Frotz in the iPhone App store

After all the various discussion of whether Apple would or would not allow it: it’s there. Craig Smith has a free-download version of Frotz available, which comes preloaded with a bunch of games (9:05, An Act of Murder, All Roads, Anchorhead, Balances, Being Andrew Plotkin, Bronze, A Change in the Weather, Child’s Play, Christminster, Curses!, Dreamhold, For a Change, Heroes, Jigsaw, Lost Pig, The Meteor, the Stone, and A Long Glass of Sherbet, The Act of Misdirection, Photopia, Slouching Towards Bedlam, Spider and Web, Varicella, Vespers, The Weapon, and Zork (MIT version)).

It also has a button that taps straight into IFDB, and downloading a new game adds it and its cover art to your game collection.

Plays a little slowly with Bronze, but faster than the reports I’ve heard of the game on other PDAs (and Bronze does whacking lots of pathfinding all the time). Older I6 games are faster.

IF cover art looks really nice on the iPhone screen, too.

21 thoughts on “Frotz in the iPhone App store

  1. That sounds exceedingly cool.

    The fervour which the iPhone seems to generate in developers is amazing. The auto-download from IFDB feature has been discussed several times on RAIF, and I’m sure it would do a lot to bring in new players to the IF fold, and yet no-one (to the best of my knowledge) has implemented it before now.

    Not that I’m whinging about that, I’m very grateful for all the work developers have put in to make life better for players and authors. Besides, if I really wanted to see the feature in a mainstream terp, I ought to just get on and implement it myself.

    Also, I hope this app is a permanent addition to the iTunes store. With apps like Nullriver’s NetShare going up and down on the store like a yo-yo, and the recent revelation that Apple can remotely disable any app even once it’s already on the phone, one has to hope they don’t take a sudden dislike to the idea of Z-code. :)

  2. Besides, if I really wanted to see the feature in a mainstream terp, I ought to just get on and implement it myself.

    Mac OS X Zoom does do this. It’s pretty sweet — browsing IFDB through Zoom means you get little “play now” buttons for all the game files Zoom knows how to handle; and with the TADS, ADRIFT, Alan, and Glulx components to Zoom, that turns out to be a hefty percentage of modern IF.

  3. Cue extreme jealousy from this Windows user!

    I wonder if the reason this hasn’t appeared in any Windows terps is that all the developers who care about aesthetics and the end-user experience now own Macs? ;)

  4. “After all the various discussion of whether Apple would or would not allow it…”

    I find it astonishing that anyone would buy an iPhone, given that Apple retains so much control over the device you have just paid for. Does it have any features that aren’t available on other high-end phones, or do people just buy the Apple name?

  5. Does it have any features that aren’t available on other high-end phones

    One absolutely vital one: it behaves comprehensibly.

    Until the iPhone, I considered my various cell phones as necessary but hateful pieces of misengineered garbage: they never behaved quite in the way I expected, the advanced features required combinations of input that I could never remember when I didn’t have the manual in front of me, the screens were ugly and the buttons were hard to hit and text entry took so long that I started longing for the good old days when I relied on the postal service for my communication needs. I occasionally played with other people’s smartphones and found them at least equally obnoxious.

    The iPhone is attractive and intuitive, and I can use it to do things that I’ve found at least a bit fiddly on just about every phone (mobile or land-based) I’ve owned previously — like swapping between calls, or setting up a conference, or managing my voicemail.

    So for me, at least, it’s not buying the name; it’s buying the attention to user experience. Apple is good at that. It’s the same reason I’ve been buying Macs all these years.

  6. Part of what bothers me about these cell phone / web app initiative is that they are z-code only. While TADS might be wrapped back in the fold eventually I never, ever, expect my favorite IF language to be included.

  7. I don’t think it’s a matter of language so much as a matter of VM. The Z-Machine is just easier to implement on this kind of platform. Most Inform 7 games probably won’t be eligible either if they’re written for Glulx.

  8. I expect that Glulx will come along, although maybe not with all the sound-and-graphics features that Glulx supports.

    Once that happens, a text-mode TADS interpreter should not be hard, using the Glk library. Other terps can use the same route. We’ve seen enough multi-interpreters to know that the technologies are tractable.

  9. As someone writing games in Glulx these days, who thinks all the cool new future games are going to be in Glulx and can’t imagine fitting a game in z-code any more, it’s been frustrating over the past year to see all of these cool new terps come out for z-code, not Glulx. There’s only so many decades we all can keep playing Zork and Christminster. I’m hoping as more Glulx games come out and enter the canon, we’ll see this start to change.

  10. Pete Chown –> I own the old iPhone which is unlocked and cracked. With that I can use it as SSH and HTTP/S server logging to it via my laptop and copying, moving files. Then I can read them on my iPhone using classic UNIX editors ed(1), vi(1) or using third-party tools to read .txt or .pdf e-books. Also I can play ALL my favorite Z-Machine games, ScummVM games and the like.. I don’t know if you can do it with the locked iPhone. I find this ridiculous that they use Darwin as a software base, yet are unwilling to open the device so it would feel more like embedded BSD system, open to modifications etc.

  11. I’m not sure why people here are whining about the closed nature of the iPhone so much. Of course, that’s true, and of course there’s been Frotz for the iPhone before (for jailbroken iPhones).

    What no one seems to be mentioning is that there’s a very easy and simple means for people who have never played IF before to download an interpreter (for free) and carry them around in their pockets. Millions of people could be exposed to IF with this who hadn’t seen it before, and I can’t see that as anything but a major win for IF in general.

  12. Regarding Z-code vs Glulx:

    I do plan to suppot Glulx in a future version. I started with Z-machine frankly because it was easier, and I was able to start with a simpler source base.
    I would’ve liked to port Zoom, but it’s just too big and would’ve taken far longer. Also, since the iPhone was released a bit later in the UK than the US, it didn’t seem fair not to give Andrew Hunter first dibs on porting his own program. That said, with his permission, I may try to pull the game backends from Zoom and integrate them with iFrotz’s UI to get Glulx and maybe TADS support.

    The hard part is that unfortunately, the iPhone APIs are not very feature rich when it comes to text formatting. Frotz actually uses separate UI controls for Z-machine “windows” 0 and 1 and for the input line because it was the only way I could get it to work. Further, the fixed width font is actually not really fixed width, so I had to take pains to make sure the right border of reverse text block quotes looked right. Glulx’s support for arbitrary window splitting may not be possible to correctly implement on the iPhone with current APIs unless I manually draw every character. I’ll see what I can get working.

    Craig Smith
    (Frotz for iPhone developer)

  13. I’m not sure why people here are whining about the closed nature of the iPhone so much.

    Presumably because they are tired of the iPhone hype. Still, I have to partly agree with you: this doesn’t seem to be the right place to discuss these issues.

    What no one seems to be mentioning is that there’s a very easy and simple means for people who have never played IF before to download an interpreter (for free) and carry them around in their pockets. Millions of people could be exposed to IF with this who hadn’t seen it before, and I can’t see that as anything but a major win for IF in general.

    Uh, yeah. But there have been a very easy and simple means for people who have never played IF before to download an interpreter (for free) and put in on their desktop or carry it around with them for years. I’m not sure why you’d expect that adding the iPhone to the class of devices for which this is true is going to make a huge difference. (In fact, I would be surprised if many people enjoy playing IF on such a small screen with such a small keyboard; if they didn’t like it on the PC, why would they like it on what is in almost every respect an inferior platform?)

    Nevertheless, more availability is better, and it certainly won’t hurt the community.

  14. I’m not sure why you’d expect that adding the iPhone to the class of devices for which this is true is going to make a huge difference.

    I suspect the difference is that iPhone users are more likely to notice this release and more likely to care about it.

    On other platforms, you don’t hear about every new release, because they aren’t all posted in one place: you have to search for software if you want it, or find a middleman who’ll track new releases and let you know (about some of them, at least). And once you learn about one, you might not be too excited about it, because there are thousands of other apps to choose from.

    On the iPhone, there’s only one place to get new apps, so everyone who cares about expanding their iPhone will be keeping an eye on it. Also, since the supply of apps is so restricted, each release carries that much more weight.

    Is this app still available for download? If Apple has changed their SDK license, that’s one thing, but if there hasn’t been an announcement to that effect, I suspect allowing Frotz to be distributed was just an oversight (since the SDK license explicitly forbids this sort of thing).

  15. The company I work for in my day job has a pretty good relationship with Apple and we had a meeting a couple of months ago with some Apple Developer Relations concerning opportunities on the iPhone platform. I was able to express my frustration with the draconian SDK verbiage at the time. These were engineers and marketing folks, not lawyers, but it was their opinion that the SDK license was overly broad but that the spirit was not intended to prevent interpreters of this nature. They were worried about 1) interpreters that could execute arbitrary code, access the filesystem, or do possibly malicious things. 2) downloads that bypass the iTMS revenue stream. For example, Java or a CLR implementation. They said they’d give the feedback to Apple legal (although I’m not aware that anything’s been updated since). I also mentioned it to a couple Apple engineers at WWDC, and they likewise thought it was probably fine.

    It also turned out that one of the Apple Dev. Relations guys was a classic gaming fan, and even collected old computing hardware (Amigas, Commodore 64s, Ataris). He was personally very interested in seeing an IF program for the iPhone, and even offered to help if I ran into any problems getting it approved.

    So while I think it’s possible Apple might override the decision to allow Frotz on the App Store, I don’t think it’s likely, and I have an advocate on my side inside just in case.

  16. Uh, yeah. But there have been a very easy and simple means for people who have never played IF before to download an interpreter (for free) and put in on their desktop or carry it around with them for years. I’m not sure why you’d expect that adding the iPhone to the class of devices for which this is true is going to make a huge difference. (In fact, I would be surprised if many people enjoy playing IF on such a small screen with such a small keyboard; if they didn’t like it on the PC, why would they like it on what is in almost every respect an inferior platform?)

    Nevertheless, more availability is better, and it certainly won’t hurt the community.

    Well, yeah, I’m not so naive to think that every iPhone user will immediately download Frotz, but when good IF is now available on a platform that people are still queueing up at stores to buy, it’s certainly not a bad thing. The potential is there for Frotz to encourage more people to try it out — it’s certainly less of a pain to use than some of the other apps I’ve seen people downloading.

  17. Pingback: SE4N» Blog Archive » iPhone Frotz

  18. Pingback: iPhone is now 50% game complete « the ball whisk

  19. Since iFrotz comes with bundled adventures, it would be great if there was a .z story called “TUTORIAL” which sat at the top which was a simple how to play IF mini-game explaining how it works, common commands, how to save and restore games and 1 or 2 puzzles. I bet that would help a lot of people who have no idea what is going on and might keep more people interested in IF.

  20. I have a bundle of zcode files that i would like to be able to get on the iphone to read with frotz.
    I know i could download them but it would be a lot faster if i could just copy them across.
    I have iphonebrowser on the pc and mopbilefinder on the phone but i can’t see the folders where the files could go.
    I have not jailbroken the phone yet because i do not want to bust it.
    suggestions welcome
    regards

    mick

  21. Frotz on the iPhone is good; running Frotz on the iPad is fantastic! Especially with the built-in games and ability to quickly add additional games from the IFDB database or old Infocom games from your destop.

    One question: Is anyone working on a TADS interpreter for the iPad?

    –Zack

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s