At the end of the ClubFloyd session on April 5th, 2020, we noted that it would be Easter Sunday next session and there was the usual discussion what game shall we play then? And I've always wanted (off and on) to write some sort of Easter egg hunt game, and I thought it would be nice if we had that sort of game to play. And then, I thought, well, why don't I just write it, then? I felt fairly confident that I could write it if I just stuck to it all week, and since nothing else was really pressing, I decided, okay let's do this.
And so I told the other ClubFloyders that I'd try to write up a game and the basic concept came together very quickly. My first decision was that I wanted a dozen eggs to find. That seemed like a good number for eggs, y'know? And I was also keen to reuse bits of other games. With all the walkthroughs I do, I can more easily search for the parts I needed than anyone else I know.
I didn't know which games at all that I'd pick, just that there'd be twelve, one per egg. Each section would be nicely self-contained to make things easy for me.
My next decision was to lay out the basic map, which I immediately called the Big Lawn, and I'd sketched out something like this:
I then opened up Inform 7, created a new project called "Floyd's Easter Hunt" and started creating these first rooms. Center room, first, with self-important pedestal, an Easter basket, grass. I decided not to bother creating unnecessary "path" objects, but I did have to stop and think if I wanted dirt paths or paved paths or what-have-you. Dirt paths won because they're the friendliest to bunnies. The grass had to glow, just a little, because of Glowgrass. Like, if I'm putting in bits of IF from everywhere, even tiny bits like this are fun to put in, yes? I also decided early on to not give the Easter basket any description; the contents of the basket are the important things, not the basket itself. Although I had in the back of my mind that the basket could get special abilities later if it had to. Maybe the basket handle would glow in the dark or something. Let it be a blank slate.
Then I wrote up a first draft of the welcoming intro text and started coding up the rim rooms, the rooms at the edges of Big Lawn. I could have North Side of Big Lawn and East Side of Big Lawn, but what to call the inbetween rooms? There was no convenient Northeast Corner, there's two locations vaguely northeast of the center! So again, stop and think. Well, twelve points in a circle is a clock. Call them 1 O'Clock to 12 O'Clock. Go. Code it up.
I also started brainstorming up colour adjectives for the Easter eggs themselves. I wanted some jeweled ones, and maybe gold and silver ones, but they probably shouldn't all be expensive gewgaws.
I was also trying to think up a theme to help me decide which IF games to "borrow" from. And the very fact of having twelve of everything was reminding me of the twelve cupcakes in Dial C for Cupcakes, and that whole business about astrology, and are there just twelve signs or thirteen signs, and maybe there's a thirteenth cupcake? And I thought, I could do something like that. One easter egg for each of the regular Zodiac signs, and a secret 13th one for the new guy whose name I can never spell, the serpent-bearer?
Off to Wikipedia to look at the article about Opiu-what's-his-name and I soon notice he's had other names. And I've got my fledgling list of Easter egg colours and I'm thinking -- wouldn't it be awesome if one of these names has exactly twelve letters so the eggs themselves can form an acrostic of it? And there it was! Perfect!
To make sure the player had a good chance of figuring this out, I felt the Zodiac signs had to follow the clock numbers, with Aries at 1 O'Clock clockwise to Pisces at 12 O'Clock. And I also put the same numbers on the eggs themselves, so they had a specific explicit order. I rethought some of the colour names a few times. I didn't like having both Amber and Umber, and Umber itself was an ugly colour choice for an Easter egg. I didn't really have another U-name in mind, but I figured I can change that later. So I coded up un-described eggs and put them in the appropriate O'Clock locations to start with, to be hidden later.
Then I fiddled a bit with sorting the eggs in the basket. I wanted an easy ride for the player, and I figured the eggs could just sort themselves when in the basket. This is when "Easter basket" got changed to "straw basket", because that captial E in Easter was interfering with the acrostic in inventory.
Then, it was time to start picking and choosing games to represent each Zodiac sign. Several signs had no obvious choice, but Oh No, Mr Crab Stole Your Hat! was chosen instantly for Cancer. I remembered the game as extremely simple, and there was really only one obvious place to hide the egg: under the hat! I even fleshed out the game more than it originally was, creating an actual sofa object for the living room, for example, and coding the front door in a more sensible manner. I figured I could justify such changes as permissible since I'm not aiming for total fidelity of the original games. They have to be altered here and there anyway to fit, and this game was an easy one to adapt and get the ball rolling, as it were.
Virgo's section, I decided, should be represented by Maiden of the Moonlight, a game I knew well. I had to pause, though, because I definitely didn't want to recreate that entire game! I thought, maybe the egg can go in the crypt. The puzzle to open the sarcophagus was a clever one, and all I'd need would be three locations: the crypt, the outside of the crypt, and the garden. But I stopped and thought, no, that wouldn't do. That would make for a very weak Virgo connection, with only the word "Maiden" in the title. And did I really want opening a sarcophagus in an Easter game?
So, to get the actual maiden involved, I had to use an indoor room, and the room had to have moonlight. And, I can't say I much liked my choices there. I felt the Baron's study was a more interesting room, and when I was reminded that the thick book there mentions the Zodiac — well, I had to have that book in my game so I was determined to use the study. The original study's window was boarded up, but in the spirit of adapting the work into my needs, I re-wrote the study window so it acted more like the window in the hallway.
Then there was the question, well where does the egg go? Bookcase, desk, or clock? The clock puzzle was already in Maiden so I thought I'd copy the clock puzzle and put the egg in the secret room beyond, but no, why code up the complicated secret room just for the egg? Make the egg come out of the clock somehow. Done.
But where would the clock's key come from? I eventually decided on the window, just to get the Maiden herself more involved with the proceedings. And I omitted the thin book because it was totally irrelevant to my game. I didn't want to burden the player with too many unnecessary details from the original games that weren't that relevant in mine.
Then it was onto Libra's section, and Balances. I was so glad to remember that Balances had a straightforward scales puzzle and I wouldn't have to somehow adapt a puzzle from The Temple of Shorgil, say. It also eased my mind, somewhat, that Balances was written as an example game, with source code, so its techniques could be reused. I obviously wanted my Easter egg to replace the scroll on the pan, and so, the turtle feather had to be replaced as well. And, lucky me, a featureless white cube was also in the cave doing nothing. Why shouldn't the cube weigh the same as the egg? I decided they wouldn't weigh the same as the feather or scroll, though, and as long as I made them weigh an odd number of units, 7 instead of 1, I could make things balance out with two more 3-weight gold coins on the other side. Code code code.
Then I started on Leo's section. Would I dare try to copy The Nemean Lion? No, I figured I'd much rather do The Lion in Winter because it's just too damn funny. And, I did replay The Lion in Winter to see what I could do with it, and I still love that game very much, but it didn't really offer any obvious places to hide eggs, y'know? And I had to think, where else are lions? I didn't really want to use incidental lion statues outside some library.
Then I remembered The Homework of Little Carl Gauss, which begins in a VR room where you're surrounded by lions and it seems you're trapped and they're going to eat you when — psych! — you're not trapped after all and you can visit other VR settings. Homework is an Introcomp game that was never finished, and I figured reusing the locations would at least put the game to good use. I didn't know where I'd hide the egg yet, but I figured with all the other VR settings, there'd be something.
So I coded up a barely-working version of the Veldt then moved onto the Control Room, which frankly, was a mess. I opted to trim out almost everything except the nursery controls, but I left in the teleporter/comm thing to keep the explanation why no one was around. I decided I didn't need the hallway or the connecting rooms at all, so I just moved the closed bulkhead over so you can only leave the Control Room via the nursery.
Since the lions business required the player to be trapped, the archway from Big Lawn was made a one-way door in, and I needed another way out. I decided to omit the Gauss home setting entirely and let its position on dial be the way to get back.
I also noticed around this time that one of Homework's VR settings had a moat with many types of monsters, including scorpions. I jumped at this unexpected gift for Scorpio, replacing the varied monsters with scorpions only. I kept the muddy wall puzzle, only moving the rag from the storage room I wasn't using to the moat. It was inelegant to put the rag there, but I didn't want to waste too much time on where the rag oughta be if not there.
With the moat now in Scorpio's territory, its place on the dial in Leo's territory had to go. I suppose I could've just had 5 dial positions instead of 6, but 6 seemed nicer. So I decided there would be a new VR scenario that I'd have to make up out of whole cloth. And I still hadn't placed Leo's egg yet! Looking at Homework's byline, the mention of a "bag of cats" was amusing. I had already decided I didn't want to use the bag in the game, which itself was a borrowing from yet another game I wasn't as familiar with. But I did remember the "letting the cat out of the bag" gag from In a Manor of Speaking and thought maybe do something similar? And, of course, the egg can be left in the bag once the cats are gone. Perfect! So... which cats? Aren't lions cats? Reuse the lions! More perfect! But I still needed a venue for this bag to sit in. I thought, well, okay, a shipboard location would be a bit different from the other VR settings, and if I made it a cartoon-like setting, I don't have to implement anything in there. Just paint it on the walls, ha ha! Then I just had to think up a fun cat-like cartoon name for the setting, and "Kitten Kaboodle" was born.
During all the proceeding, I was fussing a bit with the archways into each section, and I wanted to have the sections close down once they were completed, which is when I started adding portcullises. I was still thinking, of course, that each section would be self-contained and that it would mainly be a matter of making sure that section's egg wasn't in there any more. Inform's concept of regions helped a little, but it was soon obvious that I didn't dare have Leo's section close with Virgo's moon key trapped inside, just because I had Leo's egg. Anything portable had to be marked as either important or unimportant, with an important tool becoming unimportant once that tool had been fully used. So then I was checking not only if the section's egg had been found, I was also checking that no important items were left in a region as well.
Also also, I was rethinking some of how Big Lawn worked. I was wondering if I should put up a 'do not walk on the grass' sign to force the player to stay on the paths and not cut across diagonals. But ultimately, I decided that was silly. We're gonna walk on the grass, dammit! This was really only a problem going diagonally from Center Room, where there were two equally valid destinations in each of the diagonal directions. I decided, if one archway is open and the other isn't, the player goes to the open one. Otherwise, the destination is random. Still a smidge confusing, but I thought it was a reasonable way to handle it. And trust me, I've seen worse layouts.
It was starting to get more difficult to find good representations of the missing Zodiac signs. I thought for sure I'd go with The Man from DEFRA for Capricorn, but I just wasn't enthused with the player becoming a goat for no reason. I liked my player-character to have no inventory restrictions and walk around with a basket of eggs, after all, and a goat can't do that. So I needed another goat and I remembered A Boy and His Goat. Another speed-if game! Super-simple. However, it did have the wrinkle of being committed to Boy's story until you finish it - win or lose. Since you can lose in the Capricorn section, I had that section reset itself until you finally get the egg. And since there really wasn't anywhere to hide the egg except in the goat itself, I essentially made the egg a prize for finishing Boy's story successfully.
Then it was time for Sagittarius, the archer. Which games do I know of with archery? The one that first came to mind was Birmingham IV. You're in a castle courtyard, you shoot at a distant golden apple, then get into the orchard on the other side and pick it up — oh, it's actually a golden orb. I was delighted to see that I had already assigned a Ruby egg for Sagittarius, so now the "golden apple" was a "red apple", and the golden orb would be the Ruby egg. A minimal geography for this puzzle required that end of the courtyard, the orchard, and, I felt, the nearby bedchamber where you can peek through the window to see something gold in the orchard once it's fallen there.
So I coded up that end of the courtyard, rotating the Eastern Courtyard into a Western Courtyard, since Sagittarius's archway approached from the east. The bow and arrow, I dropped into the bedchamber from their original locations. I left the bedchamber's chest as is, to be locked forever. I still needed a way to get the orchard door open. I liked the original game's way of using a magic word, but I felt I shouldn't spoil what the actual word is, and I also needed a brand new place for the player to learn it. I thought, okay, maybe brazenly paint the magic word on the wall of the useless antechamber location, but that seemed a smidge too easy. Since I mostly included the bedchamber for its window, I decided the window should reveal the magic word to the player. A sign in the orchard, perhaps? No, let's scratch it on the windowsill, as if whoever slept there needed a reminder.
Then I had to pick a magic word, one that animates statues. I thought I should try to continue the archery theme if I could, and eventually brainstormed the word QUIVER, which seemed ideal for an archery term that would make statues move. And then I added an extra V just to make it look more like a magic word.
I still needed to code regions for Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Aquarius, and Pisces, and none of my ideas for them were working. There's a game called The White Bull and maybe it would be ideal for Taurus, but I've never played it. Should I do Rameses for Aries? RAM-eses? Weak. Aquarius? Wasn't there a water cooler in Little Blue Men?
And what about Gemini? Can I use something from My Evil Twin? Except, you never see your twin in that game. How about Superluminal Vagrant Twin. Your twin does eventually show up, but he's a McGuffin, really. The King and Queen of The Lost Islands of Alabaz are twins, can I do anything with them? Since they're only together at game's end, it's a bit weak. What about the Left Alex and Right Alex in The Day I shot Alex? Oh, yes, a nice spot of double murder in my fun Easter egg game. No, thank you. The twin sinks in Finding Martin? Oo, you are so reaching there.
I think this is when I coded up the Gargantuan Gazebo for the finale. I quickly decided the gazebo should be fully as large as the Big Lawn, and for all anyone knows, they might've been the same location. And I decorated it in a style that I thought would suit a semi-mad Greco-Roman god-like character. Flowers and furniture scattered everywhere. Some exotic birds too because why not, it's in the air or seems to be, like at Mount Olympus. I put the solar system in the dome as a bit of a mindfuck moment, that this is one hell of a perspective shift. And I researched yet more names for Ophy, deciding that we're guessing his snake's name, and I tried to brainstorm other names that players might guess, and assigned scores. I had not decided on final prizes yet at all. I figured at minimum, you'd win an egg per point earned. And I'd also fiddled with the pedestal, so it makes different fun sounds depending on how many eggs your basket has, and rejects anything but the basket.
This is probably also when I added C and CC directional travel to the rim locations.
But soon, I had to keep trying on getting the rest of the sections finished and considered Pisces. There's a game called Fish Dreams, but I don't know it.There was that Monk-Fish game where you become a fish, but that seemed as poor a choice as the game where you're a goat. A Day for Fresh Sushi seemed a good choice, since it's a single room and already a worked example in Inform 7's manual. But then I remembered one of my own speed-if games had some fish, Krakatoa Tuna Melt, and decided that was the most expedient choice.
I had to change the effects of my original puzzle, since the goal was no longer to catch a fish to make a sandwich, but to find and obtain an egg somewhere. Obviously the fish should either aid or hinder me in getting the egg. And I was again pleased to note that I'd pre-chosen a Sapphire egg for Pisces, which would look very semi-hidden at the bottom of the lagoon. I opted to have the fish simply hinder the player until they were fed, after which they'd now leave, and the player can get the egg. I reimplemented the meadow with the cows and sheep just so I had a complete end of the island. I didn't want to reimplement the entire island, but I figured one unnecessary location wouldn't hurt.
Then I did a deep dive into my notes for any mention of a 'bull' to see what I could find. You're a bull in Solid Leather. There's a bull statue in Grayscale. The Xylophoniad has the bull-headed Minotaur. And 'Alias' The Magpie actually uses the bull and red cloth bit which filled me with glee — but I didn't immediately see a way to simplify things to extract just that bit of business, so I went with Grayscale.
I only used two locations from Grayscale, since the bull statue was right at the garden's entrance. I was prepared to implement the entire garden if the bull was at the opposite end. In that game, each of the four statues has a gem, and lucky me, I had pre-chosen an Emerald egg for this section. Obviously my Emerald egg would masquerade as a normal emerald until plucked.
I did notice that I'd just added a second statue to a game that already had a statue-animating magic word in it. I tried not to listen to the voice in my head, asking the question, what if the player casts QUIVVER here? But I knew I couldn't ignore that question for long. A decision will have to be made.
I needed to seriously think about Aquarius. My mind was fixated on the bit from Cana According To Micah where you're filling up water jugs from the well, and then I look up the details, and you're doing that because Jesus himself asked you to, because he plans to turn the water you're fetching into wine. And I just felt, y'know, really uneasy about introducing Jesus into this sort of Easter game. It seemed really really wrong. And I was wondering, but what other options are there? Didn't Monday, 16:30 have a water cooler; should I look at that? And I look at which egg Aquarius got, and it's the Umber egg, of all things. And then, I remembered the Cragne Family Plot bit in Cragne Manor, where you're emptying out a water filled grave with an urn and pull out a small box from a neighbouring grave. What if... the Umber egg was in the grave instead of that box? Gross. But of course, it was too perfect not to do.
I simplified the Cragne Family Plot a bit. There's no walkway to front or back of the house. There's no colum-whatevers and extra urns. Just one good urn to replace the broken china one. I kept the crypt, never to be opened, and the rotten flowers, which I decided should stay put. I also decided to go with a merciful version of this scene, so the grave now never collapses while you're inside it, only once you leave it. And I was so happy to have the perfect hiding place for the Umber egg.
So now I'm down to Aries and Gemini. Let's deep dive into my notes for 'ram'. There was a ram in Best Gopher Ever. Okay. There's the "tup" in Under, in Erebus; maybe I can do a puzzle with the cyclops there? Lessee, there's a ram statue in Mingsheng? (Shaddup about QUIVVER, you.) And you can "rim ram" in Very Vile Fairy File. So not helpful.
So... remind me who the ram in Best Gopher Ever is? Oh, he's Professor Ram. Oh, he actually is a ram too, so that's okay. And he has a machine that alters objects into similar objects... oh no. Oh no. It's irresistable. Am I really going to introduce a device that makes alternate versions of every portable item in the game?
Yes. Yes I will do that. The Easter eggs themselves are inviolate, but everything else has be be up for grabs. The basket. The hat. The rag. The key. The book. The paper. The urn. The cube. Oh god, make a list. I mustn't overlook a single thing. We need to work this out. And this is going to play hell with the portcullises. AND: This totally blows out of the water any idea that the sections won't interact with each other.
Oh, and obviously, Ram's machine must make Aries's egg for us, which means we should have some ordinary egg, not an Easter egg, lying around somewhere, give it to Ram, and he'll give us ... the Silver egg. Did Best Gopher Ever have any eggs in it? By golly, yes, there's a speckled egg. We'll use that. We'll hide it, I dunno, in one of the unused VR settings in Leo. Done.
So, I drew up the following list of correspondences:
And even though we can carry the goat, it can never leave its region, so we don't need to worry about that one. But still:
By this time, I'd definitely let QUIVVER do something with the bull statue. It doesn't help you at all, but it is supported.
Poor Gemini still didn't have a game to represent it. I was even considering cases where the PC twins themselves with a timeloop (Sorcerer, Once and Future, Möbius, etc.) but my heart wasn't in it. And time was ticking. I decided if I couldn't find the piece I needed, I -- I -- I would have to write it myself. Oh dear.
So. Twins. Pairs. Couples. Think think think. Concentration? The card game? Where you pick pairs of cards. Enh. At least it's not another maze or a slider puzzle, but it's pure busywork. How many cards? How about twenty-five in a 5 by 5 grid? That lets you make twelve pairs (one per Zodiac sign) ... plus one left over. That card represents Ophy. Cool. That sounds better.
I thought it'd be nice to emphasize the twin theme and "concentration" with two statues of The Thinker, but I wanted to avoid more statues, so they became a mural where they're playing chess. I wanted a minimal sort of room, so it's just a cushion and a rug on the floor, and that suggested an Arabian Nights sort of place, so I put the administrator of the game into a Jafar outfit, and, remembering a room in The Facility, I renamed the room "Meditation Room" from my original "Concentration Room".
My original draft of the administrator was a man named Zoltan the Great, but I thought it would be even better if his name was a doubled something like, I dunno, Zolzol, to play up the Gemini theme even more. It took me a while, but I eventually dreamed up "Jinjin", where "Jin" suggests "djinn".
During testing, I decided to make Jinjin non-binary, It just felt right, y'know? Like, they're a single person, but they use plural pronouns. It took a while to figure out how to convince Inform 7 that that's what I wanted, but I eventually got "x them" to describe Jinjin, and not "x him", "x her", or "x it". Anyway, Jinjin was fun. You get the feeling that they're up to something, but they're so friendly, you can't be sure what. And I wonder what the rest of the imaginary game that Jinjin and the meditation room came from is like. Something set in the world of Zork, at least, if the cards are any indication.
Finally! Every section accounted for. I had to finish off some coding I'd skipped over, notably what prizes you get when you win, what happens if you try to leave the lions too soon. There were some errors I had to fix here and there, like an unexpected "arch10 archway". I wrote some testing verbs to see if things worked the way I expected. Wrote up the story description. And so on and so forth. Oh, and I hid another couple bits of hidden business at this time. More Easter eggs, you might say.
I used my own Perl program that creates the maps for my walkthroughs to make my cover art for me. I decided right away I wanted twelve stars to represent the twelve Zodiac signs/archways/etc, with the game title in the middle. Did the star placements first. Added the text. And the bunny. Then played around with colours and fonts and font-sizes until it looked acceptable.
Then it was time to push the Release button, upload it all, add the info to IFDB, and tweet the links. Ta-da!