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We Grew Three Sizes This Year! A Brunette Games 2019 Recap

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The Brunette Games crew, from L to R: Anthony Valterra, Lisa Brunette, and Dexter Woltman.

At this time last year, I'd taken my first steps toward going beyond the solo act by engaging with a few project-based contractors, but I soon discovered that wasn't enough. There was opportunity to build Brunette Games into the dream team I'd always envisioned: A collaborative cabal of casual game scribes delivering the best narrative in the business.

Brunette Games has now tripled in size, with three full-time staff members:

  • Anthony Valterra, an industry vet who steered flagship brands such as Dungeons & Dragons and Avalon Hill for Wizards of the Coast. His publishing company also released the only roleplaying game guide governing the romantic lives of D&D characters, The Book of Erotic Fantasy. His thirty-year career in brand and grant management makes him ideal in his role as business director, and we've been grateful to get his seasoned perspective and writing chops on unannounced projects for Jam City, Daily Magic Productions, G5 Entertainment, Tuyoo, and Super Gaming. He's also contributed to our work on a new game app set to release in 2020, Tiles & Tales for Helsinki-based Kuuhubb, and Jam City's 2019 game Vineyard Valley. Some of you already know he's my husband in real life, too, making Brunette Games truly a family business.
  • Dexter Woltman, who, though new to the industry, is cut from the same cloth as the rest of us. As one of my original contractors, he's now put in a year with Brunette Games, and sometimes we think he gets us better than we get ourselves. Dexter is lead writer/designer on the top-performing Redemption Games title Sweet Escapes, and in his spare time, he's also written his first interactive novel for an unannounced new mobile app and designed and written for a new franchise title to release in 2020. A superb team player, he's also contributed to our work on numerous games for clients Kuuhubb, Jam City, G5 Entertainment, Tuyoo, Super Gaming, Storm8, Belka Games, and Cherrypick Games, just to name a few!
  • Lisa Brunette, intrepid owner and leader of Brunette Games. My focus this past year has been on taking the skills I honed on industry-dominating titles Matchington Mansion, Lily's Garden, and Choices, plus the five years I spent at the narrative helm at Big Fish, and transferring them to my team so that we have a group expertise not dependent on any one of us. Our collaborative process ensures clients an above-average narrative product, and I'm confident we'll see many more hit games in the coming year as a result.

In addition to the core three, we've got two others on the Bru Crew, both voice-over actors. Cammie Middleton records voiceover work for TV, film, and games out of her L.A. studio, while also playing lead roles in both film and stage productions, including appearances in the Golden Key award-winning "Rochester 1996," to rave reviews. Andy Mack is a longtime video-game voice actor whose work has been showcased at E3, Gamescon, GameInformer, and elsewhere and includes 2019's The Amazing Fantastics and Postal 4. They've both recorded for an unannounced Jam City title to release in 2020.

It's been a whirlwind year of success, but not without its struggle. As a small business owner, I can tell you that running a business from scratch is one of the hardest things I've ever done... from providing employee benefits such as health care to grappling with decisions like liability insurance to handling the complexity of a remote client network spanning the globe. Whether it's working over the July 4th holiday on a rush job (which we did) or getting up for 6 am calls with clients in an opposite time zone (which we do regularly), you have to be willing to go the extra mile. I'm proud to say everyone on this team is, and we have the game credits to prove it. That makes the struggle so worth it!

In 2019, Brunette Games worked with a total of 12 different clients to release three new games and produce new content for three existing games. We've also been working on 10 other games still in development. 

Here's a list of our 2019 new releases:

  • Lily's Garden, for Tactile Entertainment - narrative design, concept origination and character consulting, intro storyboard
  • Sweet Escapes, for Redemption Games - intro storyboard, narrative design, scriptwriting
  • Vineyard Valley, for Jam City - general consulting

We delivered new content for the following games:

  • Survivors: The Quest, for G5 Entertainment - narrative design, scriptwriting
  • Homicide Squad: Hidden Crimes, also for G5 Entertainment - narrative design, scriptwriting, editing
  • Sweet Escapes - narrative design, scriptwriting

And finally, we're working with the following clients on unannounced projects in various stages of development:

  • Graphite Lab
  • Daily Magic Productions
  • Storm8
  • Belka Games
  • Jam City
  • Tuyoo
  • Super Gaming
  • G5 Entertainment
  • Kuuhubb
  • Cherrypick Games

Looking ahead, we're excited about the opportunities for us in 2020 both close to home and far away. Our projects gel best when we can kick off the teamwork in person, which we were able to do this year right here in St. Louis with Graphite Lab, in Helsinki with Kuuhubb, and in L.A. with Jam City. Not every client has the budget for an onsite, but we look forward to seeing you at the Game Developers Conference in March and perhaps at other venues later on.

We wish you a prosperous 2020 filled with creativity, imagination, and great game stories!


Narrative, from the Beginning

By Anthony Valterra

The question of whether to design a game and then fit a narrative into it, or to have a narrative and design the game to fit is probably as old as chess. There are numerous examples of success in both categories. And there are plenty of successful games with little or no narrative. I guess a narrative with no game would be a story, but  that is another blog post entirely.

But in the current genre of casual iOS games, the value of narrative is beginning to be understood. The huge success of Matchington Mansion and Lily’s Garden, in particular, has caught the attention of many a developer.

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But there is a secret to both of these games: The narrative design was brought in early. No, it wasn’t the case that the narrative designers were brought in first. But in both cases, they were brought in early enough that art assets and game play could be adjusted to the narrative. Those cute little pillows in the Match-3 of Matchington Mansion? They were suggested by the narrative design. Lily’s tragic story in the first narrative cut scene? Created by the narrative designer.

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A lot of terrific synergies can occur if narrative is brought in as early as possible. Narrative can be incorporated into tutorials and game mechanics. Game art assets can reflect or support the narrative. Tying the narrative closely to the game makes the user experience seamless and encourages engagement. This has been shown again and again in A:B testing and in focus groups.

The worst situation in game development is taking a nearly complete game out to A:B testing and hearing from representative consumers that the story is not engaging, or that they find the story boring, or even worse: offensive or problematic. Then narrative expert or consultants are called in to salvage a game. But in these cases it is almost always true that the budget has been spent and there is no money to revise, alter or add assets, change code or alter UI. In the very worst cases some narrative or text is part of the graphic art and cannot be altered, either. Now the narrative designers must try to revise and improve the story by only changing the text. This is an extremely difficult proposition.

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If you bring in expert narrative early, you might avoid becoming the next Internet meme!

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE:

New Release in Games: Matchington Mansion!

New Release: 'Lily's Garden' for Tactile Entertainment

The Brunette Games Writers' Room


Kuuhubb, Brunette Games Announce Development of New Game “Tiles & Tales”

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TORONTO, May 14, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Kuuhubb Inc. (the “Company” or “Kuuhubb”) (KUU.V) has announced the development of its new game “Tiles & Tales.” The game will blend casual match-3 play with digital storytelling, resulting in a unique combination of two highly successful genres. The project will mark the debut of Kuuhubb’s Helsinki studio and has a soft launch date anticipated for Q3 of this year.

The development team, located at Kuuhubb’s headquarters in Helsinki, Finland, consists of industry veterans originating from Rovio Entertainment, RedLynx, Armada Interactive and Koukoi Games, all of whom have extensive experience in developing casual free-to-play games. “Tiles & Tales” is partially funded with a non-dilutive, Finnish government loan of approximately €1M. 

“We are delighted to unveil our new Helsinki studio and showcase our in-house development capabilities,” commented Kuuhubb CEO, Jouni Keränen. “Story-based games are currently one of the truly big trends in female mobile gaming and are a perfect complement to Kuuhubb’s existing portfolio.”

Kuuhubb has also brought onto the project Brunette Games, a leading narrative design studio with special expertise in the visual novel genre. Brunette Games has designed and written four previous books for three other apps, including “Choices,” “Crime Stories,” and a standalone game, “Sender Unknown.” The team is also credited with the narratives for numerous chart-topping match-3 games, including “Matchington Mansion” and “Lily's Garden.” Studio owner Lisa Brunette, who brings to the project 25 years’ experience as a published novelist and journalist in addition to a decade-plus in game writing, will write one of the “Tiles & Tales” books. Three other books are currently in development.

“The team is aiming for another ground-breaking product and we’re certain that the combination of stories and match-3, the first game of its kind, will resonate with our audience,” stated Kuuhubb GM, Apps and Games, Kristoffer Rosberg.

Mobile puzzle games, a category which includes match-3, claimed 60 percent of the $8.1B market for casual games in the West last year. Industry analysts have concluded that story-based games and gameplay innovation, as well as smaller and more focused development teams, are two of the best ways to break into the top segments of the market, and “Tiles & Tales” is making use of both. Between the incorporation of visual novels with game-changing match-3 play techniques and the dedicated and agile team of experienced industry experts, “Tiles & Tales” is poised to impress players.

About Kuuhubb

Kuuhubb is a publicly listed mobile game development and publishing company, targeting the female audience with bespoke mobile gaming experiences. Our strategy is to become a top player in the underserved female mobile game space by identifying new lifestyle trends, partnering with select developers and consumer brands, and creating innovative mobile game apps for our user community to enjoy. Headquartered in Helsinki, Finland, Kuuhubb has a global presence with a strong focus on developing U.S. brand collaborations and Asian partnerships.

Cautionary Note Concerning Forward-Looking Information 

This press release contains forward-looking information. All statements, other than statements of historical fact, that address activities, events or developments that the Company believes, expects or anticipates will or may occur in the future (including, without limitation, statements relating to the potential success of the Tiles & Tales game, future revenue and products and the development and growth of the Company’s business) are forward-looking information. This forward-looking information reflects the current expectations or beliefs of the Company based on information currently available to the Company. Forward-looking information is subject to a number of risks and uncertainties that may cause the actual results of the Company to differ materially from those discussed in the forward-looking information, and even if such actual results are realized or substantially realized, there can be no assurance that they will have the expected consequences to, or effects on the Company. Factors that could cause actual results or events to differ materially from current expectations include, among other things, the possibility that results from the Tiles & Tales game will not be consistent with the Company’s expectations, risks related to the growth strategy of the Company, the possibility that results from the Company’s growth and development plans will not be consistent with the Company's expectations, the early stage of the Company's development, competition from companies in a number of industries, the ability of the Company to manage expansion and integrate acquisitions into its business, future business development of the Company and the other risks disclosed under the heading "Risk Factors" in the Company's annual information form dated November 8, 2018 filed on SEDAR at www.sedar.com. Forward-looking information speaks only as of the date on which it is provided and, except as may be required by applicable securities laws, the Company disclaims any intent or obligation to update any forward-looking information, whether as a result of new information, future events or results or otherwise. Although the Company believes that the assumptions inherent in the forward-looking information are reasonable, forward-looking information is not a guarantee of future performance and accordingly undue reliance should not be put on such information due to the inherent uncertainty therein.

For further information, please contact:

Kuuhubb Inc.

Jouni Keränen, CEO

jouni@kuuhubb.com

Bill Mitoulas, Investor Relations

bill@kuuhubb.com

Office: +1 (416) 479-9547

For local St. Louis, Missouri, press inquiries:

Brunette Games LLC

Lisa Brunette, Owner and Head Writer/Designer

Email Link

Anthony Valterra, Director of Business Development

Email Link

Office: (206) 713-9710

The photo accompanying this announcement is also available to download at http://www.globenewswire.com/NewsRoom/AttachmentNg/f6ef9989-2e3c-464f-aa30-b3b2930bba25


New Release: 'Lily's Garden' for Tactile Entertainment

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Last spring, I flew to Copenhagen for a whirlwind week of concept brainstorming with the top-notch team at Tactile Entertainment. The seeds of that work have now come to full fruition: Lily's Garden.

Here's the official game description:

Get your hands dirty in Lily’s Garden, our new FREE puzzle game! Help Lily restore her great-aunt’s garden to its former glory and rediscover her roots. Dig into a story full of twists and turns as Lily interacts with a cast of colorful characters. Plant the seed of romance with her handsome neighbor Luke, and keep her rake of an ex-boyfriend Blaine off her turf. Match and collect flowers in hundreds of unique puzzle levels to earn stars and grow your garden!

And the trailer:

While for business reasons I didn't stay on to write the game text for Tactile, I'm amazed by how much we accomplished in that whirlwind week, as is evident in the release version of the game.

What really impresses me about Tactile is that they prioritize both quality and emotional content in their games. Lily's Garden is only one example. What brought me out to Denmark last year despite a busy game studio and a full-time teaching gig was their dedication to the craft of game development, which you can see in their Bee Brilliant and Cookie Cats series of games. The team was terrific to work with, too, and if I have one regret about the insane 2018 I experienced in transitioning Brunette Games into a fully staffed studio, it's that I didn't get to see Lily's Garden all the way through to the launch finish line. But it's immensely satisfying to see the Brunette Games influence at work anyway. Even more satisfying is simply to play yet another awesome game from this talented team of Danes.

Here are some behind-the-scenes shots from my trip last spring. 

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Some of the Tactile gang in an after-work toast. The cozy, light-filled office definitely encourages folks to stick around...

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For most of the week, we were holed up in a conference room, brainstorming on a whiteboard. The great thing about this stage is that anything goes. The last thing you want to do when brainstorming is shut down any idea, no matter how seemingly nutty it is. You never know where something will take you.

I loved the views through the office windows. The light in Copenhagen, with the grey, wintry weather and combination of water, sky, and rain, reminded me a lot of Seattle.

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When Tactile first contacted me in early 2018, I played and fell in love with their Bee Brilliant games, getting serious heart eyes for the bee babies in the game. You can find plush toy versions of the BBs tucked in spots throughout the offices. Just typing this puts the bee baby theme song back in my head, in a good way.

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The other crush I developed on this one-week work trip was for Copenhagen itself. I sorely wished I'd had time to explore, but it was hard enough to sneak away during spring break from teaching. What I did see on my walks and bike rides left me wanting more.

The architecture is olde worlde magnificent. The city's recorded origins are in the 12th century, but archeologists have unearthed settlements dating as far back as 1020.

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Spire

As someone who's drawn to water but currently finds herself very much landlocked in the Midwest, I couldn't get enough of Nyhavn, a 17th-century waterfront that is one of the most picturesque I've ever seen.

Nyhavn

The citizens of Copenhagen are renowned for their embrace of the bicycle, with as many as 75% of city dwellers biking throughout the year as a form of transportation. One of my most memorable experiences was biking across town in the middle of snow flurries to meet with Tactile's CEO, Asbjoern Soendergaard. That's the moment I truly felt like a Dane.

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I hope one day to get to return to this incredibly captivating city. Until then, I'll play Lily's Garden, and remember my time at Tactile fondly. 

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