Ice-Bound On Sale All December: 100% of First Week Profits to Writing Charity

The Ice-Bound Concordance

The creators of The Ice-Bound Concordance, an award-winning indie game combining a physical printed art book with a groundbreaking interactive narrative, announced today a month-long sale, with 100% of profits from the first week of December going to 826 National, a non-profit group supporting youth writing programs.

Game TrailerWebsiteScreenshotsPresskit

“826 National coordinates seven creative writing centers for under-resourced students around the country, including writing workshops, after-school tutoring, and programs to help students publish their work,” co-creator Aaron A. Reed said. “The Ice-Bound Concordance is a game about writing. It felt like a good time to give something back.”

Images of students from 826 Valencia, a chapter of 826 National
Students in writing programs sponsored by 826 National. Image courtesy 826 Valencia.

The unique game is played in concert with a physical print book called The Ice-Bound Compendium. This 80 page full-color art book unlocks the story in the digital game via augmented reality and a groundbreaking combinatorial narrative engine. The game and book were released in January 2016 after winning IndieCade’s “Best Story” award and receiving nominations from IGF, ISEA, and SxSW Interactive.

Since release, the project has received broad acclaim. Rock Paper Shotgun called it “one of the most ambitious projects I’ve ever seen“; EuroGamer said it was “unmissable” and “brilliant”; KillScreen called it “extraordinary”; PocketGamer said it “pushes the limits” of interactive fiction. Katherine Cross writing for Gamasutra called Ice-Bound a “masterfully layered” and “magisterial game… the book leaves a glitchy, pixelated impression on one’s mind long after one is done playing/reading.”

Created by award-winning game designer Aaron A. Reed (Blue Lacuna; 18 Cadence; Prom Week) and writer and interactive story researcher Jacob Garbe, the game tells a nested, recursive story inspired by writers like Borges and books like Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves. A digital simulation of a long-dead author enlists the player’s help on a quest to complete an unfinished masterpiece. The player sculpts their own version of the story while exploring a shifting literary labyrinth filled with doomed polar explorers and fragments of memories.

The digital Ice-Bound Concordance is available for Windows PCs with webcams and iPads, and the first two chapters can be sampled for free. The physical book component, The Ice-Bound Compendium, unlocks the full game, and is available from Indie Press Revolution and Both can be acquired at

During the month of December, the Compendium is on sale for $19, down from its regular price of $25. In contrast to many indie games with frequent fire sales, the physical nature of the game means this is a rare opportunity to get it at a discounted price.

100% of profits on sales through December 8th will be donated to 826 National, an umbrella group managing 826 Valencia and six other youth creative writing centers around the country. More information is available at

March/April Ice-Bound Coverage

In the last month and a half, we’ve had some more great review coverage of The Ice-Bound Concordance, presented it at GDC, and have even seen some fan-inspired creations.

The Ice-Bound Concordance

“We were collaborators. One of us was a ghost.”

Jack de Quidt did an Ice-Bound ‘Wot I Think’ for Rock Paper Shotgun, which does some great summarizing of the complicated project:

So that’s where you come in. Descending through Carina Station, yes, but not as a scientist or researcher – you’re instead something like a co-writer, trying to make sense of various fragments of plot as their long-dead creator politely talks you through them. “What did you think I was going for here?” he’ll ask, and you’ll have the opportunity to affect the story both directly (“I think the Professor should slip and fall,”) and thematically (“I feel this is a chapter concerned with spiral imagery”.) As you and KRIS mirror the character’s explorations deeper into the station, you gradually refine the story more and more into what you feel it should always have been about.

de Quidt writes quite a bit about the feel of the possibilities opened up by our combinatorial narrative system: we were really glad to see a reviewer dig into this aspect of the game.

The deeper we travelled, the more the scope of the game impressed me. …The more I pressed for the story to contain elements of the fantastic, the more KRIS seeded fragments with impossible stairways, twisting libraries, figures made from icicles. A love triangle I’d accidentally wrangled from the light permutations was forgotten about for three layers then re-appeared suddenly further down. When I realised quite the extent to which the story was procedural and responsive, it felt like a dizzying pit had opened up.

The Ice-Bound Concordance

“Spidering Complexity…”

We also saw a great, meaty review on Gamasutra by Katherine Cross, who calls it “a masterfully layered game about the significance of both writing and editing.” Cross digs into the themes and meta-themes of Ice-Bound (AIs without rights, the interplay between physical and digital) but ultimately keeps returning to the relationship between writers, their output, and their readers that was so central to our original thinking about the project:

Those of us who write, fiction or non, are always lurking between our words. We spell out our DNA on the page, and traces linger after even the most antiseptic of editing.

Ice-Bound is about discovering what remains of the author between his words and pulling him free from them. In the process, whether you and KRIS finish Ice-Bound or not, the sweep of the book comes to tell an unexpected story that evokes postmodern and magical realist fiction, with resonances of Borges, Joanna Russ or David Mitchell.

Cross has some good critique about characterization and how smoothly everything comes together, but ultimately concludes that Ice-Bound Concordance is “a magisterial game… the book leaves a glitchy, pixelated impression on one’s mind long after one is done playing/reading, and that’s no small triumph.”


Other Appearances

We’ve cropped up a few other places recently, too.

It’s been delightful to see reviews and reactions keep coming in, and we’d love to hear more. You can find out more about the game on our website, and if you’re a reviewer and would like a review copy of the book, please get in touch. In the meantime, keep in the loop via our Twitter or Facebook, and stay safe, wherever you’re exploring.


Reviews and Coverage

We’ve had a couple meaty reviews of The Ice-Bound Concordance go live in the past few weeks.


David Chandler wrote a deep dive of his play experience for Killscreen, entitled “Death of the Author”, that opens with this excellent summary of the mood and tenor of playing:

“In the glacial caverns beneath a polar research facility, someone hears a distant groan. No, that’s not right. Maybe she hears laughter instead, but that goes against the tone of the piece—an air of mystery with a heavy sense of foreboding. Distant whispers… no, faint whispers breathing through the ice makes far more sense. Changing that bit of language, of course, only fits one particular moment in a much larger narrative. Still, it feels significant enough given the delicate nature that comes with editing a novel—especially one written by the author’s digital ghost.

Such are the considerations needed in The Ice-Bound Concordance, a game and accompanying book by Aaron Reed and Jacob Garbe that tasks the player with reconstructing the lost novel of the deceased fictional author Kristopher Holmquist.”


Chandler has some difficulties wrestling with the game’s layered complexity, but ultimately concludes it’s a worthy experiment: “language still remains just as provocative and intricate as any system of play, and Reed and Garbe’s extraordinary work rests comfortably among the best of its genre.”


We also saw some in-depth coverage from EuroGamer, in an article calling us “unmissable” and “brilliant” among other nice things (aw, thanks!). Talking about the layered mechanics for sculpting and shaping the story, Christian Donlan writes:

“You’ll maybe think of Melville, Bierce, Pynchon, and, yes, Lee Child, who does not often appear with such company. And at times, it truly feels like writing. Removed as it is, abstracted and streamlined and simplified, you glimpse the intoxicating, terrifying possibility space of writing as you shift symbols around and watch events and endings warp in and out of existence.”


While Donlan also has plenty of elegant critique, his review ends with this lovely insight about how games like Ice-Bound might foreshadow the future of interactive story:

Ice-Bound, like House of Leaves, is audacious and exhausting and niche – a youthful project, in the very best senses of the word. No killing the plot here. No nose to the page. No late-thirties backstory, no fired-from-a-job-in-telly. Ice-Bound is difficult stuff… But it’s worth it. It’s the clearest example yet of a central truth we are going to have to get our heads around. In games – in any technology, and maybe even that’s too narrow a scope – narrative means writing as often as it means reading.”

You can find out more about the project on our official website, and if you’re a reviewer interested in a copy of the book and game, please let us know!


Release Day!

After a long journey, The Ice-Bound Concordance and Compendium release today, for iPad and Windows!

Launch Details

Help us spread the word: share our official announcement tweet and Facebook post, share our awesome new trailer and website tell your friends who might think something like this is cool, post in your favorite game/book/weird experiences forum. We’ve got some cool screenshots you’re welcome to use, and even a press kit if you’re into that sort of thing.

There’s a slight snag with our Amazon listing where new international book orders aren’t being processed (this shouldn’t affect pre-existing international backer orders). So if you’re outside the US or lots of your social network is, you might want to wait a few days before going on a link-share binge.

Reward Details

We exported shipping addresses to Amazon last night, and they’ll pack and ship orders from the standard Explorer level today, so you should see them within the next couple of days (slightly longer for orders outside the USA).

For Distinguished Explorer backers with a signed copy, the books are still en-route to us; but we’ve got all the packing materials and postage ready to go, so as soon as they get here we’ll have a frantic signing party and get them out the door to you ASAP. Pics when it happens!

The only remaining Kickstarter reward to be fulfilled are the posters: these should go out this weekend, so you should get them sometime next week.

If you have any questions about your reward, please let us know at [email protected]


That’s all for now. This does not quite seem real to us yet, so we’ll keep promoting the game and getting rewards shipped and all the other things, but soon, we might be, uh, done? Wild.

Thanks for being part of our amazing journey. 🙂

–Aaron and Jacob

“Ice-Bound Concordance” Soundtrack Now Available!

We’re happy to announce that, just beating the game itself out the door, the soundtrack to The Ice-Bound Concordance is now available!

It’s been over a year since we first met with N.J. Apostol, whose beautiful score for Ether One had been a favorite of ours. Since then, we’ve had countless conversations with N.J., who turned out to be more than just a bloke who writes incredible music but also a true collaborator. We didn’t just talk about the music itself: we had long discussions about the ideas behind the storyline, and explored different ways music might be combinatorial or changeable in a game centered around shifting stories. N.J. drew inspiration not just from the game itself and other music, but from artwork, conversations, even sounds he would happen to hear on his way to work. (He ended up creating all the game UI sounds too, so they would sound consistent with the music.)

It’s impossible for me to pick favorites, but check out the track “A Soldier Long Dead,” for one of the middle levels of the game, about a lone British solider posted at Carina Station during World War 2.

It’s not just the isolation and wistfulness that comes through here: the soundscape is shaped by the sounds of the distant war, by Ethan’s memories of home, by the harsh edges of the place he’s stranded in.

Or another example:

Here two interlocking stories are represented through melodic lines that sometimes sync up, and sometimes fall out of rhythm… just as the player on this level must experiment to find how they think the two stories should intersect, and what kind of harmony they might make together.

We couldn’t be more pleased with how the music turned out. It immeasurably improves the game, is delightful to listen to on its own, and it would not have been possible if our backers hadn’t helped us push to reach that stretch goal to add a soundtrack. So thanks to our backers, thanks to N.J., and you can sample or buy the soundtrack from Bandcamp now.

Other News

On Wednesday evening, we’re going to collect your shipping addresses and send them to our order fulfillment center, so this is your last chance to update your shipping address on BackerKit if you’ve moved since our Kickstarter in October 2014 (scroll down for instructions if you need to do this).

On Thursday, the iPad and PC versions of the game will go live. We’ll send links as soon as they’re up. The books will also go on sale on Amazon that day. We’re still waiting on shipments of books to Indie Press Revolution (our other distributor) and to ourselves, for the signed copies, but we’ll keep you posted on the status of these.

We got some great coverage of the game over the weekend from Rock Paper Shotgun, and are hoping to have a few more major game sites go live with their coverage this week. Stay tuned to the Twitter account at @IceBoundGame or our Facebook page for all the latest coverage.


If you’ve moved since October 2014 when our Kickstarter happened, you should verify your mailing address in the Ice-Bound BackerKit is still correct before Wednesday Jan. 20 at 6pm Pacific time, so your Compendium ends up at the right place. To do this:

  • Go to You can either click “Log In Here” if you remember your BackerKit login info, or put in your email to get a new link to your survey.
  • Once you’ve got your survey pulled up, you can see your shipping address in the upper right. Click “Edit Shipping Info” if you need to update it.

If you have any trouble with this, email [email protected] ASAP and we’ll get it sorted out.

The Books are Printed!

After a long road, two thousand copies of The Ice-Bound Compendium have been printed! We got a package this week with the first four:

(This was pretty early in the morning. Jacob was more awake than I was, but we were both excited.)

It’s been hard waiting for this final, “point of no return” step. Our final proof looked fantastic, but there’s always a fear something will go wrong in the final stage: someone will click the wrong checkbox or misalign something and we’ll end up with a few cubic meters of imperfect books. We are incredibly happy to report that everything looks fantastic. Just over a ton of these fantastic books will shortly be on a boat moving across the Pacific to our distributor the in the USA. Whew!

Some other updates, while we’re all waiting…

Release Plans

Because of the Apple/Metaio situation, for the last few months we’ve been planning to release both versions of the game (PC and iPad) by December 15th, which is the date Metaio support ends. This was mainly in case Apple has secret plans to stop approving any new Metaio apps submitted after this date. After some additional research and thinking, and since we’ve already got a build submitted to Apple, and since Apple hasn’t made any statements to Metaio developers that their apps will be pulled by a certain date, we think we’re okay to release after the holidays, which will give us more time for the books to arrive, to put the final polish on the game, and to build up some marketing buzz.

So: this is not public yet, but we’re hoping very shortly to announce an official release date for The Ice-Bound Concordance of January 21st. This should give the books enough time to make it here and be ready to go on sale by that date, along with the game’s release. It also gives us some breathing room to do the launch right.

We’re not sure exactly when you’ll get your Compendiums (it’s going to depend on how long various stages of shipping and processing take), but we’ll keep you updated, and try our hardest to make it as close to that date as possible (or before it, if we can make that happen).

Update your shipping info!

If you’ve moved since a year ago when our Kickstarter happened, you should verify your mailing address in the Ice-Bound BackerKit is still correct, so your Compendium ends up at the right place. To do this:

  •  Go to You can either click “Log In Here” if you remember your BackerKit login info, or put in your email to get a new link to your survey.
  • Once you’ve got your survey pulled up, you can see your shipping address in the upper right. Click “Edit Shipping Info” if you need to update it.

Beta Update

We’ve been beta testing the game for almost a month now, and it’s improved immeasurably, thanks in no small part to some of our backers. We’ve fixed countless bugs, from teeny ones to giant scary game-crashing ones, and made a number of small design changes, mostly focused on better communicating what the game is doing. For example, in this screenshot:

…the green band and caption along the bottom are a new addition. The game was already prioritizing cards based on themes the player had previously selected, and suggested it was doing this in the dialog, but actually pointing out specific instances of this makes the connection stronger and better shows off the cool story mojo going on behind the scenes. There are several tweaks like this we’ve made that will hopefully make it clearer how you’re helping to shape the story as you play through.

We’ve also been working through the content doing a major editing pass, and it feels really great to get some creaky sentences revised that have been hanging around awkwardly since the early days.

Early Reviews

In a few days, we should have a few dozen more advance copies of the Compendium, and would love to get them in front of anyone interested in doing an early review. Do you write for a game site, have a Twitch stream, post content on a book blog, head a successful cult, or have connections with any of the above? Let us know at [email protected] and we’ll get you access to a review copy of the game and book.

Similarly, if you have any connections with well-positioned people who might be into a project like Ice-Bound, get in touch with us: we believe there are still lots more people out there who would love a game like this, if they only get the chance to discover it. 🙂

Take Care

We love you all. Stay tuned! The waiting is almost over.

October update

Hi backers! A quick update on the Ice-Bound project.

Printing Woes: Resolved!

In our last update, we mentioned the trouble we were having with the Compendium proofs from the printer being too shiny. We finally have gotten this resolved, in part by overnighting them some example books to help close the communication gap, and it turns out the secret is something called “wood-free paper,” which, weirdly enough, is made from wood. (It’s wood that’s been processed differently from normal paper in such a way that it’s no longer technically considered wood. Hey, they can call it whatever they like, as long as it works…)

Original proof on the left, final proof on the right.
Original proof on the left, final proof on the right.

In the picture you can really see the tremendous difference this paper makes. Even at an angle where normal “matte” (let alone glossy) printing would bounce back way too much light, disrupting the camera’s view of the image, it’s almost impossible to hold the wood-free version such that the camera can’t clearly recognize the image. It looks good to humans, but to the AR algorithm it’s night and day: the final proof works like a hot damn with the game, which, especially after all this time, is a huge relief.

So we’ve signed off on the books and they’re being printed up as you read these words! More on expected release date below, but before too much longer they should finally be in your hands.

We should also mention that our printer has been extremely patient with us through this process: even though it took a while for us to figure out this unusual job, they stuck with it and got us a proof that made us happy. We’d recommend them to anyone else looking to do a book project.

The Game

The Ice-Bound Concordance has been in “in-person testing” for about a week now. This is where we watch people play the game over their shoulder, looking for points of confusion and how the experience feels overall. It’s also a great way to find and nail down bugs that come from the idiosyncratic ways people might drag controls on an iPad or hold a book up to a camera on PC. In consequence, most of our game time recently has been spent fixing annoying issues on our target platforms: iPad memory leaks, audio engine crashes in the PC build, UI glitches, and other soul-crushing but vital stuff.

This weekend, we’re jamming on the last of the “overlays” (the images that appear when you show the book to the game), bringing us ever closer to final content lockdown. There’s still some music, a few KRIS conversations, some editing and rewrites, and a few other things here and there to go, but we’re getting really close, which feels great after all this time.

Release Plans

The digital Concordance will go live on our website and the iOS app store by December 15th, which is mandated by our declining AR software. The printed Compendium is expected to be at our distributor a few weeks later, in early January. All the Kickstarter and Backerkit pre-orders will be the first things shipped, and then the book will go on sale to the general public.

So effectively the full game will be available in mid-December, but you won’t be able to complete the experience until mid-January, when the book is finally available.

Of course, if you want to play even earlier…

Beta Testing

We’ll be sending out a link later this week with instructions for participating in the beta. Stay tuned!


Thanks as always for your support. Happy Halloween, and talk soon!

September update

Hi, backers! Aaron here with a quick update to let you know where things are at with the Ice-Bound book and game.

Printing Troubles

In our last update, we talked about getting the first two of three book proofs, to sign off on the page cropping and book material, respectively. We were awaiting the third proof, which would show us the final printing process. Unfortunately, the story since then has not gone as smoothly.

To make a long story short, after several rounds of proofs we’re still seeing more glare on the pages than we’d like. As you recall, minimizing glare is one of the key tricks that allows the game to consistently recognize pages from the book, and one of the reasons we went to Kickstarter in the first place as opposed to a print-on-demand service. Unfortunately, there’s still a gap between our initial understanding of what our printer would be able to deliver and the proofs we’ve seen so far.

We’re pursuing several avenues for addressing this problem, but the long and short of it is that the game has to come out before the end of the year, for multiple reasons, not the least of which is our commitment to you, the backers. So one way or another, the books will be printed soon. We’ll keep you posted.

Game Progress

The game itself has made incredible progress. Except for a couple bits and pieces, all the writing and story content is now in place (although knowing us, rewrites and editing will continue up until the moment we release). The game is fully playable from beginning to end within our test framework. Our focus this week is getting the builds for iPad and PC up and running again, in preparation for a formal beta test starting next week. This is a big milestone to get to, and if you’re interested in taking part, stay tuned… we’ll send out more details soon.

Other News

Aaron will be speaking about Ice-Bound and the future of interactive narrative at Indie Game Con this weekend in Eugene, Oregon. If you’re in the Pacific Northwest, come check it out!

Sorry for the short update, but we’re working really hard to get all the pieces in place. Thanks as always for being part of our journey, and more news when we have it!

Compendium Proofs!

We arrived home a few days ago to discover a package from halfway around the world with the first two proofs for the Ice-Bound Compendium!

The first item inside is something called an “ozalid,” a bulky book of hand-folded page sheets, printed in a very light draft quality, but with interior pages cropped the way the final book will be.


The quality of the printing is very rough (you can’t really tell from these pictures, other than the image looking a bit washed out) but the point of this proof is to verify the page order, and that the cropping isn’t cutting off anything it shouldn’t or exposing areas without the proper page bleed. We paged through this very carefully: so far, so good!

The second proof is weirder…


Printing error? Nope– the point of this curious artifact is to verify the page stock and book binding is to our satisfaction. This is the actual paper, at the correct dimensions, with the same number of pages and cover stock as our final book. So we now know the exact heft the final Compendium will feel like held in our hands! (More importantly, the book lays flat, which will help when showing pages especially for the iPad version of the game, and the page stock looks appropriately non-reflective, which will also help the camera recognize its images.)

We’re expecting one final set of proofs– the “wet proof,” which will be big uncut sheets printed with the actual ink and process of the final book, that we’ll use to verify the color and ink looks the way we want. Once we’ve signed off on that, the printer will be ready to do the job, and print 2,000 copies of our book (!!)

Game Progress

We’ve made some great progress on the game in the last few weeks:

  • Some of the final code structures, for balancing pacing of plot point revelations across a playthrough, are now in place. This was tricky because we want the player to be able to uncover certain revelations at their own pace, but we also want the story to push itself along if the player’s gone too long without discovering anything major. The infrastructure for this is now in place, although it will almost certainly require tuning once we enter beta.
  • We’ve signed off on drafts of a couple more levels, leaving only the last few chapters to wrangle into place. We’re pretty happy with how these are turning out…
  • All told, we’re a few weeks away from having a completely playable version of the entire game, from beginning to end. A lot of the text still needs revision, and there are many known (and assuredly many unknown) bugs to catch and fix, but this is an exciting step.
  • The final level, which has significant (spoilery!) special-case visuals and code, is getting closer to completion: it now functions the way we want, and is close to looking visually how we want.
  • We’ve also collected a lot of great input from Kickstarter backers at the “Author Explorer” and “Legendary Author Explorer” levels, whose rewards included a chance to contribute some story content. (If you pledged at one of these levels and haven’t heard from us about this, please let us know!)

Other News

  • We had a great time being part of the online-only Indie Revolution Expo last month, and apparently they enjoyed our company, too: they gave us an award for “Most Innovative Mechanic!” (Thanks, IRX!)
  • We’ve forgotten to mention this here, but Aaron’s other game came out earlier this year: Hollywood Visionary, a “choose your own adventure” style game from Choice of Games. This was largely written the summer before our Ice-Bound Kickstarter, and polished up and completed in the early months of the year. It’s about as different from Ice-Bound on some levels as you could imagine, but if you’re interested in more interactive text from Aaron, check it out: you can play the first part free online, or get the whole game from the Steam, Apple, Android, Kindle, or Chrome web stores.

All right, time to get back to work. Thanks for reading and take care!