Posts Tagged ‘art’

One of the processes the IF community is learning about right now and one that Textfyre has been going through since Secret Letter’s game file was completed was the process of provisioning. Turning content into product. Infocom was brilliant at provisioning their content. They made some of the most beautiful packages and “feelies” even by today’s standards. Actually, few games are packaged these days. They have a pretty box, but inside it’s just some cardboard and a CD or DVD jewel case. Infocom included specially made items and paperwork that gave the customer the feeling that they were truly on their own adventure.

It’s occurred to me that Infocom was popular in part because of their brilliant packaging. I wonder how well their games would have sold had they come in a simpler, less enticing box. And if their games had no feelies at all, would they have garnered the same passionate following? It’s an interesting point to speculate on and one that I take seriously. I think anyone that wants to reach a wider audience for an IF game should also take it seriously.

This is not a trivial process. Some of the things involved in provisioning include:

  • Artwork. Every game should have at least one high end signature piece of artwork that represents the game. The community started doing this a few years ago with cover art. I think this was brilliant and the beginning of the community’s interest in provisioning their games.
  • Documentation. Each game should come with its own introduction, help, and any additional paperwork that helps the customer immerse themselves in the world within the game. I think this is key to booting the relationship between the customer and the game. It probably gives the customer a stronger attachment to the game, which will help them overcome any initial difficulties. Where IF is concerned, any way to reduce start-up confusion is highly desired.
  • Map. Each game should just give away the general setting secrets by presenting the entire game’s map in color, preferably drawn by a talented artist.

But these are things that go in a box or in a PDF. What about getting the game working?

  • Installation. The customer should be able to very easily install the game. The game should install exactly the same way that any other application installs on a given OS. The installation process should include details about the end user license agreement as well as any information about open source software being used. The user should be offered the opportunity to “run” the game immediately as well as display the introduction documentation immediately. There are free tools to create installations for Mac and Windows and Linux. I highly recommend looking for these tools and making your game a standard install for all platforms.

And there are things that should be within the application itself:

  • General help.
  • Full set of hints.

All of this is hard work. Just when you’ve finished updating your game with that last beta testing report, you feel this sense of accomplishment and you should. But you’re not done. You then need to determine how you want people to perceive your new work and go through the process of provisioning it accordingly.

If you’re not an artist, there are plenty of starving artists available through Craigslist.org. I paid $500 for the cover art for The Shadow in the Cathedral and I think it was well worth the money. You can also find great photos and artwork at istockphoto.com. I’ve used their site to grab various little pieces of spot art like gears and clocks for Shadow’s documentation. Again, it was well worth it. Of course in a perfect world I’d have an art director managing the graphical provisioning process, but if you have to be your own art director, you can still do an excellent job.

Provisioning is a critical aspect of making your game look exciting and giving the game player the feeling that they’re getting something really cool. Whether you’re giving your game away for free or selling it, provisioning should be on your to do list.

There are a few news items to share, but the one that everyone wants to see is not going to be one of them; that being the launch of sales of Secret Letter. I once again tried to push everything to get the first game out next month and that may still happen, but the window is closing. February or March may be more realistic. We are getting very close. Here’s a summary of tasks for Secret Letter:

- Produce final artwork including book image, major art, spot art, and character art.
- Complete user interface including new paging functionality, hints, help, compass rose, and map.
- Complete game testing.
- Complete market testing.
- Update website for secure access and sales.
- Develop short-term marketing campaign.
- Send out review copies.
- Setup physical distribution processes.
- Launch.

In other news, we’ve been testing the user interface with various volunteers and will be opening the test environment up to more people in the coming weeks. If anyone is interested in casual play-testing (for free), please send me an e-mail. I plan to open up a secure environment where people can play Jack Toresal and The Secret Letter and Shadow in the Cathedral online via the Silverlight browser plug-in. A signed NDA will be required and will be built into the website.

We’ve started publishing free content from existing games. Eric Eve’s Nightfall game is currently available from the Textfyre website and Jeremy Freese’s Violet is coming soon. If any authors of highly rated games, regardless of content, are interested in adapting their games to the Textfyre book metaphor user interface, let me know. There will be other metaphors in the future.

We have acquired the services of the illustrator Goñi Montes. You can view his regular artwork at GoniArt. Goñi is working on a few major art pieces for the opening scene in Secret Letter and will be adding major and spot art over time. Goñi is working closely with our art director Will Capellaro to raise the visual quality of our games.

We have started to actively seek permission to test in one or two school districts. We’re focusing on northeastern Illinois and southeastern Wisconsin, but would work with any middle school in the country.

We have yet to make contact with J.J. Abrams, but we’re hopeful we can get a proposal in front of him soon.

I’m negotiating with a developer to begin creating a Textfyre UI for the iPhone.

I had thought to open a pre-sale web page for Secret Letter and Shadow. The idea was that the IF Community could pre-purchase the games and we could use those funds as pre-launch funding. It’s unclear how much traction we would get with a pre-sale and so it remains on the back-burner.

So 2008 has come to a close. It’s a struggle to start a business without funding and without an obvious market, but we’re making progress at every turn. The recent economic issues are probably not going to help us, but I don’t think they will directly prevent us from succeeding either. It just narrows our options for funding, which means we won’t have access to credit, something I have a dubious view of in any case.

So here’s to the new year and the future launch of Textfyre games!