Dead on Arrival

Some of you have a fantastic idea. Something that is knock-your-socks-off good. An idea that you cherish even though it’s… DOA.

Some sort of fatal flaw exists, perhaps in implementation, or conceptually, perhaps what you see isn’t yet technically feasible with the tools available. Perhaps culturally it’s past its time or maybe too soon. Regardless of why, your beautiful shiny idea is stillborn and you don’t know what to do with it. Stuck between an unwillingness to discard such a good idea and an inability to carry it forward, it languishes in your mind.

Some might say this is simply another white whale, and perhaps there’s some crossover certainly, but I would say it is also distinct. Some white whales might be DOA, but many are simply daunting or nebulous, which isn’t the same thing.

I’ve had a DOA for years involving the use of footage from foreign TV shows. I want to take advantage of subtitles and the general American ignorance of any other language than English. Imagine, a long running serial TV show, perhaps Supernatural or the X-Files. Imagine the wealth of scenes, acting, and scenarios included in those shows. Without even digging for b-roll footage, there would be hundreds of hours involving the same actors in a wild variety of situations. Now imagine I was writing a new show for a foreign audience, let’s say Korean. There’s nothing to prevent me from editing those clips together in any way I please, creating whole new plots, renaming characters, whatever I wanted. I could simply subtitle whatever I’d like the dialogue to be over the English voiceacting. The tone and emotion will still carry, and anyone understanding English will be treated to a bizarre nonsense blender of crazy, but from a strictly Korean POV, it would probably work. Now flip that on it’s head. There must be a long-running foreign serial TV show with fairly good acting and effects that is virtually unknown to American audiences. It’s a TV script writer’s wet dream. Instead of writing a script and praying it gets made, let alone made right, you simply make the existing material tell the story you already have in your heart.

The reason this is DOA is two pronged. One, legally, it’s a non-starter. With copyright as it is, that material would need be bought and paid for at an absurdly high cost to even attempt it. Two, even if I said screw it and figured it’d be a pirate production consigned to the torrents of the world, it’d be unethical. Those actors’ likenesses are being used and they aren’t being compensated whatsoever. Maybe, MAYBE, if the whole thing takes off spectacularly, they might get some kind of knockalong effect to their career that might benefit them, but it’d probably be more exploitative than anything else, which dampens my appetite for the idea. I can’t discard it, because, it’s honestly good, but… yeah.

Anyone else care to share their DOA ideas? Maybe with groupthink a lucky few will receive a touch of inspiration bringing them back to the land of plausibility. We saw a bit of that in the White Whale discussion last year.


This does have some crossover with the “White Whale” and “Plot Bunny” threads. And also a bit from the “Bring Out Your Dead” jam on itch where people shared stalled and un-revivable projects.

Re-dubbing video - foreign and non - is kind of a YouTube thing, sort of like remixing the trailer for The Shining to make it a romantic comedy. And Adult Swim’s Sealab 2021 is literally that - they bought the rights to a low-budget 80’s cartoon about underwater scientists and re-edited and dubbed it to make it very “late night TV for stoners”. You’re pretty much onto why that idea is difficult. You need non-copyrighted source material, or money to pay for it, or it needs to be “fair-use” which is increasingly difficult and will be copyright claimed so you won’t receive any reward for hard work.

I actually did voice work on an anime series that just got re-released. We were frequently making up dialog on the fly to fit lip-flaps (technical term!) and apparently the version we did is simultaneously reviled by anime-heads, cherished by those who saw it when they were kids and remember it, and “so bad it’s good” in many ways.


Hmm, I always like games that honor other IF Creators, like Being Andrew Plotkin, Foo Foo (for Ryan Veeder), etc., and that’s one reason I do the ‘sequel’ games and wrote Grooverland.

I think Emily Short could really use some good tribute games. I ran a comp a few years ago for that purpose, but only two people signed up, and while they were both good I feel like they could have used some more ‘oomph’.

I associate Emily Short with conversation, mythology/fairy tales, thoughtful reflections on humanity, flawed people, etc. with games like Best of Three as a convo in a coffe shop (I think?).

I also watched My Dinner with Andre last year and really liked it. Before that, I had seen this Simpsons parody:

I think it would be cool to have a Short-honoring game based on My Dinner with Andre; I think it could work really well, especially if lots of effort went into conversation.

The problem is that the natural idea would be something like ‘My Dinner with Emily’ (or with Galatea or something like that), and that people might think of it as having romantic overtones. That would be uncomfortable, both because Short experienced harassment throughout the years in the IF Community and because people had complained in the past about not being able to ‘do more’ with Galatea, for instance. But the source material (My Dinner with Andre) is deeply unromantic; it’s not even that friendly, with the two main characters becoming more divided over time.

So I don’t really see any way to salvage the concept, as tribute games for male authors being fantasy adventures and a tribute game for a female author being a lunch date seems misogynistic. But maybe I’ll do a ‘my dinner with andre’ solo game at some point, it would be fun 'especially if ‘share trenchant insight’ is an option).


What if “Emily Short” is the player character? I mean that satisfies a very specific power fantasy, and maybe helps you evade these awkward dynamics (while taking on the potentially-even-more-awkward dynamics of writing from the POV of an actual real-life person, I suppose).


What if the two participants of the conversation weren’t human? Or even biological or alive? Two sentient toasters reminiscing and speaking in the ruins of a post-apocalyptic restaurant.


From what I understand of the original Galatea myth, he’s a sculptor who creates a statue so life-like he falls in love with it/her and that either brings her to life or he imagines she’s alive. Short’s game mostly seemed (I haven’t delved every possibility) to be a Sunday in the Park With George style post-breakup encounter with the artist and creation (potentially depending how you play) and nothing is or ever was going to happen to re-kindle that (SHE’S A STATUE!) But so many players likely expected and wanted that. There could be a very good erotic/romance version of the Pygmalion myth, but there are creepy lines that are way easy to over-step inadvertently.

That’s a common issue and a fine-line to walk in a game that involves interactive romance and sexuality in any fashion: “Text adventures” and IF as we know them are ostensibly games which commonly need to involve some sort of challenge or obstacle to overcome. It can be difficult as an inexperienced author to figure out ways to “gamify” a relationship and place obstacles to be overcome without making the PC a flat-out incel, or at least a major creep. That’s why most “sex” games that enjoy mainstream appeal tend to be farces or very obviously point out the meta wrongness of the “guy out to get laid in any way possible” trope that new AIF authors often tended to rely on.

Not that it can’t be done. Sex-positive games are totally a thing but it takes a while to figure out how to do them correctly.


Indeed! I’m reminded of Digit, from last year’s Spring Thing – it had really strong writing and well-done character work that made (IMO) the explicit sex at the end really work. Definitely a good model for folks interested in such things.


You could call it “My ENTIRELY PLATONIC I CAN’T STRESS THAT ENOUGH Dinner with Emily”.



Some people have had a go at constructing entirely new programs by editing multiple other sources together AND redubbing, as opposed to just redubbing a single show, but the idea has never taken off. I think probably because even after the legal loopholes are cleared, they find it turns out to be about as much work as producing something original.

I bought a film that was made this way after being Kickstarted, called President Wolfman (I’d link but my VPN is going crazy right now and blocking all normal searches so you’ll have to google it yourself.) The creator called it a Green film, as in made from recycled contents. Admittedly he did have to take a lot from a single film (The Werewolf of Washington) to get it to work.



I think what worked with Sealab 2021 is there was so much stock animation that they re-used in the original show. So many scenes of walking down a hall, swimming near octopi in scuba gear (you can dub that however you want cuz you can’t see the mouth) the whole team laughing at the end of an episode -and then weird situations they would re-interpret. It was easy to tell when they CGI or Flash-ed in new props or scenery because it was so much cleaner than the original.


I don’t know why I just thought of this, but I did. Emily Short and Emily Boegheim have been recreated as holograms (Red Dwarf style), and are trapped in a dive bar during the end of the world.

The entire game is just the two emily’s chatting about the old days when they actually had normal human lives. The working title is “Seeking an Em for the End of the world.” (I’m here all week.)


That would be a good way to spoof Counterfeit Monkey.

What if the PC and NPC are both Emily Short, and the goal of the game is to separate them? With separating a part of oneself from oneself being a metaphor for the writing process?


As you surely are already aware, I’m actually slowly working toward an IF whose involves romance, sexuality AND challenge (just recently I reached 85% complete the first major puzzle of my work, and I’m still surprised of the easiness of the implementation, all of this 85% done in the first three days of 2023…)

As implied elsewhere today, my concept of “sex-positive” is sex with love, and IS the core element of the main quest.

on the Galatea debate above, I don’t hide that then-miss. Short’s masterpiece NPC is my model for the two NPC of said work, aside that both are followers, and actually active ones…

perhaps is both a white whale AND a dead on arrival, but my highest hope is that work, if I actually manage to complete and release it, will be an AIF, but in a very different sense of Adult: the coming-of-age of interactive fiction.

Best regards from Italy,
dott. Piergiorgio.