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.

The education committee of the Interactive Fiction Technology Foundation is pleased to announce a companion IF workshop to this year’s Narrascope conference. Why should novelists have all the summer fun at their literary colonies and retreats? Let’s take ourselves seriously as writers and hang out together writing IF in the IFComp offseason.

Participants interested in choice-based IF will learn to write Twine-based games, studying with Chris Klimas, creator and current project leader of Twine. Those who’ve always wanted to master Inform 7 will work through the Inform 7 Tutorial series being developed at the Electronic Literatures & Literacies Lab (EL3) at the University of Illinois, working with Judith Pintar, the EL3 Director. Experienced writers of Twine and Inform 7, like Stuart Moulthrop and Andrew Plotkin, will participate in the workshop as mentors, writing by your side.

The workshop will begin in an online, asynchronous format in the two weeks preceding Narrascope and then culminate with a week in residence at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign immediately following Narrascope.

Email Chris & Judith at education@iftechfoundation.org to be notified when registration opens for our first annual IF Writers’ Workshop.

I like to put in a bit of tinkering time on the IF Archive over the winter holiday. Last year it was Cloudflare and index improvements. This year, we’ve launched a new feature: metadata!

I know metadata isn’t exciting to everybody. But as it happens, the IF world has collected a lot of it. If you visit IFDB, you’ll see all sorts of data associated with every game: author names, publication dates, language, dev system, and so on. Also a link to the IF Archive, for games that are stored there.

This is great for browsing IFDB, but the links were all one-way. If you had an Archive link — or if you were browsing through an Archive directory — you’d just see title, author, and maybe a version number. No link to the IFDB entry…

Until now. Take a look at https://ifarchive.org/indexes/if-archive/games/zcode/, for example. You’ll see that most of the game entries now have an “IFDB entry” link. This closes the loop between IFDB and the Archive.

This doesn’t just apply to playable game files, by the way. In the solutions directory, walkthroughs have an IFDB entry link to the game they describe. Same goes for source code packages in the games/source directory.

Of course, there’s a lot of work left to do. I said most of the games had IFDB entry links. I extracted these links from an IFDB dump. But for various reasons that didn’t give us complete coverage. Over the coming months we’ll be adding more links.

I also hope to import more of IFDB’s data and make it directly visible on the Archive index pages. That way, the crowdsourced efforts that support IFDB will benefit both sites.

We have other Archive improvements planned, but we’ll talk about those when they’re closer to fruition. Until then, enjoy our spicy metadata references.

The Annual Interactive Fiction competition has released its annual survey, asking all its participants — whether judges, authors, or interested observers — for their thoughts on how well the 2019 IFComp went, and ideas for improving the competition in time for 2020’s event.

If you have a few minutes to help IFComp, please do fill out the survey before January 31, 2020. We would value your thoughts very much!

On that note: NarraScope 2020’s Call for Proposals remains open through January 17. It welcomes pitches for panel discussions, 30- and 60-minute presentations, and five-minute lightning talks.

NarraScope will consider just about any topic related to narrative-based games in all their forms, digital and otherwise. If you have (or develop, in the next few days!) an idea for a presentation, discussion, or short event that you can share with our annual gathering to study and celebrate playful interactive stories, we hope you’ll pitch it to us.

This year’s NarraScope will happen at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on May 29-31.

IFTF president Jason McIntosh and IFComp chair Jacqueline Ashwell appeared on the December 19, 2019 episode of Titans of Text, a podcast about text-based games. We discussed the origin story of IFTF, the state of the competition, and various other topics of interest. The show published a transcript, as well.

Since Titans comes out of the MUD community, discussion turned at one point to IFMud and Club Floyd, a long-running regular event where Jacq leads online group play-throughs of interactive fiction work new and old. These are not IFTF projects but they are certainly IFTF-adjacent, and we quite enjoyed the rare chance to discuss them on a podcast!

Titans has focused recent episodes on interactive fiction founders and creators, including a recent interview with Steve Meretsky. Go have a listen!