Interview with Astrid Dalmady

Q: Tell us a little about yourself.

A: I was born and raised in Venezuela, but took quickly to english and english writing after moving to South Florida in my teens. For a while, I thought I could ‘be practical’ and work on books and writing on the business side, so I went to NY to get a Master’s in Publishing. I learned many things, including that I am not so good at ‘being practical’. A few winters later, I managed to thaw myself out and moved back home to write full time for a while and here I am.

Q: How did you discover interactive fiction?

A: My first IF-like experience was Fallen London (back when it was still Echo Bazaar). I hadn’t really played any text games as a child, but this, with its slow pace and great setting just hit all my buttons. I worked with StoryNexus for a bit, but it didn’t quite click with me all the way back in beta. I still dream of the day it gets polished up.

However, I didn’t discover Twine until the internet put “The Uncle Who Works for Nintendo” in front of me, and I was hooked. That was the first Twine game I saw and the moment I realized that this was a thing I could also do. I started writing “You Are Standing at Crossroads” pretty much the very next day.

That was also my first taste of IF as a community, cause I tweeted Michael Lutz about my own game and he was great both during dev and after. It was just a few tweets, but it gave me the confidence to reach out to people in this community and talk about making games.

Q: What was the process like for learning Twine?

A: LOTS of tutorials, and staring at the Glorious Trainwrecks blog trying to figure out how to get the macros to work. I’m very, very glad Twine 2 wasn’t out when I started, cause I wouldn’t have been able to get anywhere without all the Twine 1 documentation that was available and I wouldn’t have picked that one first if a newer, shinier looking version was an option.

Q: Let’s talk about Arcane Intern. I’ve been a big fan of your previous work, and I noticed that Arcane Intern seems to take your games in a new direction story-wise. How did you choose the theme of this game?

A: All my games before this one had been horror games so far, and I did want to try something a little different this time. With regards to what the game is about, I started off with the idea of “The Publishing House where they print the Necronomicon”, realized I knew nothing about Lovecraft, and switched it to something I DO know a lot about, Harry Potter.

And as for the ‘theme’, (spoiler for the different endings) I wanted to play with the expectations vs the reality of ‘what if you discovered the magical world’. Lots of stories have someone enter a magical society and be folded in (or even marked The Chosen One), but I wanted to play with the idea of the society rejecting you. So in the end, you can either try to burn it all down, go solo, or go back to being just a normal muggle, but you never get to integrate. It kind of goes against the dream of all those Harry Potter readers who were just waiting for that Hogwarts Letter.

Q: A lot of work seems to have gone in behind the scenes with Arcane Intern. What was the most difficult part of the game to code?

A: Most difficult part to code, the maze. It was my first maze-type thing ever, and I played for a long time to try and make it so that people could (if they wanted) form a map, while still keeping the warehouse in this weird space where cardinal directions wouldn’t help at all. I’m not sure I accomplished it, but early drafts just had left/right directions and I am soooo glad I got rid of those. They were a mess.

However, piece of code that gave me the most trouble: the background images. There was a hiccup that made the permissions on those images mess up once I uploaded them and it took me around a day to figure out why they were working on some version and not others. XD

Q: Audience reaction is always hard to predict. What were some of the most interesting reactions you received to Arcane Intern?

A: I was surprised at how surprised people seem to be in reviews? XD I’ve seen a lot that read stuff like “This game was surprisingly good.” or “This game surprised me in a good way.” I wasn’t really going for plot twist territory when I wrote it, so I’m curious as to what actually surprised people. (But then again, it’s always different when it comes from your head.

I’ve also noticed some age related splits in opinion (or at least what seems to be. it’s always hard to tell online). And I just wonder if people who grew up with Harry Potter vs people who didn’t are getting vastly different experiences from the game.

Q: As a first-time IFComp entrant, what advice would you give those who want to enter next year’s competition?

A: Give yourself more time than you think you’ll need and then double that. I gave myself a very generous timeline to finish Arcane Intern and then proceeded to get spectacularly sick and lots most of it. I’m glad I finished, and I’m happy with what I made, but I still wish I’d had a little more time.

Also, if you’re like me and a terrible speller, get more people to beta read and then double that too.

Q: What’s next for you?

A: A magical-girl short piece about what happens after the powers aren’t needed and the big bad is destroyed. It’s (so far) called “Yesterday, You Saved the World”, and I’m hoping to have it done this December. [emote]:)[/emote]

Excellent interview. Can you do one with mathbrush?

It just occurred to me that it’s especially cruel to

have someone do an unpaid internship and then wipe their memory. They don’t even get the experience that those internships are supposed to give!

@heartless zombie (in Batman’s voice:) “I AM Mathbrush”

Go on. You know you want to.