One of the very few complaints people have had about The Ditty of Carmeana is that one of the gags, namely the Rickroll, seems dated.
Some have speculated that, since Carmeana has been in development for so long, I put the Rickroll in 2009 or 2010, when Rickrolling was all the rage. But it’s not so.
According to my Subversion logs, I added the Rickroll to the game on March 31, 2012, well after the Rickrolling fad had passed. In fact, it was one of the very last gags I added. (Shortly thereafter, I imposed an unofficial feature-freeze, and decided to work on getting a demo into a releasable state. Which took two years of intermittent rage as I developed a control scheme that supported both gamepad and keyboard/mouse. The Subversion logs from this time period are fascinating, but that’s another blog post.)
Anyway, I have two answers for people who claim that the Rickroll makes Carmeana dated.
First, even a demo needs a payoff for beating the game: I needed to put a worthy reward in that chest in the gazebo. But, given that it was only a small demo, there wasn’t enough happening to work up any tension that the item could relieve. (Some other demos might not need time. For instance, annoying enemies can work up tension really fast, and a suitable reward would be an item to easily kill those enemies, or to suppress them altogether. But I couldn’t do something like that since The Ditty of Carmeana demo had no enemies. In retrospect I realize that a good reward would have been a device that stopped the captions from disappearing before you could read them, but, you know, hindsight.)
What I needed to do, then, was to look outside the game to find something suitable to put in the chest. Fortunately, Carmeana did have one advantage other games didn’t: since it was a comedy, I was free to use a gag reward. (Although even serious games can get away with gag rewards from time to time; for instance there’s the award for setting the record at Lon Lon Ranch in Ocarina of Time.) Dated though it was, I could think of no gags that had the impact and groan-worthy appeal of a Rickroll. So I put it in.
My second answer is, uh, were you even paying attention to the rest of the game? Because the game is chock-full of “dated” references. Tabitha is a direct parody of Navi from Zelda: Ocarina of Time; she even goes so far as to say, “Hey! Listen!” at one point. Ocarina of Time was released in 1998, a decade before anyone was Rickrolling, but I didn’t see anyone complaining that Tabitha was a dated parody. That’s not the worst of it. The clay jars in Borrington contain references mostly from old games and movies. Iocaine Powder is from The Princess Bride, released as a movie in 1987, and as a novel in 1973. There’s the Monolith, from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Even the year in which it was set is older than Rickrolling. There’s Melange, from Dune. The Randomizer, from ToeJam and Earl. The Maltese Falcon, and so on. All parodies of things from before 1990.
Hell, Carmeana has a 200-line exerpt from the poem Beowulf in Old English. Yet I see no one complaining that that makes the game dated.
But ya put in one Rickroll….
So, yes, my game is “dated”, and not just because of the Rickroll. In fact, the overall datedness of the game means the Rickroll fits right in. Because, frankly, I’m old school and I not ashamed of it.
But there is good news. As I said, the Rickroll was something I put in because the game was just a demo and it didn’t have time to build up to a suitable reward. Should I ever turn The Ditty of Carmeana into a full game, it will have the time it needs, so a Rickroll will not be necessary. The Rickroll was really something I did for the demo.