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.

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