The IFTF conference committee has this month published two reports regarding NarraScope 2020:

Our thanks go to the IFTF advisory and conference committees for their patient review through this reporting process.

The reports are also permanently linked from https://2020.narrascope.org — along with lots of other interesting stuff about the 2020 conference, such as videos of all of its talks, and and the results of its game jam.

In 2020, work on the Twine Cookbook will turn three years old—although its first published version was in January 2018, work on it began in mid-2017. It was one of the earliest projects that the IFTF Twine committee undertook, and it sought to remedy what had been a long-standing issue in the Twine community: a lack of hands-on documentation describing how to do common tasks with Twine. The Cookbook began with 59 Web pages and has grown to 162 in its 2.0 release this past May.

At least in my estimation, it has been a stellar success, and this is thanks to contributions from both the Twine committee and the larger community. I feel it truly has been a collective accomplishment. But among the many contributors the Cookbook has seen, I think credit above all belongs with Dan Cox, who has served as editor and maintainer for the Cookbook since its inception. I am deeply grateful for the work he’s done for the community.

Circumstances have called for Dan to take a less active role on the Cookbook in the near future, however, and so the Twine committee needs to find a successor for the role of maintainer and editor. As part of our efforts, I’d like to put out a call to the community to see if there is interest. If you would be interested in serving as maintainer, please contact IFTF. Dan and the rest of the committee are committed to a smooth transition process, and are more than willing to work with a new volunteer to help them get up to speed.

A short update on the NarraScope transparency report that was previously mentioned on this blog. As the conference committee worked on the report this past week, it became evident that more time is needed to prepare a complete retrospective on the event. As a result, the planned publication date of the report has changed to Monday, August 3. We appreciate everyone’s patience and understanding.

NarraScope 2020 wrapped up earlier this month. The IFTF board of directors sincerely thanks every member of the conference committee, as well as every speaker, sponsor, and other contributor for so rapidly adapting all their original plans for a weekend at the University of Illinois into a week-long, entirely online celebration of interactive narrative.

And, of course, our great thanks to the hundreds of you who showed up for the talks, hung out in the Discord, and participated in the game jam — in every case providing the energy and enthusiasm that made entirely clear that all this transformative effort was well worthwhile.

I’m pleased to share that videos of most NarraScope 2020 talks and other public sessions are available on IFTF’s YouTube channel, for you to enjoy at your leisure.

The conference committee plans to publish a transparency report about this year’s conference, much like it did for NarraScope 2019. Running an originally in-person conference as an entirely online event did not happen without its snags and missteps, so alongside the financial disclosure, the team will address other issues that arose this year, including plans about how to improve NarraScope for everyone in future years — whether online or in-person.

The conference team plans to have the report published by July 1. We will update this blog — and our newsletter — when it’s up.

IFTF will be hosting a series of events in May leading up to NarraScope 2020!

From May 13th to May 24th, IFTF board member and chair of the Education Committee, Judith Pintar, will be hosting a two week intensive Inform 7 bootcamp. If you’ve always wanted to learn the language, or you want a refresher, this is your opportunity! This blended (synchronous/asynchronous) online workshop, hosted by IFTF and the Electronic Literatures & Literacies Lab at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is free but limited to 25 participants.

On Monday May 25th, the theme for the NarraScope 2020 Game Jam will be announced. The Jam will be open to both individuals and teams. Full details and rules to follow.

On Thursday, May 28th, the day before NarraScope officially opens, there will be a full day of pre-conference workshops and seminars. All of these sessions are also free. Pre-registration is required, unless indicated to the contrary.

The day begins at 11:00am (EST) with Brendan Desilets’ workshop “Inform 7 and the Teaching of Writing.” A veteran teacher of IF at the middle school, high school, and university levels, Desilets will explore Inform 7 as an approach to teaching the writing process and improving students’ writing skills. Participants will leave with practical tools and ideas for using Inform 7 creatively in the classroom.

The focus on Inform 7 continues at 12:00am (EST) when the design system’s creator, Graham Nelson, will bring us up to date on what’s new with Inform since he spoke to a packed hall last year at NarraScope 2019, and what is in the works looking forward. Since we anticipate another crowd for this session, it will be streamed as a seminar rather than a workshop. No registration will be required.

At 1:00pm (EST), Mike Spivey will offer a workshop session for IF educators. Professor of Mathematics turned IF-educator, Spivey will lead a discussion in which teachers of IF are invited to share their tips, tricks, and miserable (though hopefully teachable) failures.

At 2:00pm (EST), indulge your literary proclivities with author and interactive narrative designer William Gillespie in a workshop that asks what the novel-as-game can tell us about literary game design.

Follow that session at 3:00pm (EST) with some procedural play. Anastasia Salter will join us from the University of Central Florida to teach the basics of the JavaScript library, Tracery. Workshop participants will learn to deploy poetic Twitter bots using “Cheap Bots Done Quick” platform created by George Buckenham.

At 4:00pm (EST), innovative and playful pedagogist, Matthew Farber, will lead participants in a session of the middle school party card game Awkward Moment, by Tiltfactor Laboratory. The game and meta-discussion will be used to create interactive fiction.

To top off the day, from 5:00pm to 7:00pm (EST), Stuart Moulthrop and Chris Klimas will follow up last year’s NarraScope Twine Workshop, by exploring some intermediate-level features of the Chapbook story format for Twine: mixing JavaScript in with regular Chapbook code, working with Chapbook’s debugging tools, and incorporating multimedia. No registration will be required for this session, which will be streamed.

Here is the registration link for the Inform 7 Bootcamp. Here is the link to registration for the workshop sessions. And here is the full NarraScope Schedule.

We hope you’ll join us for one of these pre-NarraScope workshops and seminars!

The IF Archive has been hosting IF games since 1992. However, in the age of web-playable games, it’s run into a bit of a quandary: most of our games are not directly playable in a browser. This is particularly jarring for Twine games, which are HTML/Javascript pages to begin with.

Up until now, we’ve prioritized the needs of people browsing the Archive and downloading games for offline play. Our policy is that web-playable games should be uploaded as archived (zipped) packages. The sole exception is the annual IFComp, whose entries are available on the site in unzipped and playable form.

We’ve come up with a scheme to resolve this situation. With this plan:

  • All games will be stored in archived form (so you can download any game with a single click).
  • All web-playable games will have a “play it now” link.
  • Untrusted script code in games will not be able to affect other games or the Archive itself.

We are now seeking proposals for implementing this scheme. Our intention is to fundraise to support this position, and so engagement of a contractor will be contingent on our ability to raise sufficient funds.

By the way, you’ll recall that a few weeks ago we posted a request for proposals for replacing Philome.la. This IF Archive scheme is a separate RFP! The two plans address related needs (both host Twine games), but Philome.la and the IF Archive are rather different services with different audiences. We would like to support both of them, if we can get the resources to do so.

The proposal deadline for the IF Archive plan is April 30th. The proposal deadline for the Philome.la plan has been extended to July 15th.

IFTF has published its Transparency Report for 2019 as a seven-page PDF. It summarizes IFTF’s activity from January 2019 through December 2019, including a high-level accounting of the organization’s financial income and expenditures.

As a public-service organization that many people entrust with their time, attention, and money, IFTF presents this annual report in an effort to show how it has applied its community’s investments over the past calendar year.

This year’s report summary:

IFTF held its first-ever conference in 2019, and this unsurprisingly dominates our financial reporting, accounting for more than half of all money received and spent during the year.

Our income was otherwise defined by small donations from generous individuals, which continue to provide IFTF’s financial backbone, supporting the activities of all our other programs.

Outside of Narrascope’s novelty, 2019 proved a stable year for IFTF at the organizational level. We had no significant personnel additions or departures, and ended the year with the same number of programs as we started with. But, those programs’ activities tell a more interesting story, so let’s turn our attention to them.

Please do read the full report at your own convenience.

The IFTF Twine commitee is seeking proposals for a successor to Philome.la, the popular Twine hosting site that was switched to a read-only mode in September 2019. The goal of the project is to create a version of Philome.la operated by the IFTF that restore Philome.la’s full functionality and expands on it.

Our intention is to fundraise to support this position, and so engagement of a contractor will be contingent on our ability to raise sufficient funds.

For more details on the project requirements and how to submit a proposal, please read the full RFP. Proposals must be submitted by midnight US Eastern time, April 10. Update: This deadline has been extended to July 15, 2020. Questions about the RFP should be emailed to info@iftechfoundation.org.

IFTF’s Twine committee is proud to announce that three specifications related to Twine have been formalized:

Twee 3, the first one listed above, was formalized in December 2019, but the other two are newly formalized as of this month. The first spec describes a new version of Twee, the plain-text version of Twine story code, that includes new information that makes it possible to convert between Twee and Twine 2 stories freely, and to add other metadata to stories in a consistent way.

The second and third specs describe how Twine 2 works: when it publishes a story to HTML, the format of that HTML, and what it looks for in a story format like Harlowe or SugarCube during that publishing process. These specs will make it easier for other tools to use Twine stories, and for people in the Twine community to create new story formats.

On Friday evening, GDC announced that their conference is “postponed”. They’ll try to do an event later in the summer, but everyone’s plans for SF in two weeks are drifting smoke right now.

This is a tremendous disruption and disappointment for everybody involved — attendees, indie devs, speakers, event volunteers, corporate sponsors, restaurant and hotel workers — it’s a mess. But I am particularly upset to miss out on meetups with the other game designers I see every year at GDC. For me, the Narrative Summit track is the highlight of my GDC week.

So this is a good time to remind everybody that we’re running a conference on narrative games, adventures, and interactive fiction. It’s happening the weekend of May 29th in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois.

We’re not going to pretend that NarraScope is a replacement for GDC. We don’t have a soul-bleachingly large expo hall. We don’t have the IGF. We don’t have giant platform holders taking meetings.

What we do have is a few hundred of the brightest and most interesting folks in narrative design, all hanging out and exchanging ideas for a weekend. And we promise that Urbana-Champaign is way cheaper than San Francisco.

(Who’s going to be there? We haven’t announced the program, but I’ll tease you some names: Kaitlin Tremblay. Aaron Reed. Em Lazer-Walker. Judith Pintar. Cat Manning. Chris Klimas. Squinky. And, as we announced a few weeks ago, our keynote speaker, Xalavier Nelson Jr.)


Look. I’ve always been open about my goals for NarraScope. I want to take what’s great about the GDC Narrative Summit and open it up. Move it away from the sucking energy void that is a 25000-person for-profit industry event. Make it accessible and affordable for everybody.

NarraScope isn’t perfect in that regard, but it’s growing. We’d like it to grow more in 2020. So we hope it’s not presumptuous to take this as an opportunity. Please check out NarraScope 2020. It might be what you’re looking for.