Search Results for: kickstarter

Why it takes longer than you think

In case you're wondering, nobody hassled me about how long the rewards took. Apparently you folks really were in it for the game -- or to support me, which is even nicer.

However, I bet there are people out there who are working on Kickstarters. And they should be warned: it always takes longer than you think. To substantiate this, here's a timeline of Hadean Lands work that came after the game shipped.

Note that I did lot of reward design in December, but didn't order the stuff until early January. That's because I knew I would be out of town for the last week of December. I didn't want expensive parcels arriving when I was gone.

  • Oct 30: Hadean Lands goes live for sale. (I won't describe the whole monkey dance of sending out iOS gift codes. Too painful to recall.)
  • Oct 31 to Nov 3: Catching up on backers who had problems getting the game, or who sent in late Kickstarter surveys. Also general PR work -- answering emails, posting on every social network I know.
  • Nov 5: Submit iOS app version 1.1. (Better iPhone 6 support.)
  • Nov 7 to 10: Toronto trip for WordPlay. (File under "marketing".)
  • Nov 10: Release iOS app version 1.1.
  • Nov 13 to 17: New York trip for Practice. (File under "networking".)
  • Nov 30: Finalize book design; order proofs.
  • Dec 2: Finalize postcard design; order postcards.
  • Dec 6: Get first proofs of the book.
  • Dec 8: Finalize map poster design; order proofs.
  • Dec 12: Decide the books are too large. Reformat smaller, order more proofs.
  • Dec 19: Submit iOS app version 1.2. (Save-file import and export.)
  • Dec 25 to 31: Out of town. Not thinking about HL.
  • Jan 1: Release iOS app version 1.2. (I didn't want to release this while I was gone, either.)
  • Jan 2: Order books.
  • Jan 3: Order posters.
  • Jan 6: Look into CD pricing.
  • Jan 11: Finalize CD design; order CDs.
  • Jan 21: Positive Slate review! (And PocketTactics too.) Suddenly I am back in PR mode.
  • Jan 22: Argh, half of the posters are misprinted and not usable. Contact customer support and ask for replacements.
  • Jan 24: Post Steam Greenlight page for HL.
  • Feb 1: The Month of Postage begins. (Assume days and days of sticking labels on things.)
  • Feb 17: Haul books and posters to the post office.
  • Feb 27: Haul half the CDs to the post office.
  • Mar 3: Haul the rest of the CDs to the post office.
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Kicking it forwards

Since my Kickstarter project is done -- not done done, I still have postcards and so on, but done enough for soup -- I should write the "support this other Kickstarter!" post.

I've already talked about Elegy for Dead World, which came to a triumphant conclusion a couple weeks back, and Extrasolar, which sadly did not. But there are lots of crowdfunders still open this season. Kickstarters, Patreons, Indiegogos... Indiegogoes? Indiegogols? Anyway, here are a bunch which at least brush up against the interactive fiction world.

Ice Bound: A mixed-media game-and-book project by Aaron Reed. Aaron's earlier project 18 Cadence let you explore a house's history by rearranging and constructing texts. This one looks to be in the same vein, but more so. It was inspired, Aaron says, by House of Leaves as well as Borges, Nabokov, and Italo Calvino. The Kickstarter is already past its original goal and is now targetting an "open-source the engine" stretch goal. I am always in favor of game engines being open source. Four days left!

Haphead: A TV-on-the-web series: teenagers play videogames so immersive that they become actual badass ninjas. Produced by Jim Munroe, sometime IF author and indie filmmaker -- his last sci-fi effort was the movie Ghosts With Shit Jobs. They've got film in the can; they're collecting money for post-production and release. This has two weeks to go and hasn't yet hit 50% funding, so it needs some love.

Demon: You probably first met Jason Shiga through his CYOA-comic Meanwhile. (Possibly the iOS version that I helped create.) Now he is writing a (non-interactive) web-comic called Demon. Demon is a riff on the superhero genre which is both viciously bitter-dark and cheerfully nerdy-charming. I think it's great. You can read the comic for free, but Shiga is funding it through Patreon, so if you want to support him, that's how to do it.

Ready, Okay! and Photopia: Adam Cadre wrote a bunch of groundbreaking IF. You probably don't need me to tell you that. He is currently rewriting Ready, Okay! (his school-shooting comedy novel from 2000-ish). He is also writing a novel version of Photopia (one of the IF games that I don't need to tell you about because everybody in IF knows it). He's got an Indiegogo project to support these efforts. It's labelled "$500 flexible funding", but that's misleading. It's open-ended. The idea is that however much money he makes will go towards full-time writing, as opposed to between-the-cracks-of-the-day-job writing. Or you can support his regular blogging-and-reviews writing through Patreon.

I Hate Zombies: Kevin Wilson has designed a teeny little card game for BoardGameGeek, and they're trying to get it printed. Kevin has been part of the IF community forever -- he ran the very first IFComp in 1995. The game isn't IF-related, though, it's about zombies. "Rock-Paper-Scissors. To the Death!" Just launched, doing nicely.

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This month in planetary exploration

Last year a game called Extrasolar showed up. It's a casual browser game about exploring an alien planet.

I haven't written a full review, but let me assure you that Extrasolar is delightful. You drive a rover around the fictional world, photographing wacky alien life-forms. At the same time, you're drawn through a storyline -- investigating the corporation that discovered this alien world and the technology which made it possible. The story is maybe a little thin, but it's nicely produced and offered in a juicy ARG-like framework. The point of the game, anyhow, is the planet. It's gorgeous, it's detailed, it's got layers of thoughtful biological world-building, and you get to wander around it with a camera. What could be cooler?

Extrasolar belongs to that pleasant species of game with which you can be obsessed without ruining your work day. You set a photography spot for your rover; four hours later you get the results back. Checking your rover is a coffee-break activity, not a way to lose a whole afternoon. If you buy a paid account (a one-time fee), the turnaround drops to one hour, but you can then program up to four photographs at a time.

The game launched with one explorable island and one "season" of story content. It took me about six weeks to play through (on the free, four-hour-turnaround schedule) (I paid up afterwards).

The company now wants to expand this to a second island and a second season. They've set up a Kickstarter project for this purpose. The project deadline is Wednesday, and if you take a look, you'll notice that it's basically tanking. Less than 25% funded. That is not what a KS project wants to see in its final week.

This is sad. Extrasolar is an ambitious idea; it's a game that isn't like a thousand other games you've played. It shouldn't be languishing in the Kickstarter races. For that matter, it shouldn't need Kickstarter; it should have a steady stream of players who are satisfied and happy to pay for season one. I don't have anything clever to say about that, nor any brilliant plan for making it successful. The game industry is rough and outside-the-box games have it rougher. (What this means for my own game-design future -- well, it's not encouraging.)

I will say that you should try it. Even with a free account, you can start to see bits of the story by Wednesday evening, and decide whether to donate to the Kickstarter. Then you should donate to the Kickstarter anyway. I'm not optimistic about it, but I could be wrong.

Extrasolar: Season 2 (Kickstarter)

Yes, that's me blurbing the game on the KS page. Also, I recommend reading through the updates on the KS blog. They've offered up a lot of the reasoning behind their play model, their technology, their science-fictional worldbuilding. This is a level of detail that game companies usually don't get into in public, and it's worth a read even if you don't plan to donate.


Here's a more energetic project: Elegy for a Dead World, a game about exploring an alien planet. But in a completely different vein!

I know less about this one. I've walked past a demo at PAX, and I've talked a little with the designers, but I haven't tried it myself.

The idea is that the game offers you images and fragments of a setting; then you write. That's the whole thing. It's not a puzzle game and it doesn't have a secret story built in that you're supposed to uncover. It's a system for players to create and share their own texts. A nice set of writing prompts and a framework to write in. If you're unsure about the literary inspirations here -- the three alien worlds are Shelley's World, Keats' World, and Byron's World.

This is way out there. It has more in common with a fanfic challenge than anything else. I have no idea if it will work; I don't even know if it's the kind of thing I want to play.

But this is exactly what I've backed it. I want to see more strange, experimental, off-the-wall games get launched. And this one, as I said, is doing a lot better. It's over 50% in the first week, which is on track for success.

(I have to admit, my first question was "Can people build environments for their stories and then explore each others' worlds?" Because I am obsessed with building and exploring worlds. No, that's not what Elegy is about. You can read each other's texts, and there will be some kind of rating system so that popular ones float to the top.) (I have no idea what they're doing about the kind of gamer who draws a dick on everything.)

You should back this one because it's a crazy idea that no reasonable dev studio would pursue.

Elegy for a Dead World: A Game About Writing Fiction (Kickstarter)

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Zarfplan: October -- goodbye sunlight

Not goodbye forever, or even for the rest of the year. But it's Halloween; it's been damp and grey all day; and I just returned from the annual Somerville Anti-Morris Dance. Feels like putting the sun to bed.

I spent the first half of October dealing with the remaining major puzzles -- the ones outside the starship. Naturally, this was more work than I expected (it's always more work than you expected) but I got it hammered out.

Then, on to the map! This was more than just adding rooms -- it's about positioning objects and clues.

I've long had a list of important puzzle elements, and a sense of where they appear in the storyline: these in chapter one, those in chapter two, that one behind locked door X, and so on. But most of them weren't actually present on the map. So for the past week, I've been going through the storyline, chapter by chapter, and marking down locations for absolutely everything.

This task is still in progress. I've gotten the first two chapters nailed down. "Out of how many chapters?" you ask! Well, that depends how you count. There are four major plot stages, which I've been calling "chapters", but I suspect that they won't appear as such in the final game. The player will see significant breaks, but perhaps not the same division points. Maybe six of them?

That's not a useful statistic. Here's a better one: 60% of the magic words, 40% of the recipes, and 95% of the physical objects are now located on the map. (Yes, all that stuff appears in the first two chapters. These include many common items which will be reused throughout the game. The later chapters introduce rarer and more powerful items -- thus, by definition, fewer of them. Hadean Lands is front-loaded with toys; that's just how it came out.)

The map grew ten new rooms in the process. This was expected; I've always had a vague scribble off to the north marked "crew quarters, more stuff". That's now filled in. Bonus: I've sketched out the first two chapters in my PlotEx constraint tool, so I know the game is solvable that far. I haven't put a key behind the door it unlocks, or anything dumb like that.

The down side: I haven't implemented these new rooms, or the bits of paper with all those magic words and alchemical recipes. They're still just notes in my files. And of course I have two chapters (40% of the words, 60% of the recipes) still to go. So November's work is laid out for me.

As you know, tomorrow is the third anniversary of this Kickstarter's launch -- and the third anniversary of its funding goal, since your generosity cleared that on day one. I never anticipated this long a road, and it's not done yet. But we're moving along. I appreciate your patience.

If I may indulge in hindsight: a year ago, my update post was all about the goal-shortcut system... which was partially done, but included no puzzle goals yet. And I was getting ready to start implementing the map.

Two years ago I was staring at a huge stack of disparate puzzle and story ideas with a panicked expression on my face.

So, while I'm not thrilled with my progress rate, I don't think I need to be ashamed either.

Enough of my self-regard. More IF news:

I will be attending the Practice conference at NYU in mid-November. I'm not speaking, but Emily Short is. Should be a fun weekend.

The People's Republic of Interactive Fiction now has a twitter account. If you're in the Boston area (or are generally interested) follow away.

Finally, a bare-faced plea! As you may be aware, Cyan Worlds has launched a Kickstarter: Obduction. This will be their first major new game since Myst 5 in 2005. They have set a high goal -- over a megabuck -- and they are currently about 60% of the way there.

As you know, I'm a big Myst fan. I want to see Obduction get made. It's not Myst-related, and that's good: this is Cyan's chance to break away from the long decline of Myst Online, and start something fresh.

The Kickstarter is cranking pretty well, for the mid-project trough period. I'd still like to see it closer to the goal before the frenetic final weekend hits. So: please consider a donation. If you glanced at the Kickstarter when it launched, it's worth reading the updates; Cyan has added a measured dose of detail about the game's background and storyline. Also: Oculus Rift stretch goal.

And now I must digest Halloween candy and get over the sugar rush. Next month.

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That Cyan Kickstarter: Obduction

The rumor-noise was for the beginning of November, but I guess they were ready sooner than that. Greet Obduction:

All-new sci-fi graphical adventure game. They're headlining Rand Miller as head pooh-bah, and Stephan Martinière and Eric A. Anderson (Myst Online, The Witness) as lead artists.

Obduction begins with... well… an abduction - your abduction. On a crystal clear, moon-lit night, a curious, organic artifact drops from the sky and inexplicably whisks you away across the universes to who-knows-where (or when, or why). -- from the Kickstarter page

And there's an abandoned white house with a picket fence in the middle of a fantastical landscape. Adventure-game history acknowledges the nod.

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Want to make games? Don't worry about the code.

At the top of this year, the Code Hero project launched its Kickstarter drive, quickly attracting positive attention ranging from highly visible blog write-ups to TV news interviews. Code Hero promised to teach anyone how to make video games by way of a videogame, an undeniably attractive proposition to many.

The team’s own enthusiasm for the concept effectively counteracted the fact that the extremely ambitious project was in the earliest stages of development, and they blew past their initial $100,000 funding goal. Their page remains frozen at the moment the drive ended, so you can still see their admirably bold appeals to US senators to plug their states’ educational budgets into the project, and their giddy promise that the game would transform from a single-user experience into an MMO if they could raise just a few more thousand dollars.

As winter settles in, however, the comments page for Code Hero paints a dire portrait of the project’s status: a cascade of unhappy, empty-handed backers asking for refunds, which has more recently evolved into community investigation of where their money might have gone. Clicking around the project’s Kickstarter page and the official website, one gets the picture that the project’s team went completely quiet after missing its self-imposed early-September deadline. (Though you can continue to order $13 copies of the game on its apparently still-functional order form, if you wish.)

Perhaps the team has chosen to take a hard-line approach to completing their development with no further promises or teasers, even to the point of allowing a dissatisfied-customer backlash to flourish unchecked on their Kickstarter page. I would be delighted to see the team resurface a year from now with a polished 1.0 release. But today, I do not foresee this happening.

I surprised myself by feeling a little bit angry about this development as I revisited it recently. Not simply because the project may likely fail — I have been in the software business for long enough to let Failure just keep one of my guest parking passes in its car. It happens, and we move on. But from my perspective, this particular failure helps me better see what sounded a little off-key to me about this project when I first heard during its higher-energy days. The problem, to my ear, lies right in the title: I very much doubt that an effort to teach game design or development that leads with code, or with any other technical aspect of the art, can truly succeed.

From what I can tell by reading the experiences of those who have stumbled around its extant alpha, Code Hero says “I’ll teach you how to make games!” and then proceeds to show you how to cause green cubes to float around in a bare Unity environment by pasting around chunks of JavaScript. At best, this might be laying the groundwork for eventually showing someone how to make a very particular sort of 3D-based videogame. My doubts about its effectiveness to one side, this emphasis on the technical guts of working with primitive shapes and such strikes me as near-sighted nerdery of the bad sort, an obsession on tools and execution over concepts and spirit.

My frustration stems from the fact that this project received so much attention and money from good people hoping for what I fear is a magic bullet, when as far as I’m concerned we already know the best way to learn to make games, and it is this: Start making games. Pick up any tool at all that has a decent online community, and consider something a tad less varsity-level than Unity — Twine has been getting some well-deserved attention lately, for one, and there is also things like GameMaker or my beloved Inform. Start making tiny, awful games with broken code and ill-fitting rules that barely work, but nonetheless lurch towards the model in your head of the game that you know can be beautiful. Each attempt will make you better, and you might be shocked at how quickly you can iterate and improve.

Just as someone who is truly passionate about, say, running should consider nerdery over different brands of running shoes a distraction, so should someone truly determined to make games worry far less about tools and techniques than overall design goals. Once someone is determined to make a game, and is convinced that their dream is possible, they will teach themselves what they need to in order to make it happen. As far as I’m concerned, nothing beats making small, silly, but nonetheless completely self-motivated projects to demonstrate to oneself that one’s dreams are achievable.

Good game-studies teachers already know that the path to getting students’ brains afire about their own ability to create has nothing to do with trying to get them excited about pushing around blocks of JavaScript, or learning how shaders and splines work. The best game-development classes emphasize the value of paper prototyping, or even putting the electronics away entirely and developing compelling tabletop rules.

The code is merely a means to an end. It’s a thing to get good at eventually, sure, if you decide that making video games is a thing you want to spend a lot more time doing. But just as good coders know about the evils of premature optimization, good developers should also know that premature emphasis on code over design presents a similarly tempting pitfall. It’s the wrong foot to lead with in any education about game-making, and I’m sad to see it lead to such a public and potentially discouraging failure in the case of Code Hero.

Pick up a tool. Make terrible games. Surprise yourself. Go.

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Please support Sportsfriends

As I write this, the Sportsfriends Kickstarter drive has just 14 hours to go and and still hasn’t quite met its goal. I encourage Gameshelf readers to go have a look and consider dropping in a pledge if there’s time left; for $15 you’ll preporder a copy of the finished work, a cross-platform collection of four indie games which all stress group-play.

The headliner is Johann Sebastian Joust, which isn’t a videogame but an ingenious computer-aided party-sport that is a pure joy to witness, let alone actually play. I couldn’t shut up about it after taking part in several J.S. Joust melees at last spring’s PAX East, and I would love to be able to play it with friends (as opposed to friendly strangers at game cons, as much fun as that is). You can see videos of the game in action on the project’s Kicstarter page.

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On behalf of Dominique Pamplemousse

I know this project has been widely spoken of in indie-games-land over the past few weeks, so maybe I'm just gilding the grapefruit here. But Deirdra Kiai's indie musical claymation adventure kickstarter(*) is moving into its final week of fundraising, and it has half a progress bar still to go.

(* Kickstarter in this case is Indiegogo, but you know what I mean.)

Check out the online demo of Dominique Pamplemousse in "It’s All Over Once the Fat Lady Sings!" (Demo is Flash, but the completed work will be Win/Mac/iPad.)

The Kickstarter world is currently full of remakes, re-releases, decades-belated sequels, and other wonders of nostalgia -- do I even need to hunt down example links? Amid all this, we need some attention for new, original games by people who weren't already famous in 1995.

I think a stop-motion light-opera adventure game counts as original. I mean, I'm not familiar with too many games that do either of those things(*). And if you're still hooked on nostalgia, well, Pamplemousse is a third-person graphical adventure of the old Lucas/Sierra model.

(* I never managed to play The Neverhood.)

The artwork is charming; the music is charming; the sung and spoken dialogue is well-done and apropos. But this is not the soul of the matter. When I played Deirdra's last graphical game, Life Flashes By, I wrote: "Not too many authors sit down to write a straight-up high-quality story, in the interactive mode." That is what we are offered here.

It will be a shame if, amid all the crowd-funding frenzy, this project gets lost on the wayside. So, please give Deirdra some money. The funding deadline is the end of August.

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A word in support of history

This post is not about me. It is about Jason Scott.

Jason Scott is a big loud blabbermouth who, in several subtle ways, helped get me to where I am today. I don't mean the Kickstarter invite he gave me, which I used to launch my project a year ago. I mean his giant documentary about text adventures. (Which featured my face, amidst a crowd of IF faces and places.) That movie -- no: the response to that movie -- assured me that there was a place for an independent hacker to pursue interactive storytelling, in this uncertain world, and be supported for it.

Jason Scott, an overdressed loon who will not shut up, funded his movie through Kickstarter. A year ago, I looked at his Kickstarter pitch -- no, the response to his pitch -- and said: this funding thing works. I can do this.

Then I asked him, more or less, "Should I try this?" And he said, more or less, "Of course. Hello. Duh." So here I am. But this post is not about me.

Jason Scott (an Internet addict and obsessive downloader) has posted a Kickstarter pitch for three new documentaries. He wants to do a movie about the 6502 processor, a movie about tape -- video, audio, data -- and a movie about arcades. He is asking for a big pile of money. As I write this, he has roughly one-seventh of a big pile accumulated.

It is my assertion that Jason (blabbermouth, loon, obsessive) should achieve his big pile and make his movies. I don't say this because he's helped me out. I say this because this is what he does. He accumulates information about the history of the computer age -- obsessively. He collects files and interviews people. He turns computer folklore into computer history.

He does not shut up because he has accumulated a vast amount of this interesting stuff in his head and he wants to tell it to you. He gives lectures, or you can just have dinner with him -- it's the information faucet either way. In his documentaries, mind you, he does not talk. You won't see his face much on film. There, he shuts up, gets out of the way, and lets his subjects (and his subject) speak for themselves.

(As for "overdressed", I can't fit that into this narrative. Jason just likes to dress up.)

Get Lamp was Jason's second big movie. His first was BBS: The Documentary. Go trawl those sites if you want an idea how his movies work. I bought a copy of BBS back in '05, while trying to decide whether to let this guy point a camera at me, and I was convinced. Check them out. Or, heck, go looking for the movies themselves online. Jason releases everything under Creative Commons licenses. You can download them if you want -- he's cool with that. If you think they're worth money, buy the nice DVD editions. If you think the upcoming movies are worth money, donate to his Kickstarter project. That is all.

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Colonial ninjas are go

Speaking of Kickstarter game projects involving children and mortal peril, Boston-based Lantana Games succeeded in their fundraising effort to complete Children of Liberty, a young-adult historical-fiction stealth platformer. Colonial America is a rich thematic source that games haven’t explored much, and I’m happy see this project funded. So here’s us also wishing the Lantana folks all the best while they screw on their tricorns and get down to business.

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Funding the Thunderbeam

Wiley Wiggins, semi-obscure movie star and aficionado of semi-obscure adventure games, has co-founded a team to create Thunderbeam!, an iPad adventure. They aim to capture the spirit of the compelling — and, in retrospect, often disturbing — young-adult adventure-dramas they watched on TV as kids, particularly anime such as Gatchaman (or, as I knew it, Battle of the Planets) and live-action shows like The Third Eye.

Add in an original soundtrack by theremin-enhanced indie rockers The Octopus Project, and you’ve got me desperately mashing a ten-dollar bill into my laptop screen before remembering how Kickstarter works. Happily, they met their funding goal while I was in the middle of writing this post, but the drive remains open for another 11 days, and every dollar helps; I just zapped them a sawbuck in the correct manner.

The team’s website features a lengthy video about the game, interspersed with clips from the various games and TV shows that inspire them. (What crazy show is that completely earnest “Hitler isn’t dead” line from? Were I chewing gum I would have choked on it right then. That is some transcendently bizarre television, which I apparently missed for growing up on the wrong side of the pond).

I must admit some concern about their telling the whole world in lurid detail about the game’s emotional plot twists this early in the project. In my experience, talking too loudly about your work’s actual content — versus revealing teasing glimpses of the shadows said content casts — can sap one’s drive to ship the final product to an audience that has no idea what’s about to hit it. You can trade some of that away for the short-term boost of people telling you how cool your idea sounds, and arguably this isn’t a terrible idea when it comes to collecting Kickstarter pledges. But you need a lot of creative fuel in your tank for the long, long drive towards shipping, so I still advise caution.

Still, just given the talent involved and their clear love for the source material, I feel optimistic that this project will land in the right place. Best of luck from the Gameshelf to Karakasa Games!

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PAX East 2011: Zarf's anecdotes

I wrote a whole lot about last year's PAX IF events, because that was my first PAX and everything was exciting and new. Now it's my third (two in Boston, one in Seattle) and... everything is ho-hum and tired? No. It was an exciting weekend. But I may gush less about it this year.

Day -1

I spent Wednesday running around collecting the inventory. That includes the projector screen we used (thanks to Rick Kovalcik for letting us borrow it), and also a whole pile of books for the IF Suite. And I'll get that list out of the way right now...

From Nick Montfort's collection:

  • CYOA 1: The Cave of Time, Edward Packard
  • CYOA 12: Inside UFO 54-40, Edward Packard
  • Neither Either Nor Or, Joey Dubuc
  • You Are A Miserable Excuse For A Hero, Bob Powers
  • Eunoia, Christian Bök
  • Exercises in Style, Raymond Queneau
  • IF Theory Reader, Kevin Jackson-Mead, Rob Wheeler, ed.
  • Persuasive Games, Ian Bogost
  • Genesis II, Dale Petersen, ed. (contains a rare interview with Will Crowther)
  • Heart Suit, Robert Coover (a story on shufflable cards)
  • Knock Knock, Jason Shiga

From my collection:

  • Creating IF With Inform 7, Aaron Reed
  • The Inform Designer's Manual, Graham Nelson
  • The Knot-Shop Man, David Whiteland
  • Riddle & Bind, Nick Montfort
  • A Telling of the Tales, William J. Brooke
  • Engines of Ingenuity, Kit Williams
  • The Book of the War, Lawrence Miles
  • Meanwhile, Jason Shiga
  • 3-Dimensional Maze Art, Larry Evans
  • The Hole Maze Book, Greg Bright
  • The Book of Signs, Rudolf Koch
  • The Book of Adventure Games 1 and II, Kim Schuette
  • Reality is Broken, Jane McGonigal

Last year we brought a lot of narrative-theory and game-studies books. This year I wanted the theme to be "playful books", because, after all, these are things that visitors might read for a bit while relaxing in the Suite. So I brought maze books, fairy tales, and CYOA books and parodies. Some of the fairy tales were about narrative theory and mazes, but that's because such things amuse me.

Day 0

Thursday some of us met up for brunch (the Friendly Toast, your home for ridiculously fancified breakfast food). Then, oh yes, Mike and Jmac and I dragged The Inventory over to the hotel and got the room set up. (We also got screwed at this point on the hotel room rate, but we wouldn't realize this until Monday.)

Dinner was at the Tavern in the Square. (Thanks to Mike for getting us a private room where we could carouse all night. In the matter of geeks getting together. Which is to say, drinking heavily and talking about software.)

Day 1

I scrambled to make flyers announcing the IF Suite, and barely got to the convention center in time for my first panel:

How to fund your game development project with Kickstarter -- Cindy Au, Andrew Plotkin, Joshua Newman, Evan Balster, Max Temkin

This wasn't packed, probably because it was early on Friday. I think about two-thirds of the room was filled. (I'm pretty sure that it was the last event at PAX that didn't completely fill up.)

I've blogged about my Kickstarter success before, so my contribution to this panel will not be news to you. I was joined by the creators of three other projects:

  • Infinite Blank, a multi-player, casual, very lightweight world-making videogame (or toy)
  • Cards Against Humanity, a card game in the style of Apples to Apples for cynical people
  • Human Contact, an RPG patterned after the stories of Iain M. Banks, Vernor Vinge, and Ursula K. Le Guin

Cindy Au is the community-manager person at Kickstarter; she set this up. We all talked about our projects and then answered questions. I completely failed to plug the IF events at PAX.

Interactive Drama: Dialogue as Gameplay -- Jonathon Myers, Daniel Erickson, Jeff Orkin, Aaron Reed, Dan Tanguay, Martin Van Velsen

I didn't make it into this panel; I saw the line and decided I wasn't up for waiting.

This was supposed to be a panel discussion between Jonathon Myers, Stephen Dinehart, Evan Skolnick, Emily Short, and John Gonzalez. As I understand it, four of the five panelists bailed. Emily was at PAX but completely hammered by the cold she brought back from GDC. I don't know the other stories.

However, the panel wound up with a fine list of substitutes. Aaron Reed, the author of Blue Lacuna and Creating IF with Inform 7, represented the text-IF side of the universe. Better yet, he didn't fail to plug the IF Suite, using the flyers that I smuggled into the room.

I ran around the expo floor for a little bit, and then it was time for:

Non-gamers gaming -- Caleb Garner, Tim Crosby, Heather Albano, Sarah Morayati, Andrew Plotkin

This was the first of our IF Suite events, and it was packed as expected. Of course packing the IF Suite is not exactly the same as packing a PAX function room, but we were still pretty pleased.

I'm not going to try to recap the discussion -- we'll post video eventually -- but we got around a variety of angles on the topic. My stumper question, or at least the question that made everybody pause and look thoughtful, was: "Are we talking about writing games for non-gamers, or writing games that teach non-gamers to be gamers?"

I got one of the convention center's patented Extremely Boring Sandwiches for dinner. (They must have been patented. Highly trained food chemists must have worked for years to develop a sandwich that boring. However, it was food.) We then gathered for:

Meet the IF community

...which means, we all hang out in the IF Suite. Just like the rest of the weekend, but we wanted to name a time for newcomers who might be hesitant about it.

And people showed up! It was exciting.

MIT Tunnel Tour

This was an impromptu expedition to visit the MIT steam tunnels (or at least the more interesting MIT basements). I didn't go along with this, because I wanted to stay with the room and continue to greet my loyal fans. Or stay with the room, anyway.

Marius Müller took some video: Video 1, 2, 3, 4 (on Youtube).

Day 2

Saturday was our big day, for circumstantial reasons: Dave Cornelson arranged for us to rent a full-sized hotel function room all day. (That's full-sized for a hotel. Still smaller than the monster PAX event rooms.) So we crammed all the events we thought would draw crowds into Saturday.

Oh, you want photos? Start with Mark Musante's PAX photo collection. Marius Müller and Jesse McGrew also took some, but those are on Facebook, so, you know, wear galoshes.

Our first event...

PAX Speed-IF

The topic list, shouted out from the audience: (And apologies to those of you who tried to shout and got overshouted -- it was disorganized in there.)

  • A character whose name starts with the letter "M"
  • Sending Jim and Kevin on a mission to locate something
  • The Tomb of the Unknown Tool
  • A 100 year old typewriter
  • Pluto
  • Braintree or Alewife
  • One of the titles on Juhana's poster of imaginary IF titles
  • Chicken fingers
  • Explosions
  • Vacuum

We had the traditional (two PAXes in a row is tradition, right?) crowd of people intently hacking away outside the IF room all afternoon. Looks like nine entries were turned in that day; you can download them from the Textfyre SpeedIF page.

Setting as character in narrative games -- Andrew Plotkin, Rob Wheeler, Stephen Granade, Dean Tate

The joke here is that I submitted this as an official PAX event. They didn't take it, because Irrational Games had submitted a panel that was essentially "Setting as character in Bioshock Infinite", and that was deemed to have more appeal to the PAX crowd. Fair enough. So we talked about settings in every game except Bioshock Infinite.

(We cheated a little, because while Dean Tate is with Harmonix Studios, he was with Irrational when Bioshock and Bioshock 2 were being designed. So he had some insights from that story-universe.)

This was fun; we basically gabbed about our favorite game settings for an hour. My panel-ending stumper was "What non-game setting would you love to see in a game?" but this turned out to be the kind of stumper where nobody has a great answer. Oh well.

Everybody Dies

We fired up the projector and played Everybody Dies by Jim Munroe. The run-through took about an hour, and then Jim answered a few questions from the audience.

The transcript will be up soon.

A lightning introduction to Inform 7 -- Jason McIntosh, Andrew Plotkin

Unfortunately we didn't get video of this; I was late getting back from dinner and so we didn't get as many laptops set up as we wanted. However, Jason recommends Aaron Reed's I7 screencast; it's the same sort of presentation.

IF Demo Fair

This was the IF event at PAX, and kudos to Emily Short for inventing the idea and making it all happen in just six weeks.

We packed the room with laptops -- and other hardware -- and packed those with sample games. In some cases, with full games. People circulated for two hours, trying everything and discussing it. It was a tremendously exciting place to be. If you found PAX's show floor to be a disappointment, you were missing the ferment of game-design discussion going on next door.

Emily covers a few of the Demo Fair entries on her blog. More detailed discussions will appear in the next issue of SPAG.

The one that I've been thinking about ever since PAX was Juhana Leinonen's Vorple, a Javascript library for animation tricks in an IF interface. This is not as frivolous as you might think. Web-based text can be very polished -- look at the CYOA engine Undum for examples -- and there's no reason IF shouldn't benefit from this.

Vorple showed in-line dynamic images, pop-up help, and smoothly-positioned overlay elements. It's not directly integrated with an IF system yet, but it clearly can be.

My job for the next two weeks is to integrate my old ideas about CSS for Glulx and Vorple's approach to dynamic content, and design a framework that will (a) fit into Quixe, (b) be practical in native (non-Javascript) interpreters, (c) be effective in native interpreters that choose to use HTML display (WebKit or whatever), and (d) be easily usable from Inform 7. Extra fun! But it's the next stage in my VM/API work, and it's time to start it.

Anyhow -- I don't want to make the Demo Fair all about me. There were a pile of other projects and games, including the promised Automatypewriter, so check out Emily's post and future discussion.

Speed-IF wrap-up

Everybody was worn out by the end of the Demo Fair, so we packed up the function room and retired to the IF Suite to look over the absurdly-named creations of the day.

Day 3

Sunday was deliberately light, but we did have time for:

Curveship -- Nick Montfort

Curveship was part of the Demo Fair, but Nick wanted to give a more in-depth presentation for IF cognoscenti. (Sorry about stuffing it into the smaller IF Suite, but it was mildly apropos to see his slides projected onto the unflat surface of an upturned mattress.)

Curveship is an experimental IF system (written in Python) which explores different ways of narrating stories. I keep writing one-line intros in that vein, and it doesn't seem to deconfuse people about what Curveship is. Basically, Curveship has two unusual qualities. First: its world model includes not just facts about the current world state, but a history of past world state, the actions that got from there to here, and (for NPCs) their knowledge of the world -- the subsets of the current and past states that they're actually aware of. Second: its text output system can easily switch point-of-view, tense (past or future), level of detail, and other narrative variables.

The result is not a fully mature IF system. The parser is simplistic, and the generated text is too -- the degree to which you hand-craft the output is somewhat (not completely) at odds with the templating that Curveship uses to vary the text. But the point is to explore these capabilities. Once we know what they're good for, then either Curveship can be improved or the features can be adapted to existing IF systems.

That leaves the question of what the features are good for, and that's an ongoing discussion in the community. I don't have a good handle on an answer. I certainly use point-of-view tricks in crafting IF; I vary descriptions based on the player's knowledge, distance, and state of mind. Do I need these features to be first-level constructs that underlie every object and description? I'm not used to working that way, but maybe if I were I'd be writing different games.

And then we packed up the room and went out to a fancy Mexican place for dinner. Followed by random card games in the hotel lobby until everybody was too tired to think.

Day 4

Brunch at the Friendly Toast again, followed by a quick expedition to the MIT Museum to see Art Ganson's work. Once again, two PAXes makes a tradition.

What have we learned?

We really need a bigger IF Suite next year. Holding a hotel function room for three days straight is certainly a possibility, but we can't serve snacks there, and it's not great for sitting and relaxing. This will be discussed further.

PAX itself was almost completely uninteresting to me this year. I think this is just a phase of the game industry. My first console love is plot-heavy exploration-puzzle-environment games, and they're out of style right now. It's not like I ever went to a PAX and saw lots of big-name games I wanted to buy; it's usually one or two a year. This year it was Child of Eden, I guess. (I'm discounting Portal 2, since there was never a chance I wouldn't buy it.) Smaller games I ogled: Warp, Fez, Blinding Silence.

Not really related to the above, except thematically: I spent the weekend wondering whether PAX was the best place for an annual IF Summit and Hangout. The fact is, we are lost in the crowd; we'll never regain the in-PAX visibility that we had when Get Lamp hit. We've had a solid game-design panel at each of the last three PAXes, and that's good, but it's not necessarily a reason to do all this other stuff at PAX. And indeed, quite a few people in our rooms didn't bother to get PAX badges.

The camelly straw for me was when I went to the PAX info desk and said "Can I put these flyers here?" (For the IF Suite and events.) I did this at PAX East and PAX Prime last year, and they said "Sure." There was a place for independent but related events on the table. This year they said, "Sorry, not permitted." That's for the big sponsors, not for the likes of me.

I feel like I want to be part of a game-design convention, not a game-consumer exposition. Of course I spent last week saying "must attend GDC in 2012", which I will, but that's crazy expensive -- not worthwhile for most IF fans. At the other end of the scale is Boston Gameloop, which I also attend, but which is probably too small to organize around. Where's the full-weekend Boston game-design conference with interesting out-of-town guest speakers and multiple tracks interesting to both indie developers and game studios?

I know, I know, the answer is "run it." Funny story: I went up to a local Boston indie game person -- I won't incriminate by name -- and said "We should run a conference." The individual in question looked at me, nodded wisely, leaned forward, and said "Fuck you."

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Boston-flavored Kickstarter du jour: Children of Liberty

Boston-based Lantana Games has launched a Kickstarter page for Children of Liberty, a stealth-based platformer they’ve been working on for the last year or so. They seek $5,000 to purchase equipment and software that’ll help them finish the work.

Beyond being a valued and respected member of the Boston-area indie-developer community, Lantana knows that the best way to get me to embed a Kickstarter video on my blog is to prominently feature my own voice in it. So here you go:

Aside from loving to hear myself talk, as a lifelong New Englander I also have to love the game’s setting and theme, where the stealthy protagonists are child agents of the Patriots on the eve of the American revolutionary war. Really looking forward to seeing the final product.

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Cut, wrap, take ten, take a trip to Cuba

(Note: Cuba is metaphorical. I am not going to Cuba. Brush up on your famous movie quotes.)

There we have it; just over $31,000 dollars. (I won't say exactly how much over, but I know who you are.)

Thank you all. To those of you who thanked me, you're welcome. To the rest of you, happy holidays, and if you don't celebrate any near-term holidays -- go invent one. We'll wait. We're not proud. ("Or tired.")

In one sense, the hard part is now over. I can put aside my fundraiser's hat, which (trust me) doesn't fit my head at all. I can go back to designing games and writing code. That's all I've ever wanted, mostly.

In another sense, the easy part is now over. I'm no longer watching money roll in with the tide; now I have to row out and earn it. I owe you people thirty-one thousand dollars' worth of game. Time to get crunching.

And now, some questions from the audience!

What next?

I still have two more weeks at the day job. That will take some of my energy. Quite a lot, really, because (inevitably) the cliff crept up faster than I was expecting. I would like to get a lot more of my final day-job project nailed down.

At the same time, I need to start designing Hadean Lands. What, you think the game design is all laid out? I have a good sketch of how the game will go, sure. But I need to turn it into a story, and I need to turn it into a game, and I need to make sure these two things are the same afterwards.

For me, game design is not an activity that benefits from full-time effort. I can't sit down and say "let's work on this design for four hours." I have to cram it into cracks in other things. So it makes sense to start that process this week. When January swings around, I'll hopefully be in a position to start cranking code. I'll let you know.

What are you going to do with the extra money?

Well, look. When I originally wrote down $8,000 as my Kickstarter target goal, I wasn't holding a development budget whose line items added up to $7,997 plus a caramel brownie at Dave's. My expenses for developing this game are basically (1) new Mac Mini, (2) a year's renewal of my iPhone developer membership, and (3) a whole lot of postage at some point next year.

The point was to build myself time to work on IF. I could have done it by leaping into the abyss and burning away my savings. That's traditional. But I did that in 2005 (for a non-IF project) and it didn't work out. I've spent the years since then rebuilding my bank account. I hate repeating mistakes. I figured that working with advance funding -- no matter how much or little -- would be, at worse, less of a mistake. Right?

Again, $8,000 was an arbitrary number. (I nearly changed it to $10,000 at the last minute, but I couldn't convince myself it was achievable...) Realistically, $8,000 wouldn't cover my living expenses for the course of development. (I live in Boston. I am a 40-year-old sedentary geek, so medical insurance is both legally mandated and a damn good idea. And then there's Boston rent. And then there are the caramel brownies.)

Will $31,000 cover my living expenses? Who the heck knows. There are too many variables to contemplate a prediction. I'll either run short, in which case I'll dip into my savings -- or I'll run long, in which case I'll have more time for The Next Thing. Either way, $31,337 (for real) is neither a budget nor a deadline. It's breathing room. Far more breathing room than I expected.

What if Apple rejects the game?

Then, heck, I'll come up with something else. You think I have this all meticulously planned out?

The question arises because (by total coincidence) Apple just rejected an iPad port of a program I wrote. It wasn't me who submitted it, mind you. It was an open-source screen saver -- my implementation of an old IRIX screen saver. A fan of the program ported it to iPad and submitted it as a free app. Apple said "sorry, not sufficiently useful or entertaining". (You can download the source code anyway -- thank you, Shigeru Hagiwara.) So, there's glory for you.

Could Apple reject my app? Sure. Will they? I refuse to sweat about it; they've gotten clearer about their rules, and the horror stories have diminished in the past several months.

If I wind up an App Store statistic, my supporters will still get their game. Worst case, I'll upgrade everyone to the CD version. But I'm really not worried about it.

How will you distribute the iPhone version? Doesn't Apple limit how many freebies you can send out?

For people inside the US, I can gift the iPhone app -- there's no limit on that. Outside the US... I'll come up with something. See above. Maybe I'll mail a check to friends in other countries, and have them gift it. Maybe I'll mail you a physical iTunes gift card. Maybe I'll paypal you five dollars. Maybe Apple will relax its gifting rules, or the pig will learn to sing. I'll make something happen.

How about a graph?

I'm glad you asked.

Hadean Lands funding graph

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Last day: Support Zarf and creator-driven games

All right; I’ve let Andy drive the blog around long enough. While my last post about my rediscovered obsession with text games remains entirely true, what I did not mention — largely due to competition rules — was my own IFComp entry, and how much time and energy that little excursion took up. But I have finally published its post-competition release, and thus can take the Gameshelf wheel back for a while.

In the near future I’ll post something more akin to a proper release announcement, followed by some number of post-mortem essays. (If there’s one thing that inspires lots of handwringey thoughts on IF game design and conventions, it’s writing one of the damned things. In 2010.) But before I get to those, I’d like to keep the spotlight on Zarf’s crazy project for just a little longer.

As I write this, the Hadean Lands Kickstarter drive has less than a day left on its clock. If you’re reading this post on Monday, Dec. 6 (Eastern time), then you still have a chance to pledge your support, if you haven’t already.

Our goal is to push the pot over $30,000 before the buzzer sounds. That’s only $1,100 away, as I hit this post’s “Publish” button. (Seen another way, that’s a just a few dozen more purchases of the Hadean Lands limited-edition CD, which, allow me to remind you one last time, is the only way you’ll be able to play the game outside of an iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch while it launches in the App Store.)

It’s true that Andy met his modest goal of $8,000 the very day the page went up, tripling that total well before today. But that doesn’t mean that this project couldn’t use every pledge-dollar offered to it! As described in the video on the project page, he isn’t just going to publish a single game, but also release for the world’s free use the various tools and frameworks he’ll need to create and improve along the way. In other words, your pledge doesn’t just help Zarf buy lunch; it’s an investment in the future of quality interactive fiction, by everyone who cares to write it — and, world willing, sell it.

But just as important as the game and the technical work is the trail he’s blazing as an independent game creator in general. When sites like Rock Paper Shotgun picked up the story, I was happy not just because here was IF shouting another ping onto the larger game radar, but also because the unexpected success at this one crazy guy’s completely independent bid for support has definitely gotten many non-mainstream game creators’ gears turning. I myself have witnessed someone on an indie game-developer mailing list name-check Zarf while announcing his own launch of a game studio, even though it has little to do with IF per se.

Tomorrow, Andy will start leading the IF community towards — we hope — a new flourishing of commercially viable interactive fiction. But besides and beyond that, we’re starting to see the effects of something wonderfully wider, and we have one more day to make it wider yet. Let’s make it happen, not just for text adventure games, but as a show of support for passion-fueled, creator-driven, future-changing videogames of all kinds. You know what to do.

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The final week

Here we are, with 6.9-ish days to go. I've just passed 600 backers and 26,000 dollars. Those numbers mean nothing to my brain, of course. I can't picture a pile of 10,800 overpriced muffins. I can imagine six squares of people standing ten-by-ten, but I don't know what it would sound like if they all cheered at once.

This whole experience has been a little unreal, is what I'm trying to tell you.

I took this past weekend (the US holiday) as a bit of a dry run. I spent one day eating (that's the holiday), and then three solid days working on IF work. Not the game design, not yet. I answered email, and then did an extraordinarily dull bit of interpreter coding needed for full Unicode support. (Do you know what "Normalization Form D" is? No? Lucky rotter.) This is what my life will be like come January. Overall, a success. I have leftovers, too.

Kickstarter projects traditionally start with a big burst of love, then slow down for a long while, and then rush towards the finish line at the end. I suppose it's different for projects that cross the finish line so early. Nonetheless, and naturally, I'm hoping for a big clutch of last-minute donations. Not because I'm greedy, right? This is fundraising. I'm not allowed to shirk it, because the funds will help me. You know this spiel. So here's my last fundraising plea:

The Hadean Lands story flew around the gamer press right away. Everything since then has been word of mouth. Fantastic, enthusiastic, helpful word of mouth -- but inevitably low-volume word of mouth. I've pushed the story at some of the literary, science-fiction, and fandom news sites, but it hasn't grabbed. Nor is it much of a business story, except for that one (very gratifying) blog repost on CNNMoney.

Therefore: if you think that IF is cool, mention me to your non-gamer friends. I think this project has the potential to reach book-readers, e-book-readers, watchers of smart TV, followers of online narrative projects -- the border between old and new media. Who do you know?

Yes, it's early. I'll come around when the game is released, and try to reach the same people all over again. But that's the future, and this is the last Kickstarter week, so now is when I'm asking.

Whew. Plea ends. Thank you for all you people have done.

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Halfway, and extended teaser

It's November 16th, roughly halfway through my little experiment.

(What do you mean, we blew past the edges of the Petri dish on day 1? How does that make any sense?)

Rather than stew in self-congratulation -- I can do that perfectly well in the confines of my own skull -- let me offer you a Halfway Present:

An extended game teaser for Hadean Lands. Now with a second ritual to complete! And many more objects to play with in the process!

I hope this gives a better idea of how the game's magic will play out. (Warning: some of the things you will find are not useful in this teaser. They're for rituals later on in the game.)

Now, just a little bit of self-congratulation: CNNMoney asked to reprint my Update #8, the post on running Kickstarter successfully. Very kind of them.

Overall, you can probably guess that I'm utterly thrilled with the way things are going. Contributions are still coming in steadily, if slowly. I'm hoping that the upcoming weeks see my plans percolate out from the gaming press into business reporting, writing circles, and -- heck, I don't know -- web comics journalism. I mean, why aim low?

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Hadean Lands posts and interviews

In this spot, I'm going to collect links to news articles, interviews, and random discussion threads about Hadean Lands and my Kickstarter effort. Apologies to those of you who have been voraciously reading all the links as they roll by. (Which is all of you, right? Right?)

Comment if you see one I missed.

Things I've Posted

I originally posted on The Gameshelf, on intfiction.org, and of course on my own web site.

I've been making regular posts to the Kickstarter updates page. I will continue posting there, discussing the promotion and development process. Those posts will also appear here on The Gameshelf, from now on.

Articles and interviews

Andrew Plotkin And Mobile Interactive Fiction -- TK-Nation, Cassandra Khaw (2010-11-01) (First post!)

Interactive Fiction Dev Raising Money For Hadean Lands, Mad Plan -- GameSetWatch, Eric Caoili (2010-11-01)

Andrew Plotkin Wants to Write IF Fulltime and You Can Help -- TIGSource, Derek Yu (2010-11-01)

IF Author Raises $10,000 In One Day -- Rock Paper Shotgun, Quintin Smith (2010-11-02)

Hadean Lands: Interactive Fiction per iPhone -- L'avventura è l'avventura, Giovanni Riccardi (2010-11-02)

Text To Speech: Andrew Plotkin Interview -- Rock Paper Shotgun, interview via Quintin Smith (2010-11-05)

Interactive Fiction: Abenteuer, nur im Kopf -- Die Presse, Georg Renner (2010-11-13)

How I raised $24,000 on Kickstarter -- CNNMoney, guest article (2010-11-15)

Andrew Plotkin interview -- Adventure Classic Gaming, interview via Philip Jong (2011-01-07)

Interacting with Andrew Plotkin -- Black Clock, interview (2011-01-13)

Kickstart-ed Andrew Plotkin on Interactive Fiction for iPhone -- Indie Superstar, interview (2011-01-19)

The Setup -- interview on what tools I use (2011-01-22)

Entrevista a Andrew Plotkin -- El Blog de Manu, interview via Manuel Sagra (2011-02-08)

Blog posts

(not a complete list, because the blogging world is legion and a half)

Monday, Monday! -- The Kickstarter Blog, weekly post, included by Cindy Au (2010-11-01) (My project has also appeared on Kickstarter's "popular" list and the front page, to my inestimable benefit)

Hadean Lands -- Emily Short (2010-11-01)

Lebling Lurks, Zarf is Kickstarted -- Nick Montfort (2010-11-01)

Hadean Lands: Interactive Fiction for the iPhone by Andrew Plotkin -- Kickstarter -- Wiley Wiggins (2010-11-02)

The new frontier -- neophyte (2010-11-02)

Help Andrew Plotkin Write Text Adventures Full Time -- Stephen Granade (2010-11-02)

Andrew Plotkin's New Game on Kickstarter -- M. Zack Urlocker (2010-11-08)

Plotkin Makes a Go At It -- Jason Scott (2010-11-10)

The return of interactive fiction -- Ken Gagne (2010-11-18)

Forum discussions

Hadean Lands -- Metafilter (2010-11-01)

IF creator knows how to raise money -- GOG.com (2010-11-02)

Zarf's Hadean Lands project -- Quarter To Three (via peterb) (2010-11-05)

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Three upcoming documentaries on games

We seem to be entering a nexus of documentaries about games. Far be it from me to do anything but encourage further flowering in this field! Witness:

Lorien Green has released a clip of Gone Cardboard, a film about board games -- particularly Eurogames, by the looks of it -- and the people who play them. She expects to release the final cut in early 2011. (Link via Kevin Jackson-Mead.)

The enigmatically named Spinach hopes to produce a doc about people who create digital games, called You Meet the Nicest People Making Videogames. That link leads to the project's Kickstarter fundraising page, which includes a teaser he filmed at GDC. Mr. Spinach approaches this endeavor from scratch, and needs help covering both equipment and travel costs, a position I can certainly appreciate. He's a quarter of the way to his goal, so far... (Link via Anna Anthropy.)

And of course, just 49 hours and 15 minutes after I type these words, I plan on attending the world premiere of Jason Scott's Get Lamp at PAX East. It is part of the interactive fiction track which is of course the real reason to attend the show, ho ho. Jason's been working on this film for years, and I was privileged to see a clip a few months ago at a Boston IF meetup. It's gonna be a goodie.

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Kickstarter Project Needs Just a Bit More, Ends Today

You may have heard of Kickstarter. A number of independent game developers have used it to fund various projects. Here's another example, and I'll let Heather speak for herself:

Before You Close Your Eyes is a game/interactive story about personalities
and consequences. It is intended as an immersive, story-rich vehicle for
introspection and understanding the choices made by others. It is
presented in a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure style and will be available on
iPhone, Android and Web.


I am attempting to fund this project on Kickstarter, which is a cool web
platform for "crowdfunding". Crowdfunding is what happens when lots of
people are willing to put their money behind something that they love and
think should exist in the world. The Kickstarter model works a bit like a
PBS pledge drive. Backers declare how much they would like to contribute to
the project and receive 'Thank You" gifts that the person asking for funding
had defined.

You can take a look at my project site here:
http://bit.ly/dreamgame

Just about 10 hours to go, and she's raised $8010 out of her $8500 goal (which represents 2 months of time to work on the game). And as with most Kickstarter projects, lots of fun gifts for pledges of various amounts.

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