Here’s a tidbit on the theme of helping to update old IF tools. TLDR: the Gargoyle interpreter project is looking for volunteers to build the app on Windows and Linux, so that they can do a new release. (MacOS is covered.)

The full story:

Gargoyle is a popular IF interpreter. That is, if you want to play an Inform game, or a similar parser-based IF game, you can download a game file and load it up into Gargoyle.

(Yes, it’s more common to play IF in a web browser. But interpreter apps were around long before browser players — that thread runs back to Infocom’s invention of the Z-machine. Many dedicated IF fans prefer using interpreters, either because they like the native app interface or because they want to collect IF game files offline.)

Gargoyle is very flexible. It runs on Mac, Windows, and Linux; it supports a variety of IF formats (Z-machine, Glulx, TADS, Alan, Hugo, and more). It was designed to display text in a typographically clean and fluent way, for a modern IF playing experience.

On the negative side, it hasn’t been updated much since 2012. That’s generally been okay! A well-tested app can remain in use for many years. But Gargoyle has run into a few snags. Some of the interpreter engines are out of date. Emily Short’s Counterfeit Monkey overran the app’s UNDO space in an unexpected way. Most seriously, MacOS 10.12 “Sierra” changed the keystroke input behavior in some subtle way which broke the app entirely.

In all these cases, the fixes were simple; contributed patches showed up on Github almost immediately. Problem was, the project was essentially shelved. The original maintainer had moved on. Nobody stood up and said “Okay, we are accepting these patches and doing a new release.”

In IFTF’s discussion of the adoptable IF tech archive, Gargoyle came up repeatedly. Is Gargoyle an abandoned project? No, there’s a mailing list and a Github repository which have some activity. Okay, can I do anything to nudge it?

At this point it sounds like I’m building up to an “I saved Gargoyle!” press release. No, no. Chris Spiegel is the one who stepped up and started organizing a new release. My role was to say, look, I’m involved with this organization which aims to support IF tools. Can we draw attention to this? Can we pass the word along?

And that’s why I’m reposting this.

I’m completely in favor of finding willing volunteers to do builds. I’m not familiar enough with any of the target systems (including specific Linux distributions) to be able to do builds, so I’d welcome anybody with that knowledge to step forward and handle it.

— Chris Spiegel, mailing list message, March 18

Chris is looking for people to do Windows and Linux builds. The last release covered Windows, MacOS, Ubuntu-i386, and Ubuntu-amd64. So we want to cover at least that much, but more would be nice.

(I have volunteered to do MacOS builds; I worked out the procedure a few months back.)

If you’re interested, join the mailing list and let us know. Thanks.

IFTF co-founder Carolyn VanEseltine last week stepped down from our board of directors at the end of her one-year tenure. (While we went public late last year, IFTF legally incorporated in March.) Carolyn has played as much of a formative role with IFTF as any of the rest of us, and we’re sad to see her leave the board — but pleased and proud at her continuing work in interactive fiction and elsewhere. Happily, she accepted an invitation from the remaining board members to remain connected to IFTF affairs through our advisory committee.

A board with only four directors sits a bit shy of the ideal, and we’ve been engaging our advisors and others towards inviting IFTF’s first non-founder director. I’m looking forward to it, honestly! Like many non-profit organizations, our founding board comprised a group of friends with a shared passion, chosen at least as much due to mutual proximity as any other strategy. We now have a chance to invite people on who add complementary skills, experience, and perspectives that the board otherwise lacks, broadening our ability to fulfill IFTF’s mission.


We’ve also published a new page for IFTF’s IFComp committee. This committee, in essence, makes public the informal mailing list I created when I became IFComp’s organizer in 2014.

For the sake of timeliness, the board created the committee last summer, in time for IFComp 2016 — and it spent the rest of the year with only one member, that being yours truly. At the start of this year, I worked with IFComp’s informal advisory group to transform it into a more formal governing body, operating under a written charter with a published roster.

Practically speaking, the organization of IFComp doesn’t change: there remains one organizer, and this person will also act as the chair of IFTF’s IFComp committee, year-by-year. The other committee members play an advisory role to the organizer. As the new page notes, IFComp’s full list of volunteers and participants rolls out far longer than this list of names; one can find a more complete roster by browsing the names attached to any particular year’s competition files on the IFComp website or in the competition archives.


Finally, the board extends a welcome to IFTF’s new communications manager, David Streever. He’ll be working with IFTF secretary Flourish Klink to better organize our social-media presence, email communications, and so on.

David is a very prolific writer in both hobbyist and commercial spheres, from his 150+ IFDB reviews through his paperback travel guides for cyclists. Clearly David cannot stop writing and I feel very fortunate that he has volunteered to extend some of that energy in IFTF’s direction!

Today’s update is short—just a quick note, mentioning that two of our board members, Carolyn VanEseltine and Andrew Plotkin, attended GDC! They’ve both been tweeting their experiences, and we’ll post more about GDC takeaways soon. In the meantime, here’s a few highlights!

Andrew live-tweeted Jon Ingold’s talk, but the tweets aren’t threaded; this is the first in the very long series:

And some old arguments were resurrected:

All in all, a very successful GDC for everyone.

One of the Twine committee’s priorities for 2017 is to improve the state of Twine documentation. We’re facing a few related challenges. First, there are two versions of Twine in use in the wild: the old 1.x release series, which many veteran users of Twine still swear by; and the newer, more web-oriented 2.x series. While some concepts are applicable to both versions, it can be confusing and frustrating for beginners to look for an answer, but find out it doesn’t apply because it talks about a different version of Twine.

Secondly, Twine documentation is scattered across the internet! Although there is an official wiki, to get the best answer to a question about Twine, you’ll likely need to do a web search. That means that not only do beginners need to sort through advice that might be outdated or doesn’t apply to the particular version of Twine you are using, they’d also have to sort through the cornucopia of the web to find a good answer.

There are three things the committee is working on to improve the situation, and they all focus on the Twine wiki. First, we’re surveying the web at large to find the best Twine resources we can. Once we’ve identified them, we’ll either make sure they’re linked from the wiki or possibly even incorporated into the wiki directly— with the permission of the author, of course.

You can help with this task! If there’s a resource you think is helpful but isn’t already on the wiki, please tweet a link at @twinethreads, the official Twine account. We’ll incorporate it into our planning process.

We’re also looking for a volunteer or two to help manage the Twine wiki. This would entail the typical gardening work that most wikis require: identifying outdated content, planning ways to better organize pages so that they are easier to find, and other organizational work. It’s not glamorous, but it has a huge impact on the community. You’ll be helping hundreds if not thousands of people become skilled with Twine. If you’re interested in volunteering, please email hello at twinery dot org. Make sure to list any relevant experience in your message, and what goals you’d have as a volunteer.

Finally, we’re planning to create more documentation ourselves. We know there are gaps in using Twine that just aren’t covered in any documentation, but in order to focus our efforts, we need to have a complete picture of the state of things. That’s why we’re gathering as much existing documentation as we can first. So, look for more updates on this part of the committee work later this year.

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!