Posts Tagged ‘os x’

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.

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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.

Textfyre is making an effort to publish games on all platforms now. The list of targeted platforms includes:

  • Windows desktops, laptops, netbooks, and tablets
  • Mac OS X
  • iPhone
  • iPad
  • Droid
  • Windows Phone 7
  • Palm Pre
  • Blackberry
  • Web via Silverlight
  • Web via Zifmia
  • Web via HTML5
  • Amazon Kindle
  • B&N Nook
  • XBox 360
  • Nintendo DS/DSi
  • Sony PS3

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:

  • Game file must be Glulx with FyreVM support. We have an Inform 7 extension for FyreVM and are working on an Inform 6 extension (for glulx output only though). I don’t think we can support the Z-Machine, but upgrading your source code to Glulx Inform 6 may get you past this requirement.
  • At this time, we don’t have any way to support TADS 3, but it’s on our radar.
  • No blorb support.
  • No glk support.
  • Channel emissions must be tested thoroughly.
  • Games must be tested thoroughly.
  • We will allow for spot and page art implemented through channel or markup data. Details will be included in the FyreVM Developer’s Guide, which will be available soon.

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.

Andrew Pontious started working on an Apple implementation of FyreVM and he’s moving his work from a private source control repository to the new SourceForge.Net FyreVM repository soon. This will also be released under the MIT license, which means anyone can use it for personal or commercial purposes.

The harder part is the user interface. Andrew will likely have a very basic UI implemented for testing FyreVM, but it will be up to the community to help bring about something more visually appealing and usable.

I’ve found a user experience consultant to work with the community, but the quote is rougly $4,000. This would include 5 weeks of iterative user experience work. Andrew is partially committed to helping out with mocks and Chris Cavanagh, a Silverlight developer, is also open to doing mocks.

The result of this work wouldn’t be the actual UI. It would be the general look and feel. We’d have to then work with someone with graphic arts experience to take the usability designs and make them pretty as well as having a programmer implement any of the active components of the experience (rollovers, transitional animations, etc).

I’m committed to finding a way to fund this effort. I’ve started a Kickstarter campaign, but haven’t launched it yet. I want to put a video together that tries to explain to potential contributors how important this is to the IF community.

Remember, the user experience isn’t just about Apple products. The results could be implemented in Parchment, on Windows, in Silverlight…or in any other interpreter.