Posts Tagged ‘empath’s gift’

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.

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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.

Just thought I’d drop another progress note out about Textfyre’s third soon-to-be-published Interactive Fiction game…

Brady has sifted through and rewritten about 20% of the code and should have the first round-trip with Paul and Chris in a few weeks. He thinks a full code review/rewrite will be completed by the end of the year. I can’t say for sure, but I think this should mean testing will follow in earnest. I’m no fool to be suggesting a release date, but this sort of progress is welcome news.

The Windows 8 Store version of Shadow is still being shrink-wrapped, so to speak. When that’s done, the new Zifmia will follow suit.

Since reestablishing the pipeline for traditional Textfyre games, things are going well. The changes to Shadow in the Cathedral for App Store touch-based deployment are nearing completion.

This has been made possible with the help of one Brady Garvin, known as emacsuser on intfiction.org and one of the I6 compiler helpers. Simply put, Brady is brilliant and although he doesn’t have the notoriety of a Zarf, he clearly has similar profound IF capabilities. Brady was instrumental in doing some very tedious work in Shadow’s code to make it touch UX friendly. He tagged every noun in the story text so the UI can turn those into clickable/touchable words. He also setup all of the other suggestions for touch words including verbs, articles, and prepositions.

The next endeavor, one long delayed, is Paul O’Brian and Christopher Huang’s Empath’s Gift. There was work done on the code back in 2010, but has since languished through the economic downturn and my personal distractions. No more! Brady has begun to assess the code and I have tasked him to own it. He has the original designs, writing, and test transcripts and we will see progress in the near future. This is no small undertaking and I can only afford a limited number of hours to pay Brady, but I’m hoping to see beta testing in 2014 sometime and a release in Glulx and Windows form soon after. Touch based implementations shouldn’t be too difficult since we’ll have ironed out most of those issues with Shadow.

When the new touch based Shadow is published, Textfyre will make a concerted effort to publicize all of its works, including the older Silverlight version of Secret Letter. I still believe that Secret Letter is a very strong IF game, despite some of the reviews claiming it’s too cliche. I would argue there are moments in Secret Letter that rival some of the best IF ever written. Every time I go back and play through it I am moved by the one major revelation in the middle of the story. Michael Gentry deserves to be recognized for his writing and the clever way he took a simple story and made it something more. If you haven’t played it, you should.

I’m still involved with another education start-up; Fantasy Learning, which is marrying the concepts of fantasy sports leagues with teaching social studies. The founder, Eric Nelson, is currently working in an incubator in New Orleans as I assemble the MVP. It may be that Textfyre and Fantasy Learning come together, or at least become working partners.

I’d like to know if people are interested in sequels to Secret Letter and Shadow in the Cathedral.

Our secret programmer is hard at work on the new iPhone, iPad, OSX implementation for delivering our games on those platforms. Code is getting checked in and we’re seeing real progress there. Hopefully, when the iPad starts shipping, we’ll be able to be one of the first full-screen applications in the app store. Or one of the thousands.

We’re also awaiting word on access to the Kindle SDK and as soon as we get access, we’ll find another volunteer to help port our games to that platform. It may not be the perfect fit because of the way the screen works, so there may be a few rounds of testing before we get to something workable.

The Empath’s Gift is in alpha-testing (Paul and Chris are doing this work) and I’m hoping to see a second round of that soon.

I have a request. Graeme Jefferis is still working on the Inform 7 programming when he has time, but I feel the need to add a second person. If you have strong Inform 7 programming skills and want to help Textfyre succeed, please drop me an e-mail. I have to say that the pay is all back-ended. This means we can agree on a rate, but I can’t make payments until we see significant units sold (1000 or more per game) or until we find funding. This is the life of a start-up. There are no guarantees and the work you do has to really come from the excitement of seeing Textfyre do good works.

As mentioned before, I will be at PAX East in Boston in late March from Friday through Sunday (and possibly through Tuesday). If you want to meet-up, let me know.

This week, I got news that a friend of Textfyre (who shall remain anonymous for now), who knows iPhone development pretty well, is going to help us build FyreVM for the iPhone.  This will allow us to publish our games to the iPhone App Store. The timeframe is fluid, but it looks like we’ll be sending our first three games to the App Store this spring.

In other news, Empath’s Gift is chugging along on the coding side, sales of Shadow in the Cathedral are slow, but steady, and we’ve added a fourth development team to the mix. The new team is still working out their story idea and as soon as that’s solidified, there will be a formal announcement.

There is also a fifth development team in the works and I’m waiting on one more e-mail to solidify their involvement.

As always, stay tuned!