Sunday, November 18, 2018

DIDDLEBUCKER! POSTMORTEM: PT 2

Serious, huge spoilers below to Diddleblucker! and Hollywood Hijinks
You have been warned.

THE NAME


I wanted a fun, one-word nonsense kind of name for my game that would sort of sum up the zaniness of the theme. Originally, it was to be called Snollygoster! (an actual word) and the name of the popcorn magnate was Salvatore "Snolly" Esposito. During beta testing, one of my testers asked if my game was related to the "Snollygoster" game that was on Kickstarter. I freaked out and went to search for it. (FYI: It's here if you're interested.)

Their game had been put on Kickstarter within a month or so of me starting to write my game! I was seriously annoyed, but it wasn't their fault. They went public with their name first. I debated keeping the name, but ultimately decided to create an entirely new word and "Diddlebucker" was born. Salvatore/Snolly was renamed Desiderio/Diddy. I flatly refused to give him the nickname "Diddle," however. I could have called the game "Diddybucker," but it didn't have the same ring to it, so I went with "Diddy" and "Diddlebucker."


The working title of the game had been Snollygoster! for months and at first I wasn't happy about the name change, but ultimately it grew on me. Now I actually prefer Diddlebucker!, partially because it was my own creation and partially because it just rolls off the tongue better. And, I think it sounds a bit more like a food company.



Not this food company. I've never heard of this before.

THE PLOT

Another issue I had to deal with was explaining why the player didn't have a team. I briefly thought about creating two NPC team members that would follow the player around, but I knew that would ultimately just be annoying. "David and Lori follow you" and "You see David and Lori here" would get old really fast, no matter how many ways I varied the text. Besides, they'd look like dunderheads because they would either stand around waiting for you to give them orders, or keep running through a list of actions that wouldn't really accomplish anything. "Dave reads the riddle card with a perplexed look on his face." "Lori searches the ground for a clue." Blech. I abandoned that idea pretty quickly.

So, I came up with the idea that your teammates eloped at the last minute and left you in the lurch. It neatly solved the no-team issue and had the extra bonus of at least being moderately funny. It was only later that I realized what a huge boon this inspiration was, because it solved another problem I had been dealing with.

The problem with an IF game that's a literal scavenger hunt is that the end is ultimately unsatisfying. After all, you aren't really racing against other teams and there is no million dollars. The player knows the other teams aren't actually going to get to the finish line first unless I either implement a time limit or a move limit, both of which suffer from the fatal flaw of being the exact opposite of fun.

What the game needed was a villain to overcome. An evil to conquer. I debated over this for a long time, trying to create a villain team led by some sort of henchman that had been a bully to the PC or who held some irrational hatred of the PC. Something along the lines of Harold and the blue team from Midnight Madness.




One of the principal faces of evil from my childhood


And I came up with nothing. I couldn't make it work. I couldn't make the villain evil enough to be worth conquering while keeping the game lighthearted enough to fit my zany theme. One problem was that I hadn't specified a gender for the player character. A guy bullying a guy can be funny if done right (The Tannens and the McFlys for example). Likewise a girl bullying a girl can work (Mean Girls). But when you mix the genders, things get dark. Perhaps it shouldn't be this way, but from an artistic standpoint, having a girl bully a guy or a guy bully a girl just takes on dark, unfunny overtones. It didn't work. At least I couldn't make it work. Perhaps in the hands of a better writer, but I couldn't do it.

And then it hit me. I already had a villain waiting off-stage and this villain wasn't a bully, but a traitor. And it worked. Lori was the perfect villain. She didn't make the game too dark because her motivation was simply money, not sadism. On top of that, she added a surprise twist to the endgame section! It was wonderful! The only problem was that I was so excited about writing this ending that I had to fight the urge to just jump straight to it. I restrained myself though. Getting to write that ending was the carrot that kept me working on the rest of the game.

Now, a few reviewers have noticed a similarity between this ending and the ending to Hollywood Hijinks. All of the reviewers were good-natured about it and I can only say that this is what I meant when I said in my earlier blog post that there were "unconscious tributes" as well as conscious ones to HJ. It did occur to me much later in the writing process that my solution was indeed similar to the ending of HJ, but I didn't realize it when I originally came up with the idea. But, I decided it would work as an homage, so I kept it in.



[MORE TO COME]

1 comment:

  1. I also noticed the similarities to Hijinks, but that homage to an Infocom classic only made me love the game even more. The world of modern IF is severely lacking old-school puzzlefests and Diddlebucker definitely delivers. As Diddie Espacito would say, "Wow, that's a good game!"

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