Interview with Hanon O

Someone (not Hanon) asked that I interview Hanon, so here are the results:

Q: Tell us about yourself a bit.

From high school to about 2000 I worked performing in regional theaters and did a small national tour. When theater hit a dry spot in Miami, where I was living, I moved home and got a normal job. I continued to write screenplays. I’ve had two children’s musicals produced, and one movie script optioned, although never produced.

Q: How did you first discover interactive fiction?

We played Colossal Cave in Science class in grade school. Not sure why, probably just to show us how Apple IIe computers were the future of Science. We always had a computer and I played as many Infocom works as I could. I really loved Enchanter, Wishbringer, and Trinity. I also played other stuff, such as Magnetic Scrolls Wonderland (which was way too hard) and I even played Bedlam on cassette tape on the TRS-80. I remember that game was sold in Radio Shack in a ziplock bag.

Q: When did you first start programming IF?

I tried programming an adventure on my own in BASIC on a Commodore Pet. It was very underimplemented and only understood very specific commands. I played a lot with EA’s Adventure Construction Set (which made games more like RPGs) and remember working with a program…I think it was AGS or … It gave you a form to fill out to define a room which was much easier than GOTOing lines if the player wanted to LOOK again.

Q: How did you first develop the concept for the Baker of Shireton?

I work for a large corporation in a call center. When working in online live chat for the main website, they have pre-canned answers that they highly recommend you use instead of typing to keep the company message consistent. In a moment of weird clarity, I realized I was a parser that was responding to keywords like an NPC in a game. That gave me the idea to do a game where you gradually discovered you are an NPC. I also wanted to use Emily Short’s “Recorded Endings” extension (which is the only real redeeming feature of the game apparently) to introduce “patches” to the game and try to encourage the player to “break” things to solve puzzles, a little like FROG FRACTIONS.

Q: What was the hardest part of Baker to code, and why?

The baking simulation was originally going to be a lot more complicated, but I was bludgeoned last year for requiring too much busywork from the player. The original version had metal bread pans which were very important, but in the simplification became unnecessary and I tried to make the parser ignore them. Jenni Polodna reviewed my game and couldn’t even get past the pans since they ended up bugging out with any sort of off-the path experimentation, so I took them out.

Q: As an IFComp veteran, what advice do you have for those who want to enter next year?

IFComp players are different than normal. Their stamina and patience is a lot lower. They have a bowl of games that are like popcorn, so a burnt kernel - anything difficult or bugged about yours will get your game discarded and they will move on to another without much thought. If you’re writing in parser, a tiny experimental game can work, but don’t enter part one of your epic world-building fantasy that players won’t finish in two hours. The winners tend to be all about the writing and not the cleverness of implementation, so story story story, and avoid puzzles that stop the player in their tracks.

Scope a game much smaller than you think you can do so it doesn’t unexpectedly explode into a huge game. Make sure you have beta testers who will complete the game, and aren’t entering their own thing so they’re too busy close to the deadline to help you.

Q: What’s next for you?

I’m not sure. I have a couple ideas for games, but I am not sure any of them are applicable to what the current audience wants. I know I’ll be playing Fallout 4 for a while. I may possibly re-implement FINAL GIRL in a new system.

1 Like