One of the Bruces, he of Sins
Against Mimesis and Stiffy Makane: The Undiscovered Country
recently took the time to sit down and discuss text adventures with us. This was our first
interview in almost four years, so please cut your humble interviewer some slack here.
Unless you're a Rings fanboy, in which case the guy you want to go after is Bryan.
1. So how did you get interested in interactive fiction?
I played ADVENT on the PDP-11 at the automobile dealership my dad worked at when I was very young and impressionable, in something like 1979. After that it was a slippery slope of Adventure and Zork and the Infocom catalogue and writing BASIC adventures on the Apple II. And then somewhere in college I found AGT and registered TADS 2.0, and then Inform came out, and....
2. The Usenet newsgroup rec.arts.int-fiction is pretty much a wasteland where idiots, trolls and real gronks rule the day. With the state of text adventures the way they are presently, does it even matter?
Yes. Those people piss me off nearly as much as dragons do. I don't see what either Magnus or Emily did to deserve so much spleen vented in their direction. The recent influx into raif reminds me of nothing so much as a burst pipe in the inflow end of a sewage treatment plant, only not so well-mannered. But I'm pretty soured on the raif scene anyway, because I'm still bitter about last year's IntroComp.
3. Looking through your author history at Baf's, much your attributed work seems to be extensions of other text adventures. Have you been "itchin'" to get back to writing an all-new, all-different text adventure or do you suspect that your further releases will contain that element of parody?
Well, I have a few rooms of an actual original game, "Flathead" in my virtual desk drawer. Unfortunately, it's really whiny and not very good. It's the game I started as self-therapy after a really bad breakup, and, wow, does it ever show. Fundamentally, I don't have a whole lot of creativity; I'm good at synthesis--at pulling together a bunch of apparently-unrelated things--and therefore parody comes much
more easily to me.
4. How would you define the "magic" of Stiffy Makane: The Undiscovered Country?
Two words: "antler job".
5. Did you contact Mark Ryan at all regarding the new game in the Stiffy Universe? If so, how did he react?
He contacted me. He's a little perplexed and kind of annoyed that his 14-year-old self continues to get him in trouble. Turns out he's a grad student in classics at Rutgers now. He *was* amused by "Mentula
Macanus: Apocolocyntosis" but declined to beta-test it.
6. Any plans to enter the annual IF Comp again? Do you get any joy at all out of playing the games, or is yours more a joyless, unhappy existence devoid of such trivial earthly emotions?
Oh, that second thing, definitely. I now have a day job that really doesn't allow me to take 100 hours over the course of several weeks to play a bunch of games, at least half of which are going to be "A Hunger Daemon In My Dorm Room, With Bonus Antic Misspellings." And I just don't see myself producing a competition-ready game any time soon. Besides, IF Comps have left a bad taste in my mouth ever since I was disqualified for the IntroComp after a whole bunch of Atari enthusiasts, who couldn't care less about IF, voted for me and no one else, and the judges decided that was ballot-box stuffing. In short, fuck it, I'll go play with my *real* friends. The Stella mailing list is actually full of helpful friendly people who care about the system they develop for, and aren't a bunch of nutlumps and assjacks.
7. Men send us secrets. One such secret is that you are a rabid retro gamer. With that in mind, who would you have rather gone to the prom with: Daphne from "Dragon's Lair" or Kimberly from "Space Ace"?
Kimberly. I've got a thing for redheads. A blowjob from Kimberly out behind the gym after splitting a bottle of cheap champagne after ducking out of the prom would have been, well, at least as much fun as I ever actually had in high school.
8. What's the most gratifying experience you've had relating -- even tangentially, hell, we don't mind you getting loose with the facts -- with text adventures? Has there been a bit of feedback over another that has made the experience particularly enjoyable?
Funnily enough, it has to do with the Atari 2600 Fellowship cartridge. In short, right now, not one, but TWO different cartridge manufacturers are trying to get me to sign up with them to let them produce the carts, because people actually--get THIS shit--want to PAY MONEY for the game.
9. You have constructed a text adventure for the Atari 2600 based on the first Lord of the Rings book. Oh! My! My-my! Thousands of angry fanboys are about to write us letting us know that "Fellowship" is not the first book, it's just the first part, or some such nonsense. Be honest: the fans have ruined the Lord of the Rings, haven't they? If you decide to pus out on that question, then please tell us a bit about the creation of this cartridge text adventure.
Of course. It has nothing to do with the movies, Tolkien himself referred to his fan base as "my deplorable cultists." I enjoy creepy geeky obsession as much as the next nerd, but Tolkien fans get scary in a way few other fanbases manage. Although I gotta say they don't frighten me nearly as much as anime fans or--shudder--furries. And don't get me started on Furry Anime Fans.
About the cartridge text adventure: basically, I took the Dark Mage 4K source and replaced the text and item descriptions. Then I made a few minor modifications to the engine to further the story I wanted to tell. This is all documented in the manual, which is available here.
You, Gentle Reader, will note that the interviewer bears some of the blame for this, both from a testing standpoint and for creating the box/cartridge art and manual scan.
10. Lastly, what kind of text games would you like to be playing in the future? What do you wish to see these new, to-be-developed games bring to the table?
TADS 3 has some really neat hooks for NPC knowledge bases, which might make designing interesting NPCs a lot easier; that's the main thing I'd like to see in more new games. My NPCs tend to be pretty wooden and cardboard, but maybe if it were easier to make them actually know things and have goals of their own, I'd start writing more interesting NPCs.
More generally, I've had about enough of experimental "not really a game" IF pieces. If it would work as well if it were a short story, than maybe it should *be* a short story. On the other hand, I'm not
advocating a return to plotless puzzlefests either. I thought Savior-Faire was actually a phenomenal example of the sort of game I'd like to play more of: plot, character development, and really cool, innovative, old-skool-feel but not-old-skool-implementation puzzles. I hear there's something in the works about D&D and "Duffy Blasts", called something like "Narcotic Ditch Drifter", that sounds kinda promising, and persistent rumor has it that Big Al is working on another fellatio-centric game, which will doubtless be another underrecognized satirical classic. Of course, I'd also like to see the return of Rybread Celsius; in my perfect fantasy world, he would contribute the IF adaptation of Thomas Pynchon's _Gravity's Rainbow_ and be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for so doing.
Thanks again to One of the Bruces! Props go out towards RFTK reader Freddie for his question regarding "magic."
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