Posts Tagged ‘Textfyre’

So I started Textfyre somewhere around 2006-2007. The corporation was legally created in March of 2007, but I had done a lot of research before that point. We released Secret Letter and Shadow in 2009.

Eventually I will write some sort of historical essay on the rise and fall of Textfyre, since at this time, it looks like I will be closing its doors at the end of the year, releasing IP back to authors, and open-sourcing all generic code. I’m still on the fence about this, but unless I have a compelling reason, Textfyre will end on Dec 31st of this year.

I still need to publish the Windows 8 Store version of Shadow. I’m waffling on it for the moment. It will just never be as good as I want it to be. It’s hard to do this stuff alone. I had help last year, but that help has for the most part disappeared.

* * * *

This does not mean I have lost one bit of passion for IF, commercial IF, educational IF, or any of the ideas or visions I’ve worked on for the past 8 or 9 years. It’s just a reality of the day. There are better people at it, specifically Choice of Games, Inkle Studios, and Versu. The emergence of Twine and CYOA games also leads me to believe we’ve hit a crossroads with parser-based IF and I still love parser-based IF. I think the art of IF within Twine and the new iPad games is very compelling. It’s much closer to what I envisioned than I could ever manage.

So what’s next. Well I think I will place my IF passions back to where they were. As a hobby, a passion, and an artistic endeavor. The plan have at the moment is to develop a JavaScript version of FyreVM using Quixe and then building a CLI based IF-builder the same way Ionic builds mobile applications. I envision it something like this:

You type a command in like…

zifmia start mygame z-standard

…and this creates scaffolding for a web-based interpreter using your game file. It automatically generates an I7 extension to be used by your game. You then go write your game in Inform 7 and when done, you save the ulx/blorb file in a directory within that scaffolding. Then you can serve it for testing:

zifmia serve

That command will open a browser running your game in the given template. The template can be modified if you know HTML, CSS, and AngularJS.

When you’re done and ready to publish, you type…

zifmia publish

…and this will create a package you can drop on a server.

I’ll finally be able to develop the templating system I envisioned for Zifmia years ago and by generating the extension in conjunction with the template, authors will have detailed instructions on how to write their game for a given template.

It will be easy.

* * * *

So that’s the new plan. Plans change of course, but this is where I’m headed. As I said, if and when I do close Textfyre, I will write a very thorough accounting of its history for anyone interested. Even so, I could not have done it without the following people:

Jesse McGrew – coded FyreVM from scratch and my hair-brained design requests about Channel IO in about 80 hours which is still an amazing accomplishment.

Mike Gentry – for flying out to Chicago on several occasions, busting his ass to write Secret Letter on paper when no one else had ever done that before. An amazing accomplishment and not just for Textfyre. I’m sure his efforts carries into other people’s IF design endeavors. And for writing Secret Letter itself, which despite its flaws and criticisms, is a wonderful game.

Jon Ingold and Ian Finley – for creating Shadow in the Cathedral, one of the best IF games I’ve ever played. I have played it hundreds of times and I still love it. I wish we could have done the sequels.

Paul O’Brian and Chris Huang – for designing Empath’s Gift and suffering through endless attempts to complete the code. Maybe it will still be finished. I hope so.

For everyone that offered their support. I could not have done even what I did accomplish without the IF community.

I’m not going anywhere….just returning to a hobbyist and an enthusiastic cheerleader of IF.

Textfyre now has the beginning works of an MVP (minimal viable product) and our primary goal this year is to complete the MVP and look for funding.

One of the places we’re looking to for cash our federal and private education grants. We just missed a couple of federal grants in February. There just wasn’t enough time to prepare the type of proposal that’s expected. An RFP from the Gates Foundation was recently publicized and we’re making a concerted effort to complete a proposal for this grant.

In the area of product development, we’ve brought in a new team member that has a learning science and assessment science background. We’re working to redesign existing processes to ones based on IF constructs. This process has just begun.

This has led me to think about our business model. We’ve been discussing the possibility of offering all of our content for free and charging for the assessment and reporting features. These are the features that teachers and administrators would use to evaluate their students progress in areas that can be measured against the new Common Core State Standards. What do we gain by offering our stories for free? What do we lose? These are the questions we’re asking ourselves.

In other news, I am going to add maps and hints to the existing online version of The Shadow in the Cathedral and make it permanently apart of the Textfyre learning structure. It will remain free. I also plan to promote it towards classroom supplemental reading use.

One of our other team members is actively working relationships with teachers to test our service. This is an ongoing struggle since teachers have very little time. If you know a teacher that would be interested in helping us work through piloting, please send them my way. We’re focused on 4th through 8th grade.

We’re deep in the planning phase for PAX East in Boston March 11-13. Some of the IF community are planning to be in early. There’s a dinner planned for Thursday night, and panels throughout the weekend either in a suite or in our planned 1,035sqft conference room in the connected Westin Waterfront hotel.

For more information, visit the IFWiki page at: http://ifwiki.org/index.php/PAX_East_2011

I interviewed with Jason Scott for the Interactive Fiction documentary Get Lamp a few years ago. I was just getting Textfyre going and was excited about the potential of modern IF. I’m even more excited about modern IF than I was back then, and that has nothing to do with Textfyre. There seems to be a new push to widen the interest of IF. New websites like PR-IF.org, server tools, javascript based interpreters, new books, and more.

So Get Lamp kind of lands in the middle of this period of time and from my perspective sinks like a lead weight. From a nostalgic perspective, and certainly if you’re an Infocom fan, Get Lamp is fantastic. But if you’ve been working at IF for the last 15 or 20 years as a hobbyist and the passion for Infocom or Level 9 has faded, Get Lamp is like a mint without the dinner.

Get Lamp completely ignores the modern IF movement. There is nothing in the documentary about modern IF platforms like TADS 3 or Inform 7. I’m not sure Graham Nelson or Emily Short are even mentioned (how is it possible to discuss IF without their efforts?). There aren’t any discussions about Curveship, a new platform being developed by Nick Montfort. There isn’t any talk about any games that have come out in the last ten years. There’s no talk of how we’ve evolved and grown. How we’ve adapted to changes in technology, content, and communal expectations. Jason literally only touched the tip of the iceburg. Get Lamp should have a subtitle: The History of Interactive Fiction.

In general, there is absolutely nothing in the documentary about what the IF community is doing right now and I think this is a huge gap in the film. I think Jason Scott made Get Lamp for his own Infocom fanboy moment. Those are harsh words, but it seems pretty clear to me that Jason has zero connection to the modern IF world. Now that the movie is completed, and after he sells a few hundred or few thousand copies, he will be off to make some other documentary and leave IF behind. I’ve reflected on my own Infocom fanboy moments and realized that I love Interactive Fiction. Not just Infocom. If anything, Get Lamp’s lack of interest in modern IF has ignited my passion for promoting modern IF, either through Textfyre or through open source tools or general community outreach. I realized this while having a drink with Lebling, Meretzky, Dornbrook, and Moriarty at PAX East. They loved Infocom. But they believe if there were ever a new IF age, it would have to be new and different. Like me, they actually love Interactive Fiction more than Infocom and IF’s history.

Anyway. I propose we all pitch in and do interviews of each other and post them on a website somewhere. These interviews will talk about what we’re all doing now and how IF has evolved into something well beyond the days of Infocom. We have an opportunity at PAX Prime to do a few interviews. I would like to encourage someone else to grab a camera and sit a few people down for 15 minutes or 30 minutes and get them on film talking about modern IF. We can do more at PAX East next year.

In the next six months we could produce enough material to be a sort of addendum to Get Lamp that fills in the gaping hole left by Jason. I can work with the Chicago IF group to interview Chicago people. I would spend time talking to Peter Nepstad, Jeremy Freese, and a few others. It would be good to create an outline of things we’d like to see discussed on film. Maybe I’ll setup an IFWiki page and everyone can add their “wish” list. I really believe we need to capture the modern IF community on camera. Its participants, but also its evolution and branches.

J.J. Abrams, the guy behind Cloverfield, Armageddon, Alias, Lost, and now Fringe recently mentioned in an MTV interview that he wanted to do a “text adventure” like Zork.

I’m working with my attorney, who has an LA connection, to get a pitch in front of him as soon as possible.

Stay tuned.