Can I make money by writing IF?

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Julian Arnold

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Nov 24, 1995, 3:00:00 AM11/24/95
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I'm revamping the FAQ. A new section is "Can I make money by writing IF?".
Now I know some of you have done a bit of research and have maybe some
experience of this (For instance, at least two David's). Could anyone who
has please e-mail me with a bit of information (is/isn't it possible? why?).
You don't have to be called Dave. This also applies to authors of shareware
games.
--
Jools Arnold jo...@arnod.demon.co.uk


C.A. McCarthy

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Nov 25, 1995, 3:00:00 AM11/25/95
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jo...@arnod.demon.co.uk (Julian Arnold) wrote:


Can you make money by writing IF? Hahahaha! That's an interesting
concept.


"Elvis people are nicer people than the people who laugh at Elvis People."
David Thomas - "Media Priests Of The Big Lie"


Gareth Rees

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Nov 26, 1995, 3:00:00 AM11/26/95
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Julian Arnold <jo...@arnod.demon.co.uk> wrote:
> I'm revamping the FAQ. A new section is "Can I make money by writing
> IF?".

The person to talk to is Graham Cluly, who produced a couple of
adventure games under the name "Humbug Software" and apparantly managed
to sell several thousand shareware registrations.

If you grep the rec.arts.int-fiction archives for him, you'll find some
posts from him describing how he did it.

However, the market has changed. When companies like Sierra can
allocate a $4 million budget to games like the recent "Phantasmagoria",
with more than 50 people working full time on the project, what hope do
amateurs have?

--
Gareth Rees

Casper Kvan Clausen

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Nov 27, 1995, 3:00:00 AM11/27/95
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gd...@cl.cam.ac.uk (Gareth Rees) writes:

>However, the market has changed. When companies like Sierra can
>allocate a $4 million budget to games like the recent "Phantasmagoria",
>with more than 50 people working full time on the project, what hope do
>amateurs have?

That they are not bound by having to come up with state-of-the-art
technology, so they can in fact concentrate on making a decent storyline.

Most 'professional' adventuregames today completely suck at being
adventures. Some of them are good movies/cartoons (i.e. Full Throttle), but
adventures they are not. What the big companies don't understand - or simply
son't care about - is that a textual NPC which acts and reacts naturally is
much more believable (and enjoyable) than digitized bad actors who reuse
the same replies and sequences after their lives have been fundamentally
changed.

Of course there is the 'minor' problem of convincing the public of this
fact. The sad truth is that more and more people don't know the joy of
reading a good book, but watch ever more tv. And then it's only natural that
they opt for big, shiny 'interactive' movie-type things - often with a bad
storyline, bad actors and no actual control - instead of much more enjoyable
IF.

And I don't think anyone can do anything about this (d)evolution. I'm
continually shocked when speaking with people just 3 or 4 years younger than
me (that would be 17-18 yrs old) who have never read ANYthing outside of a
classroom. I even see some of this tendency among friends of mine who are my
age or older.

So my conclusion must be that IF-writers have one hope: That 'people' will
tire of glitzy stuff with little or no interaction and story.

Fat chance :(

Mnarf,
Kvan.
--
kv...@diku.dk (Casper Kvan Clausen) | What do you call 200 Americans blown up
| in a Federal building?
|
http://www.diku.dk/students/kvan/ | - A start.

David Baggett

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Nov 27, 1995, 3:00:00 AM11/27/95
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In article <GDR11.95N...@stint.cl.cam.ac.uk>,
Gareth Rees <gd...@cl.cam.ac.uk> wrote:

>The person to talk to is Graham Cluly, who produced a couple of
>adventure games under the name "Humbug Software" and apparantly managed
>to sell several thousand shareware registrations.

I think it would be a huge mistake to assume that model is still valid
today. We (Adventions) based a lot of our optimism about the market for IF
on Graham's experiences, and found that with a comparable product in a more
portable form and at a lower price, we couldn't get even a fraction of the
interest he did.

There is no commercial market for all-text IF now. And the rapid
evaporation of the text IF market doesn't seem so strange when you take
into account the incredible growth of the web, and the public's infatuation
with so-called "virtual reality". Regardless of whether people know what
"hypermedia" really are, they sure do think they're cool.

>When companies like Sierra can allocate a $4 million budget to games like
>the recent "Phantasmagoria", with more than 50 people working full time on
>the project, what hope do amateurs have?

Financially, none. But I think that single-author forms will always have a
place in the arts. "Art by committee" has a lot working against it.

Dave Baggett
__
d...@ai.mit.edu
"Mr. Price: Please don't try to make things nice! The wrong notes are *right*."
--- Charles Ives (note to copyist on the autograph score of The Fourth of July)

Branko Collin

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Nov 27, 1995, 3:00:00 AM11/27/95
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In article <GDR11.95N...@stint.cl.cam.ac.uk>

gd...@cl.cam.ac.uk (Gareth Rees) writes:

>
>Julian Arnold <jo...@arnod.demon.co.uk> wrote:
>> I'm revamping the FAQ. A new section is "Can I make money by writing
>> IF?".
>
>The person to talk to is Graham Cluly, who produced a couple of
>adventure games under the name "Humbug Software" and apparantly managed
>to sell several thousand shareware registrations.
>
>If you grep the rec.arts.int-fiction archives for him, you'll find some
>posts from him describing how he did it.
>
>However, the market has changed. When companies like Sierra can

>allocate a $4 million budget to games like the recent "Phantasmagoria",
>with more than 50 people working full time on the project, what hope do
>amateurs have?

What hope we have is that we don't have to allocate 4 million dollar,
we don't have to pay 50 employees, we don't have to worry about deadlines,
we don't have to worry about loss of consistency due to a more than
manageable number of authors for one game, we don't have to shun
niche markets, we don't have to put thousands of dollars in marketing,
we don't have to care for every machine in every configuration.

I guess there's more things that work in our advantage.

Mind you, I have never sold a single game in my life (never produced
one either), but I do know that working on a small scale does have
its advantages.

.......................................................................
. Branko Collin . Error unknown occurred. .
. . Sig-Anim does not work on your .
. // u24...@vm.uci.kun.nl . system unknown . .
. \X/ bco...@mpi.nl . Please call our helpdesk. .
.......................................................................

james reese

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Nov 28, 1995, 3:00:00 AM11/28/95
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Gareth Rees <gd...@cl.cam.ac.uk> wrote:
>>When companies like Sierra can allocate a $4 million budget to games like
>>the recent "Phantasmagoria", with more than 50 people working full time on
>>the project, what hope do amateurs have?

To which David Baggett <d...@rice-chex.ai.mit.edu> replied:

>Financially, none. But I think that single-author forms will always have a
>place in the arts. "Art by committee" has a lot working against it.

I agree completely that IF is no longer (if it ever was) a financially-
viable business. For all of the reasons previously mentioned (rising
illiteracy, the proliferation of graphically-oriented quick fixes that pass
as entertainment these days, the Web, etc), IF remains confined to a narrow
niche market, and very likely will remain there. The financial gains for
an IF shareware author are abysmal, usually not even sufficient to cover
the costs of an inexpensive shareware platform/language such as TADS. The
labor that goes into one of these games is phenomenal, and, frankly, the
returns are just not there.
The only reason I can see for further IF being produced is a love of the
genre and a tremendous desire to produce a game of one's own. However, without
sufficient compensation (monetary and otherwise), this will soon die out too.
I wrote VERITAS for the love of producing my own piece of IF; with so little
feedback, and certainly no significant financial recompense, I have given up
on a sequel, and have decided to channel my efforts into something that
might be more worthwhile.
It's an unfortunate state of affairs, but nonetheless reality as I see
it.

Jim
jre...@leland.stanford.edu


Richard Thieme

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Nov 28, 1995, 3:00:00 AM11/28/95
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I hope there will always be a niche market for IF. Language is infinitely
plastic, compared with even the best pictorial image games. I hope too I
am not mired in an archaic way of structuring reality, text-based to the
core, but I believe the great IF application will still be written (not
that there haven't been some good ones). In July's Wired I had a short
piece called "in search of the grail," how my sense of possibilities was
changed forever during an epiphany while playing Hitchhiker's Guide to
the Galaxy. My insight was that how we frame reality, how we frame
ourselves, how we hold ourselves as a possibility for action in the
world, is structured by the multiple horizons disclosed by interactive
text. The WWW is a graphical representation of that reality.

It's impossible to make money writing poetry too (in the main) but some
great poetry is still being written. I think IF is still evolving and the
best is yet to come.


Magnus Olsson

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Nov 28, 1995, 3:00:00 AM11/28/95
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In article <49cs9f$9...@life.ai.mit.edu>, David Baggett <d...@ai.mit.edu> wrote:
>In article <GDR11.95N...@stint.cl.cam.ac.uk>,
>Gareth Rees <gd...@cl.cam.ac.uk> wrote:
>
>>The person to talk to is Graham Cluly, who produced a couple of
>>adventure games under the name "Humbug Software" and apparantly managed
>>to sell several thousand shareware registrations.
>
>I think it would be a huge mistake to assume that model is still valid
>today.

Indeed the market has changed a lot. An important factor is that the
LTOI releases had the unfortunate side effect of devaluing IF games
greatly. "If I can buy real Infocom games for a couple of dollars
each, why should I pay $20 for a (supposedly inferior) shareware
product?".

Also it should be noted that (at least according to my sources :-))
Graham Cluley's games are crippleware. Some puzzles are impossible to
solve without he hints, which you can only getby registering. Today,
such a scheme would be far less effective, since pople would just ask
for hints on rec.games.int-fiction.

Magnus

Brendon Wyber

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Nov 28, 1995, 3:00:00 AM11/28/95
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Howdy,

james reese (jre...@leland.Stanford.EDU) wrote:
: The only reason I can see for further IF being produced is a

: love of the genre and a tremendous desire to produce a game of one's
: own. However, without sufficient compensation (monetary and otherwise),
: this will soon die out too.

I agree, self gratification really is the only rewards for IF now. Money
is out of the question. There are too many good "free" games out there.
It's neat to get feed-back about your game. I get a big kick seeing THEATRE
in the top 40 download charts. Thanks guys for voting for it.

: I wrote VERITAS for the love of producing my own piece of IF; with so little


: feedback, and certainly no significant financial recompense, I have given up
: on a sequel, and have decided to channel my efforts into something that
: might be more worthwhile.
: It's an unfortunate state of affairs, but nonetheless reality as I see
: it.

I have to disagree with this. VERITAS may have been considerably more
popular if you had downloaded some instructions. Instead when you get the
game and run it, it has no introduction whatsoever and you find yourself
in the somewhat cliche college dorm.

My advice would be add some introductionary text and re-release the game.
But what a while until the Jigsaw rush has died down otherwise it will be
buried. Marketing and timing of release date are just as important to IF
and it is to the movies.

--
Be seeing you,

Brendon Wyber Computer Services Centre,
b.w...@csc.canterbury.ac.nz University of Canterbury, New Zealand.

"Ph-nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn."

C.A. McCarthy

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Nov 29, 1995, 3:00:00 AM11/29/95
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cct...@cantua.canterbury.ac.nz (Brendon Wyber) wrote:

>Howdy,

>james reese (jre...@leland.Stanford.EDU) wrote:
>: The only reason I can see for further IF being produced is a
>: love of the genre and a tremendous desire to produce a game of one's
>: own. However, without sufficient compensation (monetary and otherwise),
>: this will soon die out too.

I disagree. Love of the genre is obviously the primary driving force
behind producing these games. The financial aspect, or lack thereof
(which better suits the subject) is at least frustrating to most IF
authors (shareware - not freeware). A good case in point are the two
Dave's over at Adventions. Between them they have produced some of
the finest games in recent years, on a par with and often better than
anything Infocom ever gave us, and from a recent thread on this group
it is quite evident that they are making no money at all (which is a
damn shame, though I am guilty of not registering their games). This
doesn't seem to deter them in the slightest. I don't think anyone
really expects to be compensated anymore. Rather they would LIKE to
be compensated.

>I agree, self gratification really is the only rewards for IF now. Money
>is out of the question. There are too many good "free" games out there.
>It's neat to get feed-back about your game. I get a big kick seeing THEATRE
>in the top 40 download charts. Thanks guys for voting for it.

It's even neater to get money AND good feedback, but I fear the golden
days of the early 80's (where I made several thousand pounds for my
efforts) are gone, so we will have to make do with the "legions of
slathering female groupies" as Dave Leary so eloquently put it.

>: I wrote VERITAS for the love of producing my own piece of IF; with so little
>: feedback, and certainly no significant financial recompense, I have given up
>: on a sequel, and have decided to channel my efforts into something that
>: might be more worthwhile.
>: It's an unfortunate state of affairs, but nonetheless reality as I see
>: it.

I enjoyed VERITAS. I don't think the feedback should matter. If you
are an IF author and have a tale to tell, then tell it and let the
begrudgers be damned.

Richard Thieme

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Nov 29, 1995, 3:00:00 AM11/29/95
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Ok, how about this:

we're talking about IF as played on a monitor, which limits the audience
to those who don't mind hours in front of the screen. We're habituated
to it. IF is also puzzle-oriented, i.e. often logical (giving a lot of
leeway here) rather than deeply evocative. It's clever. Thoughtful.

imagine the genre though a few years hence on a portable unit that the
casual user can enjoy as much as a paperback book - something with the
appeal of paper, the feel of it perhaps, but an easily held, easily
manipulated folding screen that's voice activated so no keyboard. In
short, let's not limit our imaginations to the current (passing)
structures of symbol manipulation.

now imagine a "game" that proceeds intuitively through dialog and
interaction of complex characters, deepening as it progresses,
striking the right balance between length of scene and enticement to the
next scene, the implicit complexity of the game lending itself to the
maze-like complexity of human beings and their interaction.

don't sell the genre short, even if it's being kept alive for the moment
in a quiet corner of cyberspace. The potential of the form is explosive.

just as movie attendence is greater, not less, with VCRs, and book
publishing is more rather than less alive after PCs, the VR machines will
produce one kind of art, IF another. Radio was written off as dead a long
time ago and look at it go ...


Gerry Kevin Wilson

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Nov 29, 1995, 3:00:00 AM11/29/95
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In article <49gm0e$o...@daily-planet.execpc.com>,
Richard Thieme <rth...@mixcom.com> wrote:

>don't sell the genre short, even if it's being kept alive for the moment
>in a quiet corner of cyberspace. The potential of the form is explosive.

I don't mean to come down too hard. But having just erased a 6 page
rant/bitch/moan, I figure I'm entitled to a paragraph long one. Don't
hold your breath. Look around you. This is it, dude. There are a few
hundred hardcore fans left. Text adventures are going exactly nowhere.
Ask Dave Baggett. Two years ago I was arguing your viewpoint. Text
adventures, like the Mexican peso, have been devalued. They are no
longer economically feasible in any form. I hope to just recoup my
investment on Avalon and flee the genre, skin intact. 2 years. 2 lousy
stinking years I been writing that game. And I'll be THRILLED, ECSTATIC
to sell 15 frigging copies. That's a sum profit of jack nothing. Sure,
the hobby aspect (SPAG, the IF Contest) is fun, but the game writing is a
waste of time unless you feel it too is a hobby. As for writing
book-length texts about writing text adventures, well, let's just say I'd
rather have the time back that I spent writing that IF Authorship Guide.

Basically, the well of enthusiasm within me on the topic of text
adventures has nothing but dirt in it anymore. My current ambition is to
move to New Zealand and herd sheep. At least that way I'll never have to
see another one of those godforsaken DOOM/SF2 clones. No more Ultima
8s. No more nothing.
--
<~~~~~E~~~G~~~SIGHT~UNSEEN~~~LOST~IN~THE~FOG~~~CYBER~CHESS~~~SPAG~~~|~~~~~~~>
< V R I O Software. We bring words to life! | ~~\ >
< T "We at Vertigo apologize for the delay. Sorry." | /~\ | >
<_WATCH for Avalon in Oct. 1995!______w...@uclink.berkeley.edu__|_\__/__>

Adam J. Thornton

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Nov 29, 1995, 3:00:00 AM11/29/95
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There's another problem with trying to make money with IF.

Graham Nelson is giving away his development system and his games.

_Curses_ was easily the equal of _Sorceror_. I do believe, having played
it top to bottom twice, that _Jigsaw_ may very well be as fine as
_Trinity_. I paid $45 for _Trinity_ when it appeared and never regretted a
cent of it.

If Graham charged money--which at this point, he could--maybe other authors
could too. But as it is, few people are going to pay for a game when they
can get one that is very probably better (Graham has more talent than
anyone I know of currently writing IF; and that's not to slight anyone
else--GKW's _Avalon_, when it's done, *if* it's done, ahem, is going to be
a terrific game; _John's Firewitch_ was really neat; _UU0_ and _Rylvania_
are fine games as well; but Nelson has a gift not just for plotting and
prose, but for knowing when to quote the classics) for free.

Adam
--
ad...@phoenix.princeton.edu | Viva HEGGA! | Save the choad! | 64,928 | Fnord
"Double integral is also the shape of lovers curled asleep":Pynchon | Linux
Thanks for letting me rearrange the chemicals in your head. | Team OS/2
You can have my PGP passphrase when you pry it from my cold, dead brain.

David Baggett

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Nov 29, 1995, 3:00:00 AM11/29/95
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[Rereading what I've written here, I see that this isn't the most focused
post in the world. Apologies in advance if it bores you!]

I confess that I've been of two minds about IF lately. On the one hand,
we've seen more new, good games released in the past year than in the
previous two or three. And there's been a noticeable improvement in the
quality and quantity of IF criticism.

But there have been other changes too. I've been reading this group since
1990. I get the sense that the readership of the group has narrowed since
then, and that this group (collectively -- at least the minority who post)
has become fairly insular. I'm sensing a lot more definitions of IF
in opposition to the mainstream, like this one:

In article <49ht2q$23...@thor.cmp.ilstu.edu>,
Christopher E. Forman <cef...@rs6000.cmp.ilstu.edu> wrote:

>Most of the gaming community is stupid, allowing themselves to be coerced
>with pretty-looking pictures that they're too damn lazy to imagine
>themselves. We've got something better here. Text games are genuine art.

Graphical IF is very relevant to text IF. (So is static fiction, which
isn't discussed much here either.)

In my opinion, there are many excellent graphics games out there. I've
cited Full Throttle before. I think it's a step in the right direction for
graphical IF. No, the puzzles aren't that hard. The setting is not
extreme. The characters are not wonderfully novel. But it's a solid work
of interactive fiction, and it makes good use both of a graphical interface
and of pretty pictures and good voice acting.

Why can't IF just be good because it's good? Not because it *doesn't* have
graphics (which therefore must suck), or because it's not *too easy*, or
because it *doesn't require a Pentium to run*.

Text IF is just a different way of using words to tell a story. I don't
think you need puzzles, and I'm sure that though most of our games are
almost structurally indistinguishable (!) we've barely scratched the
surface.

Chris, I hope I am not misremembering here, but didn't you write the MST3K
game? I thought that was a brilliant little work. It captured the essence
of the show, but it did something much more significant as well: it showed
that you can have more than one voice in an IF work. You've got the game
telling you what's going on (which raises a somewhat interesting point:
what's that voice coming from -- a program, Matt Barringer's digital ghost,
an entity you must imagine is inside your computer, or your computer
itself?), and then you've got these robots yattering all the time, giving
you a completely different POV --- and it works!

I found it somewhat disheartening that no one touted these aspects of your
work. (Did I miss the relevant messages?) It's one reason I say that
perhaps we've gotten a bit narrowly focused of late. A game does not have
to be novella-sized or especially puzzling to be a fine piece of IF. Works
that break these traditions should (IMHO) prompt discussion just because
they do so!

Since there is no commercial potential for text IF, it should have no rules
authors must strictly adhere to. What is the point of limiting yourself
when so few people will reade your work anyway?!

>Keep the art form going. Someday it'll get the recognition it's deserved
>for years. Remember, genius is never understood in its own time.

I don't have such high hopes, but even if this stuff is all totally
ignored in 20 years, we can enjoy it now, right?

My own random thoughts:

I'd like to see more IF experiments like yours. My advice to authors is:
write whatever weird thing comes to mind. Work hard to make it conform to
your vision, but don't worry about what the typical IF fan will think.
Reviewers: there's merit in new forms, even if they aren't ultimately very
successful. Many people here have mentioned this in the context of
_Suspended_, so it's hardly a foreign concept.

Alison Scott

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Nov 29, 1995, 3:00:00 AM11/29/95
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m...@marvin.df.lth.se (Magnus Olsson) wrote:

>Indeed the market has changed a lot. An important factor is that the
>LTOI releases had the unfortunate side effect of devaluing IF games
>greatly. "If I can buy real Infocom games for a couple of dollars
>each, why should I pay $20 for a (supposedly inferior) shareware
>product?".
>
>Also it should be noted that (at least according to my sources :-))
>Graham Cluley's games are crippleware. Some puzzles are impossible to
>solve without he hints, which you can only getby registering. Today,
>such a scheme would be far less effective, since pople would just ask
>for hints on rec.games.int-fiction.

I'm truly a lurker on this group - I didn't ought to be here because I
don't ever plan to actually write if. [If anyone's interested, I lurk
because I find the process of designing games fascinating, and it's
something that I'd do if only I had infinitely more time.] However,
I'd point out that I'd have registered Curses if it had been shareware
rather than freeware, and I know I'm not alone in this. Maybe I should
send Graham a tenner?

Although a crippled game isn't really an option, I would have thought
that a viable approach would be to release about half the game as
shareware - "if you're enjoying this, then register and get the
remaining puzzles and the endgame." Certainly not as a viable strategy
for making a million, but sufficient (I would have thought) for a
useful hobby income.

Also, I keep harping on about this, but infocom-compatible games *are*
state of the art on the Psion 3a; simply the best-designed games of
any type available. I suspect this is true for a number of other odd
platforms as well. I simply don't have the option of playing modern
games that are all style and no substance on the Tube, and until I do,
games for the z machine represent the best available option.

--
Alison Scott ali...@fuggles.demon.co.uk


Christopher E. Forman

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Nov 29, 1995, 3:00:00 AM11/29/95
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Gerry Kevin Wilson (whiz...@uclink.berkeley.edu) wrote:
: I don't mean to come down too hard. But having just erased a 6 page

: rant/bitch/moan, I figure I'm entitled to a paragraph long one. Don't
: hold your breath. Look around you. This is it, dude. There are a few
: hundred hardcore fans left. Text adventures are going exactly nowhere.

Is that so? Look at the attention garnered by great games like "Curses"
and "Jigsaw." The former has already surpassed the popularity of the average
Infocom game, and I expect the latter to do the same. True, such games
tend to be the exception rather than the rule, but your complete refusal to
even acknowledge them is a great disservice to the entire I-F community.
Look around us. We've got newsgroups, 'zines, I-F programming, an archive,
and a lot of hard-working fans who are doing everything they can to get
people back. Doesn't that mean anything at all to you? Have you honestly
come to despise this form of gaming that much?

: Ask Dave Baggett. Two years ago I was arguing your viewpoint. Text


: adventures, like the Mexican peso, have been devalued. They are no
: longer economically feasible in any form. I hope to just recoup my
: investment on Avalon and flee the genre, skin intact. 2 years. 2 lousy
: stinking years I been writing that game. And I'll be THRILLED, ECSTATIC
: to sell 15 frigging copies. That's a sum profit of jack nothing. Sure,
: the hobby aspect (SPAG, the IF Contest) is fun, but the game writing is a
: waste of time unless you feel it too is a hobby. As for writing
: book-length texts about writing text adventures, well, let's just say I'd
: rather have the time back that I spent writing that IF Authorship Guide.

It's truly sad that you consider the time you've spent on I-F to have been
wasted. Personally, I've enjoyed every moment I've spent on these groups.
All the discussions, texts, criticisms, etc. have really helped me learn
something, and I've been able to talk with a lot of very cool people here
about a topic that I happen to greatly enjoy. Who cares that it doesn't
represent 90% of the computer gaming community, or even 10% for that matter?

Most of the gaming community is stupid, allowing themselves to be coerced
with pretty-looking pictures that they're too damn lazy to imagine
themselves. We've got something better here. Text games are genuine art.

Why do you think they still exist? Look at the LTOIs and Activision's
recent collections -- these games are 10-15 years old, and they're _still_
being sold and played. How many 10-15 year old graphics games have you seen
on store shelves? For that matter, how many 3-5 year old graphics games are
still out there? Very few. And why? Because graphics become obsolete.
They get old and outdated, and look clunky. The written word has been
around for centuries. It'll _never_ become outdated.

From your post, I gather that you _expected_ massive sales from "Avalon."
That's probably a large part of the reason you're so frustrated right now.
I've never expected to make a large profit off "The Windhall Chronicles,"
just perhaps a small sum, a return on the time invested in my hobby. I-F
_has_ to be a hobby. It's an art form. True art is rarely profitable
nowadays. I don't like it any more than you do, but it's the truth and
there's nothing you can do to change it, so stop trying to fight it every
inch of the way. Look at Graham Nelson. He created an I-F compiler and
some of the finest I-F ever written. You think people wouldn't pay good
money for these things if he asked them? But Graham, and every other sane
I-F author, doesn't ask for huge profits. Again, it's a hobby that one can
have a small return on. Nothing more. It's not a get-rich-quick scheme,
or even a get-rich-slow scheme, for that matter. Anyone who sees it as
such doesn't belong here.

: Basically, the well of enthusiasm within me on the topic of text


: adventures has nothing but dirt in it anymore. My current ambition is to
: move to New Zealand and herd sheep. At least that way I'll never have to
: see another one of those godforsaken DOOM/SF2 clones. No more Ultima
: 8s. No more nothing.

C'mon, don't be that way. To simply walk away from I-F is to give in to
those DOOM/SF2s and Ultima 8s, to admit that all along you were wrong and
they were right. We need people like you, with the determination, skill,
and willingness to invest their time in I-F. I see it as a form that'll
make a serious comeback, someday. Think about it. What's going to happen
in 5 or 10 years, when programmers can create graphics so real they actually
simulate real life? When that happens, a small degree of interactivity will
be the only real distinction between entertainment media such as computer
games and film or television. You think people are going to settle for
being able to click a button here and there and let the multimillion dollar
entertainment industry do the rest? Of course not! There are millions of
intelligent people out there who will become disgusted with the whole mess
that is visual entertainment.

So what'll be left? I-F. Be patient. Keep the art form going. Someday


it'll get the recognition it's deserved for years. Remember, genius is
never understood in its own time.

--
C.E. Forman cef...@rs6000.cmp.ilstu.edu
Read the I-F e-zine XYZZYnews, at ftp.gmd.de:/if-archive/magazines/xyzzynews,
or on the Web at http://www.interport.net/~eileen!
* Interactive Fiction * Beavis and Butt-Head * The X-Files * MST3K * C/C++ *

Greg Alt

unread,
Nov 29, 1995, 3:00:00 AM11/29/95
to
In article <49e71c$2...@nntp.Stanford.EDU> jre...@leland.Stanford.EDU (james reese) writes:
> I agree completely that IF is no longer (if it ever was) a financially-
>viable business. For all of the reasons previously mentioned (rising
>illiteracy, the proliferation of graphically-oriented quick fixes that pass
>as entertainment these days, the Web, etc), IF remains confined to a narrow
>niche market, and very likely will remain there. The financial gains for
>an IF shareware author are abysmal, usually not even sufficient to cover
>the costs of an inexpensive shareware platform/language such as TADS. The
>labor that goes into one of these games is phenomenal, and, frankly, the
>returns are just not there.

Just thought I'd mention an idea I had, since I have no time to do it
myself... With WWW being the hip cool thing these days, I bet someone
could make some money by doing IF on the web. Here's the basic idea:

The engine is written as a CGI script. Each command you give generates a
new page with the new description and a box for entering a new line of
text. After the user has entered a given number of commands, they are
required to 'register' which lets them have unlimited time in the game.
The registration could be done the same way many places are starting to
sell things using www pages. Of course, there would be a big notice at
the beginning so that users wouldn't be angry at being caught unaware.

You could charge $4 or $5 bucks or whatever. When the user came back,
they would have some sort of account that would let them play as much as
they wanted and have save files, etc.

I was just thinking, instead of a fixed number of moves, it should be
more like visiting a room. For example, if it were Zork I, it could be
entering the caves under the house. If you were clever, you could even
work it into the game somehow... Something like a door in the game with
a card slot, that requires a special $5 card. When you register, it
puts the card in your inventory.

The nice thing about putting it on the web (if you do it REAL SOON) is
that it would be seen as whiz-bang innovative, and you would get tons
of free advertising by way of the "best of the web" sites. Who knows,
you might get 1000-10,000 people world-wide to play the game.
(or you might get 25 people :)

If someone uses this idea and makes a million bucks, I hope you will be
kind enough to at least let me play for free.

Greg
--
Videogames, Unicycling, and Anarchism: http://www.cs.utah.edu/~galt/

David Baggett

unread,
Nov 30, 1995, 3:00:00 AM11/30/95
to
In article <8176329...@fuggles.demon.co.uk>,
Alison Scott <ali...@fuggles.demon.co.uk> wrote:

>However, I'd point out that I'd have registered Curses if it had been
>shareware rather than freeware, and I know I'm not alone in this.

If I had a dollar for every promise to register software I'd written...
(Not saying *you* wouldn't register Curses, just that this line of
discussion is terribly unfair to shareware authors, because it deceives
them into believing they can actually make some money. Some can, but
writing shareware is like buying a lottery ticket. Generally, your
return is what the scrap of paper is worth.)

>Maybe I should send Graham a tenner?

Couldn't hurt!

>Although a crippled game isn't really an option, I would have thought
>that a viable approach would be to release about half the game as
>shareware - "if you're enjoying this, then register and get the
>remaining puzzles and the endgame." Certainly not as a viable strategy
>for making a million, but sufficient (I would have thought) for a
>useful hobby income.

I guess that depends on how you define "useful hobby income". It may pay
for a sandwich now and then.

>I simply don't have the option of playing modern games that are all style
>and no substance on the Tube, and until I do, games for the z machine
>represent the best available option.

Ugh. More "non-text games are all fluff" rhetoric. I don't mean to be
harsh, but have you played enough non-text games to make such a sweeping
statement?

Neil K. Guy

unread,
Nov 30, 1995, 3:00:00 AM11/30/95
to
Greg Alt (ga...@diamonds.cs.utah.edu) wrote:

: Just thought I'd mention an idea I had, since I have no time to do it

: myself... With WWW being the hip cool thing these days, I bet someone
: could make some money by doing IF on the web. Here's the basic idea:

Heh. I thought of this a while back. I toyed with the notion of hooking
the TADS UNIX runtime up to a Web page. Of course, it'd be a lot of work
because without the source to the runtime it'd be difficult to hack it
in well with a CGI. The biggest stumbling block would be remembering
states - how would the game engine keep track of who's playing and where
they happened to be? You'd have to have some sort of sign-in mechanism,
because with dynamic IP addressing used by most SLIP and PPP connections
these days you can't track a person by their IP address and user ID
like you used to be able to. And if multiple people were playing at
the same time you'd need multiple invocations of the runtime, which
could be expensive CPU-wise.

Anyway, I decided it was a nifty concept but far far beyond my meagre
powers of implementation and went off to find some new way to procrastinate
on my thesis.

- Neil K.

--
Neil K. Guy * ne...@sfu.ca * te...@tela.bc.ca
49N 16' 123W 7' * Vancouver, BC, Canada

Laurel Halbany

unread,
Nov 30, 1995, 3:00:00 AM11/30/95
to
Gerry Kevin Wilson (whiz...@uclink.berkeley.edu) wrote:

> I don't mean to come down too hard. But having just erased a 6 page
> rant/bitch/moan, I figure I'm entitled to a paragraph long one. Don't
> hold your breath. Look around you. This is it, dude. There are a few
> hundred hardcore fans left. Text adventures are going exactly nowhere.

Really? Ask Graham Nelson (don't tell him I sent you, anyway) about
the thousands of people playing _Curses_. Talk to Graham Cluly about
_Humbug_.

> Ask Dave Baggett. Two years ago I was arguing your viewpoint. Text
> adventures, like the Mexican peso, have been devalued. They are no
> longer economically feasible in any form.

You seem to be confusing the _economic_ viability of text adventures
with their popularity. As someone else pointed out, poetry is no
way to make money either, but poetry is hardly dead.

> I hope to just recoup my
> investment on Avalon and flee the genre, skin intact. 2 years. 2 lousy
> stinking years I been writing that game. And I'll be THRILLED, ECSTATIC
> to sell 15 frigging copies. That's a sum profit of jack nothing.

If that's your total interest in IF, please flee. And don't let the
door hit you in the butt on the way out.

> Sure,
> the hobby aspect (SPAG, the IF Contest) is fun, but the game writing is a
> waste of time unless you feel it too is a hobby. As for writing
> book-length texts about writing text adventures, well, let's just say I'd
> rather have the time back that I spent writing that IF Authorship Guide.

IF is something that you have to expect to do for love, not money. If
it's not a hobby for you, why did you bother "wasting" the time? Did
you really expect to make a retirement nest egg?

--
we would rather be rowdy and gaunt and free Laurel Halbany
and dine on a diet of roach and rat myt...@agora.rdrop.com
than slave to a tame society Unwed mother
ours is the zest of the alley cat --don marquis

Chris Thomas

unread,
Nov 30, 1995, 3:00:00 AM11/30/95
to
In article <49cs9f$9...@life.ai.mit.edu>, d...@ai.mit.edu wrote:

> In article <GDR11.95N...@stint.cl.cam.ac.uk>,
> Gareth Rees <gd...@cl.cam.ac.uk> wrote:
>
> >The person to talk to is Graham Cluly, who produced a couple of
> >adventure games under the name "Humbug Software" and apparantly managed
> >to sell several thousand shareware registrations.
>
> I think it would be a huge mistake to assume that model is still valid

> today. We (Adventions) based a lot of our optimism about the market for IF
> on Graham's experiences, and found that with a comparable product in a more
> portable form and at a lower price, we couldn't get even a fraction of the
> interest he did.

Well, I bitched about this before, but it doesn't necessarily depend
on the game or the market: it may just be that the interpreter sucks
on many platforms. In the case of TADS, I seem to recall being limited
by a less-than-wonderful parser as well. Or it could be that the
pricing structure is out of whack; what'd you pay for your last paperback?

> There is no commercial market for all-text IF now. And the rapid
> evaporation of the text IF market doesn't seem so strange when you take
> into account the incredible growth of the web, and the public's infatuation
> with so-called "virtual reality". Regardless of whether people know what
> "hypermedia" really are, they sure do think they're cool.
>

> >When companies like Sierra can allocate a $4 million budget to games like
> >the recent "Phantasmagoria", with more than 50 people working full time on
> >the project, what hope do amateurs have?
>

> Financially, none. But I think that single-author forms will always have a
> place in the arts. "Art by committee" has a lot working against it.

Somehow, I don't think it has to be Financially None, as long as
Barnes & Noble is in business, there must be a way to make money
from interactive fiction, if not a *conventional* method.

Not that I have any experience in it, but have you really tried
everything possible?

--
Chris Thomas, c...@best.com

David Baggett

unread,
Nov 30, 1995, 3:00:00 AM11/30/95
to
In article <ckt-301195...@ckt.vip.best.com>,
Chris Thomas <c...@best.com> wrote:

>Well, I bitched about this before, but it doesn't necessarily depend on the
>game or the market: it may just be that the interpreter sucks on many
>platforms. In the case of TADS, I seem to recall being limited by a
>less-than-wonderful parser as well.

Do you realize how frustrating these kinds of comments are? We spend 5
years writing IF and improving the tools, and you just step in and write it
off in a single paragraph. I know it's become fashionable to bash TADS,
but really: give me specific examples of parser problems. I've played lots
of text games, and the TADS games have historically had margainally
*better* parsing than their Infocom/Inform equivalents. (Carl Muckenhoupt
comments in his review page that a four-star rating is typical of TADS
games, and specifically praises the parsing, so I don't think I'm deluding
myself here.)

The one really serious TADS parsing glitch (which X do you mean: the X, or
the X) got fixed ages ago.

Personally, I think the TADS DOS run-time is much nicer than the Infocom
format readers, and it's as professional as the Humbug interface. (We were
talking about Adventions games as compared to Humbug, which made lots of
money.)

>Or it could be that the pricing structure is out of whack; what'd you pay
>for your last paperback?

$10 is so vastly different from $6?

Sanjay S Vakil

unread,
Nov 30, 1995, 3:00:00 AM11/30/95
to
In article <49gm0e$o...@daily-planet.execpc.com>, Richard Thieme <rth...@mixcom.com> writes:
*snip*

|> imagine the genre though a few years hence on a portable unit that the
|> casual user can enjoy as much as a paperback book - something with the
|> appeal of paper, the feel of it perhaps, but an easily held, easily
|> manipulated folding screen that's voice activated so no keyboard. In
|> short, let's not limit our imaginations to the current (passing)
|> structures of symbol manipulation.

I think I mentioned this already, but this sounds a *lot* like what I feel like
playing with the (very alpha) zmachine on the newton. There is no typing - the
UI is written so you tap on any word you want in the input line (or you can fight
the handwriting recoginition for odd words), and the portability is self evident.
The folding screen and voice activation will be saved for rev 2.0 (:

Actually, maybe a folding screen would reduce the screen glare problem!

What I'm really ranting about here is that the playing IF on a newtoneque device
is a very different experience that I expected. I just wanted to replay some of
the games I loved in my youth, but the effect of being able to carry them around,
pop them out, and play a few moves in your spare time is exhilirating. Much more
fun than anything else you can do with these types of technologies.


sanj

ps. ok, you guys have sucked me in... welcome to my (very short) list of
newsgroups I read with any regularity (:

Randall Stukey

unread,
Nov 30, 1995, 3:00:00 AM11/30/95
to
In article <ckt-301195...@ckt.vip.best.com>,
c...@best.com (Chris Thomas) wrote:

>Well, I bitched about this before, but it doesn't necessarily depend
>on the game or the market: it may just be that the interpreter sucks
>on many platforms. In the case of TADS, I seem to recall being limited

>by a less-than-wonderful parser as well. Or it could be that the


>pricing structure is out of whack; what'd you pay for your last paperback?

While the folks trying to sell IF will probably not like it, I suspect that
the pricing structure is way out of whack -- at least for mass sales. Most
commercial IF is short story or novella length, but sells for $10+. Full
length paperback novels are about $6 and you get a nice pile of expensive
paper. Commercial IF is currently priced like the small press hardcover
chapbooks of short stories (very high), and probably sells to about the same
percentage of the IF market and said chapbooks do (very low). IF might do
much better at $2-4 a pop. I'm sure most of the commercial IF authors will
say that it would not be worth their time to deal with such small sums of
money, but many businesses do think such sales are worth their time.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------
Randall S. Stukey | Internet: len...@crl.com OR gray-l...@genie.com
San Antonio, TX | GEnie: GRAY-LENSMAN
Computer Consultant | Assistant Sysop, GEnie's SF Fandom RoundTable
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
Links of Interest to Fandom [Index]: http://www.sfrt.com/sfrt3/sflinks.htm
GEnie's SF-Fandom RoundTable Home Page: http://www.sfrt.com/sfrt3/

Matthew Amster

unread,
Nov 30, 1995, 3:00:00 AM11/30/95
to
On 29 Nov 1995 18:52:52 GMT,
David Baggett <d...@lf.ai.mit.edu> wrote:

>In my opinion, there are many excellent graphics games out there. I've
>cited Full Throttle before. I think it's a step in the right direction for
>graphical IF. No, the puzzles aren't that hard. The setting is not
>extreme. The characters are not wonderfully novel. But it's a solid work
>of interactive fiction, and it makes good use both of a graphical interface
>and of pretty pictures and good voice acting.

I'd throw in Day of the Tentacle and Sam n' Max. Both had good
characterization, good voices, and were just damn fun to play. The puzzles
were generally simple and satisfying, and the stories held together
overall. It's not the same experience as playing Jigsaw, but worth
enjoying for what it is. Not all graphic IF has to be at the level of
Return to Zork.

And there are elements in graphic games that are more satisfying
(heresy!). It's hard to imagine the giant fish sequence from Sam n' Max
being executed well in a text game--it was too fun to watch. Naturally,
text games do some things better than graphical ones, too.

>Text IF is just a different way of using words to tell a story. I don't
>think you need puzzles, and I'm sure that though most of our games are
>almost structurally indistinguishable (!) we've barely scratched the
>surface.

I'm still undecided on the importance of puzzles. I find it satisfying to
solve puzzles, but after playing puzzle games for years, I'm still not much
better at solving them and tend to get stuck and turn to the hints
quickly.

"A Change in the Weather" is what really got me rethinking the role of
puzzles. As Andrew freely admitted, the game was unfair, time-dependent,
and locked the player into an unforgiving sequence of tasks. It was also
tremendously well-written and worth playing again and again to try to get
closer to the answer. (I finished it using the walkthrough, but only after
restarting at least thirty times.) Because the game was small, the author
was able to pay excruciating attention to detail: the moment of light, the
ability to experience the tree in many different ways, etc.

I'm not suggesting that we see more games just like Weather, as this might
put Andrew Plotkin's life in danger. You can't get more traditional than
John's Fire Witch, and that was one of my favorites, too. But I agree with
Dave that we need to see more experimentation along the lines of MST3K
Detective and Weather.

Currently I'm at work on a project that's a long way from completion but
incorporates more obvious political overtones than any game I've played.
If you don't agree with my views, you may very well dislike the game
(although I try not to beat the player over the head). This doesn't bother
me. Just as I wouldn't try to write a novel that reaches the widest
possible audience, I don't feel like putting out another Zork clone just so
everyone on the newsgroup will play it.

Having said that, I do hope you'll play my game, which will appear sometime
next year. I'm not even go to try to pin down a date.

Wow, that was rambling. Aside to Kevin Wilson: despite its reputed
machismo, I will certainly buy a copy of Avalon. If it's good, I might
even try to convince you to write another game.

Matthew


John Holder

unread,
Nov 30, 1995, 3:00:00 AM11/30/95
to
Gerry Kevin Wilson (whiz...@uclink.berkeley.edu) mentioned in rec.arts.int-fiction that::

> Basically, the well of enthusiasm within me on the topic of text
> adventures has nothing but dirt in it anymore. My current ambition is to
> move to New Zealand and herd sheep.

(buck-up camper mode on)

Aw, c'mon Whizzard... I bet a bunch more of us than you think will register
it - it seems like it couldn't suck after all the time it's been. Besides,
I wanna get the feel of having some "real" goodies like Infocom used to,
all over again!

(buck-up camper mode off)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
John Holder (jho...@nmsu.edu) "Verbing weirds language." - Calvin
Homepage: http://speedracer.nmsu.edu/~jholder
Topics: Homebrewing | Raytracing | Interactive Fiction | Fractals
----------------------------------------------------------------------------

David Baggett

unread,
Dec 1, 1995, 3:00:00 AM12/1/95
to
In article <49girk$v...@news.doit.wisc.edu>,
C.A. McCarthy <mlk...@students.wisc.edu> wrote:

>A good case in point are the two Dave's over at Adventions [...] [I]t is
>quite evident that they are making no money at all [...] This doesn't seem


>to deter them in the slightest.

I always viewed making money from IF as a bonus, not a requirement. On the
other hand, if I could make a living writing IF, I might consider doing
that instead of working a "real job." (At the moment, my real job is very
interesting anyway, so this is totally hypothetical.)

In the long run, I doubt I'll be able to keep writing ambitious IF works.
I don't see myself able to make the time; there is a significant
opportunity cost. So in that sense, the fact that there is basically no
financial reward for IF authorship *will* deter authors like me, whether we
like it or not.

I've got half a dozen good IF ideas that will probably languish for lack of
spare time. They certainly wouldn't if I could write IF all day, every
day.

>I don't think anyone really expects to be compensated anymore. Rather they
>would LIKE to be compensated.

This is like saying, "I don't expect anyone to compete with Microsoft, but
I would LIKE to see a better PC OS standard." Doesn't mean it's a happy
(or, really, even acceptable) status quo.

bonni mierzejewska

unread,
Dec 1, 1995, 3:00:00 AM12/1/95
to
On 29 Nov 1995 22:56:45 GMT, ga...@diamonds.cs.utah.edu (Greg Alt) wrote:

>Just thought I'd mention an idea I had, since I have no time to do it
>myself... With WWW being the hip cool thing these days, I bet someone
>could make some money by doing IF on the web. Here's the basic idea:

Someone's already beat you to the punch on this one. It's being done. I
don't have any URL's to give you (I don't bookmark them since I'm not
interested in tying up our single phone line for hours at a time), but they're
out there all right.

You gave some nice development of the ideas, though.

:)
bonni
__ __
IC | XC | bonni mierzejewska "The Lone Quilter"
---+--- | u6...@wvnvm.wvnet.edu
NI | KA | Kelly's Creek Homestead, Maidsville, WV

Matthew Amster

unread,
Dec 1, 1995, 3:00:00 AM12/1/95
to
On Thu, 30 Nov 95 14:15:44 GMT,
Randall Stukey <len...@crl.com> wrote:

>Commercial IF is currently priced like the small press hardcover
>chapbooks of short stories (very high), and probably sells to about the same
>percentage of the IF market and said chapbooks do (very low). IF might do
>much better at $2-4 a pop. I'm sure most of the commercial IF authors will
>say that it would not be worth their time to deal with such small sums of
>money, but many businesses do think such sales are worth their time.

On the other hand, we're not talking about point-of-sale purchases here.
If I'm in the bookstore, I'll be more likely to plunk down $5 for a
paperback than $10. But if I'm going to write a check, get an envelope,
write a little note, stamp it, seal it, find a mailbox, etc., that five
buck difference doesn't seem like such a big deal any more.

(Amazing how e-mail changes one's perspective, isn't it?)

Even a paperback that fails commercially will sell more copies than any
text game released today. Economies of scale allow large publishers to
recoup their losses on the poor sellers with the profits on the few books
that do well. IF authors don't have the same luxury. I'm certainly
willing to pay a bit extra to support the genre. Though John Baker's $4.50
(I think) "lunchware" fee for John's Fire Witch was refreshing and I paid
it. I would have paid $10. I probably would have paid $25 for Legend, but
don't tell Dave I said so.

Now, if you could get text games into snazzy packages and put them at the
counter in bookstores, there might be something in that. Hell, there
really might: I guarantee there are many avid readers who own computers
but aren't on the net and either have never heard of IF or didn't know it
was still being written. Some would eat it up, especially "literary" IF
like Jigsaw, Christminster, or Legend.

Matthew


Stephen van Egmond

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Dec 1, 1995, 3:00:00 AM12/1/95
to
In article <49k4up$i...@grid.direct.ca>, Neil K. Guy <n...@grid.direct.ca> wrote:
> Heh. I thought of this a while back. I toyed with the notion of hooking
>the TADS UNIX runtime up to a Web page. Of course, it'd be a lot of work
>because without the source to the runtime it'd be difficult to hack it
>in well with a CGI. The biggest stumbling block would be remembering
>states - how would the game engine keep track of who's playing and where
>they happened to be? You'd have to have some sort of sign-in mechanism,
>because with dynamic IP addressing used by most SLIP and PPP connections
>these days you can't track a person by their IP address and user ID
>like you used to be able to. And if multiple people were playing at
>the same time you'd need multiple invocations of the runtime, which
>could be expensive CPU-wise.

Me too. Only, I wanted to do it with a zmachine, since hey, there's the
source for it. I bumped into the same damn problem as you did, and
couldn't find any way of adequately managing multiple callers (especially
since many httpd's don't send the user ID!)

One approach is to hand each person a particular id# that makes up part
of the URLs they access the pages with. Like

http://bla.org/game?id=502

IDs would persist for perhaps an hour in case you had to walk away for
some reason, and the CGI (should) be able to handle multiple instances
without having to launch multiple interpreters.

However, with the advent of Java, all this is irrelevant. The client
machine can keep the state, and run the Zip, and... hey, it just hit me
where Sun got the idea for a platform-independent system for doing very
cool stuff.

Tim Middleton

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Dec 1, 1995, 3:00:00 AM12/1/95
to
DE= My advice to authors is: write whatever weird thing comes to mind.
DE= Work hard to make it conform to your vision, but don't worry about what
DE= the typical IF fan will think.

I like this part...

---
with love and squalor. <as...@torfree.net>

Andrew C. Plotkin

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Dec 1, 1995, 3:00:00 AM12/1/95
to
whiz...@uclink.berkeley.edu (Gerry Kevin Wilson) writes:
> In article <49gm0e$o...@daily-planet.execpc.com>,
> Richard Thieme <rth...@mixcom.com> wrote:
>
> >don't sell the genre short, even if it's being kept alive for the moment
> >in a quiet corner of cyberspace. The potential of the form is explosive.
>
> I don't mean to come down too hard. But having just erased a 6 page
> rant/bitch/moan, I figure I'm entitled to a paragraph long one. Don't
> hold your breath. Look around you. This is it, dude. There are a few
> hundred hardcore fans left. Text adventures are going exactly nowhere.

I am going to take the liberty of saying that both of these viewpoints
are silly.

The potential for text IF is not explosive. Neither is it dying. (I'll
get back to non-text IF later.)

I agree that there are a few hundred hard-core fans left that we are
in contact with here -- that will hear of a new TADS or Inform game
and grab it from ftp.gmd.de. Probably there are thousands more --
tens of thousands -- which have bought the LTOI collections, or will
buy the Infocom genre collections. They all think the genre is dead.
(This thought actually revitalizes my interest in a text IF CD.
Activision thinks there's a market, right?)

On the other hand, we're not going away. There are more games now than
there were two years ago. I'm more interested in finding and playing
them than I was two years ago. I wrote one. I intend to write another.

> Ask Dave Baggett. Two years ago I was arguing your viewpoint. Text
> adventures, like the Mexican peso, have been devalued. They are no
> longer economically feasible in any form.

The guy sitting next to me in the office does live-action role-playing
as a hobby. He spends much time, money, and effort on it. Hobbies are
like that.

I think it's been pretty much a hobbyist field for much more than two
years. It will not make a significant amount of money for anyone. It
may make you a little something. That's *gravy*. I agree that doing it
for money no longer is sensible. Do you have no enthusiasm at all for
*communicating* with people? If not, why did you pick a hobby which
was art, rather than selling drugs or going to law school?

> I hope to just recoup my
> investment on Avalon and flee the genre, skin intact. 2 years. 2 lousy
> stinking years I been writing that game. And I'll be THRILLED, ECSTATIC
> to sell 15 frigging copies.

I suspect you'll be surprised. I don't expect you'll be able to quit
your day job.

I shall now trot out my own shareware experience. I spent a year
writing a Mac puzzle game. I even tried to make it IF, although not
text-based. That's a year, of perhaps two to three hours a day. Call
it a thousand hours of work. This is, mind you, nothing fancy.
Graphical, but no 3D; no fancy ray-traced sprites; no music; all the
sound effects were done by me making funky mouth-sounds into a
microphone.

I have made, to date, perhaps $5000. That's a hell of a lot, for
shareware. I was lucky. And it works out to, what? Five bucks an hour.
I've barely broken minimum wage.

But it keeps me in paperbacks.

(Footnote: It would have been considerably less if I hadn't made a
deal with a company that accepts credit-card orders via a 1-800
number.)

> That's a sum profit of jack nothing.

The net profit may suck, but the gross will at least lift your
spirits. Trust me.

> Basically, the well of enthusiasm within me on the topic of text
> adventures has nothing but dirt in it anymore. My current ambition is to

> move to New Zealand and herd sheep. At least that way I'll never have to
> see another one of those godforsaken DOOM/SF2 clones. No more Ultima
> 8s. No more nothing.

This I can do nothing about.

But I dislike the cliche that "Doom killed text adventures." Many game
genres have carved themselves out vast gaping cathedrals of public
interest and hot hard cash. That doesn't mean Infocom's little niche
has been paved over. Property values are down, but we're still sitting
here. (Here's the footnote I promised earlier. Some of the new game
genres are IF. There have been some good CD-ROM based adventure games.
End footnote.)

Anyway, self-pity is pretty indulgent. Some of my friends write
*poetry* for a hobby. Talk about being marginalized!

--Z

"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the borogoves..."

Ivan Cockrum

unread,
Dec 2, 1995, 3:00:00 AM12/2/95
to
Randall Stukey wrote:
>
>> IF might do much better at $2-4 a pop. I'm sure most of the
>> commercial IF authors will say that it would not be worth their time
>> to deal with such small sums of money, but many businesses do think
>> such sales are worth their time.

Randall,

Not that I consider myself any kind of businessman or marketer, but I
think IF could be very successful at around $5-6 a pop, if it were
marketed properly, and could be very profitable at that price if sold in
very large quantities.

I've been thinking a bit about this recently, and it seems to me that
many business travelers and other people who carry laptops would pay $5
for something to keep them entertained while traveling. The trick is in
the product positioning and marketing - these people have to be made
aware of the product, and the product needs to be made available at
point-of-purchase for impulse buyers. For instance, a display rack at
the checkout of bookstores & supermarkets, just like they're doing with
shareware action games such as Doom. As for positioning, I believe the
phrases "interactive fiction", "hyper novel", etc. need to be stressed
over "game", to help attract the more mature crowd who are likely to
enjoy IF, and who already accept reading as a form of recreation.

-- Ivan

Andrew C. Plotkin

unread,
Dec 2, 1995, 3:00:00 AM12/2/95
to
d...@rice-chex.ai.mit.edu (David Baggett) writes:
> but really: give me specific examples of parser problems.

With Mac TADS 2.2, I've often had trouble setting dials to numbers.
It's too late at night to generate actual examples, but I recall
having to go through circumlocutions like
SET DIAL TO 5
[which dial?]
LEFT
because I couldn't do it all on one line.

This happened in Legend and, I think, John's Fire Witch.

> I've played lots
> of text games, and the TADS games have historically had margainally
> *better* parsing than their Infocom/Inform equivalents.

I marginally prefer the Inform parser. I'm sure it's a matter of what
you're used to. The two parser libraries *do* diverge in places, and
it's easy to get annoyed when a game doesn't do what you expect.

> Personally, I think the TADS DOS run-time is much nicer than the Infocom
> format readers

Oh, I agree. You think I wrote my fancy Infocom interpreters out of
boredom? :)

--Z

(Well, boredom too.)

Tim Middleton

unread,
Dec 2, 1995, 3:00:00 AM12/2/95
to
= Ask Dave Baggett. Two years ago I was arguing your viewpoint. Text
= adventures, like the Mexican peso, have been devalued. They are no
= longer economically feasible in any form.

Oh someone's thinking far too limittedly, me thinks... for example, is it
being taken into consideration all the spin off products... such as the
series of pulp fantasy paperbacks based on your IF, and then eventually of
course you can put some GIF's together as a slide show and release it on
CD-Rom and really rake in the dough...

These are just the more mundane expanded visions... of course one should
always be preparing for the day time travel is developed too. Imagine with
what you know about IF now if you can take the knowledge back to the early
80's ... you'd clean up! It could happen!

You have to expand your vision! Don't limit yourself!! (-;

---
...with love and squalor. <as...@torfree.net>

Richard Thieme

unread,
Dec 3, 1995, 3:00:00 AM12/3/95
to
That's exactly the kind of direction (using Newton to play portable
games) I meant. I've never used the Newton but I'm sure this
kind of experience will be widely available soon.

Add Java and wireless to the mix and the other things that we could only
dimly imagine last month or last year -- now being marketed -- make the
possibilities very tangible and concrete.

The real problem here as in so many "good ideas" will be content. The
content is what will matter over all. "Content providers" are not all
that easy to come by. I.e. creation of profound imaginative games that
do justice to the complexity of the worlds we're living in.

A problem to be solved: I'm a professional speaker, writer, and business
consultant. I've worked with words my whole life long (taught English
lit in my 20s, an Episcopal priest in 3 cultures in 30s, and 40s, now a
speaker/writer/consultant). I've been playing and thinking about IF for
years. I am not a programmer. I don't know what shells or game builders
really are easiest for someone like myself who is bright enough but has
never been trained in programming. That's a real barrier through which I
simply have to push. It's like someone who wants to write stories but
doesn't know how to use a pen or a keyboard. I read about the various
tools here but have no first hand experience.

Is there an obviously best and most accessible game creator now
available?


Tim Middleton

unread,
Dec 3, 1995, 3:00:00 AM12/3/95
to
= What the big companies don't understand - or simply son't care about -
= is that a textual NPC which acts and reacts naturally is much more
= believable (and enjoyable) than digitized bad actors who reuse the same
= replies and sequences after their lives have been fundamentally
= changed.

Hey have you folks heard of an up and coming adventure game for OS/2 called
"Avarice" from Stardock software? (graphical, but static graphics it seems).

It sounds very impressive, but i'm personally skeptical if they can pull off
what they claim.... you can check out their claims at

http://oeonline.com/~stardock/avarice.html

They are trying to develop a "conversation" engine for the game so that
NPC's can create conversation with you dynamically to a certain extent
(eliza?!). Also the NPC's are claimed to talk to each other in the
background (the game is multi-threaded), sharing info about things, and
about you-- not sure how that will work. They say they are trying to do
something completely new and not have dialog "trees" like adventure games
have had up to this point...

It could be interesting if they can pull off this "dynamic" conversation
thing... the thing that confuses me is that by looking at the (not so
amazing) screen shots (who cares about the stupid orange!!) is it seems to
be menu based... so ... that seems amazingly limiting to me?!

Anyhow... could be interesting... there are a lot of interesting ideas in
their quite long HTML file about it anyhow-- whether this particular game
lives up to it's claims has yet to be seen...

Here's a few excerpts to see what you think....
(sorry i quoted a bit more than intended... but it's a very intersting text,
worth reading I think... )

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

About ten years ago, adventure games such as Infocom's Planetfall and
Zork allowed us to enter a virtual world. Admittedly, in those days,
you could only interact with the game through a text interface. You
would type "Pick up the orange" and it would get an orange that was in
a room. You could, to a limited degree, interact with that world. I
remember playing Planetfall for weeks and imagining what the world
looked like and feeling like I was really there.

As time went on, game companies abandoned the text adventure as
graphical games became the vogue. But something got lost -- the
feeling that you were there. That you could taste, touch, and *really*
manipulate objects in that world. To me, virtual reality meant I was
in a "virtual" world where I could do things as if I was there. While
this concept may seem like common sense, the label "virtual reality"
seems to be spread pretty easily. In an age where games have
increasingly become a bunch of nice artwork and videos being thrown
onto the screen with little interaction with the world, it might seem
that game companies have forgotten about true adventure and true
virtual reality.

However, with the introduction of Avarice, a return to true virtual
reality exists. Early beta testers of Avarice have labled it "A Myst
Killer". But Avarice's scope goes well beyond Myst. In Avarice, you
are in a real 3D world. You can pick up objects, manipulate objects in
ways the authors may not have considered, and truly interact with the
world.

For example, in Avarice you could pick up an orange, peel the orange,
break the orange into pieces, step on the pieces and squeeze other
pieces into orange juice or whatever. The beauty of this is that
Avarice is a 100% visual game. You actually see the orange (in true
24bit photographic color detail). You actually see the crushed orange
or the pieces of it. You can put those pieces on a table and see the
pieces in their actual size on the table and its size will depend on
how far away you are from the table.

Perhaps you read this and say "No way! No one's ever done that
before!" or "That's impossible! PC technology isn't there yet!" I
include with this file snapshots of the upcoming Avarice Preview in
which you see what I am talking about.

But it gets better than that. There are people in the Avarice world
and you can talk to them -- have real conversations from that. The
people in Avarice will talk to each other and how you talk to them may
affect those conversations. In other words, they are dynamically
controlled people. And like the orange, they are in full 24bit color
detail.

You can manipulate objects such as this oranage in the Avarice world.
Almost like "Myst meets Infocom".

Of course, Avarice takes place in a fully rendered 24bit color world
with an advanced AI so that its graphics are stunning. It offers a
full digitized musical score with mood changes depending on the
situation you are in.

The trick to this is partly the improvement in computer gaming
technology and partly because of the availability of advanced
operating systems such as OS/2 Warp which allows us to create a
dynamic virtual world and still have good performance.

I think you'll find that Avarice may perhaps be the first adventure
game where you feel like you're really there in a way that you can
visually see, touch, and interact with its world.

Bradley Wardell [author?]

Specifications
Full Multimedia support (sound, music, etc.)
24bit graphics support
Multithreaded artificial intelligence engine
Multithreaded dynamic world engine
Super-High Resolution Available.

Requirements
OS/2 Warp 3.0 or later
SVGA 256 color support (hi-color even better)
Double Speed CD ROM
486DX
Supports 640x480, 800x600, 1024x768, 1280x1024, and higher...
8 Megabytes of ram
Mouse

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=


---
...with love and tomato sandwiches. <as...@torfree.net>

Tim Middleton

unread,
Dec 3, 1995, 3:00:00 AM12/3/95
to
EE= (This thought actually revitalizes my interest in a text IF CD.
EE= Activision thinks there's a market, right?)

This and...

EE= (Footnote: It would have been considerably less if I hadn't made a deal
EE= with a company that accepts credit-card orders via a 1-800 number.)

This are interesting...

So what are you thinking...? Perhaps you could reach some sort of profit
sharing agreement with various IF authors and slap together a "lost
treasures of GMD" CD and market it through a software company like above?

Seems like a great idea to me... if there is ANY market at all.. and i think
there is... you know there *IS* still computer life *outside* of the
internet... I know several people that are not net-aware and wouldn't have a
clue about GMD if i didn't get stuff off there for them... besides GMD ftp
site and the infocom CD's ... that's pretty well the only source to satisfy
die-hard text adventurists (although i bit a LOT of whatever Activision
sales there are are for the sake of nostalgia...

that and the small flood of AGT adventures (which i wonder sometimes if
didn't HURT the IF market more than help (some were so bad <G>)-- though,
regardless of quality, it did show there was some interest out there) that
hit the BBS scene a few years ago, or whatever...

It is a fairly common practice for marginal markets to band together and
pool resources to try and make a bigger splash in the pond... if there is
any splash to be made at all...

.. interesting ideas... I'll say no more.

Okay one more thing... lesson of Microsoft: marketing is everything.. (-;


---
...with love and cries among angelic orders.

ErsatzPogo

unread,
Dec 3, 1995, 3:00:00 AM12/3/95
to
> With Mac TADS 2.2, I've often had trouble setting dials to numbers.
> It's too late at night to generate actual examples, but I recall
> having to go through circumlocutions like
> SET DIAL TO 5
> [which dial?]
> LEFT
> because I couldn't do it all on one line.

I think this can usually be gotten around by better coding. TADS'
differentiation schemes seem to require a good bit of mucking around with
the verDo[Verb] settings, which I'm only just beginning to grasp.

Anyway, on the topic of making money, we're about to have another case
study to examine, since I plan on releasing my next game in two forms: a
fully-playable freeware version, and a registered version with hints
(which *won't* be necessary to finish the game by any means, but which
some people might find convenient). I'm doing this for two reasons:

* I've spent a lot of time this year designing this game instead of
working for pay, and it would be nice to get something back for it, even
if it's only lunch money.

* I want to include some Infocom-style goodies with the registered version
of the game, which means somebody's going to have to pay printing and
mailing costs.

With any luck, this will keep everyone happy: People who don't want to (or
can't) pay can play the freeware version, and ask for hints on r.g.i-f if
necessary, and those of you who *would* pay for the game will have the
opportunity to do so.

I can wishful-think with the best of them, don't you think?


Neil deMause

ErsatzPogo

unread,
Dec 3, 1995, 3:00:00 AM12/3/95
to
> > DE= My advice to authors is: write whatever weird thing comes to mind.
> > DE= Work hard to make it conform to your vision, but don't worry about
what
> > DE= the typical IF fan will think.

>I like this part...

Me, too. Every i-f author (or regular author, for that matter) should post
it by their desk and read it at least once a day.

ND

Joe Mason

unread,
Dec 3, 1995, 3:00:00 AM12/3/95
to
AS>Although a crippled game isn't really an option, I would have thought
AS>that a viable approach would be to release about half the game as
AS>shareware - "if you're enjoying this, then register and get the
AS>remaining puzzles and the endgame." Certainly not as a viable
AS>strategy for making a million, but sufficient (I would have thought)
AS>for a useful hobby income.

The "Apogee model" of releasing games in three episodes, with the first
one being shareware and the next two available on registration, is the
standard for graphical games right now. Anybody making IF could follow
this or a similar format without two much trouble. The real problem, I
think, is the there aren't many people that would be interested in even
the shareware episode. But I really don't know how many people are
interested at all. I didn't think there was *anyone* interested until a
couple months ago, when I lucked into Gareth's home page. I wonder how
many others are out there who remember these games and just don't
realize anybody still makes them?

Maybe getting a game (say, Jigsaw) onto a compilation CD alongside Doom
or something would help. With a text file pointing people to either of
these newsgroups or the Web resources and XYZZYNews, we might pull in
more people. (I wonder if we can get Jigsaw on the next PC-Gamer CD-
ROM?)

Joe
---
þ CMPQwk #1.42þ UNREGISTERED EVALUATION COPY

Joe Mason

unread,
Dec 3, 1995, 3:00:00 AM12/3/95
to
GA>The engine is written as a CGI script. Each command you give
GA>generates a new page with the new description and a box for entering
GA>a new line of text. After the user has entered a given number of
GA>commands, they are required to 'register' which lets them have
GA>unlimited time in the game. The registration could be done the same
GA>way many places are starting to sell things using www pages. Of
GA>course, there would be a big notice at the beginning so that users
GA>wouldn't be angry at being caught unaware.

Sounds like a good idea. Any volunteers at making a CGI Z-machine
interpreter? Then we could put any number of games up there...

Julian Arnold

unread,
Dec 4, 1995, 3:00:00 AM12/4/95
to
Thanks for all the responses. This is also a damn fine discussion in its own
right.

I wonder, would it be terribly rude of me to ask shareware authors to mail me
a few specific details? Two or three people have done so already, and it's
interesting to note that, although their respective games have different
pricetags attached, the total profit for each one is nearly the same. I'd
quite like to see if this phenomenon occurs on a large scale (if not, is
there a "price which gives the best returns"? Popular opinion seems to put
this at around the $10-$15 mark, but perhaps it's elsewhere), and then
perhaps include the results in the FAQ as a guide for future shareware
authors. This might also allow me to check out the theory that prices under
$n are considered "not worth the bother of paying".

Anyway, bearing in mind that I would be completely discreet, not mentioning
any names or anything, could shareware authors send me a few details?

What is the pricetag on your game?
How many registrations have you had?
What is the total profit from your game?
For how long has your game been released?
Could you give an idea of the frequency of registrations vs. age of your
game? (i.e., what is the shelf-life of shareware IF?)

If this is an invasion of privacy or whatever, I never asked. 8)
--
Jools Arnold jo...@arnod.demon.co.uk


Jim Menard

unread,
Dec 4, 1995, 3:00:00 AM12/4/95
to
[stuff deleted]

The real problem here as in so many "good ideas" will be content. The
content is what will matter over all. "Content providers" are not all
that easy to come by. I.e. creation of profound imaginative games that
do justice to the complexity of the worlds we're living in.

A problem to be solved: I'm a professional speaker, writer, and business
consultant.

[stuff deleted]

Is there an obviously best and most accessible game creator now
available?

There is a way, but it involves cooperation. The "movie studio" model of idea
makers, writers, special effects people, musicians, and distributors may work
quite well in different content- and programming-heavy areas. IF, CD-ROM games,
VR, and Web pages could all be created using this model.

In the IF realm, "special effects" people are those who know Inform or TADS
and code the action. Writers create (and spellcheck) the words and
descriptions. Specialists could bring NPC's to life or implement a bag of
jelly babies.

Of course, just try to make a profit in IF using such a work model. Oh, well.

Jim

--
Jim Menard ji...@io.com | "There is no reason anyone would want a computer in
| their home." - Ken Olson, president, chairman and
http://www.io.com/~jimm/ | founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977

Branko Collin

unread,
Dec 5, 1995, 3:00:00 AM12/5/95
to
In article <19951204....@arnod.arnod.demon.co.uk>
jo...@arnod.demon.co.uk (Julian Arnold) writes:

[snip]

>authors. This might also allow me to check out the theory that prices under
>$n are considered "not worth the bother of paying".

With Shareware being a global affair, I have encountered some cases in which
the registration fee would be less than the cost of paying it safely (for
instance by using international money orders). In those cases I try to send
cash. Using an International Money Order will cost me about 17 guilders
(say US$10). On the other hand, if the price is too steep, I won't buy
the product. I usually try and compare a piece of software with a real
life product and its price.

.......................................................................
. Branko Collin . Error unknown occurred. .
. . Sig-Anim does not work on your .
. // u24...@vm.uci.kun.nl . system unknown . .
. \X/ bco...@mpi.nl . Please call our helpdesk. .
.......................................................................

Brian J. Swetland

unread,
Dec 5, 1995, 3:00:00 AM12/5/95
to
Joe Mason (joe....@tabb.com) wrote:
: [...] But I really don't know how many people are
: interested at all. I didn't think there was *anyone* interested until a
: couple months ago, when I lucked into Gareth's home page. I wonder how
: many others are out there who remember these games and just don't
: realize anybody still makes them?

I had no idea anyone cared about Interactive Fiction anymore either.
Until about a month ago, I was happy with having found the Lost
Treasures collection (my original Infocom stuff is all on 5.25" disks
for the now long-dead C64). It's nice to know that there are still
people interested in (and writing) IF.

I personally would consider purchasing IF, but it looks like most of the
shareware varients are only usable under MS-DOS. I find z5 based games
much more appealing in that they'll run on the DEC Alpha, Linux Boxen,
whatever. But I'm probably a small market segment.

Brian

--
Brian J. Swetland NCSA Software Development Group, Mosaic/X Developer
swet...@uiuc.edu http://hagbard.ncsa.uiuc.edu/swetland/
"Give a skeptic an inch -- and he'll measure it."

Branko Collin

unread,
Dec 5, 1995, 3:00:00 AM12/5/95
to
In article <66.347...@tabb.com>

joe....@tabb.com (Joe Mason) writes:

>
>AS>Although a crippled game isn't really an option, I would have thought
>AS>that a viable approach would be to release about half the game as
>AS>shareware - "if you're enjoying this, then register and get the
>AS>remaining puzzles and the endgame." Certainly not as a viable
>AS>strategy for making a million, but sufficient (I would have thought)
>AS>for a useful hobby income.
>
>The "Apogee model" of releasing games in three episodes, with the first
>one being shareware and the next two available on registration, is the
>standard for graphical games right now. Anybody making IF could follow
>this or a similar format without two much trouble. The real problem, I
>think, is the there aren't many people that would be interested in even
>the shareware episode. But I really don't know how many people are

>interested at all. I didn't think there was *anyone* interested until a
>couple months ago, when I lucked into Gareth's home page. I wonder how
>many others are out there who remember these games and just don't
>realize anybody still makes them?

Maybe the type of game tells something about the type of gamer? I can
remember that even in the Golden Age, adventurers were usually thought
to be the more mature, intelligent, well to do computerers. I don't
know if this is true, but if it is, you might expect a larger
average return. Although less people would play text adventures,
relatively more players would be paying.

Of course, I am just guessing here.

Julian Arnold

unread,
Dec 5, 1995, 3:00:00 AM12/5/95
to
This is a repost of a message I posted earlier. I meant to use the raiffaq@
address, so that replies would go there, but I stupidly forgot. If you've
already replied to jools@, don't worry, I'll still read your reply. Anyhow,
the message:

Thanks for all the responses. This is also a damn fine discussion in its own
right.

I wonder, would it be terribly rude of me to ask shareware authors to mail me
a few specific details? Two or three people have done so already, and it's
interesting to note that, although their respective games have different
pricetags attached, the total profit for each one is nearly the same. I'd
quite like to see if this phenomenon occurs on a large scale (if not, is
there a "price which gives the best returns"? Popular opinion seems to put
this at around the $10-$15 mark, but perhaps it's elsewhere), and then
perhaps include the results in the FAQ as a guide for future shareware

authors. This might also allow me to check out the theory that prices under
$n are considered "not worth the bother of paying".

Anyway, bearing in mind that I would be completely discreet, not mentioning


any names or anything, could shareware authors send me a few details?

What is the pricetag on your game?
How many registrations have you had?
What is the total profit from your game?
For how long has your game been released?
Could you give an idea of the frequency of registrations vs. age of your
game? (i.e., what is the shelf-life of shareware IF?)

If this is an invasion of privacy or whatever, I never asked. 8)
--

;;;; _ _ _ _____ _ _ ;;;;
;;;;;;__________ ______|_|___ (_) _____| |_ / __)) __| |(_)______;;;;;;
)(;| __) \ __) / _ \ __)_)_) | |/ __ \ _)_ | |_| |/ __) _)| _ \__ \;)(
() | ||(_)_/(__ |(_) ||| |_ \ | || || || |(__)| _) | (_| || |(_)||| | ()
)( |_|\____)___)o\__\_||\__)__/o\__)_||_|\__) | | \__)___)_)__)__/||_| )(
------------Frequently-Asked Questions-----------\_/-------------------------
** Get yours today! <ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/rec.arts.int-fiction/faq> **


Ivan Cockrum

unread,
Dec 6, 1995, 3:00:00 AM12/6/95
to
Tim Middleton wrote:

>> if there is ANY market at all.. and i think there is... you know
>> there *IS* still computer life *outside* of the internet...

> Okay one more thing... lesson of Microsoft: marketing is everything.. (-;

Tim,

I suspect you were joking with the line about Microsoft, but both of
your above comments taken together are absolutely true. I thinkthat
part of the reason why we're such a small group is because of our
relative anonymity on the internet, and a BIG part of why text
adventures aren't being sold in large numbers is due to the way they
were/are marketed (ok, currently, they're hardly marketed at all).

I think the main reason Infocom died out was because they couldn't
keep up with the flashy graphical adventure games entering the
market. However, I think Infocom MIGHT have survived if they have
radically shifted their market focus. They continued to compete in
the computer game market, even though the computer game market was
continually advancing the state of the art.

What they COULD have tried, and what I think would work even better
today today with all of the laptops out there, would be to have
shifted their market focus to a more mature, less game oriented
audience, people who already think of reading as a form of
relaxation/entertainment, and who aren't predominantly interested in
playing games.

The first necessary step would have been/is to downplay the "game"
aspects of IF, and broadly advertise the "literature" aspects. The
second step (this is more applicable today, because of course
Infocom already had national distribution) would have been/is to get
these "interactive novels" or "hyperliterature" or whatever
marketing term people agree on, into book stores, supermarkets, etc.
at a low price (not more than the price of a paperback novel), and
in an obvious, accessible format (a hybrid Mac/PC floppy disk placed
in racks by the checkout with no additional packaging).

I really, strongly believe that IF could be made into a thriving
market with the right marketing and the strength of a good national
distributor.

-- Ivan

Magnus Olsson

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Dec 6, 1995, 3:00:00 AM12/6/95
to
In article <ckt-301195...@ckt.vip.best.com>,
Chris Thomas <c...@best.com> wrote:

>Well, I bitched about this before, but it doesn't necessarily depend on the
>game or the market: it may just be that the interpreter sucks on many
>platforms.

If the interpreter sucks, then the game usually isn't very fun to play.
Unfortunately.

>In the case of TADS, I seem to recall being limited by a
>less-than-wonderful parser as well.

You "seem to recall"? Please substantiate!

IMO, TADS has the best parser available right now. Inform's parser is
potentially better, since the user can extend it in any way he likes, but
the one included in the Inform Library is (IMO, of course) slightly less
good than that of TADS.

Of course, there are bad TADS games. What you perceived as a bad
parser could be a sloppily programmed game. If the author provides too
few synonyms, or chooses his vocabulary in a suboptimal way, or
doesn't think through things like ambiguities sufficiently, or (in the
case of TADS) fails to provide the needed verification methods, no
parser in the world can make up for the deficiencies in the game.

Both the TADS parser and the Inform parser are extremely good (better
than Infocom's) *provided* the programmer of the game does a good job. What is
a good job? Well, it depends on what you're trying to do. For a plain vanilla
game where every object has a unique name, and things like that, the
programmer merely has to provide the objets and the vocabulary. In other
cases, the programmer has to make sure his code will work together with
the parser. This is true for *all* parsers; at least until somebody
invents a DoWhatIMean command.

Magnus

Jason Dyer

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Dec 6, 1995, 3:00:00 AM12/6/95
to
Distribution:

Ivan Cockrum (iv...@cis.compuserve.com) wrote:
: Richard Thieme wrote:

: > The real problem here as in so many "good ideas" will be content. The


: > content is what will matter over all. "Content providers" are not all
: > that easy to come by. I.e. creation of profound imaginative games that
: > do justice to the complexity of the worlds we're living in.

: > I am not a programmer. I don't know what shells or game builders


: > really are easiest for someone like myself who is bright enough but has
: > never been trained in programming. That's a real barrier through which I
: > simply have to push. It's like someone who wants to write stories but
: > doesn't know how to use a pen or a keyboard. I read about the various
: > tools here but have no first hand experience.

: >
: > Is there an obviously best and most accessible game creator now
: > available?

: In your particular circumstances, with your strength as a writer, it
: shouldn't be necessary for you to learn a programming language.
: Perhaps you could find someone with whom to work, who is already
: proficient with programming IF, but hasn't got your experience or
: ability with writing?
: I think a large part of why the IF community has become so
: cloistered is because so many people involved in it are working on
: their own. Notable exceptions are the guys at Adventions, who work
: as a team, and turn out reliably consistent games. And of course
: the same was true for Infocom.

Isn't "The Windhall Chronicles" being written as a team?

I really should get cracking on doing a tutorial or two for ALAN, once
you know how to do daemons and metaverbs it isn't that difficult for
non-programmers.

I also extend an offer to any non-programmers who, if they write
a _complete_ script, that I will take a crack at programming it.
['Course, they will have to have my approval first, and I might
want to edit abit, but. . .]
(Good format for script: there is an article in XYZZY 5 that has a
fairly good one.)
Once you actually finish with the script, though, you may decide
it isn't that hard after all to program it.

--
Jason Dyer - jd...@indirect.com

ler...@classic45.rz.uni-duesseldorf.de

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Dec 6, 1995, 3:00:00 AM12/6/95
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Saluton!

Trevor Barrie (tba...@cycor.ca) wrote:
: Without question. And as an aside, I seriously doubt the platform
: support issue is any real impediment to sales. Supporting lots of
: systems might be a nice touch, but one suspects that anything besides
: DOS and MacIntosh is demographically irrelevant.

With ''normal'' game (and other) software I would agree, but as the
IF-community isn't that big at all, it may matter whether us Amiga-owners
(or anyone else with one of the smaller systems) are able to play your
game, too.

Ad Astra!
JuL

We are the forces of chaos and anarchy | At least, AMIGA makes it better !
Everything they say we are we are |------------------------------------
And we're very proud of ourselves... | IMPORT StdDisclaimer; (... Modula,
Jefferson Airplane | NOT C ! :):)
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Flameproof .sig? Bah, dragons are fireproof anyway! | - Frei f"ur Notizen -

Richard Thieme

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Dec 6, 1995, 3:00:00 AM12/6/95
to iv...@cis.compuserve.com
thanks for the reply. I agree. it is so easy to work at this terminal
alone, even in the midst of a virtual communtiy, that I can forget that a
team is essential to a successful venture. maybe we do tend to be loners
in some ways.


Ivan Cockrum

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Dec 6, 1995, 3:00:00 AM12/6/95
to
Richard Thieme wrote:

> The real problem here as in so many "good ideas" will be content. The
> content is what will matter over all. "Content providers" are not all
> that easy to come by. I.e. creation of profound imaginative games that
> do justice to the complexity of the worlds we're living in.

> I am not a programmer. I don't know what shells or game builders
> really are easiest for someone like myself who is bright enough but has
> never been trained in programming. That's a real barrier through which I
> simply have to push. It's like someone who wants to write stories but
> doesn't know how to use a pen or a keyboard. I read about the various
> tools here but have no first hand experience.
>
> Is there an obviously best and most accessible game creator now
> available?

Richard,

Your remark about content is dead on, and it applies to the entire
computing industry. That's why so many software publishers are
relocating to New York, which is the seat of traditional publishing,
and therefore the best place to find existing content.

However, another important aspect of the software industry to
consider is the need for diversified talents. Not everyone need be
both a creator and a programmer, and in professional circles,
usually a game designer works with a programmer to help create the
designer's vision.

In your particular circumstances, with your strength as a writer, it
shouldn't be necessary for you to learn a programming language.
Perhaps you could find someone with whom to work, who is already
proficient with programming IF, but hasn't got your experience or
ability with writing?

I think a large part of why the IF community has become so
cloistered is because so many people involved in it are working on
their own. Notable exceptions are the guys at Adventions, who work
as a team, and turn out reliably consistent games. And of course
the same was true for Infocom.

-- Ivan

Julian Arnold

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Dec 6, 1995, 3:00:00 AM12/6/95
to
Ivan Cockrum (iv...@cis.compuserve.com) wrote:
> However, another important aspect of the software industry to
> consider is the need for diversified talents. Not everyone need be
> both a creator and a programmer, and in professional circles,
> usually a game designer works with a programmer to help create the
> designer's vision.
>
> In your particular circumstances, with your strength as a writer, it
> shouldn't be necessary for you to learn a programming language.
> Perhaps you could find someone with whom to work, who is already
> proficient with programming IF, but hasn't got your experience or
> ability with writing?
>
> I think a large part of why the IF community has become so
> cloistered is because so many people involved in it are working on
> their own. Notable exceptions are the guys at Adventions, who work
> as a team, and turn out reliably consistent games. And of course
> the same was true for Infocom.

Well, again this is a point I'd like to address in the FAQ, so any comments
are welcome.

I think much of the problem that we face with such specialisation and
multiple-authors is the fact that, with some exceptions undoubtedly, the IF
community (i.e., the membership of raif) never actually physically meet.
Even when two authors are trying to collaborate on a game and both can write
and code, the creative process is stifled somewhat by this lack of personal
contact (no rude jokes please 8). It is in fact quite difficult to bounce
ideas off each other via e-mail -- the Internet's fast, but not fast enough.
Mind you, I have been/am doing this for a game, so it's not impossible.

Perhaps due to the current authoring systems, perhaps not, the processes of
writing and programming IF are closely linked and, I'd imagine, not easily
separable. I'm not saying it's impossible to collaborate on IF. If it was,
we wouldn't have "Shades of Gray" or "Path to Fortune". I've not played PtF
yet, but SoG was, IMO, identifiable by its origins -- the game felt very
episodic, though this is not always a bad thing.

The Adventions games are indeed up there with the best of 'em, but I think
(and I may be wrong here) that each game was written by one Dave (although I
suspect with heavy input from the other). Also, the Adventions team have
real life contact (again I may be wrong).

Anyone else?

Tim Middleton

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Dec 6, 1995, 3:00:00 AM12/6/95
to
Okay you guys, enough about money already... you are starting to depress
me!! (-; Lets talk about... um... what a ... um.... well i guess there is
nothing else to talk about is there... er... uh... no, must be! Can't
think... the joy of creating if being it's own reward or.... um.. some
thing........ i.... oh... need that... m..m...m... yie... ah...

--
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
Tim Middleton =-= when sense makes no sense =-= as...@torfree.net
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

ErsatzPogo

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Dec 7, 1995, 3:00:00 AM12/7/95
to

>I agree, self gratification really is the only rewards for IF now.

I, of course, read this immediately after the one about "passion &
romance," and got *very* confused...

Greg Alt

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Dec 7, 1995, 3:00:00 AM12/7/95