My family bought a new(ish) car towards the end of the summer, the first that any of us have owned with a flat-panel display integrated into the dashboard. You navigate through its offerings via some chunky buttons surrounding it; it rather reminds me of using an early iPod. One day while fiddling through its menus, I discovered a “Software licenses” option — which does nothing except display the text of the good old GNU Public License in its entirety. You can use the radio-tuner knob to scroll through it at your leisure, once you call it up.

The car didn’t make clear what among its myriad software components fell under the GPL, but clearly something did. I felt equal parts amused and impressed that our friends at Volkswagen had gone through the trouble to follow the license’s directions and post the thing prominently enough that I’d stumble across it while the very machine hosting the file carried us up interstate 95. (Don’t worry, my wife was driving.) Furthermore, it wasn’t the first place I’d unexpectedly run into open-source license text lately; earlier in the summer, I found myself reading the MIT license on my TV screen, attached to some tool or library running deep under the hood of my Sony Playstation.

These discoveries brought to mind how I had called a little more attention to IFTF’s GitHub repositories a few months ago, and made me think that the IFComp codebase hadn’t done a very good job of acknowledging all the open-source projects that it folds into itself. Fine and good for IFTF to boast of its own FOSS bonafides, but it suddenly struck me as a poor showing that various international corporations did a better job than our scrappy little nonprofit of offering proper by-the-book credit to the free software we use.

So I set about to fix that, and with the help of our legal counsel I this month published a new and stupendously wordy document to IFComp’s code repository. Most of the words belong to the licenses themselves, lovingly hand-pasted into place, but the top of the document lists the different open-source projects that IFComp incorporates.

As it happens, IFComp uses all these projects in order to support the in-browser play of Inform-based IF games. Stephen Granade and Dan Shiovitz first rolled these features into the comp software some years ago, making the play of IFComp games suddenly much more accessible than before. I, as IFComp’s current lead organizer, have worked to maintain this very important feature, and I have the following people and projects to thank:

  • Quixe by Andrew Plotkin, via the MIT License

  • IF Recorder by Juhana Leinonen, via the MIT License

  • Parchment by Atul Varma and maintained by Dannii Willis, via the Modified BSD License. It in turn uses Gnusto, originally by Thomas Thurman, via the GNU Public License.

I would point out that none of the above software was, to the best of my knowledge, created expressly for IFComp. Rather, these are independent projects by members of the interactive fiction community, and their public release inspired IFComp’s technical team to make creative use of them towards the competition’s own betterment. All this serves as a fine example of why we love open-source software at IFTF, and why we will always continue a commitment towards openness in all the software that we as an organization produce and maintain.

Benevity, a company that manages corporate employee-giving programs, now lists IFTF as a charitable cause. If you work for a company that uses Benevity, then you can use your employer-provided tools to direct a bit of ongoing material assistance in IFTF’s direction — for which we would, of course, be humbly grateful.

We registered with Benevity after it informed us that someone within Google had put IFTF’s name forward as a worthy charity. So: thank you, anonymous Googler! (If this was you, please drop us a note and, I don’t know, we’ll send you some merch or something.)

Not an employee of a Benevity beneficiary? No worries: IFTF continues to support a variety of donation options allowing you to support our mission and programs with your financial gifts of any size. Every dollar helps, and all are tax-deductible where allowed by law.

I’m pleased to announce that IFTF now hosts, home of the Twine project. We launched our organization last year with Twine support as a core program, and I feel so excited to see the dividends paying off now, between this and the recently launched Twine Cookbook.

Granted, stuff like the Cookbook arguably deserves your excitement more, since that represents something new. Setting up Linux machines and shuffling domain names around doesn’t necessarily thrill anyone — especially since, if we did everything right, the new system looks and works exactly the same as the old one did. But that’s a big part of IFTF’s mission in action, really! By taking stewardship of important community resources like, we extend our organization’s legal protections and and public funding to help keep these resources online, safe and stable for a long time to come.

And, yes, for this server we must once again extend our terribly nerdy naming scheme for IFTF-hosted machines. Just like last time, we found quite obvious which bit of Zork’s early-game inventory to borrow for this purpose. As such, the servers that IFTF runs now include lantern (IFTF website and mailing lists), sword (IFComp), bottle (IF Archive)… and now rope, for

Three months ago, we announced our Colossal Fund fundraiser for the Interactive Fiction Competition.

We aimed to raise $6000 for IFComp prizes and organizational expenses. I am delighted to announce that this morning, we achieved our goal.

Thank you to all our donors, large and small!

Our plan, as you recall, is to dedicate 80% of the fund ($4800) to the IFComp prize pool. That money will be distributed among the top two-thirds of IFComp entries, according to the final rankings, on Nov 15th or shortly thereafter.

The rest of the donated money goes to support the ongoing operation of IFComp and IFTF. Server costs, paying our lawyer, all that good stuff.

Now, here’s where the plan gets a little bit bent. When we wrote up the prize chart, we estimated there would be 60 entries. The actual number isn’t final yet — wait until Sunday! — but it’s safe to say that it’s higher than 60.

This means that $4800 pool will be distributed among more authors, so the top prize will be somewhat lower than we estimated. (The minimum prize will still be $10.)

We are no longer accepting prize pool cash donations; we’re not going to change the goal at the last minute. However, we are still accepting donations of traditional prizes! The Colossal Fund cash prizes are in addition to the regular prizes, remember? Games, toys, books, food, goods and services of all kind — they’re all good.

So if you’re worried that the prizes are being spread too thin, please contact IFComp and let us know what you’ve got.

Note: IFTF is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, so Colossal Fund donations are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. However, traditional IFComp prizes are handled differently. They are sent directly from donors to recipients; IFTF just coordinates the process. So they are not tax-deductible.

IFTF is of course grateful to receive donations at any time. Those donations will go into our general fund, which supports IFComp as well as our other programs.

Thank you all again for helping to make this effort a success. And enjoy the games when they appear on Sunday!

For years now, knowledge of how to create amazing projects in Twine has been spread out across forums, blogs, and social media. With the Twine Cookbook, a new Interactive Fiction Technology Foundation project, we are hoping to begin consolidating that distributed knowledge into a by-the-community, for-the-community collection of recipes!

Inspired by Inform’s own Recipe Book, the Twine Cookbook is the first step toward building the same type of resource that shows and describes techniques of combining macros and functionality for common tasks. We are interested in things as seemingly simple as “Dice Rolling” in Harlowe and as complex as “moving through a ‘dungeon’” in Snowman! We’re striving to include code for each of the built-in Twine story formats—Harlowe, Snowman, and SugarCube—in each recipe.

We hope that the Cookbook will be a truly community effort. Contributions can come in different forms. You can add entirely new recipes, fill in gaps for story formats not yet covered, or even suggest recipes for others to complete. The README file describes how to do each of these!

Finally, the Twine Cookbook is written in the GitBook format. While fully accessible on GitHub through the SUMMARY file, the project can be cloned or downloaded locally and compiled into HTML, PDF, or EPUB format using GitBook’s tools.

We accept recipes in all story formats and across both Twine 2 and 1.4.2 in compiled HTML or Twee notation format with notes. All are welcome.

IFDB, the Interactive Fiction Database, was launched about ten years ago by Michael J. Roberts. Mike was responding to a commonly-voiced complaint about the IF Archive: it’s full of great stuff, but it’s impossible to search and there’s barely any information about the games there.

I take full responsibility for the IF Archive’s failings, by the way. We occasionally talked about ways to improve searchability, but we never did anything about it — until IFDB came along and pretty much solved the problem for us. It’s the complement that the Archive didn’t know it needed.

IFDB takes a crowdsourcing approach which has worked very well for the past decade. IF enthusiasts fill in bibliographic data about new games (and about old games, as they come to light!); people can contribute reviews, ratings, game lists, polls, and so on. The site instantly became essential to the IF community, and it remains essential.

Having said all that: nobody argues that IFDB is perfect. A couple of weeks ago I ran into a discussion about what sorts of things IFDB isn’t as good at. I immediately got defensive (even though it’s not my site!), and then I started to ask how it should be fixed. And then I took a step back and said, okay, maybe I should be asking everybody what IFDB needs.

Thus, our shiny new IFDB User Survey.

If you have used IFDB at all, please take a few minutes to fill this out. Answer as briefly or as volubly as you like. You may include your name or answer anonymously.

(Yes, I realize the irony in explaining IFDB for four paragraphs and then making a request of people who already knew what IFDB was! Here at IFTF we strive to be educational even at inopportune moments.)

If you’ve already filled out the survey, thank you! (We originally posted it last week.) (And we haven’t changed anything, so there’s no need to do it again.) But if you haven’t run through it yet, please do. The deadline is October 15th.

After we close the survey, we’ll collate the results and post a summary on this blog. It should provide an interesting diversion while we wait for IFComp results.

Now the caveats:

IFDB is not an IFTF service; it is wholly operated by Mike Roberts. Mike has stated that he doesn’t have much free time to update the site these days. So please don’t get the idea that anyone is going to jump straight from collecting suggestions to implementing new features. This is research. Once we have results, we can start thinking about next steps.

We will of course pass the survey results along to Mike. It’s possible that some of the suggestions will turn out to be easy changes. You never know. If there’s a possible role for people to contribute development effort, we’ll be happy to coordinate; but that’s up to Mike, obviously.

However, the survey is deliberately open-ended. It’s possible that the top ideas won’t require server updates at all. They may involve better use of existing IFDB features, or public outreach, or even a brand-new complementary service somewhere.

Thanks for helping out.

We’re pleased to share this interview with Judith Pintar, our newest board member at the Interactive Fiction Technology Foundation. Judith has been involved in the interactive fiction community for nearly 30 years, and her insights into the past, present, and future of IF are fascinating.

(Note: This interview has been edited in the interests of length and clarity.)

David: How did you start playing interactive fiction? What brought you to the medium?

Judith: Like many of us, I grew up inside the Great Underground Empire, playing interactive fiction the way it was first played—with a group of friends, scratch paper, a pencil, a pizza, and no walkthrough.

David: I didn’t have a community for IF, it was all solo for me, but I had a similar experience with Myst—it was such a challenge and I loved working with my friends! We would really puzzle over everything together. Now I feel like a cheater because I’m always looking up the stumpers.

Judith: We’ve collectively gotten really lazy about puzzles. I play nothing without a walkthrough anymore. So, it’s all of us—maybe it has to do with the pace of leisure.

David: What got you started writing IF? Do you remember your very first game?

Judith: My first game—hmm, honestly that has been lost in the mists of time. My first full-length work was CosmoServe, which won the AGT contest in 1991. It was largely inspired by my experiences as a member of Compuserve’s Gamer’s Forum, where I used the handle Teela Brown.

What made CosmoServe unusual was the simulation. It starts out like a regular IF—you are a programmer in a messy office, but when you turn on your computer, the screen turns into a DOS environment. That’s the point at which players today stop playing. They have no idea how to run a program from a DOS command line. I never intended that to be a puzzle, but it became the hardest one. When you dial up to CosmoServe, it looks like what CompuServe looked like back in the day. In the original AGT version I was put in a screechy modem sound. I used to get emails from people telling me that they got confused whether they were actually online or not. Later in the game when a virus corrupts your in-game computer, which you find out by running the in-game CHKDSK, they freaked out thinking that it was happening to their actual computer.

David Malmberg released the final version of AGT as freeware and ran the last AGT contest in 1993, which I judged. That was the dramatic historical moment when AGT was eclipsed by TADS and INFORM. The IFComp took over as the AGT contest ended. That was also when, from the point of view of the IF community, I seemed to go poof from the world. What actually happened was that I went to graduate school, wrote a dissertation while having a baby, and got my first academic job while having another baby. I never stopped writing IF. While I was out of public circulation, I updated CosmoServe, contacted the IFDB and asked them to replace my game file with the new one. I was surprised by the response. I was told (by whom I wish I could remember) that I was welcome to upload a new version, but that the old version of CosmoServe belonged to history, not to me, and that I could not change it. It’s ironic (and fun) that I’m now on the board of the organization charged with the task of archiving that continuing history.

David: I’d really struggle with that in your position. I’m so used to being able to seamlessly update anything I put online. Was there anything really broken in the original?

Judith: No, it just hard to win because of time pressure. I took into account player feedback when I updated it. As soon as my kids started playing computer games (shortly after birth), I was back at teaching IF, though by then AGT was no longer being maintained, and I faced a conundrum. I had leftover loyalty to AGT, since I had been its defender and one of its public faces. I wanted to move on, but I didn’t want to feel like a traitor to my clan, so to speak. When Inform 7 was released, I saw a path forward. I fell in love with the language. I learned it by rewriting CosmoServe. The Inform 7 version is available to be played in not-quite-beta, here.

David: You’ve authored and co-authored IF; did you prefer one over the other? Does each have a pro/con that makes it unique?

Judith: I am really energized by the creative synergy of collaborative work. In terms of pure cognitive pleasure, though, there is nothing I enjoy more than the solo-work of coding complicated interactive narrative. To give you a quick example of what makes me jump out of bed in the morning, I’ve been working on a text-based poker game in which the player, as Alice, plays poker with the White Rabbit while falling down a well. The map is vertical; the player goes up and down while the White Rabbit is doing the same. The cards are randomly strewn throughout the well. The algorithm that helps the Rabbit to decide what card to take and what to drop is straightforward, but I also wanted the cards to fight with each other, to jump out or push each other out of the player’s hand. I wanted players to hear in the distance these dramas happening in the Rabbit’s hand too, a clue to what the Rabbit is holding. There is a narrative arc in this game that has to be revealed in order to win. The player will have to go looking for it deliberately by putting together particular poker hands. The code for this game was So Much Fun to puzzle out. The game (still being bug-tested) can be played here.

David: I’ll have to look at that after our interview. (Editor’s note: I did, and recommend it: It’s a parser-based Inform 7 work that’s very challenging but rewarding)

Most games have very traditional roles, but interactive fiction spans so many disciplines. How would you describe your role? Writer or programmer? The Storyteller? CEO? If you had to pick one job title, what would it be?

Judith: Storyteller. Before I wrote IF, I was a professional storyteller, performing for children as an artist-in-residence in schools, and for drunk adults in festivals, renaissance fairs, and comedy clubs. I never memorized my stories, which were different every time I performed them, tailored for each audience. I really missed the improvisational and interactive aspects of performance when I wrote my stories down. You see what’s coming here. IF fixes that problem. IF offers the spirit of a live storytelling performance, without the drunks.

My interest in collaborative authoring, and crowd-sourced IF began with SOGGY, but I have been a teacher of IF nearly as long as I have been an author. During the 90s I taught AGT as an artist-in-residence in middle/high schools. Since it was released, Inform 7 is now my language of choice for teaching parser-based IF. I teach other sorts of interactive narrative, through Twine. Besides authoring their own games, students in my Game Design course at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign contribute to an ongoing collaborative IF that takes place inside a sprawling campus-based game world. Each semester the students build upon the work of the students before. They learn to code by fixing the bugs in the code that came before them. You can play the intentionally incomplete, a la Minecraft, ongoing buggy Quad Game here.

David: I can see why you were drawn to IFTF; there are a lot of parallels to your work as a professor, and as a storyteller.

Judith: It’s not immediately obvious to people how my creative work and my academic work fit together (at least, it’s not obvious to academics looking at my vita). But it all makes sense to me. I am a sociologist of science and technology, which means I’m interested in the entangling of society and culture with technology. Most broadly I study collective narrative. I have approached this in the ways that communities remember traumatic war experiences, and in how science becomes culture. I am quite comfortable teaching in the Informatics Program at UIUC, where all my interests converge. I direct the Electronic Literatures & Literacies Lab, which is intended as a place for cross-disciplinary collaboration.

David: Just as albums and IF used to have feelies and have lost them with the shift to full digital, do you see any other future-proofing that we’re missing in interactive fiction?

Judith: That’s a great question. I had a conversation recently with Jerome McDonough who studies digital preservation at the iSchool here at UIUC about his work on archiving “intangible culture,” especially as it relates to games and their technologies. I asked him if CompuServe Gamer’s Forum, as an episode in the history of online gaming, could be archived. He said no, that the old BBS experiences are gone without a trace, lost worlds. We might be able to preserve the system an old game was played on, but we still lose some of the experience. It’s what I said at the beginning of the interview. Infocom games were played by groups of people, with pizza and pencils. How do we archive that?

Obviously we want to archive games and the technologies used to run them. But do we have to, do we want to, can we archive the experience of playing the game. Is the game the same without the feelies? Is the game the same without the community? Is the game the same without the contemporary popular culture? Is the game the same without having played other games first? How do we preserve those intangible things? Or do we just need to let them go?

David: I think that’s all part of why you’re here, right? You have such an impressive background in the field, and you have these great insights into the future of interactive fiction and the importance of archiving. Why did you join the Foundation board? Do you have any specific goals?

Judith: The announcement of the launching of IFTF came across my feed in the usual way, and it seemed to me to be a natural and important development. When I was asked to join the board I was delighted to support its dual mission of preservation and promotion. We want to ensure that that IF (its technologies, tools and games) survive as a living art form and that IFTF, as the guardian of that legacy, is a rock of stability, regardless of who is on the board.

I am happy to take my turn serving the IF community, having been part of it from the beginning. In terms of what I personally bring to the IFTF, I think my interests in digital inclusion, in broadening the use of IF languages and tools (Inform 7, Twine but also other emerging platforms) into the social sciences among other areas, and the development and archiving of IF pedagogical materials, may be two areas in which I can contribute. Other things will emerge unpredictably.

David: Having covered archiving the past…what’s the future of interactive fiction, in your opinion?

Judith: I do think that all kinds of writing are going to become more interactive—nobody thinks twice about hyperlinks, so why can’t branching become ubiquitous too? I see interactive narrative influencing how people think, how they collaborate, how they write papers and reports. I also see AI becoming a more central feature of IF in ways that Emily Short envisions. And of course Twine will be taught to kids at the same time that they learn to write, while Inform 7 will become the first programming language of choice. I see a future where IF authors get well paid for what they do!

My personal IF projects focus on developing collaborative IF environments. Minecraft for IF, that’s what I’m after. I’m going to start looking for grants for “The Illinois Map”. (Editor’s note: Preview this at and scroll down to the Illinois Map.) It’s going to be an open-ended interactive history of Illinois virtual learning environment, where people can learn to program Inform, can contribute code, bug-test, do research, or write and edit text, on hundreds of short historical simulations written in Inform, the best of which are incorporated into “the map”. A player will be able to travel from downtown Chicago today to Springfield when Lincoln lived there, find him in his law office and have a chat. The map expands in both space and time. The website will have a community aspect, with forums, and tutorials, and statuses, and levels of participation, and guides for teachers, etc… I’m starting the process of looking for grants, but I’m moving ahead even if I don’t find funding. My students have already produced content.

Also on the pedagogy end of things, I’m also prototyping a kind of IF game that teaches Inform as the point of the game (though it’s entwined with a narrative as well). I’ve finished my first iteration of the idea. If you win the game, you are awarded with a text file of Inform code that you can cut and paste into Inform. (Editor’s note: See it at

David: Shades of CosmoServe, in a way! We’re getting into future territory and circling back around to the past. I’m noticing though that, even in just your work, there is a lot of open territory in the future.

Judith: Yes! I believe there’s room to stretch out in multiple directions. What Chris Klimas is doing with narrative form is different from what Emily Short is doing with AI, and different again from what I’m doing with collaboration. I think it’s a really exciting time to be writing IF. Not that I think the classic forms will go away—not at all! IFTF is on top of that. But I do believe that IF’s influence on other sorts of writing and games and yet-to-be-discovered creative genres is going to grow.

And of course we’re going to be talking to our IFs, and not typing. I just had a vision of someone on a long biking trip playing your biking IF while they ride…. Now you have to write it! If you get stuck, drop me a line. (Editor’s note: Judith got me to reveal that I have an always on the backburner work in progress about bike racing early on in our conversation.)

David: Thank you for the offer and for this interview. I’m excited for your role at the Foundation and your future work in IF.

Six weeks ago we announced that IFTF was adopting the IF Archive. I am pleased to say that we completed the transition this week. Visit and you will find yourself on our brand-new Linode server.

We’ve taken the opportunity to update a few things.

First, the server now runs HTTPS thanks to In fact, we are now using as our primary address. The old HTTP address will redirect to HTTPS.

(You might wonder why HTTPS is needed. It’s true that the IF Archive doesn’t have any kind of web authentication system, much less any need for your credit card info. But we agree with LetsEncrypt’s mission of making web activity secure and un-snoopable by default. And it’s free and easy to set up, so why not, right?)

On a similar note, we’ve disabled the ability to upload files by anonymous FTP. That channel was insecure — and almost entirely used by warez-kiddies looking for free storage space. Nearly all real contributions come in through the Archive’s web upload form, so we’re going to rely on that from now on.

(Anonymous FTP download still works!)

Speaking of the web upload form, you’ll notice a couple of new fields.

Right to use:
◯  I am the author of this file and I give permission for the IF Archive to host and distribute it.
◯  I am not the author, but to the best of my knowledge the author is okay with this.

Back in the earliest days of the IF Archive, nobody paid attention to open-source licenses. The community just collected IF games with the understanding that everything was meant to be passed around the Internet. (Which is why the commercial Infocom games, which were clearly not meant to be passed around, were never put on the Archive.)

In more modern times, we tried to adopt a policy of “only upload your own work.” We wanted to be able to say that most of the files on the Archive were there with the copyright holder’s explicit permission — even if the oldest files came from a looser era.

In practice, however, that was too strict a policy. For one thing, people keep uncovering “new” IF games and tools from that earlier era! We want to preserve that rediscovered material even if the original author is out of the picture. Also, we have compilations like IFComp where the games are uploaded by the administrator, rather than the authors.

So we have rewritten our Terms of Use. The summary is:

  • anything with an explicit open-source license is distributed under that license;
  • anything with no clear license was uploaded under an implicit “the Archive can host this and distribute it for personal use only” license;
  • everything written by the Archive maintainers (indexes, file descriptions, etc) is now IFTF content with a Creative Commons license.

Hopefully that covers the way we actually work. When you upload, you’ll have to check one of the two options listed above.

There are a host of minor updates as well. You won’t notice them all. For example, I took the opportunity to rewrite the indexer script into Python 3. This tool runs behind the scenes to generate all the index pages that you see when browsing. I wrote the original version of that tool in C, which is the worst possible language for a string-processing tool… well, it was 1999 and I didn’t have a better one. It’s much cleaner now and it gets the &-escapes right.

I could go on, but you get the idea. Thanks to the IF Archive committee for their help in the server move. Check out the About the Archive page for the names of everyone involved!

I’m pleased to announce that in July, two new members have joined the IFTF Twine committee: Dan Cox and Colin Marc.

Dan is a graduate student in Old Dominion University’s Rhetoric and Composition program, and has produced a truly impressive amount of documentation and guides for Twine. If you’ve never visited his YouTube channel, you really ought to— it’s a wealth of tutorials about both Twine 1 and 2.

Colin maintains Philomela, a site that hosts Twine works for free— more than 13,000, in fact. In recent months, we worked with Colin to begin backing up Philomela to an IFTF archive.

Welcome, Dan and Colin!

p.s. Very belatedly, we now have a page on our site with more information about the Twine committee, including its charter and current membership.

Last year, IFTF created a new account at GitHub, taking advantage of that service’s generous standing offer of free paid-tier access to nonprofit organizations. As of this month, we have a couple of public projects posted to it:

  • ifcomp holds all the code and content (aside from the actual games!) that has powered the Annual Interactive Fiction Competition’s web application since 2014. Jason McIntosh led the project to develop this iteration of IFComp software, and a team of volunteers continues to carry it forward.

    Very recently — and largely through the efforts of volunteer developer Adam Herzog — the app has made use of GitHub-friendly automated testing technologies like Travis and Coveralls, making sure that new contributions to the codebase don’t accidentally break anything already there.

    At present, the IFComp app doesn’t have a more interesting name than “the IFComp app”. We’re still pretty proud of it.

  • ifarchive-ifmap-py is a new port by Andrew Plotkin of the software that creates the index files found throughout the IF Archive’s website. It hasn’t been deployed to production yet, but we’ll all see the fruits of its output when the Archive’s team launches its nascent new server.

    This software improves upon its 1990s-vintage version, also written by Andrew Plotkin, and shared as a separate IFTF repository for completeness’s sake.

Do feel free to keep an eye on our account — we plan to keep open all IFTF-owned software source and other documents that don’t have any clear need to stay private. We welcome issue-reporting, pull requests (what Git fans call proposed software patches), and all that good open-sourcey stuff from the community on any material so shared.