In this post I explain a little bit about the Game Room of the Chateau, the room with all the animal heads: how it all came about, decisions I made, and so on.
I suppose almost anyone who played the game and and is familiar with early 3D games realized that the Chateau was my parody of Resident Evil (the early ones, specifically, the ones where the emphasis was on the survival parts of the survival-horror, and which contained lots of puzzles). In fact, I even had Lance play a piano excerpt from the very same work that you have to play in the original Resident Evil: Beethoven’s Sonata #14. I wonder if anyone realized that. Beethoven’s Sonata #14 is more famously known as Moonlight Sonata, which is the tune you must play on the piano Resident Evil. The only thing is, the excerpt Lance plays The Ditty of Carmeana is from the less-well-known allegro movement. But it’s the same work.
Obviously the chateau needed more fleshing out than a piano room, and furthermore, I needed a way to force Lance to visit most the rooms in the Chateau, and some puzzles to solve. At some point it occured to me that the room I had been calling the Game Room, and where I was planning to put a possibly functional billards table, and maybe other games like skiball or even arcade games, could instead be a different kind of game room: a room where you mounted all the game you killed. And then, the fetch quest could be to find items that those animals need, and they would give you keys as a reward. That was how the general concept came about, and it seemed to me to be a good Resident-Evil-style puzzle, but a little sillier, as does befit a parody game.
But that’s just a concept. I still needed to flesh it out. I needed to figure out what the animals were, what items they would need, what their personalities were, and so on. For some reason, I found myself highly reluctant to do this. I suppose it was because once I came up with this idea, it was no longer a tight parody any more: it wasn’t based on a particular scene or level that I could draw ideas from. I would actually have to invent these characters, and their quests, from scratch. I actually remember searching the web several times to see if there was some other game with a similar concept that I could parodize. So I dragged my feet on it for a long time, and tried to think of alternatives, but couldn’t come up with any other ideas that I liked.
It took a trip to the DMV to get me moving. Thanks to the election of a certain groups of Highly Paranoid People to the United States Congress in the early years of the millenium, it was decided that if we wanted to use our driver’s license as identification to board an airplane, it would have to be a Real Identification, and Real ID meant that you had to show up to the issuing office in person to prove that you existed, and could not just renew your driver’s license on-line. Of course, I waited till the last minute to do this. The day before my 41st birthday in 2018, I stood in line at the DMV in Los Angeles. It was a Saturday, and the line stretched out into the street, easily an hour’s wait, and I couldn’t come back another time because my license would expire the next day. So I stood in line, and in the next 40 minutes I got more writing done on the game that I had in probably the previous four months.
At first I brainstormed on what the animals were and what their problems were. What I came up with seems kind of obvious in retrospect.
Any respectable hunter will have a deer mounted in their game room, the more points on the antlers, the better, so a deer had to be one of the animals. What is the deer’s problem? I thought about an odd piece of trivia I knew, that reindeer are the only species where female reindeer have antlers, and thought I could base a quest on that. Originally my idea was that the deer was a male deer who dressed as a female (as an entertainer or something) but no longer was able to because his antlers didn’t fall off in undeath, so Lance would have to find him a book or something that explained that female reindeer had antlers so the deer could dress up as a female reindeer.
A lion was obvious as well, another animal head every trophy hunter wants. I came up with the idea that the lion was resentful of the deer’s central position in the room despite the lion being king of the jungle, so Lance would have to switch them around. (Seriously, do an image search of a hall that has animal heads mounted. A deer or moose with lots of antlers will almost always be mounted most prominently.) Then, because it would be hilarious in light of the fact that the lion’s resentment was based on being an apex predator, I decided the lion would be a vegan.
I had an idea to use a rubber duck as one of the animals because I actually own a rubber duck that I take with me to certain social events (long story). I thought it would be funny if one of the animals was a rubber duck who wanted to take a swim, plus it would give me something to do with the bathrooms.
Then I came up with a wolf that was depressed, and Lance would have to find antidepressants. I have no idea where that idea came from, or why it was a wolf. (I have a vague feeling it might have been that the wolf was upset about always being characterized as a villain, but I didn’t write down the reason in my notes.)
Finally I figured at least one animal would not be happy to be stuck with the other animals and would want earmuffs or something to get peace and quiet. I did not assign that behavior to a particular animal, but I did write down possibilities for the last animal, one of which was a polar bear. I didn’t make it any further because, to my surprise, I made it through the DMV line in only 40 minutes.
That was how I came up with what the animals would be, and what their quests were. (It would evolve, of course. I decided to go with a donkey instead of a wolf because, quite simply, I could not find a usable stock model for a wolf. And, of course, the male crossdressing deer turned into a trans female deer.) But that still left an important aspect left to do: their personalities.
At least for me, that was much easier because personality often emerges as I write. In fact, I pretty much had only one guiding principle for what the animals’ personalities would be. Think about it. You have five different animals from different ecological niches, who were killed and resurrected, and now are living together in the same house.
Yep, the animals’ personalities are based on reality television.
I didn’t allude to that in the game at all. I don’t watch reality TV so I didn’t feel like I would be able to do it justice to make a parody of it, instead I just used it as an inspiration. One doesn’t have to watch much reality TV to know that it’s about as far from reality as possible, and that the personalities are carefully curated to cause as much drama and conflict as possible. And that’s the principle I used when writing the animals.
So of course you have the one person who’s so completely full of themselves they think they’re a friend to everyone even though no one likee them. You have the token nice guy (in this case, nice girl) who actually does like and is liked by everyone. You have the person who wants everyone to leave them alone. You have the complete jerk that is just a thoroughly dispicable, rotten person, who people often get the wrong idea about because they’re outwardly cute. I guess I’m not sure if depression makes much of an appearance in reality TV, at least not the kind of depression Ass exhibits. And there are certainly reality TV personalities I didn’t get to, like the stuck-up diva. But again, this is not reality TV, that was just the inspiration.
So there you have it: the animals in the game room are based on the cast of a reality TV show, whose stories I came up with while standing in the line at the DMV. I’d have to say they were definitely my favorite characters to write.
One other fun fact: the animals at one point had names. I got rid of the names when I realized it would be way funnier to just say “Ass” all the time.