IF popularity

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kodrik

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Dec 30, 2001, 12:01:02 AM12/30/01
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I'm wondering how popular command-based IF games are.

If I write an IF game, how many people will play it:
* If it's free, using a popular format and
- it's sucks
- it's ok
- it's good
- it's great
* If I charge $5 for the game, using a popular format and
- it's sucks
- it's ok
- it's good
- it's great
* If I charge $5 for the game, using a proprietary format and
- it's sucks
- it's ok
- it's good
- it's great

Just a global estimate would be fine for some of them.

David Glasser

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Dec 30, 2001, 2:33:05 AM12/30/01
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kodrik <kod...@zc8.net> wrote:

> If I write an IF game, how many people will play it:
> * If it's free, using a popular format and
> - it's sucks
> - it's ok
> - it's good
> - it's great
> * If I charge $5 for the game, using a popular format and
> - it's sucks
> - it's ok
> - it's good
> - it's great
> * If I charge $5 for the game, using a proprietary format and
> - it's sucks
> - it's ok
> - it's good
> - it's great

I'd spend the most effort moving it up the sucks/ok/good/great scale
instead of up the format or price scale. I mean, I for one would rather
write a great game.

--
David Glasser
ne...@davidglasser.net http://www.davidglasser.net/

Jonathan Penton

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Dec 30, 2001, 2:36:11 AM12/30/01
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Well, I don't know how big the IF community is, but I do know that all of
the most famous and popular IF writers offer their games for free, with the
exception of Ian Finley, who offers a freeware version of his games. So I
would be very pessimistic about the viability of charging even trivial fees
for a project.

How many people judged in the last comp? I'd say that's a decent estimate of
the size of the community.

--
Jonathan Penton
http://www.unlikelystories.org


"kodrik" <kod...@zc8.net> wrote in message
news:269806b2.01122...@posting.google.com...

David Kinder

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Dec 30, 2001, 9:09:56 AM12/30/01
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> If I write an IF game, how many people will play it:

Unless it's something *really* special, I suspect you won't be able
to get people to pay for it. As it is there are more really good games
available for free than I have time to play, and I'm sure I'm not
alone in that.

David

kodrik

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Dec 30, 2001, 9:38:16 AM12/30/01
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>> So I would be very pessimistic about the viability of charging even
trivial fees for a project.<<

The reason I asked and put a price of $5 is that it could be a good
indication of how many serious players there are vs. curious players.
If anybody here had sold a game recently for a low amount, it's sale
figure would be a good indication of the dedicated community.


>>I'd spend the most effort moving it up the sucks/ok/good/great scale
instead of up the format or price scale. I mean, I for one would
rather
write a great game.<<

Yes, but seeing the figures of good vs. bad games players would show
the diversity of the IF community. People who have a great interest
into IF games would try them all, people who just like them among
other games, would just play the recognized best.
Having some figures of game download of good vs. bad games woudl give
us an idea of the community.

>>How many people judged in the last comp? I'd say that's a decent
estimate of
the size of the community.<<

I agree. Anybody has that number?


>>I'd spend the most effort moving it up the sucks/ok/good/great scale
instead of up the format or price scale. I mean, I for one would
rather
write a great game.<<

I'm trying to judge the popular interest, for this, we have to look at
how popular bad IF are played. Bad FPS and bad RTS sell allowing huge
development budget and interest of publishing and distributing
companies.


I personally think that IF still has some wind and we will a new surge
in IF.

Here is why:
When we put Zork on the web at http://phpzork.com, we was careful to
promote it by telling about it on totally kind of different sites,
with sufficient intervals to measure the return appropriately. We
didn't make it for popularity, but to gauge the potential for another
product we were working on.

We targeted three groups: Programmers, Young Gamers and the IF
community. The goal was not to have as many people as possible, but to
measure the potential audience.

For those interested in my study, to play phpzork.com, you have to
give your email address which is a deterrant for many, which helps
make our results more accurate.

The first week, we got 500 people who played at least once after
signing up.
By the end of the fist month, we had 1,500.

* Gamers forum brought in about 45% of all people. The usual message
was "Go see this really really old game our grandpa used to play befre
color existed, it's on the web". Most of those players never played IF
games and it was a pleasant first. A forum is an absolute necessity
for them because some don't have a clue what do to or how it works.
These "newbies" represent half the people signed-up.

* Articles in IT news site such as Zdnet and post to Linux oriented
communities brought in about 20% of all players. From the timing of
Activision's request to remove Zork II and III fom our site, it seems
it is because of an article in extremetech.com that they heard about
us. I have to thank Stephen Granade for helping us deal with
Activision who overall were pretty good, especially Laird Malamed.

* It was only posted in xyzznews.com for the IF community and this
brought in about 10% of all players.

* Outside the US, germany, swedenm danemark and russia wrote about it
and sent over some people.

* The first post I mentionned phpzork here was last week and that
brought very few people.

* Most people play early in the morning or during the day from work

From this I deduct that the IF community is much smaller than it's
potential audience and is not reaching far enough.

I think the biggest turnoff is that you have to download and install a
platform specific interpterer, go though some ftp download to get your
game and spend hours trying to figure out whcih game you should play.
At leat you don't have to compile it yourself :)

If you want to play a game and you are a very basic web user, forget
about IF today. You can't play without searching yourself though ftp
sites for engines and games, download them and play them.
So much can be done.

I find the IF community mostly inexistant on the web. Newsgroup are
fine for special interest or coders, but not for the general public.
It seems to me that IF is today at a state of a toy for coders to
create as well as play but it is not at all targeted to the general
public.

IF seems to have stayed oblivious to the change in environment,
offering the same product it did 10 years ago.

clan...@games-world.net

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Dec 30, 2001, 10:03:04 AM12/30/01
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"David Kinder" <D.Ki...@btinter-remove-to-reply-net.com> wrote in message
news:a0n77j$h3i$1...@helle.btinternet.com...

I think any game released as shareware, ie: you play the game you like it
why not give the author a fiver or something?
Not too much for a decent game is it?
Of course if the player even sent an email saying what a great game they
thought it was, that would certainly offset the payment issue. Both would be
great tho ;-)


Andrew Plotkin

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Dec 30, 2001, 1:22:51 PM12/30/01
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kodrik <kod...@zc8.net> wrote:
>> So I would be very pessimistic about the viability of charging even
>> trivial fees for a project.

> The reason I asked and put a price of $5 is that it could be a good
> indication of how many serious players there are vs. curious players.
> If anybody here had sold a game recently for a low amount, it's sale
> figure would be a good indication of the dedicated community.

Really, nobody has. The serious players are all playing games for
free; there isn't much temptation to put up some money (and attendant
hassle of mailing/arranging on-line payment) for one new game.

>> How many people judged in the last comp? I'd say that's a decent
>> estimate of
>> the size of the community.

> I agree. Anybody has that number?

http://ifcomp.org/comp01/detailed-results.html

> From this I deduct that the IF community is much smaller than it's
> potential audience and is not reaching far enough.

That certainly seems possible.

> IF seems to have stayed oblivious to the change in environment,

That's a separate question from getting it out to a potential
audience. IF wouldn't have gotten where it has, over the past ten
years, if we hadn't had a tightly interlinked community bent on
producing what we wanted to produce. If there's a large possible
audience for what I've done, great -- I want to reach them. But if
there's a larger possible audience for some *other* "product", well,
so what. That's not what I'm working on.

> offering the same product it did 10 years ago.

Nothing about text IF is subject to obsolescence.

--Z

"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the borogoves..."
*
* Make your vote count. Get your vote counted.

Sean T Barrett

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Dec 30, 2001, 3:34:41 PM12/30/01
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kodrik <kod...@zc8.net> wrote:
>When we put Zork on the web at http://phpzork.com, we was careful to
>promote it by telling about it on totally kind of different sites,
>with sufficient intervals to measure the return appropriately. We
>didn't make it for popularity, but to gauge the potential for another
>product we were working on.
[snip]

>For those interested in my study, to play phpzork.com, you have to
>give your email address which is a deterrant for many, which helps
>make our results more accurate.

More accurate I could see in terms of removing redundant measurements,
but the deterrence makes things more accurate in what sense, in the
sense that perhaps one group is more sensitive to privacy concerns
than another, so this might have artificially reduced the turnout
of one group, giving you a more accurate measurement of a meaningless
number?

>* It was only posted in xyzznews.com for the IF community and this
>brought in about 10% of all players.

[snip]


>From this I deduct that the IF community is much smaller than it's
>potential audience and is not reaching far enough.

Well, you have some methodology errors in reaching this
conclusion from your evidence:

1. You posted a (three) game(s) that most people in the IF
community have already played--have perhaps even played twice.
The game is already freely available from other avenues.
If you had posted a new (good) game you might have seen
a greater turn-out.

We'll call this problem "under-attracting the IF community".

2. You posted a famous game that people outside the IF
community have already heard of but were not aware was
freely available. Most works of IF would not attract
the interest and attention of gamers who weren't
really as interested in IF, since they can't be told
"come see this game your grandpa played back before
computers did color".

We'll call this problem "over-attracting the non-IF community."

3. You sampled the IF community last, so anyone in who is
in the IF community but was exposed to the other anouncements
would have participated as part of those other announcements,
and been measured under one of those samples.

Call this problem "failure to deal with population overlap".

This is not to mention the fact that you are presumably only
*sampling* each of these communities, not reaching them in
their entirety (for example, I don't read xyzzynews so I
never saw any announcement of it at that time), and it's
impossible to know what fraction of each community are
represented by your turnout from each; I'm not sure how
you could ever correct for that appropriately. Fortunately
you *probably* reached a larger percentage of the IF community
than of the other communities, so it would bias the numbers
in favor of IF. Also, the smaller your samples, the less
the "population overlap failure" is an issue.

But we can ignore these issuse on another level; even if you don't
know how small or large your sample is, you still have some
number of people who do not appear to be reached by the IF
community who responded with interest to this release, so you
can claim that those people themselves (rather than some larger
community they are a sample of) are the people the IF community
has failed to reach; however, since you're over-attracting the
non-IF community I doubt that really that many of them in
comparison--maybe 100 of those you attracted from non-IF sources
versus the 500-1000 people who already regularly play IF.

If those 100 people would really be interested in other IF
works, and they represent a much larger population (1000-10,000)
which can be reached cheaply, then great. This might even be
true, but I'm suspicious of the evidence you've offered.

SeanB

Kevin Forchione

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Dec 30, 2001, 4:56:05 PM12/30/01
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"kodrik" <kod...@zc8.net> wrote in message
news:269806b2.01123...@posting.google.com...

> >> So I would be very pessimistic about the viability of charging even
> trivial fees for a project.<<
>
> The reason I asked and put a price of $5 is that it could be a good
> indication of how many serious players there are vs. curious players.
> If anybody here had sold a game recently for a low amount, it's sale
> figure would be a good indication of the dedicated community.

Heh. It's obvious you've misunderstood the meaning of "community". These
guys are ferociously dedicated to IF, a "dead" venture to begin with, and
have kept the medium alive largely through hundreds and thousands of hours
of labor gratis.

Markets are not communities, communities are not markets. They only
intersect to a varying degree. If you're coming at IF from a merchandising
angle you'll be sorely disappointed by this community. These guys can
already produce "commercial" quality IF, and they do it for free. Sure,
they'd like to make a living at it, but the fact that there's no market for
it doesn't dissuade them from their pursuit in producing great games.

--Kevin


kodrik

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Dec 30, 2001, 5:02:18 PM12/30/01
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> Unless it's something *really* special, I suspect you won't be able
> to get people to pay for it. As it is there are more really good games
> available for free than I have time to play, and I'm sure I'm not
> alone in that.
>
> David

That's too bad because writing a great game takes a lot of work, more
work sometime than writing a novel or coding a game. Is it that the
players don't value the work of the authors or just that they are used
to having it for free?
How much revenue can an author generate from shareware for a good
game?

Kevin Forchione

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Dec 30, 2001, 5:28:54 PM12/30/01
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"Andrew Plotkin" <erky...@eblong.com> wrote in message
news:a0nm1r$ili$3...@news.panix.com...

> Nothing about text IF is subject to obsolescence.

Nothing about Story is subject to obsolescence. Things that have intrigued
the mind will continue to do so, regardless of whether Hollywood, or Madison
Avenue, can convince enough people that the shiny new ribbon and bow make
the offspring more worthy and valid than its progenitor.

People will see "It's a Wonderful Life" year after year, because it's a good
story. People would probably even pay to see it on the big screen, if
distribution companies put it out there, but new stars aren't getting famous
for it, new directors aren't getting paid for it, new technology isn't being
made for it. Nothing obsolete about the story, it just doesn't serve the
profit-motive strategy.

As a counter-example, there's nothing new about the Bible, either, but it's
still a best seller. Psychology is wonderful.

--Kevin


Andrew Plotkin

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Dec 30, 2001, 5:39:55 PM12/30/01
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Kevin Forchione <Ke...@lysseus.com> wrote:
> "Andrew Plotkin" <erky...@eblong.com> wrote in message
> news:a0nm1r$ili$3...@news.panix.com...
>> Nothing about text IF is subject to obsolescence.

> Nothing about Story is subject to obsolescence.

The reason I put it as I did is that graphical IF *is* subject to
technological obsolescence. Stuff that used to look good, doesn't look
so good any more. This is a temporary state of affairs, but I thought
it was worth noting.

kodrik

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Dec 30, 2001, 5:54:33 PM12/30/01
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> >> How many people judged in the last comp? I'd say that's a decent
> >> estimate of
> >> the size of the community.

> http://ifcomp.org/comp01/detailed-results.html

It shows 216 people voted on this competition. There are more people
interseted to play IF than that.
The first week our site was up with quite a 20 year old IF game, we
had twice than number of registered unique users that tried the game,
and 5 times that amount in a month.


> But if
> there's a larger possible audience for some *other* "product", well,
> so what. That's not what I'm working on.

There is definitely an interest in IF game, and Zork is a typical IF
game with no fancy stuff.

So why is that a 20 years put up with a few extras outside the game
attract so many more people than a competition where the best of
todays games are distributed for free?


> > offering the same product it did 10 years ago.
>
> Nothing about text IF is subject to obsolescence.

I didn't mean the game, I meant the distribution format.

Going thru a ftp site to find an engine for your system and than
finding games that way is so unfriendly. It is very nive to have an
archive, but lets put a db behind it where are stored user comments,
scores, game description, genre and requirements and one click to the
file.

Ideally, when finding a game you want to play and it's not online, it
should detect the system, download the latest engine and install it as
well as the game you play. Like you do if you want to see a video or a
flash movie and you don't have a player.

Adam Thornton

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Dec 30, 2001, 6:11:46 PM12/30/01
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In article <269806b2.01123...@posting.google.com>,

kodrik <kod...@zc8.net> wrote:
>That's too bad because writing a great game takes a lot of work, more
>work sometime than writing a novel or coding a game. Is it that the
>players don't value the work of the authors or just that they are used
>to having it for free?

Used to having it for free.

>How much revenue can an author generate from shareware for a good
>game?

Stephen Granade had an article on this, and it's probably on The Brass
Lantern, about his experience with _Losing Your Grip_.

Adam

Passenger Pigeon

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Dec 30, 2001, 6:54:53 PM12/30/01
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In article <a0nm1r$ili$3...@news.panix.com>, Andrew Plotkin
<erky...@eblong.com> wrote:

> Really, nobody has. The serious players are all playing games for
> free; there isn't much temptation to put up some money (and attendant
> hassle of mailing/arranging on-line payment) for one new game.

Some people paid a few dollars to *write* a game recently, though...

> Nothing about text IF is subject to obsolescence.

Well. In the sense that a textual description of something will never
be outmoded, this is true up to a point (as language does evolve);
however, in the sense of being a useful, notable, or relevant medium,
this is not necessarily the case. Nothing about theatre is subject to
obsolescence, and yet it is arguably no longer a relevant medium.

--
http://www.passengerpigeon.net/

Xiphias Gladius

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Dec 30, 2001, 7:26:46 PM12/30/01
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kodrik <kod...@zc8.net> wrote:
>> Unless it's something *really* special, I suspect you won't be able
>> to get people to pay for it. As it is there are more really good games
>> available for free than I have time to play, and I'm sure I'm not
>> alone in that.
>>
>> David

> That's too bad because writing a great game takes a lot of work, more
> work sometime than writing a novel or coding a game. Is it that the
> players don't value the work of the authors or just that they are used
> to having it for free?

It's not that we players don't value the work of authors. It's that I, at
least, would rather pay off the debt I owe to all those great authors by
learning to be a decent author myself, and giving all those great authors
something neat to play written by me. So far, I've not managed that, but
I'm workin' on it.

- Ian
--
"We could watch THE PRISONER and then watch TELETUBBIES!" -- my mother

Stephen Granade

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Dec 30, 2001, 7:34:48 PM12/30/01
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kod...@zc8.net (kodrik) writes:

A while back I sold "Losing Your Grip" as shareware. You could play
the game for free, but registration would net you hints and printed
feelies. I charged $20 for it, and got just above fifty
registrations.

Stephen

--
Stephen Granade
sgra...@phy.duke.edu
Duke University, Physics Dept

ally

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Dec 30, 2001, 8:01:41 PM12/30/01
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On 30 Dez 2001, kod...@zc8.net (kodrik) wrote in
news:269806b2.01123...@posting.google.com:

>> >> How many people judged in the last comp? I'd say that's a decent
>> >> estimate of
>> >> the size of the community.
>
>> http://ifcomp.org/comp01/detailed-results.html
>
> It shows 216 people voted on this competition. There are more people
> interseted to play IF than that.
> The first week our site was up with quite a 20 year old IF game, we
> had twice than number of registered unique users that tried the game,
> and 5 times that amount in a month.

I never voted on a single game; there must be others who don't participate
all that much but are still part of the audience.

Some of the potential audience might not even care about computer games--
or computers--at all, but would still be intrigued by the concept of IF,
possibly story-oriented or "poetic" IF rather than puzzly games of great
antiquy; quite like there're people who like to role-play but would never
care to buy a monster manual, attend a con, or fantasize about +9
Runeswords Of (Something)...?

>> But if
>> there's a larger possible audience for some *other* "product", well,
>> so what. That's not what I'm working on.
>
> There is definitely an interest in IF game, and Zork is a typical IF
> game with no fancy stuff.
>
> So why is that a 20 years put up with a few extras outside the game
> attract so many more people than a competition where the best of
> todays games are distributed for free?
>
>> > offering the same product it did 10 years ago.
>>
>> Nothing about text IF is subject to obsolescence.
>
> I didn't mean the game, I meant the distribution format.
>
> Going thru a ftp site to find an engine for your system and than
> finding games that way is so unfriendly.

And so are the games; it takes some time to learn the lingo ("i", "g",
knowing that an object in a room description does not have to (or cannot)
be "gone to", etc.) Some of the not-so-techy people I've blabbered about
above are just not willing to deal with that. (Unless maybe the games
*looked* spiffier? (By which I do not mean effect-laden visual clutter
but--well, think of well-layouted illustrated storybooks. Maybe that's
just not what authors are interested in, and they are after all doing this
for the love of it... I think. I haven't asked them.))

> It is very nive to have an
> archive, but lets put a db behind it where are stored user comments,
> scores, game description, genre and requirements and one click to the
> file.

(Baf's Guide to the IF-Archive is more or less just that, no? It doesn't
*look* sexy, though--I don't know how important that is with regard to
attracting new players... it might simply be a paradigm that's been beaten
into me by graphic design teachers.)

> Ideally, when finding a game you want to play and it's not online, it
> should detect the system, download the latest engine and install it as
> well as the game you play.

Sounds slightly scary to me... but I'd better keep out of the technical
discussions.

> Like you do if you want to see a video or a
> flash movie and you don't have a player.

(...just some comments to freely disregard)
~ally

Andrew Plotkin

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Dec 30, 2001, 8:55:09 PM12/30/01
to

Perhaps. But this argument does not convince drama nuts to stop
producing theater, nor drama addicts from going to see what they
produce.

Statements such as "IF seems to have stayed oblivious to the change in
environment" are, basically, an argument directed to someone else. Not
to me.

kodrik

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Dec 30, 2001, 9:00:16 PM12/30/01
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buz...@TheWorld.com (Sean T Barrett) wrote in message news:<Gp6Bt...@world.std.com>...

> kodrik <kod...@zc8.net> wrote:
> >When we put Zork on the web at http://phpzork.com, we was careful to
> >promote it by telling about it on totally kind of different sites,
> >with sufficient intervals to measure the return appropriately. We
> >didn't make it for popularity, but to gauge the potential for another
> >product we were working on.
> [snip]
> >For those interested in my study, to play phpzork.com, you have to
> >give your email address which is a deterrant for many, which helps
> >make our results more accurate.
>
> More accurate I could see in terms of removing redundant measurements,
> but the deterrence makes things more accurate in what sense, in the
> sense that perhaps one group is more sensitive to privacy concerns
> than another, so this might have artificially reduced the turnout
> of one group, giving you a more accurate measurement of a meaningless
> number?

If I follow a link that has little interest for me and it asks me for
an email to continue, I usually don't go any further.
I only give my email if I have some interest in it.
So, on top of counting unique individuals, it shows people intersted
instead of passing visitors following links.


> 1. You posted a (three) game(s) that most people in the IF
> community have already played--have perhaps even played twice.
> The game is already freely available from other avenues.
> If you had posted a new (good) game you might have seen
> a greater turn-out.
>
> We'll call this problem "under-attracting the IF community".

So far, 243 came from a link from an article on xyzzynews.com
That is more people that voted for the IF competition for a series of
new good games.
And I agree that a new games should attract more people than old one.
I guess in this case, the delivery medium more than the game itself
for of interest.
Anyway, it shows there is an interest in the IF community in
adventures delivered easily over the internet.

>
> 2. You posted a famous game that people outside the IF
> community have already heard of but were not aware was
> freely available. Most works of IF would not attract
> the interest and attention of gamers who weren't
> really as interested in IF, since they can't be told
> "come see this game your grandpa played back before
> computers did color".
>
> We'll call this problem "over-attracting the non-IF community."

What's interesting is that the non-IF community appreciated and played
the game, for many it was a first time experience.
So there is an audience for IF games, it is just not being reached.


> 3. You sampled the IF community last, so anyone in who is
> in the IF community but was exposed to the other anouncements
> would have participated as part of those other announcements,
> and been measured under one of those samples.
>
> Call this problem "failure to deal with population overlap".

Actually, xyzzynews.com was one of the first site to post about it and
it is targeted to the IF community.
The sites that attracted the most people were fatbabies, rpmgames and
extremetech, all targeting young gamers into action gaming.
Population overlaping with the IF community came mostly form the
Unix/Linux community, where most had been exposed to IF.
From user emails and posts, most people were new to command based IF.

From their satisfaction, it shows that they would be candidate players
for IF games but have never been exposed to it.


>
> This is not to mention the fact that you are presumably only
> *sampling* each of these communities, not reaching them in
> their entirety (for example, I don't read xyzzynews so I
> never saw any announcement of it at that time), and it's
> impossible to know what fraction of each community are
> represented by your turnout from each; I'm not sure how
> you could ever correct for that appropriately. Fortunately
> you *probably* reached a larger percentage of the IF community
> than of the other communities, so it would bias the numbers
> in favor of IF. Also, the smaller your samples, the less
> the "population overlap failure" is an issue.

That is the reason I was asking for numbers in the IF community. So I
could judge the scale. The only numbe I have so far is a little over
200 from the IF competition which is less than what I got.
I would love to have more data on that because I, like you, doubt it
reached all the IF community and from what I have can't tell the size
of the IF community. A download counter on game files would be great.


> If those 100 people would really be interested in other IF
> works, and they represent a much larger population (1000-10,000)
> which can be reached cheaply, then great. This might even be
> true, but I'm suspicious of the evidence you've offered.
>
> SeanB

The first month, 1500 people signed up with little promotion. We know
what site they came from the referer environment variable.
Most of these people came from sites targeted for young gamers,
console and PC, and private boards managed by young people.
I feel confident to say that about 1,000 from the 1,500 signed up were
young with little or no exposure to IF games. I got many emails to
support it and I had to add many features to satisfy them adn guide
them on how to play the game. Typing "help" in the game was not an
option because they had no clue what to do in the first place.

Our promotion was not agressive at all and the product, while good, is
not the best example of IFgaming. On top of that, many many features
could be added to make it more attractive.
So if we could attract 1,000 non-IF people this way in a month (and
500 IF people), I don't see why we couldn't attract 10,000 non-IF
people with a better product and more aggressive promotion.

I think we first have to define what are the strengh and weaknesses of
IF today.
I think the biggest weakness is in the delivery method of the games.
It should be simple for non-computer oriented people to find, judge,
get an install what is needed to play.

kodrik

unread,
Dec 30, 2001, 9:10:23 PM12/30/01
to
"Kevin Forchione" <Ke...@lysseus.com> wrote in message news:<V3MX7.28568$uM.243095@rwcrnsc54>...

> "kodrik" <kod...@zc8.net> wrote in message
> news:269806b2.01123...@posting.google.com...
> > >> So I would be very pessimistic about the viability of charging even
> > trivial fees for a project.<<
> >
> > The reason I asked and put a price of $5 is that it could be a good
> > indication of how many serious players there are vs. curious players.
> > If anybody here had sold a game recently for a low amount, it's sale
> > figure would be a good indication of the dedicated community.
>
> Heh. It's obvious you've misunderstood the meaning of "community". These
> guys are ferociously dedicated to IF, a "dead" venture to begin with, and
> have kept the medium alive largely through hundreds and thousands of hours
> of labor gratis.

Yes, I understand the current IF community is more comprised of
authors that play than pure players that would be willing to pay to
support the authors to produce more and better products.


>
> Markets are not communities, communities are not markets. They only
> intersect to a varying degree. If you're coming at IF from a merchandising
> angle you'll be sorely disappointed by this community. These guys can
> already produce "commercial" quality IF, and they do it for free. Sure,
> they'd like to make a living at it, but the fact that there's no market for
> it doesn't dissuade them from their pursuit in producing great games.

I agree that you are not going to make a living or build acomany
around IF today. But I think authors could get more of a return that
they get today.

L. Ross Raszewski

unread,
Dec 30, 2001, 11:24:04 PM12/30/01
to
On 30 Dec 2001 18:10:23 -0800, kodrik <kod...@zc8.net> wrote:
>
>Yes, I understand the current IF community is more comprised of
>authors that play than pure players that would be willing to pay to
>support the authors to produce more and better products.

That is neither an accurate summary of the comment to which it
responds, nor, according to various investigations we've done over the
years, true.


L. Ross Raszewski

unread,
Dec 30, 2001, 11:31:21 PM12/30/01
to
On 30 Dec 2001 18:10:23 -0800, kodrik <kod...@zc8.net> wrote:
>I agree that you are not going to make a living or build acomany
>around IF today. But I think authors could get more of a return that
>they get today.

It is, I think, a reasonable conclusion that, in general, people
outside the "community" are more liable to pay for games than those
inside. However, the conclusion you appear to want to draw from this,
that by heavier marketing outside the community, one could increase
one's takings when offering a game for profit, may be an illusion. I
suspect that for the vast majority of people paying for an IF game,
they are willing to pay *only* because they don't know that a large
number of very good games are available for free. And I suspect that
the minute that a commercial IF game succeeds in increasing public
awareness about IF enough to make some serious money, public awareness
of free IF will be boosted enough to invalidate this.

Also, we may be a little jumpy at the idea of commercial IF because,
frankly, the majority of games released with a price tag (with the
obvious exceptions mentioned here) have sort of sucked. IIRC,
Detective was shareware.

kodrik

unread,
Dec 31, 2001, 1:21:10 AM12/31/01
to
>>(Baf's Guide to the IF-Archive is more or less just that, no? It
doesn't
*look* sexy, though--I don't know how important that is with regard to
attracting new players... it might simply be a paradigm that's been
beaten
into me by graphic design teachers.)<<

Yes, that's a very good start. Now an interface like amazon with user
feedback and comments as well as rating would be cool.

More advanced search features where you can apply multiple parameters
to a search would be good to.

The IF community has a lot, a helpful community, a newsgroup, good
quality sites, central filing of files. Just like Linux was a few
years ago.

Now it needs to take the next step to appeal to the general public. I
really see potential for command based interactive fiction in a few
market.

I'm not saying anyone will make a living from it, but the user based
can be increased and systems can be implemented so authors get more of
a reward for their games.

OKB -- not okblacke

unread,
Dec 31, 2001, 11:59:40 AM12/31/01
to
ally kitz...@gmx.co.uk wrote:
>> It is very nive to have an
>> archive, but lets put a db behind it where are stored user comments,
>> scores, game description, genre and requirements and one click to the
>> file.
>
>(Baf's Guide to the IF-Archive is more or less just that, no?

Baf's Guide stores one review per game (actually, I seem to recall seeing
2 reviews in some cases), whereas I think the suggestion was referring to an
Amazon-style system where unlimited numbers of people can add their comments
and/or ratings.

Personally, I really like this concept, because as it is we are receiving
only a narrow slice of public opinion. To be sure, there are reviews aplenty,
but it would be nice to have a resource with more numerous and less lengthy
comments. (Whether Baf's Guide is the place for this, is of course, up to baf
-- I'm just using the idea of the guide as a jumping point for a more general
discussion.)

--OKB (Bren...@aol.com) -- no relation to okblacke

"Do not follow where the path may lead;
go, instead, where there is no path, and leave a trail."
--Author Unknown

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Dec 31, 2001, 12:23:53 PM12/31/01
to
kodrik <kod...@zc8.net> wrote:
>> >> How many people judged in the last comp? I'd say that's a decent
>> >> estimate of
>> >> the size of the community.

>> http://ifcomp.org/comp01/detailed-results.html

> It shows 216 people voted on this competition. There are more people
> interseted to play IF than that.

The competition judging is a useful data point, but it's not an
unbiased sample. A lot of people who are willing to open a web page
to try one game are much less willing to download a 5-megabyte
collection of games, and then play five of them.

>> Nothing about text IF is subject to obsolescence.

> I didn't mean the game, I meant the distribution format.

Ah, that's a different point. I apologize for misunderstanding you.

> Going thru a ftp site to find an engine for your system and than
> finding games that way is so unfriendly.

(To nitpick: web site, not ftp site.)

Well, on my web site, I have all my IF games up as Java applets. I
also have easy-to-use packages for the Mac -- click the link, you get
a ready-to-run Mac executable. I'm all in favor of this sort of thing.

I don't know how much attention these draw, unfortunately. I've never
done much web-site traffic analysis.

> It is very nive to have an
> archive, but lets put a db behind it where are stored user comments,
> scores, game description, genre and requirements and one click to the
> file.

David Cornelson has tried putting up an implementation of this, but it
hasn't drawn much attention. (See iflibrary.org.)

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Dec 31, 2001, 12:48:11 PM12/31/01
to
kodrik <kod...@zc8.net> wrote:

> The IF community has a lot, a helpful community, a newsgroup, good
> quality sites, central filing of files. Just like Linux was a few
> years ago.
>
> Now it needs to take the next step to appeal to the general public. I
> really see potential for command based interactive fiction in a few
> market.
>
> I'm not saying anyone will make a living from it, but the user based
> can be increased and systems can be implemented so authors get more of
> a reward for their games.

I actually agree with this, although my earlier posts may not make
that obvious.

I can imagine a push of IF to a large commercial market -- not large
like the market for Stephen King books, but, oh, think of a
high-quality trade edition of a classic novel. It sells ten
thousand copies, at relatively high prices, over a few years
(remaining in print).

I *don't* think the existing community of free-IF players and authors
will prevent that commercial market from coming into being. If it
happens, it will be a combined strategy of technology (packaging),
PR (marketing), and infrastructure (distribution and sales, in
partnership with retail bookstores or some such). Part of the appeal
will be ease of use, so the fact that equally good games are available
on a web site in a more awkward format won't interfere.

The strategy will also involve *new* games, written specifically for
the commercial market. It can't be all repackaging of older games.

(I've always made it clear (I hope! :-) that if a publisher came along
with a convincing plan for commercial text IF, I'd sign on and write a
for-profit game. My older, freeware games might be another "anthology"
product.)

Where I disagree with you, I think, is about the role of your "next
step". I'm not sure how helpful it will be to expand the awareness of
free, community-produced, volunteer-work IF. I don't think it's a
*bad* thing, but I don't see how it leads to IF coming out of the
shadows, as it were. We also need something analogous to the
commercial Linux distribution companies. And I have neither the money
nor the business skills to get that ball rolling.

Ethan Maron

unread,
Dec 31, 2001, 1:42:59 PM12/31/01
to
If the game sucks, the format and price won't matter - no one will play it.
And I doubt people will pay for a game that's just ok when there are great
games available for free. Come to think of it, I doubt people would pay for
an IF game at all, I know I wouldn't. As I said, there are too many great
games available for free.

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

news:269806b2.01122...@posting.google.com...
> I'm wondering how popular command-based IF games are.
>

> If I write an IF game, how many people will play it:

Elise Stone

unread,
Dec 31, 2001, 5:21:08 PM12/31/01
to
On 30 Dec 2001 18:00:16 -0800, kod...@zc8.net (kodrik) wrote:

>If I follow a link that has little interest for me and it asks me for
>an email to continue, I usually don't go any further.
>I only give my email if I have some interest in it.
>So, on top of counting unique individuals, it shows people intersted
>instead of passing visitors following links.

Not necessarily. How many people have hotmail or yahoo or :::cough:::
additional AOL screen names that they use just for the purpose of
satisfying requests like this?

>
>What's interesting is that the non-IF community appreciated and played
>the game, for many it was a first time experience.
>So there is an audience for IF games, it is just not being reached.
>

A point that I haven't seen mentioned elsewhere in this thread is the
fact that it _was_ a first time experience. How many of the players
you attracted would come back to play a second or third game? I think
a lot of people will try something once out of curiousity. Do you have
any kind of measurement of how many enjoyed it enough to do it again?

Jacqueline A. Lott

unread,
Dec 31, 2001, 8:06:05 PM12/31/01
to
I've been playing IF games for twenty years, but only recently happened upon
this treasure trove of IF enthusiasts - and that's a critical thing to note in
responding to this thread.

I love IF. Always have. Since I was eight, at least. Until three months ago,
I thought that this extremely intelligent genre of entertainment had given way
completely to graphical adventures like Myst. Then I came across Brass
Lantern's history of IF, found out about XYZZY news, and heard about the
competitions.

Here's where I can prove my point a bit better: I asked an e-mail group of Zork
enthusiasts, supposedly numbering 24 members, about the competition and where I
could find these games - and no one knew what I was talking about! That's a
couple dozen people serious enough about IF to be on an e-mail list, still
replaying Zork, thinking it's their only option, oblivious to the rest of the
IF community.

The community's bigger than anyone thinks, but we're isolated pockets of
people. I've never voted in the competition, but I've been playing IF the
whole time.

Jacqueline Lott

PS - There's a market, albeit a small one out there. Just look at people
buying and selling INFOCOM stuff on eBay. Those are some of the folks that
don't know about the rest of what's out there, thinking they have to buy up
the old stuff they haven't played yet just to keep things "new."

Jonathan Blask

unread,
Dec 31, 2001, 10:26:52 PM12/31/01
to
On 31 Dec 2001, OKB -- not okblacke wrote:

> Baf's Guide stores one review per game (actually, I seem to recall seeing
> 2 reviews in some cases), whereas I think the suggestion was referring to an
> Amazon-style system where unlimited numbers of people can add their comments
> and/or ratings.

I think that David Cornelson aspired to create a collection of
game reviews with his IF Library (http://www.iflibrary.org). Also,
Reviews From Trotting Krips
(http://joltcountry.dreamhost.com/trottingkrips/) allows visitors to add
commentary to game reviews (besides submitting their own reviews).
-jon


>
> Personally, I really like this concept, because as it is we are receiving
> only a narrow slice of public opinion. To be sure, there are reviews aplenty,
> but it would be nice to have a resource with more numerous and less lengthy
> comments. (Whether Baf's Guide is the place for this, is of course, up to baf
> -- I'm just using the idea of the guide as a jumping point for a more general
> discussion.)
>
> --OKB (Bren...@aol.com) -- no relation to okblacke
>
> "Do not follow where the path may lead;
> go, instead, where there is no path, and leave a trail."
> --Author Unknown
>
>

"If I got stranded on a desert island (with electricity)/
And I could bring one record and my hi-fi/
I'd bring that ocean surf cd (Relaxing Sound of Ocean Surf)/
So I could enjoy the irony." - Dylan Hicks

Papillon

unread,
Jan 1, 2002, 12:21:54 AM1/1/02
to

While it's irrelevant to your larger issues (of bringing general IF back
into the commercial market) I should point out that it is still possible to
sell at least a handful of copies of a game for a low price, particularly if
they are *very* genre-specific.

For example. I would bet that if you were writing a Lovecraftian-based game
and selling copies for $5, you could find some takers on alt.horror.cthulhu.
I can't be absolutely sure of this, of course, but it's a reasonable bet,
even if those same buyers are only vaguely aware of the IF world, haven't
played Zork, and would never buy any other IF game. This is not the same
thing as "releasing" a game commercially and seeing it on store shelves (a
damn tough thing to do even in mainstream gaming) but for those of us
occasionally in need of a quick buck... :)

Sean T Barrett

unread,
Jan 1, 2002, 2:24:29 AM1/1/02
to
Kevin Forchione <Ke...@lysseus.com> wrote:
>"Andrew Plotkin" <erky...@eblong.com> wrote in message
>> Nothing about text IF is subject to obsolescence.
>
>Nothing about Story is subject to obsolescence. Things that have intrigued
>the mind will continue to do so, regardless of whether Hollywood, or Madison
>Avenue, can convince enough people that the shiny new ribbon and bow make
>the offspring more worthy and valid than its progenitor.

One thing to remember is that in their youth, media generally
struggle to find themselves, and the early works ARE obsolete
in the sense that they are perceived as old-fashioned and un-
or less-compelling. All of the earliest experimental movies
qualify, and in some sense, anything up to "Birth of a Nation"
I suppose.

You could argue that the instant-deaths and mazes of early IF
are similar, or you could argue that the entire form of IF we
currently have is actually a local optimum we got stuck on and
which, once we find the "better" thing, will also seem obsolete;
this doesn't seem particularly likely to me but it's within
the realm of possibility.

SeanB

kodrik

unread,
Jan 1, 2002, 5:46:38 AM1/1/02
to
>Baf's Guide stores one review per game (actually, I seem to recall
seeing
> 2 reviews in some cases), whereas I think the suggestion was referring to an
> Amazon-style system where unlimited numbers of people can add their comments
> and/or ratings.
> Personally, I really like this concept, because as it is we are receiving
> only a narrow slice of public opinion. To be sure, there are reviews aplenty,
> but it would be nice to have a resource with more numerous and less lengthy
> comments. (Whether Baf's Guide is the place for this, is of course, up to baf

Well, I've coded quite a few modules these last years for commercial
uses which will enable me to easily put such a site up.
I can also host it. HD space is cheap and the community is not big
enough to signficantly affect my bandwidth usage from visitors or
downloads.
But since I am developing an IF engine, it would be a conflict of
interest to manage such a site. I would always be biased towards my
own product.

But if represents of the IF community were willing to manage and
control the contant of such a site, I could have it up within a month.
For this, we would need a group of people without a personal agenda to
take care of it. For such a site to serve its purpose, it should be
independent which main goal is to promote IF and put as many tools as
possible to the disposal of the public.
It seems there are already good independent IF sites who just lack the
proper server to do this. I've often though to offer Stephen Granade
to do this for him but I always restrained myself I didn't know
whether he could represent the community (I think he is the type of
person that could). I was suprised that xyzzynews didn't list Brass
Lantern in its link (Brass Lantern links to xyzzynews though).

The direction of this thread leads me to believe that are no official
organization for IF, just different helpful people that put
things together for the good of IF. This mailing list, the archive and
sites like Brass Lantern or good examples of it.

Do you guys agree we should create an official organization who acts
as a central source for IF. This should not be an organization to
replace existing information site (like this list or xyzznews) but an
organization to promote them to the outside world.

It should act as a resource for all that is IF to people outside the
community, players, authors and interested corporation. It should also
set guidelines for IF in general.

I can put at the disposal of this community all the technological
structure to exist but as I said before I am in no position to take an
important management part in it.

I would like to know your opinions about it.
Is there a need for an official organization and are there people that
can manage this organization and adequately represent the IF
community?

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Jan 1, 2002, 1:29:27 PM1/1/02
to
Jacqueline A. Lott <Jacqu...@mountainmemoirs.com> wrote:

> Here's where I can prove my point a bit better: I asked an e-mail
> group of Zork enthusiasts, supposedly numbering 24 members, about
> the competition and where I could find these games - and no one knew
> what I was talking about! That's a couple dozen people serious
> enough about IF to be on an e-mail list, still replaying Zork,
> thinking it's their only option, oblivious to the rest of the IF
> community.

What news sources do those people hang out with? Slashdot.org?
Memepool.com? Rec.games.design? Alt.hypertext? Commercial PC adventure
webzines? Print PC gaming magazines? Proprietary game-publisher web
forums, such as Activision's? The New York Times?

We've tried to do PR for the IFComp in past years, but it's been
sporadic. The Slashdot announcement is pretty reliable, but not much
beyond that. Ideas on how to do it better would be welcomed.

Nick Montfort

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Jan 1, 2002, 3:41:45 PM1/1/02
to
kod...@zc8.net (kodrik) wrote in message news:<269806b2.02010...@posting.google.com>...

> Do you guys agree we should create an official organization who acts

> as a central source for IF ... an organization to promote them to the
> outside world.

Promoting IF is a good cause. I don't see how an organization of this
sort could possibly by 'official,' or why it should be. I think rather
than forming an organization, a better thing to think about is exactly
what we can do, either as individuals or working together, to help
people outside the community learn about IF and better help those who
are interested to enjoy it.

The Electronic Literature Organization exists to promote IF and other
forms of computer literature to the outside world: <
http://eliterature.org >. One way to promote IF would be to add any of
your own games you think are of interest to people who like
"electronic literature" (that is, people interested mainly in reading
in new ways rather than mainly in puzzle-solving) to the ELO
Directory, < http://directory.eliterature.org >. I've mentioned this
on ifMUD to lukewarm response; the directory is not a good resource
for finding IF right now, but it could be. People just have to
register as authors and then list their works. Adding IF to this
database does a great deal to help IF move into a bigger tent along
with other forms of computer literature. The ELO, by the way, also
enabled the Boston T1 Party < http://nickm.com/if/t1.html > where Adam
Cadre read Photopia to about 100 people at the Boston Public Library.

Another organization involved in IF promotion is Wiresight <
http://wiresight.org >. This digital arts producing organization put
on another such reading in New York < http://nickm.com/if/di.html >.
It was smaller, but we tried a new format that gave more time to
individual pieces and worked very well, introducing a crowd to IF. If
people in the New York City IF community want to do more of these, we
can.

An Amazon-style review database could help, but the thoughtful reviews
at Brass Lantern, SPAG, and other places already are helpful -- at
least to the IF community, which is their intended readership. The
main thing to change is not the underlying technology of such review
sites but the orientation of the reviews. They should be written for
people not familiar with IF, if that's the readership you intend. If
you want to put up a review site of this sort, there's no need to wait
for an 'official' IF community figure to run it. Go for it.

> It should also set guidelines for IF in general.

To shift tone, feel free. You can even list the penalties for
noncompliance if you like.

Happy new year, rec.arts.int-fiction.

-nm

kodrik

unread,
Jan 1, 2002, 6:51:33 PM1/1/02
to
Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote in message news:<a0sv67$opc$3...@news.panix.com>...

> Jacqueline A. Lott <Jacqu...@mountainmemoirs.com> wrote:
>
> > Here's where I can prove my point a bit better: I asked an e-mail
> > group of Zork enthusiasts, supposedly numbering 24 members, about
> > the competition and where I could find these games - and no one knew
> > what I was talking about! That's a couple dozen people serious
> > enough about IF to be on an e-mail list, still replaying Zork,
> > thinking it's their only option, oblivious to the rest of the IF
> > community.
>
> What news sources do those people hang out with? Slashdot.org?
> Memepool.com? Rec.games.design? Alt.hypertext? Commercial PC adventure
> webzines? Print PC gaming magazines? Proprietary game-publisher web
> forums, such as Activision's? The New York Times?
>
> We've tried to do PR for the IFComp in past years, but it's been
> sporadic. The Slashdot announcement is pretty reliable, but not much
> beyond that. Ideas on how to do it better would be welcomed.

It's very hard to promote such an event.
You have to get some partnerships with some sites, get some sponsors,
be active on many forums, and, very important, have a nice web site
that promotes the event with information about every games, presented
in a way that makes you want to play them. That's were an official
organization for IF can really help.
We also have to find a way to present the competition as if some part
of it was revolutionary to attract people to it.

Jacqueline A. Lott

unread,
Jan 1, 2002, 6:57:32 PM1/1/02
to
Andrew Plotkin wrote:

> What news sources do those people hang out with?

[...]


> We've tried to do PR for the IFComp in past years, but it's been
> sporadic. The Slashdot announcement is pretty reliable, but not much
> beyond that. Ideas on how to do it better would be welcomed.

The answer to the first question is probably CNN and NPR. ;)

As for the second comment, if it's any consolation, I've posted everything I've
just found out about my recent rediscovery of the IF community to that list and
hopefully enlightened twenty-four adventurers.

As for PR, I'm usually very hip to what's going on. I usually don't have
trouble finding out about things in which I have an interest. I'm actually
shocked at how long it took me to uncover all this stuff about the current
state of IF. There is a major hole in the IF PR campaign, and it needs to be
plugged. Maybe we need to get a cover story on Yahoo! Internet Life... ;)

Jacq.

Robotboy8

unread,
Jan 1, 2002, 10:12:04 PM1/1/02
to
This thread seems to have diversified into two threads: "can we make IF
commercially and sell them" and "can we help this hobby reach more people". I
feel that a user-friendly FREE database would get quite a few players, and many
many more if they were playable over the internet (Java, et cetera.) Case
study:
My school, in an attempt to seem technologically advanced, has a required
keyboarding class. For a few people, it's very challenging - but I had fun
knowing more than the teacher. (She said that the "pipe character" | would
soon be removed. I countered with its usefulness in DOS and Linux shell
programming.) Anyway, when us hormonally enraged 13-year-old typists were done
we'd head on over to one of two sites: javagameplay.com or the About IF site
(this was when it was still up and running.) Anway, the school's server was
too slow to do any real playing on javagameplay so we ended up with the whole
class (well, those of us that were done with the keyboarding assignment anyway)
on About.Com playing zplet games. "Mercy" was a particular favorite, if I
remember correctly.
Point here is that I'm sure we could get up quite an audience as long as the
access was easy enough and we had advertisement. I single-handedly introduced
that class to About.Com, no ads to help me (though some nice printed flyers
would have made the job easier:-)). Not many of them still play, but then the
keyboarding class is over and I'm sure some of them are happier with Serious
Sam, Max Payne, et cetera - though I did get a few people to go get some stuff
off the archive...

--
Sanity is a sure sign of a lazy mind.

kodrik

unread,
Jan 2, 2002, 2:47:06 AM1/2/02
to
> Promoting IF is a good cause. I don't see how an organization of this
> sort could possibly by 'official,' or why it should be. I think rather
> than forming an organization, a better thing to think about is exactly
> what we can do, either as individuals or working together, to help
> people outside the community learn about IF and better help those who
> are interested to enjoy it.

Official in the sense that it can help coordinate between all those
individuals. Coordinate promotions, and information to people outside
the community.

> The Electronic Literature Organization exists to promote IF and other
> forms of computer literature to the outside world: <
> http://eliterature.org >. One way to promote IF would be to add any of
> your own games you think are of interest to people who like
> "electronic literature" (that is, people interested mainly in reading
> in new ways rather than mainly in puzzle-solving) to the ELO
> Directory, < http://directory.eliterature.org >. I've mentioned this
> on ifMUD to lukewarm response; the directory is not a good resource
> for finding IF right now, but it could be. People just have to
> register as authors and then list their works. Adding IF to this
> database does a great deal to help IF move into a bigger tent along
> with other forms of computer literature. The ELO, by the way, also
> enabled the Boston T1 Party < http://nickm.com/if/t1.html > where Adam
> Cadre read Photopia to about 100 people at the Boston Public Library.
>
> Another organization involved in IF promotion is Wiresight <
> http://wiresight.org >. This digital arts producing organization put
> on another such reading in New York < http://nickm.com/if/di.html >.
> It was smaller, but we tried a new format that gave more time to
> individual pieces and worked very well, introducing a crowd to IF. If
> people in the New York City IF community want to do more of these, we
> can.

I agree with you those sites are a great point of interest for the IF
community and it only enforces my point to create a central
organization to cordinate between all the groups promoting IF. An IF
organization would, among other things, work as a PR agency and make
sure all related sites have up to date information about what's
available and help coordinate events.

Those organizations are usually very helpful to the community, they
help organize events, they help raise sponsorships and increase
awarness, they promote all groups within the community, they give
tools to authors to help promote their stories, they can help
establish licensing deals and partnerships. There are an attracting
door to the outside world, for individuals and corporations.
They do not replace any existing structure, they increase
communications between the structures.
In the open source community, there are organizations at many
different levels, and often the success of a product is partially
based on the quality of the organization supporting it.

> An Amazon-style review database could help, but the thoughtful reviews
> at Brass Lantern, SPAG, and other places already are helpful -- at
> least to the IF community, which is their intended readership. The
> main thing to change is not the underlying technology of such review
> sites but the orientation of the reviews. They should be written for
> people not familiar with IF, if that's the readership you intend. If
> you want to put up a review site of this sort, there's no need to wait
> for an 'official' IF community figure to run it. Go for it.

As I said, I cannot do it for good reasons:
* I am developing my own engine and therefore I am not objective.
* I am not knowledgeable enough about all the aspects of IF.
* It has to be recognized as a central point for the existing
community and not some competition.
But, as I said, I would have no problem giving all the techonogical
structure to someone interested, as long as it represent the community
fairly.

> > It should also set guidelines for IF in general.
>
> To shift tone, feel free. You can even list the penalties for
> noncompliance if you like.

Guidelines are not rules, they are guides to help you play or code.
They are not specific to a game or an engine, but are here to help
achieve both.
They are present in any great project, even if there are different
products.
There are guides for html, sql... That doesn't mean that browsers
can't deviate from it or that sql DBs are fully compliant.
But it makes it easier for coders and users to develop or use and can
help the product evolve. It also helps in compatibilities.
I know guidelines would have been great help for me to develop an IF
engine. There is a lot of information here and there, but they are
hard to find.

I don't see the point in putting penalties, it would have the opposite
effect.

Dennis G Jerz

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Jan 3, 2002, 6:36:26 AM1/3/02
to
kod...@zc8.net (kodrik) wrote in message news:<269806b2.02010...@posting.google.com>...
> Well, I've coded quite a few modules these last years for commercial
> uses which will enable me to easily put such a site up.
> I can also host it. HD space is cheap and the community is not big
> enough to signficantly affect my bandwidth usage from visitors or
> downloads.
> But since I am developing an IF engine, it would be a conflict of
> interest to manage such a site. I would always be biased towards my
> own product.
>
> But if represents of the IF community were willing to manage and
> control the contant of such a site, I could have it up within a month.


Could you use the raw data from the comp voting as a starting point?
I have wanted a database like this for some time, since IF preferences
are such a difficult thing.... somebody who's never played IF can't
really answer a question like, "Do you like babelfish puzzles? Or
wordplay like in Nord and Bert?"

I was thinking of hiring some student programmers to make just such an
Amazon-like recommendation system. And I'd certainly be willing to
beta-test and help manage the site. I don't think that bias towards
any particular system would be a problem if the content were generated
by the users. Seeding it with the raw votes from the various
competitions would help quite a bit.


> For this, we would need a group of people without a personal agenda to
> take care of it.

Hmmm... well, I don't think it's possible for people to be completely
bias-free, but in most volunteer situations, anybody who thinks they
can do it better probably ought to be welcome to join the group.

For such a site to serve its purpose, it should be
> independent which main goal is to promote IF and put as many tools as
> possible to the disposal of the public.
> It seems there are already good independent IF sites who just lack the
> proper server to do this. I've often though to offer Stephen Granade
> to do this for him but I always restrained myself I didn't know
> whether he could represent the community (I think he is the type of
> person that could). I was suprised that xyzzynews didn't list Brass
> Lantern in its link (Brass Lantern links to xyzzynews though).

It was there when I checked, at the top of the "Community" section on
the hom epage. BTW, one reason XYZZYNews reaches a different audience
is becuase until fairly recently it was also a print publication. You
could buy a subscription and get the latest games on a diskette.

Dennis G. Jerz

Fredrik Ramsberg

unread,
Jan 3, 2002, 11:25:58 AM1/3/02
to
Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote in message news:<a0sv67$opc$3...@news.panix.com>...
> What news sources do those people hang out with? Slashdot.org?
> Memepool.com? Rec.games.design? Alt.hypertext? Commercial PC adventure
> webzines? Print PC gaming magazines? Proprietary game-publisher web
> forums, such as Activision's? The New York Times?

Figuring out the right news fora that reach people interested in IF is of
course important, but there are other ways too. I for one use search engines
every once in a while to search for stuff I'm interested in. So, why not put
up a web page containing all the search terms we can think of that would
capture those searchers? This web page should also supply them with just
the right amount of information to get them started in the IF community
and playing modern IF games. And if they searched for "Zork", try to make
sure they will actually get help to do that as well.

I got this idea about a year ago, made a web page and put it up at
http://www.octagate.com/Fredrik/Textaventyr - but this was only aimed
at a Swedish audience, written entirely in Swedish but dealing with
resources in both English and Swedish. Judging from the hits it gets,
I think it works pretty well. The page is full of IF related words,
names of operating systems, game producing companies of the eighties
etc.

The most popular search term to get people to the page has been
"Stugan" -- an IF game in Swedish for MS-DOS, that used to be on every
PC 15 years ago. I figure that means it does capture the kind of people
that would be or would like to be on an email list about Zork because
they don't know there's anything else out there today. Other popular search
terms that people use to get to the page are the Swedish equivalents
of "text adventures" and "play text adventures", as well as various specific
game names and company names.

If you view the source of the above web page, you'll see a sneaky section
of search terms written in background colour at the end of the page. The
title of the page is "textäventyr" (text adventures). It's a term that is
well known among computer users in Sweden, so I hope it's clear enough to
make people understand what the page is all about when they see it in the
hit list -- good both for those interested and those not.

/Fredrik

Andrew Plotkin

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Jan 3, 2002, 1:19:10 PM1/3/02
to
Fredrik Ramsberg <f...@mail.com> wrote:
> Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote in message news:<a0sv67$opc$3...@news.panix.com>...
>> What news sources do those people hang out with? Slashdot.org?
>> Memepool.com? Rec.games.design? Alt.hypertext? Commercial PC adventure
>> webzines? Print PC gaming magazines? Proprietary game-publisher web
>> forums, such as Activision's? The New York Times?

> Figuring out the right news fora that reach people interested in IF is of
> course important, but there are other ways too. I for one use search engines
> every once in a while to search for stuff I'm interested in. So, why not put
> up a web page containing all the search terms we can think of that would
> capture those searchers?

Google search for: interactive fiction
(1: Scott Reilly's page (links to ifarchive, many other places).
2: ifarchive.org. 3: one of Stephen Granade's pages (links to
ifarchive etc).)

Google search for: text adventure
(A looser list of results, but several of the top ten refer on to
ifarchive or RAIF/RGIF)

Google search for: text adventure
(Ditto)

I think that that search-engine honeypots are a dead end --
you can spend arbitrary amounts of time trying to make your page
attractive, but engines these days are smart enough to ignore you if
nobody links to you. It would probably be a lot more effective to make
ifarchive.org the link point (I saw a lot of old links to ftp.gmd.de
out there, which should be updated) and have the friendly newbie data
linked off the entry page.

> If you view the source of the above web page, you'll see a sneaky section
> of search terms written in background colour at the end of the page.

I *really* hate web pages that do that. There are perfectly good
HTML/HTTP mechanisms to serve out keywords. If you try to subvert the
display mechanism, you just break the web page for some users. (Ever
wonder what a web browser for the visually impaired does when it hits
your "invisible" search terms? Guess what kind of computer game is the
overwhelming favorite of people who can't see.)

And search engines do their best to ignore keyword-spam, anyway.

Knight37

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Jan 3, 2002, 2:27:17 PM1/3/02
to
kod...@zc8.net (kodrik) had the moxy to write:

>> >> How many people judged in the last comp? I'd say that's a decent
>> >> estimate of
>> >> the size of the community.
>
>> http://ifcomp.org/comp01/detailed-results.html
>
> It shows 216 people voted on this competition. There are more people
> interseted to play IF than that.

I was going to vote in the IF comp but it was just to give all the
non-German games a 1, so I decided against it. ;P

--

Knight37

"Innocence torn from me without your shelter.
Barred reality. I'm living blindly!"
-- Metallica "Dyers Eve"

kodrik

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Jan 3, 2002, 3:33:55 PM1/3/02
to
> Could you use the raw data from the comp voting as a starting point?

That's a good idea


>
> I don't think that bias towards
> any particular system would be a problem if the content were generated
> by the users. Seeding it with the raw votes from the various
> competitions would help quite a bit.

That is true

> Hmmm... well, I don't think it's possible for people to be completely
> bias-free, but in most volunteer situations, anybody who thinks they
> can do it better probably ought to be welcome to join the group.

Yes, if its a group of individuals with different purpose, it will
enforce multi-views.

> It was there when I checked, at the top of the "Community" section on
> the hom epage. BTW, one reason XYZZYNews reaches a different audience
> is becuase until fairly recently it was also a print publication. You
> could buy a subscription and get the latest games on a diskette.

You are right. The font of the first page is unreadable in my browser
but the other pages read fine. I reffered to the "links" page and not
the first page

Let's do it then. Should we start with the amazon style database of
games as the first goal?
Then under what site should we post it? Make a new one or be under an
existing one such asBrass Lantern?
Finally, what medium should we use to define the specs? I personally
like this group as people are knowledgeable about IF here and will
make sure we don't omit important factors.

kodrik

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Jan 3, 2002, 4:33:19 PM1/3/02
to
I had an idea:
Why don't we put the db in a format so it can included into any site.

The page can be made without any layout and included as a frame from
any site.
The site that is framing the page could also send text and background
color values so the DB pages can be consistent with his site, looking
like an integral part of the site.

Fredrik Ramsberg

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Jan 3, 2002, 7:41:36 PM1/3/02
to
Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote in message news:<a127au$1dq$1...@news.panix.com>...

> Fredrik Ramsberg <f...@mail.com> wrote:
> > Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote in message news:<a0sv67$opc$3...@news.panix.com>...
> >> What news sources do those people hang out with? Slashdot.org?
> >> Memepool.com? Rec.games.design? Alt.hypertext? Commercial PC adventure
> >> webzines? Print PC gaming magazines? Proprietary game-publisher web
> >> forums, such as Activision's? The New York Times?
>
> > Figuring out the right news fora that reach people interested in IF is of
> > course important, but there are other ways too. I for one use search engines
> > every once in a while to search for stuff I'm interested in. So, why not put
> > up a web page containing all the search terms we can think of that would
> > capture those searchers?
>
> Google search for: interactive fiction
> (1: Scott Reilly's page (links to ifarchive, many other places).
> 2: ifarchive.org. 3: one of Stephen Granade's pages (links to
> ifarchive etc).)

Irrelevant in finding the people I'm talking about. They don't know
it's called Interactive Fiction. You could might as well tell me about
the search results for "Inform" or "TADS".

> Google search for: text adventure
> (A looser list of results, but several of the top ten refer on to
> ifarchive or RAIF/RGIF)

Referring to if-archive is not good enough -- only a hacker type of
person will take the effort to try to understand what the if-archive
is and how to use it to play games, unless provided with a fair
amount of introduction. A pointer to Brass Lantern or some similar site
would be more useful. A pointer to r.*.i-f is not the way to start either,
for most people. Most people will start by lurking, and may well grow
tired before they find something that helps them to actually start
playing the games. The FAQ may help, but it's too big to be a good
first read. Also, links to the newsgroups usually use the "news:"
protocol, which will cause problems for anyone who hasn't set up
a Usenet reader on their machine. Most people haven't.

> I think that that search-engine honeypots are a dead end --
> you can spend arbitrary amounts of time trying to make your page
> attractive, but engines these days are smart enough to ignore you if
> nobody links to you.

Maybe they are, but at least this doesn't go for Google, alltheweb.com
or Altavista. They all accepted my page before there were any links to
it.

> It would probably be a lot more effective to make
> ifarchive.org the link point (I saw a lot of old links to ftp.gmd.de
> out there, which should be updated) and have the friendly newbie data
> linked off the entry page.

Not a bad idea at all. I can't see how that makes a newbie-page trying
to get a good search engine ranking superfluous.

> > If you view the source of the above web page, you'll see a sneaky section
> > of search terms written in background colour at the end of the page.
>
> I *really* hate web pages that do that.

I can understand your opinion. I hate it too, but only if the web page is
trying to get more hits from people who are not really after that kind of
information. If I put in porn terms just to generate hits, that sucks. If
I put in IF terms in order to get hits from people wanting to play IF,
I don't think it's wrong.

> There are perfectly good
> HTML/HTTP mechanisms to serve out keywords.

I don't trust the search engines to accept any number of keywords.

> If you try to subvert the
> display mechanism, you just break the web page for some users. (Ever
> wonder what a web browser for the visually impaired does when it hits
> your "invisible" search terms? Guess what kind of computer game is the
> overwhelming favorite of people who can't see.)

That's a very good point, for which I thank you. I moved the search terms
to the end of the page long ago. I will now also add a line saying
"The actual information ends here, the rest of the page is only search
keywords.".

> And search engines do their best to ignore keyword-spam, anyway.

Their best isn't good enough. If you search for "textäventyr" (text
adventure in Swedish) on Google, Alltheweb or Norhern Ligth, you will
find my site as hit #1. On AltaVista, it's #3. It has high rankings on
most search engines. Of course, there are fewer pages competing when
using Swedish words, but this is never the less #1 among 200-300 pages
or so on most big search engines.

/Fredrik

Rúmil

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Jan 3, 2002, 8:07:44 PM1/3/02
to
"Kevin Forchione" <Ke...@lysseus.com> wrote in message news:<V3MX7.28568$uM.243095@rwcrnsc54>...
> Markets are not communities, communities are not markets. They only
> intersect to a varying degree. If you're coming at IF from a merchandising
> angle you'll be sorely disappointed by this community. These guys can
> already produce "commercial" quality IF, and they do it for free. Sure,
> they'd like to make a living at it, but the fact that there's no market for
> it doesn't dissuade them from their pursuit in producing great games.

You must use the phrase "commercial quality" differently from me. If
it's impossible for these people to make a living writing their games,
then I would say that their games are, by my definition not commercial
quality.

Hey...if one of the great IF writers wrote something that several
well-known IF players agreed was far more fun than any other
interactive fiction they'd ever played, are you sure most people here
wouldn't pay $5 for it? I sure would! For most people, if you think
about it, the cost of the time it takes to play a computer game is
always greater than the cost of the money to acquire the game. I'd
gladly have paid $5 for an improved version of Curses that cut out a
few dumb puzzles; I could have easily earned $20 in the time I would
have saved. (Walkthroughs aren't nearly as fun; they spoil cool
difficult puzzles just as quickly as lame ones.) Heck, if Infocom had
enabed simple commands like "GO GET THE LANTERN," I could have saved
hours of my life, and even as a kid that would have been worth a few
bucks. Do you have any idea how much time you have to spend wandering
from room to room if you want to win Zork Zero?

-JJH

kodrik

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Jan 3, 2002, 8:10:07 PM1/3/02
to
f...@mail.com (Fredrik Ramsberg) wrote in message news:<ab01df60.02010...@posting.google.com>...

> Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote in message news:<a0sv67$opc$3...@news.panix.com>...
> > What news sources do those people hang out with? Slashdot.org?
> > Memepool.com? Rec.games.design? Alt.hypertext? Commercial PC adventure
> > webzines? Print PC gaming magazines? Proprietary game-publisher web
> > forums, such as Activision's? The New York Times?
>
> Figuring out the right news fora that reach people interested in IF is of
> course important, but there are other ways too. I for one use search engines
> every once in a while to search for stuff I'm interested in. So, why not put
> up a web page containing all the search terms we can think of that would
> capture those searchers? This web page should also supply them with just
> the right amount of information to get them started in the IF community
> and playing modern IF games. And if they searched for "Zork", try to make
> sure they will actually get help to do that as well.

Yes, but it cannot be just a plain list of words or it will work
against you.

> but this was only aimed
> at a Swedish audience, written entirely in Swedish but dealing with
> resources in both English and Swedish. Judging from the hits it gets,
> I think it works pretty well. The page is full of IF related words,
> names of operating systems, game producing companies of the eighties
> etc.

Having mutliple languages on sites is a plus for search engines.



> The most popular search term to get people to the page has been
> "Stugan" -- an IF game in Swedish for MS-DOS, that used to be on every
> PC 15 years ago. I figure that means it does capture the kind of people
> that would be or would like to be on an email list about Zork because
> they don't know there's anything else out there today.

Since we will have a reference with a description and voting for every
game (basically every game will have a page), this should be covered.

>Other popular search
> terms that people use to get to the page are the Swedish equivalents
> of "text adventures" and "play text adventures", as well as various specific
> game names and company names.

Of course, all keywords are important.


> If you view the source of the above web page, you'll see a sneaky section
> of search terms written in background colour at the end of the page. The
> title of the page is "textäventyr" (text adventures). It's a term that is
> well known among computer users in Sweden, so I hope it's clear enough to
> make people understand what the page is all about when they see it in the
> hit list -- good both for those interested and those not.

This will actually banyou from some search engine crawlers that can
easily see this trick.


Search engines are important, you need to have all your terms, as many
site link to you as possible (especially popular info sites),
intelligent sentences for description and titles, intelligently worded
first paragraphs, have multiple languages, populate the manual search
engines. Buying cheap advertising from serach engines also helps.

joh

unread,
Jan 3, 2002, 9:38:43 PM1/3/02
to
>>>>> "Rúmil" == Rúmil <je...@hatch.net> writes:
...
Rúmil> Hey...if one of the great IF writers wrote something that
Rúmil> several well-known IF players agreed was far more fun than
Rúmil> any other interactive fiction they'd ever played, are you
Rúmil> sure most people here wouldn't pay $5 for it? I sure
Rúmil> would!
...

It's not so much the money; it's the inconvenience. If I could
teleport $5 into peoples' pockets, there are a lot of folks I'd pay
off for the software, literature, music, art, etc. that they've made
available to me. But if I've got to actually write a check or even
fill out a form with my credit card number, the hassle is more of an
issue to me than the money.

And the first time I get a "This is shareware; pay me!" notice is the
last time I ever use a piece of software. I hate to be nagged.

I imagine that someday taking online payments will be convenient
enough that authors who want to can all have a tip jar on their Web
page.

joh

Adam Thornton

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Jan 3, 2002, 10:33:44 PM1/3/02
to
In article <87bsga9...@hammurabi.foo.bar>,

joh <j...@bigblueheron.com> wrote:
>I imagine that someday taking online payments will be convenient
>enough that authors who want to can all have a tip jar on their Web
>page.

Um, PayPal?

Adam

Andrew Plotkin

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Jan 3, 2002, 10:54:43 PM1/3/02
to

> Um, PayPal?

Not convenient enough for me.

Kevin Forchione

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Jan 4, 2002, 12:25:37 AM1/4/02
to
"Rúmil" <je...@hatch.net> wrote in message
news:54fc482a.02010...@posting.google.com...

> You must use the phrase "commercial quality" differently from me. If
> it's impossible for these people to make a living writing their games,
> then I would say that their games are, by my definition not commercial
> quality.

That's too narrow of a definition for my taste. Whether one makes a living
doing something or not doesn't abrogate the quality of craftsmanship. The
fact that Inform was the system of choice for prototyping Activision's
graphical Zork game speaks for itself.

--Kevin


Dennis G Jerz

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Jan 4, 2002, 2:08:56 AM1/4/02
to
kod...@zc8.net (kodrik) wrote in message news:<269806b2.0201...@posting.google.com>...

Could the code refer to a local style sheet and a local logo file,
thus adding possibilities for personalization? I do think that a key
to making this a success is making lots of people feel they are
welcome to participate.

Are there similar game-rating resoures for graphic games? Would this
be a tool to draw members of the mainstream gaming populace? Or is IF
such a different breed of game that the correlations will be almost
random?

Dennis G Jerz

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Jan 4, 2002, 2:18:28 AM1/4/02
to
Random observation...

I watch many students who are new to IF call up the interpreter's help
file, expecting to get a hint file for the game. A long thread about
bundled game-and-interpreter files from about a year ago might be
worth reading. (The thread was "What, no exe's?", IIRC. In that
thread, I recall arguing that many newbies who are used to popping in
CDs or click icons are completely stymied by the concept of "game
file" and "interpreter". Even when the two are bundled, as I know
they can be, there's still the issue of where to find help files.

How about an update to the latest interpreters that that, when you
press "F1" for help, takes you to a web page with hints? Or at least,
enters the game file name into this proposed IF database, and shows
you the related files... hopefully one of them is a walkthrough. The
page could them pre-load a link to search Google for 'gamefile
{walkthrough or solution)' (or however it would need to be formatted
for Google to accept it).

Magnus Olsson

unread,
Jan 4, 2002, 8:23:51 AM1/4/02
to
In article <54fc482a.02010...@posting.google.com>,

Rúmil <je...@hatch.net> wrote:
>"Kevin Forchione" <Ke...@lysseus.com> wrote in message
>news:<V3MX7.28568$uM.243095@rwcrnsc54>...
>> Markets are not communities, communities are not markets. They only
>> intersect to a varying degree. If you're coming at IF from a merchandising
>> angle you'll be sorely disappointed by this community. These guys can
>> already produce "commercial" quality IF, and they do it for free. Sure,
>> they'd like to make a living at it, but the fact that there's no market for
>> it doesn't dissuade them from their pursuit in producing great games.
>
>You must use the phrase "commercial quality" differently from me. If
>it's impossible for these people to make a living writing their games,
>then I would say that their games are, by my definition not commercial
>quality.

And, by implication, anything of "commercial quality" will
automatically allow its author to make a living from it?

I'd say such a definition of "commercial quality" isn't very useful.

As I see it, a successful commercial product must

a) be of high quality
b) satisfy a demand

To me, it's meaningful to talk about "commercial quality" when
discussing condition a) above. That is, it is possible to have a
product of commercial quality which is in very low demand. For
example, if you invested thousands of man-hours into an Inform
compiler you could attain the same quality as commercial compilers,
but you would still not be able to make a living from it.

--
Magnus Olsson (m...@df.lth.se, m...@pobox.com)
------ http://www.pobox.com/~mol ------

Kevin Forchione

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Jan 4, 2002, 1:12:07 PM1/4/02
to
"Dennis G Jerz" <jer...@uwec.edu> wrote in message
news:792c6202.02010...@posting.google.com...

> Random observation...
>
> I watch many students who are new to IF call up the interpreter's help
> file, expecting to get a hint file for the game. A long thread about
> bundled game-and-interpreter files from about a year ago might be
> worth reading. (The thread was "What, no exe's?", IIRC. In that
> thread, I recall arguing that many newbies who are used to popping in
> CDs or click icons are completely stymied by the concept of "game
> file" and "interpreter".

Tell them game files are like MP3 files. They'll get the picture. They can't
all be Napster-illiterate.

--Kevin


Dennis G. Jerz

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Jan 4, 2002, 2:44:51 PM1/4/02