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Time for On-Site Research!

One of the exciting things about the Historical Williamsburg project is that Williamsburg is not only a real place, the historical part is to a large extent restored to the condition it was in back in the late 1700s. Research there can be very entertaining as well as informative. Indeed, the city is a living museum, but ever since my father started taking our family there 40 years ago on summer vacations, I’ve seen it as a fun rather than “educational” place to go. But I picked up a lot about American history despite that fact.

From July 13th-16th, I will be there (along with my family) taking photographs and measurements in order to build the map representation of the historical portions of the city within the game. I will be getting the layouts for the major structures such as the House of Burgesses and the Governor’s Palace, along with the interior information for several other buildings (the Courhouse, the Magazine, some of the taverns, homes of prominent residents, etc.). Hopefully the weather will be favorable! There is a lot of work to do on the game itself, but one of my goals of getting the photography work accomplished (in addition to proving me with reference materials for the in-game descriptions) is so that I’ll be able to put together the project’s coffee table photo book that will be one of the rewards for some of the folks that were Kickstarter backers for the project.

During the fundraising phase, I was asked whether or not I would be publishing the photo book for individual purchase, and honestly, I had not considered that. But it does seem like a good idea, so I think that’s a project element worth adding. I’d like to get the materials together, the layout of the book completed, and all the publishing details worked out by the end of the summer. With all the quality self-publishing options out there, I should be able to have the book available for sale, and we’ll see where that goes!

Kickstarter Funding Success!

Thanks to all 85 backers of the Historical Williamsburg Living Narrative, we reached 129% of our $1500 goal, putting us at a final total of $1937. We are quite appreciative of everyone’s most sincere support in the form of hard-earned cash.

Now comes the job of building the game! The first phase of development will be focused on the Williamsburg physical environment, building the map that the game navigation will be based on. That will involve quite a bit of research (already underway), and in a few weeks time, we will be traveling to Williamsburg to obtain photographs, make geographic measurements, and gather materials from the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. we will keep you posted every step of the way.

In the meantime, we will take a little time to bask in the warmth of this initial success in the project’s lifecycle. We are certainly off to a very good start.

Funding Countdown for the Historical Williamsburg Living Narrative

As of this posting, the funding window for the Historical Williamsburg Living Narrative has less than 55 hours left before closing. While the current pledged amount is greater than the funding goal. additional backers would go a long way toward helping the project secure more resources, leading to a more detailed final product.

If anyone reading this post is on the fence regarding backing the project, we encourage you to go to the Kickstarter project page and make a contribution, even as little as $1. If you’re already a backer, please help us continue to raise awareness by sharing the Kickstarter project link across your social media connections.

We greatly appreciate all your generous support!

A Big Thanks to our “Enterprise” Backer

Tony Guzman gets the recognition for being our Enterprise Backer, and we’d like to extend our appreciation here. What is the Enterprise Backer, you ask? Star Trek fans should get the reference: with Tony’s funding contribution, we have hit the $1701 mark. That’s 1701, as in the number of the U.S.S. Enterprise.

We also want to thank all of our backers for being so generous. Without your help, we wouldn’t have exceeded our funding goal!

Setting the Stretch Goal

Even though the Historical Williamsburg Living Narrative has reached its funding goal, there are 16 days left in the funding period, and we want to put that time to good use. To that end, we are setting a stretch goal of an additional $500 in funding (for a total of $2000 altogether). These additional funds would go toward increased research resources and even some money to market the finished product to the target audience (educators, historians, and IF gamers).

Unlike the initial funding goal, the stretch goal does not have to be hit for us to make use of the additional funds. So at this point, every backer contribution helps us move the needle. Please spread the word and help us to continue to raise funds for the project.

To go to the Kickstarter project page, click here.

Historical Williamsburg Living Narrative Funding Goal Reached

As of this date, the Historical Williamsburg Living Narrative Kickstarter project has reached 100% of its funding goal of $1500. We would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank all of our 59 (so far) backers. That’s the good news. The additional good news is that we still have 17 days left in the funding period, so there is the opportunity for us to raise more funding that would go to additional research, development resources, and possibly marketing for the finished project. Continued and additional support will be greatly appreciated!

Research Assistance for the Historical Williamsburg Living Narrative

Today I had a very pleasant conversation with a representative of Mfa, Ltd., a firm out of NYC that handles the marketing for Colonial Williamsburg. My Kickstarter project came up on their radar, and they were very interested to learn more about it, what the inspiration was, and so on. It was a very nice surprise to learn that the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation encourages these types of projects and activities. (By the way, “Colonial Williamsburg” is a registered trademark–which is why I’m not using that phrase–but they were the ones that suggested I use “Historical Williamsburg” for the project.)

One of the outcomes of my conversation today was an offer from Mfa, Ltd., to put me in touch with some of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation researchers to help me gather information for the project. This is a very exciting development, and while it’s not an “official” approval of the work, it will certainly help things move along!

For Novices: The Top 5 Interactive Fiction Games

Getting into Interactive Fiction isn’t the easiest thing to do, as far as playing a “new” computer game genre goes. In the early 1980s when IF was popular–and the distractions of graphic computer games was non-existent–people spent significant time in the games, reading the stories and situations, thinking about how to respond, and considering the possible (or probable) action choices to take. In the days of playing Colossal Cave and Scott Adams text adventure games, the simplicity of the parser forced people to think in terms of two-word commands. That had the effect of narrowing action choices to some degree, which was probably a good thing as the genre gained its following. As Infocom released its games with more sophisticated language parsing capabilities, the potential for action and conversation was greatly multiplied. But most Infocom players likely had an introduction to the genre that helped to educate them in the conventions of IF communications.

Today, learning IF games can be difficult for several reasons. Finding a local IF community can be difficult (okay, impossible in most cases), which means that players need to rely on online resources–if they can successfully find those. The computer gaming paradigm has shifted greatly over the past few decades, and as a result, people’s expectations for game experiences is quite different.

Fortunately, there are freely available resources that help ease a new IF gamer into the genre. Instructions, primers, and how-to guides can be found by searching the Internet. And there are many good games suitable for novice IF gamers. This article on the gamer site 1up has listed what could be considered the top 5 games for Interactive Fiction beginners to try first. Try your hand!

While the Historical Williamsburg Living Narrative isn’t being developed strictly with novices in mind, if it will be used in the teaching and learning environment it will need to be something that students can easily pick up on. To find out more about the Kickstarter project, please click here.

The Historical Williamsburg IF Project: an Interview with Emily Short

I was quite pleased when I was contacted by Emily Short about the Historical Williamsburg Living Narrative. For those of us engaged in authoring Interactive Fiction, attracting the attention of Emily is a very gratifying experience. Emily has won multiple IF competition awards for many of her games including Galatea, Savoir-Faire, and Floatpoint (just to name a few). As it turns out, Emily was interested in the concept of my Williamsburg project, and she offered me an opportunity for an interview which she would publish on her blog, Emily Short’s Interactive Storytelling.

You can go directly to the interview by clicking on this link. I think the interview turned out well, but I’m biased regarding the topic. So be sure to read it yourself.

And don’t forget, we’re still in the funding stage for the Kickstarter project and can use all the support we can get. Please feel free to click here and go directly to the Kickstarter project page. Every bit helps!

Getting from Here to There: A Matter of Scale

April 22, 2012 1 comment

One of the great joys of playing Interactive Fiction games is in the discovery and exploration of the physical space or actual play environment of the game. Years ago when I played the Colossal Cave Adventure for the first time (on the Data General Eclipse computer at the office after hours), I delighted in drawing maps for all the locations and paths that were available. When I got to the maze area, where room exits looped back into the same room, the value of the mapping process became very clear. Those skills were well utilized as I grew into the Scott Adams adventure games, and later the collection of games from Infocom. Sketching out the location boxes with their associated path connections became second nature as a necessary Interactive Fiction player skill. (I am often surprised when I teach Interactive Fiction to college game design students, how few of them already know or readily develop the map-making skill set.)

Developing maps for IF is a slightly different process, though, that requires more than drawing boxes with interconnecting lines. There is the idea of location scale and relative size in IF games, and the developer needs to make some important decisions before committing to computer code. Locations are not all uniform in size (when we imagine our settings), and logical layout is not the same as physical layout. When dealing with fictional settings, there is some latitude for interpretation (though the good designers have a very clear picture of their environment before starting to code). However, there is no room for creative interpretation when attempting to recreate historical settings with absolute fidelity to the historical reality.

That’s our situation with the Historical Williamsburg Living Narrative. A large part of the questions could be framed around geographic granularity: as we build the maps, what is the smallest unit of measurement we should be using? (A square yard seems reasonable, actually.) There will be the typical Interactive Fiction flex in the maps; for example, walking down one side of a street may result in more “stops” along the way than walking up the other side. That would have much to do with the buildings or other pathways located on each side. But the point is, we need to make consideration of the space or area that needs to be “reserved” for game locations in which action may (or may not) take place.

I’m making my sketches now, and that will be one of the first pieces of the game that will be ready for review (we may even put that up on Playfic for people to try out). Do you have any suggestions regarding map making? Is that something you enjoy doing? If you’d like to contribute in some way on this (or any other) piece of the project, please drop me a line.

And don’t forget to check out the Historical Williamsburg Living Narrative Kickstarter project.