What's New Among Zarf's Pages

Check here to see if I've added anything interesting since, well, the last time you checked here. You can also see what was new in previous years.

September 4, 2016

Another short math/science illustrated essay: The Arches of the Little Prince. Can you build a pole-to-pole arch on a tiny planetoid? Turns out you can.

June 30, 2016

Announcing the Interactive Fiction Technology Foundation, a new 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to supporting the tools, web sites, and services behind modern interactive fiction.

June 20, 2016

Hadean Lands is now available on Steam.

June 19, 2016

Watch This is a short fanfic tag set after, or during-after, the game Oxenfree.

April 29, 2016

Lectrote is a new desktop interpreter for Glulx (Inform 7) games. As of July (yes, I'm fudging the dates a bit) it also supports games written in the Ink scripting language. Download Mac, Windows, and Linux binaries here.

September 19, 2015

A short essay on The Twin not-really Paradox, with diagrams. This is an old subject (a century old!) but I've never seen an explanation that illustrated it the way I understand it.

October 30, 2014

Hadean Lands is available.

June 23, 2014

My IF page now has links to the Inform source code of nearly all my games. (I released source code for some of them years ago, but now the collection is mostly complete.) The earliest used Inform 5.4 (v1405); the latest, Inform 7 6G60.

June 15, 2014

I've posted Salvanas, a puzzle Age, to Seltani. No story, no background, just some stuff to solve.

June 4, 2014

The books I bought in the first half of 2014, and what I thought of each one. (If you want to see reviews posted as I write them, follow me on Goodreads.)

January 1, 2014

The books I bought in 2013, and what I thought of each one. (If you read the semiannual update post six months ago, skip down to July. Alternately, if you want to see reviews posted as I write them, follow me on Goodreads.)

November 10, 2013

Redwreath and Goldstar Have Traveled to Deathsgate (or, the Paarfi-o-matic loosed.) A generated novel for NaNoGenMo 2013.

August 20, 2013

An introduction to Seltani, the choice-based hypertext Myst MUD I've been working on.

July 4, 2013

The books I bought in the first half of 2013, and what I thought of each one.

July 3, 2013

I've been quiet recently because I've been heads-down on a new project. It's not quite ready for the public stampede yet, but here's the teaser page and a blog post introducing the project.

March 4, 2013

I have updated my IF page to include links to ClubFloyd play-throughs of my games -- the ones that have been Floyded, anyhow. (These are live play-throughs by new players -- complete with discussion, getting stuck, and sometimes looking at hints.) These are not new, but may be of interest to the historically-minded, or if you want to see one of my games without playing it.

February 13, 2013

And now Heliopause is also available for iOS.

January 24, 2013

Shade for iOS. As with Dreamhold, I've added Game Center achievements and a virtual feelie (the to-do list). I know, it's not really an achievement-y game -- but I tried to make them thematic. You'll see what I mean once you get a little ways in.

January 3, 2013

The books I bought in 2012, and what I thought of each one. (If you read the semiannual update post six months ago, skip down to July. Alternately, if you want to see reviews posted as I write them, follow me on Goodreads.)

January 1, 2013

Now it is announced: Bigger Than You Think, a short choice-based text game that I wrote for Yuletide. It was inspired by that gigantic xkcd comic.

September 4, 2012

Pocket Storm, an iPhone version of the Boodler one-hour thunderstorm concept. Available now on the App Store.

August 4, 2012

I have updated and expanded the Zarf Swag area (and shifted it to Zazzle). Old and new T-shirts! Including the "Game Designer Bomb Squad" shirt that I mentioned on Twitter a few weeks back.

July 1, 2012

The books I bought in the first half of 2012, and what I thought of each one.

By the way, these reviews are now linked from my main book list. Should make 'em easier to find.

June 18, 2012

Jason Scott has been posting his archive of unused Get Lamp footage. This now includes forty minutes of interview with me. (This was filmed in February of 2007.) It's lightly edited to remove most of Jason's prompts and some of my false starts, but there's plenty of "um" and "hm" left for you to marvel over. Or, if you want to see other interviewees, there's hours and hours of dozens and dozens of us.

May 25, 2012

The Dreamhold is now available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch! This is the tutorial IF game that I posted in 2004. It's free to play. (Has been since 2004, right?) The game is unchanged, but I've added some iOS-specific bonus features: a dynamic map (so you don't have to draw your own), and Game Center achievements.

May 7, 2012

Updates of Quixe and GlkOte. Assorted bug fixes and medium-small features.

April 25, 2012

Another Javascript poem, this time a rendering of someone else's work: Eight Haiku -- An Experiment by Richard Alderson. Based on Richard's original poem here. (Thanks to him for giving me permission to post this.) This uses CSS animations, and only works on WebKit (Safari/Chrome) web browsers. (Sorry -- I need to figure out the moz- equivalent for Firefox.)

April 19, 2012

Riddle Sutra, a Javascript (and audio) poem that I created for an ELO reading at MIT. The goal (not very seriously) is to procedurally generate every possible riddle. The Boodler package that runs the audio is also available.

March 31, 2012

An alpha release of RemGlk, a remote-procedure-call Glk library. This is a component which should make IF bots and web services easier to write.

March 11, 2012

In 2001 I posted a teaser page for The Emperor's Star, a three-day, six-player Chrononauts role-playing scenario. Then nothing happened for eleven years. Then Anna Anthropy rightly bugged me about publishing it, and bugged me again until I did something about it. So here it is. All the rules, character information, and the timeline are posted now; also the PDF files I used for the original play session.

January 31, 2012

Look at this awesome thing Jason Shiga made.

January 7, 2012

This may amuse some folks: A portrait of all the characters in System's Twilight, digitally remastered in vector form! (Here they are in their original 32x32 outfits.)

January 6, 2012

A new (tiny) IF work -- Key Features! This was commissioned by MakerBot Inc. in honor of their upcoming product announcement, which will be at CES on Monday. MakerBot is a nifty 3D printer company, and that's what's neat about this game: you can literally print out the feelies as real-life objects as you play! If you have a 3D printer. (If not, you can still look at the model renderings to see what they'd look like. The links will appear as you play.)

January 1, 2012

The books I bought in 2011, and what I thought of each one. (If you read the semiannual update post six months ago, skip down to July.)

November 19, 2011

IFComp is over, and it turns out I entered this year! Cold Iron placed fifteenth of 38 entries. But there's more to the story than that: I collaborated with three other Boston IF authors to create a secret, cross-game bonus puzzle. Here's an explanation.

November 8, 2011

Meanwhile for iOS is now available!

October 31, 2011

I just threw together a game-design aid to help me with Hadean Lands puzzle layout: PlotEx, a tool for exploring puzzle plot constraints. Might be useful to other folks.

October 7, 2011

A preview of my next upcoming app: an iOS port of Meanwhile, an interactive comic by Jason Shiga.

September 27, 2011

A dynamic poem: Argot Ogre, OK! (Requires javascript. Content is not all safe for work.)

This is a remix of Taroko Gorge, by Nick Montfort, and a stack of poems that remixed that.

September 19, 2011

I've added another Mutagen demo: Finn Wakes Again. (The source code is available.) This is the same algorithm that powers My Secret Hideout, albeit written in Javascript rather than ObjC.

September 6, 2011

My first iPad app! My Secret Hideout, a textual bagatelle. Available now on the App Store.

July 17, 2011

The books I bought in the first half of 2011, and what I thought of each one.

June 15, 2011

I've been meaning to post this for a while. Umics: an Emacs replacement that I wrote in Python! Or rather, that I started to write in 2003, futzed around with for a few weeks, and dropped. It's got no editing features at all -- just a framework for buffers, windows, and keyboard commands. But the framework is pretty solid, considering how little work I put in.

I'm releasing this under the "show your work" stricture of my web site. I make an effort to release my unsuccessful efforts as well as my successful ones. (I am not always successful at this.) Umics never went anywhere, but maybe somebody out there will have a use for it.

May 7, 2011

I've posted The Matter of the Monster, a very small choose-your-own-adventure-style story that I wrote for the Indigo New Language Speed-IF challenge. (The first version I posted was buggy on Firefox, but I think I've fixed that now.) The new language I used -- new to me, that is -- is Undum, a Javascript CYOA toolkit. I had to hack on Undum a little to get the effect I wanted; you can download my toolkit changes here.

April 26, 2011

A quick note to those interested in design archeology: I have built an Action Flow Chart for Hoist Sail for the Heliopause and Home. It's an article in the most recent issue of SPAG.

March 7, 2011

New Boodler release! It's a very small update, though. Not really news.

February 27, 2011

Hoist Sail for the Heliopause and Home has won the 2010 XYZZY award for Best Writing. Also, Quixe won Best Technological Development. Excellent. On to 2011.

February 26, 2011

I've moved my web site to new hosting. If you're reading this entry, you're there. I don't expect any trouble, beyond the usual potential 24-hour delay as the Internet catches up with the change.

February 17, 2011

Glk spec 0.7.2, along with CheapGlk, GlkOte, and Quixe. (I'll get to GlkTerm tonight.) The new feature this month: the game can read the system clock (as a Unix timestamp, UTC date-time, or local date-time). (Try it out in your browser.)

February 1, 2011

Here's a collection of interviews and articles with and about me. I linked to the older ones when they appeared, and the big batch about Hadean Lands are collected in this blog post. But I want a link farm on my own site, so there it is.

January 22, 2011

I've posted Glk spec 0.7.1, along with a slew of Glk libraries and an updated Quixe. You can read an overview of the changes here. (They're not dramatic.)

January 11, 2011

Updated my 2010 books post with reviews of what I've bought and read recently. Skip down to July if you've seen the first half already.

December 31, 2010

End-of-year present: StonerView in your web browser. In Safari, at least -- it doesn't seem to work in Chrome, and I haven't set up the CSS properly to work in Firefox. Sorry! But you can install it as a web app on an iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch. Probably on Android devices, too, although I haven't tested them.

December 22, 2010

Today was the last day of my job as an industry software engineer. Tomorrow is the first day of my job as an interactive fiction designer.

But the first few days will be planned relaxation, because it's holiday time.

December 5, 2010

Here's some apropos timing, or ironic timing as may be your view: Apple's iOS App Store has just rejected a submission of my work.

It wasn't submitted by me. Shigeru Hagiwara was moved to do an iPad port of StonerView, which is my open-source creation of the ElectroPaint screensaver of yore. Apple's response:

We've reviewed your application, however, we cannot post this version to the App Store because the features and/or content it provides were not found to be useful or entertaining enough to be in compliance with the App Store Review Guidelines: 2.12: Apps that are not very useful or do not provide any lasting entertainment value may be rejected

(They were also cranky about the "Stoner" part of the title.)

I'm disappointed, but those are the risks of playing Apple's game. I'm grateful that he made the effort. In any event, Shigeru Hagiwara has posted his source code on his GitHub page. So if you're an iOS developer, you can grab it and try it out. If not -- Apple coyly suggests doing it as a web app, and I hear that HTML5/Canvas has some solid 3D chops these days....

November 11, 2010

I should have mentioned this earlier, and maybe it's completely redundant. But I have been posting status updates and random commentary over on the updates page of my Kickstarter project. I will continue to do that over the whole course of development. I'm supposed to be about process, right?

If you're a supporter, you can get those updates as email. Otherwise, hit the RSS feed.

(Open question: should I mirror those posts to The Gameshelf as well? I think the open answer is "yes".)

November 1, 2010

I raised $10,000 for interactive fiction today. That's such a weird thing to type. (And the day's not over yet.)

At 12:01 AM, I launched a Kickstarter page for Hadean Lands -- my first commercial IF project. It will be a full-length text adventure for the iPhone. I will quit my day job and work on IF full-time. This game, other shorter games, Glulx updates, Quixe updates -- everything I've been meaning to get to for years.

By 1:30 PM, I had reached my funding goal. I am flattered, flattened, and humbled by the outpouring of support. But: this ride isn't over.

As you can see on the project page, contributions will be accepted until Dec 6th. Why contribute when the thermometer's already reached the top line? Click through for the answers. (Shorter answers: the more resources I have, the more time I can devote to IF. Also, I've got some nice contribution rewards listed. Notably, if you want to play this game on anything other than iPhone (iPad, etc) then you'll have to pre-order this month.)

Even if this sounds absurd to you, check out the project page. I've got a nifty video (directed by Jason McIntosh of The Gameshelf), and a web-playable teaser scene from the game itself.

Thanks to everyone who has contributed already!

October 17, 2010

A frequent criticism of Inform 7 is that the manual needs an index. Sean Barrett put together an unofficial one several years ago, but it got out of date. I have now updated and extended it for the current I7 release. Check out Inform 7: An Unofficial Documentation Index.

August 26, 2010

The shirt-selling page wasn't solely a money-grubbing experiment. I've started designing shirts to wear myself. (How many years have I spent wearing other people's art?) It's a project, so it gets its own page.

Not all of the designs are for sale -- I'm still using a free Cafepress account, so I can only offer a few options. But I've added the Shade artwork.

August 7, 2010

I'm trying an experiment: selling more t-shirts. Can I make a living selling Zarf swag? Well, no. But I can probably cover my cookie expenses. So, I've put up System's Twilight t-shirts, Dual Transform t-shirts, and LOLGRUE t-shirts. (Okay, the LOLGRUEs were there already.) Plus the classic Periodic Table of Dessert posters. (All via Cafepress.)

If this experiment seems to be flying, I'll post more designs! Teaser: remember this Shade cover? Makes an awesome shirt.

July 12, 2010

Late, because I was getting ready for Readercon: books I bought in the first half of 2010, and what I thought of each one.

July 11, 2010

Back from Readercon, where I gave a short introduction to IF for writers. Jason Scott also showed his Get Lamp documentary (the convention cut, 60 minutes), and folks from the book-fandom world seemed willing to be interested in IF as a topic. At least for two hours on a Saturday evening.

July 4, 2010

Meet the 1.0 release of Quixe, a pure-Javascript interpreter for the Glulx IF virtual machine. You can use this to put Glulx games (the larger games generated by Inform 7) on a web page. Try out Adventure on a web page.

June 21, 2010

I've just posted a short IF work: Hoist Sail for the Heliopause and Home, my contribution to @party. (You can play it right in your web browser, like my other IF games.)

June 16, 2010

This weekend I took part in an online chat about rule-based programming. Our original intent was to design a complete (albeit tiny) programming language. We didn't succeed at that, but we did have a useful discussion of the programming ideas I've been idly kicking around for the past several years. Now they've been kicked farther. Thanks to William Byrd for suggesting this, and to him, Cassie Orr, and Doug Orleans for participating.

May 5, 2010

Zarf's List of Interactive Games on the Web. Remember that? I found a cached copy, so now it's back on my web site where it belongs. A couple of the links even still work!

April 25, 2010

All the games on my interactive fiction page are now hooked up with Parchment, a Javascript Z-code interpreter. What this means: you can play them all in your web browser. Scooch down the list, pick a game, click the link. Some of them even have nice fonts.

April 10, 2010

This is a handy IF-for-beginners card that we came up with for the People's Republic of Interactive Fiction Hospitality Suite at PAX-East 2010. (Kudos to Lea Albaugh for the design and layout.) It's Creative-Commons licensed, so you can use it in your own games, print out copies to pass around, translate, etc.

April 4, 2010

I have posted my absurdly long and detailed PAX East report over at the Gameshelf. Summary: awesome. If you want to see me (or hear me) talk, Jason Scott has video and audio of the GET LAMP panel discussion that I was part of.

March 8, 2010

JayIsGames is featuring my competition entry Dual Transform today. And they say nice things about it, too.

March 3, 2010

A quick experiment in presenting IF: Transmatte. This is not a way to play IF, but rather a way to excerpt an IF scene on a web page, in order to discuss it. You create a handful of transcripts which demonstrate your point; the transmatte.py script munges them together into a dynamic web page. Go look at the examples, it's easier than explaining how it works.

February 24, 2010

This is a frightening burst of web-site activity, isn't it? I just re-played Myst 5 -- my second time through. But this time I wrote a review. Finally.

February 22, 2010

My game Dual Transform has just been awarded second place... in a three-way tie for second place... in the JayIsGames Casual Game Design Competition #7. Yes, that was me; I entered the competition under a pseudonym, "Nigel Smith". (Bonus points if you can tell me why I chose that as the pseudonym, and "Dual Transform" as the game's title.) I will have a post-comp release, with full credits to my betatesters, up in a few days.

The results were interesting. Looking at the score breakdown, it's clear that I completely tanked on "Theme"; I might well have won otherwise. That's perfectly fair. I deliberately took a very skew, understated approach to the competition's theme of "escape". I knew that it might not fly with everybody, and it obviously didn't.

February 17, 2010

Twitter must be old now, because I've gotten sucked in. Here's me on Twitter. I'm still feeling my way into the vibe and I'm not following many people, so don't be offended, but I'm using it and I think this mild burning sensation must be what they call "fun".

February 14, 2010

This isn't much of a web site yet, but I have put up a page for The People's Republic of Interactive Fiction -- the Boston local IF meetup group, organized by Kevin Jackson-Mead. (We'll be improving the page over time. Or maybe not! Wait and see.) Note particularly the link for IF activity at Penny Arcade Expo East in Boston this March. We'll be hosting an open hang-out room for IF fans, authors, and interested newcomers.

And as long as I'm posting off-site links, check out this Werewolf article in Wired UK.

January 1, 2010

Happy new year, and on time for once: the books I bought in the second half of 2009. And what I thought of each one. I extended the existing "2009" page, so if the early entries look familiar, skip down to August.

November 29, 2009

I am thrilled to announce that my game Spider And Web has been translated into Russian by Vsevolod Zoubarev. He volunteered to do this over a year ago, and he has been working tirelessly, almost entirely on his own -- he asked me just a couple of questions over the entire development cycle. I am extremely grateful to Vsevolod for his interest and perseverance.

You can download the game file (and accompanying introductory files, also in Russian).

Vsevolod has entered his translation in the KRIL (Russian Interactive Fiction Competition), in the "translation of a foreign game" category. He tells me that there are no other entries in that category, so it will win a somewhat anticlimactic victory. But please join me in congratulating him regardless!

October 27, 2009

Here's a weekend hack I whipped up for the Boston IF meetup: Mutagen, a simple Javascript library for generating pseudorandom strings of text. Push the button! Keep pushing it.

Source code is linked from the explanation page. Feel free to use it or port it or whatever. It's more of an example than a usable tool, but it might solve somebody's problem somewhere.

October 9, 2009

Look what I posted fifteen years ago today!

System's Twilight was released on October 8, 1994. But I waited a day before posting to Usenet, because I wanted to make sure it had propagated to all the Info-Mac FTP mirrors.

October 7, 2009

I haven't done a review post in a while. I've been playing the games, but they haven't been turning into reviews. I've been doing other stuff, mostly. But specially for you -- Sherlock Holmes vs Jack the Ripper.

Some recent games have been turning into bits of commentary, which I'm ashamed to even call "mini-reviews". But you can see them on my Quick Take Reviews page, and also in this Gameshelf blog post I just made.

August 2, 2009

Backdated entry here, sorry. I put this up in time for Worldcon, but forgot to add it to the "what's new" list. Now you know: the books I bought in the first half of 2009, and what I thought of each one.

May 5, 2009

Have a look at Rule-Based Programming in Interactive Fiction. This is a slide presentation I gave at Penguicon 7, on May 3, 2009. I describe the programming model which Inform 7 is based on, and then go on to a more general rule model which I am still trying to figure out. (See also my earlier notes on rule-based programming.)

March 1, 2009

A week ago I, along with my Volity cohorts Jmac and Other Andy, launched Planbeast: a web calendar and notification service for scheduling Xbox Live games. It works. It's nifty. You can sign up, schedule a game of -- whatever your favorite multiplayer Xbox game is -- and then other people can sign on to play with you. It's got web forum features and buddy-list features and RSS and iCal features and all the other stuff you'd expect.

Is this a valuable service? We think so. (Okay, Jmac thinks so -- he's the one with an Xbox -- and I agree with him.) You can get on Xbox Live and search for a random game of anything, but unless it's a super-popular game, you probably won't find any. With Planbeast, you can arrange to meet people in advance -- which makes it much more likely that a game will actually happen. Plus, if you've already exchanged hellos on the web site, you're not going into a totally blind Internet playdate. Play with the same people a few times, and you're not strangers.

Check it out. Let us know how it works for you.

January 25, 2009

A few weeks late: books I bought in the second half of 2008. And what I thought of each one. I extended the existing "2008" page, so if the early entries look familiar, skip down to Axis in late June for new ones.

January 12, 2009

Boodler 2.0, the latest and vastly improved version of my tool for generating infinite, never-repeating soundscapes. Now at its permanent home at boodler.org.

January 4, 2009

Here's some more nostalgia: the write-up of Inhumane that appeared in The Book of Adventure Games II in 1985. My first review! Entirely fair, considering that it was reviewing a game I wrote in BASIC as an Infocom parody. I was 15 when I saw it, and it was about the best thing ever. Thank you, Kim R. Schuette, wherever you are.

January 1, 2009

2009 is the fifteenth anniversary year of System's Twilight, my old Mac puzzle extravaganza. In celebration, I'm releasing the audio files. (CC license.) All the little zip, zwoop, sproing noises that I made for the original game. Download as MP3, AIFF, or iPhone ringtones.

1997 - 2008

What was new in previous years.

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