Posted by: Mary Duffy |
In this magical baking contest, you’ll team up with the Queen Undying to bake your rivals into an early grave—or out of the grave, with necromancy!
The Bread Must Rise is a 450,000-word interactive comedy/fantasy/baking/eldritch horror novel by James Beamon and Stewart C Baker. I sat down with James and Stewart to talk about their unique collaboration and truly unique genre. The Bread Must Rise releases this Thursday, September 28th. You can play the first three chapters today, for free.
Choice of Games rarely works with co-authors on a single game, but it seems you two make a wonderful team. Tell me about how you collaborated to create The Bread Must Rise.
Stewart: When they work, collaborations are fantastic. This one was fantastic! There something that’s absolutely magical about stepping away from a project for a few days and then seeing a few thousand new words pop up when you come back to it. Plus, it helps to have someone else who’s laughing at your jokes as you write them. I’ve known James for a while from Codex (an online writing group) and SFWA, and had a story in an anthology he edited, so I felt like we’d be a good fit.
On a more technical note, we used Notepad++ for writing, CSIDE for testing, and a shared folder in Dropbox to help us not accidentally overwrite each other’s work. We also met weekly for most of the last two years(!!!) to check in on where we were, and where we were going. (It’s going to be pretty weird not to have a Bread Must Rise meeting every Saturday morning.) There were a few bumps early on when we didn’t quite have Dropbox set up the way we thought we did, but otherwise it’s been smooth sailing!
James: Stewart and I have shared the table of contents before and both write humorous fiction, so we were already pretty familiar with each other’s work and could appreciate each other’s humor. I recall Stewart asking me if I was interested in writing a game. Since and I had never done that and I’m pretty quick to try something new, I was immediately on board. We pitched a few ideas to Choice of Games, The Bread Must Rise is what really resonated with everyone over there and from there Stewart and I just took off writing.
What baking competitions did you draw inspiration from?
James: I rarely watch baking competitions. I watched a couple once the pitch for The Bread Must Rise was accepted to get a better sense of the competition format. Mostly my inspiration came from Kitchen Nightmares.
Stewart: I’ve also watched a lot of Gordon Ramsay over the years. The in-game baking contest’s name is a pretty obvious nod to The Great British Bake-Off, although I think they call it something else on this side of the pond. Our contest is much more antagonistic than GBBO, though, which is generally lovely and kind even if there are moments of tension. My hands-down favorite baking competition, though, is Nailed It!, which comes through in both the failure text for the Bake-Off rounds and the overall panicked tone of those chapters, where you really don’t have enough time to do everything you want. (Netflix, if you’re reading this, I think an episode with a bunch of writers would be awesome and I promise you I’m extremely mediocre in the kitchen!)
What were some of the tropes you wanted to play against or with?
Stewart: For me, the trope at the core of this game was the idea of the “dark lord” who isn’t quite what they seem. The basic idea of the Queen Undying draws a lot from that. I watch a lot of anime, and especially like slice of life and isekai (“other world”) series, so there’s a good deal of that here, as well. That said, there are many, many, many other nods and references to tropes, movies, books, and memes in this game. I don’t think even James or I could name all of them on our own!
James: I’m a fan of trope subversion, so I look for opportunities to have fun with the well established fantasy tropes like The Chosen One of Prophecy as well as non-fantasy ones like the Nestea Plunge (both of which are in there!). Ultimately, there are few things I ever really want to play straight and this game gave me an opportunity to turn a lot of tropes on their ear.
What do you think will surprise players about a game that includes baking and necromancy?
Stewart: The brownies. Definitely the brownies. Jokes aside, I think players may be surprised that we managed to add emotional beats into a concept that seems like it has no room for anything but zany comedy. Sometimes the emotional beats even are the zany comedy!
James: I think just saying “baking and necromancy” together should be a surprise itself! I think the contrast works well to cover a range of scenarios that crop up, whether in the arena baking or on the streets of Godstone. Besides, dead things need baking… it’s the nature of food.
This is one of the funniest games we’ve published in recent memory. Tell me how humor tempers the players’ experience in taking the goals of the game rather seriously.
James: When our beta tester Aletheia said something to the effect of “I don’t really care if I win or not, I’m just having so much fun playing” that made me and Stewart geek out for a good half an hour because that was precisely what we were going for… a game where a player can have fun in both success and failure. I wanted the players to laugh at how they’re succeeding and of course, laughing at what screw ups result in. Let’s face it, failure’s funny and I think this game lets players fail in a fun way without it feeling like it’s game over and waste of a save file.
Stewart: Agreed, that was a great boost! (Also, shout out to Aletheia, who improved this game’s playability and coherence so much.) Like James with tropes, I really enjoy subverting reader expectations with humor. At least for me, I’m always looking at “what might readers expect to happen next, and how can I screw that up?” when I write comedy. But while the game doesn’t take itself too seriously, I hope readers still find the world of Godstone and characters that inhabit it engaging and memorable. Some of the characters nearest and dearest to my own heart come from series that don’t take themselves seriously at all (Discworld, Ranma 1/2, Undertale, Steven Universe) so I don’t think humor and seriousness are necessarily opposites. Although then I remember some of the absolutely ridiculous things we did in this game and feel compelled to amend that statement to: they aren’t always necessarily opposites.
What are you working on next?
Stewart: Great question! We just finished writing a short spin-off game for this year’s IFComp, titled One Does Not Simply Fry. That one’s about frying onion rings at the base of Mount Boom, and it’s also chock full of jokes, tropes, and allusions, albeit with a much narrower focus than The Bread Must Rise. With both these games out of the way, maybe I’ll find time to revisit some languishing prose fiction projects. I have a novel, a couple of novellas, and a number of short stories that need revising… I’ve also been playing with watercolors lately, and even though I’m absolutely terrible at that it’s been a really satisfying change of pace after so many words.
James: A vacation! This was the longest project I’ve ever worked on without stopping. It’s time to stop for a hot minute.