Obviously there be spoilers below!
So, Diddlebucker! is my first parser game. I began working on it in the fall of 2017, took time off during the holiday season and came back to it in the spring of 2018, getting a lot of work done during the summer months to have it finished and ready to go in time for the comp.
Here's a breakdown of the voting stats:
Rank: 30th of 77
Most Common Score: 7
Votes Cast: 44
Standard Deviation: 2.12
I know that the Infocom-style puzzle fest is a bit old-school for many in the IF community, but it is what I love. It's what I grew up on and it's what I wanted to create. Diddlebucker! is my loving homage to the genre.
When I began casting about for ideas, I knew I wanted to create a treasure hunt of some kind, but I wanted to give the player a strong reason for collecting treasures. I didn't really want to recreate a zorkian adventure where the player picks up treasures because they're there. The idea of a scavenger hunt came to mind and to give the player more motivation, I threw in a million dollar prize (plus a lifetime supply of popcorn) at the end.
A lot of people have noted the influence of Dave Anderson's Hollywood Hijinks on my game and they're right to do so. While I wasn't constantly thinking of HJ during the development, there are definitely some conscious and unconscious tributes to HJ here and there.
A more direct influence on Diddlebucker! was the 1980
Nankin & Wechter film Midnight Madness. This movie was pretty much perpetually on HBO when I was a kid and I'm sure I saw the movie (or parts of it) dozens of times growing up. I re-watched it before writing my game looking for inspiration.
You can see this inspiration in the time period, team shirt colors, the general chaotic zaniness of the theme, the fact that the game takes place at night and I'm sure in many other ways.
If you've never seen Midnight Madness, give it a try. Disney's attempt at reaching the teenage crowd is a remarkably silly, but oddly endearing treasure hunt movie. If nothing else, you get to see a pre-Family Ties (and very Canadian-sounding) Michael J. Fox, which is pretty cool.
One of the early hurdles to overcome was that I wanted the player-character to be an AFGNCAAP. That is, an "Ageless, Faceless, Gender-Neutral, Culturally-Ambiguous Adventure Person." That phrase is a throw-away joke from Zork: Grand Inquisitor, but I took it seriously here.
There's nothing wrong with forcing the player into a character of a specific age, gender or other characteristic when doing so is intentional because it serves the plot or the theme. But in this game, none of those traits would be important. The game didn't have a romantic subplot which might impact the sexuality, age or gender of the PC, for example. Since the ID of the player was irrelevant, I went out of my way not to limit the identifying traits of the player-character at all. I wanted anyone to feel like they were the person in the story.
I also didn't want a clunky section at the beginning which asked for the player's age, gender and whatnot. I already needed to ask the player's name, but that fit well with the plot. Asking other such questions would be needlessly intrusive and would certainly take the player out of the game.
This is why, for example, most NPCs call the player-character "Gamer," (something that one reviewer derided). I deliberately built that nickname into the whole atmosphere of the game so that it sounded more natural coming out of the mouths of some of the NPCs. It is in in the game's blurb and the song on the startup screen. It's also one of the reasons the people playing the game are forced to wear team clothing at all times. That clothing not only identifies the PC as a "Gamer," but it also gives the NPCs a last name to use to refer to the player.
I suppose the PC is likely to be living in America (but not necessarily an American), given the name of the theme park and the PC does need to be physically capable of climbing a ladder at one point, but overall I think most people can feel like they themselves are the main character in the game. Or, as far as that goes, they can be anyone else too. Want to play the game as Harrison Ford or Princess Elsa? Go ahead! Although...I'm not sure what Elsa's last name is. "Of Arendelle," maybe?
[MORE TO COME]