(Before diving into the behind the scenes, If any of you are interested, you guys can check out the game over on its IFDB page. There’s a link there to play online. And while you guys are at it, I would really appreciate it if you guys rate it or maybe even give a review. Now on to the ramblings.)
This is a super duper late postmortem for my IFcomp entry Bad Water. I’m always fascinated by behind the scenes of movies/TV Shows/Animation/GameDev and I also love reading postmortems written here so I decided to also write one. But many things prevented me from doing so until now. This is my first time writing something like this to it might be unorganized so please bear with me.
Here goes nothing:
For all those who played the game and are scratching their heads as to why an FMV game is in the comp, I’ll give a little background to it if you guys are up to it.
When I was searching about IGF Grand prize winners, One of the earliest winners was a little game called “Bad Milk”. It’s a weird FMV puzzle game released in the early 2000s. I was intrigued by it and promptly looked up some gameplay footage. When I saw the gameplay, I was completely mesmerized by it’s weird, out of the ordinary style that it kept coming back from the back of my mind. When ever the thought of Bad Milk would come, I always had a question popping up, how many people know of Bad Milk? It won a major award but was left to absurdity soon after. And after some time, I decided that I wanted to make a game like Bad Milk and release it in order to get people to talk about Bad Milk. I then took a camera and shot two scenes to hopefully use for testing. But after that the project lost a lot of steam and eventually shelved has I moved on to different ideas. It’s always been a cycle, coming up with an idea, making some progress, then losing all drive to finish and then shelving. I have tons of games that had some ideas but were left to rot. Bad Water was originally destined to also be like that, But that’s not what happened.
Around 2018ish, I discovered the IF community when I searched about Sam Barlow, who won The IGF grand prize for Her Story. I looked him up and saw one of his earliest efforts in games was a little game called “Aisle”. I decided to check it out which eventually led me to the IFDB. I played the game and I was amazed by it’s concept and creativity that I search more info on the game. This caused me to stumble upon the intfiction.org. Not only was i surprised that people still made text games, but people had competitions, awards and a whole community centered around text games. I looked up discussions and research some history of the community and I fell in love with the community. I really liked the community because it was just nice environment where people helped and is supportive of each other. But I became a little distant from the community after I became really busy with some things.
Fast forward to 2019, I remembered that XYZZY awards were being awarded and decided to pop back into the community. I checked out the winners and was surprised that Bandersnatch won an award. I also found out that the Ifcomp was accepting entrants for the competition. I decided to submit Bad Water because it was the idea that was on my mind at the time. Bandersnatch’s win at the XYZZYs also made me thing that FMV games were accepted in the community so I fully went with Bad Water.
Bad Milk was developed using Adobe Director and I originally wanted to use that software to make Bad Water ever since I wanted to make it. But some factors like learning the software, not having any easy documentations to use and also the software’s discontinued. Yeah, No wonder it was originally destined for the shelf. I knew that I won’t be able make any progress at this rate so I looked for any alternatives that was like Adobe Director. I didn’t find anything and I almost gave up on making it an FMV game because of it. I began thinking of ways on how to create the same feel of Bad Milk with Twine since I experimented with it before. But then I discovered that Twine was capable to handling Images and video which led to the full development of Bad Water.
The two earliest video I shot was an early version of the cellphone call and the scene where the PC drank the water at the beginning which is the same video from the final game. Those videos helped be in trying to make some of the puzzled for the game.
I wanted to emulate Bad Milk with the game so the puzzle were very similar with the puzzles in Bad Milk. The Door, The reverse man, The Maze etc. But that doesn’t mean that the game has no originality. I didn’t want to fully copy Bad Milk, so I made the game with two endings. It was hard figuring out how two endings would work and so I made it so that the puzzles could be solved in two ways or be figured out in two ways. Though I didn’t have any idea how the player would even know that the puzzles have different interpretations and that’s when I used the water motif. If you played the game, you might notice that the puzzles all have some sort of water element to them. The door has running water when you open it, The man drinks water, you go through some water in the maze. Water was always a part of the route to the bad end. A review actually pointed it out which was pretty great. While I was able to kind of accomplish my goal of two ending being do able, it was still a very abstract and obscure way on how to do it which probably confused a lot of people more than if they were all just straight puzzles. Another theme I sort of tried to shoe horn in was easily trusting people. The voice isn’t your ally but was the only thing with in the darkness. When I was making the game, I had the goal of being a tribute to Bad Milk. That’s why the cover art was sort of similar to Bad Milk. The Blurb was also taken from their now defunct website.
The whole game was a one man effort. Seriously. The guy you see wearing the mask, the voice, the guy walking was me. I shot all the videos all by myself. Luckily, The whole game was relatively stationary which enabled me to do it all myself. But it did prevent me from originally doing the first puzzle’s video. In Bad Milk, The first puzzle had a guy underwater and pressing him makes him come up and say parts of the puzzle. I experimented with me dunking my head in a bucket of water with the camera at the bottom wrapped in plastic. It didn’t work because no light would come in making the video dark. I was trying to figure out how to do the first puzzle when I my eyes happen upon the bathroom door knob. Then the idea of using the door popped into my head and I went through with it.
The other assets were stuff I took pictures of around my house and some stuff outside like the gates and walls. Almost all the sound effects were also made by me. The footsteps, voices and bumps were by me. The only things I didn’t do were the ambience sounds used for the maze.
This was also my first twine game. I have played around with twine before but those barely used any of twines capabilities and those were in Harlow unlike in Bad Water which I used SugarCube. So I essential operated on a need to know basis when I made the game. Which resulted in very very very bad code. Like if you opened the html file (I don’t recommend it) you’ll probably want to bleach your eyes afterwords. But hey, I didn’t know the software, I had a deadline so as long is it worked I guess. But this also lead to me cutting one of Bad Milk’s best interactive puzzle since I didn’t know how to execute it. In Bad Milk, There are puzzles where I have to drag the image to play a sort of video or sequence. I couldn’t figure it out it time so I just place a video with the player controls still on. While the whole game may seem a bit confusing a complicated, At it’s most basic form, it’s basically a bunch a links, variables and timed stuff. The images are all links to different passages and the passages have variables used to activate different things.
An example would be the door, there is a timed micro at the door which counts up and changes a variable inside the passage which then changes the responses when you open the door. The Reverse man also has changing variables whenever you flip him. The Maze was a bunch passages that connect with each other. Each directional passage would pass through a sound passage which would then move the player to the next directional passage. I actually drew a map of the maze which is pretty terrible but worked. In order to simulate the head in Bad Milk, I separated the head into three sections that acted like links to passages and each of those passages had a video of that part of the head rotation. It became a bit complicated because I had numbers going up and looping back which I had to individual code each change of the number because I couldn’t figure out a way to do it at the time.
The Ifcomp deadline honestly helped me in actually doing work on the game and finishing it. I was also cutting it close because I decided to replace some sounds an hour before the deadline.
I was nearing completion of the game when I suddenly had second thoughts about releasing the game for the comp. I suddenly became aware that Bad Water might be classified under Non-IF. When I looked at the definition of what an IF is, while there is no set in stone definition, one thing was for certain, It was text based. Even Bandersnatch can be considered text based because the choices are in text. Now I know people will say that this game has so textual components which technically isn’t true since the last puzzle requires text input from the player. But even with this, the game isn’t text based. I was really hesitating whether to continue with it. Because of this, I made a post asking what people personally considered Non-IF. People were really positive and supportive which gave me the drive to continue with Ifcomp but I was still a bit scared.
The Comp begins
When the Comp started I was anxious and afraid of the reaction people might have about the game. I was scared that people would ask why this was even in the comp and give it low scores because it was not IF. But with all honestly the Comp was such a wonderful experience. Being able to participate with people and talking about all the games was really fun. And getting reviews and feedback about your work was really great. When the comp was in full swing, I always looked forward to seeing if people talked about your game everyday. I was also very happy when people played the game like any other entry. While some questioned if the game was a fit for the comp, no one said that it wasn’t IF well not publicly atleast. Overall, My time being a part Ifcomp was a great I hopefully may be able to participate in the future.
While I’m pretty satisfied with how Bad Water turned out, there were two things I really regret.
The first is that I didn’t add a walkthrough at the start of the comp. I didn’t add one because Bad Milk also didn’t have a walkthrough but when I saw the first review stating that the reviewer didn’t know what to do, I raced as fast as I can in adding a walkthrough.
The first regret I had a sort of reason why I didn’t do it. The next how ever was such a real problem that I still keep banging my head on the my desk wondering why I didn’t fix it sooner. If you’ve played the game now you won’t experience it but the first version, the rotating icons didn’t stop when you hovered over them with the mouse. They continued to rotate. This was pointed out multiple times in reviews and form discussions but for some reason I didn’t view it as something to fix. That was until one review straight up said that the game was ruined because of those icons. That gave a wake up call and made me realize this huge blunder one my end. I fixed it as fast as possible but that was during mid to the end of october. I believe the damage has already been done but never the less taught me to always pay attention to what a player has to say about your game.
At the end of the comp, I placed at the bottom three. But honestly, I’m pretty satisfied. Not because of the placement, but because not only did I accomplish my goal of getting people to talk about Bad Milk but this game proved that I can finish a game. It will stand as a reminder to myself that I can do it.
While some judges gave Bad Water a 1, plenty of people gave it more then that which to me shows that
they consider this to be a legitimate entry in Ifcomp. And I knew this game was a Comp killer. A purposely weird game that does not give the player any clues on what to do which is what the genre “Wander and wonder” is. You Wander around the game and wonder “What the heck am I suppose to do!?”. And the fact that it has a maze with no walkthrough probably made people sick.
But at the end, I made a game, people played the game and I got to be part of something fun like Ifcomp.
With my part postmortem part Competition experience finally done, i’ll be looking forward to what the If community has in store for the future. There’s the Emily short contest, the ongoing veeder comp, spring thing, the xyzzy awards and the next ifcomp. I will definitely participate if I have some time but never the less I would be excited at what you guys will produce.
I hope you guys found some enjoyment with Bad Water. You probably hated it, you might have liked a part of it. But all in all Thank you. It’s because of you guys that I was able to finish a game and to be able to show it. It’s because of all the support you guys give not only to be but to all the newcomers in the world of IF. This is why I really like this community. So, from the bottom of my heart, Thank you.
I probably haven’t discussed somethings about the game and some not as in depth enough so If you guys have any questions, I would really love to answer them. And with that, Cheers for the future of Interactive Fiction!!!