Posts Tagged ‘pax’

Speed IF at PAX!

Posted: March 12, 2011 in Blogroll, interactive fiction, Textfyre
Tags: ,

If you want to play Speed-IF with us at PAX and you’re not here, the topic list is now set. You have until 10:30pm to get your game to me. Send your game file to david at textfyre dotcom.

  • A character whose name starts with the letter ‘M’
  • Sending Jim and Kevin on a mission to locate something
  • The Tomb of the Unknown Tool
  • A 100 year old typewriter
  • Pluto
  • Braintree or Alewife
  • one of the titles on the poster of made up titles
  • chicken fingers
  • explosions
  • vacuum

Since getting the service layer running for Zifmia, I’m now focused on the client side look and feel and getting a first iteration completed by PAX for the IF Demo Fair. To that end, I’ve come up with a first draft of the wireframe layout.

As you can see, this is very different from previous Interactive Fiction UI designs. There are tabs on the right for different types of content. Popup menus that can auto-enter commands relative to a word in the text, a history of commands and recommended commands, a movement panel with all of the common directional verbs for auto-entering, a list of users (the lamp represents who is in charge of entering commands, everyone else is a watcher), an achievement panel, and a description panel (which will show the results of examine, search, and similar commands without using a turn – everything in-scope is known for every turn).

I’ve tried to keep the focus on words and reading as opposed to images, but this the first foray into developing a Zifmia web client and I wanted to try to stay somewhat generic. Future, game-specific user interfaces could have clickable maps, and other features. Eventually, Zifmia will allow a UI package to be uploaded that contains javascript, css, html, and images and tie the package to a game. Then when someone starts that game, the game UI package is used to display the game.

There is still one piece missing and I’m still pondering the implementation. The user can review previous turns. This data is stored on the server. So if the user has played 100 turns, how do we show this and how can we make it easy to select a previous turn or allow paging? This is a purely UI question. Technically, retrieving any turn is a simple AJAX call.

Since we’re using jQuery to design pages, we should be able to offer jQuery themes too.

I will also be adding oAuth to protect the service and offer pay games, web chat, and more.

I’m hoping to have the bulk of this design ready for PAX.

We’re gathering poster images to get printed for the PAX IF Hospitality Suite and the Alcott room for PAX in March.

Check out the PAX IFWiki page ( and add your poster name and your name to the list. Send me (david at textfyre) the image and I’ll make sure it’s on a wall somewhere.

We’re deep in the planning phase for PAX East in Boston March 11-13. Some of the IF community are planning to be in early. There’s a dinner planned for Thursday night, and panels throughout the weekend either in a suite or in our planned 1,035sqft conference room in the connected Westin Waterfront hotel.

For more information, visit the IFWiki page at:

I interviewed with Jason Scott for the Interactive Fiction documentary Get Lamp a few years ago. I was just getting Textfyre going and was excited about the potential of modern IF. I’m even more excited about modern IF than I was back then, and that has nothing to do with Textfyre. There seems to be a new push to widen the interest of IF. New websites like, server tools, javascript based interpreters, new books, and more.

So Get Lamp kind of lands in the middle of this period of time and from my perspective sinks like a lead weight. From a nostalgic perspective, and certainly if you’re an Infocom fan, Get Lamp is fantastic. But if you’ve been working at IF for the last 15 or 20 years as a hobbyist and the passion for Infocom or Level 9 has faded, Get Lamp is like a mint without the dinner.

Get Lamp completely ignores the modern IF movement. There is nothing in the documentary about modern IF platforms like TADS 3 or Inform 7. I’m not sure Graham Nelson or Emily Short are even mentioned (how is it possible to discuss IF without their efforts?). There aren’t any discussions about Curveship, a new platform being developed by Nick Montfort. There isn’t any talk about any games that have come out in the last ten years. There’s no talk of how we’ve evolved and grown. How we’ve adapted to changes in technology, content, and communal expectations. Jason literally only touched the tip of the iceburg. Get Lamp should have a subtitle: The History of Interactive Fiction.

In general, there is absolutely nothing in the documentary about what the IF community is doing right now and I think this is a huge gap in the film. I think Jason Scott made Get Lamp for his own Infocom fanboy moment. Those are harsh words, but it seems pretty clear to me that Jason has zero connection to the modern IF world. Now that the movie is completed, and after he sells a few hundred or few thousand copies, he will be off to make some other documentary and leave IF behind. I’ve reflected on my own Infocom fanboy moments and realized that I love Interactive Fiction. Not just Infocom. If anything, Get Lamp’s lack of interest in modern IF has ignited my passion for promoting modern IF, either through Textfyre or through open source tools or general community outreach. I realized this while having a drink with Lebling, Meretzky, Dornbrook, and Moriarty at PAX East. They loved Infocom. But they believe if there were ever a new IF age, it would have to be new and different. Like me, they actually love Interactive Fiction more than Infocom and IF’s history.

Anyway. I propose we all pitch in and do interviews of each other and post them on a website somewhere. These interviews will talk about what we’re all doing now and how IF has evolved into something well beyond the days of Infocom. We have an opportunity at PAX Prime to do a few interviews. I would like to encourage someone else to grab a camera and sit a few people down for 15 minutes or 30 minutes and get them on film talking about modern IF. We can do more at PAX East next year.

In the next six months we could produce enough material to be a sort of addendum to Get Lamp that fills in the gaping hole left by Jason. I can work with the Chicago IF group to interview Chicago people. I would spend time talking to Peter Nepstad, Jeremy Freese, and a few others. It would be good to create an outline of things we’d like to see discussed on film. Maybe I’ll setup an IFWiki page and everyone can add their “wish” list. I really believe we need to capture the modern IF community on camera. Its participants, but also its evolution and branches.

Last year was, to say the least, interesting. Some of our accomplishments include:

1. We managed to complete and publish two games and get a third game into the programming stage.
2. We have a relatively stable and functional, if boring, website.
3. We’ve had talks with interesting partners, including Infocom implementors, about working with Textfyre.

Some of the things we’re still working include getting the word out to the audiences that we think will appreciate our works. This is the primary goal of 2010.

I also have some other business I’d like to attend to…finally. As I have mentioned many times, Textfyre is currently funded entirely by me and a very small number of sales of games. To say 2009 was difficult can’t possibly describe the year we had. Since I can’t work at Textfyre for a living, I have been doing computer consulting work, independently. Prior to 2009, this was a fairly stable endeavor. I made enough money to provide for my family (I’m married with five children) and siphon off just enough to keep Textfyre rolling. It was never enough to really go all out though and that’s why I have always been looking for external sources of funding.

In 2009 though, things went south. Like south pole south. Like to the moon Alice south. Some know about my endeavors with a company called OneDegree.Com, but I will give you the summary. I took a contract to hire position with a start-up that claimed they had a million dollars in the bank. They didn’t. They went under and my consulting business lost about $90,000. To top that off, when I found out they were out of money, I did start looking for other work, but didn’t find anything until August, but that only lasted four weeks. Then I was out of work until the middle of December. I’m just now getting invoices paid for the first time in five months.

So needless to say, Textfyre has had to weather some troubling financial times. But most entrepreneurs will tell you, you can’t fail unless you quit. I haven’t quit and I don’t plan to quit. We’re making some headway in getting the word out. Sales are slow, but enough to keep the website up. I’m back to work and the consulting market looks to be improving slowly. We also have very passionate people helping us that understand that building the business isn’t a cake walk. It takes hard work, dedication, and most of that before anyone gets paid.

One of the things I have discovered is that there is one sector of help we need that doesn’t like the “get paid later” scenario. That is the artist. Well, I should say the _talented_ artist. There are plenty of people who think they’re artists, but if you want someone who you can direct and will deliver, you have to pay them. This is one of the things lacking in our process and would be the first thing rectified when we finally draw more revenue or find a funding source.

In 2010 we’re already looking at ways to get the word out. I will be attending PAX East in Boston in late March. I’ll be there Friday afternoon through Sunday night. If anyone wants to get together, please let me know. Drop a comment on the blog or e-mail me directly.

There’s a fall middle-school convention that I was sore to miss last year, but will not miss this year. By then we should have an official booth, CD’s, and several more games published. I plan to have at least one Infocom Implementor in the fold this year and possibly more than one. If we can convince Activision to let us at the Infocom material, we might do something there too.

We’re evolving. I started with many plans, but some of them have been set aside and new ones have taken their place. That will continue.

We’ve only just begun…