Mar 10th, 2012 by Ice Cream Jonsey

My game Cryptozookeeper won some awards last weekend. There were many categories — you can see the list of winners here, the transcript of the on-line ceremony here, and the list of nominees here.

With the XYZZY Awards, I closed a chapter of my life. It took five years to make the game, and it’s been 9 months since I released it. In all that time, for every semi-exotic animal I encountered, my first thoughts were “Can I get a picture?” and “What cryptid would it make if crossed with MAN?” It’s different now. I jogged by the Denver Zoo with my girlfriend the other night. (Well, we weren’t what you would call extremely close, but elephants carry a scent that make the entire world seem tightly packed.) It was just a jog. There weren’t any thoughts of getting a ladder to scale the fence and a gas mask to snap some pics for the game.

In the aftermath, I realize I really left some things by the wayside. My house is a mess. A raccoon ate my chimney two years ago and I haven’t put the new panels I painted up. The sunflowers depicted in this Caltrops thread basically took over my entire back yard in the summers that followed. I have to clean that area up. I have dear friends I haven’t called on the phone to chat with, family members I haven’t been in proper contact with, and someone said something about a black President??

I’ve tried to thank everyone a zillion times since I put this game out there. But I wanted there to be one last spot where I did so. Gerrit, who played Vest, was the first guy I involved in the production: he sent me source pictures according to the snippets of plot I gave him over the course of three or four years. He kept the same purple shirt and his beard the same length to make it easy for me to digitally-manipulate him into New Mexico. There was something inspiring about another round of source pics. There were very few actual pictures of the player character in Fallacy of Dawn — mostly because my brother had aged 10 years from the main head shot I used. But there’s lots of Gerrit in this, and I think it makes the attempt at storytelling more complete.

Jonathan Blask’s scenes were shot in a hotel room in Las Vegas, during the 2007 Classic Gaming Expo. I remember that text game folks Nick Montfort, Adam Thornton and Jason Scott were around for this. Jason generously let me borrow his camera, which was clutch because half of the shots I took of Jon with my camera were blurry and unusable. Adam was also great sport, being OK with getting divided him in half, in Photoshop, to exteeeeeeeend him and create a giant mass of a man in Igor Cytserz.

I knew a couple things that would happen when I asked Alex to play Lebbeus: I knew he would knock it out of the park, and I knew it might take a year or two for him to get me the source shots. Both were right! I had no idea that in making this game he would introduce me to my dear friend Jennifer, who played Bleem in the house party scene. I met them both in Edinburgh three years ago, and the friendships that this silly little sci-fi game inspired will always be the thing I treasure most.

Clint Hoagland was incredibly generous to offer up his music to me. Clint and knew each other through Caltrops and I find him to be a kindred soul — I think, in another lifetime, under different circumstances, we would both be pursuing our creative passions full-time, but instead we’re, ah, in IT. I must have listened to his wonderful songs a thousand times each while making the game, and in putting that link in this article, I played Everything Seems Perfect one more time.

I will always be grateful to Dayna for putting up with me during the first few years of work on this game. I know I didn’t make it easy. She also introduced me to Alana, who played Jane — I knew I needed one genuinely nice character in the game, and Alana just has this sweetness about her that shines through. She’s adjusting the mannequin’s tie on the back of the DVD box, and I think that little black and white shot captures what a thoughtful person she is.

Greg, Lysander, Worm and hygraed from this website’s forum tested Crypto over and over again in the first couple of years, and Jon Blask, Marius, Michael, Johnny and Flack gave me tons of feedback to allow me to actually get it out the door. They found so many amazing things — when Deanna reacts to Grimloft in the end game? That was because Michael noted it in his transcripts. (Michael’s transcripts, in particular, were a delight to read, just filled with advice, questions he forced me to think about and more than a couple plot holes I was able to solve.) I was also greatly aided by people who only had a chance to run through parts of the game for a little bit: to Bananadine, Last, Juhana, Pinner, Brian, Sorrel, Zseni and Mike Sousa — I owe you all a debt.

(Oh, and Tdarcos as well, of course! The word “humbled” can also apply to his experiences with the game. Needless to say, I will be considering players that are new to text adventures in a way I didn’t when I started Crypto.)

I had blogged before about how my friend Randy is responsible for the game looking like it does — he runs a haunted house – but I didn’t get a chance to mention that we also got together with our friend Dusty and put him in some old robes to “be” Ukilicoz. I am blessed to have so many friends like Sarge, Vark, Worm and Pinner show trust in me that I would make them look good in my text game.

Lastly, my girlfriend has been wonderful throughout this (waves hands) all of this. I took her to see Get Lamp, and she has met some of my friends that I’ve met through interactive fiction enthusiasm, but this is… this is a bit of an esoteric hobby that so many of us are into. I don’t have a good answer as to why I’m not just trying to write a book, except for the fact that I feel so strongly for IF. She’s been amazing.

That so many people enjoyed the game I worked on means the world to me, and all I can say is that you have my promise that I’ll throw as much blood into the ones in the future as I did this one. Thank you. I remain humbled.

The Games Are Here! Announcing The 2012 HugoComp
Jan 4th, 2012 by Ice Cream Jonsey

Welcome! The games are released! Here is everything you need to know for getting the 2012 Hugo MiniComp games.

UPDATE! What the %!$# is this but more games? See below for the two other additions!

Hugo is a language you can use to make text adventures. Hugo games work on Windows, Linux and Mac OS X. You just need to get the right interpreter. We are recommending the interpreter Hugor to play Hugo games. If you don’t have a Hugo interpreter, just click that link to download one for Windows, Linux or Mac OS X!

Here are the games for the Hugo MiniComp. Click each title to download the games individually.

Party Arty, Man of La Munchies by Jonathan Blask
World Builder by Paul Lee
The Hugo Clock by Jason McWright
Spinning by Rob O’Hara
Tales of a Clockwork Boy by Marius Müller
Retro-Nemesis by Robb Sherwin

And a game called Teleporter Test by Paul Robinson that introduces teleportation to Hugo players everywhere! Screw you, Cardinal Directions!

Perhaps you are on Windows and would like the Hugor interpreter and all the games packaged together? Download this.

If you’d like to make your own games in Hugo, there is a forum on Jolt Country where Hugonauts will be happy to answer questions and provide help. There is also a wiki called Hugo by Example that has lots of examples of Hugo code.

If you enjoyed these Hugo games and would like to play more, the Interactive Fiction Database is a great place to look. Click here for all listed Hugo games.

Thanks for playing the games!

The Hugo MiniComp
Dec 22nd, 2011 by Ice Cream Jonsey

Welcome to the upcoming Hugo MiniComp! What is Hugo? Hugo is a language by Kent Tessman for creating text-based video games.

Roody Yogurt had this to say in the original announcement of the comp:

2011 saw the Hugo release of Robb Sherwin’s Cryptozookeeper, one of the largest multimedia-enhanced IF games ever. That alone makes it a good year for Hugo, as we Hugo users are few. A handful of us thought we’d end the year on a good note and challenge ourselves to a SpeedIF. Schedule-fitting and unexpected interest from some non-Hugo-savvy authors have turned that idea into an altogether different thing, though.

Now, we christen that thing, “The Hugo ‘Open House’ Competition.” The rules:

– Games can be any size and can even be a work already in progress.
– Games are due the morning of December 31st. The entrant is then free to (and somewhat expected to) celebrate the transition into the new year heartily.
– Waiting until the last week (or day) even and writing a classic-SpeedIF-sized game is viable (we made the coding-time intentionally vague so newcomers can as much time as they want acquainting themselves).
– Links to games can either be posted here or at the joltcountry forum. If you don’t have any place to upload your game, e-mail your entry to roodyyogurt at gmail.

Games will not be ranked. There will not be prizes other than acceptance into a small yet tightknit group of IF enthusiasts.

People new to Hugo may want to look at Hugo by Example’s “Getting Started” page.

Questions about Hugo coding can, of course, be answered on this forum in the “Other Development Systems” base or at the Hugo base at

Good luck!

I know one game is finished and I am going to try to finish mine tomorrow. We’re going to have the games available by December 31st. Won’t you join us?

The Last Cryptid
May 26th, 2011 by Ice Cream Jonsey

The first cryptid was a Big Foot costume.

My good friends Randy, Dusty and I shot a black and white video of Big Foot wandering, as he is wont to do, across the suburbs south of Denver. It was hot, stifling and dark inside the suit, and I don’t recommend getting into one for the pleasurable experience you anticipate wearing such a costume providing. There is no pleasure to be found in there.

I am not complaining, as that day I was among friends, and more, friends who agreed to play the part of characters in what is a somewhat marginalized entertainment genre. These are the best kind of friends you can have, and I recommend them highly if you ever want to get into this sort of thing. I’d like to say that I re-shot all of Randy’s scenes when he lost like 200 pounds after lapband surgery. I’d like to say a lot of things about this game that I am unable to, however. Randy snapped off a few photos during my time in the suit which eventually made their way into Cryptozookeeper. I played a dead body in Fallacy of Dawn, but otherwise, this marks the first time I was at all involved with depicting a character in one of my wares that had some noticeable effect on the plot.

I suppose if you were to rank the cryptids of the world in some sort of order according to how famous they are, you could do a lot worse than state that the “big three” are Big Foot, the Loch Ness Monster and the fur-bearing trout. I gave myself a heat swirlie for the first, traveled to Scotland and caught the Nessie exhibit while over there for the second, and thought there should be something special for the third.

“Special” ended up meaning “waiting until the very, very end of development,” but I was waiting for the perfect Source Trout. I thought I would find a river out here in Colorado and fish the thing, and get myself a proper trout with which to use as a base for the crown prince of cryptozoology. I didn’t have to, though, as Safeway had trouts with their ghastly fucking heads still attached a couple months ago. I went in looking for cat litter and a Reese’s, but I left with so much more. I chucked the trout in the freezer (and the Reese’s, now that I think about it) and you’re not going to believe this, but I was able to cut off as much white cat hair as I needed for the final product. I had three major colors to pick from, but trust me, after a rigorous programme of consumer testing, white looked best. Let’s bring it in and go behind the scenes for a moment:

After trying for three or four minutes to shoo Frobozz up there away, to get the proper lighting and to set my digital camera so the photo would be perfect, I switched the camera over to “auto” and did all the real work to make the fur-bearing trout presentable in-game via Photoshop. The fur-bearing trout was finally complete, and is one of over 60 cryptids you can create in Cryptozookeeper, and among the over 200 creatures you can encounter overall. Steps were taken at the deadline to ensure that the trout kicks a bunch of ass in spite of his visible stats, and I hope that it brings you as much delight in the game as the trout I — according to the racket upstairs – believe I left out is currently giving my cats out of the game.

Cryptozookeeper drops May 30th and I promise this will be the last post I make on my blog until then, when I present a download link.

Actors in Text Games, Part One
Jun 24th, 2008 by Ice Cream Jonsey

When I made A Crimson Spring, I was learning a new IF programming language, drawing comic book-style art after a lengthy layoff, getting music integrated, and displaying graphics. I didn’t have nearly enough time to get all that stuff presented professionally before the 2000 Competition deadline.

So when it was time to make the next game, I decided to use actors and eliminate music. I had learned how to use Photoshop a few years earlier when I was working as a printer driver tester at Xerox. I was just basically hitting a print icon over and over, so there was, ah, a lot of downtime.  I knew I wanted the graphics to reflect the distorted reality of the protagonist (Delarion Yar, in the game Fallacy of Dawn) and the effects that Photoshop came with were pretty good for this goal.

I did not have a digital camera in 2000. I bought a scanner for A Crimson Spring and that was the extent of how futuristic I felt like getting, so for FoD, I just used a regular 35mm camera for photos. It was about December of 2000 when I started taking pictures, and it was snowing, so that is why Fallacy of Dawn is set in the winter. (The game’s design doc says that it takes place on December 26th, 2014, a Friday. I think I picked that day and then forgot about it while developing, since nobody asks anyone else what they got for Christmas. Presumably because nobody cares enough to give presents? An unintended side effect of a dystopian future!)

But I also needed someone to play Delarion, someone who I saw all the time and who would put up with the enormous hassle of being told things like, “wear this shirt and sometimes hold a fake, orange gun up to the camera.” This person became my brother Michael, since I was living with him at the time in Fort Collins.

It actually annoyed the hell out of him, too. But he was also very, very patient with me, and very forgiving. The shirt I used was a Cafe Press-printed, long-sleeved shirt with an “Old Man Murray” logo on the front. The cut of the thing is just crazy, quite billowy, and it really does seem more like pajamas than anything else. To this day I am not 100% certain that my brother knows what the game was about. But with someone you are very familiar with, it’s pretty easy to set up scenes and go on location and get the shots you need.

I also enlisted the help of several friends that dropped by our townhouse. It has been my experience that people are glad to help you the first time you ask them to act in a video game, the trick is to just not make it take multiple sessions, where you are dragging them back and making the process tedious. This is somewhat problematic due to how I put together the plot for my games – I essentially have an outline of the various scenes, and the bare minimum of what needs to be said or communicated to advance the plot. I leave myself a lot of room for how the scene develops, because I can’t stand looking at a batch of strict requirements and then having to creatively write to it. So with IF, I just jot stuff down like, “at the end, the player must have a piece of paper that says THIS IS A CLUE.” I try to develop a couple ways (at least for my current work-in-progress) for the player to arrive there. Of course, I find that 90% choose the same way when there are options, but what the heck.

Anyway, this does sort of leave game photos and the state of the plot at odds. It’s difficult to tell a potential actor that you want them to investigate a dead body in a very specific way, weep openly at someone very close to the PC dying, and to then eat some Ice Cream Cones cereal… when the programmer only has “FRIEND DIES, FUNERAL IS ONE WHERE YOU EAT AT” written down in his design document. Oh, and the friend hasn’t been cast yet.

So I try to take lots of shots of locations – those are easy to get, easy to manipulate, and you do not have to worry about someone looking fat when it’s just a brick wall with a mud splatter on it.  There is also a fine tradition of first person shooters giving you a first-person perspective of the action.

I have many more friends that live outside of Colorado than within, so this also has me writing text files for potential actors and actresses, with the best approximation of scene descriptions at a given time. The longer I wait to send those out, the more in-step the pictures are with the game, but when I close out a given room, I like to have the pictures completely taken care of. I find that my memory gets poor the longer I am away from a room or scene, so I am somewhat reluctant to go back and integrate a late batch of pics. It’s a juggling act, I guess.

I did finally get a digital camera. Well, Dayna has one, so I just borrow hers. It’s nice, it shoots up to something like 2,000 pixels by 2,000 pixels. While I eventually bring the graphics down to a 600 pixel-wide rectangle, I need a lot of source material to get the effects right. But while in Vegas last year I had a chance to take some photos with Jason Scott’s freaking uber-camera, while shooting Jon Blask for the next game. That was an absolutely amazing piece of modern technology. The difference between our Canon A60 and that was much more dramatic than I had thought. Which is a bit unfortunate, as I really, truly do not need to add photography to the list of hobbies and interests I have going. I totally can’t EVEN afford to, and I am sure I will convince myself that it’s “just one camera, that’s just one thing!!” before I tackle the next graphical adventure, because I have unbelievably poor impulse control and a crippling case of the gimmie-gimmies.

OK, for part two I will try to link some specifics between what I scribbled down in a game’s design doc, and the actual photo taken.  

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