo and continue where you left off.  That means no backtracking will be required when you switch over to the full game!

And just when is that full game going to be available?  I finally have a release date set, and it's not far:  you will be able to own the full version of Shady Brook on Monday, August 1.  That's right--Shady Brook comes out in just over a week!

Shady Brook has always been my personal favorite of the Unimatrix Productions titles I've released thus far, and I cannot wait to share this new, expanded version with you all.  Stay tuned for the official release next week on PC, iOS, and Android.  And in the meantime, enjoy the demo!


Shady Brook Delay
Posted by: UnimatrixProductions on July 16 2016.

Hello everyone,

My apologies for the lack of updates the past two weeks.  I am currently dealing with a family emergency, and the release of Shady Brook will be delayed for a few weeks as a result. Once I am able to return to work, I will post regular news and updates.

Thanks in advance for your patience and understanding!


Shady Brook Announcement and SCW Codex
Posted by: UnimatrixProductions on June 27 2016.

Shady Brook, the second game in the Storycentric Worlds series, is set for release this July!

In Shady Brook, players take on the role of author Jake Torrent who, alongside his blind father Wayne, moves to a small, peaceful country town where things may not be quite as idyllic as they seem.

Over the course of the game, you'll explore the entire town and interact with nearly two dozen characters, each with their own distinct personalities and traits.  The choices you make affect the course of the story, and you'll experience several minigames, including a round of Rock, Paper, Scissors, a game of pool, and two fistfights!

Shady Brook features over 117,000 words and at least 8 hours of gameplay.

For details, visit the game's official page, which offers several screenshots and a cinematic trailer.

On another note, we have released the first round of the Storycentric Worlds Codex to PC owners of Lifestream.  The codex, which will be updated with each game, features background information on all the important characters, places, objects, and organizations relevent to the Storycentric Worlds series.  Over the course of these games, you'll begin to see all of the threads that connect each story, weaving a tapestry of something greater to come.  If you already own Lifestream on the PC, simply go to your download page, and you'll be able to access the codex.  Be warned, though--it contains spoilers!

And now it's time for me to return to work on prepping Shady Brook for released.  More news will be coming soon, so make sure to keep up with us on social media for the latest info!


New Lifestream Interview and Walkthrough!
Posted by: UnimatrixProductions on June 18 2016.

Hello everyone,

I apologize for how long it's been since my last update.  I've been hard at work prepping the next Storycentric Worlds game, Shady Brook, which is currently in closed beta.  It completely trumps Lifestream's 78,000+ word count by weighing in at an impressive 117,000+ words!  Shady Brook features a fully-explorable small town with over a dozen characters with whom you can interact.

You'll be hearing more about Shady Brook in the coming weeks.  But for now, I would like to share with you two updates regarding Lifestream.

First, I was interviewed by Black Shell Media about Lifestream and Storycentric Worlds.  You can read the interview here.

Second, a dedicated fan has taken the time to write a detailed walkthrough for Lifestream, which is now available with her permission on our website.  You can access the walkthrough here.

Lastly, Lifestream is still on Steam Greenlight, and we need your vote.  If you haven't yet, please take a moment to log into your Steam account and vote "Yes" for Lifestream on Steam Greenlight here.  Thank you to everyone who has already voted!

And now I must return to development.  As I mentioned earlier, Shady Brook is currently in beta and requires thorough testing.  I can't wait to share details with you all very soon, so stay tuned!


Lifestream Update Released & Upcoming Sale
Posted by: UnimatrixProductions on June 1 2016.

Greetings adventure fans,
 
We are pleased to announce that a brand new update of Lifestream has just been released on all platforms!
 
I know what some of you are thinking:  this is no big deal, right?  It happens all the time.
 
But this is more than a simple collection of bug fixes.  The update features a massive number of gameplay changes and new content, adding a total of 13,000 new words of story to the game.  Several puzzles were removed and replaced with more appropriate equivalents, and others have been re-built from the ground up.  On top of that, there are now two difficulty levels—”easy,” for those new to the genre, and “normal” for those with previous experience.  As if that’s not enough, we’ve also added several important decisions to make that may have consequences later in the game.
 
In some ways, this is a whole new experience.  And it’s completely free!
 
For those of you who have already purchased Lifestream, receiving the update is easy.  PC users should head over to the site from which they purchased the game.  Simply re-download the installer and re-install the game over your previous installation.  Android and iOS users simply need to update the app.  While your existing saved games are, unfortunately, not compatible with this update, we have provided save states for you, so that you can choose a chapter to continue from upon running the update for the first time to help minimize backtracking.  Trust us—the update is more than worth it.
 
To celebrate this release, we are offering an astonishing 60% off sale from June 3 through June 12.  That means you can buy Lifestream on the platform of your choice for only $1.99!  If you haven’t checked out this brand new and exciting text adventure yet, this is the perfect opportunity.
 
Thanks to all of you for your continued interest in and support of Unimatrix Productions.  Stay tuned for more exciting news in the future!

 


Happy Memorial Day and Lifestream Patch News
Posted by: UnimatrixProductions on May 30 2016.

Happy Memorial Day, everyone!

I want to take this moment to update you all on the status of the upcoming Lifestream patch.

First and foremost, some bad news: due to the extent of changes in the patch, existing saved game data will not be transferable to the updated version. Do not despair, however! Those currently playing Lifestream will be offered saved states for each chapter of the game upon running the new version for the first time. This will minimize the amount of backtracking that existing players will have to undergo.

Now, onto the good news: the Lifestream patch is extensive and features a great deal of revised and added gameplay! Several of the more frustrating and obstructive puzzles have been removed in their entirety and replaced with more appropriate (and fun) equivalents. In addition to this, there are now some tough new decisions to face that will affect the course of the game's story--so choose wisely!

The patch contains a cumulative total of 71,000+ words, up from the original game's 65,000+. That means that we've added an additional 6,000+ words of new content with the patch.

Of course, the patch also features all the things you'd expect: bug fixes, spelling/grammar corrections, and the like. The file size of the new game version will be much smaller than the original, as well, as we have removed the unnecessary video animations and replaced them with static images--these are text-based games, after all.

The patch is currently in beta, and it is my hope that it will become available to users on various platforms sometime very soon.

To those of you who have not yet purchased Lifestream--this may be the perfect time to consider trying it out! In celebration of this new release, we will be offering an astounding 60% off sale upon the weekend of the patch's release on all platforms. That means that Lifestream can be yours for the very low price of $1.99.

Exciting, right? But when will this sale be? Well, it depends on when the patch is approved on iOS and Android. To be among the first to hear about the exact sale dates, be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

If that's not enough to tempt you, then go ahead and give Lifestream a try for free: a demo is available here that lets you play through the game's prologue. The demo has also been updated with bug fixes, as well, so if you ran into technical difficulties with the original version, go on and give it a second try.

As for us, following the release of the Lifestream patch, we will resume work on our next game, Shady Brook. If you thought Lifestream was exciting, well...at the risk of sounding cliché, you ain't seen nothing yet.


New Lifestream Patch and Gameplay Video
Posted by: UnimatrixProductions on May 16 2016.

Greetings, everyone!  I have two bits of news for this week.

First up--you spoke, and we listened!  Due to your valued feedback, we are currently working on a Lifestream patch for all platforms that will feature several improvements, including:

A new, simplified inventory system that is easier to navigate and use

Puzzle alterations

Two difficulty levels--easy and hard, to challenge seasoned IF gamers

Simplified company logos and a faster, and more efficient animated main menu (PC version only)

Additional gameplay enhancements

There is no current estimated time of release, but we will keep you up-to-date on our progress with the patch.  For those of you who have already purchased the game, the update will be released free of charge and you will receive notification via e-mail upon its release.

For those who haven't yet, you may be interested in taking a look at a playthrough of the Lifestream demo made by one of our fans, which showcases the game's Prologue in its entirety.

So there you have it.  Stay tuned, because exciting things are in store.  We want to make the Storycentric Worlds engine the perfect delivery system for high quality interactive fiction, and thanks to your feedback we are continually getting closer to that goal.  So, from the bottom of our hearts--thank you for your continued support and feedback!


Game Case Study - Corrosion: Cold Winter Waiting
Posted by: UnimatrixProductions on May 2 2016.

I haven't showcased another third-party game in a while, and, with Lifestream's exciting release behind us, I think it's due time to talk about indie studio Viperante's first-person slideshow adventure, Corrosion: Cold Winter Waiting.

Corrosion plays in the slideshow style of classics like Myst and Dark Fall. Gameplay consists of room-based exploration and puzzle-solving. While the gameplay is fantastic--I'll get to that in a bit--what really sets Corrosion apart is its story. Corrosion is a horror game that, to me, is reminiscent in style of the film The Blair Witch Project. The story is set up to be a "recreating of true events," and you pay the role of the sheriff of a small town who stumbles upon a secret laboratory far beneath a farm on the outskirts of a small town.

The game has a definite "indie" feel--and that's a good thing, as it adds to the story's realism and creepiness. The entire game takes place in one large environment--an underground lab. The game's setting has a cold, solitary, sterile feel, which is accented by the game's well-crafted soundtrack. Simply put, it oozes atmosphere.

Over the course of the game, players will begin to learn about the purpose of the underground lab and its former occupants through a series of journal entries that are scattered about the environment. The story is fantastically written and features some unexpected twists and turns that fans of psychological horror will definitely appreciate.

Where the game really shines, story aside, is in its puzzles. This is not an easy game. In a modern industry plagued by simplicity, this is a welcome change of pace. While the puzzles are a definite challenge, they also make logical sense. The game's sense of progression is driven by pure logic in a way I seldom see in adventures. Every item that you pick up has a purpose, and every step forward you must take leads you closer to the story's conclusion.

The game's environments are logically laid out, as well. While there is some amount of backtracking--this is impossible to avoid, given that the entire game takes place in the same environment--you are never too far from where you need to go next.

And this brings me back to the story. It's hard to reveal more about the plot without spoiling anything, but I will say that it touches upon topics such as possession, experimentation, and psychology. The story is incredibly dark, and things may not be quite what they first seem. The game does not feature traditional "jump moments" but instead scares players through its well-written story.

It is rare that a game's story draws me in to the degree that Corrosion's did. And that is why I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a truly scary adventure game with a sizeable challenge.

Corrosion: Cold Winter Waiting is currently available on Steam, so make sure you check it out.

And, of course, if you are a fan of quality storytelling like I am, please give my own game, Lifestream, a try. You won't regret it!


Lifestream is Now Available for Purchase!
Posted by: UnimatrixProductions on April 25 2016.

Well, it's certainly been a long and arduous road, but the time has finally arrived: Lifestream, the first in a series of next-generation text adventures, is now available for purchase!

Before I go into detail, I would like to take this moment to personally thank you for your continued interest and encouragement. Without supporters such as yourself, Storycentric Worlds wouldn't exist!

So, where can you purchase Lifestream? Currently, it is available for iOS devices on iTunes; for Android devices on Google Play, Amazon, and Opera Mobile; and for the PC on the Storycentric Worlds website and itch.io.

Wondering which platform you should play Lifestream on? Well, it depends on what you like. As for me, I prefer playing it on a tablet. There's nothing quite like curling up on the couch and delving into the game as one would a novel. But regardless of what platform you choose, I promise you an experience that you won't soon forget!

And of course --if you haven't done so yet, please spread the word by sharing our content across social media and vote for us on Steam Greenlight so that we can continue to expand our audience.

As for what's next for us--no breaks here. We are moving straight from Lifestream to working on the beta of the second game in the Storycentric Worlds series: Shady Brook. If you think that Lifestream translates well to the new format, wait until you see what we have in store here!

In the meantime, it is my sincerest hope that each and every one of you enjoys Lifestream just as much as we enjoyed making it. Please don't forget to give Lifestream a try--it'll cost less than a quick fast food lunch--and I'll see you back again in a few months with the release of Shady Brook!


Lifestream Release Date Announcement
Posted by: UnimatrixProductions on April 13 2016.

It is official: Lifestream will be released on April 25. Make sure to set your calendars, because the interactive fiction revolution has arrived!

It has been a long journey getting to this point. Back when I first conceptualized Storycentric Worlds so many years ago, I had no idea quite how long that journey would take. My initial goal was to reinvent text adventures, which I believe have far more potential than they have thus far managed to achieve. In the way that reading was reintroduced to children in part because of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, I wanted to reintroduce reading to gamers.

Reading stokes the imagination in a way that traditional games do not. Once we fall into the flow of the words on the page or screen, we fall completely into the story, losing track of time and even our own sense of self. We become completely immersed into the world that is painted in our minds by those words. And while the story may have been written by someone else, the events we take part in are completely and uniquely our own.

It took multiple prototypes, several separate engine builds, a whole lot of money, and countless hours, but my vision is finally here. And on April 25, Storycentric Worlds will become a reality.

It is my sincerest hope that all of you join me on this journey back to the days when interactive storytelling took place in your imagination rather than in a 3D game world, when characters became real in your mind instead of on-screen. I promise you will not be disappointed by the experience.

Thank you to everyone who has continued to support me throughout this endeavor, and I look forward to seeing you all on Lifestream's release date. In the meantime, please continue to spread the word in whatever way you are able, whether through Facebook, Twitter, or any other means. Together, with your help, we can make Lifestream and future Storycentric Worlds games a resounding success!


It's April!
Posted by: UnimatrixProductions on April 4 2016.

Well, April is finally here.  What does that mean for Storycentric Worlds?  It means that the release of our first game, Lifestream, is eminent! Since it has been some time since the last update, I thought I would share with you all the current state of things.

Lifestream

Currently, we are testing release candidates for Lifestream on three platforms: PC, iOS, and Android. This testing process ensures that the final products are 100% functional and bug-free. So far, things are going well, and--presuming nothing goes wrong--the game should be ready to go in a week or two. At that time, it will be immediately available on our website, and we will submit the game to the various app stores.

Steam Greenlight

Our Greenlight campaign is going quite well. We are satisfied with our progress and have little doubt that we will be selected to appear on Steam. If our game's launch occurs before we are greenlit, every person who purchases a game on our site will immediately receive a Steam key as soon as one becomes available!

Public Engine

A lot of developers have showcased interest in the Storycentric Worlds engine, and I am pleased to say that you won't have to wait much longer. I am in the final steps of finishing a complete licensing agreement, which will allow other developers to use the engine in a variety of ways. Once this is complete, I just have to quickly put together a demo game and development package. This should all be ready for those who showcased interest in just a few weeks! The public release of the engine will be a bit later than that...but not too long.

Future Plans

Our next game, the re-release of Shady Brook, is already in beta testing, and it is our hope to prep it for launch within a few months of Lifestream's release! Simultaneously, once Lifestream comes out, early development will begin on our third title. As you can see, there will be a consistent stream of new games throughout this and coming years.

So there you have it--the current state of things and our plans for the immediate future. It's an exciting time for Storycentric Worlds, and I cannot wait to share Lifestream with all of you. It won't be long now, so stand by for some excitement!


Storycentric Worlds and Lifestream - A Writer's Perspective
Posted by: UnimatrixProductions on March 21 2016.

Hello, story fans!  We have an exciting blog post this week from guest writer E.L. Smith, one of the staff here at Unimatrix Productions, who wants to share her thoughts on Lifestream and why she chose to work with us.

But first, an exciting bit of news:  it has only been two weeks since Lifestream debuted on Steam Greenlight, and we are proud to announce that we have already broken the Top 50 games...in fact, we have reached an impressive rank of 32!

This is far beyond our wildest hopes and dreams, and I would like to sincerely thank you all for your positive feedback and support over these two weeks.  Let's keep the pace going, so that we can get Lifestream and future games onto Steam and put quality storytelling back in games!

If you haven't voted yet, you can do so quite easily with a Steam account by going to our greenlight page and voting "yes."  Thanks again for all your support!

Now, I would like to introduce to you all E.L. Smith, who will be writing from this point forward.  I will talk to you all again next week.

Hi everyone. My name is E.L. Smith, and I am a writer at Storycentric Worlds. While you won't be seeing my first game any time soon (it will most likely come out sometime early next year), I want to talk a bit about what drew me to Unimatrix Productions and why I accepted a position on their writing team.

As an avid gamer and writer, Storycentric Worlds games are the perfect solution for me, because they combine my love of gaming with my passion for storytelling. I have played many games over the years, including many adventures and hidden object games, which are sometimes touted as having some of the best stories in modern gaming. However, from a writing perspective, I often find the stories in many of these games to be mundane at best. While many feature good premises, they tend to offer basic plots, and the vast majority fail to develop the featured characters thoroughly enough to the point where I actually care what happens to them.

This trend is most apparent in hidden object adventures. While I do enjoy the genre, I strongly believe that the stories in these games need improving. Most hidden object adventures start with a solid hook, which is a great start but not enough to sustain quality. For example, you may play as a mother who watches her husband get kidnapped by a supernatural entity in the opening cutscene, and you are then tasked with getting him back. While this works as a hook, why would I, the player, care about these people if I don't have any back-story? The characters in too many games lack depth, and I fail to make a personal connection to those characters as a result.

One of my favorite authors, George R.R. Martin, often notes that it is important to portray morally-gray characters, as those tend to be the most realistic and relatable. In fact, throughout literature, the books that tend to succeed the most are often the ones with gray, ambiguous characters. It is unrealistic to feature a purely good, "white" protagonist that is destined to save the day against a purely evil, "black" villain. Whenever I develop my own characters, I try to add dimension to them. For instance, given the example above, perhaps the mother is somehow partially responsible for her husband's because she was not with him and instead having an affair. This immediately adds depth to her character and gives her an inner drive to save her husband and marriage. It creates emotion, and emotion helps us, the audience, relate to her character. For the antagonist, there should also be depth. Do not make a one-dimensional villain. Instead, give the antagonist some redeeming qualities and the perspective that s/he is actually in the right. This makes the characters morally-gray. This adds emotion, which makes everything more compelling. As a player, I need that emotional component to hold and sustain my interest in a game. It is not enough for me to be given an objective...I have to actually want my protagonist to succeed and the antagonist to fail.

I agreed to be a writer for Storycentric Worlds because I believe in its cause. Stories should be at the heart of games, and I believe this is something that has been lost amongst the flashy graphics and combative scenes that modern mainstream games tend to focus on. Storycentric Worlds, in contrast, brilliantly combines the mechanics of interactive fiction with all of the necessary components of a well-written story. It truly is amazing how, when playing a Storycentric Worlds game, I feel as though I am reading a suspenseful novel, yet also playing a fantastic game in the process.

I went into playing Lifestream with little idea of what to expect. I had never played a text-based game before, and I was somewhat skeptical...but I wanted to keep an open mind. When I started the game, I was immediately impressed with its opening cut scene, which consists of an elderly priest named Randolph who is fervently writing something at a desk. He seems both obsessed and terrified. I instantly asked myself several questions. What exactly is he researching? What is he so focused on, yet scared of? By introducing me to this initial mystery element, I was already drawn in within the first couple of minutes of gameplay. This brilliant technique is known as "in medias res," meaning that we are instantly thrown into the middle of the story without any initial exposition. It is commonly used by many authors to draw in their readers, and it works well in games, too. After the opening scene, I met a young man named John whose father went missing a few weeks ago--the elderly Randolph from the first scene. This posed even more mysteries. What happened to John's father? Why is he so worried about him? How is Randolph a Catholic priest if he has a son?

From that moment forward, I was hooked. I could not stop playing. The gameplay was fun and challenging, yet not frustrating or obtrusive. The interface was easy to learn and suits the game's mechanics well. But for me, the game's story always took center stage.

Exposition is expertly delivered through a series of letters and flashbacks without slowing down the pace of the story. The son, John, is developed as loyal and dedicated to his father. His father, Randolph, is humanized by having a fear of public speaking, which instantly makes him relatable. The characters are continually developed as the game progresses, and I found myself relating to them both.

I completed my first playthrough of Lifestream in one day, despite its impressive length--over eight hours. Just as when I read a novel, the time flew by, and the game ended with me wanting more. Needless to say, I now consider myself a Storycentric Worlds fan for life!

I am honored to work for Unimatrix Productions in producing quality story-centric titles like this, and I now consider Lifestream to be a personal inspiration. It is my sincerest hope that my own games live up to its example, because to me, Lifestream as a text game is pretty near perfect.


The Importance of Mystery
Posted by: UnimatrixProductions on March 14 2016.

Wow, it's been a while since my last regular blog post! Apologies to all for the delay. This is what we developers call "crunch time" in the game development process, which basically means that I am working twice as long and hard to ensure that everything goes smoothly for the official launch next month.

First and foremost--if you haven't heard the news, Lifestream is currently on Steam Greenlight! If you haven't yet done so, please vote for the game here to support Storycentic Worlds.

Now that the advertisement is out of the way, I would like to talk this week about the importance of hooks and mystery in storytelling. To me, mystery is the essence of storytelling. Without mystery, there is no "unknown." And it is that sense of the unknown that grabs and sustains our interest in a piece of fiction, whether it be a movie, television series, novel, or game.

In 2008, talented writer and director J.J. Abrams gave a now-famous TED speech on the topic of mystery and its role in storytelling, defining mystery as "the catalyst for imagination." His argument is this: by presenting the audience with a simple question--a mystery, if you will--that audience will have an innate desire to know its answer. And once the audience has this desire, they are hooked.

As I discussed in a previous entry, a "hook" is an intense scene designed to grab the audience's attention right at the start of a story. One of the most effective ways of setting up a hook is by starting the scene "in medias res," which means "in the middle of things." In other words, start the story right in the middle of the action and let the audience wonder what is going on. Immediately, questions begin to rise in the audience's mind, and that creates mystery.

One of J.J. Abrams's own television series, Lost, handles this extremely well. Regardless of your feelings toward the show, there is no denying that it started "with a bang." For those that have not seen the series, the pilot episode begins with a man waking up on his back in the middle of the jungle. He is wearing a suit and looks dazed and confused. After he stands up, he makes his way over to a commotion only to discover himself in the middle of a plane crash with people running and screaming, and pieces of debris from the aircraft scattered across the beach. This opening scene starts in medias res and is intense. It instantly grabs the viewer's attention and maintains that focus through the scene. Several questions are immediately posed to the viewer, including (most notably), "how did this plane crash?" From there, the story follows the standard plot structure. By the end of the episode, several more questions are raised, and, when the show first aired, many viewers were hooked.

The same concepts hold true in games.

Many of the most successful story-focused games of all-time have utilized the concepts of an opening hook and establishing mystery to draw in players. Let us examine one famous example in particular: Final Fantasy VII.

Final Fantasy VII opens "in medias res"--right in the middle of a terrorist attack against a kind of power plant called a Mako Reactor. Players take on the role of Cloud, a mercenary who is helping the terrorist group. Immediately, several questions are raised: why am I helping terrorists? What is my motivation? Why are these people trying to destroy the Mako Reactor? The game cleverly mixes in both gameplay and exposition during this opening scene to provide some additional information: Cloud is assisting an eco-terrorist group called AVALANCHE to destroy the reactor because the reactors are slowly killing the planet. The scene culminates with a boss fight and an intense escape from the reactor. By the end of the scene, players are emotionally invested in the game's characters and story. At that point, the game safely slows down its pace and begins the exposition without losing players' interest.

In summary, both a hook and mystery play central roles in developing a game's story. Without these key elements, a player's attention will not be sustained throughout the game. As J.J. Abrams himself said, what sustains ones interest in storytelling is "the question of what comes next." Without that mystery in story-based games, there is no drive to play. Because after all--if we have all the answers, then why are we playing?


Lifestream Demo Now Available and Steam Greenlight Launch
Posted by: UnimatrixProductions on March 7 2016.

A demo to the upcoming text adventure game Lifestream is now available for the PC! It allows players to play through the game's entire prologue and is available for download at www.storycentricworlds.com/lifestream.html.

In addition, Lifestream has launched on Steam Greenlight. The game's developer, Unimatrix Productions, is asking for the community's help in voting for the game, which can be done at steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=639982476.

Lifestream is a haunting text adventure in which players take on the role of both Randolph and his son, John, in their search for an enigmatic realm known only as “the Lifestream.” The game represents the pinnacle of interactive fiction, combining classic room-based explorative text game mechanics with a stylish graphical interface and plenty of modern bells and whistles like pictures and sound. The result is an engine that looks and feels contemporary while remaining true to the essence of interactive fiction.

Full Game Features:

Explore multiple detailed locations, including a quaint Victorian home and small village church

Enjoy over 150 pieces of original artwork

Solve a multitude of challenging puzzles

Interact with a variety of interesting characters

Play as two separate protagonists across two time periods

Unlock 30 achievements to view a special post-game bonus scene

Experience an emotional, hour-long soundtrack

Play 8+ hours of content with over 65,000 words--the text equivalent of a full-length novel!

Lifestream is the first in a series of games from Unimatrix Productions that utilize a new game engine, Storycentric Worlds, which promises to revolutionize the genre of interactive fiction. Lifestream comes out in April 2016 and will be released for the PC, iOS, and Android.


Lifestream Preview
Posted by: UnimatrixProductions on February 23 2016.

Hello, everyone!

Instead of my usual blog post, this week I would like to share a wonderful preview of the first Storycentric Worlds game, Lifestream, which is coming in April.  The preview was written by Eric Arevalo, one of the game's beta testers.  Eric has a long history both as a tester and game reviewer, having worked for sites such as Just Adventure.  He was so thrilled with the game during his testing that he wrote a long and detailed preview of the game, which you can read here.

Thanks, Eric, for your wonderful feedback!  Your reaction is just what I was hoping for, and it warms my heart to see others enjoying this labor of love that I have been developing for the past several years.

Next week, I will resume with a regularly-scheduled blog post.  Until then, take care!


Game Case Study: Serena
Posted by: UnimatrixProductions on February 15 2016.

After last week's exploration of plot structure, I would like to take the time this week to highlight a game that follows this formula and features a fantastic story: Serena.

Serena is a short, free-to-play first-person adventure game that was collaboratively developed by Senscape, Infamous Quests, CBE Software, Digital Media Workshop, and Guys from Andromeda. The game is story-based, and gameplay consists of exploring a small cabin and examining its contents.

Overall, the game has very positive reviews on Steam. Common criticisms include that the game is too short, that there is no save system, and that gameplay is "boring" because it consists of nothing more than examining items and listening to the resulting dialog. What these few naysayers fail to understand, however, is that this is a game about one thing: story. And, for that, it is fantastic.

The game opens with our male protagonist missing his wife, Serena, and waiting for her to return home to their secluded cabin. He glances at a photo of the two of them together, only to discover that he is unable to discern her face. From there, the player takes control.

The game oozes atmosphere. Nearly everything in the cabin can be examined, and we hear our protagonist reminisce about the selected item and how it relates to his relationship with Serena. The voice acting is fantastic--some of the best I've heard in any game, let alone an indie title.

Over the course of the game, the memories that are evoked from the items the player examines cause the protagonist to remember more and more about his relationship, and the tone of the game begins to take a dark turn.

Without spoiling the story, because I highly recommend that everyone play this game, I will say that it follows the classic plot structure. It features an opening hook (the aforementioned indiscernible face on the photograph), exposition (initially exploring the cabin), turning point, falling action, climax, and shocking denouement. The game's resolution is purposely left up to the player's interpretation, and the result is a thought-provoking and poignant piece that conveys far more emotion than the vast majority of games out there.

Whereas most games feature a basic story plot with one-dimensional, cardboard cut-out characters and unrealistic, predictable "plot twists" that are implemented only for the sake of a cheap shock, Serena stands apart. The quality of its story shines, and one can compare the game to a short novel--truly a work of art that you will think about long after reaching its conclusion.

Those interested in trying Serena for themselves can find it available completely for free on Steam. As for me? I plan on replaying it very soon.


Plot Structure
Posted by: UnimatrixProductions on February 8 2016.

If you are a writer, then you have certainly heard the term "plot structure," sometimes also referred to as "story structure" or "three-act structure." This structure should be used in any creative medium, whether literature, cinema, or even video games.

The problem is, different professors seem to have different perspectives on how to structure the graph. Indeed, you can see this problem first-hand by performing a quick Google search. You'll find dozens of images, and many contain contradictory information. I have experienced this contradiction first-hand. Having taken a myriad of courses and seminars on creative writing over the span of my adult life, I have seen as many perspectives on this issue as I have had teachers.

There is, however, a somewhat broad consensus. The problem is that this generally-accepted form of the graph is, in my opinion, inherently wrong. In order to understand why, it is first necessary to define each of the terms typically found on this graph.

Exposition - The exposition is the introduction to the story, in which the audience is introduced to its central theme(s), setting(s), and character(s).

Rising Action - The rising action features a rise in dramatic tension, during which the story's central conflict is revealed. The protagonist undergoes several small obstacles and overcomes them.

Climax - The climax is the point of greatest dramatic tension in a story. It is, in effect, the "peak" of intensity.

Falling Action - The falling action is the point in which the story calms down, and things start to fall into place for the protagonist, leading toward the end of the story.

Resolution - The resolution, as its name implies, is the point in the story in which all conflict is resolved and things return to a new state of normal. (Some people incorrectly refer to the resolution the story's "dénouement," but the two are actually distinct entities. More on this in a bit...)

So far, so good, right? While everything above makes sense, there is one big problem: stories do not actually follow the above graph! It places certain terms in the wrong place, and it omits others entirely.

To illustrate this point, let us examine a classic, well-known movie that most of you have probably seen: the original Star Wars(Spoilers will follow, so stop here if you haven't seen the movie!) In the movie, the exposition is clearly Luke's period on the planet Tatooine before he meets Obi-Wan Kenobi. The rising action is Luke's journey thereafter, leading up to the climax. But what exactly is that climax? According to the above graph, the climax happens approximately halfway through the movie. That would indicate that, perhaps, the climax of the movie occurs when Darth Vader strikes down Obi-Wan. But what of the space battle toward the end of the movie? According to the above graph, a "falling action" follows the climax, during which the tension declines. Yet the Death Star battle is, arguably, even more intense than Darth Vader's light saber battle. Does this movie contain two climaxes?

The problem is that there are additional story points not represented on the above graph. In fact, when considering nearly any classic work of fiction, from Gone with the Wind to Casablanca to The Lord of the Rings, the above graph is charted wholly incorrectly. Allow me to introduce my own graph, the result of over fifteen years of writing experience, study of this topic, and consultation with literary experts.  It is far more complicated in structure and contains several new terms, so let us first define them.

Hook - A good story should always start with a hook--an exciting scene that grabs the audience's attention right from the start and sets up some sort of mystery to sustain its attention throughout the exposition, which tends to be slow in pace. Scholars like to use the term "in medias res," which translates loosely to "in the middle of things" to define a story that starts in the middle of the action.  This is advisable, as it creates a sense of urgency that adds to a story's suspense.

Turning Point - The turning point, which typically occurs approximately halfway through a story, is the point in which everything changes for the protagonist. The protagonist can no longer turn back from here, and everything suddenly becomes more "real."  The turning point should be the second-highest peak of intensity in the story, subordinate only to the climax.

Lowest Point - Not all stories have a lowest point, though many do. This typically occurs right after the turning point. It is the point in which everything has gone wrong, and the protagonist loses all hope. Typically, something happens here to pick the protagonist up again, which leads to the falling action.

Dénouement - As I mentioned earlier, many literary experts will, incorrectly, define the dénouement as the resolution. In fact, most definitions for the word online indicate the same. Upon further research, however, you will find that the dénouement is actually quite different. The French word dénouement literally translates to "untying." The dénouement is the unraveling of mysteries, the point in which the entire plot is laid out for the audience. It is true that this typically occurs in the resolution of a story, but it can also sometimes occur during a story's climax. For some stories, it may never occur at all. Think of the dénouement as the revelation of a story's twist--the point at which the protagonist and audience finally understand all of the plot's mysteries.

When looking at this new graph, there are two things to note. First, there are several random rises and dips in tension during the rising action. This is typical, as the protagonist undergoes a series of trials and obstacles that (s)he will typically overcome. Second, the "falling" action actually occurs during a rise in tension in the plot. This is not a mistake. According to several experts I have consulted, the word "falling" in falling action is not necessarily meant to describe a decrease in tension, as is commonly believed; it is meant to describe when things finally "fall" into place for the protagonist and the story begins its ascent to the climax.

Now that we finally understand this new graph, let us accurately chart out all the story points in Star Wars:

Hook - Empire troops invade a rebel ship. The urgent action draws viewers in, and we see a glimpse of a message that Princess Leia records on R2D2, which establishes an immediate mystery: what is the message?

Exposition - On Tatooine, we are introduced to Luke and his family. Ben Kenobi reveals his past to Luke, and Luke, after losing his aunt and uncle to the Empire, agrees to accompany Ben to save Princess Leia. (Some people may mistakenly define the moment in which Luke's relatives are killed the story's turning point, but it is not; it is, instead, the catalyst that drives Luke on his Hero's Journey...but that's a discussion for another time!)

Rising Action - The rising action consists of all events from the moment Luke decides to travel with Obi-Wan up until the turning point, which is described below. During the rising action, Luke experiences all kinds of adventure, and things go pretty smoothly for the group. That is, until...

Turning Point - Obi-Wan Kenobi is killed. All of a sudden, the student, Luke, must become the master, because his mentor is gone. This is the first real lost that our hero has endured since beginning his journey, and it is the point at which the true power of Darth Vader and the Empire is revealed. There's no turning back for Luke now.

Lowest Point - All tension comes to a stop. Luke, Leia, and Han Solo all react to the loss of Obi-Wan, and Luke begins to lose hope.

Falling Action - The Millennium Falcon meets up with the Rebel Alliance, and they plot to destroy the Death Star. The tension begins to escalate once more.

Climax - Luke, with the help of the Alliance, destroys the Death Star in a giant space battle! This is the highest point of dramatic and emotional tension in the film.

Dénouement - During the climax, the ghost of Obi-Wan tells Luke to "use the Force." Luke does and finally discovers that the Force is real, and that he possesses the ability to use it.

Resolution - The Rebel Alliance celebrates the destruction of the Death Star, and everyone appears to live happily ever after. At least until the sequel.

So there you have it: a far more accurate and detailed plot structure that is, whether knowingly or not, used by authors across a myriad of platforms. It is a structure that has been proven to work time and again, and it is a structure that any developer should adapt when outlining the plot to a new game.


The Importance of Story in Games
Posted by: UnimatrixProductions on February 1 2016.

Legendary programmer John Carmack, one of the two co-founders of Id Software, is one of the most important figures in the game industry. Not only is he responsible for the mainstream transition from 2D to 3D in games, but he also was the lead on some of the most innovative, revolutionary titles of our time. I have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for the man, and I consider him to be one of my industry heroes. Many developers like to quote him, and my own favorite quote of his is the famous response he gave when asked when Id Software's Doom 3 would be ready: "It's done, when it's done."

There is, however, one quote of John Carmack with which I heartily disagree. When asked about the role story plays in games, Carmack responded, "Story in a game is like a story in a porn movie. It's expected to be there, but it's not that important." With all due respect to the renowned programmer, I find this perspective to be outdated.

While story is not applicable to all genres of game, several are dependent upon it, such as adventure games, role-playing games, and interactive fiction (IF). Most of these games can be broken down into two parts: gameplay and story. (Of course, there are other elements, as well, such as graphics and sound, but that is beyond the scope of this post.) In a perfect game, each element should stand equal to, complement, and support the other. Realistically, however, there are no perfect games. Typically, one element--gameplay or story--is, to some degree, stronger than the other.

I want you to think back to your own gaming history. Can you remember any game that featured a terrible story but fantastic gameplay? Or perhaps the reverse? How did it make you feel? What kept you going to the game's end? Conversely, what made you decide to quit the game before completing it?

In college, I was taught that, when writing the concept for a game, one should always start with gameplay and story should only be considered once the mechanics have been thoroughly developed. This supports John Carmack's perspective. In my own experience as a developer, however, I've found the opposite to be a more successful approach. To me, the development process should always begin with story, and gameplay should be formed around it. This creates a more cohesive gameplay experience that forms an emotional bond between the story and players, fueling the latter's desire to see the game through to its end.

Over the course of my life, I have played over 1,200 games in a variety of genres, and I have found an interesting pattern: out of all the games I've played, the ones that I have seen to completion and think about most favorably all feature a good story--regardless of gameplay. In contrast, I've played several games with fantastic gameplay but a poor story--these I gave up on before completing them and would not consider finishing them. I would venture a guess that many other gamers out there have similar experiences.

To provide an example, let us consider two oft-compared games, both murder mysteries: Deadly Premonition and Heavy Rain. (Don't worry: no spoilers here!)

Heavy Rain, a popular, critically acclaimed title, featured outstanding gameplay with fantastic controls. It successfully provided players with illusionary freedom of choice and immersed them into a fictitious world. In contrast, Deadly Premonition, a lesser-known title that is commonly referred to by gamers as "broken," featured terrible controls and gameplay that was poorly-designed, outdated, and, for lack of a better description, simply not fun.

Yet I found myself drawn into Deadly Premonition's world, and I played it enthusiastically from beginning to end. In fact, I consider it one of the best games I've ever played. Conversely, I gave up on Heavy Rain about a quarter of the way through and instead skimmed Youtube videos to see the rest of the game. Why? Because of story.

I found Heavy Rain's story to be cliché and poorly-executed. It was filled with one-dimensional characters and plot holes. It lacked atmosphere--not graphically but in its plot. It was also predictable. I had successfully guessed the identity of the killer within minutes of meeting him/her.

In comparison, Deadly Premonition featured one of the best video game plots I've ever experienced. It featured an intricate, complex plot filled with interesting, flawed three-dimensional characters, and, thanks to several unforeseeable yet well-foreshadowed twists, it kept me guessing right until the end.

There is no denying that the gameplay in Deadly Premonition was atrocious--some would even say unplayable. Yet I was willing to forgive that, because I was invested in its story and protagonist. Whereas in Heavy Rain, my lack of connection with the story and characters caused me to lose interest in the game once I tired of its well-designed gameplay.

And that leads to my ultimate point: story is, arguably, the most important aspect of a game, and it is one that is overlooked far too often in the mainstream industry. Whereas I am willing to forgive poor gameplay when it is combined with a quality story, I am not as lenient in the opposite situation. To me, a good story will always trump good gameplay. And I am willing to bet that a lot of other gamers out there would agree.

(FOOTNOTE: Anyone who is interested in learning more about John Carmack or Id Software should read David Kushner's superb Master's of Doom. I read it back when I was in college, and I heartily recommend it to anyone interested in seeing what life is like for a group of game developers who are trying to start up a business.)


Developer Spotlight: Christopher Brendel
Posted by: UnimatrixProductions on January 26 2016.

Introduction

Every so often, these blog posts will place different developers in the spotlight, so that you can learn a little about them.  Right now, Unimatrix Productions consists of three dedicated, hard-working individuals:  E.L. Smith, Robert Jardien, and me, Christopher Brendel.  Over the coming weeks, you'll learn about all of us, and I plan to also highlight other developers who have dedicated their careers to producing quality story-based entertanment, as well.

First up:  myself.  (Apologies to anyone who has already read the following on my portfolio website, but I believe it is essential for people to know who I am in order to understand my motivation to make games that tell a good story.)

Childhood

Lytton, California:  the fictitious town in which I began my journey.  The year was 1992.  I was eight years old and already an avid fan of video games; but nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to experience.

My parents owned a PC, which they used for simple word processing.  To me, the computer was a mysterious box that, at the time, I wanted to stay as far away from as possible, preferring the simplicity of inputting cartridges into my Nintendo Entertainment System.  Then, one day, my mom took me to an Electronic Boutique.  I held in my hands the first money I had ever earned, a result of having done my first household chores, and I wanted to spend it.  We walked inside, and I saw shelves lined with all kinds of games--not video games, but computer games!  I decided to give them a try.  It took me nearly an hour to make my choice.  I finally decided on a game titled Police Quest:  In Pursuit of the Death Angel by Sierra On-Line, released that same year.

Police Quest is a third person adventure game.  You play the role of Sonny Bonds, a police officer, as he attempts to track down a crime lord.  The gameplay features many of the standard adventure elements that I would later come to love:  exploration, character interaction, inventory management, and puzzle solving.

Although I could not wait to try the game, I remained skeptical.  After all, I was not used to playing games on a computer.  As soon as I first ran Police Quest, however, I knew that I had made a good choice.  Police Quest featured quality graphics--superior to the Nintendo's.  It also featured digitized sound effects and cinematic music.  What drew me into the game, though, was its story. The game felt like an interactive movie, in which I played the lead role.  I was hooked, completely drawn into the game's world.  I became attached to its story and characters in a way I had never before experienced.  For the first time in my life, I was not playing the game to get a high score or beat the next boss; I was playing it because I wanted to see what would happen next.  I wanted the main character, Sonny, to succeed in solving the case, and I wanted to see the story's resolution.

When I finally beat the game, I was ecstatic.  At that moment, I knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.  I wanted to make games that, like Police Quest, focused on story, characters, and drama.  Police Quest had affected me in a way that no other games of the time had managed:  it inspired me to create my own.

From that moment on, I began to learn everything I could about the process of game-making.  I taught myself how to program in QBasic that same year and started to invent my own gameplay mechanics.  The interest became a hobby, and soon the hobby became an obsession.  Since that early age of eight, my love of game design has only grown stronger, and I have never deterred from my aspiration, that childhood desire to make games.

Early Career

One of my favorite historical quotes is from the great Thomas Jefferson, who once said, "Never put off tomorrow what you can do today."  This has never been more true in my own life than when it comes to developing games.  As a child and teen, I spent my free time making games as a hobby.  I never shared these with anyone, which, looking back on them now, was a wise choice.  Nevertheless, as I grew older, I wanted to take my love of game-making in a more serious--and public--direction.

I knew that my career choice would eventually lead me toward attending college to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Game Design, but I was not content to wait until then to make a name for myself.  So in 2003, I set out to make my first "real" game, which I would self-publish and release to the public.  I decided on the adventure genre, which seemed appropriate, given that it was an adventure that had inspired me as a child.  The next year, I completed Lifestream, and my studio, Unimatrix Productions, was born.  Despite its lackluster graphics, Lifestream was a critical success, and feedback from gamers prompted me to make a second adventure the following year, Shady Brook.  My hobby had become a business.

Since that time, I have produced another game, The Filmmaker, along with a technical demo, Stonewall Penitentiary, that showcased the potential for the fusing of adventure games with modern non-adventure mechanics.  I taught myself how to use industry-standard tools like Adobe Photoshop and Autodesk Maya.  I learned how to use game engines like Unreal.  I made a commitment to continually refine my artistic ability, compositional talent, and writing skills.

It was then that I decided to finally earn a degree in the field.  After years of hard work, I became a graduate of the University of Advancing Technology.  My GPA was a perfect 4.0, which showcases my commitment to my career.

Today

I fervently believe that the game industry stands upon the precipice of a new age.  Since the Video Game Crash of 1983, games have become a mainstream staple.  Today, it is commonly known that video games are often more profitable than movies.  What, then, lies ahead for the industry?  To understand this, one must look back at the past, to the industry's origins.

In many ways, the game industry is coming full-circle.  When it began, video games were produced by a myriad of individuals and small companies.  This trend dissipated in the late 1990s and early 2000s, however, as industry titans like EA began to buy out smaller companies in an effort to centralize the industry.  Gaming became mainstream, and competition was limited to large corporations.  Today, the commercial landscape is changing yet again.  Thanks to the power of the Internet and services like Steam, independent developers are, arguably for the first time ever, able to compete on equal ground with large companies and reach audiences around the world.  This reflects back to how the industry was founded, and this trend can only grow with time.

Graphically, we are reaching the pinnacle of realism.  As hardware continues to evolve exponentially, the potential for creating immersive environments, life-like characters, and fluent, organic gameplay is becoming a reality.  With graphics steadily approaching this lifelike realism, where should the focus of game development lie in the coming years?

The answer, to me, is simple:  in stories.  Again, looking back to history, in the days of the Atari 2600 and Nintendo Entertainment System, graphical capabilities were limited, to say the least.  As such, imagination was a strong component of gameplay.  Dots on the screen were meant to represent people and places, which truly existed--in great part--only in the mind’s eye.  The games in those days, and through the mid-to-late nineties, often had strong, compelling storylines.  This was because, in the absence of realistic visuals, a strong story component was necessary to draw players into each game's world.  As graphical capability improved, however, the importance of storyline often became downplayed in mainstream gaming.  This was especially prevalent in the first decade of the twenty-first century.

It is my hope that we will soon start to see a resurgence of quality story-telling in games.  With graphical capability reaching a summit, the industry can now again focus on creating quality drama; but unlike before, we now have the ability to couple that drama with fantastical worlds that appear just as lifelike, complex, and real as our own.  The potential for immersion is staggering.

This was my goal in creating Storycentric Worlds:  to produce games that go beyond mere entertainment, to create true art that inspires, motivates, and affects on a personal level that a non-interactive medium never could.  It is my hope and dream that Storycentric Worlds can lead players through this journey.  By coupling modern gameplay mechanics with classical storytelling techniques, we have the potential to create entertainment experiences unlike any the world has ever seen.  It truly is a great age for gaming.


What Players Should Expect...
Posted by: UnimatrixProductions on January 20 2016.

Now that the initial surge of announcements is out of the way, I'd like to talk a little about what gamers can expect from Storycentric Worlds in the coming year. To do that, I am going to have to branch over to a topic you might not expect when talking about quality storytelling: Marvel.

Yes, Marvel: the studio behind one of the most successful movie franchises in modern history. Whether you enjoy their films or not (my own opinion on the matter is mixed), there is no denying that Marvel has accomplished something incredible.

First, they introduced a series of standalone movies, each with their own plots, stories, and characters. While each was self-contained, they referenced one another and foreshadowed events to come. This culminated in the release of Marvel's The Avengers, a blockbuster hit that combined the characters and plots of each to form something greater. Today, Marvel releases two movies per year, and the plots continue to become increasingly entangled.

The same will hold true of Storycentric Worlds. While each of our games can be played on its own, all of our games take place in the same fictitious universe. They reference one another, and they hint at something greater. Characters from one game may appear in others down the line, and a series of events in each game will come together with the future release of an epic title--our equivalent of Marvel's The Avengers.

Some people may ask why we decided to remake our existing titles before releasing new content. This was a difficult decision for us, and one that we weighed heavily. While it was tempting to start with brand new games--we already have several written and ready to go--we ultimately realized that it was important to start by re-introducing previous plot points, because they introduce essential story elements for our unreleased titles. Those of you who have already experienced our previous games will not be let down, either--each game features new gameplay and content, along with an expanded plot. These aspects in tandem create a whole separate experience from the original, and it is with confidence that I say these will constitute the official, "canon" versions of each game.

We have planned enough games to last through 2016, 2017, and beyond. And because these games are primarily text-based, they require a shorter development period than traditional adventures. This means that you, the player, will receive more content more frequently at a lower cost. So sit tight, stay tuned, and prepare for one wild ride!


Welcome to Storycentric Worlds!
Posted by: UnimatrixProductions on January 17 2016.

Hello everyone,

My name is Christopher Brendel, and I am the owner of independent game studio Unimatrix Productions.  In 2008, while developing my third adventure game, The Filmmaker, I came upon the idea of establishing a new form of entertainment that combines classic text and adventure game mechanics with a modern presentation to revolutionize the interactive fiction genre.  After several prototypes and years of on-and-off development, that idea has finally become a reality with the release of Storycentric Worlds.

But before I get to that, let me tell you a little bit about myself...

I knew that I wanted to make games back when I was only eight years old.  My early influences were adventure games (mostly of the Sierra variety) and interactive fiction--both of which, unlike in more popular genres, focus primarily on story rather than action.  Since that time, I have spent my life dedicated to the creation of games that focus on quality storytelling--a subject that the majority of mainstream games tend to ignore.

In the early 2000s, I formed my own studio and released a series of graphical adventures.  While they were met with moderate critical and financial success, I always felt like something was "missing."  A writer at heart, I craved the ability to tell a story with words, to evoke emotions in players' imaginations rather than on a screen.

And so I created Storycentric Worlds.

I chose this name because it is my philosophy that a game's story is paramount.  Without a quality narrative, players experience no motivation to see a game through to its end.  Furthermore, the connection we make with a game's plot and characters can become personal.  And this, to me, elevates a game from a piece of entertainment to a work of art.

While interactive fiction has a long history of producing quality works from a dedicated and talented independent community, I do not believe that it has, as of yet, reached its fullest potential.  Modern adventures, for example, look far different from the Sierra games I grew up with--even though they have maintained the same basic core mechanics.  The same goes for every genre out there...every genre except for interactive fiction, which has not evolved much since those early days.  Some people may like that, and I can completely understand.  There is something nostalgic--and even comforting--about games that are exactly the same today as they were thirty years ago.  But in order for the interactive fiction genre to survive and thrive beyond a small niche community, it must evolve.

That is the mission I set out to accomplish with Storycentric Worlds, and I am quite pleased with the result.  It is polished and visually appealing, and modern additions like artwork and music will draw in new audiences and advance the engine to a whole new level without sacrificing the integrity of what makes interactive fiction unique.

Storycentric Worlds is about storytelling.  It is about the journey that players undergo, and the connection they make with each game's protagonist.  While these games may not look impressive in comparison to modern AAA titles, they can achieve something far greater than most in today's industry:  they will spark our imagination and speak to our hearts.

Welcome to Storycentric Worlds!

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