The game had its genesis in a mix of a few difference sources. I’m fascinated with historical pop culture and aesthetics, particularly from the 1920s through the 1950s, and I love science fiction and cheesy B-movies. At one point I was planning to make a game called Little Green Mandy where you played a marooned alien girl who has to get around Roswell after the saucer crash and reunite with her parents, and I wanted to make a big town with lots of NPCs. That one didn’t get made, but the idea for the town stuck around. Most of the other teens (besides Bonnie and her boyfriend) appeared in the first game I ever made, Whitefield Academy of Witchcraft, although the games don’t take place in the same universe. (In that game, they were all witches.)
What I think really worked in this game:
I was really proud of the conversation system. Huge credit has to go to the wonderful Hybrid Choices extension which made it possible. Trying to implement conversations in a parser is a nightmare, they’re so awkward and limited, and I felt like the menus really helped bring the world to life. The same extension also greatly improved the action sequences and helped streamline set-pieces, something that Chlorophyll would have benefited from (rather than a rather awkward forced-inaction opening and a final boss that just stands around waiting to be shot, which is what it does have.)
In general I think I managed to improve over my previous games in a lot of areas and present a more polished and better experience. I was working on this for around seven months (as opposed to two and half for Jacqueline, Jungle Queen and Chlorophyll) and I think it really shows.
What I want to improve on in future games:
I’d like to make navigation easier. I’ve heard the map was a big struggle to deal with. What I’d really like to have is something akin to the interface from Beyond Zork: a main area for commands, a dedicated window for a persistent room description, and a map showing the room and adjacent rooms, to which I would add a ‘picture’ window for popping up character portraits during conversations. There’s a Flexible Windows extension, but I could not get it to work, so I don’t know if I’ll actually be able to meet this goal.
I’d also like to simplify the commands structure a lot. Two games that I think really shone in this area in the comp were Midnight. Swordfight. and Grandma Bethlinda’s Variety Box, both of which really stripped down the number of verbs you could use to excellent effect. I thought I’d covered this by putting a list of all the necessary verbs on a pamphlet the player was holding, but I discovered someone complaining because they didn’t know how to use ‘i’ for inventory. When you’ve been playing these things from a single-digit age that’s just not the sort of thing that occurs to you as a potential problem. So in future games I’d like to have a ‘type 1 for instructions’ sort of page right off so that people can’t miss them.
Finally, I want to build my next game around an interesting mechanic. There is no central play mechanic at the heart of Brain Guzzlers; it’s just exploring the town while retrieving items and solving puzzles. I’d like to plan out something like Midnight. Swordfight.'s Bill-And-Ted-style scenario tweaking or Oppositely Opal’s backwards spells and then develop a game from that. I sort of did that with Jacqueline, Jungle Queen, but I ended up only having the first idol gives you much of interest (actually, I probably would have been better off just making finding animals to mimic the whole thing.)