May 4th, 2012 by Ice Cream Jonsey

Flack and I did an episode of You Don’t Know Flack about text adventures, which you can listen to by going to this link.

When Cryptozookeeper came out, I sent a link to its page on the Internet Archive to bloggers, reviewers, journalists, my mother and others. A good number of people said, “That’s great, but can you send me the direct link?” So if you’d rather not see a whole bunch of tech and retro podcasts laid out for you… if that’s REALLY going to make the difference here, well, here is the direct link.

(The You Don’t Know Flack site is in a deep cyan though, so really, the colors between here and there won’t require you to restart your browsers so that your changes take effect next time.)

And look, here’s the thing. I just invoiced Ben Parrish for a new microphone. But even with a new microphone, there is some kind of interference on my side for this podcast. Flack did his best to overcome it, but… well, here’s how I would describe where I was when calling in:

– In Cleve Blakemore’s Fallout Survival Bunker
– On the surface of Mars
– Towards the gooey end of the ocean’s mysterious and inexplicable “Bloop”
– In the process of getting a full body scan from the TSA
– Fighting the X-Men
– Desperately trying to build a bomb that will blow up the breadbasket of the United States thanks to the treason and sedition I read from and boy FBI you’d better try to >use reason
– In a remote cabin in Belfair, Washington
– Looking for that icon that lets Atari 2600 E.T. go home
– Watching Panic Room
– In a world I never made

So, sorry for all that.

Flack had to sit on it for a while because he was waiting for technology to catch up to where it needed to be to fix the terrible sound from my point. That technology never came, but enough time passed to where Kate Upton got famous for doing the cat dance. So enjoy the future we have instead of the one we thought we wanted, Past-Me.

UPDATE: I have been told that there is a fair bit on The Bard’s Tale in this, for which I apologize. But in our defense, it’s because we were taking savage shots at The Bard’s Tale Construction Set, which has been quietly keeping to itself for 20 years, not hurting anybody. It got a job at a local library and helps under privileged kids study for their LSATs. It thought its time being a game everyone hated was well in its past, but revenge is a dish best served cold though, motherfuckers!

(I also did some segments on The Don Rogers Show, but maybe all that should be a separate post.)

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.

Interview at FWONK*
Nov 15th, 2011 by Ice Cream Jonsey

There’s an interview with me over at FWONK*, the Creative Commons-based music site that helped me get the majority of music for Cryptozookeeper in place.

You can download lots of free ambient and electronica tracks from FWONK*. For instance, I recommend:

Imploded View: An Exploded View
I Have a Box: Bunnies
Bachelor Machines: Fatal Error
Per: Ettertid

Should be another interview coming shortly, and I’ll update the site when that happens. A few other things:

Kickstarter, more like KICK ASS STARTER! Jason Scott hit $118,000 to fund three future documentaries. I assume they will be documentaries. I’m trying to elbow my way in to make TAPE a movie about one man’s timeless tale of courage and self-sacrifice as he discusses life with a giant tapeworm. I picture our protagonist grabbing a random on-looker and shouting the tale at him, Rime of the Ancient Mariner-style. The entire special effects budget will be used for when the tapeworm switches hosts at the end. Gross!

Jimmy Maher ported The King of Shreds and Patches to the Amazon Kindle. It plays pretty nicely. It’s a little slow to update the screen after you type a command, and the Kindle’s keyboard is pants, but having a small tablet play IF is sooooooo nice.

zarf and Jason Shiga just released Meanwhile for iOS devices. I read a little of this at Boston PAX, and as a hard copy, it captured the attention of everyone who picked it up. My iPhone has a splintered, slightly shattered screen, so everything I play on it comes off looking like the tortured software of a spurned lover. That won’t stop me from making Meanwhile the fairest of them all, as soon as I can remember which PC I left iTunes on.

Our very own Jon Blask has been reviewing interactive fiction in the JC forum. He revived it from a few years ago, and the thread starts to get hopping on page 2.

Lastly, Rob O’Hara released HANGAR 22 a little while ago, and I don’t think it got the attention it deserves. It is a fun little romp, maybe an hour’s worth of gameplay. Rob is a great, witty writer. Play it on-line here.

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.

This Post Does Nothing But Get You An Icon File.
Aug 2nd, 2011 by Ice Cream Jonsey

Jon Blask, who was wonderful playing the part of Grimloft in Cryptozookeeper, very nicely provided me with an icon file for the game. You can download it here, (please right-click and download) and then use your favorite Internet Search Engine to figure out how to make it appear as an icon to Crypto instead of whatever the default icon is. I will now tell a story.

There are things that are recognized on the Internet as being cryptids of note, and there’s trash like the hand spider. I can say with complete confidence that I wasn’t aware of any particular example of them when I decided to put one in my game. I just… I knew there was gonna be human DNA, and I knew there was gonna be spider DNA. When you combine the two, you really get a licensed Marvel Comics character with more than 40 years of backstory, storylines and history, all of which they tossed in the shitter to make the execrable third film. I felt that putting such a character in my game might be a bit “off-limits” in the current entertainment climate. Thus a hand spider. I see now that there are a few other examples through Google Image Search of people riffing on the same idea.

I think the biggest fake creature involving spiders that people can just use without getting their ass in a sling of litigation is that of the camel spider. The camel spider is supposed to be inspired by a real thing, Solifugae, and the Solifugae has a website — You’ll note that the opening page says Welcome to our website. This is because spiders of all forms are sentient, evil little pits that should never be trusted. Even if their websites look like they are either from the late 1990s or a typical state-of-the-art FM radio station.

The thing is, you don’t need much source material to fake a spider story. They all look like they’ve just arrived fresh from galactic slaving schooners, so they don’t become any more terrifying if you introduce the “giant” spider or whatever. You can’t multiply great evil by great evil and get something useful, which is why Lewis Carroll was such a poor suspect for Jack the Ripper.

I have an update coming soon about a limited-edition hard copy pack. It’s not limited edition because I am trying to play games with people, it’s limited edition because I am afraid I’ll lose my ass, financially, and I want to minimize the damage. More on that by the end of the week.

OK, I guess this post did something else than get you an icon file, but the ico file is the real star here, and I think you will agree. Here’s the link to Cryptozookeeper, hosted on if you’d like the entire game.

The 2011 IntroComp is on!
Jul 2nd, 2011 by Ice Cream Jonsey

Last year, I entered the IntroComp, which is a yearly competition that encourages authors to submit the intro of their in-progress text adventure. I took second place, but I also finished Cryptozookeeper before the year was up, so I won the second place money. (You only win a cash prize if you finish your game within a year.)

Adam Thornton was the first person to finish the programming of an IntroComp game within the year time frame. He had the bad luck to do it before money was involved though. Other games, like Jimmy Maher’s The King of Shreds and Patches, have turned from IntroComp tadpole into pretty badass poison-arrow frogs, taking a bit more time to do so. (I did get a chance to play Adam’s game on a real Atari 2600 when I visited him last year. Playing a homebrew 2600 game or alternatively, hearing David Crane speak makes me want to drop everything and make a 2600 game myself, but then I remember that I’d rather count a long life of dead brides than cycles.)

Stephen Bond wrote a post a few years ago asking why someone would choose to submit to a competition where
he felt an author’s drive to finish the work would decrease after the public showing. I personally found the whole experience invigorating. I was about four years in at that point, and just getting some comments from an audience was exhilarating. I get that there’s not as much development history to a lot of these games, of course. I also agree that there’s a real danger in asking people to replay the beginning of your game. When the demo to Diablo came out, I played it straight through to completion. I think there was only an hour or two of gameplay there, and it was 1996 or 1997 and I couldn’t program very well and… well… look, I had a lot of extra time on my hands back then, you fiends. Anyway, I never went back to the game because while I loved the demo, I didn’t want to have to retrace steps. That’s a possibility for my work as well, but having played the start of Cryptozookeeper around a thousand times, I can state quite categorically that it can be completed quickly when you’ve done it before. Unlike bringing down The Butcher, natch.

But I think in the end, with all the reviews and comments that the competition generates, the IntroComp gives you a bit of a support group when you find yourself in the endless, samey nights that you sign up for when making a text game. It’s better in 2011: we have conventions, meet-ups, conferences — some of which even without dickwolves. But it’s still a lonely process that occasionally benefits from some feedback.

Enjoy the games, everyone.

(Lastly, according to the Internet Archive, my game has been downloaded exactly 1,000 times. At a commitment of well over 500MB a pop, I’m thrilled with that number in five weeks.)

Cryptozookeeper at the OVGE
Jun 21st, 2011 by Ice Cream Jonsey

I had a chance to demo Cryptozookeeper at the Oklahoma Video Game Expo over the weekend. It was really inspiring to see person after person, and kid after kid walk up to the six computers Rob O’Hara, Jeff Martin and Brian Green had going. A Commodore 64 playing Scott Adams’s Hulk game next to an Apple II with Oo-Topos and so forth. Outstanding.

I wrote a blog post detailing my full experience with the expo, with photos over here on Caltrops.

Rob O’Hara did the same here on his site.

Rob and I got our games (he released HANGAR 22 for the show) into a lot of people’s hands, and I look forward to the show taking place in 2012! (NOTE, I shall include a link to where you can get/play HANGAR 22 as quickly as possible.)

[New Game] Cryptozookeeper
May 27th, 2011 by Ice Cream Jonsey

Cryptozookeeper is finished. Download it through the Internet Archive here.

All of the other info I have on the game is at, which actually re-directs back to this blog.

It’s been a long time in the making, and there’s a host of people I’d like to thank, but I did so in the actual game. That being said, Kent Tessman, who wrote the programming language Hugo that I developed in, just released a piece of screenwriting software called Fade In Pro, and I would be remiss if I didn’t make things weird and uncomfortable for everyone involved by telling him how much I like all his software.

All right, I’m going to find the city’s biggest strip steak and put it where it belongs.

— Robb

Haunted Houses, Haunted Dreams
May 27th, 2011 by Ice Cream Jonsey

The setting I usually write is most easily described as the near future. In 1999, when I wrote Chicks Dig Jerks, I set it in 2014 – a decade and a half away. Cryptozookeeper is set in 2015, which is just four. I’d love to be able to pick a real-world location in the current date and speak to it with passion, color and intelligence, but I am bad with directions and wholly ignorant of local history. There’s a statue of a blue Bronco with bright red eyes before the Denver International Airport. They make beer in Golden. When it comes to my ability to spin yarns about the state in which I live, I think we’re caught up!

So I am quite fortunate to know a guy who makes an almost completely new haunted house each year.

In case you’ve no idea what a ‘haunted house,’ as a business is, let me explain – starting toward the end of September, and all through October, there are a number of small business owners that are in the business … of horror! They find a piece of property. They obtain some volunteers. They modify the buildings and land on this property to be spooky. Perhaps they have a particularly terrifying theme, like “The Land of the Dead” or “The Corpse Locker” or “Trapped On A Bus With The Writing of Bethlehem Shoals.” When the haunted house (and “house” is really a generic term here) is ready, they charge customers a bunch of money to walk through. What you get for your money is employees jumping out of the shadows and yelling, “agggh!”, sure, but on some of the better ones I’ll admit I’ve been a bit taken with the scenery, the crisp autumn weather and the palpatable passion on display. There’s a sick creativity among the individuals in the medium that’s very alluring.

My pal Randy, as mentioned in the previous entry, has put together a haunted house near Denver for each of the last four years.

He has also generously allowed me to tour and take photos at night, before his business went “live.” This is gold to me, for the games I make. I place a graphics window in my games to show the player where they are, so having these unique locations as a backdrop is just awesome. Touring real cities and photographing them for a game is a colossal pain because people leave their cars parked on the side of the street. I’d rather code a wet trough of Dutch adverbs than a bunch of automobiles, especially cars uninvolved in the plot. (Plus, the “missions” in any given Grand Theft Auto game might be designed by feebleminded bores, but they dominate everything regarding breaking into cars in a computer game conceptually. Let’s allow them to own this and think more of them for it; they do good work there.) Fake towns created to see the effects of nuclear weapons during the Cold War seem a little creepy. Wandering around some of the villages Randy has made is the closest I’ve experienced to that.

In this way, our crazy nature benefits each other. Because he has to tear down his haunt each year, it’s almost as if there’s a bit of performance art to them that slips into the ether come November — when the season is over and the walls, props, mannequins and fake pig organs have been packed away, his art is gone forever. (Especially since he has too much buzzing about in his brain to simply replicate what he’s already done.) His constructs live on in the games I make, and my work wouldn’t look half as interesting if the scenery was mostly made up of bad daylight shots of sunny Fort Collins and bums sleeping on parked Civics and Escorts.

I’ll include a few pictures I took of Randy’s haunts over the years after a MORE jump. I don’t want to spoil anyone’s breakfast who might be reading this at Planet IF. (I am assuming stuff only shows up to the WordPress MORE prompt on Planet IF. Otherwise, I probably owe you a breakfast.)

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

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