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June 5th 2014, 07:45 PM
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Cocomonkey
Bard Male United States
Please Cindy, say the whole name each time. 
--Alternative Hero Contest--

Announced on August 13, 2002, the Alternative Hero Contest was the second DMOD contest in the history of the Dink community, and the first since Mike Snyder's DMOD competition in mid-1998. It produced three entries, which is fewer than the four submitted to the original contest; then again, that contest had a cash prize of over a hundred bucks, whereas the prize for the Alternative Hero Contest was a "little award icon." At any rate, the contest was a rousing success, producing multiple well-regarded DMODs and establishing a new tradition for the Dink Network, which has hosted a total of 8 contests with 36 DMODs between them. If you add in Snyder's competition, there are a total of 40 contest DMODs in the history of the community, which is over 10% of all DMODs that exist! Sadly, it doesn't seem like this sort of thing is doable around here anymore. On the other hand, if you dredge up conversations from the time, they sound an awful lot like the result of recent attempts, so who knows?

Of course, there's a big difference between Snyder's DMOD comp and the contests that followed. The original contest was simply intended to get people to make DMODs of any sort in order to kickstart the modding community. The Dink Network's contests each have a theme that entrants are required to follow.

The first theme was fairly simple. As it was stated in the announcement, "The main player character cannot be Dink Smallwood, and must be another character from the original game." This was further clarified: the player couldn't be somebody else who LOOKS like Dink (lord knows there's enough DMODs like that already), nor could they be Dink in a different body. The DMODs were also limited to no more than 60 screens, and could not exceed 600 kilobytes in zipped form (effectively limiting the amount of new graphics that could be used). I think these limitations were a good idea to keep DMODs that had to be finished within a month from becoming too ambitious.

The three DMODs were released on September 13, and visitors to The Dink Network were allowed to vote on a winner. I can't find the actual voting results, so I'll just cover the DMODs by ascending rating, ending with the contest winner.

131: Quest for the Golden Nut Author: James Perley Release Date: September 13, 2002

"Hello Quackers its been a while"

This is a profoundly silly idea. I know this is lazy, but seriously, get a load of the description:

The Golden Nut a mythical fruit which is known only to the duck race. Its mystical powers unlock the innate ability of human speech that all ducks have. Quackers wants to be able to talk and use profane language and he tires of Ethel, so he sets out to find the Golden Nut.

I doubt I could say it any better. "The innate ability of human speech that all ducks have?" What else do you know about the world that we don't, James?

Speaking of James: I know I brought this up back in the "Castle of Lore" writeup, but I really feel like I should emphasize again how big of an influence the "374 MIDI pack" had on the DMOD-making community. Every time I hear "Bad Moon Rising," something by the Eagles, or many other songs in a DMOD, I know where they came from. Some authors might not even have known exactly what the songs were. You might find it strange that I dwell so much on the influence of a file that consisted of just taking a bunch of MIDIs from the Web and packing them together without even identifying them, but you should trust me. If you were into playing mods, Klik n' Play games and the like in the late 90s and early 2000s, you pretty much just heard the same few Final Fantasy 7 MIDIs over and over again. A simple thing like the "374 MIDI pack" was able to save DMODs from that.

Already, the Alternative Hero Contest, with its rule that the main character must be from the original game, has shone the spotlight somewhere it probably never would have touched otherwise. We probably never stopped to wonder: what is Quackers's deal anyway? In this romp, we learn how Quackers came to be able to speak and, to our dismay, exactly why he ran away from home (and why, for that matter, he's so salty).

It turns out the Ethel is an awful woman who makes Quackers do sexual favors for her. He decides to run away, and while he's at it, search for the Golden Nut that will grant him the ability to speak. The DMOD isn't all that clear why he wants the Golden Nut, but I'm guessing it's so that he can go back and TELL Ethel off instead of getting her off for a change.

Before you can find the "nut" (it's really an apple, ducks are stupid), you have to do some annoying favors for an annoying duck. It wants a certain seashell. It tells you to search the beaches, but you won't find it there. It then tells you to search inside a farmer's house, but it isn't there either. Finally, the duck tells you to look for it on a "secret island," which is the worst because you then have to push yourself against all of the coasts until you happen to find it. This was more bearable than it would have been thanks to the way you can press Tab to speed up the game in FreeDink, but it still really got on my bill.

After that, you help a third duck named Rubber Ducky unite with a friendly young woman (Quackers is not optimistic about how this relationship will turn out, understandably) and navigate a simple maze. That's it.

This DMOD contains the bug that plagues too many with an alternative hero: when you push things, you turn back into Dink. It's not necessary to push anything, but this still happens by accident pretty frequently.

It may not be much to play, but focusing on Quackers was an amusing idea, and he has a few ornery wisecracks (wisequacks?) that keep the mod from being too boring. It ends with the exchange between Dink and Quackers from the original game.

I wonder what becomes of Quackers after he returns to his sexual abuser. Of course, it's possible that Dink murders him. Maybe Quackers escapes again and finds fame and fortune as the duck from Friends or maybe the Aflac duck. Perhaps he stays. It might be that this little duck is too afraid of the big bad world to leave even such a perverse home. If he stays, I hope he at least uses his newfound ability to speak to prevent Ethel from trying any more funny stuff, but I fear that he won't be able to work up the courage to talk in front of her. It's often too much for a victim of abuse to attempt to confront their abuser, and poor Quackers may find that his ability to talk is no more freeing than the ability to fly that he has had all along. Little bird... all you have are your dreams, where you can fly to faraway lakes where the old women bring bread without expecting anything in return. Fly away, Quackers. Fly away.

I was gonna write about all three contest mods at once, but "Cycles of Evil" is too much for me to process right away, so it'll have to wait a bit.