I thought I’d record the basic process of making this game.
JJ Guest selected the prize I offered in 2018 for creating a game based in his world. This was the second time I had offered that prize, and because I hadn’t had enough time to finish my last such game to my own satisfaction (The Origin of Madame Time) I gave myself two years to finish this one.
The original design concept was suggested by JJ, with the Magpie riding a train car in a time sequence that required replay to get down right. The Magpie would change costumes during dark sections when the train was in the tunnel.
So I tried to make an outline first of obstacles to overcome. My concepts were that there would be the following difficulties:
-A rich person who had a ruby carved like a rose (based off of a series I read as a kid about a sapphire carved like a rose). This person would have 5 senses you have to block to be able to capture the rose successfullly.
-A dog who became suspicious of you and had to be placated.
-A rival in disguise
-A sharp-eyed attendant who required you to be in the right costume
Originally, there was no conversation at all and no outside section. JJ suggested replacing the dog with a bird, and that led to a parrot. I decided to create a few conversational topics for the parrot.
Then beta-testing began, and that led to enormous changes, mostly in that people said ‘If you can talk to the bird, why can’t you talk to everyone else’? Which led to more and more addition of conversational topics until they became a significant chunk of the game’s code, despite almost all of them being completely useless.
I also discovered that having several forms of liquid in the game was a terrible idea, as beta testers had the wildest ideas of things they could do with them. That’s why the game has a (also completely useless) drink mixing setup where you can take, for instance, vodka and grape juice, mix them together, offer it to everyone individually (with variations in each person’s responses based on the ingredients), pour it on everyone, drink it, or try to mix it again (with disastrous results). Absolutely none of it is useful, though, except for pouring it on one thing.
Testers found so many bugs with this game. At one point, the Viscount’s hat was able to hold your suitcase and all your clothing, and then destroying the hat removed all of your items from the game forever. For another set of testers, the attendant never made it into the train with you, but managed to comment on everything anyway.
The attendant, in my mind, looks exactly like Missy from Dr. Who. The antagonist, the Viscount, was entirely inspired by a wonderful Arsene Lupin story where he is repeatedly foiled by someone in a train car, only to later discover that his enemy is actually an infamous murderer. Cornelia Hogg is based on the Rockefellers/Carnegies.
Working with JJ on this game has been great. He was able to give me many tips regarding what the Magpie should look and act like, and commissioned the cover art for me. I believe that this game has generated more interest in this comp than my previous games because of the association with JJ’s brand and for his contributions to ‘marketing’, and for that I am grateful.
This game wasn’t designed to win, and won’t win, as it is too short. This was intentional, as I was finishing my Choice of Games novel during the writing of this game. I’m offering the same prize again, but for in two years from now, as next year I am entering a ‘trying to win’ game, which will be large and complex.