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Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Fright Tonight


Fright Tonight is an interactive audio drama that I've written for Amazon Echo. It's pretty ground-breaking, too, even if I have to say it myself. I needed a model of interactivity that would allow the listener to influence the characters in the story while still being surprised by what happens. So the way I've done that is --

No, I can't just tell you. You have to play it for yourself. Trust me when I say that Fright Tonight is much more than a game. It's a compelling and completely innovative form of audio entertainment which is destined to be as talked-about as Orson Welles's 1938 Halloween broadcast of War of the Worlds, only this time without the traffic jams and the shot-up water towers.
Experience an interactive ghost story set in Heskill Hall, England's most haunted stately home, where a great tragedy took place decades ago. Now the cynical radio host of the niche horror show “Fright Tonight” might just get the show of his life, as the crew gets ready to record their live Halloween special at nightfall in the deserted manor house...
Oh, and it's free too. Just dim the lights (easy if you have your Echo hooked up) and say, "Alexa, start Fright Tonight."

There are already some fun adventure games for Alexa -- such as The Magic Door, which is effectively an audio walking sim -- but Fright Tonight is nothing like that.. The style of interaction doesn’t require the listener to be a “game player” as such, meaning that they can be gripped by the narrative. I admire The Magic Door, but it’s the equivalent of a ghost train ride at a funfair, whereas Fright Tonight is genuine interactive drama. The developers are Mythmaker Media. Remember the name, as I'm hoping to do a whole lot more projects with them.

Who is the target audience? An interesting question, that, whenever you attempt something new. The appeal of something like Fright Tonight is certainly not limited to readers of Choose Your Own Adventure or to people who’d play a traditional adventure or CRPG videogame. While I’m sure I’ll pick up lots of listeners/players who would play, say, Layers of Fear or >observer_ , I'm aiming to appeal to lean-back audiences who just like a good scary story. So I see the typical audience being the entire family, from kids up to grandparents, and including lots of people who would never normally play a game.

Who knows, this could be the big comeback for audio drama. I hope so. As my dad always used to say, the great thing about radio is the pictures are better.

8 comments:

  1. I may have jumped the gun. Amazon's marketing team have a few thoughts about content (can you imagine how my heart soars at that news?) so we'll have to address those before we can get this thing onto Alexa's playlist. Not long, hopefully -- but too late for Halloween. I will be releasing it as a Kindle book soon, though.

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    1. Best laid plans.. I had wondered why Mirabilis had gone a bit quiet! Will look forward to this and Fright Tonight (assuming I can work out Alexa and Echo).

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    2. Yeah, I'm afraid Mirabilis had to take a back seat while I burned the witching hour oil on Fright Tonight and Vampire's Lair -- so a real pain that both of them missed Amazon's big Halloween promotion. But it was a ridiculously short time in which to try and get two apps ready, and who can ever predict the feedback you'll get from a marketing department? It's the sort of Turing Test that would blow up the most sophisticated AI.

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    3. And I should clarify: Fright Tonight IS live (on the Amazon US store anyway), it just shipped too late to get in on the Alexa Halloween promotion. But you CAN play it, right now. Just say, "Alexa, start Fright Tonight."

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    4. Quite. It's also not unique to this sector where planning for October seemingly takes place in September, rather than November as it should be.

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    5. When Amazon first got in touch about an app for Halloween, my reaction was, "What, Halloween *this* year?" So the fact that we got it out the door in any form is miraculous. The other irritation is that Amazon's marketing team didn't put it on their seasonal promotion on the grounds that it doesn't have an in-app purchase option -- but nobody is going to pay for a 20-minute drama, not these days. So I expect the only people who will get to hear it are the ones playing it now while it's still free.

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  2. Can’t wait to try this Jamie... any chance of an alexa version of the Lands too? Then again, how would the illustrations & maps be enjoyed... 🧐

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    1. You could wait a universe lifetime for Jamie to even look at the blog, never mind comment! But I'll jump in here -- yes, we'd like to do FL for Alexa. We could even have maps for people playing it on Fire TV (The Vampire's Lair, my other Halloween app, has lots of colour illustrations) but we would need to redesign it so that it worked for audio-only.

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