Projects that Never Were – Part 2 – The Underwear Girl Game


The Naked Rabbit archives contain many unfinished and never-were projects. Here are some of them in this Museum of Melancholy.

Should you be a programmer looking for trouble and heartache, I have untold treasures for you – designs and plans for apps so weird no one has made any of them YET. Here is another in that unhappy list: THE UNDERWEAR GIRL GAME.


Perversely I continue to hold secret hope to this day that I’ll be able to pull off this game – an ambitious arcade-style adventure but also the most surreal video game I can conjure up.

Some background first: “Underwear Girl” is a character I created almost 20 years ago while perusing a Japanese video shop. It was actually Cecilia who first pointed to the scantily clad nymph on some VHS box and joked “look at this one – ‘Underwear Girl,'” as if that really were the title of the show. “Why not?” thought I, “that COULD be a cartoon character!” Here’s how it looked in 2001.


Thus she began, the enigmatic Underwear Girl. She was never very sexy, although others thought she might be. And she was totally unaware, not only of the effect she had on the bulging eyes and trousers of cartoon rabbits and dogs, but on anything, really. Her relationship to the world was that of a particularly amoral child. They were fun comics to make.


The original “Underwear Girl Game” was a dress-up paper-doll made with Adobe Director around 1993 or so. While a loop of the Dave Clark Five played, you could drag various items of clothing on to a static, slightly irritated looking cartoon girl. It was remarkably successful for a piece of Shareware. This is to say that I posted the complete “game,” (then about 1 Mb, by the way – we really had to be careful how many bits we used in them days) to a forum on AOL. People would download it (which “cost” them precious minutes – you only got so many minutes a month to connect!) and play it. If they liked it, they would send me $5. Through the US Mail. And they did!


Hence the follow-up, the imaginatively titled “Underwear Girl 2,” which featured a dancing UG character with your choice of music, background picture, and dance partner. You could have a cartoon dog, cartoon bunny, David Schulman, Wildman, or Frankenstein. What more could anyone want?

Frank really knows how to cut a rug.

This also proved to be wildly popular, but this was back in ye olden dayes tymes when America Online was king. Which meant you counted your downloads to see how “successful” it was. People did send money, but the ratio of paid to unpaid viewers was astronomical. By my old records I estimate that I was “paid” something like $150 for this work, but the download count was something in the tens of thousands. I still find it somewhat miraculous that anyone paid at all.


After that rousing success, it only made sense to make an Underwear Girl 3. Except, of course, that making stuff for a computer takes time… and programming knowledge and crap like that. Things at which I’m not so good. The math is easy – it’s that computer language that gets in the way. For me it’s always been trial and error, hunt and peck style.

In any event, several attempts to mount UG3 exist. There are plans and plans for peculiar levels, bizarre and idiotic challenges, dopey antagonists, borderline confusing game play, and other deconstructions of the video game. But here’s the catch – they are designed to be FUN ANYWAY.

So, for example, while you marvel at the level requiring Underwear Girl to navigate her Sopwith Triplane across the Samarkand Desert while her pet chimpanzee throws lightning bolts at marauding cabbages, it should still be somewhat enjoyable to watch the cabbages fry, and it may take some skill to pass the level.

Here’s the startup screen from the latest incarnation, and below it the beautiful and haunting Underwear Girl Theme, which you now love and adore, even before hearing it.


Here is some animation of the game character. I switched to 3D only because it seemed easier to create more realistic running motion. And for that size and resolution it seems just fine.


As Underwear Girl runs along, she encounters baddies of all kinds. Like this vicious flying carrot.


I think I made that one in about ten minutes with some iOS application that lets you make pixel-art sprites. I’ll use anything, it seems. It did not bother me in the least that the art style changes from 8bit to smoothly rendered. Part of the fun of the game was that it should seem as though it’s about to come apart at any moment.

Sadly, several of my best video game themes were composed for this project, none of which have been heard elsewhere. OK, that’s a lie, I repurposed the “Tartarus” level theme for JETSAM. Tartarus was to be the first series of levels, as Underwear Girl fell through the Hellmouth and did her best to avoid menacing eggplant-men carrying frying pans. Yes, there did seem to be a kind of food theme playing itself out.

Here’s a screenshot of the first level of Tartarus, followed by the theme for that level.


And finally, the long and bloated theme to Something Else, I’m not sure just what. I worked hard to get the authentic Commodore 64 SID sounds for this one. I had a C64 when I was in high school, and I taught myself all sorts of bad BASIC habits on that beautiful machine.

This music owes a debt to Martin Galway’s C64 game soundtracks. The structure in particular is influenced by his score for the loading music from “Rambo: First Blood,” a game which I found terribly dull, even as a high schooler. I would boot it up just to hear the song. You probably won’t hear the connection; I can just barely make it out myself.

There have been various aborted attempts to get this game going on a variety of game engines. Unlike “The Mystic Hand,” which is ready to go and has all the assets ready, this one is a little less organized, less polished. Materials and notes abound, but it would take a bit longer to get everything in order. Unlike the Hand, which seems to work in mobile space on handhelds, this one seems an obvious choice for bigger screens. It’s a retro platformer to be sure, but the edge is in the unusual situations, strange gameplay, and sense of humor prevailing throughout.

A complete and playable demo of two levels of Tartarus exists. It was made using Power Game Factory from Sawblade Software. PGF is great because it’s pretty simple for non-programmer types like me. And yeah, it’s Mac only. I’m on a Mac, and I don’t see you helping me develop it for PCs. I’m not against the PC, I just have no experience and you’re not contributing to make it work on them. My real dream was to make it and install it in some kind of retro arcade cabinet, and I only have Mac hardware.

And so the Underwear Girl Game remains, a curiosity on the hard drive, waiting for the day it can get some attention. Maybe I’ll run out of other ideas and I’ll get to it. Maybe I can finally convince my nephew to program it for me. Or maybe it’s just bits and bytes, soon to spin down and fade away after all the electricity is gone.

Keep in mind that these few exhibits are just the tangible projects that go nowhere. We cannot speak of the intangible, truly bizarre ideas like “Invisible Ball,” “Instar” or even “Kill that Nazi Bear!” Those require only the most driven and brave souls to contemplate that which has never been tried in gaming. And by “never been tried” I do not mean because it is not fun or somehow harms the player. I mean because the fun potential alone would destroy the Universe as we know it.

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