I have a few notes I’d like to share.
Part 1: Origins
The photograph from the cover art is my dad’s. It was taken somewhere in the mountains of my home state of North Carolina, circa 2009, using infrared-sensitive film, which makes blue skies look dark and green grass look white. I added the sepia toning and blurred and darkened the corners. A large version can be seen here: ifdb.tads.org/viewgame?coverart& … iph6&ldesc .
Despite the origin of the photo, the game’s setting is actually Texas, circa 1980. Mostly, it’s a faithful representation of the area where my mom grew up, places that I know well. The only exceptions are the vorairs, jillers, catknenk bushes, steep hills, and the proximity to mountains. My new flora and fauna are not what I’d call otherworldly, but they do make the setting into something of an alternate-reality Southeast Texas. Lonon’s property is a combination of my grandparents’ old house and the pasture they used to rent, several miles away, for breeding and selling cattle. The game’s intro scene is also derived from two places: the withered downtown of my grandparents’ sub-1,000 population village, and a lonely watering hole where my grandfather used to stop on his way home from the pasture.
The origin of this game goes back to three events that happened during last year’s IFComp voting period. First was someone mentioning, somewhere on these forums, the story called “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”. (I haven’t read it, but I did eventually see the Twilight Zone episode that was made out of it.) The point is I was amused by the stack of three nouns in the title, and I was thinking of this when I went to visit a real place called Hill Ridge Farms, the 2nd event. (You can look this place up.) We went there to take our 3-year-old on a hayride and pick out some pumpkins. At one point on the hayride, I realized we were crossing what you might call Hill Ridge Farms Creek Bridge. Now obsessed with hilariously stacking nouns together in justified ways, I just needed some excuse to write a throwaway game with this idea as one of its themes. I was immediately supplied with one, because Wes Lesley, author of The King and the Crown, had (already, I think) challenged his fellows in the authors’ forum to finish another game (the 3rd event) before the judging ended. That’s when I started working on a Hill Ridge game, but I decided to abandon the project in favor of writing more reviews for the authors.
The original idea was to use a linear series of “rooms” with names in a progression: Hill Ridge, Hill Ridge Farm, Hill Ridge Farm Church, Hill Ridge Farm Church Creek, Hill Ridge Farm Church Creek Bridge, Hill Ridge Farm Church Creek Bridge Road. Well, something like that, but better and funnier. The protag was an old, ornery cowboy who had burned down the church long ago and returned to the area to find something he left there. Then, on the way back, the descriptions of everything would be different, and that was it.
Not much of that survived when the idea was eventually repurposed into Hill Ridge Lost & Found for IFComp 2016. I very much wanted to preserve the noun-stacking joke, but I just couldn’t make the map work with it after the story had been fleshed out; instead, it was just crammed into the description for the Hill Ridge Rock location. I wonder if anyone found that description amusing or even odd. What did survive was burning down the “church”, and this became the center of gravity for the whole work.
And with that, I’ll tie off Part 1. I’ll be back as soon as I figure out how to organize the rest!