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.

Cryptozookeeper: For Sale
Aug 20th, 2011 by Ice Cream Jonsey

Please buy my wares.

I know that many people who get the Planet IF feed are probably already aware that I am selling the two-disc Cryptozookeeper pack on my webpage. You can buy it by clicking here, then clicking the “Buy Now” button and letting the magic happen from there. (If you want it, but find Paypal to be an invention of the devil, just send me an e-mail and we’ll get you set up for a check. My experiences with Paypal have been pleasant and professional. Not an invention of the devil at all.) So I am just going to make this announcement and then stop cramming my greasy, palm-open nattering into the Planet IF feed.

What can I tell you about the packs? Well, I shot a promotional picture of them with an okapi. The okapi was the symbol of the now-defunct International Society of Cryptozoology. I suspect it was picked because it’s an enormous, “Ha ha!” to the doubters, to the haters. People thought the descriptions of the okapi was BS, but then the proper people found it.

(A lot of people have expressed interest in the plush okapi. Someone is going to make a lot of money if they can figure out a way to get a stuffed okapi to bleat Zork at you. “A large platinum baaaaahr baaaaaahr” — wait, that’s a goat.)

With that in mind, Clint Hoagland is the mastermind behind the electronica band Bachelor Machines. I met him through the web forum Caltrops. Clint posts music tracks every few months that just blow me away. Caltrops is pretty tame these days, but it used to be a place where we would routinely say awful things to each other. Clint would then post songs that — to me — became the beautiful soundtrack to a nasty virtual world.

(Bachelor Machines released an album called A House Is A Machine For Living, and you can buy it in digital or physical form here.)

I spent a lot of time listening to hundreds of hours of Creative Commons-licensed music in order to get a soundtrack I was happy with for the game. Due to the logistics involved, the CD is just the work of Clint, with a remix of a Bachelor Machines song from DJ Beatloaf.

The main character of the game, William Vest, was played by actor Gerrit Hamilton. There’s no way to know what Gerrit sounds like just by playing the game, but I can link you to some shorts he’s been involved with that are on Youtube. All of them are funny, and none of them more than a few minutes in length. The first is The Pillow Case, which was made for the 48 Hour Film Project in 2007. He was also part of FREE BAT DAY with many of the same cast and crew.

Jon Blask played Grimloft, and he is a text adventure author himself. Here is a page that acts as a portal to discovering and experiencing his work.

Back to the DVD release, the art is included in a separate .rar file as well. I ended up taking two trips into New Mexico. The second time, I realized I had no photographs of adobes. With my +3 boots of trespassing, I got some shots of people’s homes in adobe form all right. Where I was previously using my friend’s haunted house for locales, I was able to go into a bit more depth thanks to being kidnapped by my girlfriend Melissa and taken to Taos without advance knowledge by my girlfriend. She is amazingly supportive.

(However, I don’t use the term “interactive fiction” or “IF” around her. I’d just been calling them text games. Fast-forward to earlier this week: Melissa and I had dinner with Paul O’Brian, Adam Cadre and Elizabeth Sweeney — Elizabeth is doing her dissertation on interactive fiction, a fact I did not know. When the subject came up, she said something to the effect of, “Well, this is one group that I don’t need to define IF for!” A term Mel has never heard, natch. I got Melissa on the same page as everyone, although after dinner she told me that before I cut in and explained it, the only thing she could think those initials could have stood for was in-vitro fertilization.

There is one more person I gotta thank. My good friend Steve (“Aardvark” on the JC forum) made the sea monkey coupon up top. I opened my mail yesterday, found the personal check he sent and was greeted by that thing. He took the time to scan in and Photoshop what I think we can all agree was the greatest comic book ad ever (sorry x-ray specs; it was a loaded century) into a really hilarious piece of mail. Vark plays a character you see halfway through the game and while I tried to make his fate funny, I’m gonna be honest here. It’s not going to be on the level of a surprise reworked sea monkeys ad.

I still think the pack is a lot of fun, and please feel free to purchase one from the site at any time.

Know Your Cryptids #1: Mutant Pigmen
Feb 26th, 2011 by bruce

So, this morning, I got an email with the subject line “Mutant Pigmen”. Now, since I just found out that the GaryCon event schedule had been published, and that I am actually running a session of “Bring Me The Head Of Frank Sinatra!”, I assumed that it was someone who had read my One Page Dungeon Contest entry–which was later published in Fight On! magazine — and was telling me that they were registering for it.
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