Posts Tagged ‘windowsphone’

So we’ve got a mostly working version of the engine for what we’re calling our K Apps. We still have some performance issues to work through, but we feel confident that those can be resolved.

Now the UI work begins. We had planned to work with James Terry, but the timing wasn’t quite right and we’re looking at another mobile developer. More later.

Textfyre is making an effort to publish games on all platforms now. The list of targeted platforms includes:

  • Windows desktops, laptops, netbooks, and tablets
  • Mac OS X
  • iPhone
  • iPad
  • Droid
  • Windows Phone 7
  • Palm Pre
  • Blackberry
  • Web via Silverlight
  • Web via Zifmia
  • Web via HTML5
  • Amazon Kindle
  • B&N Nook
  • XBox 360
  • Nintendo DS/DSi
  • Sony PS3

This is going to be a sizable effort and will take time to implement. In the end, we will be able to accept content that meets a set of criteria and publish that content to all of the implemented platforms.

We’re also going to try to make it so that saved games can be stored online or offline along with progress and status information. Some of this information will have the option of being shared with social networking platforms like Twitter and Facebook.

We are developing tools to integrate games with social networking sites, allowing authors to use profile information within their games.

The criteria for publishing your content will include the following:

  • Game file must be Glulx with FyreVM support. We have an Inform 7 extension for FyreVM and are working on an Inform 6 extension (for glulx output only though). I don’t think we can support the Z-Machine, but upgrading your source code to Glulx Inform 6 may get you past this requirement.
  • At this time, we don’t have any way to support TADS 3, but it’s on our radar.
  • No blorb support.
  • No glk support.
  • Channel emissions must be tested thoroughly.
  • Games must be tested thoroughly.
  • We will allow for spot and page art implemented through channel or markup data. Details will be included in the FyreVM Developer’s Guide, which will be available soon.

We really have no interest in becoming a censor, but Textfyre has to set some guidelines about content. I’ll have to talk to people about how to implement the content standards, but I believe the primary consideration would be that the game be of high quality. After that it will likely be an editorial decision.

The website is undergoing a complete redesign and won’t be available for some time, but I’m going to start posting information there, even in raw form, so that people can keep up with our progress.

If you have any questions, please contact me directly.

So we’re going full speed in developing Windows Phone 7 games. A friend of Textfyre has committed to getting the UX ready by the beginning of September and off to Microsoft for approval. The UX is very cool and I think it will have a sizable impact on mobile IF implementations. To summarize, imagine being able to play an entire IF game with your thumb.

This leads to some disappointing news. Andrew has taken the iPhone, iPad, and OS X code as far as he can and has checked in everything to the sourceforge repository. If anyone wants to pitch in and work on the Objective C code, it would be appreciated by Textfyre as well as anyone else that would like to publish their game to the iPhone and iPad.

I’ll post pictures of the WP7 user experience as we get closer to completion. I really think it’s going to be great.

It’s been very clear over the last six months that the direction Textfyre needs to go is mobile. Desktop products are extremely difficult to sell without physical media and selling physical media requires a marketing budget, a luxury we don’t have.

Our plan to sell directly to the education market has been moved to a back burner, if not entirely removed from the plan. Selling directly to schools or school systems is nearly impossible without the right connections. With those connections,  it’s still a nightmare. I’d been warned by other people that trying to sell to schools is impossible. I guess they were right. The closest I came to tapping that market was a connection with Follett Library Resources, the people that offer a search engine of product to schools. The lead dried up almost immediately.

To move to a more generalized publishing market, I’ve directed everyone developing content for Textfyre that the restrictions are mostly off. There’s no need to direct our stories at middle-school students. I’ve asked them to simply develop great stories that can be appreciated by any reader.

We’ve made a splash in online sales and those will continue. With more marketing, we can reach more customers, but that still will take more time (and money). But I have other opportunities coming up that may move online sales to a back-burner as well.

The mobile market is composed of phones like the iPhone, Droid, and any other phone that has some way of publishing an application. We’ve been working on an iPhone application for a while now. We haven’t looked at the Android platform, but are likely to in the future. The iPad is obviously very interesting and the iPhone code that Andrew has been developing can target it as well as the iPhone (as well as being a desktop OS X application).

The problem with the iPhone and iPad is that there are so many applications available that it’s extremely difficult to get noticed and to be able to price your application above $.99. Some people may think it’s a good idea to sell IF at $.99, but I’m not one of them. That would be an unsustainable price point, at least for initial sales.

I’ve also been talking to Microsoft about partnering for the new Windows Phone 7 launch coming this fall. In fact, they called me and they have a strong case. With assistance, I could easily port our Silverlight implementation of our games to the WP7 platform. The UI would take some work and we’d have to run through very rigorous testing, but we’re automatically closer to publishing to the WP7 marketplace than any other.

The last mobile device, the Amazon Kindle, is probably the sweet-spot and I am now talking to the Kindle team about publishing Textfyre games to the device. They opened up a Kindle Development Kit awhile back and although we haven’t gotten into the beta program, I have been able to get Amazon’s attention and we’re discussing the technical details. I should know more in the next week or two.

Of course working with Microsoft or Amazon might require contractual obligations that limit our publishing capabilities (they may expect exclusivity in exchange for support). It’s a business afterall and if I can land a partnership that enables us to build the business, then that’s the direction we need to go.

No decisions have been made, but the fork in the road is coming quickly. I’ll know more about Microsoft and Amazon soon. I already know where our iPhone/iPad strategy is as well as online and physical media sales. I also know that we’re done focusing on schools and students, for now.

Once I know where we stand with Microsoft and Amazon and with the iPad development, it will be time to choose a way forward, rewrite the business plan, and Textfyre will shift into an entirely new business model.

So I’m looking at being a part of the launch of the new Windows Phone 7 and have a dilemma. Andrew is nearing completion of the iPhone/iPad/iPod, and Mac OSX framework for FyreVM games. I’m working on the Silverlight code for Windows Phone 7 games. I think it’s going to be a tie as to when we get the code done.

So then I have to decide how I want to market the new platforms and whether I simply fire off versions for every platform. Do I market just the mobile apps? Do I do just iPad? Do I do just Microsoft or just Apple?

These are the questions I’m pondering every day now.

So while I’m porting Shadow to Windows Phone 7, I started realizing where Microsoft is going with all of their platforms. They want to make it so that if you play a game, you can stop and restart on another device.

So the scenario is…start a game on your new Windows Phone 7 device on the train. At some point you decide to save and quit. When you get home, you fire up the Xbox and load up the same game and continue playing. But wait, your friend Joe calls and wants you to come over. So you head over to Joe’s and pull up the same game on his PC, right where you left off.

Since we’ve been talking about user interfaces lately, this brings up a completely different problem. What will the three different devices/platforms looks like and how will they work? It’s obvious that the WP7 device will have a minimalistic user interface and touch controls. The Xbox might have a keyboard, but it would also have to support users without one and just the standard controllers. The PC user would be running something closer to what we would consider a traditional user interface.

All of this can be done in Silverlight using the various SDK’s and common data file formats, which we already have with FyreVM and Quetzal save files.

I’ve always thought one of the flaws of the iPhone (and now iPad) model was that you couldn’t buy an app and play it on your computer. Why not? What’s preventing Apple from creating an SDK that shares the same code base, but allows the developer to choose different devices to target? Seems like a no-brainer to me. Unless you don’t care about your desktop business anymore and you’re solely focused on mobile devices. That would seem to be the direction Apple is headed.

It will be interesting to see how this dynamic impacts the market when WP7 is launched and the marketing of Microsoft platform neutral gaming comes into play.

In any case, Textfyre is likely to pursue this model. I think telling people they can play our games on their new Windows Phone 7 device, a PC, or an Xbox, is going to be a nice draw.

Microsoft announced their new mobile platform in February and I’ve been actively working on prototypes using the new development tools, Expression Blend 4, Visual Studio 2010, and the Silverlight Windows Phone 7 SDK.

One of the great things about targeting Windows Phone 7 is that all of our existing code base compiles without change. The FyreVM class library ported without easily and now it’s just a matter of working through the new WP7 API’s to make it work seamlessly.

Of course the real work will be coming up with a user experience that works well. It may be that our work with the book “paging” model used in Jack Toresal and The Secret Letter Deluxe Edition will help us with something similar on WP7.

The way that paging works on WP7, by flicking the screen right or left or up or down is a key to making something interesting and intuitive. The user should be able to play our games with just a thumb.

The other aspect of targeting this platform is that we can also implement them using XNA for the XBox 360 platform and players could go back and forth between them playing the same game. It will be interesting to see this in action.

We’re already registered as an official developer and targeting to be one of the first products available at the launch later this year.

Stay tuned!