- Submit 8 songs and 8 pseudonyms.
- Receive a random list of 8 songs and 8 pseudonyms dealt out from the submission pool.
- Write an IF game inspired by one of the songs, under one of the pseudonyms.
- Play other people's stories and vote for the ones you like.
- Once the comp is over, the top 30% vote getters are announced as Commended entries.
When I heard about the comp, I thought it sounded like a neat idea, but I felt I had no time to write a game by the deadline—at the time I was in the middle of both Puzzle Boat 2 solving and DASH 6 planning, and I had been itching to get back to some of my many back-burnered projects, including revising my IFcomp entry from 2011! Plus, that IFcomp game had ended up being way more work than I had anticipated, and I was not really satisfied with the result (nor were the comp voters, who placed it 25th out of 38). Did I really want to commit to making another game on a deadline? I chatted with prog about ShuffleComp at a party shortly afterward and it turned out he had gone through exactly the same thought process. Ah well, we both figured... maybe next time.
The more I thought about it, though, the more I really wanted to submit some songs to see what people could do with them. I started brainstorming about songs that could make good IF games, and almost immediately I remembered two songs that I've always thought of as great examples of songs that told a narrative story (a sadly under-populated category). I couldn't resist putting together a list, and then I figured, if I submitted a list of songs and thus committed to writing a game, in the worst case I could always just spend a day or two to scribble out a really short choose-your-own-adventure or hypertext game, using ChoiceScript or Undum or Twine. Much easier than wrestling with Inform 7 programming!
So here's the list of songs I ended up submitting:
- Rush - Red Barchetta - This is my canonical story song, a pleasant first-person near-future sci-fi tale, and I was always disappointed that Rush didn't do more of these after the mid-'80s. Ironically I only learned after the comp was over that this song was based on an actual short story published in Road & Track magazine in 1973.
- Genesis - Home by the Sea - Another early '80s prog-rock story song. At some point in junior high school I think I even tried turning this into a D&D adventure, but I never actually played it. On the album (and in the linked YouTube video), this is followed by "Second Home by the Sea", whose layers of extended synthesizer solos and a reprise finale give it an epic feeling that always makes my mind wander into expansive daydreams.
- Slint - Breadcrumb Trail - I could have picked nearly any song off this album, but I stuck with the opening track, another evocative first-person story, this one less fantastical but more emotionally resonant. Coincidentally, a couple weeks after picking this song, I got to see Slint play live, only their second time touring since they broke up just before the release of Spiderland in 1991; it was followed the next night by a screening of a new documentary about their short career and their consequent enigmatic mystique and lasting influence on the indie-rock scene—titled, of course, Breadcrumb Trail.
- King Missile - I Wish - This is more of a meta-story song, a song about stories—a whole long whimsical yet poetic list, as King Missile songs so often tend to be. It reminded me of more traditional Speed-IF comps where people collectively come up with a random list of disparate elements that each game had to include all of.
- Be Your Own Pet - Adventure - OK, here is where I started just searching my song collection for keywords in the titles. This is not a song I've had much of a connection with, but once I gave it a closer listen it seemed totally appropriate for this list. This is also the first on the list with a proper video, with its own little narrative, which I figured would be an extra prompt source if anyone ended up picking this one.
- Love & Rockets - The Game - Another somewhat obvious choice once I ran across it. I remember listening to this a lot in college during late-night hacking sessions: "we're going to stay awake until we fix all the silly mistakes that we made".
- Red Fang - Wires - At this point I shifted into just wanting to share some "you gotta hear this!" songs. This one is all about the heavy riffage, and usually makes me want to listen to it a few times in succession. The video is genius too, telling a story of the making of itself (with a cameo by quintessential metal-nerd Brian Posehn, whom I'd also recently seen in a screening of Knights of Badassdom). It wasn't until the dozenth-or-so listen that I actually paid attention to the lyrics, and it turns out they provide a nice outline of a story setting as well.
- Tame Impala - Lucidity - My final pick was more of a sentimental favorite, from my favorite new band of the last few years; it's the most lyrically disjointed and abstract of my list, but the lyrics are in fact first-person, and definitely resonated with me in a way that I could see being suitably inspiring for some sort of story. And, it's another great sense-of-wonder video, in the "how come no one thought to do this before?" category.
The next task was coming up with 8 pseudonyms. It wasn't long before I thought of a nice theme, which quickly led to the following list. I'll leave it as a puzzle for you to figure out what they all have in common and where they each came from:
- Barbara Allen
- Elizabeth Stride
- Gerald Bostock
- Jimmy Cooper
- Sebastian F. Sorrow
- Tommy Walker
- Tom Violence
So there was that! I had submitted my lists and committed to making a game based on someone else's submission; now I just had to wait for all the lists to be shuffled up and sent back out. In the meantime, I discovered that prog had, again, gone through exactly the same thought process as I had and also ended up submitting his own lists and committing to making some semblance of a game.
This seems like a good time to pause. Continue reading Part 2, where I receive my assignments and somehow manage to come up with and (spoiler!) finish making a game.