Results tagged “hadean lands”

Hadean news of the week

I thought this was the boring part of the release process. Hadean Lands has been out for a couple of months, I've done a couple of iOS updates, time to settle down and work through the Kickstarter rewards. Plan for more distribution platforms, like Steam and the Humble Store. Boring stuff.

Wrong! It's crazy excitement time.

First thing this week, two fantastic reviews appeared:

"The best video game I played last year is a science-fiction thriller about alchemy, and it has no graphics or sound effects." -- David Auerbach, Slate

"Hadean Lands is an endlessly clever experience." -- Sean Clancy, Pocket Tactics

Suddenly the sales rate is going nuts, Twitter activity is buzzing, and my head is spinning.

When a wave of publicity hits, that's when you want a Steam Greenlight page, right? (Greenlight is the voting system that Steam uses to gauge public interest in new indie games.) So I have spent the past day constructing one. Here it is:

Vote for Hadean Lands on Steam Greenlight!

This isn't a purchase; it just indicates to Steam that this is the kind of game you want them to offer. When enough "yes" votes accumulate, I get a slot on the Steam storefront. (No, I don't know how many votes is enough.)

(Speaking of Greenlight, I note that two other parser IF games went up this month: Jack Toresal and The Secret Letter (Mike Gentry and David Cornelson) and The Shadow in the Cathedral (Ian Finley and Jon Ingold). There's also Her Story, which is not a text game, but is by IF author Sam Barlow. And that must only scratch the surface; I haven't even tried to survey the Greenlight world.)

Holiday iOS app sales

It is Christmastime, the time of bundles... okay, every month is the time of bundles these days. Bundles have become continuous. We get it. We're joining in!

I have posted Zarf's IF Bundle on the iOS App Store. Basically, you buy Hadean Lands through this link, you get my Shade and Heliopause apps thrown in free. Why not? If you've already purchased HL for iOS, the "complete my bundle" link should let you download the other apps.

And while I'm at it: Meanwhile for iOS is now on sale for two bucks, through the end of the year. That's 60% off! Or like 87% off as compared to the hardback book!

(Let us not speak about the relative values placed on creators by the book and software industries these days. I'm trying to gin up some product excitement here.)

So go buy Meanwhile now, if you haven't. If you have, why not gift a copy to a friend? Or an enemy? Two weeks only! Imagine lying on the living-room floor, next to the tree or bull's-head or aluminum pole or whatever your December celebratory decoration is, scrolling around Jason's mad-science fairy tale and trying to remember where you left the branch that doesn't involve zapping the Earth clean of human life.

And then buy Hadean Lands too. The nickel beads demand it.

All codes have now been distributed

Whew. The game is up, and all of the gifts and promo codes have been sent out. If you didn't receive something you should have received, contact me.

(This was an epic tale involving late-night gnashing of teeth, a lot of confusing problems, and three distinct phone calls to my bank. Rockland Trust, cheers to them, they were very nice and made everything work. Once it was, you know, banker's hours.)

The web site ( now has the purchase links for the iOS App Store, Itch.IO, and Humble.

(Note that the game doesn't appear on the Humble Store site itself. I'm using the Humble Widget to sell the download off my own site.)

Also note this excellent write-up of the game by Emily Short. She was a beta-tester, so it is not an unbiased review, but she gets why the game is built the way it is.

The next phase is the physical rewards. (CDs, postcards, posters, etc.) But before I start focussing on those, I am going to take a bit of a victory tour. I will be speaking about Hadean Lands at the WordPlay festival in Toronto (November 8th). I will also be attending (though not speaking at) the Practice conference at NYU.

Now, I just have to get the leaderboard page updated, and go to bed. Going to bed: important.

Zarfplan: Less than 24 hours now

App Store approval came through on the 25th. Everything is now queued up to launch the game on the 30th. Again, that web site:

Let me reiterate the launch process, now that I know (nearly) all the details.

At one minute after midnight (Eastern time), I will update the web site to show Hadean Lands on sale.

Next, I will send out a batch of email containing Humble and Itch.IO keys. The email will be marked "From:", so keep an eye on your spam filters. Emails should all go out by 2 AM Eastern time.

The iOS app, again, is tricky. I have to employ several different mechanisms and the help of some generous volunteers. (Generous with their time, I mean. I'm covering all the costs.) So the iOS apps will go out in several batches at various times. I hope that they'll all be credited to your accounts by the evening of the 30th.

I wanted to make this perfectly simultaneous, but perfection was not available. I apologize.

The details: if your iTunes account is based in Great Britain, Canada, Germany, or Finland, you will receive the iOS app gifted from one of my volunteers. (Thanks to Juhana Leinonen, Christoph Ender, Brian Lavelle, and Tucker McKinnon for helping!) If you are in another non-US country, you will receive a code in email from; redeem it in iTunes. If you are in the US, you will receive the app gifted from me; the exact time depends on arrangements with my bank.

If you have trouble getting the app, or if you fail to get email that you think you should receive, contact and I'll fix it.

Finally: I will be running... not a contest, exactly. But I'd like to track who solves Hadean Lands first, or at least who makes the most progress in the first week.

I've set up a "Leaderboard" page on the web site. ("Leaderboard" is a silly word for a puzzle adventure game, but it's what everybody recognizes.) If you want to show up on it, tweet to the hashtag #HadeanLands when you complete a ritual for the first time or visit an interesting room for the first time. I'll keep an eye on the hashtag and update the page with your progress.

(I'm updating the page by hand, so don't expect instant results. As I said, I'll only be doing it for the first week or so. There is no prize for this other than the glory of your Twitter-handle in lights.)

(And, obviously, the leaderboard page will have some spoilers! It won't give away puzzle solutions, but it will reveal the names of rituals and actions that you might not have discovered yet.)

That's all I've got. Final preparations tomorrow, and then at midnight -- the magic begins.

Good luck to everybody. Including me.

Zarfplan: Awaiting approval

On November 1, 2010, I opened a Kickstarter project for an iOS text adventure.

Last night I submitted the Hadean Lands iOS app for App Store approval. (And also uploaded it to the Itch.IO and Humble distribution platforms.)

As I said, this will be a simultaneous release on all platforms. So we're now at Apple's mercy -- not an unfamiliar feeling for modern game developers. According to the charts, the iOS approval process is currently running about eleven days. (I'm used to five or six days, but I figure they're swamped with app updates for iOS8 and the newest phones.)

I am targetting October 30 as the launch day. That means you'll be playing the game on the fourth anniversary of the Kickstarter launch. Tidy! If it looks like approval is going to run longer, I'll let you all know.

In the meantime, you can take a gander at the Hadean Lands web site, which is now up and running. The map is the game's big "feelie". Old Infocom fans will get a kick out of the IF sample transcript -- no spoilers for the game itself, just an example of how alchemical IF plays out.

So what will happen on (I hope) Oct 30?

  • You will see the game appear in the iOS App Store. (Don't buy it yet!)
  • You will see Itch/Humble widgets on the HL web page.
  • If you asked for an Itch/Humble download key, you will get email (from me) containing that key.
  • If you asked for an iOS app, you will get email (from Apple) notifying you that the app has been credited to your iTunes account.

The last bit is the tricky one. I will be gifting the app directly to all US-based backers. But Apple doesn't allow gifting between countries. So if you're outside the US (or your iTunes account is), I'll have to do some dancing.

Here's what I figure: for the major countries (UK, Canada, Australia, a few others) I will pick somebody I know and PayPal them a bunch of money. That person can then do the gifting. If you're the only person from your country, I'm afraid I'm going to have to contact you directly and PayPal you US $5 -- then you can just buy the app.

(I will be contacting you directly to talk about PayPal matters.)

I realize this is a hassle, and it may take extra time for non-US backers to get their iOS app. I'm sorry; I don't know a better way to do this. (Other than opening bank accounts in a dozen different countries, which I can't manage.) I was hoping that a solution would turn up before the game was finished... Fortunately, none of this hassle applies to the Itch/Humble downloads, so those will all go out on time.

I still have not started to plan the physical rewards. One thing at a time.

Zarfplan: State of the cranking

I have been turning the crank hard and I am tired. Admittedly, there've been a lot of FTL breaks. They get some of the blame for me being tired.

As you recall, a beta version went out to testers on September 8th. Since then, I have gotten loads of transcripts... five megabytes of transcripts! With 16000 commands! All of which I've read through!

Yes, I'm posting these statistics just to impress you with my diligence. A lot of that transcript-reading was "skim through parser errors and player notes." Nonethless, a lot of useful feedback.

The backer surveys have gone out. I have heard back from 610 backers, about 85% of you. Thanks!

If you are among the disappointing 15%, please check your Kickstarter account for the survey, or send me email. I don't need your email address right away, but I do need the stuff about your iTunes account (Apple ID), Humble Store account, or Itch.IO account.

Also the question about "how do you want to be listed in the credits". It will be difficult for me to make corrections to the credits list after the game ships. For various technical reasons, when you update an IF game file, you break all the old saved games. So I will be doing that cautiously in the iOS version at least.

So, here's where I am with the game.

The Dreamhold for iOS

It is up on the App Store! Go take a look.

(If you have an iPhone or iPad or whatever, I mean. If you don't, you can still play Dreamhold on my web site or however you like. For old time's sake.)

(The Dreamhold cover art is based on a photograph by Trey Ratcliff: The Festival of Lights in Lyon (CC by-nc-sa).)

I know most of you have already played Dreamhold -- it's a 2004 game, after all -- but it's been a fun game to revisit. This iOS release has a nifty map and some nifty (if cliche'd) trophy achievements, so maybe that will spark some competitive spirit or speedrun hijinks out there in Internet-land.

Unfortunately, I managed to ship the thing with a crashy bug. Several players have reported "Fizmo fatal error: Caught signal 11" messages. It isn't happening to everybody, and some people have gotten past it simply by quitting and restarting several times. (The problem seems to be showing up only on iPhone 4 and 4S, so far.)

I apologize for the bug, of course, and I hope to hunt it down this weekend. (EDIT-ADD: I have submitted a bug fix, as of May 27th. It is awaiting App Store review.) (June 4th: Bug fix is available; grab the 1.0.1 update.)

Bugs aside, what does this mean for the greater world of interactive fiction?

I commented on Monday that I would get an update posted "in a couple of days". That wasn't procrastination; I wanted to be able to say I'd hit an interesting milestone before I headed off to a week of GDC. Didn't happen! Sorry. So, here's the somewhat-less-than-a-mile marker of progress I've got.

First, the game: the game is progressing. That is all I have to say about it. (Yes, there will be more detailed reports before the "It's done" report. But not right now.)

First and a half: Let's assume that if I had a release date to announce, I'd announce it, okay? (I wish I didn't have to explain that every time.)

But here is what I can say, because this is the open-source part: I have made great progress this month on the technical end of the project. That is to say, the iOS port of the IF interpreter.

Tomorrow will be the oneth anniversary of the Hadean Lands Kickstarter project. One year of this new lifestyle.

(Technically it's eleven months of this lifestyle, because I quit for Christmas. Also eleven months since I took possession of the donated money, due to processing delays and business schedules and thinking about taxes and all the other absurd things attendant on self-employment. I could also mark it as thirteen months and five days since I decided for sure to quit my industry job; thirteen months and four days since I reached my Kickstarter funding goal. But enough with the dreamy reminesce.)

Halloween and progress report

A week ago I tweeted: "With Meanwhile stable, my Next Damn Project Slot is open as of Monday. And that means Hadean Lands (aka the Previous Damn Project)."

Perhaps you read that with a detached, urbanely ironic skepticism. Or not. Maybe Twitter can't tolerate that much irony. Who knows. Anyhow, last Monday, I opened up my HL design notes file. I brushed the dust and dinosaur vertebrae off it and read through. Here's what I quickly realized:

Two months ago (gad!) I said:

After I ship Hideout, I will be concentrating on [Secret Project] M37, because it too is just about finished. (And the paperwork is just about settled...) Even though M37 isn't IF either, I promise you will be excited and you will understand why I made time for it this past spring.

My Secret Hideout shipped last month, and the secret project remained secret. Because sometimes it really does take a month for the last contract details and then another month to get all the paper signed. So it flows. But now it is October, and I can finally say...

Meanwhile for iOS will be released this fall. It is a collaboration between Jason Shiga (the author of Meanwhile) and myself. And it will be awesome.

(Footnote: these are production screenshots. There will be some changes before release, particularly in the buttons.)

So what does a month look like?

A month has gone by, and it's time for a progress update.

(Clever people will note that there's no causal connection between the halves of that sentence.)

The obvious question is, how is Hadean Lands doing? You might be following my "Progress" tweets, in which I have been bragging about IF API spec updates and interpreter releases and iPhone framework code and business purchases and blog posts, but not a word about Hadean Lands.

Fear not. HL work is getting done. But if I were tweeting about it, you'd see a lot of "Had idea." "Had idea." "Thought about how ideas fit together." "Had idea." "Picked some ideas off the list. Put them on another list."

It's 2011 now

I'm not going to be posting week-by-week status updates here. (For that, read my "progress" tweets on @zarfeblong.) But you get one special one tonight. The new year has reached its Mondayness, so you're probably wondering if I am officially In Gear.

Answer: yes. I spent the end of December more on slacking than designing. That phase is over. Here's what the beginning of January has looked like:

  • I made some improvements to the profiling code of my Glulxe interpreter. (Graham Nelson wants to work on optimizing his Inform 7 compiler, and he asked me for some features to aid measurement.)

  • I fired up XCode and started a new iOS project. This is an audio toy, not an IF interpreter. I need to remind myself how ObjC works before I start anything serious. (After two evenings of work, it displays a button and beeps continuously. No, this is not Boodler... yet.)

  • I filed to create Zarfhome Software Consulting, LLC. This is exciting! The last time I tried to start a business was 1997, and I never got beyond a name and logo. Now I have a Federal Employee Identification Number!

  • I tried to set up a business bank account, but failed because I didn't have the LLC form printed out. I'll go back there tomorrow. In the meantime, I bought a printer to print the form, so that's some progress.

  • I spent a couple of hours futzing around with a programmable LED badge (available in the hardware-shovelware aisle of your local MicroCenter!) (Where I went to get the printer.) I got this Linux driver compiled on my Mac -- jury-rigged to a trial, but it worked. Once. Now the USB library won't recognize the device. Oh well. No, this has nothing to do with Hadean Lands, but I am revelling in my freedom or some such.

  • I withdrew $28699 from Amazon Payments. (To my personal bank account, yeah, whatever, this is what accountants are for.) $28699 is what $31337 looks like after Kickstarter and Amazon take their cuts.

  • I wrote down more design notes for Hadean Lands. This is the phase I am in, and will be for a while -- alternately write down ideas and stare at them. I will do this every day. Eventually the ideas will start fitting together. It's not fast but it's the way it has to work. (I'll know it's done when I start wailing "Oh, woe, all the coolness has leaked out of this project and my design is completely lame." Then I can start coding!) (Yes, this really is the way it always goes.)

  • A little bit of slacking anyway. Of course.

Expect more of the same in the weeks to come.

What IF is harder and easier than

Aaron Reed's recent book Creating Interactive Fiction with Inform 7 opens with this quote:

All around him, the Machines' fleet and orbital stations are blasting away at his tree ships, burning the mighty trunks like firewood.
(-- from The Duel That Spanned the Ages by Oliver Ullmann)

Aaron goes on to describe the development work that this scene would require in a triple-A, commercial, graphical game. Concept artists, modellers, texture artists, animators, sound designers, probably a musician, and programmers to pull it all together. You know the drill.

"As IF, all the author had to do was write those twenty-two words," Aaron notes.

(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!

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.

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.

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?

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.

Zarf Goes Independent: Hadean Lands

Hadean Lands cover art

Two weeks ago I put up a teaser image, which drew a lot of nice comments and anticipation within the IF community. (Thank you!) But one image in one blog post does not a lifestyle make, and today the real fun begins.

Here's the scoop: at the end of this year, I plan to quit my job and start working on interactive fiction full time. Yes, really. The space madness has struck and it's time to do this thing. I can't do this in my spare time any more; I have too much work to finish in the IF world, and it eats at me every time I leave for my day job.

Go to the Kickstarter page to watch the awesome introductory video! (A Gameshelf production, of course.) You can also play the teaser scene of Hadean Lands on my web site.

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