Textfyre article on Gamasutra

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NObodyNOWHERE

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Sep 17, 2007, 2:16:43 PM9/17/07
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There's a nice interview/article about Textfyre up on Gamasutra. Nice
to see some good press related to this enterprise. The Harry Potter
stuff sounds like the longest of long shots though. Check it out here:

http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/news_index.php?story=15481

Zylon

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Sep 17, 2007, 2:46:04 PM9/17/07
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The idea of bookshops is not bad at all. That's probably where you can
reinvigorate a game medium like this. This is something graphical adventures
really can't do. Text adventure games are like written stories, much more so
than graphical games. Catering to a crowd that likes the experience of
reading is a good route. The emphasis on kids .... I don't know. I could see
that working but I could also see it being the one thing that brings the
whole venture down. Just have to wait and see on that one.

What I noticed is that David talks about "incredibly complex conversation
systems" or "complex object-oriented world models" and then goes on to say
Inform 7 is going to be used. I've actually grown to like Inform 7, but I
think it's ultimately way too limiting. You can do some neat things, but
it's not too long before the seams start to show. And while David seems to
be speaking about how "easy" it is for designers to write in Inform 7,
there's not much about why this would make it good for a game player. (3D
graphic engines like Torque make it really easy to make games. But they
don't guarantee squat about whether it will be a fun game for the player.)


Zylon

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Sep 17, 2007, 4:06:36 PM9/17/07
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It might also be interesting to do a blind study. Have people play a game
from the past (maybe an Infocom one or something) and one written from
Textfyre. See if they can guess which one was written more recently.
Obviously this would require people who don't know the Infocom games. Or
just choose one that was less visible than Infocom. I was looking at some
games like Christminster, Jigsaw, and Curses. Those could work.

This study wouldn't really prove anything but it would be interesting to see
if there's a improvement in the game mechanics themselves from the
perspective of the gamer. I'm not talking about the quality of writing here.
Since David appears to be focusing on the experience of the game, such as
conversations and complex worlds, it would be interesting to see if people
could clearly spot a game written with an updated system. (You'd probably
have to take out all the "banner" stuff and references to years.)

We often do this when coming up with proof of concept for updated graphics
or game engines. Like if we have to justify the use of a new Havoc
framework, we try a prototype and then see if anyone can tell the difference
between an old version and a new version. This is also done with new AI
routines and things like that. It's funny how often the thing you think is
going to be the WOW factor that really distinguishes the new from the old
ends up being something that people barely notice or on average can't
distinguish.


NObodyNOWHERE

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Sep 17, 2007, 4:22:02 PM9/17/07
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Actually, I think he said that they were NOT trying to create complex
conversation systems or world models, but were instead focusing on
telling an entertaining interactive story.

Zylon

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Sep 17, 2007, 5:17:32 PM9/17/07
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"NObodyNOWHERE" <TheSecr...@hotmail.com> wrote in message
news:1190060522....@w3g2000hsg.googlegroups.com...

> Actually, I think he said that they were NOT trying to create complex
> conversation systems or world models, but were instead focusing on
> telling an entertaining interactive story.

Yow. You're right; I read too quickly. Then, yes, in that case Inform 7 is
probably just perfect! :)

It's a pity though because I question how much depth these stories are
really going to have without those things. Harry Potter, to use the example
from the article, is not based on just effects. It's entertaining in large
part because of the interactions of the kids together and how they bond and
especially communicate. The world in Harry Potter is very complex, with
magic having differing and sporadic effects and how the kids learn to
control it and grow from their abilities. Plus you have characters who are
friends who then become enemies and enemies who eventually become friends.
If you want kids who like to think and read (and that part of the article I
know I read correctly), you'd better be sure you put in place what they like
to read about and think about.

One thing that attracts me a bit to text adventures over graphical
adventures are the ways you can rely on the human ability to interface with
dialogue to create some truly interesting things. You can do this only to an
extent with graphic games. Also since not everything has to be drawn and all
actions don't have to be relegated to an 'icon bar', you can make very
vibrant worlds with text adventures. With my misreading removed, it sounds
like Textfyre says that they're going to concentrate on the "entertaining"
aspects instead of complex conversations (and characters, persumably) and
complex (vibrant?) worlds. I'm not sure you have the one without the other.
Maybe that works for this crowd here. But for a wider audience, and one
initially targeted at kids? I doubt it. But if I'm wrong, it wouldn't be the
first time.


ChicagoDave

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Sep 17, 2007, 5:31:19 PM9/17/07
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On Sep 17, 4:17 pm, "Zylon" <zylo...@hotmail.com> wrote:
> With my misreading removed, it sounds
> like Textfyre says that they're going to concentrate on the "entertaining"
> aspects instead of complex conversations (and characters, persumably) and
> complex (vibrant?) worlds. I'm not sure you have the one without the other.
> Maybe that works for this crowd here. But for a wider audience, and one
> initially targeted at kids? I doubt it. But if I'm wrong, it wouldn't be the
> first time.

I was specifically addressing those in the hobbyist community that
gravitate to intentionally looking for complex technical
implementations and then marry those ideas to a story.

We're starting with what we think are entertaining and exciting
stories and we'll let the story dictate any required complexities. We
won't avoid such complexities, but we're not looking for them either.
If we feel the effort for some larger world complexity adds value to
the story, then we'll probably go for it. I do see this happening too.
But we're also going to be building tools to streamline things that
are currently complex, like conversation trees. We think we can create
a separate program to develop conversation trees (much more
intuitively than a set of tab delimited tables) and then push a button
and have that system export I7 code.

You might say Textfyre is story-driven as opposed to feature-driven.
Of course that's at the story level. At the UI (I like to call it UE
for user experience) level, we're going for as many features as we can
to make it highly usable.

David C.

Dot Net Developer

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Sep 18, 2007, 12:16:03 PM9/18/07
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A few questions re first Textfyre launch please -

1. Will you accept PayPal for a digital purchase? (Useful for
international customers) Just roughly, how much will it cost?

2. Will a demo be available, say sometime after launch?

3. Curiosity only - roughly how big will the digital download be?

Thanks a lot, Robert.

Mantar

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Sep 18, 2007, 1:57:45 PM9/18/07
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On Mon, 17 Sep 2007 15:06:36 -0500, Zylon wrote:

> It might also be interesting to do a blind study. Have people play a game
> from the past (maybe an Infocom one or something) and one written from
> Textfyre. See if they can guess which one was written more recently.
> Obviously this would require people who don't know the Infocom games. Or
> just choose one that was less visible than Infocom. I was looking at some
> games like Christminster, Jigsaw, and Curses. Those could work.

I would guess Seastalker would work pretty well for this purpose. It's A)
aimed at young adults, and B) virtually forgotten in the Infocom library.

ChicagoDave

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Sep 18, 2007, 9:53:08 PM9/18/07
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On Sep 18, 11:16 am, Dot Net Developer <dotnetdevelo...@hotmail.co.uk>
wrote:

> A few questions re first Textfyre launch please -
>
> 1. Will you accept PayPal for a digital purchase? (Useful for
> international customers) Just roughly, how much will it cost?

I think it's likely that we will setup a paypal business account and
accept payments from verified accounts.

> 2. Will a demo be available, say sometime after launch?

We haven't discussed this much. I think my plan is to do testing
locally. The other aspect of this is that the games are really not
very big, so a demo is possibly counter-productive.

> 3. Curiosity only - roughly how big will the digital download be?

I don't know yet.

David C.

ChicagoDave

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Sep 18, 2007, 9:57:00 PM9/18/07
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On Sep 17, 3:06 pm, "Zylon" <zylo...@hotmail.com> wrote:
> It might also be interesting to do a blind study. Have people play a game
> from the past (maybe an Infocom one or something) and one written from
> Textfyre.

I see no reason to scare off potential customers with twenty year old
technology. Those of us in the hobbyist community have nostalgic
reasons for appreciating the old Infocom white on blue model, but
today's users are unlikely to find anything endearing about it. Font
technology alone is a reason not to show anyone the older games.
Remember, I'm trying to attract people to something they think is new.
I actually would prefer people that didn't know anything about IF. I
can sell them on the merits without having to explain its history,
which is just too much information for a sales pitch.

David C.

Mike Snyder

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Sep 18, 2007, 10:08:15 PM9/18/07
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> > 2. Will a demo be available, say sometime after launch?
>
> We haven't discussed this much. I think my plan is to do testing
> locally. The other aspect of this is that the games are really not
> very big, so a demo is possibly counter-productive.

Id, Apogee, and others had success in the shareware market releasing a free
"part 1" in trilogies where the second and third parts could be purchased.
It was a different world back then, where BBS distribution and a more
limited file selection had to have helped, but if you're still considering
any marketing experiments, there's one. Even a short (but stand-alone)
preview for a series might generate buzz -- and sales -- without having to
be an actual demo version of a game in the series.

---- Mike.


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-NOSPAM- @hotmail.com J. J. Lawless

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Sep 19, 2007, 7:19:13 AM9/19/07
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On Wed, 19 Sep 2007 02:54:00 -0000, ChicagoDave
<david.c...@gmail.com> wrote:
>I _have_ thought about this...creating _really_ small games that
>aren't related to any of our series', but give the user an
>introduction to our interface...and a fun quick game to play.
>If anyone has any ideas for a super short game, send them in...


How about a one room, one puzzle game with multiple solutions? The
idea being that, depending on which solution is used, the ending
recommends a textfyre game that fits the 'style' of the player.

Kinda a mini erudition chamber.

-J

ptw...@gmail.com

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Sep 19, 2007, 9:47:05 AM9/19/07
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On Sep 19, 6:19 am, J. J. Lawless <ASCIISkull -NOSPAM- @hotmail.com>
wrote:

> On Wed, 19 Sep 2007 02:54:00 -0000, ChicagoDave
>

This reminds me of a story where a kid was given a puzzle to solve. He
was in a room with a stick, a box, a banana hanging from the ceiling,
and some hungry monkeys. His answer was to grab the banana and, when
the monkeys tried to grab it, eat it and fight the monkeys. Gee, I
wonder what game style this would be? -Paul

-NOSPAM- @hotmail.com J. J. Lawless

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Sep 19, 2007, 4:28:32 PM9/19/07
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On Wed, 19 Sep 2007 13:47:05 -0000, "ptw...@gmail.com"
<ptw...@gmail.com> wrote:

>This reminds me of a story where a kid was given a puzzle to solve. He
>was in a room with a stick, a box, a banana hanging from the ceiling,
>and some hungry monkeys. His answer was to grab the banana and, when
>the monkeys tried to grab it, eat it and fight the monkeys. Gee, I
>wonder what game style this would be? -Paul

The U.S. Senate.

-J

Cumberland Games & Diversions

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Sep 19, 2007, 5:35:15 PM9/19/07
to

> Id, Apogee, and others had success in the shareware market releasing a free
> "part 1" in trilogies where the second and third parts could be purchased.
> It was a different world back then, where BBS distribution and a more
> limited file selection had to have helped, but if you're still considering
> any marketing experiments, there's one. Even a short (but stand-alone)
> preview for a series might generate buzz -- and sales -- without having to
> be an actual demo version of a game in the series.

For my own forthcoming commercial releases (probably not of much
interest to the IF community, alas, since they're targeted at my
Uresia audience) I'm considering doing a basic crippleware-type demo,
where the game lets you play for maybe 60-100 turns and do whatever
you like ... But the biggest "demo" will be the downloadable samples
from the feelies and docs, which will be pretty extensive (and, like
any Uresia stuff, fulla maps).

Of course, my general plan is only quasi-commercial, since all of my
titles will be commercial only for 2-3 years, and then automatically
become freeware once they've had their run (and the customers will
know this right off the bat, so nobody gets burned).


Mantar

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Sep 19, 2007, 8:19:08 PM9/19/07
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On Wed, 19 Sep 2007 01:57:00 +0000, ChicagoDave wrote:

> On Sep 17, 3:06 pm, "Zylon" <zylo...@hotmail.com> wrote:
>> It might also be interesting to do a blind study. Have people play a game
>> from the past (maybe an Infocom one or something) and one written from
>> Textfyre.
>
> I see no reason to scare off potential customers with twenty year old
> technology. Those of us in the hobbyist community have nostalgic
> reasons for appreciating the old Infocom white on blue model, but
> today's users are unlikely to find anything endearing about it. Font
> technology alone is a reason not to show anyone the older games.
> Remember, I'm trying to attract people to something they think is new.

Uhhh, Dave? You can play Infocom games with modern interpreters, too.
Just in case you forgot. :)

Zylon

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Sep 21, 2007, 11:51:48 AM9/21/07
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"ChicagoDave" <david.c...@gmail.com> wrote in message
news:1190167020.6...@g4g2000hsf.googlegroups.com...

> On Sep 17, 3:06 pm, "Zylon" <zylo...@hotmail.com> wrote:
>> It might also be interesting to do a blind study. Have people play a game
>> from the past (maybe an Infocom one or something) and one written from
>> Textfyre.
>
> I see no reason to scare off potential customers with twenty year old
> technology.

But that's the point. They wouldn't know it's 20 year old technology. And
I'm not talking about the technology: I'm talking about the content that the
technology is displaying. A fancy front-end is just a fancy front-end. It
can make a difference but a negligble one if your game isn't any fun or your
ability to tell a story in the game is lacking. So the technology I would be
curious about is the technology behind the scenes: the engine that's going
to make these stories compelling enough for a market to get started on.

> Those of us in the hobbyist community have nostalgic
> reasons for appreciating the old Infocom white on blue model, but
> today's users are unlikely to find anything endearing about it.

So can't you play a game that was made in the past (maybe not Infocom's) on
a current interpreter? Again, though, you're focusing on the visual
technology where I'm just talking about this game+story experience that
you're creating.

> Remember, I'm trying to attract people to something they think is new.

Yeah, I sort of see that. Now there's a danger there: people who see it as
too new may think it's too boring. After all, they have graphical video
games to play and books to read. So you have to convince them that having a
"book to play" makes sense. I would actually think that showing this isn't
entirely new may be a helpful thing. I'm sort of on the fence here because I
can see it both ways.

But, regardless, my point was just speaking to your contention that your
story-driven aspect is going to be a key differentiator in your product over
others. If I were you, I would want that tested to some extent in a
pre-market test. So take an old game and take one of yours. Put them in the
same interface to remove that "old school" feeling that you're worried about
and see what people think. Your participants would have no way to know the
old game was old for the purposes of your tests. In fact, it would hurt if
they did.


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