San Rafael-based adventure-game company Wunderverse Interactive plans on June 4 to launch its new application for the iPad that allows players to create and share their own dramatic tales.
To inspire new users, the software will have a few sample stories already written in several genres: post-apocalyptic future; 1940s crime noir; ancient-ruins archaeology; atomic space and medieval. Players whose imaginations soar can invent their own fiction then share it with friends, who can make plot choices along their game paths. The sample stories are not long, requiring perhaps half an hour to complete. As authors build more complex stories, they could potentially take hours or days to follow.
Wunderverse joins a bustling hub of game development companies located in Marin County, including Telltale Games and Vector Unit in San Rafael; FreeRange Games in Sausalito; and 2K Games and Toys for Bob in Novato. Autumn Moon Entertainment is in Petaluma.
Co-founder Shawn McKee, who developed the software and helped fund the enterprise, started the business in 2014 with partner David Mullin, who is responsible for writing and illustrations that make up story content. The choose-your-own content is flexible, adapted to players’ whims as they move through stories. Some players may choose to become authors in the games.
“At some point in the story, you are presented with a choice,” McKee said. “You can base the outcomes of your stories on a lot of things” depending on what plot twists have already occurred. “You don’t know what’s going to happen until you have made your choices.”
The game features interactivity.
“You might come across an old woman sitting in front of a vault,” McKee said. “You can talk to her, ask her” if she knows how to open the vault. The story options “are choices the author has set up for you. You could have her be somebody who becomes adversarial. You can trigger those actions — make her adversarial — by something you say to her. The author sets up that outcome.”
The app, available through Apple’s App Store for $3.99, is aimed at players age 12 and above.
Younger players might not have the cognitive skills needed to play, McKee said, because some logic is required, especially to originate stories. The “voice” of the narrative is often second-person, as in: “You hurl a ball of fire at the approaching robot.”
Each story is expected to cost $0.99 to $1.99. The founders “hope that thousands of people buy that story for a dollar,” McKee said.
In attempting to gauge the potential market size, McKee estimated the number of iPads already sold: 200 million. “We’re trying to create a user base,” he said. Eventually he plans to adapt the software to iPhones, of which there are nearly 500 million.
“We are trying to give everybody the ability to create their own stories,” McKee said. “We have big plans to move forward.”
Mullin is working with traditional fiction authors to adapt their stories to the Wunderverse format, according to McKee. “We’re going to come out with a whole line of complete stories that players can purchase in addition to their own stories,” McKee said.
“We’re trying to bring back some of that exploration and wonder and imagination” that children used to find in books, McKee said. The process of inventing stories “sparks the imagination,” he said.