The Future of IF

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Jim Aikin

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Apr 15, 2002, 4:41:20 PM4/15/02
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I'm wondering how other IF authors see the future of this genre. Not
in a technical sense (more sophisticated parsers, etc.), though that's
always an interesting topic, but in a broader sense.

I'm bringing this up because I'm wondering about my own level of
commitment to the field. As a (once-upon-a-time) published science
fiction novelist, I have a strong bias in favor of actually getting
paid for my creative work. Thus, the idea that I'll forevermore be
writing my IF for free is, if not actively irksome, at least something
I need to take into account in planning my weekly schedule of
activities.

One way of looking at it is that for text-based IF to become
marketable, it would inevitably have to become a completely different
animal -- tricked out with graphics and music, click-and-use
inventory, a dumbed-down parser that the Great Unwashed could deal
with, and so on. If you buy this line of thought (and I'm not saying I
do or don't), what the IF community/ghetto has at present is actually
the best of all possible worlds -- very serviceable free tools for
creating free games, and a small but loyal fan base that actually
downloads our stuff.

(Does anybody have any idea how many IF fans there actually are at
present? Are we talking 200 people worldwide? 2,000? Surely not more
than that....)

On the other hand, a case could be made that at some point in the not
too distant future, some type of text-based IF could conceivably
resurface as a marketable commodity, at least in a modest sense. If
20,000 people will buy a paperback book by a virtually unknown SF
author (and they will), surely it's not much of a stretch to imagine
that one might be able to sell 20,000 copies of a $29.95 IF game if it
were (a) well written, (b) attractively packaged, (c) bug-free, (d)
competently distributed, and (e) imaginatively promoted.

For this to happen, it seems to me, we'd need at the very least a
cross-platform game interpreter that didn't look like a refugee from
1985 (or 1978...). After tinkering for a few weeks with the idea of
developing my own delivery platform, however, I've reluctantly
concluded that I'm not enough of a programmer to put it together.

Does anybody else think such a delivery platform is desirable? Or is
everybody but me happy writing free software?

FYI -- yes, I know about html tads and blorb/glulx. IMO, there's more
to looking credible in 2002 than just being able to slap your own
jpegs into the text window.

--Jim Aikin

************************************
"Those instances of it which lack
the quality referred to as 'swing'
are meaningless." --Duke Ellington
************************************

kodrik

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Apr 15, 2002, 5:16:40 PM4/15/02
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> For this to happen, it seems to me, we'd need at the very least a
> cross-platform game interpreter that didn't look like a refugee from
> 1985 (or 1978...). After tinkering for a few weeks with the idea of
> developing my own delivery platform, however, I've reluctantly
> concluded that I'm not enough of a programmer to put it together.

First, read this post
http://groups.google.com/groups?q=mxrpg+group:rec.arts.int-fiction&hl=en&selm=u90a4o2v9buo11%40corp.supernews.com&rnum=1

I am dedicating my time to writing a new engine to sell IF games. It will
make IF easily accessible to the masses and attractive as a licensing
product for some markets.

Right now, I am concentrating on enhancing my engine greatly, but when it's
ready I will start discussions to figure out what best ways to approach
selling the games so my engine can support them.

Meanwhile, if you want to email me, I will be glad to discuss with you the
posibiilties I currently see.

As for the player interface, my engine will be able to use Flash as a front
end so multimedia will not be an issue. Again, I will talk about this later
when I am at this stage but you are welcome to email me about it.

Kevin Forchione

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Apr 15, 2002, 9:57:43 PM4/15/02
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"Jim Aikin" <jai...@musicplayer.com> wrote in message
news:f904a017.02041...@posting.google.com...

> One way of looking at it is that for text-based IF to become
> marketable, it would inevitably have to become a completely different
> animal -- tricked out with graphics and music, click-and-use
> inventory, a dumbed-down parser that the Great Unwashed could deal
> with, and so on.

Not interested. That's not why I do IF.

>If you buy this line of thought (and I'm not saying I
> do or don't), what the IF community/ghetto

I'm not sure "ghetto" is the right word, in that it implies, amongst other
things, "a situation conferring inferior status or limiting opportunity".

The IF community is more akin to a biker club.

>has at present is actually
> the best of all possible worlds -- very serviceable free tools for
> creating free games, and a small but loyal fan base that actually
> downloads our stuff.

Yep.

--Kevin


Jim Fisher

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Apr 15, 2002, 10:00:11 PM4/15/02
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> On the other hand, a case could be made that at some point in the not
> too distant future, some type of text-based IF could conceivably
> resurface as a marketable commodity, at least in a modest sense. If
> 20,000 people will buy a paperback book by a virtually unknown SF
> author (and they will), surely it's not much of a stretch to imagine
> that one might be able to sell 20,000 copies of a $29.95 IF game if it
> were (a) well written, (b) attractively packaged, (c) bug-free, (d)
> competently distributed, and (e) imaginatively promoted.

I don't mean to sound pessimistic, but I seriously doubt that there will
ever be a sizable paying market for IF again. Now I don't doubt that there
is a marginal possibility that text adventures (with or without graphics)
could become popular for a time, possibly with the development of some new
platform such as a cell phone that plays text adventures (I understand they
have those). However, the work we have done for *free* over the last decade
has been both our greatest success as a community and our greatest inhibitor
with regard to monetary value. We have created hundreds and hundreds of
games of varying quality for *free*, devised numerous open-source
interpreters for virtually any platform for *free* and produced
walk-through, hints, and how-tos for *free.* Even given a revival in
popularity, how many people would actually pay for a text adventure now?

It is possible that a game time that could be created in the future that
might possibly command enough respect for people to actually pay for, but it
wouldn't have anything to do with the game itself. More probably it would
be because some famous, well-followed, main-stream static-text author (with
more of a following than the fabulous Douglas Adams) decided to do a
cross-over, say... Stephen King, and some well-funded agency publicized the
heck out of it.

Just my opinion.
--
Jim (AT) OnyxRing (DOT) com
Visit "An Inform Developer's Guide" or browse the
"ORLibrary" extensions to the standard library at
www.OnyxRing.com
----------------------
Some days you eat the code; some days the code eats you

Jim Fisher

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Apr 15, 2002, 10:05:23 PM4/15/02
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> more of a following than the fabulous Douglas Adams) decided to do a

Um, I retract this. I meant to say "as much of of more of a following
than..."

OKB (not okblacke)

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Apr 16, 2002, 1:16:11 AM4/16/02
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Kevin Forchione wrote:
> The IF community is more akin to a biker club.

And we all ride Corley Motors exclusively!

--
--OKB (not okblacke)
"When I'm on the road, I'm indestructible. No one can stop me. But they try."
--Ben

Jim Aikin

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Apr 16, 2002, 1:39:50 AM4/16/02
to


I read that at the time you posted it. To be honest, it seemed a little
scattered to me. (Still does.) Hopping from Zork to minitel text games
to RPGs to online game-playing, by way of some kind of Bible for
children ... and then there's this whole thing about databasing IF
functions. That's your project too, right?

I'm thinking of something a little more conventional, I guess.


> I am dedicating my time to writing a new engine to sell IF games. It will
> make IF easily accessible to the masses and attractive as a licensing
> product for some markets.


Without knowing more specifics about what you have in mind, it's tough
for me to comment on that. Your parser was the subject of a recent
thread about ignoring not-understood words, as I recall. I thought some
of the points that were raised were cogent.

In the age of the Internet (though in a slightly different sense than
you mean if you were referring to your parser), everything is
"accessible to the masses." The trick, as Frank Zappa so pithily put it,
is to get the kid to walk up to the cash register with your hunk of
shrinkwrapped plastic in one hand and some money in the other. If you
can do that, you can make a living at it. If you can't, you can't. Real
simple.


> Right now, I am concentrating on enhancing my engine greatly, but when it's
> ready I will start discussions to figure out what best ways to approach
> selling the games so my engine can support them.


Isn't that backwards? Don't you support the games by building an engine
first, and *then* sell them? I understand you're not a native English
speaker, so I don't want to be too harsh, but I really don't understand
what you're getting at.


> As for the player interface, my engine will be able to use Flash as a front
> end so multimedia will not be an issue.


My impression is that Flash is mainly designed for Web content delivery.
(Correct me if I'm wrong -- maybe I'm thinking of Shockwave.) Maybe it's
just me, but I more or less hate the Web. Great informational medium,
lousy entertainment medium. For one thing, it ties up my phone line. For
another, it's slow-slow-slow. Then there's the non-trivial question of
how you get anyone to pay for Web content. At minimum, this requires a
secure server and stuff.

I'm an old-fashioned guy. (Yes, I'm over 50.) I like the idea of selling
CD-ROMs, because I have a weird idea that people are more likely to pay
for something they can hold in their hot little hand.

Thanks for your feedback, though. I'm really not trying to be a
curmudgeon here. I'm very interested in everything anyone has to say on
this topic. One of the interesting things about this community is that
there are so many points of view. The old blind-men-and-the-elephant
schtick.

--Jim Aikin

Jim Aikin

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Apr 16, 2002, 1:45:08 AM4/16/02
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Kevin Forchione wrote:


> I'm not sure "ghetto" is the right word, in that it implies, amongst other
> things, "a situation conferring inferior status or limiting opportunity".


I was being deliberately provocative. But I'd suggest that "limited
opportunity" is a precise characterization of the present situation, in
two related respects: (a) there's no money, and therefore (b) there's no
possibility of developing any type of IF that would require extensive
work with sophisticated software tools (and therefore money). Not saying
TADS 3 isn't sophisticated, but it's sophisticated specifically ***in
terms of the norms of this community.***


>>has at present is actually
>>the best of all possible worlds -- very serviceable free tools for
>>creating free games, and a small but loyal fan base that actually
>>downloads our stuff.
>
> Yep.


Okay. If the consensus is with you on that, then I'm simply out of step.
That's what I'm trying to find out.

--Jim Aikin


Jim Aikin

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Apr 16, 2002, 1:50:26 AM4/16/02
to
Jim Fisher wrote:


> Now I don't doubt that there
> is a marginal possibility that text adventures (with or without graphics)
> could become popular for a time, possibly with the development of some new
> platform such as a cell phone that plays text adventures (I understand they
> have those).


Ugh ugh ugh ugh ugh ugh ugh ugh ugh. (That's 9 ughs.)

> However, the work we have done for *free* over the last decade
> has been both our greatest success as a community and our greatest inhibitor
> with regard to monetary value. We have created hundreds and hundreds of
> games of varying quality for *free*, devised numerous open-source
> interpreters for virtually any platform for *free* and produced
> walk-through, hints, and how-tos for *free.* Even given a revival in
> popularity, how many people would actually pay for a text adventure now?


You may be right. On the other hand, "of varying quality" is a
significant qualifier. Most people who might be interested in playing a
text-based game (a) don't know our community exists, and if they do
happen to stumble on it (b) have no idea how to separate the wheat from
the chaff, content-wise.


> More probably it would
> be because some famous, well-followed, main-stream static-text author (with
> more of a following than the fabulous Douglas Adams) decided to do a
> cross-over, say... Stephen King, and some well-funded agency publicized the
> heck out of it.


Good suggestion!


--Jim Aikin

kodrik

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Apr 16, 2002, 3:55:18 AM4/16/02
to
> I read that at the time you posted it. To be honest, it seemed a little
> scattered to me. (Still does.) Hopping from Zork to minitel text games
> to RPGs to online game-playing, by way of some kind of Bible for
> children ... and then there's this whole thing about databasing IF
> functions. That's your project too, right?

No, the beginning was my personal experience and what brought me to decide
in designing this engine.
The project is a a server based engine that can interact with different
remote interface (flash, Java, xml).

> Without knowing more specifics about what you have in mind, it's tough
> for me to comment on that. Your parser was the subject of a recent
> thread about ignoring not-understood words, as I recall. I thought some
> of the points that were raised were cogent.

Well, I put my engine up saying it wasn't ready and the Ritual was to help
me improve on it at an early stage. It succeeded too well and prompted me
to write another engine.

Actually, the ignoring words was one good aspect of the parser and the
reaction during the phase I was improving on the Ritual and the engine were
positive, but they were some bad aspect:
* Disambiguiation.
* Match of parts of words. If you typed, "think about bob", it would see
the "out" and think that's what you meant.
* Work in creating objects with all possible interaction easily built in.

The two first one were solveable with the current system but the third
prompted me to take a whole different approach. It will still be structure
based but will match the "subject", "verb", "preposition", "direct object",
"indirect object" and perform appropriate action depending on behaviors
defined in the library.
Disambiguation and misunderstanding have both been solved also by matching
full word and identifying sentence structures.

>> Right now, I am concentrating on enhancing my engine greatly, but when
>> it's ready I will start discussions to figure out what best ways to
>> approach selling the games so my engine can support them.
>
>
> Isn't that backwards? Don't you support the games by building an engine
> first, and *then* sell them? I understand you're not a native English
> speaker, so I don't want to be too harsh, but I really don't understand
> what you're getting at.

The engine is made so games can be selled and since it's server based, some
of the playing environment is in the engine. For example:
* we could sell a minimum of $20, with most game being $5, it would help
sell more game by the playr having credits and being first attracted by a
pericular game
* we could have a credit-back guarantee like with payper-view movies, if
you play a game less than 15 minutes, you can cancel your purchase and get
credite for the value of the game.
* We could have a preview limited by time or other facter, play this game
for up to 10 minutes without logging in to see if you like it.
This is too early to talk about it that's why I said I would rather wait, I
will bring it up when the engine is ready but before commercial games are
finished so authors have an idea of what options they will have.

> My impression is that Flash is mainly designed for Web content delivery.

Flash and shockwave run great locally, there are many CDs sold whose
contents are based on this technology (especially kids games).

> (Correct me if I'm wrong -- maybe I'm thinking of Shockwave.) Maybe it's
> just me, but I more or less hate the Web. Great informational medium,
> lousy entertainment medium. For one thing, it ties up my phone line. For
> another, it's slow-slow-slow. Then there's the non-trivial question of
> how you get anyone to pay for Web content. At minimum, this requires a
> secure server and stuff.

All the games are run from my server so it doesn't require the author to
set anything up.
And yes, you will have to be connected to the internet to play as well as
create your game which will be a drawback for people like you, although not
for many people who have dedicated lines for the internet. There are
100,000s of people paying $10/month to play online role playing, it is a
market in demand.
I did this most importantly because the easiest and most lucrative market
to reach first is the mobile market. They make their money based connection
time so they want it to be server based and you get paid upfront a
licensing fee.
Also, being server based for internet play, we get much more information
about people playing our game and we can create a community which can
promote itself. When the community is large enough, we have data to support
the investment and interest to promote other distribution means (liek CDs).


> I'm an old-fashioned guy. (Yes, I'm over 50.) I like the idea of selling
> CD-ROMs, because I have a weird idea that people are more likely to pay
> for something they can hold in their hot little hand.

Yes, but my example with the Bible was to show how hard it can be to enter
the market of CDs. It is a market I want to reach, but I think the wisest
way to reach it is first to create the demand online.

Emily Short

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Apr 16, 2002, 4:00:38 AM4/16/02
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In article <f904a017.02041...@posting.google.com>,
jai...@musicplayer.com (Jim Aikin) wrote:

> I'm wondering how other IF authors see the future of this genre. Not
> in a technical sense (more sophisticated parsers, etc.), though that's
> always an interesting topic, but in a broader sense.
>
> I'm bringing this up because I'm wondering about my own level of
> commitment to the field. As a (once-upon-a-time) published science
> fiction novelist, I have a strong bias in favor of actually getting
> paid for my creative work. Thus, the idea that I'll forevermore be
> writing my IF for free is, if not actively irksome, at least something
> I need to take into account in planning my weekly schedule of
> activities.

1. I don't think IF is ever likely to be commercially viable again.

2. This does not bother me, since I don't really want it to be.

If I understand what you're saying in your posts, you'd like IF to sell
because then a) you'd be paid back for your time and also b) more
sophisticated resources would be involved. But then you get something
that puts game creation out of reach of the individual (e.g. me) and into
the hands of companies with marketing agendas, just like all those
commercial game companies out there already. They've done some good work
as well as bad, admittedly, but my sense is that for marketing reasons
there has been a bit of stagnation in what they're willing to try. Better
graphics engines, yes. Entirely new style of game, not so much. IF
remains vibrantly experimental, partly because it doesn't *have* to sell.
(NB that this is a barely-informed opinion which I gathered from the close
reading of one (1) issue of Computer Gaming World and some computer game
reviews on the web. I personally have not purchased a commercial game
since Where In Time Is Carmen San Diego?. So maybe I'm really just very
much the wrong person to ask.)

Still, I think that making IF into something that would appeal to a large
paying audience would also mean a fundamental shift in what it is. I
don't think the graphical-game audience is ever going to be interested
(read some of the comments on text adventures on download.com, if you want
a sense for people's reaction to a game without pictures); I don't think
the book-reading audience will really want to get into it unless/until we
have something a lot closer to natural language parsing, which is not a
matter of designing some cool interfaces that look like pages, but of
major linguistics/AI/cognitive science research and development.

I also don't really like the thought of what would happen if there were
tens of thousands of IF fans out there in the world. The fan/author ratio
would get a lot higher, there'd be less of a sense of equality and
collaboration; the community that I am fond of would dissolve.

There are a few things about the idea of commercial IF that appeal to me,
though the ability to provide high-quality feelies is the only one that
comes to mind at the moment. Yeah. Really, that's pretty much it.

Every time I express this opinion, it seems to make people annoyed, so
I'll apologize now if I've done it again. I do realize that for a lot of
people having a larger audience or monetary compensation for their work
would make a big difference. It would probably make a big difference to
me, too, in a strictly financial sense; I tend to spend between 10 and 80
hours a week on IF, depending on where I am in a project and whether
classes are in session. Billed at a reasonable scale, this would pay
several times my current income in the course of a year.

If it paid me at all, that is. I seriously doubt that any commercial
software company would hire me, given my total lack of formal CS
background or industry experience, and I suspect that I might not like the
experience of working for one, either.

I do this because I like the community and I like the artistic freedom.
Recommercializing IF would destroy both those things. And I disagree
strongly with the opinion expressed or implied by a number of people on
this subject, namely that an activity is not really worthwhile unless it
makes money. Admittedly it's a lot easier to explain your time
expenditure to curious friends/parents/spouses/etc. if you're drawing a
paycheck. And some people (Mercury did this, IIRC) will claim that
anything that can't earn money mustn't be any good. But the former one
can usually deal with somehow, and the latter is just patently false.

--
Emily Short
http://emshort.home.mindspring.com/index.htm

Sean T Barrett

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Apr 16, 2002, 8:47:34 AM4/16/02
to
In article <f904a017.02041...@posting.google.com>,

>I'm wondering how other IF authors see the future of this genre. Not
>If 20,000 people will buy a paperback book by a virtually unknown SF
>author (and they will), surely it's not much of a stretch to imagine
>that one might be able to sell 20,000 copies of a $29.95 IF game if it
>were (a) well written, (b) attractively packaged, (c) bug-free, (d)
>competently distributed, and (e) imaginatively promoted.

Seems like quite a stretch to me: the paperpack costs, what, $5.95,
and I if it's good, I can re-read it over and over; after the first
time, the surprises are gone but the essence of the work is not.
This is not generally true of story-driven games; you have to work
at it, even though the interaction is no longer interesting, after
the first time. (There are exceptions, but rare.)

Plus the potentially-reachable market is a smaller; you don't
get taught how to play IF in grade school.

SeanB

A.P. Hill

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Apr 16, 2002, 8:50:22 AM4/16/02
to
It's a hobby for me, so I have no problem creating free work.

If you want to make a large sum of cash from your hobby, you could
look into reference material for that and then use that arcane wisdom
to your IF. I know some people who own little Baseball Card shops on
the corner, and they dress real fancy. Next time I'm in there, I'm
going to ask them they're secret to success.
"Say, hey bud. C'mhere for a sec. No, I don't want no Mantle card, I
was wondering, how much do you make selling those fancy cards over
yonder? "

It would be cool to see the following while driving down the road in a
honda:
"Now passing Walmart, Target, Blockbuster Video, Exxon, Interactive
Fiction Gazoobo, McDonalds, Texaco, and Home Depot. That would be
cool, I know I'd stop in to see the products.

Seriously though, I'm sure if there was money to be made, and I mean
big bucks like you stated you wanted, I'm sure that it would've been
done already and saturated with pop culture icons. I'm not so sure
Elton John would've been a music writer if Interactive Fiction was an
avenue for success. I'm sure at some point he began working on a Zork
like work entitled, "Loco the crazy cat", an interactive fiction, but
his agent probably said, "Hey Elton, that ain't cuttin' it. I mean,
there's no dough Elton. "

Being a cocaine dealer would probably be more 'money in your pocket'
than writing, if that's what you want is money, like you mentioned.
The writers who do their work for free because they enjoy it, are the
ones that sometimes get lucky and bring in a few bucks. That's not
my opinion that's facts based on Leonard Ruby Law of Theocratcicory.

A.P. Hill
24.256.354.49

Sean T Barrett

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Apr 16, 2002, 8:56:23 AM4/16/02
to
Emily Short <ems...@mindspring.com> wrote:
>the hands of companies with marketing agendas, just like all those
>commercial game companies out there already. They've done some good work
>as well as bad, admittedly, but my sense is that for marketing reasons
>there has been a bit of stagnation in what they're willing to try. Better
>graphics engines, yes. Entirely new style of game, not so much. IF
>remains vibrantly experimental, partly because it doesn't *have* to sell.
>(NB that this is a barely-informed opinion which I gathered from the close
>reading of one (1) issue of Computer Gaming World and some computer game
>reviews on the web. I personally have not purchased a commercial game
>since Where In Time Is Carmen San Diego?. So maybe I'm really just very
>much the wrong person to ask.)

As an insider in the game-industry, I agree. Even a company known
for doing somewhat innovative things, like Ion Storm Austin doing
Deus Ex, soon ends up in the position where the two products they
are doing are both sequels (Deus Ex 2 and Thief 3). Then again, I
am definitely a curmudgeon; there are smart people in the game
industry who would say I'm selling it short--or rather than while
most of the game industry is guilty, it's not a structural problem
with the game industry that can't be improved from within.

>If it paid me at all, that is. I seriously doubt that any commercial
>software company would hire me, given my total lack of formal CS
>background or industry experience, and I suspect that I might not like the
>experience of working for one, either.

On (a), hush you, as I've said before; but irrelevant because
(b) is no doubt true.

>I do this because I like the community and I like the artistic freedom.
>Recommercializing IF would destroy both those things.

Oops, I snipped the part where you talked about it breaking up the
community. First of all, the intellectual give-and-take collaboration
might well still happen between the authors, much as it has with
all those famous artist/author circles/schools through the ages.
Secondly, the existence of commercial IF would not prevent the
existence of "hobbyist" IF; and indeed, the hobbyist IF might well
stay experimental and still have the same community attending to it.

>And I disagree strongly with the opinion expressed or implied by
>a number of people on this subject, namely that an activity is
>not really worthwhile unless it makes money.

Of course I agree with this. Er, or disagree with this. Or rather,
I agree with disagreeing with this. Or, oh fuckit.

SeanB

Jim Nelson

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Apr 16, 2002, 11:34:20 AM4/16/02
to
Jim Aikin (kill_spammers@kill_spammers.org) says ...

>
> I was being deliberately provocative. But I'd suggest that "limited
> opportunity" is a precise characterization of the present situation, in
> two related respects: (a) there's no money, and therefore (b) there's no
> possibility of developing any type of IF that would require extensive
> work with sophisticated software tools (and therefore money). Not saying
> TADS 3 isn't sophisticated, but it's sophisticated specifically ***in
> terms of the norms of this community.***

I guess I see the TADS and Inform parsers as sophisticated, period.
They've enjoyed years (a decade!) of work, rework, and constant
evaluation by, in essence, a loyal, responsive beta-test community. Any
software house would be lucky to hold that kind of stable, robust code
base.

I hear what you're saying. Your Zappa aphorism is apropos, but what's
implicit in it is a marketing group, ad campaigns, distribution chains,
etc. I guess I don't see the parser as the problem; it's getting the
dogs to eat the dog food, as one salesman I once knew liked to say.

--
Jim Nelson
jim_n...@mindspring.com

Andrew Plotkin

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Apr 16, 2002, 11:10:07 AM4/16/02
to
Emily Short <ems...@mindspring.com> wrote:

> Still, I think that making IF into something that would appeal to a large
> paying audience would also mean a fundamental shift in what it is.

I don't think IF will ever compete for the attention of the market
that buys today's commercial video games.

*But* today's commercial video games are not aimed at the market that
bought the 1980's text adventures.

(I'm talking about markets, here, not individuals. As individuals,
lots of people are in both markets. Go look up the format of a PS2
game called _Rez_, and then figure out why I spent an hour playing it
last night. :-)

The book-industry model seems a lot more probable for 21st-century
commercial IF. Writing a book is not out of the reach of an individual
artist; in fact, individual artists dominate the book world.

As for the community -- the first World Science Fiction Convention, in
1939, drew 200 attendees. They presumably all knew each other; if they
didn't, they all did by the end of the weekend.

The Worldcon I went to last year got -- I can't find the number, but I
think three or four thousand attendees. We did not all know each
other. It would be cool to know everyone in the SF world. But you
know, a whole lot of people still managed to get together and talk;
and a *hell* of a lot more good SF was published in 2001 than in 1939.

> It would probably make a big difference to
> me, too, in a strictly financial sense; I tend to spend between 10 and 80
> hours a week on IF, depending on where I am in a project and whether
> classes are in session. Billed at a reasonable scale, this would pay
> several times my current income in the course of a year.

> If it paid me at all, that is. I seriously doubt that any commercial
> software company would hire me, given my total lack of formal CS
> background or industry experience, and I suspect that I might not like the
> experience of working for one, either.

That's the software-industry model, which isn't going to happen, in
either respect. You'll never be paid a programmer-traditional salary
for writing IF. You *might* be paid a few dollars per copy sold,
perhaps with a few thousand dollars advanced. Less money, but nobody
would be reading your resume beforehand.

--Z

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

DarrenH

unread,
Apr 16, 2002, 1:16:58 PM4/16/02
to
I agree that, right now, IF seems to be somewhat stuck in the late 80's from
an aesthetic point of view.

It will take innovation, not a stubborn reliance on old technology for
tradition's sake, to take IF forward. This will need to be in the form of
new parsers that are more pleasing to the eye and more contemporary in look.
An adherence to the old 'DOS look' isn't going to help the genre any more
than an insistence on using monochrome would in designing video games.

The writing out there is better than it's ever been. A perusal through some
of the best IF over the past few years will attest to that. But the parsers
need to be better...there's no need for some of the limitations that I've
seen even with new games, but once new game engines are designed that will
be less of a problem.

There should also be less of a reliance on any platform in particular, any
more than current graphical games rely on one of a very few engines to
design their games around (they usually don't). Proprietary engines are the
way of the future, and the way for better and better parsers to come out
and compete. In that vein it will be necessary to less 'download a game to
work with my parser' than it will be to download an entire game or order it
on CD....just like any other game.

Windows and Mac OS are the current general platform standards. As much as
anyone would like to argue against that fact, most people don't use Linux,
Unix, etc. on their desktops and programmers should focus on the 'real'
market out there to attain any sort of acceptance. Attempting to appeal to
only the fringe will limit acceptance to fringe users.

In short, the IF genre won't have to be 'dumbed down' as much as 'smartened
up' to appeal to a new generation of internet-chat-savvy users.

Just my thoughts...D


"Jim Aikin" <jai...@musicplayer.com> wrote in message
news:f904a017.02041...@posting.google.com...

Tom Smith

unread,
Apr 16, 2002, 1:20:22 PM4/16/02
to
Jim Aikin:

> I'm wondering how other IF authors see the future of this genre. Not
> in a technical sense (more sophisticated parsers, etc.), though that's
> always an interesting topic, but in a broader sense.
>

...

> (Does anybody have any idea how many IF fans there actually are at
> present? Are we talking 200 people worldwide? 2,000? Surely not more
> than that....)

Curses was apparently downloaded over 10,000 times. I don't know,
though what this includes: IF-archive? download.com? Graham Nelson's
site?

>
> On the other hand, a case could be made that at some point in the not
> too distant future, some type of text-based IF could conceivably
> resurface as a marketable commodity, at least in a modest sense. If
> 20,000 people will buy a paperback book by a virtually unknown SF
> author (and they will), surely it's not much of a stretch to imagine
> that one might be able to sell 20,000 copies of a $29.95 IF game if it
> were (a) well written, (b) attractively packaged, (c) bug-free, (d)
> competently distributed, and (e) imaginatively promoted.

> For this to happen, it seems to me, we'd need at the very least a
> cross-platform game interpreter that didn't look like a refugee from
> 1985 (or 1978...).

...

> FYI -- yes, I know about html tads and blorb/glulx. IMO, there's more
> to looking credible in 2002 than just being able to slap your own
> jpegs into the text window.

Unquestionably. Most of the world is not interested in virtual
machines, cross-platform portability, or (to be brutally frank)
Infocom compatibility. It is significant that the games which achieve
most success outside the IF community (on download.com,
theunderdogs.com and so on) are those that come in platform-specific,
easy-to-run executables.

On the other hand, IF is an inherently (visually) unattractive,
difficult to get into, unforgiving medium. As such I would doubt very
much whether it could reach a _mass_ audience, but it could probably
reach many more than it does today; possibly (with fingers crossed and
touching wood) a large enough audience to make commercial IF viable
again.

yrs,

Tom Smith


*********************
* Ivy Farm *
* *
* Coming soon to an *
* IF-Comp near you! *
*********************

DarrenH

unread,
Apr 16, 2002, 1:26:29 PM4/16/02
to
That's the thing; most people view IF as 'needing' to compete with the video
game industry. I've always felt that there *is* indeed a market out there
that co-exists with the whole graphically-oriented game industry, but a way
has yet to have been found to attract it.

In a world where internet chatting and book sales are more popular than
ever, I believe there's a place for IF much larger than the one it currently
occupies.

Cheers, D


"Andrew Plotkin" <erky...@eblong.com> wrote in message
news:a9hesf$opu$1...@reader1.panix.com...

Eric Mayer

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Apr 16, 2002, 1:37:32 PM4/16/02
to
ems...@mindspring.com (Emily Short) wrote in
news:emshort-1604...@dialup-209.246.209.152.dial1.philadelphia1.
level3.net:

> In article <f904a017.02041...@posting.google.com>,
> jai...@musicplayer.com (Jim Aikin) wrote:
>
>> I'm wondering how other IF authors see the future of this genre. Not
>> in a technical sense (more sophisticated parsers, etc.), though
>> that's always an interesting topic, but in a broader sense.
>>
>> I'm bringing this up because I'm wondering about my own level of
>> commitment to the field. As a (once-upon-a-time) published science
>> fiction novelist, I have a strong bias in favor of actually getting
>> paid for my creative work. Thus, the idea that I'll forevermore be
>> writing my IF for free is, if not actively irksome, at least
>> something I need to take into account in planning my weekly schedule
>> of activities.
>
> 1. I don't think IF is ever likely to be commercially viable again.
>
> 2. This does not bother me, since I don't really want it to be.
>
> If I understand what you're saying in your posts, you'd like IF to
> sell because then a) you'd be paid back for your time and also b) more
> sophisticated resources would be involved.

Excuse me if this post looks weird. The Amissville garbage drove me to get
a new newsreader with a killfile capability. And I haven't tried posting
with it yet.

I agree that I can't see IF being commercially viable. The problem for a
lot of people, whether they're trying to write IF, or books, or music, is
that many of us have to expend so much time earning enough to make ends
meet that unless our creative efforts produce a little income, and thus pay
for some of the time we expend on them, we can't spend as much as we'd
like. Since my programming "skills" are rudimentary, to put it kindly, I'm
not really too frustrated by not being able to spend vast amounts of time
on IF, doing large games -- and the community can probably be thankful too!
Although I'd do more if I could.

However, my wife and I write professionally and to the extent that even
most novels don't earn enough to pay for the time expended it is difficult.
We could easily produce several books a year, if the books earned more, we
have plenty of ideas, but if we did at the current pay we'd starve. That
does point out that most of what you see on the book store and library
shelves is being produced by people who aren't doing it for a living. So IF
writers aren't in a totally different situation than most other authors.

<snip>



I don't think the book-reading audience will really
> want to get into it unless/until we have something a lot closer to
> natural language parsing, which is not a matter of designing some cool
> interfaces that look like pages, but of major linguistics/AI/cognitive
> science research and development.
>

I also agree with this. People like to be told stories, always have. They
don't necessarily want to interact. That's something different. But I do
think IF might have a chance, in the future, if we ever have usuable
electronic books and people get used to them. I can see interactivity
sneaking up. For example, at one time mystery readers used to try to mark
clues in the books. (Whence the obscure term 'obelists') Now I can see how
an electronic mystery might give readers an option to try to spot and mark
clues and get a score at the end - likewise enter a guess at the killer at
various points. And from there, a few readers might be willing to, say,
choose who to interivew first, where to bisit etc and you begin to creep
toward an actual game. Interacting with books. An odd idea for most. But at
one time a tv screen was something you couldn't do anything but sit in
front of and gawk at. (Or am I showing my age here?)

<snip>

> If it paid me at all, that is. I seriously doubt that any commercial
> software company would hire me, given my total lack of formal CS
> background or industry experience, and I suspect that I might not like
> the experience of working for one, either.

The glorious thing about IF is that unlike commercial games or movies or so
many other things - but like most books - it is still an individual thing,
written by one person, in one authorial voice and viewpoint, and do we ever
need more of that in today's world!

>
> I do this because I like the community and I like the artistic
> freedom. Recommercializing IF would destroy both those things. And I
> disagree strongly with the opinion expressed or implied by a number of
> people on this subject, namely that an activity is not really
> worthwhile unless it makes money.

This is a favorite opinion of society, so far as I can see. Unfortunately,
in my experience the most worthwhile things tend to be the worst paid. I
have to go and write an article for a legal encyclopedia now. But in my
opinion, the world would be a better place if people could get paid for
writing IF and anyone who wanted to add some more legal dreck to the world
had to do it in their spare time.


--
Eric
http://home.epix.net/~maywrite/

======================================================================
"Who does not see that I have taken a road, in which, incessantly and
without labor, I shall proceed so long as there shall be ink and paper in
the world? I can give no account of my life by my actions; fortune has
placed them too low; I must do it by my fancies." Michel de Montaigne
======================================================================

Philipp Lenssen

unread,
Apr 16, 2002, 1:51:48 PM4/16/02
to
"DarrenH" <dar...@overtime.ca> wrote in message
news:e0Zu8.16822$f5.1132263@news...
>..

> Windows and Mac OS are the current general platform standards. As much as
> anyone would like to argue against that fact, most people don't use Linux,
> Unix, etc. on their desktops and programmers should focus on the 'real'
> market out there to attain any sort of acceptance.
>..

If you run the scripts on the server, you automatically reach cross-platform
by delivering standardized output. Text adventures seem to be ideally suited
for that, see http://www.ifiction.org/ . (Or for CYOAs, http://questml.com
... there's a new PHP port that's even practically cross-server.)

Developing games cross-platform is another issue.


DarrenH

unread,
Apr 16, 2002, 2:10:55 PM4/16/02
to
Hi Philipp, you are certainly correct, but I would wonder if
server-delivered games are indeed the future. With a multiplayer graphical
game it might be reasonable, but I wouldn't be sure if IF is ideal for a
multiplayer environment.


"Philipp Lenssen" <len...@hitnet.rwth-aachen.de> wrote in message
news:a9hock$30a$1...@nets3.rz.RWTH-Aachen.DE...

Kevin Bracey

unread,
Apr 16, 2002, 2:53:03 PM4/16/02
to
In message <e0Zu8.16822$f5.1132263@news>
"DarrenH" <dar...@overtime.ca> wrote:

> I agree that, right now, IF seems to be somewhat stuck in the late 80's
> from an aesthetic point of view.
>
> It will take innovation, not a stubborn reliance on old technology for
> tradition's sake, to take IF forward. This will need to be in the form of
> new parsers that are more pleasing to the eye and more contemporary in
> look. An adherence to the old 'DOS look' isn't going to help the genre any
> more than an insistence on using monochrome would in designing video games.

Ironically, it's on the mainstream platforms that the VMs look the ugliest.
There's nothing in Inform or TADS that says the end result has to look ugly.
Look at Zip 2000 screenshots (see below) or Zoom for example.

The Z-machine for one can look a lot better than any of the poor souls stuck
with WinFrotz are probably aware.

--
Kevin Bracey
http://www.bracey-griffith.freeserve.co.uk/Zip2000/

Matthew Russotto

unread,
Apr 16, 2002, 4:35:44 PM4/16/02
to
In article <3f5c3628...@bracey-griffith.freeserve.co.uk>,

Kevin Bracey <ke...@bracey-griffith.freeserve.co.uk> wrote:
>
>Ironically, it's on the mainstream platforms that the VMs look the ugliest.
>There's nothing in Inform or TADS that says the end result has to look ugly.
>Look at Zip 2000 screenshots (see below) or Zoom for example.

I raise my middle finger to aesthetics. Or at least anti-aliased fonts
(ugh)

--
Matthew T. Russotto mrus...@speakeasy.net
=====
Every time you buy a CD, a programmer is kicked in the teeth.
Every time you buy or rent a DVD, a programmer is kicked where it counts.
Every time they kick a programmer, 1000 users are kicked too, and harder.
A proposed US law called the CBDTPA would ban the PC as we know it.
This is not a joke, not an exaggeration. This is real.
http://www.cryptome.org/broadbandits.htm

atholbrose

unread,
Apr 16, 2002, 5:45:56 PM4/16/02
to
Kevin Bracey <ke...@bracey-griffith.freeserve.co.uk> wrote in
news:3f5c3628...@bracey-griffith.freeserve.co.uk:

> Ironically, it's on the mainstream platforms that the VMs look the
> ugliest. There's nothing in Inform or TADS that says the end result
> has to look ugly. Look at Zip 2000 screenshots (see below) or Zoom for
> example.
> The Z-machine for one can look a lot better than any of the poor souls
> stuck with WinFrotz are probably aware.

Once again, I fail to see any great aesthetic leap in Zip 2000 over any
other GUI Z-machine. Anti-aliased fonts? I have those, thanks. Resizable
screen? That too. I really dislike the thick gray border around the text
area.

So what exactly is it that I am missing to make the Z-machine look better
than it does in, say, Nitfol? Or the above-maligned WinFrotz?

Andrew Hunter

unread,
Apr 16, 2002, 7:24:23 PM4/16/02
to
On 15 Apr 2002 13:41:20 -0700, Jim Aikin wrote:
>I'm wondering how other IF authors see the future of this genre. Not
>in a technical sense (more sophisticated parsers, etc.), though that's
>always an interesting topic, but in a broader sense.
>
>I'm bringing this up because I'm wondering about my own level of
>commitment to the field. As a (once-upon-a-time) published science
>fiction novelist, I have a strong bias in favor of actually getting
>paid for my creative work. Thus, the idea that I'll forevermore be
>writing my IF for free is, if not actively irksome, at least something
>I need to take into account in planning my weekly schedule of
>activities.

I find it interesting that the Masterpieces collection is still selling
today (www.lacegem.com). This implies that the 1980's interface is not so
much the problem that many people think it to be.

>One way of looking at it is that for text-based IF to become
>marketable, it would inevitably have to become a completely different
>animal -- tricked out with graphics and music, click-and-use
>inventory, a dumbed-down parser that the Great Unwashed could deal
>with, and so on.

You can do all of this in glulx, and quite a lot of it in plain old
Inform. I'm not sure why you'd want a dumbed-down parser, though.
(With a decent interpreter, it'd probably look better done in plain
old inform...)

However, whether any of this is needed to sell or popularise the game
is another question entirely. Novels seem to have steadfastly resisted
colour illustrations despite the popularity of TV.

Maybe an improved parser is required. We haven't evolved much beyond
the old Infocom-style parsers. There has been a *lot* of research into
natural-language parsing that's passed us by. Most of this is developed
around generalised context-free parsers. And, er, I have one of those
written in Inform, if anyone's interested.

> If you buy this line of thought (and I'm not saying I
>do or don't), what the IF community/ghetto has at present is actually
>the best of all possible worlds -- very serviceable free tools for
>creating free games, and a small but loyal fan base that actually
>downloads our stuff.
>
>(Does anybody have any idea how many IF fans there actually are at
>present? Are we talking 200 people worldwide? 2,000? Surely not more
>than that....)

Hard to judge, and possibly not relevant to a serious commercial release.
To make it profitable, you would have to market it to people who aren't
currently IF fans. This doesn't necessarily mean that you'd have to
market it to fans of current games, either: people who like first-person
shooters/C&C-style strategy games aren't all that likely to enjoy IF.

There are a lot of people out there who don't like those styles of games
(and probably don't currently buy games as a result) who most certainly
would like IF, and would probably be willing to pay for a suitably
high-quality work. It's effectively a new market. Maybe the trick would
be to get distributed in bookshops rather than the more usual distribution
channels for computer games. Most round here distribute audio books, so
it might be possible to convince them to distribute /interactive/ books...
You'd need to convince them not to put it next to the MCSE books, though.

(Not that any of this is particularily new. After all, part of Infocom's
marketing strategy was to call what it produced 'Interactive Fiction'
rather than 'Adventure games'...)

In short, I don't think Interactive Fiction will ever sell again when
marketed as a 'computer game'. I'm not so sure about it if it was
marketed as something else. I'm positive that there are a *lot* of
people out there that haven't yet heard of IF, but would enjoy it if
they did.

>On the other hand, a case could be made that at some point in the not
>too distant future, some type of text-based IF could conceivably
>resurface as a marketable commodity, at least in a modest sense. If
>20,000 people will buy a paperback book by a virtually unknown SF
>author (and they will), surely it's not much of a stretch to imagine
>that one might be able to sell 20,000 copies of a $29.95 IF game if it
>were (a) well written, (b) attractively packaged, (c) bug-free, (d)
>competently distributed, and (e) imaginatively promoted.

Heh, most 'proper' games that cost more than that don't manage (c).

I imagine with similar pricing and suitable promotion, you could probably
sell a good number of copies. The fact that there is presently no IF
market means that there's some uncertainty here, though. The novelty value
might actually inflate your sales...

>For this to happen, it seems to me, we'd need at the very least a
>cross-platform game interpreter that didn't look like a refugee from
>1985 (or 1978...). After tinkering for a few weeks with the idea of
>developing my own delivery platform, however, I've reluctantly
>concluded that I'm not enough of a programmer to put it together.

Well, I maintain a cross-platform interpreter. What improvements are
required?

"Finish the Windows port" is one obvious one, o'course. Finishing the
v6 support would allow you to do most of what you want, I think, but
nice features like resizing and scrollback wouldn't work with v6.
I think the scrollback, at any rate, is more important than graphics.

>Does anybody else think such a delivery platform is desirable? Or is
>everybody but me happy writing free software?
>
>FYI -- yes, I know about html tads and blorb/glulx. IMO, there's more
>to looking credible in 2002 than just being able to slap your own
>jpegs into the text window.

Personally, I'm not a particular fan of Glk. Glulx does let you completely
replace the UI layer, though, so it may be worth a second look. If Glk/blorb
is the only problem with glulx, then this would seem an optimal solution.

Andrew.

--
____
\ \ \ Andrew Hunter <and...@logicalshift.demon.co.uk>
> > > http://www.logicalshift.demon.co.uk (me)
/_/_/ http://www.impulse.org.uk (impulse)

Andrew Hunter

unread,
Apr 16, 2002, 8:12:34 PM4/16/02
to
On Tue, 16 Apr 2002 21:45:56 -0000, atholbrose wrote:
>Kevin Bracey <ke...@bracey-griffith.freeserve.co.uk> wrote in
>news:3f5c3628...@bracey-griffith.freeserve.co.uk:
>
>> Ironically, it's on the mainstream platforms that the VMs look the
>> ugliest. There's nothing in Inform or TADS that says the end result
>> has to look ugly. Look at Zip 2000 screenshots (see below) or Zoom for
>> example.
>> The Z-machine for one can look a lot better than any of the poor souls
>> stuck with WinFrotz are probably aware.
>
>Once again, I fail to see any great aesthetic leap in Zip 2000 over any
>other GUI Z-machine. Anti-aliased fonts? I have those, thanks. Resizable
>screen? That too. I really dislike the thick gray border around the text
>area.

Hmm, tried using a serif font for any length of time as your display
font under Windows? (Or tried using the Mac OS X version of Zoom with
a serif font with Quartz rendering off, and then switched it on?).
Windows 'font smoothing' is not anti-aliasing.

The border in Zip2000 is optional, but it fits in with the RISC OS style.
In case you hadn't noticed, WinFrotz features a gray border, too.

>So what exactly is it that I am missing to make the Z-machine look better
>than it does in, say, Nitfol? Or the above-maligned WinFrotz?

ObPlug: the Mac OS X version of Zoom is at
http://www.logicalshift.demon.co.uk/, and that web page is complete
with screenshot for your comparason pleasure.

Nitfol features a very 'bare bones' interface (really required, because
it uses Glk), and is limited in the Z-Machine display features it can
emulate. WinFrotz provides an excessive amount of user interface cruft,
which is very distracting and totally unnecessary.

Uli Kusterer

unread,
Apr 16, 2002, 7:31:22 PM4/16/02
to
I "hear" you all saying that IF won't be commercially viable anymore.
OTOH I know of a lot of my friends who love to listen to audio books.
Would that maybe be a nice niche for IF to get into?

Today, there are cell phones that can read out the address book, and
which can take orders (from a limited set) in spoken word. Also, cell
phones today have built-in speakers and microphones, and most are even
able to display web pages, which means they definitely pack the
processing power already to run a text adventure.

If they get a little better, it would be possible to simply download a
text adventure to your handy, listen to the output, and speak into the
microphone to interact. Wouldn't that be ideal? IF is the best kind of
game for devices with the capabilities of a cell phone, where it's a
horrible experience to type in text using their tiny keyboards or trying
to read long passages of text from their stamp-sized displays...

Just some food for thoughts.

NB - Are there any existing games that take advantage of speech
recognition yet? I seem to recall that HyperTADS is able to do speech
output, but I don't think it recognizes yet.

Cheers,
M. Uli Kusterer
"The Witnesses of TeachText are everywhere..."

Stuart Allen

unread,
Apr 16, 2002, 7:44:27 PM4/16/02
to
jai...@musicplayer.com (Jim Aikin) wrote in message news:<f904a017.02041...@posting.google.com>...

> For this to happen, it seems to me, we'd need at the very least a
> cross-platform game interpreter that didn't look like a refugee from
> 1985 (or 1978...). After tinkering for a few weeks with the idea of
> developing my own delivery platform, however, I've reluctantly
> concluded that I'm not enough of a programmer to put it together.

JACL games are played using a web browser, so writing multi-media
games is very easy. The result of each of the player's commands is a
complete HTML page, so the sky is the limit when it comes to what the
display looks like. You can also use HTML forms to accept input from
the player, so allowing the player to choose between a command line
and a point-and-click interface is also possible.

Porting to other machines is also easy, as all the graphics etc are
handled by the browser. The interpreter consists of nothing more than
reasonably platform inspecific C code for outputing plain text (the
HTML page).

Of course, the other advantage is that games can be played over the
net using the same thin-client model that is used to play the game
locally, as the interpreter also has an integrated web server.

If you are interested in taking a look, visit jacl.sourceforge.net.

Regards,
Stuart

wo...@one.net

unread,
Apr 16, 2002, 8:33:19 PM4/16/02
to

Hi Emily,

>1. I don't think IF is ever likely to be commercially viable again.
>
>2. This does not bother me, since I don't really want it to be.

<snip>

>I also don't really like the thought of what would happen if there were
>tens of thousands of IF fans out there in the world. The fan/author ratio
>would get a lot higher, there'd be less of a sense of equality and
>collaboration; the community that I am fond of would dissolve.

<snip>

>Every time I express this opinion, it seems to make people annoyed, so
>I'll apologize now if I've done it again.

<snip>

>I do this because I like the community and I like the artistic freedom.
>Recommercializing IF would destroy both those things. And I disagree
>strongly with the opinion expressed or implied by a number of people on
>this subject, namely that an activity is not really worthwhile unless it
>makes money. Admittedly it's a lot easier to explain your time
>expenditure to curious friends/parents/spouses/etc. if you're drawing a
>paycheck.

What you said! Kudos for the lady!

As for working for a software company without a CS degree, I don't
think the kind of company that would seriously contemplate text
adventure as paying concern would be terribly fussy about degrees when
they can get *experience* in the field.

You can type? You can make text adventures? Would you like to walk
down the hall, sit down at a free computer and start work *RIGHT NOW*?
:)

That's the typical attitude of companies that want good people. I've
been fortunate enough to get hired by two of them in my time. The
rest, well, they paid the rent. :)


Respectfully,

Wolf

"The world is my home, it's just that some rooms are draftier than
others". -- Wolf

atholbrose

unread,
Apr 16, 2002, 8:51:35 PM4/16/02
to
and...@logicalshift.demon.co.uk (Andrew Hunter) wrote in
news:slrnabpffi...@chrysoprase.localdomain:

> Hmm, tried using a serif font for any length of time as your display
> font under Windows? (Or tried using the Mac OS X version of Zoom with
> a serif font with Quartz rendering off, and then switched it on?).
> Windows 'font smoothing' is not anti-aliasing.

I regularly use Georgia, which is certainly a serif font, as my font with
all three interpreters I use (Nitfol, WinFrotz, HTML TADS). And, thanks, I
do know what font anti-aliasing is, and am familiar with several methods of
achieving it. Windows' "font smoothing" certainly is a form of anti-
aliasing; a somewhat limited one, especially when dealing with smaller font
sizes, yes, I'll grant that.

> The border in Zip2000 is optional, but it fits in with the RISC OS
> style. In case you hadn't noticed, WinFrotz features a gray border,
> too.

A gray border of the size I've configured Windows to use around all
windows, yes. Not having ever used RiscOS, I didn't realize that was a
common thing for its apps.

>>So what exactly is it that I am missing to make the Z-machine look
>>better than it does in, say, Nitfol? Or the above-maligned WinFrotz?
> ObPlug: the Mac OS X version of Zoom is at
> http://www.logicalshift.demon.co.uk/, and that web page is complete
> with screenshot for your comparason pleasure.

As I have looked at Zip 2000, I've also looked at Zoom.

> Nitfol features a very 'bare bones' interface (really required,
> because it uses Glk), and is limited in the Z-Machine display features
> it can emulate. WinFrotz provides an excessive amount of user
> interface cruft, which is very distracting and totally unnecessary.

I mainly use Nitfol for auto-mapping and other debugging commands and for
testing purposes. I'm certainly familiar with the Glk wrapper it uses and
the limits of Glk as a display engine for the Z-machine, especially when
dealing with Infernal Box Quotes. (Sorry, but the box quote is one special
effect I wish would Go Away.)

Not quite sure what you are referring to as far as WinFrotz' "cruft" goes;
I've never really heard a menu bar referred to as such. Everything else you
can turn off. And, yes, maybe I am a heedless barbarian, but I'd rather
have a proper menu than a strictly right-click one, even though I rarely
use the menus.

I still haven't seen anything to support the claims of better asthetics for
either interpreter. Configured to use the same (or as similar as you can
get) fonts and colors, I'd be hard put to label any one interpreter as
looking better than the other. We're dealing with text here, after all.

Jim Aikin

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Apr 16, 2002, 9:51:52 PM4/16/02
to
Jim Nelson wrote:


> I guess I see the TADS and Inform parsers as sophisticated, period.


Indeed they are. No quarrel on that point. They're sophisticated
*parsers.* What they're not is sophisticated tools for shaping end-user
delivery systems. For that, you have to go to something like Macromedia
Director. Director is, in its own high-priced way, laughably primitive
when it comes to certain things. (Music software at a tenth of the price
has a better multitrack score.) It's successful because it's adequate at
delivering animated sprites and clickable slide shows and stuff, and
that's what's needed for multimedia development.


> I hear what you're saying. Your Zappa aphorism is apropos, but what's
> implicit in it is a marketing group, ad campaigns, distribution chains,
> etc.


On some level or other, yes. I know musicians who have been able to
build successful careers as indie artists with no major label backing.
They are definitely in business! But their marketing and distribution
are quite limited compared to Sony or somebody. They have closets full
of CDs, they sell mail order or at gigs, they have websites and fan
mailing lists and all that stuff.

The economics of the situation are interesting -- buy a $15 major label
CD at Tower Records, and the artist gets maybe $1. If they're lucky. And
their manager will take a cut of that. An indie artist who sells a $15
CD mail order can put $12 in her pocket.

I don't think it's an either-or choice in IF, between Time/Warner/AOL
and freeware. I think there's probably a viable middle ground. Maybe the
music industry provides a possible model.

--JA

Jim Aikin

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Apr 16, 2002, 10:11:18 PM4/16/02
to
Emily Short wrote:


> If I understand what you're saying in your posts, you'd like IF to sell
> because then a) you'd be paid back for your time and also b) more
> sophisticated resources would be involved.


Basically, yeah. Paid something, anyhow.

> But then you get something
> that puts game creation out of reach of the individual (e.g. me) and into
> the hands of companies with marketing agendas, just like all those
> commercial game companies out there already.


Unclear. The tools you use would still exist, and in all likelihood the
community of interested amateur programmers (to say nothing of the fan
base of players looking for free games) would grow quite a bit.

God knows I'm not a big fan of marketing agendas. One of the worst
things that happens to creative artists is when they get so successful
they can't afford to take chances anymore, because they have to pay
their manager's and press agent's salaries.

> They've done some good work
> as well as bad, admittedly, but my sense is that for marketing reasons
> there has been a bit of stagnation in what they're willing to try. Better
> graphics engines, yes. Entirely new style of game, not so much. IF
> remains vibrantly experimental, partly because it doesn't *have* to sell.


I love experimental work. I really ought to play more IF. I liked
Galatea. I started Varicella, which I guess may be experimental by IF
standards. It's very funny, but also infuriatingly difficult. It would
have made a crackerjack satirical SF novel with only a few cosmetic
changes. Adam could have made a lot more money at it, too -- but just as
important, a lot more people could have enjoyed it.


> Still, I think that making IF into something that would appeal to a large
> paying audience would also mean a fundamental shift in what it is.


You may well be right.


> I also don't really like the thought of what would happen if there were
> tens of thousands of IF fans out there in the world. The fan/author ratio
> would get a lot higher, there'd be less of a sense of equality and
> collaboration; the community that I am fond of would dissolve.


...or it would grow. But as much as I respect your work, Emily, I have
to say I think it's a little selfish for you to say you don't want there
to be tens of thousands of IF fans in the world. Is it right to deprive
them of the opportunity to enjoy your work (or mine)? Is it right to
deprive yourself of the opportunity to do even more and better work
because you'd be getting paid a living wage for doing it?

If you could have those two things with no artistic compromises, would
you be willing to sacrifice the sense of equality and collaboration?


> I seriously doubt that any commercial
> software company would hire me, given my total lack of formal CS
> background or industry experience, and I suspect that I might not like the
> experience of working for one, either.


You and me both.


> And I disagree
> strongly with the opinion expressed or implied by a number of people on
> this subject, namely that an activity is not really worthwhile unless it
> makes money.


I suppose what I said might be interpreted that way. Please allow me to
explain. Where I'm coming from is, I've written five novels. The first
two were published, got good reviews, earned out their advance. The
third, fourth, and fifth were never published, and probably never will
be, for reasons having more to do with the vicissitudes of the
marketplace than their worth as stories.

As I get older, I find that I'm less inclined to write yet another novel
and throw it in a drawer. I find that a very sad and frustrating thing
to do. So I look around for something I can do that will satisfy me
creatively and also (a) get distributed to more than, say, 500 people,
plus (b) make me a little extra money on the side.

Does that put it in perspective?

--Jim Aikin

Jim Aikin

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Apr 16, 2002, 10:19:47 PM4/16/02
to
Andrew Plotkin wrote:


> As for the community -- the first World Science Fiction Convention, in
> 1939, drew 200 attendees. They presumably all knew each other; if they
> didn't, they all did by the end of the weekend.


Excellent analogy, Andrew. You're always on the dime.


> You'll never be paid a programmer-traditional salary
> for writing IF. You *might* be paid a few dollars per copy sold,
> perhaps with a few thousand dollars advanced. Less money, but nobody
> would be reading your resume beforehand.


This is exactly the business model I'd like to see explored. It isn't a
business _plan_ yet, but it's a model. And it's a model with implications.

For instance: Trying to sell text-based IF in a computer store would be
a disaster. Can you imagine the outrage of a 13-year-old boy who brought
the shrinkwrapped box home, popped the CD in the drive, and then found
out he was expected to READ about the cool three-headed dragon on the
cover of the box?????

But put text-based IF in a bookstore, and the customer's expectations
change drastically (even if there's still a cool three-headed dragon on
the box).

It's also worth noting that while publishers (of SF, anyhow -- that's
all I know about) sometimes reject books that they think won't sell,
they rarely reject experimental books simply because they're
experimental. SF thrives on a certain type of experimentation.

Plus, the publisher can make a profit moving 15,000 units of a paperback
book. Don't try this if you're hiring animators, kids.

--Jim Aikin

Jim Aikin

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Apr 16, 2002, 10:25:27 PM4/16/02
to

> However, my wife and I write professionally and to the extent that even
> most novels don't earn enough to pay for the time expended it is difficult.
> We could easily produce several books a year, if the books earned more, we
> have plenty of ideas, but if we did at the current pay we'd starve. That
> does point out that most of what you see on the book store and library
> shelves is being produced by people who aren't doing it for a living. So IF
> writers aren't in a totally different situation than most other authors.


No kidding. When I sold my first novel, I thought it was ironic that the
person who drove the truck to deliver it to the bookstore expected to
make a living wage, but I was expected to do it because I loved it. If I
write one book a year and get $5,000 for it, I'm chipped beef on toast.

--Jim Aikin

Jim Aikin

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Apr 16, 2002, 10:30:18 PM4/16/02
to
Sean T Barrett wrote:


> Seems like quite a stretch to me: the paperpack costs, what, $5.95.


More like $8.95, these days.


> and if it's good, I can re-read it over and over; after the first


> time, the surprises are gone but the essence of the work is not.
> This is not generally true of story-driven games; you have to work
> at it, even though the interaction is no longer interesting, after
> the first time. (There are exceptions, but rare.)


I fail to discern an essential difference, unless it's that most IF is
badly written compared to decent-quality static fiction. I have re-read
a few novels with pleasure (after the passage of some years). Even
mysteries, once enough time had passed that I was no longer sure who
done it. If an IF work were equally well written, I'm sure I'd do the
same thing.

Always assuming it was still compatible with my new computer OS --
**not** a trivial issue.

--Jim Aikin

Jim Aikin

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Apr 16, 2002, 10:36:54 PM4/16/02
to
Stuart Allen wrote:


> JACL games are played using a web browser, so writing multi-media
> games is very easy. The result of each of the player's commands is a
> complete HTML page, so the sky is the limit when it comes to what the
> display looks like.


As long as you're happy inside the browser window, and as long as you
don't care what the fonts look like.


> Of course, the other advantage is that games can be played over the
> net using the same thin-client model that is used to play the game
> locally, as the interpreter also has an integrated web server.


I wouldn't call that an advantage. This is the wrong thread for this
discussion, and I wouldn't want to insult you in the event that you have
some personal stake in jacl, but over-the-Net play is, in my opinion, a
horrible idea for one-person IF (okay for MUDs, I'm sure). It ties up my
phone line, downloads are slow-slow-slow, and then the web page tells me
it won't run unless I jet off somewhere and download some plug-in that
it wants to use.

Over the Net play is ducky for solitaire, I'll admit that. For anything
requiring immersion, it's a loser, and likely to remain so until we all
have broadband cable and Microsoft tattoos on our butts (thus assuring
total system integration and compatibility).

--Jim Aikin

Sean T Barrett

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Apr 16, 2002, 10:59:57 PM4/16/02
to
Andrew Hunter <and...@logicalshift.demon.co.uk> wrote:
>>So what exactly is it that I am missing to make the Z-machine look better
>>than it does in, say, Nitfol? Or the above-maligned WinFrotz?
>
>ObPlug: the Mac OS X version of Zoom is at
>http://www.logicalshift.demon.co.uk/, and that web page is complete
>with screenshot for your comparason pleasure.

I really don't get this--sadly neither you nor Kevin B have
been posting screenshots of the things you're complaining about.
In point of fact, the WinFrotz I run (and you can make an
unmodified WinFrotz look like this, this has nothing to do
with my bugfixes) looks like this:

http://nothings.org/winfrotz.gif

Forgive the size. It uses a fixed-width font because I'm kind
of old-school that way--the color scheme also imitates the
old Atari 8-bit default text display. As you can see, Windows'
font smoothing provides proper anti-aliasing, if your fonts
use sufficient pixels per character.

All I see in the various screen shots you two have posted is lots of
OS-specific border coloring/imagery etc. that I am always quick to turn
off anyway. (Note the lack of gradient title bar in my screen shot.)

Of course there is other optional "junk" that you can turn on
in WinFrotz, and it defaults to on, but that's a sort of standard
"make it easier for novice users", and having it available at all
seems better than not having it available. For example, when I'm
playing comp games, I leave WinFrotz' status bar on, since that
shows the time played.

SeanB

Eric Mayer

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Apr 16, 2002, 11:03:22 PM4/16/02
to
Jim Aikin <kill_spammers@kill_spammers.org> wrote in
news:3CBCDBC6.5040103@kill_spammers.org:

> Andrew Plotkin wrote:
>
>
>> As for the community -- the first World Science Fiction Convention,
>> in 1939, drew 200 attendees. They presumably all knew each other; if
>> they didn't, they all did by the end of the weekend.
>
>
> Excellent analogy, Andrew. You're always on the dime.
>

Well, yeah, except the hard core, fanzine fans, who consider themselves the
*truefen* descendants of that group still all know each other, and their
aesthetics are very different from all those thousands of Worldcon
attendees. And I suspect, as with sf, any If that gained a much larger
following wouldn't be the stuff this small community most enjoys.

Eric Mayer

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Apr 16, 2002, 11:11:32 PM4/16/02
to
Jim Aikin <kill_spammers@kill_spammers.org> wrote in
news:3CBCDD1A.7040009@kill_spammers.org:

That number sounds about right! And I've had the same thought how everyone
in the industry, except the folks who produce the product, expect pay.
Weird, but I guess it has something to do with everyone wanting to be a
writer, creating a labor glut.

David M Einstein

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Apr 16, 2002, 11:53:01 PM4/16/02
to
Emily Short (ems...@mindspring.com) wrote:
: In article <f904a017.02041...@posting.google.com>,
: jai...@musicplayer.com (Jim Aikin) wrote:

: > I'm wondering how other IF authors see the future of this genre. Not
: > in a technical sense (more sophisticated parsers, etc.), though that's
: > always an interesting topic, but in a broader sense.

: the book-reading audience will really want to get into it unless/until we


: have something a lot closer to natural language parsing, which is not a
: matter of designing some cool interfaces that look like pages, but of
: major linguistics/AI/cognitive science research and development.

The problem is not so much the parser as the other end. The reason that
adventurespeak exists is the same reason that ask/tell and menus exist for
npc conversation, there is no way to handle all of the cases. If one is
willing to relinquish control one can make IRC chatterbots, but it is hard
to make a coherent statement with a chatterbot. The difficulty of having
the game respond in ways that the author can accept, let alone approve of,
increases dramatically with the size of the allowed input.
Deinst

Waiting with bated breath for Savoir-Faire.

Eric Mayer

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Apr 17, 2002, 12:01:56 AM4/17/02
to
Eric Mayer <emay...@epix.net> wrote in
news:Xns91F2EA0484F0...@199.224.117.11:

> Jim Aikin <kill_spammers@kill_spammers.org> wrote in
> news:3CBCDBC6.5040103@kill_spammers.org:
>
>> Andrew Plotkin wrote:
>>
>>
>>> As for the community -- the first World Science Fiction Convention,
>>> in 1939, drew 200 attendees. They presumably all knew each other; if
>>> they didn't, they all did by the end of the weekend.
>>
>>
>> Excellent analogy, Andrew. You're always on the dime.
>>
>
> Well, yeah, except the hard core, fanzine fans, who consider
> themselves the *truefen* descendants of that group still all know each
> other, and their aesthetics are very different from all those
> thousands of Worldcon attendees. And I suspect, as with sf, any If
> that gained a much larger following wouldn't be the stuff this small
> community most enjoys.
>
>


It is probably not of great interest to this group but since I jumped in
with that comment regarding the expansion of the sf community, I should
note, very briefly, that you can't really equate First Fandom (That small
1939 sf group) and what it quickly became with the IF community. Writers
like Clarke, Bradbury and Ellison were fans but, unlike IF folks whose
hobby revolves around producing IF, sf fandom very quickly occupied itself
with activities other than fiction writing - which is, and was, considered
downright gauche at best. Practicing pros like Wilson Tucker, Bob Shaw and
Terry Carr did fanzines and wrote essays in fandom. Not fiction. Of course
they had outlets for their pro work that writers of IF don't have. The
audience they aimed for with their professional writing was not themselves,
or other fans particularly. So I would not be quick to draw any
conclusions, positive or negative, from a comparison of such different
groups.

Jim Nelson

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Apr 17, 2002, 12:38:40 AM4/17/02
to
Jim Aikin (kill_spammers@kill_spammers.org) says ...

> Jim Nelson wrote:
> > I guess I see the TADS and Inform parsers as sophisticated, period.
>
> Indeed they are. No quarrel on that point. They're sophisticated
> *parsers.* What they're not is sophisticated tools for shaping end-user
> delivery systems.

I guess I can concede that. But there's been a lot of talk lately about
the parsers' crudity, and frankly, the more I peek under TADS' engine,
the more uninformed I consider these opinions.

> I don't think it's an either-or choice in IF, between Time/Warner/AOL
> and freeware. I think there's probably a viable middle ground. Maybe the
> music industry provides a possible model.

My thinking is, to do what you want requires multiple people (unless one
person can code, write prose, craft plots and characters, compose music,
and build eye-popping graphics -- on evenings and weekends.) Then it
starts sounding like part-time salaries, if not full-time, and if you're
going to spend that kind of money, it would be foolish not to go the full
mile and market it.

So, no, I'm not thinking the either-or. You could do all this without
AOL-Time-Warner or freeware. But what's the middle ground? You expect
to be paid for your work, fair enough. How much do you expect to be
paid?

--
Jim Nelson
jim_n...@mindspring.com

Jim Nelson

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Apr 17, 2002, 12:38:09 AM4/17/02
to
Sean T Barrett (buz...@TheWorld.com) says ...

>
> Forgive the size. It uses a fixed-width font because I'm kind
> of old-school that way--the color scheme also imitates the
> old Atari 8-bit default text display.

Ha! And I thought I was the only one.

--
Jim Nelson
jim_n...@mindspring.com

Jim Aikin

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Apr 17, 2002, 1:00:27 AM4/17/02
to
Jim Nelson wrote:


> So, no, I'm not thinking the either-or. You could do all this without
> AOL-Time-Warner or freeware. But what's the middle ground? You expect
> to be paid for your work, fair enough. How much do you expect to be
> paid?


That's a fair question. First off, I'm happy to acknowledge that I don't
know where the middle ground is. I'm wondering if anybody but me is
interested in searching for it. I'll also admit I'm not an entrepreneur.
But let's make up some numbers:

Let's assume a CD-ROM containing a well-developed, well-written,
attractively packaged IF title could be sold retail for $29.95. That's
$15 to the creator(s). Let's assume such a title, sold through
bookstores, could move 20,000 copies. That's a gross income to the
creator(s) of $300,000. Let's assume half of that goes to promotion,
licensing the installer and the copy-protection, unsold inventory, stuff
like that. That still leaves $150,000. If the team that creates the
title includes one author, one graphic artist, and one programmer, and
if they all contribute equally, each walks away with $50,000.

Don't hold me to these numbers. I could be off by a factor of ten in
either direction. But if you only saw a prospect of making $5,000 for a
year of evenings and weekends programming a work of IF that you could be
truly proud of, would you do it?

For some reason, I don't think that's a very tough question.

--Jim Aikin

Jim Aikin

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Apr 17, 2002, 1:05:13 AM4/17/02
to
Eric Mayer wrote:


> That number sounds about right! And I've had the same thought how everyone
> in the industry, except the folks who produce the product, expect pay.
> Weird, but I guess it has something to do with everyone wanting to be a
> writer, creating a labor glut.


That's an important factor. Almost as important, perhaps, is the
question of who has their hand on the money spigot. If you get to write
the checks, do you write the other guy a big one and yourself a small
one? Nah.

--Jim Aikin

Jim Aikin

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Apr 17, 2002, 1:41:56 AM4/17/02
to
Andrew Hunter wrote:


>>One way of looking at it is that for text-based IF to become
>>marketable, it would inevitably have to become a completely different
>>animal -- tricked out with graphics and music, click-and-use
>>inventory, a dumbed-down parser that the Great Unwashed could deal
>>with, and so on.
>
> You can do all of this in glulx, and quite a lot of it in plain old
> Inform.


My impression was that glulx doesn't support mp3 playback, only wav and
(shudder) mods.


> However, whether any of this is needed to sell or popularise the game
> is another question entirely. Novels seem to have steadfastly resisted
> colour illustrations despite the popularity of TV.


All analogies (including, perhaps especially, my own) are suspect. We
simply don't know what analogies might be valid with respect to IF. Last
time I was in Border's Books, though, I noticed a whole rack of
full-color "graphic novels" next to the science fiction. Comic books for
grown-ups, you sneer? Could be -- but then, what is television if not
comic books for grown-ups? So there's your analogy, if you want one.
Novels have not,in fact, resisted color illustrations in toto.
*Publishers* of mainstream novels resist color illustrations, because
for one thing they're expensive. In kids' books they're felt to be
essential, but I do have an illustrated edition of Huckleberry Finn on
my shelf, and some illustrated Dickens. It's been done.


> Maybe an improved parser is required. We haven't evolved much beyond
> the old Infocom-style parsers. There has been a *lot* of research into
> natural-language parsing that's passed us by. Most of this is developed
> around generalised context-free parsers. And, er, I have one of those
> written in Inform, if anyone's interested.


I'd like to know a lot more about it. My Inform is real rusty. Is the
source code available? Can you post a synopsis of what it does to this
group? Is it described on your website? (I don't see a link to it from
your home page.)

This is off-topic, but I was thinking tonight that it would be dead
simple in either Inform or TADS to implement this grammar:

>heloise, where is the mustard?

What you do is, you tell the parser "where" is a verb and "is" is a
preposition. The parser thinks this is no different structurally than
"heloise, piss in the mustard". It passes the command to heloise, and
she responds as she sees fit. As an added bonus, the user can
interrogate the software directly:

>where is the revolver

Again, it's handled as if "where" were a thing you wanted to do, rather
than an interrogative.


> Hard to judge, and possibly not relevant to a serious commercial release.
> To make it profitable, you would have to market it to people who aren't
> currently IF fans.


Good point.


> Maybe the trick would
> be to get distributed in bookshops rather than the more usual distribution
> channels for computer games.


I think this is almost certainly correct.


> I'm positive that there are a *lot* of
> people out there that haven't yet heard of IF, but would enjoy it if
> they did.


I agree.


> The fact that there is presently no IF
> market means that there's some uncertainty here, though. The novelty value
> might actually inflate your sales...


Again, I think you're absolutely right.


> Well, I maintain a cross-platform interpreter. What improvements are
> required?


Do you want the long wish list or the short wish list? Let's start with
a few items indiscriminately chosen from each.

A music soundtrack (mp3) that could be faded out when the reader leaves
a room would be a must. (I'm also a composer, you see.) Fadeout is
essential.

Some form of customizable "look and feel." This could be as simple as
custom colors and menu font for the interpreter's main window, or it
could be more elaborate.

Graphics (jpeg or gif) that don't simply splot into the text window and
then scroll up out of sight when you add more text. This is ugly. I've
designed a much nicer way to do it, but in the process I seem to have
inadvertently thrown the baby out with the bathwater. Many systems could
be envisaged; my idea is to have a 1/4-size thumbnail representation of
the current room's image/illustration, which you can click on to cause
it to fill the main window. Unhappily, this more or less requires a
fixed size for the main window. There are other ways to do it.

Password-based copy protection. In general I sympathize with the free
software philosophy, but I have this weird mental blind spot when my own
copyright is being violated....

For a commercial release, one really ought to include a notepad whose
contents can be saved with the game file.


> Personally, I'm not a particular fan of Glk. Glulx does let you completely
> replace the UI layer, though, so it may be worth a second look. If Glk/blorb
> is the only problem with glulx, then this would seem an optimal solution.


I can't even keep the difference between glk and glulx in my mind for
more than 30 seconds running. If there's a worse bunch of names for
software, I have yet to run into it. Possibly it will do most of what
I've been envisioning, but that mp3 thing is kind of a deal-breaker.

--Jim Aikin

Philipp Lenssen

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Apr 17, 2002, 3:24:49 AM4/17/02
to
"DarrenH" <dar...@overtime.ca> wrote in message
news:POZu8.16839$f5.1133596@news...
> Hi Philipp, you are certainly correct, but I would wonder if
> server-delivered games are indeed the future. With a multiplayer
graphical
> game it might be reasonable, but I wouldn't be sure if IF is ideal for a
> multiplayer environment.
>..

There's nothing that forces a server-side application delivered on the web
to be multiplayer (even if technically it might come more natural if you
want to go for it). I also don't think player expectations automatically go
that way.


Stuart Allen

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Apr 17, 2002, 3:30:00 AM4/17/02
to
Jim Aikin <kill_spammers@kill_spammers.org> wrote in message news:<3CBCDFC9.2010805@kill_spammers.org>...

> Stuart Allen wrote:
>
> > JACL games are played using a web browser, so writing multi-media
> > games is very easy. The result of each of the player's commands is a
> > complete HTML page, so the sky is the limit when it comes to what the
> > display looks like.
>
> As long as you're happy inside the browser window, and as long as you
> don't care what the fonts look like.

I don't see what it is about being browser based that makes the fonts
fixed. Writing a small configuration screen (as a reusable library)
that allows the player to chose the font type and size would be very,
very easy.

> > Of course, the other advantage is that games can be played over the
> > net using the same thin-client model that is used to play the game
> > locally, as the interpreter also has an integrated web server.
>
> I wouldn't call that an advantage. This is the wrong thread for this
> discussion, and I wouldn't want to insult you in the event that you have
> some personal stake in jacl, but over-the-Net play is, in my opinion, a
> horrible idea for one-person IF (okay for MUDs, I'm sure). It ties up my
> phone line, downloads are slow-slow-slow, and then the web page tells me
> it won't run unless I jet off somewhere and download some plug-in that
> it wants to use.

I would call it an advantage if it doesn't have any negative side
effect during normal play. For example, I run games on a small
text-only unix box, but play from a Windows machine connected via
ethernet. This suits me for many reasons, but I could run both the
server and client under Windows if I wanted. Why only have
non-networked when you can have both?

The other advantage I have found is that people can look at a game
with minimal investment, then install it to play in depth if they
decide they want to.

Stuart

kodrik

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Apr 17, 2002, 4:19:15 AM4/17/02
to
> I wouldn't call that an advantage. This is the wrong thread for this
> discussion, and I wouldn't want to insult you in the event that you have
> some personal stake in jacl, but over-the-Net play is, in my opinion, a
> horrible idea for one-person IF (okay for MUDs, I'm sure). It ties up my
> phone line, downloads are slow-slow-slow, and then the web page tells me
> it won't run unless I jet off somewhere and download some plug-in that
> it wants to use.

As a player I understand perfectly that you don't like remote play and
don't want to have anything to do with it.
But as an author who wants to reach as many people as possible, remote play
is an advantage and greatly widens your audience.
I thought this thread was about the future of IF and I strongly believe
remote play in various form is part of this future

kodrik

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Apr 17, 2002, 4:36:39 AM4/17/02
to
> Indeed they are. No quarrel on that point. They're sophisticated
> *parsers.* What they're not is sophisticated tools for shaping end-user
> delivery systems. For that, you have to go to something like Macromedia
> Director. Director is, in its own high-priced way, laughably primitive
> when it comes to certain things. (Music software at a tenth of the price
> has a better multitrack score.) It's successful because it's adequate at
> delivering animated sprites and clickable slide shows and stuff, and
> that's what's needed for multimedia development.
>
> My impression is that Flash is mainly designed for Web content delivery.
> (Correct me if I'm wrong -- maybe I'm thinking of Shockwave.) Maybe it's
> just me, but I more or less hate the Web.

I think you don't realize that Director and Flash are kind of extensions of
each other. Flash is more targeted to artists while director (which
produces shockwave movies) is more targeted to advanced programs (using 3d
for example). They actually interact great with each other and can be used
for remote or local play.

Jim Nelson

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Apr 17, 2002, 5:00:52 AM4/17/02
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Jim Aikin (kill_spammers@kill_spammers.org) says ...
[details snipped]

> Don't hold me to these numbers. I could be off by a factor of ten in
> either direction. But if you only saw a prospect of making $5,000 for a
> year of evenings and weekends programming a work of IF that you could be
> truly proud of, would you do it?
>
> For some reason, I don't think that's a very tough question.

First, don't forget Uncle Sam. And don't forget that the money you took
out of half the gross profits, the $150,000 toward "promotion,
licensing the installer and the copy-protection, unsold inventory" etc.
comes out of your pocket *before* you collect that first dime. (Even if
you aim low in your estimation, you're out $15,000 up front.) And,
profitability is not a sure thing. It just might not sell.

Risk $5,000 and a year's free time to (potentially) come out ahead
$5,000? That's not so appetizing. $50K for $50K? Blood from a turnip.

Now, could you turn the plan into a publishing house? Incorporate,
loans, stock, etc? That's more interesting. Then it's not a project,
it's a career. A cool career. And you're risking someone else's money.

Unfortunately, they'll want to see more zeros and more commas in your
numbers.

--
Jim Nelson
jim_n...@mindspring.com

Richard Bos

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Apr 17, 2002, 5:00:09 AM4/17/02
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Uli Kusterer <wit...@t-online.de> wrote:

> I "hear" you all saying that IF won't be commercially viable anymore.
> OTOH I know of a lot of my friends who love to listen to audio books.
> Would that maybe be a nice niche for IF to get into?

Erm, possibly. Or possibly the e-book market could be a starting point.
However, that's not the big problem, AFAICT. It will almost certainly be
possible to sell _some_ IF into a niche market, or even several niche
markets. The big question is: will it be possible to sell enough to make
a living of?
If you can, you've got yourself a profession, even if a small one. Very
well, have fun. If you can get this far in the first place you're
probably going to have no more problems with r.a.i-f free IF than book
authors have with fanzines.
If not, you should consider whether it isn't more rewarding to write IF
as a hobby and pay the rent some other way. Being paid for your work is
all very nice, but remember that it does create expectations - you're a
professional IF writer now, you're expected to deliver, even if the
money from IF only buys your butter and you need a real job to buy the
bread to go under it.

Richard

kodrik

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Apr 17, 2002, 6:23:44 AM4/17/02
to
> If you can, you've got yourself a profession, even if a small one. Very
> well, have fun. If you can get this far in the first place you're
> probably going to have no more problems with r.a.i-f free IF than book
> authors have with fanzines.
> If not, you should consider whether it isn't more rewarding to write IF
> as a hobby and pay the rent some other way. Being paid for your work is
> all very nice, but remember that it does create expectations - you're a
> professional IF writer now, you're expected to deliver, even if the
> money from IF only buys your butter and you need a real job to buy the
> bread to go under it.

Although I do think there is some money to be made in IF, I don't think it
will be enough to make a living off it. I view it more as a return or a
reward; in any way, it will not be a full compensation for the huge work
involved in making a good IF product.

Andrew Hunter

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Apr 17, 2002, 7:35:41 AM4/17/02
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On Wed, 17 Apr 2002 00:51:35 -0000, atholbrose wrote:
>and...@logicalshift.demon.co.uk (Andrew Hunter) wrote in
>news:slrnabpffi...@chrysoprase.localdomain:
>
>> Hmm, tried using a serif font for any length of time as your display
>> font under Windows? (Or tried using the Mac OS X version of Zoom with
>> a serif font with Quartz rendering off, and then switched it on?).
>> Windows 'font smoothing' is not anti-aliasing.
>
>I regularly use Georgia, which is certainly a serif font, as my font with
>all three interpreters I use (Nitfol, WinFrotz, HTML TADS). And, thanks, I
>do know what font anti-aliasing is, and am familiar with several methods of
>achieving it. Windows' "font smoothing" certainly is a form of anti-
>aliasing; a somewhat limited one, especially when dealing with smaller font
>sizes, yes, I'll grant that.

I didn't express myself well there. Font smoothing is not 'true'
anti-aliasing in that a font is rendered to pixel accuracy and then
smoothed. Personally (and aesthetics is a very personal thing), I find
true anti-aliased fonts a lot easier to read than smoothed fonts,
especially at small sizes.

The Mac OS X version of Zoom can do both. I should really have posted
screenshots in the first instance, but it was late... So, we have:

http://www.logicalshift.demon.co.uk/etc/zoom1.png (Quartz rendered)
http://www.logicalshift.demon.co.uk/etc/zoom2.png (Quickdraw rendered)

When rendering with Quickdraw, Zoom looks a lot better if Helvetica or
Arial are chosen as a font, but the comparason would not be fair if
we did that.

The best comparason is to use one for a long period of time, then the
other. Even comp games are designed to take two hours to complete, which
is a long time to look at a computer screen. Even minor improvements to
the legibility of the text can make a big difference over that kind of
time.

Zoom really needs this adding to the other ports: this is just a matter
of getting round to it, really.

>> The border in Zip2000 is optional, but it fits in with the RISC OS
>> style. In case you hadn't noticed, WinFrotz features a gray border,
>> too.
>
>A gray border of the size I've configured Windows to use around all
>windows, yes. Not having ever used RiscOS, I didn't realize that was a
>common thing for its apps.

It's not, and that's not what I said. The border is the same as RISC OS
uses around standard text fields, and was something I, personally, liked.

>>>So what exactly is it that I am missing to make the Z-machine look
>>>better than it does in, say, Nitfol? Or the above-maligned WinFrotz?
>> ObPlug: the Mac OS X version of Zoom is at
>> http://www.logicalshift.demon.co.uk/, and that web page is complete
>> with screenshot for your comparason pleasure.
>
>As I have looked at Zip 2000, I've also looked at Zoom.
>
>> Nitfol features a very 'bare bones' interface (really required,
>> because it uses Glk), and is limited in the Z-Machine display features
>> it can emulate. WinFrotz provides an excessive amount of user
>> interface cruft, which is very distracting and totally unnecessary.
>
>I mainly use Nitfol for auto-mapping and other debugging commands and for
>testing purposes. I'm certainly familiar with the Glk wrapper it uses and
>the limits of Glk as a display engine for the Z-machine, especially when
>dealing with Infernal Box Quotes. (Sorry, but the box quote is one special
>effect I wish would Go Away.)

Zoom's scrollback feature is pretty unique. If a box quote obscures something
you want to read, you can use the scrollbar to reveal it (I think Zoom is
the only non-Glk interpreter to support scrollback in this fashion), or
you can resize the window (Zoom will reformat appropriately as you resize).

>Not quite sure what you are referring to as far as WinFrotz' "cruft" goes;
>I've never really heard a menu bar referred to as such. Everything else you
>can turn off. And, yes, maybe I am a heedless barbarian, but I'd rather
>have a proper menu than a strictly right-click one, even though I rarely
>use the menus.

Personal preference thing. The designers of RISC OS always considered a
menu bar 'cruft', which is why no RISC OS application has one (context-
sensitive menus throughout). But it's standard practice for a Windows
application to use a menu bar in that fashion, so it's not particularily
fair game for comparason. The main things I dislike about about WinFrotz
are as follows:

- the default settings (white on blue? Courier? ick!). It might well be
configurable. A newcomer to the genre isn't going to be aware of this.
- the garish toolbar. Once again, configurable, but...
(and whether or not this improves ease-of-use or not is debatable)
- resizing, changing fonts, etc don't take effect until more text is
printed. It's a lot easier for a user to play with the settings if
their effect is immediately visible.

As an aside, you might not like Zoom's default configuration. If you're
distributing it with a game, and want that game to have a certain look,
then you can edit the default configuration file inside the bundle to
whatever you like. I'm not sure if WinFrotz lets you do similar. I suspect
even if it does, it doesn't let you alter the settings on a per-game
basis.

>I still haven't seen anything to support the claims of better asthetics for
>either interpreter. Configured to use the same (or as similar as you can
>get) fonts and colors, I'd be hard put to label any one interpreter as
>looking better than the other. We're dealing with text here, after all.

*shrug* As I said, aesthetics is a personal thing, and there are no
hard-and-fast rules. Anti-aliasing was always an emotive issue on
comp.sys.acorn.advocacy, for example (as were menus and toolbars,
incidentally).

Andrew.

--
____
\ \ \ Andrew Hunter <and...@logicalshift.demon.co.uk>
> > > http://www.logicalshift.demon.co.uk (me)
/_/_/ http://www.impulse.org.uk (impulse)

Rikard Peterson

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Apr 17, 2002, 6:50:35 AM4/17/02
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kodrik <kod...@zc8.net> wrote in
news:ubqc86l...@corp.supernews.com:

> As a player I understand perfectly that you don't like remote play
> and don't want to have anything to do with it.
> But as an author who wants to reach as many people as possible,
> remote play is an advantage and greatly widens your audience.
> I thought this thread was about the future of IF and I strongly
> believe remote play in various form is part of this future

Here is another player that don't like remote play, despite having a
fast internet connection that cost me as much if I use it 8 hours a day
as if I only use it to check my mail once a day. I don't want it to be
the future (and was glad to see that you wrote *part of* the future).

Why? For some people it's a question of privacy, but that doesn't
bother me that much. I think that for me it's more beacuse I like to
"have it". I also prefer paper manuals to a PDF on the CD. Then there
is the stability of things (by which I don't mean bugs). I don't want
to suddenly be forced to upgrade something (hard- or software) to run a
computer program that ran fine yesterday.

Rikard

kodrik

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Apr 17, 2002, 7:13:39 AM4/17/02
to
> Why? For some people it's a question of privacy, but that doesn't
> bother me that much. I think that for me it's more beacuse I like to
> "have it". I also prefer paper manuals to a PDF on the CD. Then there
> is the stability of things (by which I don't mean bugs). I don't want
> to suddenly be forced to upgrade something (hard- or software) to run a
> computer program that ran fine yesterday.

Everybody prefers locally once you know and trust the product. That is not
the question.
But to try something I don't know whether I like or not, I rather try it on
the internet with as little hassle as possible then download, install and
run it.
I've looked at much more products that were a click away than those that
require a download.
I see the internet as an advantage to reach a non-converte