Category Archives: Blog

We’re Doomed


So we shopped Spellirium around at the Casual Connect conference in Seattle this past week, and the consensus was that the game was good … for them to poop on.

Category Exclusivity

i’ve been billing Spellirium as a “word puzzle/adventure game hybrid”, or “Jim Henson’s Labyrinth meets Boggle.”


Er – that’s “Boggle”, not “Hoggle”.

To the casual games portals and bidnessmen i met at the conference, the phrase “word puzzle game” was tantamount to box office poison of Carrot Top-ical proportions.

Said one acquisitions director for a well-known casual downloadable games portal, “word games don’t do well.” He cited the only three word games he’s ever known that did do well: Scrabble, TextTwist, and “to a far lesser extent”, Bookworm. Apparently Bookworm Adventures, Spellirium’s kissing cousin, didn’t even rate.

Bookworm Adventures

At a reported development cost of over $700k, Bookworm Adventures is the casual downloadable industry’s Ishtar.

i did my research before embarking on this project. i knew that word games don’t sell. i even wrote that fact into our business plan. i was quick – perhaps too quick – to point out to him that there are no other word games quite like Spellirium. i wasn’t just shilling, though – honestly, no other game i know has tried to combine an early-90′s LucasArts-style adventure game with a word puzzle mechanic. All other word games i’ve seen have been just the mechanic, and that can get old quickly. Even Bookworm Adventures, with its worm-on-monster battles and its levelling and inventory systems, didn’t do story. Story is not a blob of text you frantically skip after the title screen, or an explanation of how Character X has to retrieve the Magic Y.

Bubble Bobble

Note: this is not “story”.

i also tried to explain that Spellirium does word puzzling like no other game. We’re really stretching this simple mechanic to its farthest logical limits – you’ll be spelling words to paint pictures, navigate mazes, move objects, balance balls … in many of our modes, spelling words doesn’t even matter. It’s crazy, it’s creative, and i think players are totally gonna dig it.

Spellirium modes

We’ve already produced and playtested over twenty unique variations on our main game mechanic, seen here in prototype phase. One of the goals of Spellirium is to ensure that the puzzling is constantly fresh and surprising.


The casual games publishers do not dig it. “Anything that involves thinking”, they said, “is a non-starter.” The same acquisitions guy told me that one of our other games was “too cerebral”, and followed up by saying “i don’t wanna say that our audience is dumb, but … ”

And i won’t say that either. i’m sure that the Big Fishes and the iWins and the Gamehouses have more than their fair share of dim bulbs buying games from them. But i think the real challenge for us with Spellirium is finding the right audience. The casual downloadable audience is mostly female, and mostly older, and they play games to escape. Spellirium is not an escape in that clicky-gemmy, findy-object kinda way. It’s escapism in that “i’ve been transported to a fascinating and fun other world where there are characters who are more interesting than anyone i know, and places more vivid than i’ve ever visited” kinda way.


i actually feel like i have to escape Bejewelled whenever i’ve played. Is this lunch break ever gonna end?


i was never more dismayed during the conference than when i attended the talk by Luna Cruz from Boomzap, who talked about economizing story in her game Awakening: The Dreamless Castle. Look: i know i’m a wordy writer, and i know the Spellirium script could use trimming as badly as those ladies from the 1970′s skin mags. So it was with great hope that i sat down to hear Luna’s talk.


(Awakening: Not to be confused with that movie where Robin Williams gives drugs to all those old people.)

Early on, Luna said “We really needed to find a way to simplify this cut-scene and get the most important information out in as few lines as possible.” i was all ears. But then: “The original cut-scene had six lines of dialogue, which we knew was way too much for our audience, so we worked really hard and gave it a lot of thought, and cut it down to only two.”

You cut it down to – guh. What? How many lines? And you say six lines was too much for your audience to bear? i have to say six lines of dialogue before i can even establish one of my characters’ names. i was going to approach Luna after the talk and ask for her advice, but i began to worry that she’d look at one of our cut-scenes and start vomiting on me uncontrollably.

But let’s compare. Here’s the entire story of Awakening:

*** spoilers ***

A princess who can’t wield magic wakes up in a magic-imbued world and must escape the castle, with the help of a magic mirror and some ornery trolls who were sworn to protect her.

And here’s just the backstory to Spellirium:

*** no spoilers ***

In the future, a young apprentice journeys with an ill-fated monster to find his missing guardians, using a dangerously magical device to battle enemies and to overcome challenges.

Luna can tell her entire story in the same space that it takes me to write a synopsis of Spellirium. We’re dealing with apples and oranges here. Which suggest to me that the audience, likewise, is like apples and oranges.

Spellirium storyboard

Three panels from a Spellirium cutscene.

What Sort of Gamer Plays Spellirium?

The suggestion was repeated to me by a number of people at the conference, when i asked whether i should just scrap Spellirium and take up pork farming: i need to find the right audience for the game. So what sort of gamer plays Spellirium?

What sort of man reads Playboy?

The pervy sort. Next question.

We tried to answer this question way back before production began by stating the obvious: people who play word games will play Spellirium. So we built a game portal called Word Game World and stocked it with word games leftover from the MochiMedia/ contest they ran last year. Here are the less-than-stellar results:

Word Game World Analytics

Yes – that says “40″, not “40k”.

The trouble is that now we found ourselves with the challenge of generating an audience for TWO properties. It makes more sense to just bring people straight to Spellirium, than to drive them to the game via the scenic route. That, and many of the word games people have made have turned out less-than-scenic, if you get my drift. (Yet another nail in the coffin for the genre – too many people making it look bad)

Beer Covers a Multitude of Sins

i got a hot tip from my fellow Christian game designer pal Grant Shonkwiler (who you’ll remember from our earlier post on the impossibility of Christian gaming). These days, Grant designs games for tabletop bar cabinets (like any good Christian would … i forgot to ask if he got paid in hooch). He designed a word game for his company that was a smash success with the audience, and offered that bar patrons love word games. It reminded me of Norm MacDonald’s old SNL Weekend Update punchline: Germans love David Hasselhoff. You hit the right niche with the right product, and you’re sailing.

Norm Macdonald

So what combination of Knight Riding and Baywatching will Spellirium have to pull off to find its Germany-sized pool of rabid fans? Here are some facts about what i *think* a Spellirium player is like. i think the game will appeal to both sexes, but i’ll use masculine pronouns for simplicity:

  1. He can kick ass at Scrabble. Don’t mess.


  2. He does crossword puzzles on his way to work. In pen. He may even feel that British cryptics are far superior to American-style.
  3. He watches movies. Among his favourite films are Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, The Road Warrior, Twelve Monkeys, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, The Princess Bride, The Last Unicorn, Dragonslayer, and The Goonies.



  4. He reads. He likes sci fi and fantasy. He may enjoy Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, Lloyd Alexander, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Terry Brooks, and Neil Gaiman.
  5. He plays games. He quite liked Puzzle Quest, Bookworm and Bookworm Adventures, digital versions of Scrabble and Boggle, Wurdle, TextTwist, LucasArts and Sierra On-Line graphic adventure games – possibly even Infocom text adventures or MUDs – as well as Out of This World, Beneath a Steel Sky and the Fallout series.


  6. When he’s playing a game that has story elements, including dialogue or cutscenes or even blobs of text, he does not – does NOT – push the A button to skip. He becomes particularly upset if he accidentally skips story, even if he’s not particularly enjoying that story. If he’s gaming with a dumb jock fratboy friend who blithely skips past all the story sequences saying “let’s just play already, d00d”, he punches that friend in the throat. (Then he gets his ass kicked, because he’s a lover, not a fighter.)

i know, friends. i know. i’ve just described myself. (Or perhaps Jerry Holkins / Tycho Brahe from Penny Arcade – i’m convinced we’re the same person.) i am a little concerned that i have not paid enough attention to the needs and wants of the market, over the needs and wants of the me. i have not designed Spellirium as an ineffectual, casual click-fest with simple puzzles and two-line cutscenes. i thought, perhaps foolishly – perhaps arrogantly – that if i designed a game that i desperately wanted to play, there would be others like me for whom this game would be a breath of fresh air.

Ryan Henson Creighton

If the world was as full of me as i am of myself, i’d be a wealthy, wealthy man.

Was i wrong? Like chocolate and peanut butter, is our word puzzle/adventure game hybrid born of two great tastes that taste great together? Or is it born of two disappointments – an overly cerebral genre that repeatedly fails to perform in the marketplace, and an outdated genre that saw its best days twenty years ago? Should we finish Spellirium and bury it as quickly as possible, or should we keep working to realize our vision – the vision of a smart, funny game for well-read, literate players that melds two genres like no other game before it?

Spellirium player

Muffy and I simply *luuuurve* your game, Ryan.

i defer to your judgment and expertise. If Untold Entertainment needs to become a Hidden Object Game developer, please tell me now so that i can go get a lobotomy and get myself fitted at the Vagina Depot.


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The Casual Connect Clusterflux

i’m at the Seattle airport waiting for a flight, and i thought i’d blog about the Casual Connect conference i attended this week.

CGA Logo

The conference is held by the Casual Games Association, or Cuh-GAAAAH for short.

This was my second time at the conference, and like most repeat visits to places, the show lost a lot of its lustre for me. i’m just going to offer my Monet-like, impressionistic view of the show without going into gory detail like i usually do, because you’re very busy and you have awesome things to do.

Juggling Chainsaws

You really need to get back to this.

Hive Mind

Casual Connect is a conference of singularity. The show itself hosts mostly casual game industry companies – these are the folks who pioneered the “pay $20, download a match-3 desktop game” model in the early aughts. They were essentially riffing on the shareware model, where they’d offer a free time- or feature-limited trial, and the customer would pay to unlock the full experience. Companies like Big Fish Games, Pogo, and GameHouse/Real Networks became content aggregators, the game-centric equivalents of TUCOWS and, and they grew massive audiences of mostly soccer moms who lapped up games and genres that are largely derided by “real” gamers. These were games like Match-3 (Bejewelled), HOGs/Hidden Object Games (Mystery Case Files) and other light, friendly and very dumbed-down puzzle games engineered to have wide appeal to the lowest common denominator of players.

Haunted Manor: Lord of Mirrors

Vanilla character design, baroque artwork and mindless gameplay are the hallmarks of these games.

i say the show is singular, because the casual games industry really gets on these kicks. Once the industry is riding a wave, it’s all you hear about. Five years ago at GDC, it was the casual downloadable model that i just mentioned. Last year, everyone was nuts about social games on Facebook. It’s all i heard.

This year was interesting. The conference had one common focus: lack of focus.

Agreeing to Disagree

The buzz this year, even more than last year when social was exploding, was that the casual downloadable payment model is either dead or dying, depending on who you talk to. Companies like Big Fish Games, who made their millions on that model, naturally begged to differ. They attempted to show that the model was actually growing by 20-30% every year. In one talk, Big Fish’s Sean Clark interestingly turned it back around on social, reminding everyone that in there was a massive disparity between the money Zynga was raking in, and the money that the other 9 companies in the top 10 were earning … and that once you leave the top 10, the drop-off is precipitous. Big Fish’s corporate line is now to call social a “red herring”, or as two Big Fish employees repeated to me, a “distraction”.

Oz behind the curtain

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain! I am the great and powerful Big Fish Games!

That’s actually how i’ve long felt about social. You hear these fantastic success stories about the space, but you really only hear them about three or four companies. i don’t run one of those companies. My best strategy there is to release something on Facebook, trump myself up and hope to get bought by Playdom or some other social company. That’s not what i want out of this life. Very early in the show, i had a brief chat with Erik Bethke, whose company was bought by Zynga. i’ve heard Erik talk about his game GoPets for years at GDC and elsewhere, and i found it really sad to see him swallowed up by Zynga, and to have his game shut down. When i expressed that sentiment to a few folks at the conference, they said “it must have been worth the money.” i remain conflicted about it.


Party’s over: hand in all your virtual goods, players.

The gatekeeper issue is the single largest factor keeping me from charging into Facebook game development. Just before production stalled on Interrupting Cow Trivia a few months ago, we were working on adding Facebook Connect integration to the game. Not long afterward, Facebook yanked the feature entirely. And enough articles have been written on the 30% drop in traffic social games receive in what the Casual Connect crowd dubs the “post-viral era”, after Facebook changed its policies around how game devs can tap into the graph to spam the users about their games. Very shortly, we expect Facebook to cut out all external payment providers and force devs to use Facebook credits. i run a really small shop, and simply lack the money and time to constantly tune my games according to the whims of a gatekeeper.

Ghostbusters Gatekeeper

Let’s show this prehistoric bitch how we do things downtown.

Robotic Game Design

Beyond downloads vs social, the other big argument going on this year was data-driven design vs what i’ll call “organic” design. If you can coin a better term, please let me know. Data-driven design is like flying a plane by the dials. You release something half-baked to the audience, load it up with tracking hooks, and build out the rest of the game using heavy A/B testing to figure out what they players are interested in.


Flying by the dials can produce impressive results, but it doesn’t preclude people crashing and dying.

Organic game design is old-school. You come up with an idea for a game that you think people would like to play. Then you build that game and hope for the best.

Nowhere was this issue laid bare more than at the six-person panel i attended on day two, which was stacked with head honchos from Sandlot Games, Playrix, Large Animal, HipSoft, Last Day of Work and Shockwave/MTV. The panel was called “Taking Your Games to the Next Level: Investing In Your IP”, but it should have been called “Sassy bitch slap-fight”. i like a contentious panel discussion, and this one didn’t disappoint.

The thread running through the talk, punctuated by the terse exchanges between George Donovan of Gogii Games and Last Day of Work’s Arthur Humphrey, was this data-driven vs organic design debate. George is all about spending as little money as possible to develop games that ride the wave of whatever his metrics tell him is most popular on the casual games portals. Arthur is about developing games passionately, and sinking a lot of money into them to make them the best experiences possible.

Bring It On

This is an actual photo i took of George Donovan and Arthur Humphrey at the event. (Arthur is the black teenaged girl cheerleader on the right.)

i assume both approaches have merit, because both of these girls remain in business. It won’t surprise you to know that i side with folks like Arthur on this debate. i make video games because i like video games. i don’t want to fly by the dials and develop dramatically dumbed-down experiences to please Midwest soccer moms desperate for an escape, for whom casual games have become a substitute for Harlequin Romance paperbacks. No thanks. Design-by-data has made a lot of money for a lot of people, but it’s also ruined a lot of stuff (read up on the test audience that demanded a happy ending for Little Shop of Horrors. Why i oughta …).

Call me a terrible, irresponsible bidnessman, but i’m led by my passion. i would much rather create build games by my gut, intuition, and love of the medium, hoping that i find that perfect mix of creative ingenuity and luck, than to deliver rote me-too experiences according to what the top ten charts told me was popular a month ago. If i wanted to do that, there are plenty of service jobs that demand far less time and mental energy from me.

Buy Our Crap

i may as well raise this post to full-fledged rant status by calling out the (many) speakers who used their sessions solely to promote their companies (Joel Breton of Addictinggames, i’m looking at you). Google ran a Trojan horse session where they roped everyone in ostensibly to talk about their upcoming Google Chrome Marketplace, and used scant information on that to house a long-winded ad for HTML5.

This is starting to annoy me far more than speakers who leave the mouse cursor in the middle of a video during a presentation. i don’t spend thousands of dollars and fly across the continent to attend hour-long commercials for your products. Put in a quick plug, point me to the brochures at the back of the room, and then tell me something useful. Or shut up.

In Summary

So there it is: Casual Connect Seattle left me with the impression that the chinks in the industry’s armour are showing up all over the place. Confusion, conflict and uncertainty reign. It’s an industry dominated by business types paying passing lip service to the creative work that fuels the money flow, and whatever scant creativity does exist is being eroded by a hit-driven, top 10 sales chart mentality.

And then we die.

Six Ways to Tell Stories in Video Games

We’re just starting to make great progress with Spellirium, our word puzzle/adventure game hybrid. For the past few months, it feels like we’ve been building pieces and elements of the game. Now that they’re built, we’re starting to assemble the actual game.

Spellirium has two main modes: the lightning-quick Blitz Mode, where you try to rack up mad pointz with a 3-minute time limit, and Story Mode, where we’re putting the bulk of our efforts. i thought i’d take today to talk about our storytelling technique in the game.

We have a BIG story to tell in Spellirium – so big that it’s becoming a real creative challenge to convey it within our budget. Here’s a list of common storytelling techniques in video games. i’ll tell you which ones we’ve settled on for Spellirium and why.

In order of el crappo to awesomazing, they are:

1. Ugly-Ass Block of Text

Visit any free-to-play Flash game portal and you’ll see this one in full effect: just an omnisciently-written big ugly block of copy that no one’s ever gonna read (much like this blog post). If you really want to punish your players, you’ll drag this on for multiple pages. This is the least expensive way to tell a story in your game. Spend a few bucks and spruce it up by making it crawl up the screen a la Star Wars, and/or by adding some voice over.


Braid. Bad prose optional.

2. Comic Book Stills

Tell your story in comic book-style panels. You can add some animated touches, or pan the camera around to keep things interesting. Again, voice over might really spruce this one up.

Beneath a Steel Sky

The talkie version of Beneath a Steel Sky added voice over to its comic book intro.

3. 90′s-Style RPG Dialogues

Throw all your dialogue and exposition in a little blue text box at the bottom of the screen. Add the speaking character’s name and a colon so that the player knows who’s saying what. For authenticity, make the text spell itself into the box letter by letter. If you do this, for the love of all that is holy, add a mouse click or space bar event to speed things up.

Final Fantasy II

Final Fantasy II took a no-frills approach that some games still employ twenty years later.

4. Aughts-Style RPG Dialogues

The 90′s style dialogues evolved to depict static close-up character artwork instead of names and colons to indicate the speaker. Most often, these dialogues slide in from the left and right edges of the screen. With a slightly higher-budget game, multiple static close-ups are drawn in case the character needs to show emotion. i have never seen this technique add lip flap (randomly animated mouth charts) to make it look as though the character was speaking. This would add a whole lot more visual interest and personality to the technique, without a very large cost. Slide-in lip-flapping dialogues have been on my radar for Spellirium for a while, but they’re still too ghetto for my taste, and i hope we don’t have to resort to using them.


Disgaea used lots of static character art with no lip flap, but voice over helped it out a lot.

5. Graphic Adventure Style

This method requires you to build animated puppets of your characters. You tell the characters’ mouth charts to randomly cycle as they “speak”, and it helps to give the heads a little random tilting to add personality. Copy is displayed at the top of the screen, and each character gets his or her own colour to help the player sort out who’s speaking, but it’s not crucial. Adding voice over clears up that mystery, of course. To use this technique efficiently, you have to build a scripting system to make your puppets walk around, play discrete animations, and face different directions.

The Secret of Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge

Have you heard? Monkey Island 2 is the greatest game ever made.

6. Full-On Animated Cutscenes

The pinnacle of straight-up non-interactive storytelling is the canned cutscene, which is essentially just a video you play between the interactive parts of your game. We’ve been working on a few of these, but the process is very expensive and time-consuming. Here’s the process:

  1. Write the script
  2. Draw some storyboards
  3. Cut a leica reel together using the storyboard frames (a leica reel is where you play the static frames in sequence with rough timing)
  4. Record scratch (temporary) voice over and apply it to the leica
  5. Draw and animate on top of the static shots, and lip-sync all the mouth charts
  6. Add the backgrounds
  7. Re-record the script with the pro voice actors
  8. Integrate the final audio and adjust the lip sync and shot timing

Full Throttle

Full Throttle boasted some pretty slick (for its time) fully-animated cutscenes at key points in the game

Yikes, for real. It was clear from the get-go that we wouldn’t be able to tell our entire story this way, and it became even more clear as we progressed through development. We’re still aiming to complete a few key scenes using this full-blown cinema-style technique, and they’re looking great so far! But in the interest in actually completing the game, we’ve fallen back to the graphic adventure-style technique of storytelling.

Spellirium storyboard sample

We’ve storyboarded some scenes that we can’t actually afford to give the full-blown cinema treatment.

The Verdict: Adventure-Style Storytelling FTFW

This makes a lot of sense for the game, because you bounce around between Travel Mode and Challenges/Battles. In Travel Mode, you click to move your characters around the screen, traveling from location to location and clicking on points of interest, much like you do in a graphic adventure. It made perfect sense, then, to spend the last few weeks building a scripting system so that we could control the in-game puppets to make them walk around and talk to each other.

Spellirium screenshot

Will we have to fall back further to even more efficient (but additionally crappy) forms of storytelling? It’s possible … it all depends on how quickly we can bang out scenes using our wonderful new scripting system. i have a lot of faith that we can effectively convey most of the game’s scripted scenes this way, and that you’ll really enjoy them.

Some of you may be thinking “why don’t they just cut down the story?” Because we’re billing Spellirium as an word puzzle/adventure game hybrid, we want to make sure that the “adventure game” aspect gets its full due. When Spellirium launches, you’ll be treated to a game with a rich, exciting and well-told story, with lots of innovative tricky word puzzly fun. Prepare for a good time, and tell your friends by clicking the “Retweet” button at the top of this post, or with our Share and Enjoy social media toolbar beneath this post. Thanks so much for your help in getting the word out!


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The Psychological Science of Bilking Money

DID YOU TOTALLY KNOW that in addition to creating Spellirium, a word puzzle/adventure game hybrid, we’re also working on a top secret project behind closed doors and blacked-out windows? While wearing masks and sunglasses?


This is pretty much the only way to keep your game a secret.

i have cooked up two monetization plans for this magical mystery game – two separate versions of the product that i am considering releasing simultaneously, in an effort to maximize moneyification, which is absolutely not a real word.

Here they are:

Monetization Models

The game has 50 levels. In both options, the player gets to play the first five levels for free. That’s where the two plans diverge.

Option 1

You pay 99 cents to access the remaining forty-five levels. The game includes a shop where you buy items that essentially serve as cheats. Buying these items is optional, and you will only need them if you kind of stink at the game. These items will be sold via microtransactions. More powerful items will cost more money. They are single-use consumable, which means they disappear after one use. Prices range perhaps between 10-50 cents.

Option 2

You pay five whole dollars to buy the remaining forty-five levels outright. All purchases from the shop are made with the currency you earn in-game, so they are “free”.

Yes, there are lots of other ways we could do this. Conspicuously missing is Option Greedy, where we charge five bucks AND charge for items. There’s also Option Risky, where we don’t charge for the game at all, and hope to make it up on virtual item sales alone. Finally, there’s Option Stupid, where we don’t charge for anything and keep our fingers crossed that Mochi Ads will really start paying off in a few decades.

So i’ll put it to you! If i release these two versions of the game simultaneously, which do you think will perform better? Of course, if you think this is a terrible plan, please speak up in the Comments section.

[poll id="6"]

Head Toward the Light(box)

i don’t mean to alarm anyone who read about my tour of the Bell Lightbox a few weeks ago, but it turns out there may be more than meets the eye to the shiny new condominium and events building.


To wit: like, zoiks!

Over the weekend, I was speaking with someone who was working construction on the building. i asked him if it was a positive experience, and he said “nah – the whole place is built on a graveyard. All the wires and stuff.” i didn’t know what he meant. “You mean it’s built on outdated technology?”

“No,” he said, “the Bell Lightbox is built on a literal graveyard. Stuff would be working one day, and then, inexplicably, it would stop working the next.”

Best Buy

Most of the stuff i get from Best Buy stops working a week after the warranty expires. Maybe it’s haunted too?

Who You Gonna Contact on the Telephone?

Is it true? Does the new Bell Lightbox have a poltergeist problem? And on what kind of burial ground is the the new home of the Toronto International Film Festival situated? Are these spirits harmful or helpful? Will they launch the career of a hot young starlet, like they did with Christina Ricci in Casper? Will they wreak havoc on the box office, like Bill Cosby in Ghost Dad? Will they give everyone raging boners by doing sexy pottery like Patrick Swayze in Ghost? Or will they be insidious boner-shrinkers, like Whoopi Goldberg in Ghost?

My Bell Lightbox source said that the building was erected on the earthly remains of Irish potato famine victims who arrived in Toronto fleeing the crisis, and promptly died. i remember hearing a similar story about Holt Renfrew in Yorkville – that the ritzy uptown shopping district is built on the mass grave of Upper Canada settlers who died of cholera in the 1800′s. i live a few blocks from Yorkville, and i can only offer that a few of these elderly ladies get facelifts so extreme that they merely look like scraps of skin stretched across terrifyingly re-animated skulls.


Is that you, Skeletor, or is it the president of my condominium board?

So! Could the ghosts of Irish immigrants be tampering with the new theatre equipment?

Well – could they? i’m no expert in spooks, so i’d like to crowdsource a definitive answer on this by the end of the week, folks.