Kippis, the Kuuhubb Way

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We recently signed a new client: Kuuhubb, based in Helsinki, Finland. To kick off our new project together the right way, they flew me to HQ for a couple days' work with the team. Their office is in the city proper, where buildings like the one above - taken from their conference room window - line every street. I'm a huge fan of architecture from the turn of the last century, and since Helsinki experienced boom times then, there's plenty for me to admire.

The project we're working on together is a Match-3/interactive novel hybrid called Tiles & Tales. You can read more about that at our press release here. But I wanted to take a moment to talk about the Kuuhubb team...

Kuuhubb sign

...because they're awesomesauce! They put me through my paces with excellent questions, one after another, and what a treat to talk over the various trials and techniques of the rapidly changing mobile interactive novel genre with a crew of talented, thoughtful designers.

They've already put in a lot of groundwork on this new game app, which launches later this year. Three books are currently in development, and mine will be the fourth. I fell in love with the game app the minute I played the in-development build and am honored to be a part of the project.

Team

Kuuhubb is a new studio, and its crew came from such stellar origins as Rovio Entertainment, RedLynx, Armada Interactive, and Koukoi Games. They all have extensive experience in developing casual free-to-play games.

What really struck me about them as a team was the blend of experiences - from writing to art and animation to programming - and how these aren't regarded as separate territories but fair game for anyone on the team, if they've got the drive and skill.

This same recognition of the overlapping skills set necessary for games is one of the reasons why here at Brunette Games we use the title "writer/designer" rather than just writer, or even narrative designer. Game "writers" have to be designers, too. All our writing is done in tandem with design, and increasingly, we're coding and making art and animation and sound decisions as well.

True to their Scandinavian culture, the corporate offices exuded a bit of hygge in the comfortable couches and lovely logo pillows. 

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As comfy as the pillows are, we adjourned at the close of the first day and met back up later for drinks. Happy hour in Finland is called "afterwork," and we spent ours at a video game-themed bar called 8-Bit Brewing. Their menu is in retro video game display style, above the bar.

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I chose a beer with a high bitterness rating called the HOP BOMBERMAN IPA, and it did not disappoint. I was looking for something that exhibited a tendency toward the sour side of the palate, which seems to be a common theme in Finnish food and drink, and I got it.

Beer

After a day of intense discussion about our project in specific and games in general, it was great to kick back and learn about each other's cultures. Describing the weather in your home temperature standard is super tough when you're on Fahrenheit and they're on Celsius... how to explain the Midwestern swings of 40 degrees within one week? I learned that the Swedes ruled Finland for about 600 years, and the legacy of that can still be felt. I listened to the men's army tales. They all had one, since conscription is mandatory for male Finns.

But best of all, I learned the Finnish toast: Kippis!

Kippis
 


What We Do

We provide a valuable service to clients looking for top-notch narrative design and writing through a professionally insured, full-service boutique studio. At any stage of the development process, we step in and bring a combined experience of nearly 30 years in game design and storytelling to our clients' projects. We originate game concepts, propose storylines and characters, and even innovate new mechanics to best serve narrative as a game. We also assess current projects for better narrative, either replacing or enhancing what's already working. We write all in-game text, from cut-scene dialogue to tutorial instructions and UI messages. When you work with Brunette Games, you're tapping a dedicated, committed, highly professional team who will be there when you need us.


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

Kuuhubb

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


When Your Friends Become the Story: A Narrative Beginning

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A screenshot from Ellen: The Game

Here's Dexter Woltman with a window into the student assignment that helped him get a job in the game industry.

Before I was hired on as junior writer/designer here at Brunette Games, I was a student in Lisa Brunette’s class at Webster University. It was a narrative writing class, of course, and one that specialized in video games. Over the course of the semester, Lisa had taught us all sorts of useful practices and tips. When it came time for our final, we students were given a choice. We could either write the script for a game, or turn in an entire game we made ourselves. I did the latter, and it’s part of what led to my involvement with Brunette Games. 

Anyone who has known me for long knows that I’ve always had a habit of writing stories about my friends. In high school, it was short stories and books about friends. In college, it evolved into a different format... first movie scripts, and then games about my friends. Writing about friends is actually a great practice for any writer. It allows you to draw upon pre-established, deep, complex characters, and craft a narrative around them. It helps writers realize the complexity that comes into each character, and how every little quirk is just part of a larger whole. Once a writer understands that, it makes it easier to craft original, equally complex characters. I’ve been practicing my craft this way for a lot of years now, and I’m not even the only one on my campus who does it. 

When it came to Lisa’s final assignment, I decided to create my own game using a software called RPG Maker MV. Coincidentally, during that same semester, it was my roommate Ellen’s birthday. To celebrate the birthday of one of my closest friends, I decided to make my game about her, which is the beginning of how Ellen: The Game came to be.

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Ellen: The Game proved to be a successful venture for me. Clocking in at about three to four hours of game time, it was an enjoyable story about my friends and me living inside an actual video game. It also took itself very literally. In the game, my narrative counterpart had created the game world for Ellen, only for the characters to lose control of it to a mysterious villain. Not only did Ellen and my friends love it, but Lisa Brunette did, too, and that helped pave the way for me to eventually join Brunette Games. 

Ellen: The Game also taught me a lot about game development as a whole. To start, it’s so much more than just writing a story. RPG Maker MV does a lot of the heavy lifting for creators, but there’s still a lot of programming and development that goes into the creation process. There are maps to account for, resources, limitations, items, et cetera. All of that had to be funneled into narrative. Just about everything a game needed, I had to create on my own. And when RPG Maker MV couldn’t match my preferences, I had to look to external sources for coding and plug-in management. It was a lengthy process, but also an enjoyable one.

Throughout the entire development process on Ellen: The Game, there were two things I learned that stuck out to me the most. The first was the value of honest feedback. As much as my friends loved the game, nothing is perfect. Bosses were too hard, the level cap was small, and the non-manual save system was limiting. The second thing that stuck out to me was narrative planning. When it came to Ellen: The Game, I thought of it more as a minor, personal project. A lot of the story was sort of made up as I went along, including the ultimate villain reveal, which happened to be a vacuum cleaner named Fuego. I knew that in the future, I had to plan out these narratives more thoroughly. I had to know exactly where I wanted my characters to be, and when I wanted my characters to be there. And that is exactly the mindset I carried into Paradise: The Sequel.

I began creating Paradise: The Sequel the summer after I finished Brunette’s class. A much more ambitious project, it was the next step on the road that eventually came to be the New Dork Trilogy, New Dork City being a primary location in the games that features hundreds of Ellen duplicates as its citizens. This time, I was much more prepared. I learned from my experiences with Ellen: The Game and came into the project with a full narrative outline, as well as with all the feedback I received from my first venture. Bosses were easier, the level cap was doubled, and now players could save on the fly. The story itself was also more ambitious, bringing the characters from the first game into the “Trash Bin” of the original game world. It ultimately led to a split narrative, with an important choice that brought players to one of two entirely different final chapters.

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The player makes an important choice in Paradise: The Sequel

Paradise: The Sequel was a hallmark of my personal projects. It gave me a great experience with game and narrative development. By the end, it was about eight hours of adventure, if players included both endings, as well as the different post-stories attached to each one. By the time I was done with it, I didn’t want to stop. I wanted to finish the story and go out with a bang, which is exactly why I began developing Parallel: The Finale.

Parallel: The Finale has been my most ambitious project yet. Nine months in, and I’m still not finished with it. The story follows a large time jump and takes the characters to a parallel universe, doubling the cast with parallel counterparts. The narrative is also much deeper, now having characters deal with losses and personal developments. By this point, I had perfected the characterizations of my friends, and now I wanted to show how I could change them. I’ve also taken what I’ve learned from my time at Brunette Games, doubling down on narrative and emphasizing the value of teamwork by bringing in friends to help with character designs, narrative feedback, and custom animations.

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The player enters New Dork City in Parallel: The Finale

What started out as a hobby grew into an academic project. What grew as an academic project led to a position, one that I can continually learn new things from that enhance my writing skills. Filled with passion and commitment, the New Dork Trilogy has been an incredibly momentous project for me. It’s something I will likely never forget. And now, as I evolve to new, exciting things, it’s very likely Parallel: The Finale will be the last story I ever write about my friends. As sad as I am to see that go, it’s almost like a final send-off for me as I graduate college, something that will drive me into the next era of adulthood. Ellen: The Game started a new chapter of my story, but it certainly didn’t end it.


The Council: An Unappealing Game You Should Be Playing

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Tamsen Reed here with a review/narrative design analysis.

“It’s a really good game if you can ignore the visuals. And the voice acting. Plus, the dialogue is bad, too.”

My complex love affair with narrative role-playing game The Council has become something of a joke among my peers and friends. I’ll admit that my protestations may sound somewhat ridiculous.

Maybe it’s not a strong endorsement for The Council, an episodic RPG from Bordeaux-based Big Bad Wolf Studio. I don’t believe in misleading people. There’s a LOT you have to ignore in order to enjoy it. This game evokes so many mixed emotions that I can’t truly be sure if I hate it or if I love it.

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The PC is confronted by Cardinal Piaggi right as he enters the mansion. We can’t use the Diversion or Science dialogue options, as we haven’t unlocked them yet.

Yet, The Council succeeds because of its innovative use of RPG elements in a narrative-focused game. It makes for arguably a more interesting experience than is offered by most point-and-click adventures or Telltale Games. You play as Louis de Richet, a multitalented secret society member. As Louis, you navigate a 3D environment to solve puzzles and explore a mysterious island in the midst of a political meeting to find your missing mother.

Louis de Richet has a great many possible skills and talents, which are separated into three skill trees. Near the beginning of the game, you select one of the skill trees as your class: Diplomat, Occultist, or Detective. This gives you a baseline set of skills to start out with. As you complete chapters, the game alerts you to your successes, your failures, and ultimate paths you could’ve chosen. Each chapter earns you experience points that allow you to level up skills.

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Near the beginning of the game, you choose your occupation. This unlocks an entire tree of skills for you to draw on as Louis de Richet.

These skills prove quite useful in the main gameplay, where you manipulate political figures and investigate your surroundings in order to locate your missing mother. Each NPC has immunities and vulnerabilities to different skills. For example, in conversations with Napoleon Bonaparte, he may be immune to the Conviction and Politics skills, while he might be exploited by using Etiquette. The skills you select affect which dialogue options are available to you.  

Frequently, a character might approach you in a Confrontation—a high-stakes battle of wits where you have a limited number of mistakes you can make. In these player-vs.-NPC encounters, knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your opponents is vital. If you choose incorrectly and fail the confrontation, the consequences are tangible and, sometimes, quite harsh.  

Your skills also may assist you in uncovering clues and solving puzzles around the island. If you get stuck and need a hint, you can spend some of your limited effort points (which replenish at the end of each chapter) in order to use de Richet’s experience to give you, the player, some helpful information.

It is a game with high expectations when it comes to the player's intellectual capabilities. The only way to succeed is to thoroughly explore your environments and to think critically about the clues you uncover—though, for a game with such difficult puzzles, sometimes understanding its dialogue poses even more of a challenge.

I imagine that, in its native French language, the dialogue reads wonderfully. In the English version, there’s a laundry list of issues, the biggest of which is just awkward and clunky text that is frequently phrased in a stilted manner. A lot of the biggest offenders of this type seem to figure in Louis’s internal monologue, where he has such thoughts as:

“I absolutely need to find you, Mother”

“And if I can believe my vision, you don’t have much of a place in her heart”

“For crying out loud, why did you hide supplies in the middle of nowhere, Mother?”

Another issue is text that did not seem to be localized in any way, shape, or form. Localization, for anyone who may not know, is the process of editing text to make it more natural and logical for native speakers. It’s frequently text that’s been translated into English from other languages; however, localization may also occur if you have text native to the UK that you’d like to present to U.S. players. It’s an important process, seeing as unfamiliar and confusing slang may be immersion-breaking.

Another issue in The Council is the anachronistic language. It’s scattered throughout the game and tends to undermine the historical feel. Now, writing period pieces can be extremely difficult, and there is definitely room for some light anachronism, in my opinion. It disrupts the player’s immersion when, in a story that takes place in the 18th century, the main character says, “Pull yourself together, man.” Unfortunately, the quality of the voice acting sometimes draws even more attention to awkward phrasing and anachronisms.

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Throughout the game, you get to choose which path to follow. These choices carry quite a bit of weight, and most of the paths diverge quite drastically.

The tragic part is that most of the side characters are voiced reasonably well. The accents are fine, the dialogue seems believable, and the voice actors themselves seem to have changed the text in order to speak more naturally (which is evident in mismatches between the subtitles and the voice acting).

The main character is not handled quite as skillfully. For some reason, the choice was made to use an American actor who does not put on any sort of accent for his character (a Frenchman, born in Paris). It’s not just that they cast someone with an American accent… They cast a man who speaks in a whiney, Californian form of iambic pentameter. It’s what I’d imagine a production of Hamlet to be like if a casting director ever made the grave mistake of putting Hayden Christensen in the title role.

In my gaming experience, I’ve found that convincing acting can make up for mediocre dialogue. Wonderful writing can distract from a so-so performance. But to have awkward writing paired with unconvincing acting? Ouch.

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Gregory Holm, just one character who exemplifies the strange (and creepy) animation used throughout the game.

It’s an absolute tragedy that a game with such an intriguing story and incredibly innovative mechanics is so unappealing to two of the senses. Nonetheless, I would heartily recommend this game to anyone with a vested interest in how narrative games are evolving and what they’ll look like in the future. Playing it has been a valuable experience, and, despite its writing flaws, the game has a logical flow and tells a very compelling, original story.

In short, the animation style may be uncomfortable, the dialogue could use additional localization to sound more passable to native speakers, and the voice acting sometimes makes me want to use steel wool as earplugs…

… but it’s also incredibly well-designed from a gameplay standpoint. With puzzles that truly challenge the player, sleek UI and menus, and a leveling system that affects how your player tackles verbal confrontations, this game is simply one that should not be ignored.