Finalist - Outstanding Achievement in Story: 2014 DICE Awards Finalist - Gamer's Voice Award: SXSW Gaming Expo The Novelist asks one central question: can you achieve your dreams without pushing away the people you love?
User reviews: Very Positive (437 reviews)
Release Date: Dec 10, 2013

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October 30

$4.49 Halloween Sale + Horror Movie Blog Post!

Hey, everyone! The game is on sale at 70% off as part of the Steam Halloween Sale, and to celebrate I wrote a new blog post over on the game's site. The Novelist is full of references to old horror movies, so I created a guide that lists all of the specific references, complete with fun movie clips from the horror flicks.

I think it's a pretty fun read ... check it out here!

1 comments Read more

September 8

On Sale for $5.99!

Hey everyone, I just wanted to make a quick post letting you know that The Novelist is on sale for $5.99 over at the Humble Store. You can also pick it up directly at the game's website.

Each purchase comes with a Steam key, so it's a good way to support the game, support charity, and still add the game to your Steam library.

Spread the word!

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Reviews

“The Novelist affected me, deeply and painfully ... I frequently cried at the outcomes of the decisions I made for the Kaplan family.”
Rock Paper Shotgun

“While it arrives on the heels of other notable non-combat, story-based games, it still manages to feel fresh and emotionally resonant. This is thanks to sincere, realistic writing and an inspired approach to player choice, which has you picking sides and making difficult compromises in the context of family conflicts.”
Polygon

“The Novelist is the most personal and beautiful game I have ever experienced. The creator, Kent Hudson, has quite plainly poured his heart and soul into this game, and the outcome is genuinely something to behold. Never before have I felt so emotionally involved in the characters, their situation and potential future, as in this truly player-driven story.”
10 out of 10 – GameGrin

About This Game

Finalist - Outstanding Achievement in Story: 2014 DICE Awards
Finalist - Gamer's Voice Award: SXSW Gaming Expo

The Novelist asks one central question: can you achieve your dreams without pushing away the people you love? The game focuses on Dan Kaplan, a novelist struggling to write the most important book of his career while trying to be the best husband and father he can be. The Kaplans have come to a remote coastal home for the summer, unaware that they’re sharing the house with a mysterious ghostly presence: you.

Read the family’s thoughts. Explore their memories. Uncover their desires and intervene in their lives. But stay out of sight; you can’t help the Kaplans if they know there’s a ghost in the house. It’s up to you to decide how Dan’s career and family life will evolve, but choose carefully; there are no easy answers, and every choice has a cost.

Dan’s relationships – to his work, his wife, and his son – react and shift in response to your choices. With a different sequence of events in every playthrough, The Novelist gives life to a unique experience each time you play.

The decisions you make will define the Kaplans’ lives, but they may also tell you something about yourself.

System Requirements

Windows
Mac OS X
SteamOS + Linux
    Minimum:
    • OS: Windows XP SP2 or higher
    • Processor: 1.8 GHz
    • Memory: 2 GB RAM
    • Graphics: 256 MB VRAM video card
    • Hard Drive: 800 MB available space
    Recommended:
    • OS: Windows 7
    • Processor: 2 GHz
    • Memory: 4 GB RAM
    • Graphics: 512 MB VRAM video card
    Minimum:
    • OS: OS X Lion (10.7) or higher
    • Processor: 1.8 GHz
    • Memory: 2 GB RAM
    • Graphics: 256 MB VRAM video card
    • Hard Drive: 800 MB available space
    Recommended:
    • OS: OS X Mountain Lion (10.8)
    • Processor: 2 GHz
    • Memory: 4 GB RAM
    • Graphics: 512 MB VRAM video card
    Minimum:
    • Processor: 1.8 GHz
    • Memory: 2 GB RAM
    • Graphics: 256 MB VRAM video card
    • Hard Drive: 800 MB available space
    • Additional Notes: Built with Unity 4.3.4, tested in Ubuntu 12.04 and 13.10
    Recommended:
    • Processor: 2 GHz
    • Memory: 4 GB RAM
    • Graphics: 512 MB VRAM video card
Helpful customer reviews
42 of 55 people (76%) found this review helpful
3.0 hrs on record
Posted: October 8
I really wanted to like this game. But I just couldn't. The envrironment is as bland as it gets. The house feels lifeless and boring. The choice in this game is simplistc, and the outcomes are predictable. The stealth mechanic is in the way of what the game is supposed to be; but without it, it becomes even more repetitive and dull. The writing is not bad, which seems like a victory for a videogame, but it feels lacking in characterization. There are hints everywhere of interesting directions the game could have taken, but it manages to avoid all of them. The ending result is a bland, dull and completely unremarkable experience.

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67 of 110 people (61%) found this review helpful
3.7 hrs on record
Posted: November 2
As for the beginning i should mention that i'm a highly emotive person but cold-hearted at the same time, who could watch any emotionally disturbing events and never blink an eye if circumstances demand so, however this game didn't even bother to try me. I'll probably get assaulted by some who presumably were tackled by the emotiveness of this game, but i'll take my chances since, frankly, there is no single reason why i would give it a thumbs up.

It is indeed a game which tends to appeal on emotions, but it fails this part too, except a few occasion when it manages to touch the player, and further on i'll explain why. First of all, it's almost one year after release and the game is still buggy. You can see that for yourself in the 2 screenshots i've posted on the game's community hub. Characters can sit on invisible chairs, type on invisible typing machines or read books while their heads are stuck in the table, etc, and all of that in less than 4 hours of gaming... Also, Dan, the main character developed a habit to close the doors of his office when he needs to rest or focus on the book he's writing, and doesn't want to be disturbed by his family. I got stuck in his office for quite a few times, having nothing to do, just waiting and wondering when will he finally open the doors so i can get out. At first i relied on the fact that me being a ghost, i'm not supposed to be seen opening doors, but imagine my surprise when i saw for the first time his wife walking in the office right through the closed door, and walking out through the other one. I was like "WTF? I am the damn ghost in this house or this this family who clearly posseses more supernatural skills than i do ?!"

Leaving all bugs and glitches behind, the whole purpose of the game is to find out what the family members wish for, and try to make them all happy, or at least feeling less miserable, by choosing somebody's wish and make a compromise with other member. Problem is the choices are sometimes ridiculous. For example: the mother wants to go camping on some place far from home, the father wants to go camping somewhere near by, and the son wants his father to help him launch his toy rocket. You choose father's wish to go camping somewhere near by and try to reach a compromise with his wife based on the fact that he's behind the schedule with his work on the book. Done. The son remains unhappy. WHY ?! Even if the father is so ridiculously busy at home, why can't he just take 5 minutes and help his son launch a toy rocket while they were camping for almost an entire day? And this is only one example from an entire list of unrealistic stupid choices one has to make.

What else made me be so cold-hearted towards this game's attempt to appeal on my emotions ? The almost empty house, the dull environment, the repetitive actions of the characters which walk from a part of the house to another over and over, and mostly the lack of any active emotions between them. Upon the interaction of the characters in the house you'll just hear "Hi mom" and the answer back "Hi darling", and that's all, after which they all go do something different, mother watches TV, the son plays with a toy, and the father drinks by himself in the office or sticks his head again in the table and starts to read. Does that look like a busy family to you where they presumably can't find the time to satisfy each other ?

There are many other things i could list, but looks like my review is becoming too long, so i'll just stop here. The overall experience felt boring and tedious. There is no way i could recommend to anybody this clearly overpriced and overrated game.
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13 of 15 people (87%) found this review helpful
2.6 hrs on record
Posted: November 7
Great title for Dear Esther/ Gone Home/ Vanishing of Ethan Carter Fans. At the end of the game I really cared about Kaplans Family. Graphics are "sufficient" and soundtrack really suits the game.Score 8 out of 10 [ 10/10 if u got it from humble bundle for few $]. It takes about 2,5 hours to complete the game and I guess you can complete it few times to get different endings.
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10 of 11 people (91%) found this review helpful
2.3 hrs on record
Posted: September 16
A sort of "slice of life" simulator, where you play a nosy ghost with the ability to bend people to your will. Sort of.

Actually, it's like The Walking Dead, except your choices have actual impact. No, but really. It's also like Dear Esther or Gone Home, but with a little bit more actual gameplay (I highly recommend the "Stealth" difficulty level), and your decisions throughout impact the entire story and the Kaplans' relationships as well as the ending. You have to balance the father's career as a writer (side note: as a writer myself, Dan hit a little too close to home), the mother's stalled career as a painter, and their son's emotional turmoil--or you can fail miserably. Doom everyone to a life of misery, focus on one family member at the expense of the others, or flail around looking for a happy medium; the choice is yours.

I'd definitely recommend picking this up on sale--$15USD is unfortunately steep for such a short game--and then setting aside an uninterrupted 2-3 hours with a cup of tea or something to play it all the way through. It's well worth your time.
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13 of 19 people (68%) found this review helpful
2.2 hrs on record
Posted: November 5
Although this game is 'story rich', I dont think the story is very good. Its full of cliches (writer with writer's block, boy wants to play, dad wants to work, mom tries to hold family together, etc) and extremely superficial. You make choices but they dont mean anything when the consequence is just text at the end of the scene. Its just so...predictable. All the kid ever wants to do is play, so, shocker, when you dont play with him he gets depressed. So what? Why am I suppose to care about the kid at all? The game doesnt give you any reason to like any of the characters.

And we are suppose to believe that Dan is so busy he cant do anything else with his wife and kids but. . . hes not. He sits around the house all day, goes camping, fishing. In one chapter they show a schedule. It has 8 hours sleep, 1 hour break, 2 hours decompression. Really? Thats 11 hours where hes doing nothing. Real busy people rest half that amount on any given workday.

I really hate to hammer an indie game. But it has a steep price tag so people should know what theyre in for. And for what it gives you there are better options out there. Gods Will Be Watching is a brilliant game about choices and consequences, with much better dialogue and characters that felt. . . alive. Or if you like walking simulators with notes all over, I would even recommend Gone Home before this, which has a very cute story, is the same length, and doesnt have you revisiting the same 4 rooms 15 times.
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4 of 4 people (100%) found this review helpful
2.1 hrs on record
Posted: December 7
Wow. My god. What a hard-hitter. That was quite the emotional roller coaster. Please give it a try. The 66 Metascore doesn't do it justice at all. It deserves more like an 85.
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4 of 4 people (100%) found this review helpful
3.3 hrs on record
Posted: November 16
I think you might need a spouse and children to appreciate this game. My guess is there's just not as much emotional impact if you don't have real life experience balancing family choices trying to make everyone happy while still taking care of yourself.

The gameplay itself is very simple: you just explore a house, reading clues, looking at drawings, and listening to snippets of dialogue to figure out what each family member wants. Then you tell the title character, Dan, which choice he should make, which moves the story into the next segment, with a brief update on each family member's progress. There is a mild stealth element in which you can "spook" family members if they see you moving around, which will close off their choice. This can be turned off if you don't want to worry about it, but I kept it on and only spooked somebody once in my entire playthrough.

I found some of the decisions pretty tough, but in the end I kept a very balanced approach and got an ending in which everyone seemed basically hapy and successful. I'm somewhat curious to try it again while pushing really hard in favor of one family member or another to see what happens, but I'm not sure I want to see the sad endings. Overall, I don't know if three hours of gameplay is worth full price, but I could recommend this on sale.
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5 of 6 people (83%) found this review helpful
2.8 hrs on record
Posted: November 7
Really refreshing and interesting experience, although ocassionally shallow and boring will leave variety of different kind of opinions varying from person to person.

It is a game that your actions and choices have certain consequences on the story and its development. I would say that the game starts slowly at the beginning, and then follows a safe line not trying to be too initiative on trying something new over the time. As I've already said, really lackluster experience, especially at the end given that the actions and gameplay focuses on you doing the same thing over and over again.

The game sums up in: you trying to figure out how to help people and overcome their obstacles whether publishing a book or painting or going on a trip. You can't please everyone, hence why your actions will have different effect on people around you. Mechanics that this game tries to implement and force are nothing too astonishing, and will often be recognized as tedious after a while.

I would say that this game is a solid 5/10, nothing too special, but enough to get you intrigued in this 2-3 hours long journey. Definitely worth picking up when it hits the bigger discount, but bare in mind that this game focuses heavily on story and your actions on the progression, rather than gameplay and whatelse.




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3 of 3 people (100%) found this review helpful
2.7 hrs on record
Posted: December 18
Despite how the other reviews are saying it's a bad game, I really loved it.

The graphic style was ever so unique that I was drawn to the game. I'm a person who doesn't usually cry at the end of games, but I got attached to these characters - I learnt so much about these characters and about their backstories that each outcome left me sad.

This game really left an impact on me because this relates to my home life too, as a child I found myself like Tommy in multiple ways and the surrounding characters were too similar to be comfortable at times.

The ending of the game was a bit abrupt in some ways but ever so touching, I actually got watery eyes in the end. I felt like I had made the right decision for the family, even though one of them was hurt in the end.

Overall, I really liked this game, although since it left an imprint on me, I wouldn't be able to play it again. I highly recommend it to people who suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), or low depression.

8.5/10 :)
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3 of 3 people (100%) found this review helpful
84.0 hrs on record
Posted: November 29
A great thought provoking game where your actions and choices directly influences how the life of the characters will progress. It's a beautiful game where it gives you a glimpse of the complexities of family life and makes you question your own values and beliefs. You get to see their life unfold through the perspective of each of the family members and the game gives you the chance to alter it as you see fit. 11/10
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4 of 5 people (80%) found this review helpful
0.8 hrs on record
Posted: November 15
Absolutely great game, makes you think about the value of small choices and about how your life interacts with that of others around you. Beautiful, deeply immersive and interesting. Thanks for a wonderful experience!



*recorded time is wrong- I finished the game in around three hours*
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4 of 5 people (80%) found this review helpful
1.8 hrs on record
Posted: November 29
I nice way to spend a rainy morning.
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5 of 7 people (71%) found this review helpful
5.4 hrs on record
Posted: November 1
Upon reading about the gameplay, I was quickly excited to see what this game had to offer, hoping for variety and a good story. Thankfully I got both! I was also surprised to hear some rather good voice acting that I hadn't expected to find in this game, but it really helped set the immersion.
The game "was" short, but it was very fulfilling, especially having done it on Stealth-mode. Being short, I feel I can even play it a few more times to see what the results will be like if I make different choices.
Some of the choices were easy to make, some were minor, but there were a few VERY tough choices. I beat the game in a few hours, but the choices, story, and affect from the characters made this feel like it went on for days, but in a VERY good way. I'm hoping for a sequel, given that there is room for it, but I don't even feel like there's much need for any change outside of making a new story and maybe a new environment.
If I had any negative comments about the game, it would be reading up on the former entries of those in the house. They were great stories too, but I felt like they didn't explain much beyond that the ghost helped people who lived there. I was hoping to find out who the ghost is or learn more about one person at a time. It seemed the stories of the past got rushed by a bit.
All-in-all, I highly recommend this game. Very easy-paced, simple, and enjoyable. A nice break from more intense games or a tense day.
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6 of 9 people (67%) found this review helpful
2.2 hrs on record
Posted: November 2
This game's narrative complexity in how close to reality it is is what sold it for me. The reality of every choice is very well laid out for you and there are no right answers and no way to make everything great. Some choices you make affect different characters differently and in varying amounts. Definitely worth a look. This is another video game that proves that video games at large are an art form.
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9 of 15 people (60%) found this review helpful
7.8 hrs on record
Posted: November 8
Once I started this game, I could not stop. Recommended buy!
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2 of 2 people (100%) found this review helpful
1.8 hrs on record
Posted: November 10
A really touching game that makes you question the impact of the choices you make. I especially liked the mechanic of how you couldn't please everyone, so you have to choose who to please, depending on the circumstances. I definitely recommend!
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2 of 2 people (100%) found this review helpful
1.9 hrs on record
Posted: December 3
The Novelist, though suffering from a few flaws, manages to be an emotionally involved and touching game thanks to its narrative.

There is no perfect way to resolve every scenario, as anyone who has tried to juggle the demands of a family or group of friends is aware, which in my opinion, is a strength rather than a weakness. Though the house itself can be repetitive to navigate and some of the dilemmas are pretty predictable, the strong writing (haha) and voice acting make the experience worthwhile.

A short game whether you play using the stealth mechanic or not.
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2 of 2 people (100%) found this review helpful
2.5 hrs on record
Posted: December 2
A nice game from somebody who's probably not (yet) a father...

First of all, let me clarify that despite this review focusing on the shortcoming of the game, I wholeheartedly recommend the game. Then let's dive in:

THE GOOD

The game is essentially a narration/exploration game (think "Dear Eshter") with the notable exception that in "The Novelist" the player has to solve moral dilemmas at the end of each level.

In particular the game follows a family during their summer retreat, and each chapter of the story ends with each family members having a different, conflicting desire. The player must choose which family member's desire gets fulfilled.

However - and this is the strength of the game - the stakes are hight as each family member's preferences contribute towards important, existential points (writing the book that may change the course of the man career, saving the relationship between the two adults, supporting the kid in overcoming being bullied and having difficulties at school).

These are usually very well balanced dilemmas and the choice is never merely strategic: it is all the times phylosophical/moral: there is never a "correct" answer, just one that resonates more with each player's sensitivity, and that will influence the remaining of the story/the final outcome in a specific way.

In that regards, the game is brilliant: it elicits emotions and reflections that overflow the context of the game and invite the player to think to their real lives.

THE LESS GOOD

I'm pretty sure (given the credits) that the author of the game is married, but does not have (yet) kids. This shows. The relationship and emotional dynamic between husband and wife in the game is very credible. The one between the father (or the mother) and the kid - although described with care and attention - is not as authentic.

Parents truly "feel the joy" of their kids. Even when they have to give up something of their personal life, parents are sincerely and completely happy for their's kid successes. There is no regret nor second thought once the choice to prioritise your kid's needs over yours is done. It's a very different feeling than that of - say - giving up something important for making your partner happy.

It is difficult to put this difference in words (let alone in a language that is not my native one), but while an adult is happy for their partner's happiness, a parent tends to be happy with their kids. It is not a better or more intense joy, it's just... different.

So, my only (minor) criticism of the game is that it does not render this difference properly: the narration does not sound as authentic as it does in describing the relationship between spouses.

Another (again: very minor) criticism I'd like to make is that the game is framed in a very "man-centric" way: in order for the player to choose the course of action, they have to "tell" the man what the family as a whole should do (why not telling it to the woman?).

Also in the summary of the events as they happened in previous chapters, the sentences are all constructed in such a way that the man is portrayed as the decision-maker, and the woman and kid subjects of the decisions. Again: this is an extremely small detail, but it stands out enough for an attentive player to notice.

TECHNICAL REMARKS

The game is clearly the single-handed work of love of its author. There is degree of identification between the man in the game (the novelist) and the author of the game which is apparent in many passages of the script and openly revealed at the end of the game.

Because of the limited human resources on the project, many technical choices have been a compromise: very simple and naive AI of the characters, a tiny-tiny world (in fact a two-bedroom house!), low level of garphic detail.

However the author not only stroke a good balance by investing on the things that make the game good, while ignoring those that would make it merely more "shiny"; he also put great care in the delivery, so that the game feels simple from a technical perspective, but also very well executed. More importantly one can feel the care the author put in its creation, and that makes you feel as the recipient of something beautiful.

Again: the game is not perfect, but it deliver a strong memorable experience, and I wholeheartedly reccomand it to anybody, although - perhaps - an adult gamer will appreciate it more than a young one who hasn't a family on its own yet.
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2 of 2 people (100%) found this review helpful
2.2 hrs on record
Posted: September 28
Great game if you can emotionally connect with all of the characters. I felt like a terrible person with every choice I made - which was perfect, because that was the whole damn point. My only complaint is that it was too easy to compromise, and work out a generally good ending.
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2 of 2 people (100%) found this review helpful
2.3 hrs on record
Posted: December 22
This game is as if Gone Home and The Shining had a baby and that baby was raised in a warm hearted, realistic, well grounded home. LOVELY. Simple and well polished. A good difficulty curve too - I found early decisions easy but by the end was struggling to prioritize my choices. The stealth aspect is also very fun gameplay if you need something more than just the exploration and story.
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