Postmortem? I hardly knew 'em: POOL DOMINATOR

The first version of Pool Dominator began as an escape-the-room game set in, twist, your apartment. You were too uncomfortably hot to leave and had to do things like stick your head in the freezer and take cold showers in order to lower your body temperature and earn your escape. Then you got to go the pool and play a scene that resembles the final game. There was also going to be a third scene because who writes a game with only – oops, playable builds are due, here’s my two-scene game, Neil.

That draft didn’t suck, I guess? But it didn’t work, and I wasn’t sure how to proceed. Fortunately, Ted Casaubon, who beta-tested, gave me this note: “The pool part is more fun than the keeping cool part, so be sure the keeping cool part doesn’t last too long.” I cut the apartment scene completely and started expanding the pool scene. I added the “fucks given” counter. That weekend, I holed up with my computer and a can of baked beans (sustenance!) and finished the bulk of the game.

I realized that Pool Dominator could not possibly cater to all tastes. It’s a dumb game about a mean person that rewards terrible behavior, but I decided that as long as that was the bed I’d made I was going to jump up and down on it. Cue the cartoon violence, jiggly hyperlinks, and extreme profanity. I have mixed feelings about the profanity. A well-placed curse can make a funny line funnier, but too much swearing is ugly and immature, and at a certain point, it just becomes noise. I think it works better in some places here than others. YMMV.

I was also concerned about making my bad behavior simulator inclusive and hate-free (whether or not I succeeded is not for me to say). To those ends, players are cast as a featureless protagonist, and potentially unpleasant bullying scenarios either undermine the player or force them to succeed on the victim’s terms. (For example: your idea of intimidating Beatrice is childishly throwing her book in the water, and your attempt to beat up Mort results in a life lesson.) Additionally, the best skills in the game can only be unlocked by making friends. You can lone-wolf your way to the top, but it’s more tedious and less rewarding.

Pool Dominator has no fail state. The game is repetitive as it is; having to restart would make it unbearable. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that some people (friends and loved ones, but still) had played it twice, and I think the game has just enough going on to earn that. When my brother joked that he was doing a “Peacock-only mandatory-intimidate challenge run,” (not a thing until he made it a thing) I realized that I’d missed opportunities to make multiple plays more fun. The forthcoming post-comp release will implement a few features more widely and add seven achievements for all you achievers out there.

That’s about it. I’m pleased with the game, and had a blast participating in the comp.

Fun Stuff
Song I’d still love to make a game about: “Midnight Sun,” Ivy
Song I loved but wouldn’t make a game about: “Amaranth,” Nightwish
Pseudonym I loved but didn’t use: Huntsman Spider Mailbox

I really liked this one. The bright colors and bouncing hyperlinks did make it feel like a hectic public pool. And “Patience, Iago.” made me smile.

I actually did play it twice because my first time through, I had something like -1 rivals and 4 allies. There didn’t seem to be a way to change those counts anymore, and even though I’d gotten to “god” status, nothing seemed to be progressing. I thought it might’ve been a glitch so I played it again and did the order differently. Now after reading this postmortem, it sounds like I just would’ve had to wait longer.

I really liked this, but couldn’t get over the suspicion that “fucks given” worked backwards. It seemed if I ignored a situation my fucks decreased. Isn’t that the canonical “I don’t give a fuck” so I should have kept them in that case?

Gah, you encountered PD’s most egregious bug, and it broke your game. You weren’t supposed to be able to have -1 rivals, and the ending can only be triggered if $rivals is 0. The post-comp version (Pool of the Year edition? Eh?) fixes this. Once you’ve reached “god” status, the ending should only be a few high-level skill uses away.

My dad said that to me so many times as a kid.

I guess that Pool Dominator’s definition of “not giving a fuck” goes something like demonstrable disregard for things that other people take seriously and also exceptional recklessness. The game is inconsistent, though. For example, choosing to raid the ice cream truck could easily have been spun as the IDGAF option (Wow! Only a total badass would do that!), but instead I made it show people that you’re passionate about something, which humanizes you but is bad for pool domination. So yeah, the game is full of contradictions. The post-comp version (Game of the Pool edition? Eh?) will be contradiction-free. Actually, wait–QA says it’s something I have to live with. Ah, well…

I think the idea is that whenever you don’t-give a fuck, your fucks-to-give goes down. I agree that it’s a little unintuitive that “give” essentially means “keep”, but I’m not sure how to word things better.

The idiom (has it been a meme long enough to be an idiom?) is “zero fucks given.” As a numeric score, zero is the endpoint.

“Behold the field in which I cultivate my fucks. Notice that it is barren. Indeed, I have plowed it with salt and with fucklessness.”

I think it’s pretty straightforward here. The score is not “fucks” but “fucks given.” So whenever you don’t give a fuck, the number of fucks given goes down.