Why another IF engine?

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Kodrik

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Mar 13, 2002, 11:30:17 PM3/13/02
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I hope this will shed some light as to why I am doing another engine. It is
not because I don't like current engines or for a programming exercise.
Here is the story:

I make a living as a kind of consultant, I design database systems and
concepts, mostly for web environment and I usually come up with very
innovative solutions. I work on the concept to deliver and enter the data
more than the queries themselves but I still have to code myself proof of
concepts for the customers. The customer then usually goes from there to
develop a full heavy load system. I work mostly with well financed
companies on the west coast or ni France.
A year ago, I was with a friend who is an executive at a spin off of a huge
company, this spinoff markets database based programs for mobile equipment.
He was telling me it wasn't going as good as it should and there were
seeking more types of programs for that market.

I've always wanted to code a game, who hasn't? And for 15 years, I had been
thinking of a multiplayer text based space strategy game (text display, not
input). I had this idea as a teenager living in France. At that time, most
people were given something called a "minitel", a small monochrome text
terminal, and many games were available for it (your usage was added to
your phone bill).
Earlier in my life, I have experience some failure publishing and
distributing software. I developed a bible for children which was an
excellent product who good top ratings, and was unable to distribute it.
I've also worked closely and a liaison for major French software companies
who were trying to export their products to the US and saw them all fail
catastrophically. From my perspectuive,there is no hope of getting my game
to market and only worked on it as a dream writing endless notes.

But from this conversation, new hopes were raised, the mobile market is
similar to the minitel market 15 years ago: monochrome text display where
the customer pays for time usage. I could make my game and have a concrete
possibility to market it. So I explained my goal without giving specifics
about the game and I was promised a serious look at it when I have a
working product. And for a company that big, taking the time to consider it
is a big deal.

I now had to make a great game and explain why people will use it.
A month into coding it, a friend of mine made a PHP pipe to Zork and put
the game up as his error page: http://thcnet.net/error. He piped the queue
of commands and outputted the output. This was simple but he couldn't
handle random events (like fighting) and had to remove them from the source
(which is sooo ugly). So it was Zork without trolls, cyclops.. a lot of the
fun things.
I offered to help and he sent me his source code. I came up with another
way (save/load games on each move) but it meant recoding everything and he
didn't have the time or will to do it.
So I made phpzork, I wanted my strategy game to be available on the
internet also, and this would be a good way to measure responses from
different sites as to get the best return possible.

Soon after Zork, zork2 and zork3 were up on my site, I got contacted by
Activision's legal department to shut my site down for copyright
infringement. The whole dealing with Activision was very weird on many
level (I can't get into details, sorry). Endline: they had been contacted
by a mobile company to license Zork and felt phpzork might negatively
affect this.
So I removed zork2 and 3 and stopped the promotion of the site.

I realized IF was a proven concept, they were major hits before and it
should be adaptable for the mobile market. I've learned that having a good
product was not enough so I dropped my strategy game and decided to make a
zork-like game for the mobile and web market: A text adventure game with
real RPG elements and multiplayer features, I code named it MXRPG.

So I started coding the stats, power and fighting code for an RPG system I
had defined called Zomon. I also started to develop the world builder and
the parser, and this is when I realized that the main work was there.
Stephen Grenade helped me with my dealing with Activision and introduced me
to this community. Seeing the quality of some IF games, the interactivity
of this community and the lack of market for great works, I decided to put
aside the rpg elements and concentrate on a real IF engine. If I could make
an engine that can handle making current great IF games, I would have a
product to show existing quality content that can easily be ported. The rpg
elements could be added much later, if ever.

Some of the requirements I had for my engine concept:
* sql based because this is what my targeted buyer wants
* server based so the mobile operator can make his money
* text input for commands because it is a proven concept
* easy voice recognition implementation for mobile play
* multiple choice for input for mobile play and console play

There is no guarantee I will sell this engine or that any game made by it
will ever be played on mobile equipment, I can't even say it is likely at
this point. The only think I can promise is that many many people will have
easy access to it through the internet. Let me add it is a good engine but
not a better one than today's leaders.

As for the rights to the story, the author has all rights to the story,
including the data. I will post specs about the player/server in a few
months so clones can be made to the limit where the copyright for the
player is maintained (the builder is where most of the work is and I can't
post the specs for it).
As long as the author is giving his story for free play (ie. not licensing
it or charging for use), there is no fee to create or make his story
available. We offer the hosting freely to all adventures.

If the author licenses his story or it has commercial purposes (like an IF
adventure on Coke's website to promote their product or licensing the story
to a mobile company), then there will be a license fee (which will be
decided by whoever I sell the rights of my engine to).

Now for the more realistic part, if you want to sell your story for play
over the internet to end-users, I hope to provide many creative ways to do
so. In this case, we will be paid in commission rather than with a license
fee so there is no loss for the author if his story is not successful, and
ther are no upfront expenses for the author. If you are giving it away, I
put all my reources at your disposal freely.

It is my goal to keep control of the web access to my engine even if I sell
its rights for mobile and console use. So unlike the mobile market which is
completely speculative on my part, these are very concrete. I have no clue
if people will pay to play your adventures over the web or which system
will work best for that purpose, only time will tell.

As for the mobile market, don't count on it for now and don't make it part
of your decision whether to use my engine or not. If you port or write a
story for my system, it should be either because you like it, you want to
target a new audience or you want to try some unproven selling methods for
IF works.

If I fail in my venture, I will give the engine and its code to the
community and I will do my best to keep maintaining it as well as Mike
Roberts maintains TADs. Regardless, it will be a victory if I make a good
and lasting engine.

DarrenH

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Mar 14, 2002, 10:05:19 AM3/14/02
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There's always room to shake things up a bit. Perhaps you'll develop the
next IF standard. Good luck.

Cheers
D


"Kodrik" <kod...@zc8.net> wrote in message
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