If you watch the entire series of Found Footage, one part stands out for being played straight. This game is about fictional monsters, because the real ones who ruin lives and archive footage are no fun.
After a gestation period of about thirty years, Found Footage was born in October 2016. The Centre for Computing History, in Cambridge, hosted a Teletext retrospective. Some guy turned up with a spangly jacket, needlessly elaborate quiz-games, and a video full of nonsense. That video was subsequently re-titled as the Found Footage pilot.
It was so good, people pledged via Kickstarter for more of the same. That was several days after the event, so they didn't even have the excuse of being hungover.
Fast-forward to April 2017, and Mr. Biffo call for extras to attend filming at the same venue. I dress up as a faceless operative, Paul Gannon is assaulted by wet sausages. This is at least the second time Mr. Biffo has brought wet sausages.
I have very occasionally written for Digitiser 2000, mostly impenetrably long pieces about old games. I also wrote a wonky Teletext video thing, which led me to the lovely, supportive Teletext scene. Together, this probably resulted in my being asked to help with the Sir Clive video.
I had some Xenoxxx stickers left over from the earlier filming, and thought the bold logos would look good on a ZX Spectrum. When the video was done, I speculatively lobbed them into loading screen recordings, and one was used for a trailer the next day.
The reaction taught me three things: square waves win the loudness war, compressed audio can still load on real hardware, and Paul Dunning will be first to try. Witnessing a fruitless search for clues in the loading header sparked my innovative idea of ripping off Mel Croucher's innovative idea of broadcasting an entire game.
It's now early July. I propose broadcasting an unambitious game, or at least a secret bum picture, anticipating mild amusement from the retro-tech niche within the Found Footage niche. Mr. Biffo responds enthusiastically.
But first, this happens. Though I was in my element exploring a nuclear bunker, looking for cool stuff to film, most important was the complete sense of trust. Filming was messy, rushed, and chaotic. Because of that trust, not fearing what others might say or think, the stress-buzz from each crisis fuelled stronger collaboration rather than arguments.
It was like The Crystal Maze, except Richard O'Brien opens the door to a nuclear bunker, says you have two days, then chucks a whole excellent team in. Nobody pretended to be fully in control, so I was free to cavort with a shopping trolley full of rubber bums and crisps.
The build-up to filming revealed a story of sinister corporations and technological intrigue. My plan for the game became a hacking puzzle, accessing a spoiler-packed employee and facility information database, with a creepy ending as the intrusion is detected.
Three weeks after filming, the hacking concept had become exploring the vortex coolant tunnels via a remote computer link. Filming unleashed a torrent of creativity, and the key ideas - the map, the obstacles, the goals, and Roaming Thomas - came together rapidly.
The introduction, hiding the conspiracy behind children's television, drew inspiration from Bad Influence!, Biffovision, and Ghee Lord. Do you remember when Bad Influence! blasted information out at the end of each show, which could only be read by pausing a video recording? That was ripe for subversion, like Teletext.
It was all evening and weekend tinkering so far, including my first attempt a digitising a more complex picture than the logos. I sent it over to illustrate the new direction, keeping back my plans for the second part until I knew they were possible in time.
I began work in earnest on the 14th of August, and had the opening section good enough to demonstrate within a week. I think it was Mr. Biffo's picture of Goujon John in the Broom Cupboard that sparked Cranetron, compensating for one piece of the Bad Influence! puzzle missing from the finale.
On the 23rd of August, I revealed detailed plans for the second part. Originally, the game was due for completion by the end of August, intended to tease the series' premiere. I sent more demos seeking feedback, because now I was firmly making it up as I went along.
Mr. Biffo had more pressing concerns, largely resulting from turning one hour of VHS funnies into three hours and a short feature film. The silence was punctuated by terse approvals, which in my experience, usually precede last-minute requests for big changes.
Fortunately, he was paying attention, and knew when to delegate. So, Steve Horsley reviewed the demos, which was a little scary. Watch him drawing Teletext graphics, flipping exactly the right pixels with alarming speed, and you'll understand why.
He was nice enough to rave about the game as it stood. Now, I could concentrate on delivering a month later than originally planned, due to a combination of infectious wild ambition and my delusional optimism about timescales.
Who is Goujon John? Nikki.
Though in a perpetual crisis which I suspect began around 1993, Mr. Biffo still found time to bring exactly the right people together. Internet programmer by day, cultist by night, Nikki had already built an augmented reality for the amusement of Brannigan's Vortex.
She slipped my game out as part of her universe, turning an audio problem into a stronger smuggled-footage conceit, and even finding a use for the grainy bum trolley videos. Then, she was the secret liaison with Brannigan's Vortex, drip-feeding clues when they got stuck, and returning reports that made me do evil little dances.
Cranetron knew perfectly well when you entered the wrong password, and wasn't blaring for your entertainment. That was for the detector vans.
The impact of that song in the sixth episode is strange, if you stop to think about what Xenoxxx represent, behind the funny egg-laying and brown tsunami. Mysterious deaths, disappearances, and families used as leverage for obedience. Perhaps their brand of control is too familiar to shock, or too established to do anything but laugh about.
So, there's more story to be told, and Mr. Biffo is probably mad enough to tackle the more intimate abuses of power next time. Well, at least that would be less controversial than Pudsey.
Alternatively, ask comments at arbitraryfiles.com about the dog that ate a funny goujon.