My latest game project was more like writing poetry than anything else. GSN Games asked me to create a love story for their popular game series, Bingo Bash. Here's the catch: The entire story had to fit into the tiny space inside a bingo room, and that meant each line had to be only 27 characters or less.
The room is called "Dear Diary," and it tracks the ups and downs of Linda, a floral shop owner. She's the type of woman who vows to do something nice for someone else every day... like paying for a stranger's Chinese takeout. Linda doesn't expect anything in return and leaves the scene before the recipient of her gift realizes it. But fate puts them at the same bingo night soon after... will romance bloom? Or will Linda's on-again, off-again boyfriend get in the way? Find out by unlocking the room and reading Linda's diary each time you level up!
It was a challenge to write a micro-plot, especially since I had to work with pre-existing art assets, and timing only allowed for small tweaks. I handled it by asking the awesome GSN team to add conflict elements to the diary images, which to me is the core of any story. I also sketched out the story beats first and then wrote Linda's diary entries from that, cutting back on some details to fit the smaller space.
I've written within a set character count many times in my decade in the game industry, but this was the tiniest. Composing within a strict limitation like that teaches you to, as the venerable writer's guide Strunk & White proclaims, "omit needless words." It's a great exercise in economy.
Which is why I chose to start my first-ever "Narrative Design and Game Writing" course this semester by asking my students to do the same. I made it a bit easier by leaving the theme and accompanying artwork open-ended. I couldn't share any of the details of my GSN Games project with them anyway, so I simply asked them to write a love story within the same space restrictions. They embraced the project and delivered on a wide range of stories, from two involving rocks (!) to a play on the idea of lovebirds to more serious fare, such as domestic abuse. Many described the project as presenting an opportunity for great creativity within the limitation. Some said it took them into more poetic language and compared it to haiku.
"Dear Diary" is available as part of the Bingo Bash app for iOS and Android and is free to play, with in-app purchasing. I'd love to hear what you think of the story; please comment below.
I'm thrilled to announce the launch of my latest game, Sender Unknown: The Woods, a collaboration with Daily Magic Productions. Here's the download link! The game is exclusive to the App Store until Oct. 4.
Through a text message, fate connects you with a total stranger. Now you are Morgan’s only hope to survive. Will you serve as a lifeline, or return to your own life and let a stranger’s fate go unknown?
Four friends are lost deep in the Ozarks, stalked by a madman. With your help, they’ll solve intricate puzzles, make difficult choices, repair their relationships, and save each other’s lives.
Through text messages and images, you can guide them away from harrowing danger and solve a mystery. Your choices will determine who loves, who lives, and who dies.
How much will you put on the line for a Sender Unknown?
Daily Magic Productions teamed up with award-winning author and game designer Lisa Brunette to bring you this interactive tale where the choices you make can change everything. Multiple paths through the game give you wildly different results—from romance to exciting twists and reveals to who survives the nightmare.
The game begins when you log onto an anonymous chat app for the first time, and a “sender unknown” reaches out to you—with a life-and-death appeal for help! Alone and lost in the woods, your new chat buddy, Morgan, must escape a broken-down RV surrounded by ravenous wolves. And that’s just problem number one.
Morgan’s friends and insulin supply are missing, and it seems the madman who took them wants to play games through the radio. He has a thing for riddles and traps—human traps, that is.
The ability to receive images means you can see the traps for yourself—and help Morgan survive a chilling nightmare!
At every game ending, you have the option to reset to your last defining choice, to the start of the last chapter, or back to the very beginning.
Stats add up as you play, and they can determine whether a choice you make succeeds, or fails.
Can you beat a madman at his own game—without sacrificing anyone? Will you help Morgan uncover the mystery that still haunts these dark woods?
Choose from 3 options at every decision!
Shape the story and build stats in 5 categories. Success or failure depends on your stats!
Open beautifully rendered images of crucial scenes and visual puzzles!
Engage with the story as it unfolds through real-time notifications!
Internet connection not required, and there are no in-app purchases.
Points of Interest
Total Immersion — A new twist on the “choose your own adventure” genre allows players to become the hero in real time, and react in their own way, on their own terms. Your choices will determine how characters view you—and how the story unfolds.
Brilliant Story — Lisa Brunette, author of the award-winning Dreamslippers Series and other works, provides her unique narrative vision and writing to craft a pulse-pounding mystery. With Sender Unknown: The Woods, Lisa’s one-of-a-kind talent gives players a down-to-earth and immersive adventure like no other.
Praise for Daily Magic
“The best kind of ghost story, filled with love, money, betrayal, and murder.” - Review of Dark Dimensions: City of Fog, Gamezebo
“The visuals in Dark Dimensions: Homecoming are simply outstanding…” - All About CasualGame
“Captivating story that really draws you in.” - Review of Sable Maze: Norwich Caves, Gamezebo
Praise for Lisa Brunette
“Brunette’s portrayals… are nothing short of genius.” - Review of the Dreamslippers Series, On My Kindle
“An enjoyable surprise for fans of the genre.” - Review of debut novel Cat in the Flock, Kirkus Reviews
“A mystery with teeth and wounds and loss.” - Review of Framed and Burning, Readers Lane
Platform: iOS and Android smartphones/tablets
Genre: mystery / horror / puzzle
Developer: Daily Magic Productions
Release Date: 2017
About Daily Magic Productions
Daily Magic Productions is a dedicated, experienced, and effective international developer with more than 18 high-quality puzzle adventure titles released on PC and mobile platforms. With their no-nonsense approach to development, Daily Magic’s focus is now on delivering the best mobile free-to-play and VR experiences on the world market.
Since 2011 Daily Magic has been a powerhouse of Hidden Object Puzzle Adventure games for Big Fish, releasing several titles a year since their founding. From those experiences and rapid growth Daily Magic has built a strong and highly creative team of artists and developers ready to take on unfamiliar worlds, and build one-of-a-kind experiences.
About Lisa Brunette
Lisa Brunette is an award-winning writer and game designer. All three books in her bestselling Dreamslippers Series have won indieBRAG medallions, and the second book was also named a finalist for the Nancy Pearl Book Award and nominated for a RONE Award. Brunette’s game-writing credits include hundreds of titles, played by worldwide audiences in the millions, for Big Fish and other publishers. New games Sender Unknown: The Woods and Matchington Mansion both release in 2017. She also has a long list of bylines as a journalist, short-story writer, and poet. Her work has appeared in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Seattle Woman, Poets & Writers, and elsewhere.
A ten-year game industry veteran, Lisa Brunette has been credited on AAA console titles and bestselling mobile and downloadable games. She has worked for Nintendo, Take-2 Interactive’s Cat Daddy Games, and Big Fish, where she led a team of narrative designers. Now independent, her clients include WG Cells, Daily Magic, Magic Tavern, Pixelberry Studios, and G5 Entertainment. She is currently visiting assistant professor of game design at Webster University.