Ryan Veeder is a 2023 IFTF grant recipient who recently completed his project and reached out to share it with us, and we are absolutely blown away by the effort and love put into this project, which can be found by clicking here.

Screen reader technology, while helpful, can fail to accurately render the specific punctuation use and other formal considerations that are critical to learning code. Ryan’s experience helping vision-impaired users get started with Inform 7 inspired him to create spoken-word documentation for this popular language for creating parser interactive fiction.

We spoke with Ryan about the triumphs and challenges of his project:

“Putting the audiobook together was more fun than I expected. Anyone who’s familiar with Writing with Inform remembers the friendliness and cleverness in its narrative voice, but only when I started recording did I realize that voice was really a character that I’d get to perform and interpret.”

In addition to honing his voice performance, Ryan also discovered that, “as I recorded these sections, it dawned on me very, very slowly that I hadn’t included the examples in my outline—and the examples contain a lot of the most useful (and most entertaining) material! So, just when I thought I was almost done, I realized there were 42 more tracks I needed to record.”.

“I’m very grateful to IFTF for the opportunity to pursue this project. Discovering Inform through the documentation was a huge thrill for me thirteen years ago, and it’s really exciting to think I can help provide that same thrill to a broader audience.”

-Ryan Veeder

We love cheering the successes and sharing in the lessons of our grant recipients, and we’ll continue sharing them here as they come. If you’re interested in participating in our grant program, keep an eye on this blog for updates on this year’s grant application period.

In September 2023, we opened our grant program for the very first time. The program exists to disburse small amounts of money in support of projects that serve the interactive fiction community. Since then, half a dozen Grant Advisors have reviewed each submission, providing their recommendations to the grants committee, who ultimately selected four projects to fund. We are happy today to announce our first batch of funded projects through this grants program!

Interestingly, we saw great diversity in the projects submitted, which altogether touch on the very different areas of interactive fiction. Thank you to everyone who submitted their ideas! Below, you can learn about the awarded projects and the people behind them.

iOS Test Device for Parchment – Dannii Willis

Dannii Willis is the main developer of Parchment, a web interpreter that lets users read and play through interactive fiction on the web. Dannii will receive $500 in funds to purchase an iOS device, allowing him to more accurately test how Parchment functions on the iOS version of Safari, as well as test Parchment’s accessibility in UserVoice. An iOS-native device will help Dannii run these tests and iterate faster than with other tools, in service of supporting iOS users in the community and those who rely on iOS accessibility features.

Teaching Indonesian Authors to Write IF – Felicity Banks

Novelist Felicity Banks will receive $1,000 to fund an IF workshop for 10-20 English-speaking writers in Indonesia at a writing festival next year, focusing on Twine and ChoiceScript. Felicity knows Indonesia well and is experienced in such workshops, especially for raw beginners; the funds will cover necessary travel requirements. Her project is inspired by the benefits that diversity brings to the IF community, and she intends to serve Indonesia’s vibrant writing community by helping them participate by introducing them to the medium and planting a seed towards a budding Indonesian IF community.

Writing with Inform Audiobook – Ryan Veeder

Based on his experience helping blind users get started with Inform 7, Ryan Veeder saw an opportunity to translate “Writing with Inform” documentation into an audiobook format, thereby making it more accessible to the wider IF community. While assistive technology like screen-reading software can help users who rely on it, it often fails to accurately represent the specific punctuation use and other formal considerations that are critical to Inform 7 code. Therefore, Ryan will receive $400 to start producing a few chapters of Inform 7 documentation in a bespoke audiobook format, to demonstrate the utility and feasibility of such a resource.

Improvements to Pre-Existing IF Research – Brian Rushton

Brian Rushton is a prolific chronicler of the history of IFComp and the XYZZY awards, and is the most active reviewer at the Interactive Fiction Database. Based on the positive reception his writing has earned in the community, Brian wants to fill in the years missing from his history and touch up existing research. He will receive $500 to devote his time toward continuing to write the history of IFComp and the XYZZY awards from about 2016-2022, as well as revising and editing other essays to be more professional, along with standardized and uniform citations. The resulting work will be disseminated for the community’s benefit.

It’s inspiring to see the variety of projects proposed in this cycle, each of which serve the IF community in different ways. We thank all applicants, and we’re excited to see how the awarded projects develop! And we would also like to thank this year’s Grant Advisors, who volunteered their time to review the projects and formulate a recommendation for IFTF: thank you very much to Grim Baccaris, Kate Compton, Emilia Lazer-Walker, Juhana Leinonen, Colin Post, and Kaitlin Tremblay!

Congratulations again to our first batch of funded projects, and keep an eye out for our next grant cycle!

On January 1, 2024, IFTF appointed four new directors to its board: Albert Bassili, Leena van Deventer, David Cornelson, and Mark Sample. We would like to thank Judith Pintar, Lydia Pauly and Jan DeLozier, all of whose time on the board has concluded in recent months, for their time and service to the organization.

The incoming cohort continues to expand IFTF’s global reach beyond the United States and Europe, bringing geographic representation from both Australia and the Middle East. They also introduce further diversity of experience in games, narrative, and interactive fiction, with backgrounds in community organizing, academia and commercial game development. All of their personal and professional experiences enhance IFTF’s ability to meet the needs of a continually-growing international community of designers, writers, artists and players.

The IFTF is delighted to announce that we are opening our very first grant program! We are seeking to disburse small amounts of money to projects serving the interactive fiction community. Projects might include the development or maintenance of tools for writing and sharing IF, educational initiatives to promote IF, or research projects that will shed new light on IF history. We will consider proposals for any type of project that advances the culture and artform of interactive fiction!

The total pool for this round of the grant program is $3,000. Individual proposals can request up $1,000 and must request at least $150.

Please refer to the full guidelines before applying. Feel free to reach out to the Grants Administration Committee with any questions: grants@iftechfoundation.org!

The application portal is now live and will remain open for submissions through the deadline of October 27, 2023. Submit applications here.

Please note: this is very much a trial run for us! The response and interest that we get from this call of proposals, as well as how the process goes and feedback from applicants, will inform our approach, i.e. subsequent rounds, future funding, etc.

The Interactive Fiction Technology Foundation is currently seeking applicants for its board of directors!

The board is responsible for IFTF’s strategic leadership, making sure that all its programs fulfill the organization’s mission and adhere to its values, while also evaluating new projects and directions. Joining the board is also an excellent way to earn experience in leadership, business and philanthropy while building relationships with leaders in narrative gaming.

Volunteer terms on the board are two years in length and represent a highly visible opportunity to advocate for, support and preserve interactive fiction as an art form. Serving on the board does not require previous board or nonprofit experience, and requires as little as two or three hours per month in time commitment.

IFTF leadership strongly believes in increasing the diversity of the organization, and anyone throughout the interactive and hypertext community is welcome to nominate themselves through a handy submission form

While anyone is encouraged to nominate themselves, the board also welcomes nominations on behalf of others. Feel free to share the open call with contacts you think would be a good fit. If you know someone who would be a great board member and you think would appreciate the team reaching out to them, please email board@iftechfoundation.org.

The deadline to submit is September 30, 2023. Afterward, the current IFTF board of directors and advisory board will review applicants through November 15, 2023. You can find more information—including duties, expectations, qualifications and full details of the application timeline—in the submission form.

On March 14, 2023, Justin Bortnick was elected president of IFTF by the board of directors. Justin is now the second person to fill the role, succeeding IFTF co-founder Jason McIntosh.

Justin is an IFTF veteran, having worked on the NarraScope committee for several years and serving as one of the event’s original organizers. Outside of IFTF, Justin teaches in the University of Pittsburgh’s Digital Narrative and Interactive Design Program, where his research focuses on how industrial game design methodologies have been repurposed in a new era of online misinformation and propaganda. He has also worked as a writer and designer on a number of alternate reality games and video games, including Frog Factions 2, an IndieCade 2017 Nominee.

What will Justin focus on in the role? “My primary goal is to make sure things keep running smoothly,” he says. “But more broadly, I’d like to build stronger networks with other organizations and increase IFTF’s presence at events like IndieCade, GDC and others in the interactive fiction and gaming space.”

Now celebrating our second-ever president, we look forward to new possibilities in our mission to ensure the ongoing maintenance, improvement, and preservation of the tools and services crucial to the creation and distribution of interactive fiction.

You can learn more about IFTF’s leadership, or join former president Jason McIntosh in celebrating Justin’s new role over on the Interactive Fiction Forum.

I have fond memories of visiting my local library as a kid, checking out a ballooning list of books and borrowing CD-ROMs of some favorite PC games that my family otherwise couldn’t afford. The library was (and still is in my adult life) an essential resource for discovering new worlds and the people who create them—but across the board, they tend to lack detailed archives of interactive fiction in their catalogs, despite extensive representation of other media.

Enter Colin Post, assistant professor of library and information science at the University of North Carolina – Greensboro, who is “part of a team conducting research to develop a licensing framework designed specifically to facilitate the collection of independent-made digital games in libraries.” Colin has announced a series of focus group sessions, in association with NarraScope, that asks independent game creators at any experience level to share their thoughts on collecting narrative games in libraries.

There will be two virtual sessions: Wednesday July 12 from 7-9pm ET and Tuesday July 18 from 12-2pm ET. Both sessions will involve “a listening and discussion session with other independent game creators on a number of issues critical to licensing games for library collections.” Notes from these discussions will be shared on the IntFiction forum for those who are interested in the topic but unable to attend.

Why Collecting Narrative Games Matters

“While libraries have long collected games released on physical media, libraries are currently very limited in their ability to collect and provide access to digital-only games distributed through online storefronts or via creator or community websites,” Colin shared at NarraScope 2022. This practice becomes all the more difficult as digital becomes the primary means of distribution for media like games.

Colin continued to build on these concerns at NarraScope this year, focusing on promoting discovery and access through cataloging methods. And this is key, because while IFTF has built robust archives like the Interaction Fiction Archive and the Interactive Fiction Database, they’re more likely to be used by those who are already devotees to the artform. Library collections, meanwhile, can circulate to different and broader communities.

“By cataloging narrative games, we’re upholding these works—and their creators—as part of the bibliographic universe,” Colin noted in his recent talk. For example, catalog information could link a reader interested in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein with Shelley Jackson’s hypertext work Patchwork Girl, aiding in interactive fiction’s discovery.

How to Participate

You can find all the details for Colin’s focus group sessions here. Both sessions are free and open to anyone interested in attending, but advance signup is required.

It’s that time of year again: registration for IFComp 2023 is now open! IFComp is our annual interactive fiction competition and is open for anyone to participate as either an entrant or a judge. Submissions are open until September 1, 2023, so polish up your game and hurry to the IFComp website to get your entry started.

About IFComp

IFComp, which began in 1995, welcomes all kinds of text-driven digital stories and games, making them freely available to encourage the creation, play, and discussion of interactive fiction. Here’s how it works: Over a six-week period, judges play as many entries as they can, awarding a score from 1 and 10 to each of the games they play. A game’s final score is averaged based on all the scores it’s received.

Like any good competition, there are prizes at stake, with the top two-thirds or so of entries eligible for a modest cash prize. In addition to awards based on judges’ scoring, we’ve got a small handful of superlatives as well. The Miss Congeniality Award is a secondary competition that allows authors to vote on one another’s entries. Meanwhile, the Rising Star Award goes to the highest-rated game by a first-time entrant, while the Golden Banana of Discord goes to entries with the highest standard of distribution among its ratings.

Important Dates for IFComp 2023

If you plan to participate in IFComp 2023, keep the following dates in mind:

  • September 1: Registrations close
  • September 28: Authors upload their games
  • October 1: Games are released to the public and judging begins
  • November 15: All votes are submitted; results are announced and prizes are awarded shortly after

Keep up with all IFComp-related news over on the IFComp website. We can’t wait to see what the community creates this year!

IFTF’s 2021 Transparency report is online, summarizing the organization’s activity over the previous calendar year, including its financial income and outflow.

From the summary:

IFTF took 2021 to reorganize amid the COVID-19 pandemic’s second year.

While the decision not to hold a NarraScope event in 2021 led to an overall muted public tone, a new program to manage the IFDB joined IFTF’s other programs that continued to maintain and improve IF technology services year-round.

IFTF significantly modified the organization’s core structure, inviting several new directors onto the board, and establishing a new steering council.

Find the whole report on our website.

We’ve just added a sneaky new feature to the IF Archive and IFDB. Sneaky, but useful!

Take a look at the Archive directory of Twine games. You’ll see a “View contents” link on every entry. Select one of them and hit the “Open” button — or just select the HTML file. Presto, you’re playing the game.

This trick works for any web-playable game on the Archive — not just Twine. In fact, you can browse inside zip and tar files anywhere on the Archive. Source code packages, collections of walkthroughs, whatever you want.

This seems small, but it’s a key upgrade. HTML-based games are generally zipped on the Archive, for easy download and to avoid possible scripting attacks. But this made them hard to play. Seems silly for an archive of games, right? Now that problem is solved. (We avoid the scripting issue with domain name magic.)

The upshot is that the Archive is now viable as a game hosting site as well as a game archiving site.

But there’s more! With the help of this feature, IFDB is now able to offer its “Play On-Line” button for zipped-up Z-code, Glulx, and TADS games as well. If you want numbers, 98 of the top 100 free games on IFDB are now playable in-browser with one click.

These are good numbers. It’s a huge jump in making IF games approachable.

If you’re interested in the techy details, see the Unbox source code on GitHub. Thanks to Dannii for implementing this project, and Dan Fabulich for the IFDB integration.