The team behind the imaginative Cubus Games has provided us at App Apes with some information on Necklace of Skulls, their other narrative game-books, as well as their plans for the future. The Cubus Games team are a group of individuals who all share the need to create, and they each have a deep rooted passion for creating unique experiences such as with the well received Necklace of Skulls. Each member has their strengths, but the real strength comes from when the team puts their minds and talents together to form collaborative projects. Collectively, they found that game-books were the perfect outlet for their skills. The end product is often much more than just a book or just a game, thus the term game-book, which is a great mix of visual art, music, immersive interaction, and stories “that readers can really ‘live.'” The team works hard daily, admittedly taking some short table tennis (ping pong) breaks.
Cubus Games started out by creating a game-book app for Android devices and since the final product turned out well and they each had an enjoyable time in developing it, the group decided to take it a step further and make the app a little more professional. Soon after the somewhat loosely connected team developed into a more tight knit startup company with a focus on digital choose-your-own-adventure books. Since this beginning, Cubus Games has developed and released three adventure game-books, including Heavy Metal Thunder, The Sinister Fairground, and Necklace of Skulls, with many more projects to come. The Cubus Games team likes to explore new ways of interactive storytelling, as their “proprietary technology delivers cutting edge entertainment from digital adventures to serious games.” Feeling a sense of duty, the team feels that they have a responsibility to help educate the general public and those currently in the educational system by applying what they have learned about interactive storytelling to teaching people to love reading once more.
As for where this inspirational team gathered their own inspiration, they enthusiastically offer up the title, Sorcery by Inkle.”It’s was an inspiration to us even before we got into the business. The way they came up with the map… They are very creative guys!” In addition to Sorcery, the Cubus Games team cites Valiant Hearts – The Great War and Monument Valley, which they say is simply unique, beautiful, and an all in all amazing game. The Cubus Game team also value the tools of their trade, including programs such as C++ and Cocos2D. They are now trying other technologies, as well.
Every release has got their own challenges, and those at Cubus games go into detail about the process of creating each of their projects. The group says that they have learned a lot about art, storytelling, games, digital marketing, and even themselves in their time producing apps. Even ten months after starting Cubus Games, and after having released three game-books and two wallpaper apps, the group remains modest and state that they are just beginning to understand how the app business works. Here, in their words, are descriptions of those challenges faced in two of their projects The Sinister Fairground and Heavy Metal Thunder, as well as the process and steps they took to complete the two projects:
The Sinister Fairground – The Horror RPG Game-book
“We wanted to adapt an existing paper game-book in order to put our system to the test and familiarize ourselves with mobile game development. We wanted a complete product in and of itself, with a simple game system that also offered plenty of possibilities. The Spanish Horror Writers Association, Nocte, got in touch with us to introduce their book — and we felt that it was a good story to begin our adventure in the world of interactive storytelling. In addition to being a well-respected non-profit institution dedicated to promoting horror stories by Spanish authors, Nocte also works as a creative exchange — arranging national meetings and workshops for horror writers and acting as a springboard for genre newcomers. Nocte’s partnership with Cubus Games grew into The Sinister Fairground, released on May 22, 2014, which allows readers to choose their own journey through the various, bizarre attractions in a dark fantasy carnival. The approach was less linear than most game-books, and certainly all novels — given that you can explore the map as you please and progress through the plot at will. The Sinister Playground was first released on IOS, and now is also available on Google Play. We received encouraging feedback from the users!”
Heavy Metal Thunder – The Sci-fi Series
We quickly followed Heavy Metal Thunder (released on September 3, 2014), which is a digital adaptation of the popular print-and-paper game-book series by American writer Kyle B. Stiff. Heavy Metal Thunder received the Pocket Gamer Silver Award and was more successful than its predecessor. We guess the sci-fi setting made a difference! We came across Kyle B. Stiff’s game-book and fell immediately in love. The mechanics of the game were so balanced and interesting. The illustrations flowed naturally from the narrative. The app design brought it all together, and the original music completed the package. It was magic. Heavy Metal Thunder is the first part of an epic series — which is likely to spawn more digital game-books as new fans are drawn to Kyle’s narratives through the touch screen, rather than the page.
The second part of this series is Sol Invictus. The developers ask everyone to stay tuned for updates and a release.
Necklace of Skulls
The developers at Cubus Games also had a lot to say about their most recent release, the well received Necklace of Skulls. Necklace of Skulls is a digital recreation of Dave Morris’s seminal choose-your-own-adventure paper game-book. It’s a Mayan adventure that allows users to create their own myths and puts them deep into the far reaches of this ancient, wondrous world. “The player is plunged into the strange, dreamlike wonders of Mayan myth — confronting ghosts and gods, bargaining for the main character’s life against wily demons, and finding allies and enemies among both the living and the dead. Even if players are brave enough to survive the dangers of the spirit-haunted western desert, they must still confront the wizard (named Necklace of Skulls) in a fight to the death!” The Cubus Games crew reveal that Dave Morris was inspired to write Necklace of Skulls while on his honeymoon in Mexico.
The Necklace of Skull digital retelling keeps the same tone and written word of the original, but offers animated illustrations that “depict scenes from the story in a refreshingly different and very colorful way.” The developers are especially proud of the combat system as it is easy to learn and requires a degree of strategy instead of dice rolls, which they found could be frustrating. They took the liberty of reducing the number character to four and converted two of the originally male characters to female characters to provide more diversity. Each character embodies a special ability related to their specific backgrounds. “The Warrior has more stamina, the Huntress has a blowgun, the Wayfarer can carry two more items, and the Sorceress can predict the enemy’s movement to a certain degree.” On top of the game play focused improvements, the team professionally introduced soundtrack and sound effects help to give the story a very grand feel.
The Cubus Games group modestly deny that they are in a position to give advice to other indie developers, but can “safely say that passion is the true driver behind any worthwhile goal.” They suggest that developers keep striving to achieve their goals and to never stop pursuing their dreams if they are passionate about them. A natural talent doesn’t hurt either.
As for the future of Cubus Games, the developers reveal that their dream is to be recognized as one of the world’s leading authorities in the game-book genre and be viewed as great new media storytellers. They want to help cultivate and develope the genre, helping it grow, while continuing to make new fantastic products, and gaining the respect of readers and gamers alike. They also hope to help introduce game-books to those who have yet to discover the value of interactive storytelling. Finally, they have a desire to create something related to “serious games and education.”
Keep an eye out for their latest project, Sol Invictus, and learn more about the company and their creations on their website. Also, feel free to follow them on Facebook or Twitter. We at App Apes look forward to the release of both their upcoming Sol Invictus, as well as their future projects.