Archive for March, 2010

Updated 3-31-2010@9pm: Please see last paragraph on contributing…

In Boston we had a panel discussion about IF outreach and I’ve decided to take a proactive approach to this subject. Outside of marketing Textfyre, I’d like to help promote IF in general. I think of the things we can do is reach out to libraries. In order to do this, I think we need to drop off a sort IF Promotion Package.

I see the package including:

  • The IF Promotionall CD, and if we can get a Mac version, that would be great.
  • A Dozen of the IF Help Cards we had at PAX.
  • A single printed (color) page of each game on the CD. This would have the cover art, a blurb, and the standard basic help for an IF game. I would try to get approval from each author to finalize their game page.
  • An introductory IF newsletter that describes what people need to know in 4 pages about IF, including where to find more information.
  • A binder with cover art to bring it all together.
  • Possibly a small swag bag to hold it all.

The idea would be to bring a binder or bag to a new library every weekend, pitch IF to the librarian of your choice, and drop off the material.

We could also give the binder to teachers of course, if you find a way to do that.

I’d also like to mention that there is a Middle School convention in Baltimore in the first week of November. Textfyre may have a booth at this convention, but I’m open to having the booth be about Interactive Fiction and having Textfyre just be one of the sponsors and participants. If other people want to join in, I would welcome that.

I think we need to stop talking about outreach and start pounding the pavement. We need to go out and hand the stuff to people that might actually be interested. People that read regularly are very likely to be found in libraries and libraries all have computers these days.

I’m also working on the Follett angle, trying to get IF into school libraries, and I will share my progress as it happens there.

If anyone is interested in helping put all of this material together, please let me know. I have a SharePoint site I can give access to so we can collaborate. I just added an IFWiki Outreach page. Please visit and contribute.

In Boston at the PAX convention, Jason Scott premieried a portion of his new documentary, Get Lamp.

First, I was disappointed that we weren’t getting a final product viewing. I’ve been watching Jason put the film together for four years (he interviewed me and I’m in the film) and I had hoped to see something more complete. From a business perspective, it may be that he simply had to move forward in whatever state it was in. However, the whole thing might have been better served by waiting another six months. The fact that PAX East was in Boston and they were receptive to the several IF panels and the film…this was probably just too good to pass up on Jason’s part. I still would have liked to have seen the entire film.

The hour of film that Jason previewed was well done. There were a few gaudy moments; like holding onto Steve Meretzky as if he’s going to cry. Then holding onto Mike Berlyn as he states very emphatically that commercial IF is dead and no one should every put money into it. I think the former was just goofy. The latter was misleading. There’s more information about Berlyn’s Cascade Mountain Publishing company and with that, Berlyn’s comments become something else entirely. Was Jason afraid to expose dirty details? Isn’t that part of the point of a documentary? To tell the whole story? In any case, I think this point in the film does a disservice to anyone, myself included, trying to rekindle commercial IF. Without the backstory or without some balancing narrative, Berlyn’s comments are wildly out of context. There was a hint of balance coming at the end, but it was nowhere near as strong as Berlyn’s comments.

The rest of the film was excellent. All of the interviews, with Infocom people, Scott Adams, the educators, the blind players, and a few contemporary IF people were all wonderful and really give you a sense of the love and passion many of us have for the medium. In this respect, the film is a tremendous success. I’m sure the unfinished portions will only add more depth to the story.

So I spent the weekend in Boston at the Penny Arcade Convention, PAX East 2010. The trip wasn’t quite as comfortable as I would have liked it to have been, but I had an excellent time meeting up with various IF peopless. I was working on a few promotional ideas for the convention, including possibly getting a booth to show Textfyre games, but ultimately decided to just hang out.

One of the promotional ideas was to partner with Jason Scott who was doing his premier of GET LAMP, a documentary about the history of Interactive fiction.  When I interviewed for the film, we’d talked about possibly adding Textfyre material to the DVD’s and Jason was very receptive at that time. For whatever reason, Jason changed his mind and this partnership never materialized. I think it was a missed opportunity for both of our endeavors, but that’s just my opinion.

Another thing I’d been working on in the background was a license for the Infocom trademark, now owned by Omni Consumer Products in California. Activision does not own the trademark anymore, something i verified with my internal contacts there. I’d gotten the licensing agreement and reviewed it with my business attorney. After reviewing the associated costs and strong language, I decided it wasn’t in our best interests to pursue such an agreement. I did talk to some of the original Infocom people and they thought it wasn’t really a good name for a brand unless there were plans to do sequels of the original games, something we do not have access to. So that promotional idea ended as well.

The only other thing I had planned to do was possibly make Textfyre t-shirts or CD’s of games, but I just couldn’t determine what sort of audience there were for those items. I’d never been to PAX before and wasn’t sure if it would work or not. I think it might have worked, but I also believe it wasn’t worth the risk. So in the end, I’m glad I just had fun and left the Textfyre promotion stuff off the trip.

On to the details…

Friday

My flight was delayed two hours so I missed the IF writing panel, which I was seriously miffed about. I did see the GET LAMP premiere and met up with most of the people I know from the IF community. I’ll write a separate post about my take on the movie, but overall I think Jason is a good filmmaker. After the film I chatted with Don Woods, Brian Moriarty, Dave Lebling, Steve Meretzky, and Mike Dornbrook. I ended up having drinks with the Infocom guys until 1:30am. It was very surreal being around people that had such a tremendous impact on your life.

Saturday

On Saturday I grabbed a bite and hot chocolate from Starbucks before managing the Speed-IF in the IF Suite at the Back Bay Hilton. Everyone stood around and we came up with a few ideas and everyone spent the better part of the day writing their entries, all of which are noted on the IFWiki page. I grabbed a late lunch with Jesse McGrew (vaporware), Kate (his girlfriend), and Mike (can’t remember his name) at the Pour House. Lunch was tolerbale, but not great. I then walked around the convention with Mike where we poked around, saw Will Wheaton, got t-shirts, bought the Jason Shiga Meanwhile book, and then separated. I eventually made my way back to the IF Suite in time for the IF Outrach Panel, where we all discussed ways to get the word out about IF. Since this is a topic I am intimately familiar with, I had a lot to say (probably more than some people care to hear). We then pulled all of the Speed-IF entries together and people played them. It was great to see so much interest.

Sunday

Went to brunch at The Cheesecake Factory, which was fantastic and then headed to the IF Suite for another panel on adaptive play. The idea being that we should develop ways to allow newbies and pros to play the same games without hardship. It turns out this is similar to the outreach discussion in many ways. The panel talked a lot about Jay Is Games, but I am not personally convinced casual gamers will ever be interested in IF. I think if people want to write casual IF games, that’s great…but that’s not what I want to do. I want to develop immersive (not casual) stories that intentially take many hours of your time.

We all chatted until about 5pm and then the bulk of the crew went out for dinner. It was a bit early, but I ended up heading straight to the airport. I upgraded to first class because I was just so tired and had a nice quiet flight home.

PAX East

Posted: March 26, 2010 in Blogroll, interactive fiction, Textfyre
Tags: , ,

I’m heading to the airport and off to PAX East in Boston. I should get in around 4:30 and have time to run to the hotel, check-in and then head over to the IF events. Looking forward to seeing everyone.

The Shadow in the Cathedral was recently reviewed on the Norwegian gamer website, gamer.no. It’s a very good review (I used Google Translate to read it…apparently Shadow has a lot of nuts) and it’s good to know that the story translates well.

I’m going to start pulling non-IF writers into Textfyre for a special project. Since they’re going to be wondering what all of this is about and how it’s different from traditional writing, I wanted to offer a sort of primer for writing IF.

So here it is, Writing to the Interactive Fiction Medium.

Comments are welcome as well as collaborators.

Updated: 3-19-2010 (Rev 1.2)

We are in the midst of developing a new series that flows from the popularity of mythical creatures and young adult romance. The most obvious creatures are vampires and werewolves, but looking at a fresh take on this type of story.

This particular series is going to be published differently. We’re going to work with it into Facebook and do some interesting things by linking the story to the user and the browser. The series will likely unfold as chapters instead of whole books with regular weekly updates.

Stay tuned for the next Textfyre adventure!