The Familiar: Post-Mortem for a Crow

Hi all. I wasn’t originally going to do this, but I got an itch and just wanted to have a final send-off for my beloved bird, Fran, and the world of Gennemont.

The Familiar was always intended to be an emotional piece, first and foremost. To that end, I believe that I was successful. But I have plenty of other thoughts about the game’s core pieces.

On Mechanics

From the start, I decided that I would take a more rudimentary approach to the puzzles with the full knowledge that it would almost certainly appeal less to the more experienced members of the IF community. That was fine by me. I wanted to share this with my parents, my nephews, my friends - none of whom actively play IF games. And I think I threaded things well enough that people were satisfied even if they viewed the puzzles as very easy.

Perhaps the best advice I received in terms of puzzle-making was when I was stuck on the final ingredient puzzle, and someone from the interact-if Discord recommended I follow the old Aesop fable about the crow and the stone, and it felt like such a duh moment to me that I just had to include it in my game.

For the rest, I tried to have either multiple solutions to everything or enough interactivity (like with the letter-writing sequence which I think was really well-received) that it didn’t matter so much.

I believe that limiting the vocabulary to just a few words (TAKE, DROP, CAW, LOOK, PECK) was absolutely the correct path, even if it ended up limiting me in many very real ways. I think most of the critical feedback stemmed from that decision and the puzzles. There was always going to be a low upper limit on my puzzles’ complexity after I did that, but I think it’s just silly enough that it works overall. If I were a better coder, I might have done it in a more interesting way. But I’m not, and so I’ll take what I can get.

My code is a mess. It will never see the light of day. But if you have questions just DM me!

On Art

I spent so much time on that dang art, y’all. I needed six months to knock out 30+ pixel-art headers and even then it felt like a stretch. But again, this was important to me: I knew that pixel art would both play into Adventuron’s nature and heighten the emotional nature of the story. To that end, again, I think I was successful.

For all of you had said it felt like a Ghibli story - I could not have received higher praise. The background details of the story were certainly inspired by Ghibli, but much of the art was as well. I referenced heavily scenes from Howl’s Moving Castle and one my personal favorites, Kiki’s Delivery Service, to capture a specific tone and mood.

I used a combination of MS Paint and Aesprite to make my scenes. Aesprite was particularly useful for scenes where I needed to reference perspective lines and could change the opacity of layers. I would highly recommend purchasing it if you’re hoping to do something similar. Some things I cheesed, like using the “thought bubble” tool in MS Paint (translated, flipped, skewed) to make trees and blood/attack effects throughout the game. Adventuron also worked really well for this. I just made the images at 192x64px and the game engine happily scaled things up for me with no interpolation needed.

The piece I’m most proud of, however, is the owl. This thing took me at least a dozen hours of hard work. I know it’s silly to ramble on about art on an IF forum, but I do think these things elevated my game a lot.

There are some art pieces that I wish I could have had more time with: the Opera House in particular was challenging to me. But overall, I was quite pleased with the final portfolio for this game.

On Characters & Story

I am extraordinarily competitive by nature, and so of course a large part of me was hoping I might still squeak into Best of Show even as it became evident just how good my competition was.

But now, after all the ribbons have been awarded, what I feel is mostly just happiness that the stories and characters seemed to connect with people. Most of the praise for my game had to do with either the art or the characters, and it warms my heart to no small degree to hear that. I wanted everyone you interacted with in Gennemont (except, perhaps, the dapper man) to feel like they had a real depth to them. I think I managed to do that.

Again, drawing inspiration from Ghibli, I wanted to inspire both a little bit of sadness and a little bit of happiness throughout the game. There were the really silly bits like helping Cecile write her letter (which came to me as a random thought and I coded in a frenzy immediately), but I also think the direness of Fran and even Hazel the Dormouse’s situations came through without being overbearing.

I was also pleased that I seemed to have dialed in the intensity appropriately. You cannot lose the final encounter with Hunleff, of course, but I think it’s just scary enough that the thought enters your mind.

Especially over on Tumblr, Fran seems to have struck a chord. She’s plucky and brash in a way I never could be, and she just sort of sprung to life all on her own. It’s rare and so enjoyable to have a protagonist - especially in an IF game! - who does that. I have a new love and appreciation for crows as a result of researching for her. I also had a great time coding in things like the nearly three dozen types of CAW responses you could get. When the ribbons came in, I was tempted to just choose the “Sweetest Bird” one and be done with it. Fran made this game what it is.

The emotional heart of this story was always going to be Fran and her adventure, and despite the game’s other shortcomings I feel intensely proud with what I accomplished on that front. It’s hard to do it in a parser game, and I learned a lot in pursuit of that goal.

On What’s Next

I’m probably done with Adventuron for now. I might hop back in for a short game here or there, but nothing on the scale of The Familiar.

You can check out my Tumblr where I’m doing active dev logs of my next game, a sci-fi RPG/rogue-lite game in Twine tentatively called “Requiem”. I’m also talking about the novel that I’m writing there a bit as I dive into the editing and (eventually) querying process!

All in all, though, thank you for the warm response to The Familiar. I felt so heartened by this community and can’t wait to continue learning and growing as a creator.


The Familiar was one of my absolute favourite entry of the SpringThing, and might be even my favourite parser. It was so nice to be able to alpha and beta test the game. I’m looking forward to replay it again in the future :stuck_out_tongue: (and chase that damn letter like a madcrow around town)


Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us! It was obvious how much care went into The Familiar, from the writing to the art to the walkthrough, and it was interesting to read about your process. Looking forward to your next game!


I felt so pleased that yours was the first ST game I played. It was just wonderful, and Fran and your artwork really stayed with me after play. Just a joy.