Bullhockey 2 postmortem

I’d like to thank all IFers and Spring Thingers who tried and/or judged my game, ‘Bullhockey 2: The Return of the Leather Whip’. It was my biggest effort so far.

I finished the rough draft of this game some months after finishing the first ‘Bullhockey!’, about Winter '16/'17. I felt that there were some significant ‘loose ends’ left over from the first game, particularly Mabel’s mansion, of which the first game only scratched the surface, it seemed. So I thought it would be an excellent centerpiece for a sequel. And I wasn’t quite ‘done’ with my PC, initially named ‘Tom’ (though the player can choose different names in either game). As an aside, I am still not quite done…

Players of my first game will note that BH! and BH2 have a number of locations in common–it’s true I ripped them from the first game, because I wanted to start with a feeling of equanimity and complacency in the PC, until his world gets ripped to shreds once more. But I’ll bet players of BH! were relieved to find that they can actually move through the apartment in BH2 unimpeded, and not have to resort to the ceiling fan! Though players already ‘know’ that Natalie will be missing, I wanted to have a lead-in to the event, so that the PC fully knows the circumstances of Natalie missing from a locked apartment, windows locked, and she was in the midst of cooking–also because I like lead-ins!

I hope not too many players were misled by the newspapers. They were kind of a red herring, kind of not. Also, if you look at the ‘reverse side’ of the missing section, you’ll find an article about the person who took her, so innocently placed on that page.

Judith, the main NPC, like Natalie, is an aspect of my own, ever-helpful girlfriend, who shall not be named (nor disobeyed). Ridding the neighborhood of local ills is one of her concerns. The kiddie-pool ride was inspired by something my girlfriend’s son had done–he was not harmed, but a road sign was–it was pictured on the front page of the next morning’s edition.

The mansion, and the whole game in general, was created as I went along, sticking to a general outline and plot. But when I started writing the mansion, I had a blank slate and nothing to go on. My only alternative was to load it with puzzles. One might expect a mansion to have many rooms; this one doesn’t have many at all–I didn’t want to put so many bedrooms in it, they wouldn’t have much game-advancing value, so stuck to my blueprint. I created the bottom floor to have the more puzzles, but one central puzzle, involving the gallery, the paintings and their vignettes. The second floor would have the riddles as its main puzzle, and the bust of Ben Franklin would kind of tie the floors together. I knew early that I wanted to make the attic the last room accessible. I also knew early that I didn’t want Natalie to be found there, so I had to figure out a way to get the player out of the mansion, through the attic window. When I had Judith toss the piece of notebook paper, folded into an airplane, I suddenly had my answer–before I even wrote the mansion.

Probably the hardest puzzle to write in the whole game–perhaps in both games, BH! and BH2–was the puzzle with the magic re-sizing. Particularly the implementation, for when the player uses it on him/herself. I had to make it copascetic with the whole mansion, and even on enterable surfaces and dark rooms (though there are only two or three)–I did this by putting a number of backdrops, under a kind called ‘flooring’–there was one in every mansion room–hard floors and carpets–and when you shrink yourself, you actually ‘go’ to one of a number of rooms dictated by the kind of ‘flooring’ that was in the room you occupied–plus whatever you may have dropped in that room would ‘go’ with you, but would be classified as ‘verygiant’, and you would not be able to do anything with it. Then, of course, in about 3-5 moves, you’d ‘go’ back to the room you were in and items you dropped would be normal again. This took time and was difficult, and I had to treat the box fan and the paper airplane specially, giving them both an ‘alter-ego’ of sorts. I had to make it work on take-able items and rebuff it with scenery items. The ghost was easy; the hardest part with him was implementing the question.

I re-appropriated the dungeon from BH!, but expanded it, to include a new area where Natalie might have also been taken. I hope no-one was offended by the mild images of BDSM–that was part of the comedy, but also I thought it was a good lead-in for a later addition–the leather whip. Here I want to extend special thanks to Roger Durrant, one of my playtesters–he liked the use of the whip from BH! and suggested I place it somewhere in this game. I did–I even wrote a few new rooms and a puzzle involving it–and Roger essentially came up with the title of the game, using it! Thanks, Roger!

The rest of the game was relatively ‘easy’–it practically went downhill from the time the player leaves the mansion. The also-helpful Marky was inspired by a longtime female friend of mine, stern but friendly. Harold the parking attendant was just an annoying figure I came up with. Scottie the doorman was my way of somehow working Scottie, the ‘up-and-coming’ kissup co-worker from the first game, into this game. The desk clerk, Frank, is based entirely on the comic character actor Frank Nelson, I thought it would be fun to have him in the game, try asking him about various things in the game, particularly things in the Lobby, about Scottie, Harold, etc–I love creating snappy answers!

For the hotel I created 60 doors, 58 of them ‘fake’. Sorry about the non-cardinal directions, I thought the V-shape would make the hotel look more modern, if only to the owners! Pretense is the idea. By the way, if you did not catch the clues, PS in the book means ‘Presidential Suite’ and BSL were the initials of the kidnapper. He was in the Presidential Suite, which was really just two generic rooms run together by one rigged-up door, only because the key to one of the rooms was lost.

I note that the game is missing an AMUSING option–I hid many eggs in this and the previous game. When I get time, I will try to cull them together into an end-of-game reward, of sorts.

I thought that making both Natalie and Mabel into statues would give the game a sort of eerie, ambient feel. Who doesn’t want to be a marble statue??

And finally, the kidnapper, Brian, was not really inspired by any particular person, perhaps just an amalgamation of different ones. I was going to put myself in this role, I had already put enough holes in the ‘fourth wall’. In him, I wanted to somehow illustrate the effects of the feeling of power to give us what we think we want or need. I think Inform7 is the best thing since sliced bread, I feel like I can do anything with it. So I had to somehow incorporate that feeling of power in this game, if only to have it abused and defeated. Moral: Never dump your rusty blades!

Thanks again to all the experts from Intfiction.org, and everyone who tested, tried and supported my game!

BF Lindsay/EpicIFer/IFaddicted


I also want to specifically thank my playtesters, Brian Rushton, Spike, McTavish, Brett Witty and Mogwai. They were all especially helpful, not only in testing the game, but also offering their continued support in my efforts.