Archive for May, 2010

I spent the last week working on a wrapper for FyreVM that allows it to be used statelessly in a web page. The results, although not pretty, are at http://zifmia.plover.net/.

The wrapper will start up the game, restore the previous state, execute the command, grab the startup text, and return this in an XML blob. I created a simple web page to extract the channel data and write it out. I even included javascript functionality to click on directions.

The Inform 7 game source looks like this:

“Zifmia Test” by David Cornelson

Include Version 3 of FyreVM Support by Textfyre.

Use full-length room descriptions.

When play begins:

change prompt to ” “.

The Kitchen is a room. “You are in a kitchen. The bedroom is <a onclick=’javascript:command([']east[']);’>east</a>.”

The Bedroom is east of the Kitchen. “You are in the bedroom. The kitchen is <a onclick=’javascript:command([']west[']);’>west</a> and the bathroom is <a onclick=’javascript:command([']north[']);’>north</a>.”

The Bathroom is north of the Bedroom. “You are in the bathroom. The bedroom is <a onclick=’javascript:command([']south[']);’>south</a>.”

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I haven’t implemented this as a service yet, which will allow me to implement the controls us jQuery and AJAX calls, but that’s more of a design thing. I wanted to first show that FyreVM can be used as a back end to a web application.

All of the code, Inform 7 project, and web project are at sourceforge.net in the FyreVM project.

We’re in our third year at Textfyre and nearing the completion of our third game, Empath’s Gift. Empath is now in a state where the game can be played through to several of its conclusions. There’s a bit more paint to dry before it goes into beta-testing, but that should happen in the next few weeks. I can’t offer a firm release date yet, but it’s looking like sometime in late June, early July.

Meanwhile, our fourth series is beginning its design phase and we have a series and episode title. The series, designed and written by Sarah Morayati (Broken Legs), will be called Anna Chronicle. The first episode in this historical fiction adventure is Poets in Peril. It’s great to see the fourth series underway.

You may have noticed that Sarah is doing both the game design and the writing. In this case, She’s very passionate about the subject matter and knows it well. She’s also planning to use internal resources for puzzles and interactivity, but the project is hers to manage. The programming will still be done separately. The designers and writers (except for Gentry) all seem to love not having to do any programming.

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In other news…

The Apple platform versions of FyreVM (now an open source project on sourceforge.net) are cruising along. I look forward to announcing the first releases of Textfyre games on the iPhone and iPad.

In lieu of a professional user experience consultant, I am adopting some of my own ideas into a Windows version of Shadow in the Cathedral and then having those ideas ported to the demonstration Silverlight version that can be played online. Some of the ideas include hyperlinked exits, a “Try This” context menu, and voice over help. When ready, we will share the new ideas with everyone.

Andrew Pontious started working on an Apple implementation of FyreVM and he’s moving his work from a private source control repository to the new SourceForge.Net FyreVM repository soon. This will also be released under the MIT license, which means anyone can use it for personal or commercial purposes.

The harder part is the user interface. Andrew will likely have a very basic UI implemented for testing FyreVM, but it will be up to the community to help bring about something more visually appealing and usable.

I’ve found a user experience consultant to work with the community, but the quote is rougly $4,000. This would include 5 weeks of iterative user experience work. Andrew is partially committed to helping out with mocks and Chris Cavanagh, a Silverlight developer, is also open to doing mocks.

The result of this work wouldn’t be the actual UI. It would be the general look and feel. We’d have to then work with someone with graphic arts experience to take the usability designs and make them pretty as well as having a programmer implement any of the active components of the experience (rollovers, transitional animations, etc).

I’m committed to finding a way to fund this effort. I’ve started a Kickstarter campaign, but haven’t launched it yet. I want to put a video together that tries to explain to potential contributors how important this is to the IF community.

Remember, the user experience isn’t just about Apple products. The results could be implemented in Parchment, on Windows, in Silverlight…or in any other interpreter.

Last night at the Harold Washington Library we kicked off the Chicago Interactive Fiction Group with its first ever meetup. The attendees included Peter Nepstad and two newcomers: Edward Blair and Steve (forgot his last name). Steve is a complete lurker in that he reads Google Groups, but has never posted. Ed was at PAX East and was five people away from getting into the writing discussion, but made it into Get Lamp. He stopped by the IF Suite on Sunday, but it was so packed, he never came in.

We talked about a lot of things, but mostly on how to get more people interested in IF. Ed is very much into the indy zine/comic/music scene in Chicago and he has some great ideas. Peter has a table at the Printer’s Row Book Fair and will be selling 1893 again. There are indy bookstores in Chicago and the Chicago Underground Library that seem like good places to leave promotional CD’s and flyers.

One of the things that came up with the promotional CD is that we need to make it a dual Mac/PC CD. Even the PC side could use an upgrade from its current HTA (HTML Application) format.

The consensus was that we need to put as many games on CD’s as possible and hand as many out as possible.

We went out for a beer afterwards and I had someone take a picture, but it didn’t turn out for some reason.

Before the meetup, I stopped by the YouMedia center again and this time talked to Taylor Bayless, the gal that introduced Zork to the kids in a retro-gaming session. They do these on Mondays from 3:30pm to 5pm. I’m going to try to join in a session and show the kids Inform 7. She was excited about the idea of getting the kids to make their own games.

All in all it was a great start. Hopefully we can get more people to come down next month. Since Peter is going to be at the Printer’s Row Book Fair, there’s an idea of having the next meetup there, on a Saturday.

Remember to check the group’s website for more information.

As I begin working on Zifmia, an open source project to develop a cross-ifplatform client/server system, I needed to take an initial first step.

FyreVM, a glulx implementation with a different IO system, is now a sourceforge project under the MIT license.

We’re looking to have TADS 3, z-code, glulx, hugo, and any other systems integrated into zifmia. If you want to chip in programming, it would be greatly appreciated.