Up until recently we’ve been sparsely testing Secret Letter because there was a much stronger focus on the user interface design and development. Now that we’re closing in on a production quality UI, I’ve handed Secret Letter out to a select few play-testers and we’re going to bring the content up to production quality too. Jack Toresal and The Secret Letter is nearing completion.
Each game we produce is likely to have a rating, both by the ESRB and a Textfyre rating. The Textfyre rating will note the difficulty of the game and the targeted Grade Level. Secret Letter is probably going to land in the Easy/6th Grade category. The ESRB rating should end up being Everyone or Everyone 10+ with Mild Violent References. The ESRB rating is likely to be one of those for most or all of our games, but that brings us to a change in Textfyre publishing policy.
Up until now we were looking for designers and writers to target middle school kids, 6th grade through 8th grade. But as I recall, I was reading Catcher in the Rye in middle school as well as a few other books with adult or strong adolescent themes. I had thought to curtail any references or material that fell in these categories, but I recently realized that we can’t have that restrictive of an editorial policy. We need to let designers and writers have a much wider range of topics and themes that they can address within their games. So from now on, the editorial policy will allow a much broader type of game material. In relation to ESRB ratings, I would say Teen and Mature are within scope. Mature games shouldn’t have things like Sexual Violence as interactions, though it probably should be allowed as secondary material. I would look at this sort of thing on a case by case basis, but writers should be aware that any strong content will be reviewed and edited for public consumption.
In other news, we’ve started looking at developing social studies content for middle schools and high schools. This would include any standard state historical topic like Mesoamerica, the Middle East, Europe, the Roman Empire, the Far East, the British Empire, and similar. If you’re interested in helping us develop this kind of material, please let me know. In relation to educational themes we’re also going to research the development of religiously themed games. We’re not targeting any particular religion nor would we base any decision on a proposal on any particular religion. I think my personal preference would be to develop games that were religious in a secondary manner. So a mystery game with Muslim characters or an adventure with Christian characters. These characters would be positively portrayed in accordance with their respective religions. I’m not sure if I want to get into doing direct Biblical stories like Moses or The Resurrection or similar, but if I were presented with a strong proposal, I might consider it.
If anyone would like to formally review Jack Toresal and The Secret Letter before its release, please let me know and I will allow access to an online version.