One of the core pieces of the IFTF mission is to maintain, improve, and preserve the tools used to create interactive fiction. Most IF engines and tools were created by individual IF enthusiasts, which demonstrates how much enthusiasm exists for IF (hooray!) But it also means that these systems lose support when their individual creators move on to new projects (rats!). When IF authors and players have been depending on now-unsupported tools, it can leave those people in a rough situation.

We’ve received a number of community requests that related to this problem, and we wanted to find a way to help. But while we wish we could take over and maintain software projects, we just don’t have the resources right now. What we can do instead is act as social matchmakers and try to connect projects with volunteers.

Toward this end, we’re establishing a new project called the IFTF Adoptable Technology Archive.

The IFTF Adoptable Technology Archive will be a public archive of adoptable technology on GitHub. If someone owns a project that needs a new owner, they can put it on a free and open-source software license (we favor the MIT license) and pass it over to us, and we’ll put it up on the archive. The benefit of using our archive (instead of putting it up on GitHub as an individual) is that it will be visible under the IFTF “adopt me!” umbrella. This will create a place where developers can go and see all submitted IF projects in need of adoption, while abandoned projects benefit from the related publicity. We’ll also announce all new additions to the archive via our social media channels.

The archive doesn’t exist yet, but we’re setting it up soon! If you’re interested in submitting your IF tools project to the IFTF Adoptable Technology Archive, send us the details at info@iftechfoundation.org.

As an unintended consequence of our little organization getting ever busier, we realized in January that we’ve started to drop the ball when it comes to keeping you-the-public more actively informed of our activity. All the transparency in the world doesn’t do much good if none of us remember to turn the lights on too.

Thus, we at IFTF seek a volunteer from the interactive fiction community to help us manage our communications with said community, and with the public at large. This would include responsibilities such as:

  • Composing and emailing a monthly newsletter summarizing IFTF’s public activity over the prior month

  • Managing IFTF’s social media accounts (Twitter and Facebook, at present)

  • Acting as receptionist for IFTF’s public-facing “info” email address

The communications manager will work with IFTF secretary Flourish Klink. This is a volunteer position. We are prepared to also treat it as an official internship, if appropriate for the right applicant. (It would be an unpaid internship, as IFTF is an entirely volunteer-run organization from which nobody collects pay.)

If you are interested in helping — or if you have a recommendation for someone we should ask? — please mail us at info@iftechfoundation.org by Monday, February 20, 2017.

As 2016 wrapped up, we used this space to talk about what we did in 2016 and what we plan to do in 2017. We covered achievements and goals, both in terms of projects to benefit the community and in terms of fundraising to accomplish those projects. Neither of those posts, however, delved into the nitty-gritty of IFTF’s finances. Today, we’re pleased to fill that void by posting the IFTF 2016 Transparency Report.

We’ll let the report speak for itself, but the key points: in 2017, we received $2683.84 in donations, mostly from our founders. We spent $1117.81, mostly on professional services to help us set up the foundation. Currently, we have recurring commitments to spend approximately $890 a year.

In 2017, we expect this picture to change quite a bit. We hope we’ll receive grants, reducing our dependence on founders’ donations. We expect that we’ll spend less on professional services and more on hosting as we take on more projects and move additional IF community services to IFTF’s servers. We also intend to begin tracking in kind donations so we can give the community a sense of how much time volunteers have spent supporting us.

In a year’s time, our 2017 transparency document will have a lot more to say. We’re proud of the work we’ve done at IFTF so far, pleased to be able to transparently share our budget with the IF community, and excited for this year’s challenges!

One of the goals of the IFTF Twine committee for 2017 is to help preserve Twine works on the web. Part of this entails working with community sites that host Twine works to ensure that the content that has been posted there — Philomela, as just one example, hosts more than 10,000 Twine works — doesn’t disappear one day. We should have some news to announce on that front later in 2017.

But there’s another aspect to this goal that is just as important, and unfortunately slippier to achieve. Things were a lot simpler in the past. The Internet IF hobbyist community in the 1990s revolved around three places:

  1. The Usenet group rec.games.int-fiction, discussing IF from a player’s point of view. (If you don’t know what a Usenet group is, ask your parents.)

  2. rec.arts.int-fiction, the same, but for authors.

  3. Most centrally, the IF Archive, originally housed at Gesellschaft fuer Mathematik und Datenverarbeitung mbH Bonn, a German research institution, now at ifarchive.org.

(You could certainly make an argument for a fourth place, ifMUD, but it didn’t arrive until 1997, which in this context is relatively late.)

The IF Archive was, and remains, the best resource for interactive fiction software. It was where Inform, TADS, and countless other authoring software was available for download; it was also the definitive place for games created by the IF community. And so making sure that that portion of interactive fiction history isn’t lost isn’t that difficult; all that’s needed is a reliable backup.

The situation nowadays is more complex. The community has blossomed and decentralized. It’s quite possible to be immersed in the IF world without ever touching the IF Archive at all. There are many folks happily creating IF with Web-based tools like Twine, Texture, and Undum and posting them to places that aren’t backed up the same way the IF Archive is— places like Dropbox or Google Drive. Works hosted in cloud storage are at a high risk for disappearing; all it takes is for the author’s account to be deleted, a change of terms of service, or even the service itself shuttering for the work to be lost.

The IFTF Twine committee is considering ways to get the message out to authors, but in the meantime, here’s a simple plea for help. If you run into a web-based IF work that you love, encourage the author to submit it to the IF Archive. By doing so, you’ll help ensure it’ll be around to enjoy for years to come.

Last week, Carolyn wrote about how far we’ve come in 2016. (From non-existence to existence, which is by definition the longest possible distance!) This week I’ll say a little about where we’re going in 2017. Thus, there is balance.

I’m not going to lay down a timetable, because this project of ours is developing at its own pace. “Its own pace” can be frustrating. It’s terrific and energizing to sit down for a (videochat) meeting and talk about where we are, but the fact is that we all have jobs and/or other life commitments, so IFTF only gets so much time per week. That’s going to still be true in 2017, and in 2018 for that matter.

But we look back: we have gotten things done. Therefore, we apply inductive logic and convince ourselves that more things will get done. The Twine committee and the testathon committee are in flight. IFComp will return in the summer.

Beyond that… we intend to make 2017 our first year of full-scale fundraising. That begins with the individual donations that we already accept. It also includes the volunteer help that aided IFComp and the IF Archive in 2016. (Thank you!) Time is as valuable a resource as money, right?

We will continue to keep an eye out for IF projects that need volunteer work. We will expand our efforts to pass the word about such projects, and try to match up hands to oars, as it were.

And then there’s grants. I knew when I signed up for this gig that there would be grant proposals somewhere in it. Jason has been doing some research into the kinds of arts grants that might reasonably apply to us. There are seed grants. We will look at all of those things.

Obviously, IFTF’s financial needs are small right now. We run a couple of web servers and we rent a PO box. We had business cards printed. (We will publish a complete financial report soon.) We haven’t spent big money, and we’ve still gotten things done.

But this is an emu-and-egg situation; we chose to launch IFTF with projects that didn’t have large financial needs! There’s a huge range of things we could be doing at the next financial level. Helping host IF community servers, paying people to maintain IF tools, developing new IF services, promoting education about IF, promoting education with IF.

(Somewhere at the far end of the list: hosting a high-powered interactive fiction conference. IF has been a part of lots of conventions — you may remember the IF convocation at PAX East 2010, where Get Lamp premiered. But I’ve always wanted IF to be the focus of a convention…) (And there are festival grants, I hear.)

So the details are up in the air — but we’ll see how we can make it fall together.

Somewhere in August 2015, Jason McIntosh came to me and said (paraphrased), “Hey, I have this idea for a nonprofit organization that will help preserve and promote interactive fiction technology,” and I said (paraphrased), “You won’t get it up the steps. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great idea and I’d love to see it happen, but I don’t know how you can pull this off.”

A year and a half later, IFTF exists as a registered 503(c)(3) charitable organization and has multiple projects underway to improve and maintain IF infrastructure and technology, including the Twine committee and the testathon committee. We also celebrated the first IFTF-led IFComp year back in October, and the IFComp website and infrastructure have moved to IFTF-owned servers that are funded through public donations (thank you so much!)

I don’t know how many pessimistic voices Jason heard, but I’m sure mine wasn’t the only one. It’s easy to hear someone else’s idea and say “too big” or “too complicated” or “too expensive” or “too niche, will anyone care?” Jason brought together the Board of Directors and started IFTF anyway, because he thought IFTF was possible and he knew it was worth the effort.

If you’ve been dreaming of making a difference in the world - whether it’s by volunteering, or organizing a community event, or running for office, or creating a new work of art (interactive fiction, even!) - today is a good day to start. People may have concerns about your plan, and those concerns may be entirely valid, but if you treat those concerns as hurdles (rather than roadblocks), then you can recognize them, address them, and work around them.

And someday, the very people who said “too big,” “too complicated,” “too expensive,” or “too niche” may be sitting right beside you and working on your dream.

Happy New Year from IFTF!

The Next Release

Twine 2.1.0, the next version of the application, is in beta and should see a final release by the end of the year. Although the version number is only moving from 2.0 to 2.1, it will be a significant update.

First, it will included upgraded versions of the built-in Harlowe and SugarCube story formats. Story formats are the software which power Twine stories in a web browser — once you finish editing and publish your story to an HTML file, they take over and turn your story into a playable web page.

Because both of these new versions have backwards-incompatible changes, they will be opt-in. Existing stories will continue to work the same as they did with Twine 2.0, but you can change over when you’re ready to take advantage of the bug fixes and improvements in the new versions. (You’ll be able to do so by choosing Change Story Format from the story menu when editing; the new versions, Harlowe 2.0.0 and SugarCube 2.11.0, will appear in the list along with their 1.x versions.)

The inner workings of the application have been significantly rewritten so that they’re faster and more reliable. If you’ve been frustrated with how slowly Twine 2.0 opens when you add large stories, 2.1 will make you happy.

Last but not least, the user interface is a little sleeker now, and a dark theme has been added to help when you’re working in low lighting.

The upgrade process will be easy. If you use Twine online at twinery.org, it’ll become available the day of the release. Otherwise, you’ll just have to download the new version and install it. Your existing stories will be transitioned to the new version just fine.

To keep up-to-date on the upcoming release and other Twine-related information, follow @twinethreads on Twitter.

Future Directions for Twine

A Twine committee has been recently formed by the foundation, and we’ve set some goals for ourselves for the coming year.

First, we’re going to improve the documentation available for Twine. People have come up with a lot of documentation for Twine, but a lot of is scattered over the web, which makes it difficult to locate. We’re going to explore how to make it easier to find these resources and how we can encourage more documentation to be created.

Second, we’re going to help preserve works created in Twine. Just like documentation, people have posted their Twine stories and games in a countless number of places, many of them relatively ephemeral like Dropbox and Google Drive. We want to find ways to ensure those works remain accessible for a long time to come.

Finally, we’re going to explore migrating some of the infrastructure supporting Twine under the IFTF umbrella. We’ll start with the official web site and go from there.

When IFComp wrapped up in mid-November, we ran into a snag. Not with the results — those were great. But the games did not immediately get released to the IF Archive as they usually do.

As you may know, I wear many IF community hats besides “IFTF person”. One of them is “person who wrangles the IF Archive, when wrangling is necessary.” Generally it’s not necessary; David Kinder has been handling the day-to-day work of processing files for many years now. However, David’s time has been more constrained of late, and as a result we’ve had an increasing backlog of files in the Archive’s “unprocessed” folder.

Obviously I should have started wrangling at that problem months ago — it’s my hat. I let it slide, and I apologize for that. But IFComp was the spur to getting the conversation started. In the course of that conversation, our friend (and fellow IF fan) Doug Orleans said, “I’d be up for helping out with some IF Archive maintenance duties.” And we said, “Ooh that’d be great.”

Result: Doug has been chewing down the unprocessed backlog for several days now. And, to be sure, David is still helping. (David is the one that got the IFComp results page set up, and also wrote down a bunch of documentation to help Doug get started.) Thank you, Doug, and congratulations on your new hat.

The IF Archive is not an IFTF project, but it’s right in the middle of our mission territory: it preserves IF and keeps it available. So I am happy to count this as time spent wearing both hats. Also, I can blog about it here.


In other IF preservation news, Alex Warren has announced that he is looking for new maintainers for Quest and the textadventures.co.uk domain.

The software and community around it are in great shape, and I think they have a great future. But the time has come for somebody else to take charge – I want to focus my energy on new projects, and hand over what I’ve built to somebody else who has the passion to drive things forward.

Alex approached us several weeks ago, but running these sites would be too much load for IFTF at our current scale. (Five people, all of whom juggle many hats!) What we can say is this: IFTF is willing to take possession of any open-source IF code base. This just means that we’ll move it to a designated location on Github, which will serve as an “adopt me!” flag — IF projects which are looking for new maintainers and developers.

This option is open to Quest, as Alex notes in his blog post, and to any other IF tools that have been floating around loose. Please contact us!

(Only with projects you have the rights to, please. We want to be able to say “adopt this project with the original creator’s blessing.”)

Just in time for the holidays, we have overhauled our website’s donations page. Thanks to improvements by IFTF co-founder (and Twine inventor, and web-design day-job-haver) Chris Klimas, what was once a wall of text now clearly shows the three different ways that individuals can financially support our efforts: via credit card (by way of PayPal), by mailing us a paper check, or through Amazon Smile.

The latter of these methods I hadn’t heard of before last month, even though I’ve long since become one of those people who thinks nothing of ordering paper towels in bulk from Amazon Prime. With Black Friday now upon us, I figured it a good time for further examination of Amazon Smile here, particularly in light of how it can benefit IFTF. Smile presents an alternate way to browse and shop at Amazon: you attach a charity of your choice to your shopping, and from then on a small percentage of the money you spend through that website goes to that charity. You can change your chosen charity as often as you like.

I am happy to report that IFTF exists among the available beneficiaries of your online shopping. We are far from alone, of course, so I would encourage you to search Amazon Smile for charities doing work important to you, and humbly ask that you consider IFTF among them. If you do decide to add us to your shopping cart, then you can find us on Smile under “Interactive Fiction Technology Foundation”, or follow our direct link with our gratitude.

This past week has been tough for a lot of people, both in the United States and the rest of the world. And in that light, I’ve been reflecting on the value of interactive fiction.

In times like these our brains need breaks. We need inspiration to carry on and fight for our ideals, and we need worlds to escape into when things become too much. I turn to games for this purpose. Interactive fiction in particular seems to fill my needs. Playing interactive fiction can immerse me in alternate worlds, distract me with devilish puzzles, and encourage me to develop empathy for people I wouldn’t normally consider. It inspires me to do better and work for change in my local, national, and global communities.

Writing interactive fiction has its place in these times as well. By creating a game of my own, I can express my experiences, values, and feelings, can bring players along in ways that linear stories can’t approach. Because of the low barriers to entry, interactive fiction can lift the voices of marginalized speakers and provide perspectives rarely featured in big-budget games.

Interactive fiction helps us express ourselves, connect to each other, gain empathy for others’ perspectives, and enjoy the world. And IFTF is the only nonprofit dedicated to helping maintain interactive fiction technology and to making it more accessible to all.

We need bread, yes — but we need roses too. For me, interactive fiction is a rose.