I’ve tried to do a few things to revive my interest in commercial IF in the last three months…the result is that I just don’t have the same passion that I once had…I have other priorities, other interests, and commercial IF, alone in Chicago, is just too hard and just no fun. If I had collaborators of a higher caliber and equal passion, I might have found a reason to continue. All the best IF people still highly engaged are “elsewhere”.

I plan to retain the rights to the Textfyre name and maintain the existing contracts until they’re settled (one way or another).

The corporation is being legally renamed for other purposes.

The Shadow in the Cathedral will remain in game stores, but I’ll probably reduce the price or make it free. Same for Secret Letter.

Empath’s Gift, now being tested for release, will be published for free.

Eventually I’ll get around to releasing all of the documents and assets from Textfyre to the IF-Archive.

Of course this doesn’t mean I’m personally detaching from IF. Hardly. I’m currently actively working on my own story called Reflections and a new web UI to go with it when I release it later this year. That UI will be built with the new Quixe-Channels, for which I am also building resources and tools.

IF is once again, just a hobby for me.

After moving the two 2009 published stories (Jack Toresal and The Secret Letter, The Shadow in the Cathedral) to itch.io, there have been 200+ views, many press downloads, and a handful of sales. Sales are really not the point of course. I’m just trying to see if Textfyre can re-establish itself as an IF publisher, even a modest one. I’ve been working on updates to those two stories and to the existing tooling.

Empath’s Gift is in early beta-testing now is well on its way to being published this year, possibly even as early as spring.

A colleague has forked Quixe, Andrew Plotkin’s Glulx in JavaScript interpreter, and is nearing completion. This will allow FyreVM games to run in a browser and provide interesting tooling capabilities. I’ve talked about this a lot over the years and it’s been my belief that glk (even the proposed glk 2.0 for web) approach is at-best a stop gap measure.

Real web capabilities should allow an author to rely on the entire web programming paradigm and not just a subset of those capabilities. FyreVM allows for this (but doesn’t provide it) since authoring a game would only requires you to define context, not the look and feel. The look and feel, or user experience, is something that can be done by non-authors who are experts with HTML5. Tools can be developed (like Vorple) to give authors highly flexible control over the look and feel of their published stories.

My goal is take the resulting FyreVM compatible Quixe implementation and create a widget-based web interpreter. The author would load their game file and the system would automatically determine what widgets were required. The author would then drag-drop these widgets on a blank slate and save the results. Players would see the resulting “interpreter” as a custom user experience. The author could allow the player to move the widgets around for their own purposes or they could “lock” the widgets to maintain a distinct experience.

The plan is to have the first implementation of this vision by summer.

I’m personally working on a new story called Reflections, which will either be released sometime summer/fall and possibly in the 2015 IF Competition.

I’ve also discussed the Shadow sequel with Jon and Ian. Sadly, they are far too busy to work on it and so I had planned to open it up to someone else. I can’t offer the highly speculative contract that I once offered early Textfyre authors, so it would be a project of passion for the most part. I would pay a nominal (up front) fee to an experienced Inform 7 author for the work.

I have tried to contact Mike Gentry, but he seems to have left the IF world completely and does not respond to inquiries. This makes me very sad since Mike is still one of the best writers the IF world has ever known. It still irks me that Secret Letter has almost no reviews from prominent IF writers and players. I think it really bothered Mike too. I think the consensus was that it was cliche’d fantasy and this prompted many people to disregard it. Even so, probably the most disappointing aspect of having started and tried to make Textfyre work.

That’s my update. Stay tuned.

Jack Toresal and The Secret Letter is now on itch.io in Silverlight (windows only) form ($2.99) and plain Glulx form ($1.99). The Silverlight version includes the glulx file.



As the title says, I’ve updated The Shadow in the Cathedral with new maps and it’s now available on itch.io for $1.99.


I’ve been winding down some things relating to Textfyre and have talked with a few people about when exactly I should officially close it. There are some legal and accounting hurdles to overcome and those will take time. I separated my consulting practice from it so that’s no longer a concern.

So it looks like Textfyre will “survive” for another year. I’m not exactly sure what it will do, if anything, but I’m working on IF projects that may or may not fall under the Textfyre banner at some point. But most of my IF endeavors are open source and freely available.

These include:

  • Completing the game Reflections. This is not going to be open source, but it will be free. It’s likely going to be a non-competition release in a non-standard web-based user interface.
  • A friend of mine is adapting Quixe so that it can run FyreVM games. Once this is completed, I’m going to finish up a toolkit for building custom web applications for parser based IF. This is similar to Vorple by Juhana Leinonen, but because the IO model is significantly different, the tooling will be different.
  • These new tools will be similar to Ionic/Angular in that you can use a command line to quickly create an IF app from a template. I plan to have several templates ready on first release and these templates should be relatively easy to modify if you know HTML and possibly a little JavaScript.
  • A web application version of the Inform 7 IDE. I’ve only mucked around with this so far, but it’s something I want to spend time on in the next year or two.
  • A web-based IF hub for educational content. I’ve actually already built several versions of this for Textfyre, but will build a new one in the next couple of years and release it for public sharing of educational content. I think this is a really important platform to build and share.

Textfyre plans:

  • I’m still trying to figure out how to get Empath’s Gift completed. I need an I7 programmer to own it. Paul and Chris are happy to help with additional writing and testing. I’m willing to pay a reasonable fee to see this happen.
  • I have a unique touch-based UI for Shadow about 70% completed testing. This is on me to finish and release, whether it’s a success or not. At this point, I’ll probably release it for free just to get feedback on the UI concepts and share ideas with the community.

Feel free to share your thoughts about Textfyre’s future.

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.

I’ve made attempts over the years to play IF with my kids (now 15, 14, 12, 10, and 9) with poor success. Angie (12) had shown some interest with Lost Pig, but no else had any patience for all that reading and typing.

So I made a bargain. In equal amounts, they could play Minecraft for playing IF with me.

I picked up a wireless keyboard and mouse for $34 at BestBuy and plugged my laptop into my 60″ LED TV, fired up Zork I and upped the font to 24pt. It worked out well enough.

Penny, Angie, Tori, and Ben all played for about 90 minutes, but the cacophony of “Minecraft” requests and the whining became overwhelming. That’s as far as we could go. In the process, I did notice that Penny and Ben liked it, but if they had a choice, wouldn’t play. Everyone wanted the keyboard which engaged them more, so that was interesting.

Later, I fired Zork I up on my laptop in the kitchen and restarted it from memory. After about 10 minutes Tori (10) came and sat next to me to help. By this time I had pulled out the map from Treasures so that was something that definitely helped raise interest.

After awhile, Angie came sat with us. We got up to about 150 points before they had to leave to go back to their mom’s house.

Yesterday they were over again and we played most of the afternoon and finished Zork I. They (Angie and Tori) immediately wanted to play Zork II and so they started it on their own.

The parts I enjoyed was that they solved some of the puzzles on their own, but they also got into the rhythm of “save early and often” and understanding the parser well enough to not need my help.

I’m looking forward to playing Zork II when the come back next weekend. I’m really excited to get through the Zorks and on to Enchanter. That should be even more fun.