Posts Tagged ‘commercial interactive fiction’

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.

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’m still working on the web client for Zifmia and it’s going slow, mostly because I keep changing the AJAX interface to get everything so it’s compact and very simple. There’s a regression test working now at The tests include registering a user, logging in, listing games, starting a game session, sending a command to that session, getting a session, getting a previous turn in a session, and then listing all sessions for a logged-in user.

The clientside javascript is wrapped up in the following files: – has an extension method on String that allows traditional formatting with arguments. – the main AJAX calls to the Zifmia service – the regression test implementation of the controller. – the sample imlpementation of the controller. – has an extension method for converting text to html, currently only looks a newlines and turns them into BR tags.

There’s a jquery-min.js file in there as well…I think I have 1.3, but should upgrade to 1.4.

* * * *

I took the plunge this past week and purchased an iPad 2 and a Mac-Mini. Paid extra for the iPad and got a deal on the mini, both off of craigslist, so it more or less evened out.

I installed xcode 4 and with a lot of help from the gang on ifMUD, started getting an iPad client for Zifmia going. I have a lot of hoops to jump through, not to mention learning Objective C, but it doesn’t seem that hard right now. Just different crazy syntax issues.

My idea for the iPad client is similar to the web client, but it won’t be called “Zifmia”, it will be the Textfyre app. I plan to make the client free, but zifmia will allow games to be installed as pay per use games. The nice thing is that this will allow games to be installed in Zifmia that require payment or be free. I haven not figured out how this will work and am aware of the more draconian principals around Apple’s pay for content model, but this seems like a reasonable direction.

Anyone that builds their own client is still free to do so. I may have to split the server into two installations, one for Zifmia and one for Textfyre, but for now I’ll leave it in a merged “beta” state.

As for the iPad client itself, I envision being able to type in commands as usual, but being able to swipe backwards for previous output (one turn per page), have expandable live mapping, note taking, comments at a given location for a given game-state (I’ll have to figure out how to manage this so we don’t show spoilers), common commands used by other users, and local play with a built-in FyreVM engine that resyncs to the server when it can.

I’m less interested in smartphones now. The tablet is the way to go and I’ll have to look at doing the same work on the Galaxy Tab or other Android tablets.

Rough images of Secret Letter user interface...

The images to the left (click to see larger image) are rough implementations of the user interface for Jack Toresal and The Secret Letter.

The first image shows the closed book with a cover. After clicking the book, the title page is shown including credits. Clicking on the right page will take you to the table of contents, which is a menu of sorts to play the game, save it, review maps, see hints, and get help. After clicking Start New Game, the prologue shown and clicking on the right page again will take you to the game page itself. The game plays on the left while the right side will display pictures, conversation topics, hint topics, help, and more.

In the last two images you see the game being played and a list of topics when a character is engaged in conversation. These topics can be clicked or the number can be entered into the interface.

Note that these are rough images of a design in progress. We’re still debating other features like where to display the map and hints (potentially as the inside front and back covers). The artwork is not what would appear in the final product either. We’re still working through the list of required artwork and that will be a sizable effort to complete.

Which brings me to the subject of cash flow. Up until now I have refrained from discussing monetary matters outside of the hints about looking for funding. We’re at a point where my personal funds won’t meet the needs of the company. We’re actively seeking investors or partnerships that will allow us to move the company from start-up mode to being a full-time job for myself and others. This is necessary to drive the products to completion and actively work on future products. Needless to say, looking for loans or credit of any type in today’s financial world is laughable at best.  I’m not sure if anyone out there can help us find investors or partners, but if you can and believe in what we’re trying to accomplish, now is the time to step forward.