The Origin of Madame Time postmortem

This game was different than all of my others.

The Origin of the Origin

Last year, inspired by Emily Short’s 2015 IFComp prize (where she ended up writing The Mary Jane of Tomorrow in the world of Brain Guzzlers From Beyond), I offered to write a 30 min game set in the world of the prize chooser.

The prize went to the team of The Owl Consults, which was very exciting.

No Time

After last year’s comp, I ended up getting two writing contracts, which I was very pleased with, but which took up much of my time. I knew I wouldn’t have as much time to make a comp entry.

So I wanted to do a comp entry, and (separately) my ‘prize game’, write the two contracts, do my actual job, and finish up my Introcomp-winning game for Spring Thing, Sherlock Indomitable.

So, partway through the year, I decided to ditch my IFComp 2018 ideas (which included a 1920’s bank robbery game with unreliable narrator where every NPC was a Great Depression book character, like Scout, Mr. Gatsby, or the people from Grapes of Wrath; a different idea was a pastiche of a certain author’s games), and focus all of my energy on the prize game after Spring Thing. I wanted to give Thomas Mack and co. a game that wasn’t horribly embarrassing, and putting it in IFComp would guarantee I would work on it harder.


With limited time, I had to fit in what I could. I had recently written an article on how game design had evolved over years, and I realized that much of the play time of old games involved traversing a map where the solution to one part of the puzzle could be found far from the puzzle itself.

With this in mind, I tried to develop a map where puzzles would form a sequence, with an object in one room fulfilling a quest in another. This would provide the most game with the least programming time.

The source material immediately suggested superheroes, but NPCs are not coding-efficient. I made the world frozen, instead. Frozen superheroes inspired the idea of using heroes’ powers while they were frozen.

There just wasn’t enough time to code that many puzzles, which, as people have mentioned in the feedback, is the biggest problem with the game: overall lack of content.

The majority of a player’s interaction with a parser game is error messages, so I spent much of my time on those. I did other low-time-cost additions: adding an epilogue to the game, a book full of superhero stories, and, at the very last second, a series of intrusive thoughts relating to your actions (although I think that backfired, as it produced a few typos).

I wanted to spend more time on the game, but I would rather have a small game that was very polished than a big, buggy game.


My testers were wonderful. The game wouldn’t be the game without them. All the good parts of all my games have come from testers, and the unrewarded work that testers do is just amazing. Thank you thank you thank you (p.s. could you test next year’s game please).


I am very pleased with placing in 17th. I am more pleased that reviewers aware of the status of this game as a prize seem to think it was a good prize. Its purpose was to honor The Owl Consults, and it seems to have fulfilled that goal completely.

Thanks for everything! To all the authors, I’m offering the same prize this year, but I’ve given myself 2 years to finish it. I would love to do something for any of your games, and I have ideas for every game in the top 10! I’m up for Twine or Choicescript as well. Thanks!

I didn’t have time to write any reviews this year, but I quite enjoyed this game, and I think its placement has more to do with the game’s brevity than anything else. I would love to play a full version of this game concept (though of course, it’s understandable if you want to move on to other projects set in your own worlds.)