Posts Tagged ‘adaptive’

So we’re making a lot of headway on our product, both the student game playing side as well as the teacher dashboard. Take a look…

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We’re about to start working in schools with teachers and students to further refine the system and we’re talking to Gates Foundation and New Schools Venture Fund to see how we align with their programs.

I’d like to extend an invitation to anyone that wants to join the evaluation and refinement process. I can give you access to the system and you can offer your thoughts on the user interface and system overall.

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In the start-up world, the pivot is talked about like a bad dinner. You made reservations, you ordered what looked to be an appetizing meal, but after eating it you almost instantly had regrets. After a few days, you’re asking yourself why on earth you went to that restaurant.

So you’re an entrepreneur and you think you’re pretty smart. You have a great idea and you think you have enough charisma, talent, or hustle in your bones to make it become a reality. If you went to school, you know everyone will want a business plan. They’ll want a pitch. They’ll even want an obvious list of customers willing to shell out for your amazing product or service. Or they’ll want to feel comfortable that you can get people to spend money regardless of the quality of your service or product. Are you the next Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, or Huck Finn?

The world will only know if you pivot. Why? Because it’s nearly a guarantee that your original idea will stink and no matter how charming you are, talented you are, or how much hustle you got, that first pitch ain’t selling to anyone. It’s a dead dog. A bad movie script. It’s got no legs.

So you’re one of the smart ones and you pivot. What no one tells you about pivoting is that you may or may not know when you should pivot. You may or may not know what to pivot to. If you’re lucky and you pivot to the exact right thing at the exact right time, things might just work out for your nascent start-up. Odds are against you because the odds are…you won’t pivot correctly or in a timely manner.

Textfyre has been around for a lot longer than most businesses that call themselves start-ups. In fact, we’re well past the age where seed money is likely to come in the door. Angel investors look at anything past a year old and smell a rat. They run for the hills, ignoring any potential there may be within the targeted business model. I have always been of the mind that building anything related to Interactive Fiction would be a marathon, not a sprint. I’ve never had any illusions about the potential of this market. I’ve always been highly confident that there is a market. But also very sure it would be extremely difficult to tap. I was also sure that building the right technical profile would be the one thing that allowed us to break the mold of being an old start-up and still become successful.

Textfyre hasn’t really even launched. Our pivots have all been internal. It’s been five years of research and development. That’s changing as of today. This year we’re going to put real services in classrooms and develop relationships with real teachers and real students in real schools. We’re going to partner with content developers outside of the “IF” world and develop material that coincides with curriculum being taught at the middle-school level. We still believe that fictional content is important to young readers, but the key to this new effort is putting teacher-identifiable content in classrooms. We’re going to put their curriculum in our format using our tools.

As mentioned in previous posts, I have been working on a cloud-based engine for Interactive Fiction. This is completed and working. We’re now working on content that weaves fiction and non-fiction together so that students can learn about social studies and history in a new format. They’re still going to be playing Interactive Fiction, but the goals won’t be to find treasure. The goals will be to learn.

Our first large-scale pilot program will begin in fall at the Chicago Public Schools. We’re going to bring our client-server engine into the classroom where the teacher can monitor the progress of all students in real-time. They’ll be able to watch every command entered, help when needed, and determine each student’s capabilities from their efforts. It’s our belief, which studies have proven, that narrative or story-based education methods provide a much stronger connection to the student. They retain more information, understand the information more intuitively, and are able to use the information in real life. We plan to enlighten the education world to the enormous potential of Interactive Fiction.

This is a big push by Textfyre and we’re very excited about the future of adaptive learning. We’re hoping to bring our T.A.L.E.S. to every student around the globe in every language, in every classroom, and in every home.

I know no one gets excited about vaporware, but the new Textfyre website will address some of the issues Jim talks about here.

Based on my work on Zifmia, which is a client-server engine based on FyreVM, which is a .NET implementation of the Glulx specification, I have been able to build a new Textfyre website. This new website is intended to be a portal for client-server Interactive Fiction games.

Here is the scenario I envision for the portal:

An author uploads a gblorb file that contains their game and images. In setting up their game, they select a template, which is used to display the game in any supported browser, including mobile and tablet browsers. The template is made up of JavaScript, HTML, and CSS. The author may offer their own template and a way to test templates locally will be enabled. The ability to use the portal in an IFRAME will also be available, allowing the author to show the game on their own website or blog. Facebook integration is an important part of the future of Textfyre’s strategy as well.

Games are played in a standard fashion, but mostly based on whatever template is devised. The template I’m working on is a hybrid of things we’ve seen over time and a slightly out of date version can be seen at http://beta.textfyre.com.

One of the major differences with the portal is that every turn of every game is saved on the Textfyre servers, in the cloud. If you play the game on any connected device, you will never lose your places. Save, Restore, and Undo become irrelevant. The user interface will have a mechanism to jump to any turn the user has played. If they type a new command at a previous turn, the history branches. These branches are displayed to the user and can be panned and zoomed and reviewed.

Obviously, this is a connected service. Future implementations may include client-side storage, but it’s not on the radar today.

I have Cloak of Darkness working as an example. I’m still (slowly) working on the standard template and Shadow will be implemented as a pay-to-play game when the site is released publicly. Secret Letter will follow and we’re working on getting Empath’s Gift completed, at which time it will also become a part of the portal.

I would love for an author to step up and offer to work with me on the standard template or a new template for their own game. If anyone is interested, let me know. This is mostly going to be undoing any Glk specific code in your game file and replacing it with FyreVM stuff and then working on the client-side code.