Brought To You By ZIP! (WIP)


#1

(Updated 8/8: You can go through the second scene now.)

This is my first Choicescript game, a comedy/scifi period piece in which you play the newest cast member of a 1940s radio serial. Only the first scene is written so far, with the option to interact a bit with one of your co-stars; later on you’ll meet others and your relationships with them will matter a little more. May be some pronoun screwups, though I think I caught most of them. Let me know what you think!

Brought To You By ZIP!

PS: is ‘kid’ a good neutral alternative for ‘girl’ or ‘guy’? It’s the best one I could think of, but I started to get paranoid that in a few places it sounds like the protagonist might actually be a child (not good, since there’s romance options–the protagonist’s about twenty but in the ‘neutral’ option is voicing a child character on the show.)


#2

‘kid’ is nice and neutral as long as the protagonist is young, but you probably only want to use it a few times. My suggestion: make a gender select sooner rather than later so you don’t have to worry about it!

Good luck on your project.


#3

Certainly an entertaining read, can’t wait for more from the zip wip.


#4

can’t wait for more this is alsom


#5

If you could allow us to enter our own names, that would be awesome


#6

My God, this brings me back. I remember my grandfather would talk about radio shows like this, quoting cheesy sci-fi adventures and diabetes inducing cereals. Thanks for the slice of nostalgia, keep up the good work!


#7

Really interesting I’m keeping my eyes on this.


#8

Love it, it reminds me of X Minus One mixed with Lux Radio Theatre (I am not old, I am just a loser…)

Not to take you off-topic, but should you ever wish to make something like this for real, it would be nice to use my degree skills for something, so I could help you both script it for radio and edit it, add foley and whatnot to make it more authentic.

When I say edit, I didn’t mean the script, I meant the recordings themselves. It was unclear…


#9

Not sure about making the recordings (I mean, that actually sounds awesome, but I have no idea where I’d even start getting actors and such) but I’d love any pointers on making the behind-the-scenes stuff seem authentic. I know the feel of those old shows pretty well, but not so much the details of production and the business and such, so I’m sure it’ll be chock full of inaccuracies. I don’t mind playing a little fast and loose with historical authenticity to make a 40’s LA that’s queer-friendly, but I’d rather not totally bungle the atmosphere, you know?


#10

Well, there I can help. I used to make this sort of thing in audio in my spare time at university, firstly The Adventures of Johnny Justice and later To the Castle of the Moon Men (neither of which you are expected to have heard, nor could you by now) but suffice it to say I can provide research materials aplenty.

At the moment your play is thematically most similar to Flash Gordon (my personal favourite of all the Gordons, Commissioner included) so I would recommend giving the episodes a listen, technically speaking they were a product of the 30s and contain far fewer tailored advertisements, but the first episode is worth it just for the scene where Flash and his girlfriend Dale escape Ming’s palace by swimming away. Flash does the swimming while dragging Dale by her hair. I desperately wish I was making that up.

http://www.botar.us/flashgordon.html

For the feel of the ads, I would recommend you listen to an episode of Lux Radio Theatre, a phenomenally popular radio show that would get A-list actors to come on and recreate some of their best movies. The actors would always have to do a nauseatingly obvious ‘interview’ segment where they went on and on about how Lux dish-soap was the most important thing in their homes. Cecil B. DeMille was the show’s ‘host’, that’s how rich this show was.

http://www.botar.us/luxradiotheatre.html

Also, X-Minus One was an early fifties show that for me is the high-water mark of radio sci-fi, full of fear-mongering, nuclear Armageddon and Martians stealing your children for their invasion (that’s a real plot in one episode, by the way). Any episode will give you an excellent idea of the feel that sci-fi had in the 40s and 50s.

http://www.botar.us/Xminusone.html

Last one, I swear. Journey Into Space was the BBC’s most well-known foray into radio sci-fi, a slightly darker, more technically minded show that had far fewer bangs and whizzes. It was massively well received at the time. Good for contrast, at least.

http://www.botar.us/journeyintospace.html

As to general tone and conventions of the time, most sci-fi of the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s that made it to the radio or big-screen were fundamentally about hubris. The mad scientist or evil alien race would stage their plan to destroy/rule the Earth with their devastating new-fangled technology, and only square-jawed down home American Will could stand in its way. Often the scientists on the side of ‘good’ were side characters, who were ultimately proven wrong by the folksy wisdom of the rugged protagonist. Destination Moon wasn’t about the scientists, who were smart but unable to get their rocket off the ground, it was about the bold, handsome entrepreneur who played fast and loose with the rules to get them there. Forbidden Planet was about the foolishness of combining the human mind with advanced technology, which only seems to bring ruin to all who find it. Pretty anti-progress in a lot of ways, something to think about.


#11

It occurs to me that there might be a bit too much there, so let me thin that down a little bit for you…

For Flash Gordon, the first episode should tell you all you need to know, Flash makes the Avengers look like a group of octogenarians with severe head-trauma, so On the Planet Mongo is the one you want.

For Lux Radio Theatre, I would recommend either The Maltese Falcon or To Have or Have Not (Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall are the best)

With X-Minus One, the episodes are pretty short, so I would go for Universe (based on a Robert Heinlein story) or There Will Come Soft Rains (actually a two-story episode with two fifteen minutes stories instead of one 30 minute). There Will Come Soft Rains in particular hits you like a damn jack-hammer when you’re expecting a fluffy, silly story about Martians and its just unrelenting desolation.

Just realized that Universe isn’t in that particular archive, so here you go:

Sorry, you’ve kinda summoned the Kraken here, I’ll try and reign it in now.

As to Journey Into Space, it’s linear, so you can just listen to the first episode to get the jist. Or not, that one’s not so important.


#12

True. I was annoyed to see that you can’t choose your own name. Hope next update allows it. Looks interesting.


#13

I like the radio show part it was awesome. Vince seems pretty cool so far not a jerk yet.


#14

Ok, you got my attention. This defiantly not something I have heard before. I think you definitely have something here, great job!


#15

I love the concept, definitely one of my favourite eras and the idea of playing a side kick in a sci fi radio show and the contrasts between it and reality should be entertaining.


#16

Those are some great suggestions and I’ll definitely give them a listen! What I was more referring to, though, was the details of how a show would have been produced. Like, as it is now, I have a booth with some people in it running the action, but I have that conception of radio mostly from other fictional shows and movies set in more modern times; I have no idea if it’s period-accurate. If I end up including anachronisms I’d rather it be purposeful instead of just out of ignorance.


#17

Well, that’s really a case-by-case basis, but essentially I believe I can answer that.

Most early radio shows were broadcast live no matter what they were, action, romance, sci-fi, it didn’t matter because recording the broadcasts was expensive and it wasn’t like you could meaningfully alter the recording in any way (editing was in its infancy). The earliest shows had a foley guy right there in the studio with his own microphone, and it was literally his job to make all the necessary noises to move the play forward. Horse hoofs? Coconut shells. Gunshots? Hammer on wood. And so on and so forth… Problem was, this was a limited medium and there was no guarantee that the foley guy would be able to accommodate you.

By the 1940s this had mostly faded out, practical effects were often just ignored in favour of strong music and stronger dialogue. It wasn’t until the 50’s that real sound effects became more practical, because shows would be pre-recorded and the foley guy would create sound effects that could be re-used again and again in different shows.

Lux Radio Theatre (kinda the closest thing to a blockbuster in the radio world) played all of their shows live, with actors running their lines while the orchestral accompaniment was played at the appropriate scene changes. This is the closest thing to your show’s current dynamic, a team of actors who get together and just throw their lines out live on air. This was a pretty unusual setup, especially for genre stuff like sci-fi. Genre stuff needed special editing, new sound effects and ray-guns and other such things that the foley guys could attach to the scenes in the right places.

Most of these shows in the 40s were dominated by the War, and often took time out for the actors to encourage listeners to ‘do their part’ for the war effort. These were often filled with PSAs about eating and living frugally so that the troops could have everything they need, and if your show’s product could be hooked into that, so much the better. Audiences were a lot less cynical in those days, and the ads were crammed into every available space as garish as they could be. No points for subtlety in the ad trade back then…

To answer your question, most of these shows were done in small rooms with the appropriate sound insulation, but some of the larger dramatic pieces were recorded in theatres, and audiences would be invited to sit in to provide authentic laugh tracks and whatnot. Sometimes there was even a band or orchestra to ‘set the mood’ for the listeners back home.


#18

In the current setup I have a foley artist, producer and a technician in the room (I edited the early parts a bit to make the producer show up a little more before you meet them for real in the next section); I may be mixing eras a little, I guess, but I like the idea of practical sound effects. Possibly I’ll play around with exact date of the setting (if for nothing else to avoid confusion about why none of these young-ish people is going off to the war…) Thanks for your help, I appreciate it!


#19

That seems appropriate, I like the live foley artist too, somewhat of a lost art by my reckoning.


#20

I enjoyed playing it; basically my only complaint is that the demo ended way too soon.

It was funny and light-hearted most of the time - except for that one playthrough where I decided to tell the Commander in no uncertain terms that I wasn’t interested. That was a little harsh, but it really got me interested in what happened between the Commander and mthe MC’s predecessor…

I’ll definitely keep checking this for updates regularly.