Hey everyone, in addition to PC and Mac and game file downloads from www.textfyre.com, The Shadow in the Cathedral is now available on Android as well as Kindle.
So we’ve got a mostly working version of the engine for what we’re calling our K Apps. We still have some performance issues to work through, but we feel confident that those can be resolved.
Now the UI work begins. We had planned to work with James Terry, but the timing wasn’t quite right and we’re looking at another mobile developer. More later.
Nearly all startups go through a period of change. Many go through several periods of change. Most don’t survive these changes. The startups that do manage to stick around tend to adapt to everything thrown at them. They don’t always do it well or immediately, but the ones that survive find some knack for finding the solution to a thousand room maze that few others manage.
Textfyre is on the verge of exiting the startup maze and moving on to being a funded company with strong partnerships and amazing employees. Some of the details remain behind closed doors. Agreements need to be signed, product needs to be prepared, and people need to be notified of the coming changes.
But we’re finally approaching the real launch of Textfyre as a national brand in the Edutainment publishing industry.
These are very exciting and challenging times for me as the founder. I’d like to say that all of the ducks are lined up, but we still need to locate and place a few more of those proverbial ducks. I’m working on a number of fronts, bringing things together, and with a little more work, big announcements will be made in December and January.
These are exciting times for Interactive Fiction.
The life of an entrepreneur is hard. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. For all of the Mark Zuckerberg’s in the world, there are thousands of guys like me. We have a vision, a passion, a singular belief that we can create something special. We will scrounge up dollars to keep our servers running, scramble to networking events that just might lead us to an important contact, and endure ridicule and debasement for our “fantasy”. Our families don’t get it at all. Our friends are supportive, to a point. Our advisors are helpful, but excruciatingly and irritatingly calm and collected. We ourselves either lose weight or gain weight, eat badly, sleep horribly (if at all), and do poorly at our regular jobs because we’re simply not inspired by the grey cube walls of doom.
And yet we persevere. We find inspiration in little things. We continue to poke and prod our network. To find new ways to develop our business plan. To bring new advisors into the mix. To improve our product plans. To find new customers. We think about our business and work on some aspect of it every single day. Some days for hours and hours. Some days for only a few minutes.
We believe with every fiber of our being that our plan is solid and it can succeed. We believe that we’re doing something worthwhile and good. Something that will create jobs that people will love. Something that will create products that people will love. Something that will make the world a better place.
I’ve been working on Textfyre for over four years. We have two published products. A third product incredibly close to being published. A new business plan. New markets (Kindle, iPad). New authors. New Advisors. We still have people investing their time in Textfyre and believing that it can succeed. We have great tools and great plans for new games.
We’re not Facebook and we’re not an overnight sensation. But we’re still working at making a great company, even if it takes years and not hours to get there. We’re still working.
As you all know, the Kickstarter campaign fell short by half. It’s not a bad showing, but not a great one either. I probably should have researched successful campaigns before starting it. There are tricks to prize amounts as well as having a PR plan to get people’s attention. I learned a lot doing it.
But does this mean there won’t be a mobile IF platform? No. It means we just have to continue working with volunteer programmers or programmers willing to sign a revenue based contract. It means I can’t pay someone today to have it done X days, which is a much more efficient development model than sending the occasional e-mail that says, “Hey, how’s that code coming?” and getting the reply, “Sorry, got waylaid by real life. I’ll get back to it soon.”
These are all honest answers. I get waylaid by real life myself and have an enormous list of the tasks that I need to tackle myself. As long as everyone that works for Textfyre has to keep a day job, it’s a long slow process to get to where we need to be, which is generating revenue.
We’re making progress with a mobile Java engine, but the Apple Cocoa code is lying dormant on sourceforge. We will be publishing a Windows Phone 7 application that will be available for the U.S. launch in November. Hopefully we’ll have news on other platforms.
Thanks to everyone that pledged to the Kickstarter campaign. It was much appreciated. I got a lot of great positive feedback from the process.
Textfyre is making an effort to publish games on all platforms now. The list of targeted platforms includes:
This is going to be a sizable effort and will take time to implement. In the end, we will be able to accept content that meets a set of criteria and publish that content to all of the implemented platforms.
We’re also going to try to make it so that saved games can be stored online or offline along with progress and status information. Some of this information will have the option of being shared with social networking platforms like Twitter and Facebook.
We are developing tools to integrate games with social networking sites, allowing authors to use profile information within their games.
The criteria for publishing your content will include the following:
We really have no interest in becoming a censor, but Textfyre has to set some guidelines about content. I’ll have to talk to people about how to implement the content standards, but I believe the primary consideration would be that the game be of high quality. After that it will likely be an editorial decision.
The website is undergoing a complete redesign and won’t be available for some time, but I’m going to start posting information there, even in raw form, so that people can keep up with our progress.
If you have any questions, please contact me directly.
It’s been very clear over the last six months that the direction Textfyre needs to go is mobile. Desktop products are extremely difficult to sell without physical media and selling physical media requires a marketing budget, a luxury we don’t have.
Our plan to sell directly to the education market has been moved to a back burner, if not entirely removed from the plan. Selling directly to schools or school systems is nearly impossible without the right connections. With those connections, it’s still a nightmare. I’d been warned by other people that trying to sell to schools is impossible. I guess they were right. The closest I came to tapping that market was a connection with Follett Library Resources, the people that offer a search engine of product to schools. The lead dried up almost immediately.
To move to a more generalized publishing market, I’ve directed everyone developing content for Textfyre that the restrictions are mostly off. There’s no need to direct our stories at middle-school students. I’ve asked them to simply develop great stories that can be appreciated by any reader.
We’ve made a splash in online sales and those will continue. With more marketing, we can reach more customers, but that still will take more time (and money). But I have other opportunities coming up that may move online sales to a back-burner as well.
The mobile market is composed of phones like the iPhone, Droid, and any other phone that has some way of publishing an application. We’ve been working on an iPhone application for a while now. We haven’t looked at the Android platform, but are likely to in the future. The iPad is obviously very interesting and the iPhone code that Andrew has been developing can target it as well as the iPhone (as well as being a desktop OS X application).
The problem with the iPhone and iPad is that there are so many applications available that it’s extremely difficult to get noticed and to be able to price your application above $.99. Some people may think it’s a good idea to sell IF at $.99, but I’m not one of them. That would be an unsustainable price point, at least for initial sales.
I’ve also been talking to Microsoft about partnering for the new Windows Phone 7 launch coming this fall. In fact, they called me and they have a strong case. With assistance, I could easily port our Silverlight implementation of our games to the WP7 platform. The UI would take some work and we’d have to run through very rigorous testing, but we’re automatically closer to publishing to the WP7 marketplace than any other.
The last mobile device, the Amazon Kindle, is probably the sweet-spot and I am now talking to the Kindle team about publishing Textfyre games to the device. They opened up a Kindle Development Kit awhile back and although we haven’t gotten into the beta program, I have been able to get Amazon’s attention and we’re discussing the technical details. I should know more in the next week or two.
Of course working with Microsoft or Amazon might require contractual obligations that limit our publishing capabilities (they may expect exclusivity in exchange for support). It’s a business afterall and if I can land a partnership that enables us to build the business, then that’s the direction we need to go.
No decisions have been made, but the fork in the road is coming quickly. I’ll know more about Microsoft and Amazon soon. I already know where our iPhone/iPad strategy is as well as online and physical media sales. I also know that we’re done focusing on schools and students, for now.
Once I know where we stand with Microsoft and Amazon and with the iPad development, it will be time to choose a way forward, rewrite the business plan, and Textfyre will shift into an entirely new business model.
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.
Amazon.Com has announced an upcoming beta for an Active Content development kit for the Kindle called the KDK.
We’re signed up and will be developing the interface as soon as the KDK becomes available.
With the iPhone and Mac development happening too, we’re soon going to be delivering to all platforms, natively.