Mandatory Upgrade

In the Future, Survival Depends on the Latest Updates.

New version of Mandatory Upgrade: X Marks the Spot coming soon to PC & Mac.

As mentioned earlier on the Ironic Iconic Studios website, I’ve been working on a Unity port of Mandatory Upgrade: X Marks the Spot! It’s a new version of my award-winning cyberpunk mystery game that you’ll soon be able to download and play on your very own computer. I don’t have a ton of details to give you yet, except that it will feature some updates to the design of the game and new artwork by yours truly. Indeed, you may have already noticed the sneak peek at the new art style that I’ve included at the top of this very post. I hope you like it!

Stay tuned for further announcements as I get more info to share.

X Marks the Spot Wins First Place in Game of the Year Competition

In a great start to the new year, Ironic Iconic Studios’ first game and the first product released for the Mandatory Upgrade universe, “Mandatory Upgrade – X Marks the Spot” has taken top honours at the 2nd annual Game of the Year competition. Hundreds of people voted for their favourite video game produced in Toronto and Southern Ontario and our game was fortunate enough to be voted #1 overall. This puts Mandatory Upgrade in the esteemed company of terrific games from other game devs such as DrinkBox Studios, Benjamin Rivers, and Ubisoft Toronto.

A game like this doesn’t just appear fully formed from the ether of the designer’s mind and so I’d like to take a moment to give a shout-out to the folks who helped make this happen. Firstly, my partners at One More Story Games who provided the platform to create and release great story-based games, StoryStylus. They also provided plenty of encouragement and technical support and were flexible enough to accommodate me when I started to use their game engine in strange and unexpected ways. I’d like to send props to Julia Harrison and Alistair Murphy, the artists who took my pages of descriptive text and reference material and whipped them up into a cohesive world with their gorgeous art. Also mad props to Steven G. Saunders (aka Mr Zoth and the Werespiders) who created the perfect musical accompaniment to the world of Mandatory Upgrade; a soundtrack that is evocative, moody, and fresh, all at the same time. Finally, I’d like to do a big shout-out to Pati Tozer, my editor and chief of QA who helped keep all of my mistakes in the dev room and out of the public eye, a service for which I am ever grateful.

One of the best things about contests like this is how easy it makes it to discover new games that you may not have heard of. I’ve definitely added more games to my ever-growing game queue as a result of this. And I hope that if you haven’t yet tried Mandatory Upgrade: X Marks the Spot then you may be inspired to do so now. You can play it via the One More Story Games Website.

Stay tuned for an announcement in the near future about what’s coming up next for the Mandatory Upgrade universe!

Novel Update the First

As you’re probably aware from the last post, I’m hard at work on a Mandatory Upgrade novel. I’ve sent out an update on that project to my followers on Inkshares and so I’d like to also send that update out to you. If you’d like to find out more about the Mandatory Upgrade novel, please visit the Inkshares page for my book. If you’d really like to help me out, please follow, recommend, and/or pre-order a copy of the book. Don’t forget: as mentioned in the update everyone who pre-orders the novel gets a free copy of the game and my everlasting appreciation. Without further ado, here is the update in its entirety.



First off: Thanks to everyone for your support! I couldn’t do this without you.

I’ve been delayed in getting this first update out as I’ve been busy doing some final polish on my game Mandatory Upgrade: X Marks the Spot. If you haven’t heard of it yet, it’s an interactive mystery story game set in the same world as my novel. In fact, the main character in both the game and the novel is Rachel Varley, and part of the plot for my book will be coming directly from the game. This gives you, dear reader, the unique option of experiencing Mandatory Upgrade as both a novel and as an interactive story if you so choose. Not only that, if you’ve pre-ordered a copy of my book then to show my appreciation I’m going to give you a free copy of my game. Contact me directly and I’ll send you your code for your free copy of X Marks the Spot straight away. Of course, if you play through the demo and want to buy a copy anyway, I certainly won’t complain.

Back to Mandatory Upgrade, the novel. I thought that it would be fun to talk about some of the near-future technology that will be appearing in the story. Let’s start on this update by introducing augmented clothing.

Augmented Clothing

Augmented clothing or “augwear” as it’s commonly referred to is the result of years of research and experimentation into clothing that enhances your physical abilities. Originally developed in the labs of military contractors and sports gear manufacturers, augwear has found it’s way in a lesser degree into the consumer market. Augwear uses reactive cloth that is controlled by embedded specialized computers and synchronized to the wearer’s physiology through an array of bio-sensors. The outfit’s material responds to the wearer’s movement, constricting and releasing in concert with their muscles to enhance strength and agility and create a kind of kinetic feedback loop. The easiest way to describe this is to imagine wearing a form-fitting yet flexible bodysuit and going for a brisk walk. The elastic tension of the suit gives you what feels like a slight boost to your motion. Now imagine that magnified ten times and you can start to get the idea of what wearing augwear can feel like and why it has become so popular in the future.

The augwear I’ve described would be the base model with a variety of add-ons and enhancements available for both the private consumer and the law enforcement or military professional. As you can imagine, a popular option is to add an extra layer of protection to the outfit in the form of gel-packs, padding and hard shell armour. Other options include integrated augmented reality, vehicle and drone control rigs. Video displays and cosmetic lighting effects are also popular, as well as having the capability to define touch control schemes on any part of your outfit on the fly. Why mess with digging out your cellphone when you can type up and send a quick email on a pop-up interface on your forearm?

This is just scratching the surface to give you a quick taste of the technology, but I’ll be getting into it in more depth in my story: both in outlining the capabilities of the augwear systems and the impact it has on our society. In future updates, I’ll be getting into other technologies as well. In the meantime, thanks again for your support and if you can spread the word about my book to other folks who might be interested I would appreciate it immensely. Besides, the more people we get on board with pre-orders, the greater chance that we can get this book finished and published for everyone to enjoy!

Thanks again,


Mandatory Upgrade to be Made into a Full-Length Novel

Concept art for Mandatory Upgrade cover
Concept art for Mandatory Upgrade cover

After plenty of encouragement from my manager and sig other, I’ve decided to write a novel based on my Mandatory Upgrade short fiction and game projects. This decision also happens to conveniently coincide with a contest being run on Inkshares, the book crowdfunding site, featuring the folks at Geek & Sundry, creators of buckets of geek-themed web shows. More contest details are here, if you’re interested.

The book is going to revolve around the character of Rachel Varley and her adventures with NASIA and the enigmatic Arcadia Ego. It will include some material from the short story, the Hobbyist, and my game, X Marks the Spot, but will go much further beyond that, exploring the world of Mandatory Upgrade in more detail and chronicling the events that occur after X Marks the Spot. You won’t want to miss it.

If you’d like to help me to create this book, then the best way would be to pre-order a copy of the novel through this link. Other ways would be to share the link to the book with your friends and family and to recommend Mandatory Upgrade via the Inkshares page. Please feel free to do any or all of the above and know that you have my deepest gratitude for your support.

Thanks again for your interest in Mandatory Upgrade and if you haven’t yet, sign up for the Mandatory Upgrade newsletter for project updates and possibly some tasty treats.

Novel Link:
Game Link:

New Fiction: The Hobbyist

As a follow-up to the release of our first Mandatory Upgrade themed video game “X Marks the Spot“, this week I’m posting the short story that was the inspiration for the game. The Hobbyist is a prequel to X Marks the Spot and was written as an exploration of some of the themes and technologies of the Mandatory Upgrade world and how they affect the people who inhabit it.

When it comes to role-playing games, it’s sometimes too easy to get caught up in the whiz-bang technology, or magical or otherworldly aspects of the setting and forget about the thing that really makes RPGs work: characters. I find that the best way for me personally to get a handle on a new world, fantastical or not, is to write some fiction set in that world from the point of view of those who live there everyday. The Hobbyist is the happy result of this process.

The story takes place before the events in X Marks the Spot at a time when Rachel Varley has left active service with NASIA to settle down with her partner and start a family.  As you’ll discover when reading (and from the video game, if you’ve played it), her plans don’t exactly work out the way she expected.

Whether you’ve played through X Marks the Spot or you’re new to the world of Agent Varley, you’ll be sure to enjoy this glimpse into life in the near-future world of Mandatory Upgrade.

Short story link: The Hobbyist

Video game link: Mandatory Upgrade: X Marks the Spot

X Marks the Spot Now Available on Story Worlds

Cyberpunk Thriller “X Marks the Spot” First Premium Release for Story Worlds Platform

Premium game available on innovative new platform that brings story based games to the casual gamer.

March 9, 2016 – Victoria, BC, Canada – Ironic Iconic Studios’ first game, “Mandatory Upgrade – X Marks the Spot” is an exciting new story-based game that allows the player to assume the role of a government agent investigating a death by a suit of cybernetic armor run amok. Starting today, it’s available on Facebook and the web through the Story Worlds platform.

Story Worlds was devised by One More Story Games as a way to create narrative-focused storytelling games and deliver them to a wide audience through traditional casual game platforms, such as smartphones and tablets. Ironic Iconic Studios saw Story Worlds as the perfect venue to release X Marks the Spot as the game addresses both the rising demand for story-based games while being playable within a few hours time to reflect the trend towards shorter, more compact experiences.

You’re Rachel Varley, fresh out of re-entry training and eager to get back to work as a NASIA Agent. But before you get a chance to get your feet under you, you find yourself tasked with discovering how a fellow agent managed to get carved up by a mechanized SWAT suit. Sure, everyone at the West Harbour Complex seems happy to help out and answer your questions, but you can’t forget that one or more of them may have been involved in plotting someone’s death. At least you’re not alone, you’ve got your trusty drone Osprey and your Virtual Personal Assistant, the always sassy Brigid. Will you be able to get to the heart of the mystery and still manage to escape in one piece?

Mandatory Upgrade – X Marks the Spot is now available on the Story Worlds games portal, with a free demo version available prior to full game purchase ($3.99 CAD). Play it on Facebook and the One More Story Games website. For more information, please visit

About Ironic Iconic Studios

Ironic Iconic Studios has been making games since 2003 in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Their clients include Harebrained Schemes, Tap Tap Tap, Paper Machete Games and GameHouse Canada. This is the launch of their first in-house game.

Direct Game Link: Mandatory Upgrade – X Marks the Spot

X Marks the Spot Release Date Announced – March 9th, 2016

Special Agent Rachel Varley – portrait by Julia Harrison

Good news for those who have been waiting for the launch of X Marks the Spot, the interactive cyberpunk mystery game set in the world of Mandatory Upgrade: the release date has been set for Wednesday, March 9th, 2016. That’s less than a week away!

For the last nine months, we’ve been working hard in partnership with One More Story Games to produce a game worthy of the Mandatory Upgrade name. Using their new interactive story engine StoryStylus to create the game, X Marks The Spot will be made available on mobile, Facebook, and the web through their Story Worlds platform.

In X Marks the Spot, you’re Rachel Varley, a Special Agent working for the North American Security and Intelligence Agency. Your first assignment is to solve the mystery of a gruesome death at NASIA’s West Harbour Complex. To do so, you’ll need to use all of the futuristic technology at your disposal, not to mention your own considerable wits and investigative prowess. Are you up for the challenge?

Look for Mandatory Upgrade: X Marks the Spot at Story Worlds starting on Wednesday, March 9th or watch this website for the official launch announcement.

X Marks the Spot to be released on Story Worlds in the Spring of 2016

In the next few weeks I’ll be releasing an interactive cyberpunk mystery game in partnership with One More Story Games. Using their new interactive story engine StoryStylus to create the game, X Marks The Spot will be made available on mobile, Facebook, and web platforms. X Marks the Spot is set in the world of Mandatory Upgrade, a tabletop role-playing game set on the future earth where technology has progressed in leaps and bounds and the human race is running to keep up.

The current plan is to release it in the Spring of 2016.  In the meantime, here’s a summary of the story to whet your appetite.

Special Agent Rachel Varley didn’t know what she was getting into when she rejoined the world of international intelligence & security, but she sure wasn’t expecting to be investigating a suspicious death on her first day back, and definitely not a death involving a runaway cybernetic exosuit. Will Rachel be able to get to the heart of the mystery and still manage to escape in one piece?



One More Story Games

Mandatory Upgrade Coming to Story Stylus!

We are working on our first Mandatory Upgrade Story Stylus interactive mystery! See the Story Stylus Facebook Page

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