Intudia is a new entertainment platform for interactive audiobooks and eBooks. Created by childhood friends Nicki Blådal (Manager of development and administration, and co-founder of a Danish software development company) and Nicolai Vedel Kellberg (Lead author, with 15 years of experience with interactive storytelling, and a master’s degree in educational psychology), Intudia believes that being an active part of the story (as in roleplaying games) stimulates the brain and lets the imagination flow. Their concept is based on choices, where the listener/reader has the power to decide the fate of the characters. Designed to be enjoyed while commuting to work or cleaning the house, stories on the Intudia platform can also be played as a social experience when together with friends or family.
Intudia is currently in the testing and prototyping stage of their concept. The current prototype, featuring a free horror story called Addicott Manor, is a simplified version of their upcoming mobile-friendly web-browser app. The Kickstarter campaign launched on November 15th is designed to fund the writing and production of the next three stories, and to initiate the development of the Intudia App (expected completion, mid 2020). Additional stories will be written for each 8000 USD raised above the funding goal, with all of these stories available to all backers (minimum 15 USD).
Version 1.0 of Intudia will be an Android and iOS mobile app, which will allow users to listen to and read interactive stories on the go or at home. GBN are excited to follow the ongoing development of this new interactive platform, so we asked Nicki and Nicolai to expand on the features of their technology and to speak about the future of narrative games.
How will the concept for Intudia allow you to reach your ambition of becoming the ‘Netflix for interactive audiobooks’? Will this be delivered through innovation, high production values or simply quantity of content?
We think that there is a lot of untapped potential in the interactive fiction (IF) genre. A lot of people are prejudiced and think that it’s only a genre for males, nerds, gamers etc. but that couldn’t be further from the truth. IF can be for everyone with the right story, angle and accessibility.
The stories on Intudia will incorporate all genres and protagonists. This means that there is something appealing and readable for almost everyone, whether you like horror, suspense or romance and want to be male/female, young/old, good/evil and everything in between. We want to break the boundaries of stereotypical stories of the male, sword-wielding hero set out to save the world.
We also want to make the interaction with our material as easy-to-use as possible. This means that our app and website will be so user-friendly that anyone can use it. Just download the app and you’re all set.
Intudia, like most streaming services nowadays, is set to produce its own material but will also gather high-quality content from other authors. In turn we will not only boost the IF-scene by employing full-time authors but also through helping other IF authors to make money from their writing.
What will the final production level of the audiobooks sound like – music and sound effects together with speech? What voice talent will you use?
We will start out with professional narrators, and as the company evolves we will further develop the stories with the option to enable background music and sound effects. Intudia will at first address the English-speaking market.
How will your interactive audiobooks function – does your technology incorporate spoken commands to select desired options? Are any other forms of interactive control being planned?
The current prototype is very simple, and will be completely re-built after the Kickstarter has successfully finished. The first commercial platform, which is set to be ready in the summer of 2020, will be rather simple as the primary focus will be to grow the content base.
We cannot exactly pinpoint which features will be available. However, we aim to implement the following:
- An inventory controlling which choices are presented to the listener, based on how the story has unfolded.
- Basic audio controls, which makes the audio pleasant for the listener.
- A text-voice tracker, which shows the listener exactly where in the text the narration currently is.
- A download function allowing users to play stories offline.
- Text preferences to control size and contrast.
- Choice buttons which will be revealed after each chapter to allow the listener to choose the direction of the story.
As soon as we have a sustainable business running, we will investigate different ways to innovate the app. This could be implementation of voice commands or motion as a way of choosing the narrative direction.
The new Kickstarter content includes a diverse range of genres. Is there any type of story or setting that you wouldn’t create a game about? Will you attempt any traditional fantasy or sci-fi adventures?
Intudia is open to all genres, however, our in-house author Nicolai focuses on suspense, horror and action. Most with a realistic and historical angle.
The upcoming 6 stories will span from critical, modern realism where you play as a Syrian refugee, to a Moby Dick-inspired novel and a comical romance story where you must navigate through the internet dating scene.
We are also dabbling in the creation of an alternative universe. Nicolai is currently in a world-building process to create a universe set in the real world but with aspects from Norse mythology, with its gods and monsters. The series is called Ragnarok and will be a blend of many genres, but all set against this supernatural backdrop. The intention is to create stand-alone and connected stories in this alternate world.
We will aim to cover the genres in demand from our users. Intudia will be very flexible in that way. And there will also be room to switch between connected and individual stories.
What can fans of interactive fiction expect from your games that they are unlikely to find in other formats and products?
Intudia is interactive fiction for everyone. We do not aim to differentiate from other authors, except that we want to bring pop literature and major discourses into the interactive genre. We want to create something for everyone, whether that’s old-timers experienced with the genre or newcomers to interactive fiction.
Do Intudia stories have a particular style or type of content? What will readers experience when interacting with one of your games?
What mostly characterises Nicolai’s writing is how relatable the plot, protagonists and side characters are.
You can play as a young teenager, a man about to propose to his fiancé, a woman partying in a club. Most people can relate to these characters and are interested in how it is ‘to be’ someone else. The conflicts in these stories are also relatable and vivid. We have a few ghost stories but the conflict is ‘real’ in the majority of the stories. Our upcoming stories also reflect this narrative ideology. We integrate international discourses and historical events like the Vietnam war, Syrian refugee crisis and the era of hacking and cyberwars. These are examples of real struggles for real people.
Nicolai has a bachelor as a social educator and a master’s degree in educational psychology, and has specialised in social constructionism and poststructuralism. He is integrating his knowledge to make the feelings, realities and interaction as true to real life as possible. Nicolai spends a vast amount of time in research to make the stories as factual and realistic as possible. As an example, in one of the stories you have to survive an encounter with a Great White shark. Writing this required a lot of research about sharks, freediving and even how it feels to drown. This aspect promotes learning and the ability to make the better choices in the story, if you have the right information.
To make these stories and characters relatable the reader must feel what the characters are feeling to some degree, or mentalise what they would feel if they themselves were in the given situation. It’s easier for most people to visualise themself being hunted by a shark than a band of orcs. That is what characterises our style the most – that our stories are relatable. The struggle is real.
We only feel that we have done our job correctly if our material ignites certain emotions in the reader or makes them evaluate what they would have done in real life. Our material is also a way to stimulate self-reflection. Or if you read with someone else, it is a great way to discuss your values and explain why you would choose to do something over something else. Intudia is so much more than just a game or an entertainment platform. It is a way to stimulate the reader emotionally, cognitively and socially.
Can games be paused or saved during play?
There will certainly be a bookmark function when we have the app developed in 2020.
What is the typical length of your games, and how many alternative pathways are there for repeat playthroughs?
The length and pathways vary just as much as the genres of our material. We have some highly difficult stories where you have a 50% chance of terminating the story early. These stories demand that you have your wits about you and thoroughly analyse the given situation before making your choice. Other stories branch outward in a more open-world kind of experience. We have stories with 10 choices and stories with several hundred choices featuring hours of game play.
The planned Kickstarter stories will all have hundreds of choices and maybe 10-20 unique endings with several hours of game play and replayability. Addicott Manor is a great example of how the stories unlocked through the Kickstarter campaign will be, in length and playability.
Thanks to Nicki and Nicolai for answering our questions with such interesting explanations and detail. Their Kickstarter campaign ends on December 16th. For further information about the project you can head to their website.