Doug Orleans (dougo) wrote,
Doug Orleans

ShuffleComp 2014 - Part 2

In Part 1, I described how I submitted lists of 8 songs and 8 pseudonyms for ShuffleComp, an interactive fiction competition. On April 8, 2014, I received the following lists of songs and pseudonyms from the shuffled list of all submissions:

NEIL - Gnarls Barkley - The Boogie Monster
RICHARD BRAUHER - Imagine Dragons - Radioactive
A MYSTERIOUS STRANGER - Quantic & Alice Russell with the Combo Barbaro - Look Around the Corner
JUHANA LEINONEN - Iiris - Weirdo (Vimeo)
A MYSTERIOUS STRANGER - The Wailin' Jennys - Storm Comin'
A MYSTERIOUS STRANGER - Ellie Goulding - This Love Will Be Your Downfall
ALAN DENIRO - Halloween, Alaska - Dance by Accident
JASON DYER - a-ha - Take on Me

Here's a YouTube playlist for the above songs (note that the Iiris video doesn't play in the US; use the Vimeo link above):

Pseudonyms: Turtle Wexler, Kava Hot Springs Fantasy, Morton Crenshaw, Robert Whitlock, Harriet Busker, Golem Terraforming Corp., Weaselbread the Barbed Channels of Orthoclase, Wolker Backfire

When I entered the 2011 IF Comp, it was part of a four-person plan to make a secretly-linked set of games, so in order to protect the secret, we all used pseudonyms. In particular, I wanted my pseudonym not to sound like an obvious pseudonym, just to be extra anonymous. Although there was no similar reason to choose a non-obviously-pseudonymous pseudonym for ShuffleComp since everyone would be choosing pseudonyms, something made me want to stick with that strategy, which helped eliminate most of the choices. In the end I went with Robert Whitlock. I'm very curious to know who submitted the name and whether it has any special significance; to me it just sounded pleasingly unassuming and simple.

Choosing which song to use was a lot more difficult, of course. Here were some of my thoughts about each:

  • Gnarls Barkley - The Boogie Monster - There was a reasonably obvious way to turn this into a game: you're in a bedroom, there's something scary in the closet / under the bed / outside the window, and you need to survive until sunrise. The punchline of the song is (spoiler) the monster is you!—which felt a little more challenging to fit into a game. But ultimately it was the final line that turned me off using this song: "The only thing that could bring it back alive, woman, is some good good head." Er, what?

  • Imagine Dragons - Radioactive - This video has 291 million views, so I felt a little out of touch not having heard of this song before. The song is okay, kind of mildly anthemic; the lyrics are somewhat vague and metaphorical, about feeling "radioactive", meaning energized and ready for action, or at least ready for a change, "welcome to the new age" being a repeated refrain. I had some fairly promising ideas about a game where you were literally radioactive (like Chevy Chase in Modern Problems) and either had some sort of superpowers or you would somehow contaminate objects you touched (or need to avoid contaminating them). I suspect, though, that the person who submitted this song was thinking more about the video, which involves some sort of cockfighting-like sport involving weird muppets.

  • Quantic & Alice Russell with the Combo Barbaro - Look Around the Corner - The title certainly sounded like an IF command; I imagined some sort of maze-based puzzle involving arranging mirrors to look around corners, perhaps in order to avoid looking directly at a Medusa or something? Also as I listened to the lyrics more closely there was some intriguingly weird stuff about "the land of the lords of brightness". The music was not really my thing, but it definitely grew on me the more I listened, especially the violins at the end.

  • Iiris - Weirdo (Vimeo) - I couldn't come up with much of anything for this song. It kept going in one ear and out the other. Another one where I suspect the submitter was thinking of the video: a dilapidated mansion apparently populated by shabby-chic squatters. Might be fun to map that out in an IF game, but nothing approaching a hook occurred to me.

  • The Wailin' Jennys - Storm Comin' - A compelling moody a capella rendition of a gospel tune about a storm comin'. This could be a good blank slate on which to build a game about a literal or figurative storm, maybe a cathartic Twine game. But it didn't speak to me personally.

  • Ellie Goulding - This Love Will Be Your Downfall - Not really sure what the submitter was thinking about here: kind of a generic tween-angst unrequited-love and/or breakup song (I couldn't really tell). Here is a complete list of nouns in the song: hearts, people, heads, beds, help, love, downfall, boy, reason. Where are the medium-sized dry goods??

  • Halloween, Alaska - Dance by Accident - This was my favorite song of the bunch. Nice early-'80s Corey Hart / Thompson Twins / The Police sound, smooth synths with a sinister edge, packed with surreal/non-sequitur lyrical imagery. "Gonna try to transcribe a recipe for nothing juice."

  • a-ha - Take on Me - The lyrics to this classic new wave hit are vague and grammatically confusing—I get "take me on" as in either "fight me" or (more likely) "let me join you", but what does "take on me" even mean? The song seems to be (again) about either unrequited love or a breakup, or maybe both. Meh. BUT, of course, the fondly-remembered video is almost certainly what the submitter had in mind: a dream-like story of a lonely girl in a diner who is summoned into a motorcycle-race comic book by a hunky new-wave singer, then chased through a Pac-Man style maze by goons with wrenches. It's also quite possible that the submitter was thinking of the fact that this video inspired the first in a series of "Literal Videos", replacing the lyrics with a literal description of what is happening in the video. "Sketchy arm... / Grab the hand! / So now you're inside / Everything's drawn and super 80s." You can even buy a Pipe Wrench Fight t-shirt.

It took me at least a full week to just decide which song to use. I really wanted to use "Dance by Accident", but I couldn't find any lyrics online, and I wasn't quite confident I understood the lyrics well enough to build a game—I didn't want to risk making a Mondegreen game! I spent a while thinking about "Take on Me", but I still felt like it was slightly cheating to base a game entirely on the video, especially when the actual lyrics were so uninspiring. So in the end I went with "Look Around the Corner". Sadly, my grand visions of a Reflections-style logic puzzle game were quashed by time constraints, writer's block, and learning a new language (TADS 3), so the resulting game is very short and simple. But I'm still somewhat proud of it.

In Part 3 I'll talk about the process of making "Look Around the Corner", the game. There will be spoilers, so I encourage you to play it yourself first! I'll also point out that no one's yet offered a guess for my pseudonyms puzzle presented in Part 1... (Edit: Solved!)
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