Flash Charity Auction: 1, 3, 5 hours of work time

I am auctioning off some work time — 9 hours in total, in chunks of 5 hours, 3 hours, and 1 hour — in support of Donors Choose, a charity that provides educational supplies to underfunded classrooms in the US. Bidding runs through 5 PM Pacific today (1 AM British time) and the work is to be done this weekend.

How does this work?

Between now and 5 PM Pacific time, you can comment here to bid (in dollars, please).

Highest bidder gets the 5-hour chunk, second place the 3-hour, third place the 1-hour. So if you’re the only person to bid, you could wind up with the 5 hours for a super-low price. When time is up, I’ll determine who the winners are and comment with that information. It’s then up to you to fulfill your bid by donating here and letting me know what specifically you have in mind. I will start work tomorrow and will aim to have the tasks done by Monday evening.

That’s very little notice! Hardly any, in fact!

I know. It’s pretty unusual for me to know way in advance that I’m going to have a free weekend, though.

What if no one goes for this?

I make cookies instead. Mm, cookies. (Honestly, I have no idea whether this will produce any interesting results. It’s an experiment.)

What would that get me?

Some things you could have me spend time on include:

  • betatesting your WIP
  • giving feedback on a game design document or concept
  • making some (photo and text-based) cover art for a game
  • revising prose written by a non-native speaker
  • writing a review of a freeware game of your choice (it needs to be short enough that I can both play and review in the time slot, and needs to run on Mac OSX)
  • creating a custom I7 extension to tackle some irritating code problem (again, within limits — something like Threaded Conversation is not a 5-hour project)
  • curating a list of IF specific to an interest of yours
  • writing a short essay about an IF- or game-related topic
  • writing a tiny custom speed-IF (in the 1 hour slot this would probably need to be choice-based)

…but I’m open to other possible uses of time as well, if you have something else in mind.

So basically you’ll do what I say?

Er, within certain limits. Obviously: no illegal activities, no pornography, nothing unethical (such as having me write a glowing review of a work without disclosing the funding source). No hacks that aren’t really labor exchanges (“spend one hour mailing me your laptop”), or that would cost me additional money to perform unless we’ve talked it through first. If you have doubts about whether your request is reasonable, feel free to request clarification.

Why Donors Choose?

This gets long and is not about what this blog is usually about, but if you’re interested:

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Assorted Releases and Events

Sorcery! header

inkle has been posting for some time about their Sorcery! project with Steve Jackson, and it’s now available for iOS. I haven’t had a chance to try it out yet, but it looks gorgeous, with fun gamebooky play, a revamped combat concept, and a really attractive map. Here’s more about the making of, including discussions of the combat system and the creation of the user interface. It looks gorgeous, however, and is getting rave reviews at the app store, as well as positive coverage at Pocket Gamer. One unfortunate note: it’s not (yet?) really playable with VoiceOver.

The People’s Republic of IF in Boston is organizing another IF meetup this year, September 14-15, coordinated with the NoShowConf and the Boston Festival of Indie Games. This is an opportunity to hang out with other IF authors, share in-progress concepts, demo to the public (at Boston FIG), and attend game design talks (at NoShowConf). There may be some IF-specific programming there, though this isn’t finalized.

I’ve mentioned this before here briefly, but I’m speaking next week at the Inventing the Future of Games conference put on by UC Santa Cruz. That’s in Mountain View May 10. I’ll be talking about tools for interactive narrative creation, drawing on experience with Inform, Versu, and (to a lesser degree) various other IF tools.

XYZZY Award voting is ongoing through May 7. If you want to participate, check out the nominees and voting page.

GDC 2013

…starts Monday! I will be there:

I’m giving a game design postmortem about Versu Friday morning (10 AM, Room 3005 West Hall). I’ll be talking about several aspects of the design, including some UI issues with presenting text games that I haven’t previously blogged about here.

Richard Evans and I will be showing Versu gameplay off at the Experimental Gameplay Workshop (Friday, 2:30-4:30 PM, Room 2014 West Hall). As that’s always one of my favorite sessions, I’m especially happy to be doing it. The EGW always features a surprising and cool collection of gameplay styles and concepts.

And finally

I will also have a shorter stint at the Indie Soapbox, where I will talk some about text games. (Tuesday, 4:30-5:30 PM, Room 2005, West Hall.)

Several other sessions caught my eye as potentially interesting for IF folks:

Clara Fernandez-Vara, a Boston PR-IFer and IF outreach advocate, is part of the Game Educators’ Rant session.

Porpentine (howling dogs et al) and Terry Cavanagh (Don’t Look Back, Super Hexagon) are talking about indie game curation and outsider voices.

There is a poster session by Mordechai Buckman about the potential of interactive fiction using “a tool for turning story scenarios into intuitive gameplay.” I’m not sure what to expect from this one, but we’ll see.

Jake Elliott and Tamas Kemenczy talk about the evolution of Kentucky Route Zero from a largely puzzly graphical adventure game to its somewhat more mysterious current form.

Sean Vanaman and Jake Rodkin on Telltale’s The Walking Dead also sounds very much worth a look (I’m especially vexed it’s scheduled opposite the Game Design Challenge session, which I typically make a point of attending — but hey, it’s all about presenting the player with hard choices, right?).

I usually enjoy the GDC Microtalks, a brain-dazzlingly rapid presentation by numerous speed-talking speakers. This year the lineup includes Anna Anthropy, Leigh Alexander (a games journalist who, among other things, has written extensively about IF and text gaming), and Tom Bissell.

And, of course, there’s the entire Game Narrative Summit, moved to San Francisco GDC this year. Formerly it was a feature of GDC Online in Austin.

No Show Conf, Boston July 14-15

There wasn’t an IF conference alongside PAX East this year, but people may be interested in the No Show Conference, an indie game conference running on the MIT campus July 14-15. It will have something of an IF community presence. (Not me. But other people. Note the talks by Clara Fernandez-Vara, Deirdra Kiai, and Jim Munroe.)

In particular, if you liked last year’s IF Demo Fair, you may be pleased to hear that there’s a demo hall as a significant part of the conference. Interactive fiction games and interface demos are welcome.

Complicity: Building Interactive Narratives

London, August 24: Alexis Kennedy (of Echo Bazaar and Varytale; Failbetter Games) and I are running a day-long seminar on writing interactive stories.

We’ll be looking at concepts like complicity, exploration, and exposition in an interactive context; structures for choice-based narrative; types of choices and varieties of player roles; types of feedback for the player; ways of pacing interactive narrative.

These are all things that we’ve written or talked about before, separately and together, but this will present them in a more unified format and with space for back-and-forth discussion. The seminar will not be geared explicitly to either IF or EBZ-style games, so if your interests lie more with choices and interactivity in some other presentation format, you’re very welcome.

The Failbetter blog is one of the best places on the web to read about narrative structures in interactive contexts, and I’m very excited to be presenting with Alexis.

Event details, including a longer description of the content, can be found here.

IF Demo Fair: Lessons Learned

Several people have suggested to me that we should do more demo fairs in the future. I’m not done wrapping up the last tasks for this one — I’m still finishing the SPAG coverage, and I owe mail to some authors — so the prospect of running one again myself is vaguely daunting. But in case it’s useful in the future, here are some postmortem thoughts.

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