IF Author Raises $10,000 In One Day

By Quintin Smith on November 2nd, 2010 at 9:07 am.

ask andrew plotkin for money

Next, another tale of glitz and glamour from the PC’s drug-soaked, rock-n-roll interactive fiction community. And by “another” I mean “possibly the first, ever”.

Highly respected IF author Andrew Plotkin (Spider and Web, Shade and much more) wants to make the switch to writing IF full-time. He created a Kickstarter page, saying that if he raised $8,000 in a month he’d proceed across the rocky tundra of self-employment and start making IF games for iOS devices (a pledge of $25 or more WILL get you a PC version on CD, though). What happened next? Well…

Plotkin proceeded to smash the $8,000 target in hours, break $10,000 in a day, and the total currently stands at $12,894 after some 36 hours. Madness.

EDIT: It’s now $14,148, five hours after I published this post!

One curious thing I have just noticed is that the number of contributors is only 213. People pledged an extraordinary average of $60, making full use of the range of rewards available on the page. Anyway, here’s Andrew’s video:

Awesome. Thanks to RPS reader Andrew “War Bastard” Davis for tipping us off about this.

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81 Comments »

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  1. thurzday says:

    “500
    OH MY GOODNESS”

    Anyway, good to hear about an excellent IF author getting some long-deserved love. Spider and Web contains one of the greatest lightbulb-above-head epiphany moments in all of gaming–it’s worth checking out for this alone.

    Too bad for Adam Cadre–all the IF fans’ pockets will be empty by the time he tries to pull this.

  2. mihor_fego says:

    Congratulations to the guy – I’ve never tried IF, but it looks really close to text adventures. Is this the same thing by another name? Whatever the case, it’s no small feat getting people pay 250 bucks for it, when most of the times game developers went pay-what-you-like, such numbers were considered unrealistic. I guess he must be top at his field to have such an audience.

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      Harlander says:

      Yeah, pretty much.

    • Matthew says:

      Yes, it’s the same thing by another name, mostly because there’s a greater variety of styles in the genre now. If you like text adventures but haven’t been keeping up with the IF community you’ve been seriously missing out on TONS of free, very high quality games. Also the short form has gained serious prominence in recent years, so the best works often don’t even take very much time. Go play it!

      Andrew Plotkin is, indeed, top of his field. But also check out Adam Cadre, Emily Short…

    • mihor_fego says:

      Thanks… it seems I’ll go for a trip down memory lane – I haven’t played a text adventure since the early 90’s… and back then I was too young to get 100% out of them, not being a native english speaker. Especially if as you mentioned, short ones are out there, it’s even easier to get back to the genre.

    • DC says:

      Yes, “interactive fiction” is exactly the same thing as text adventures. (It actually isn’t just a modern relabel – Infocom called their games “interactive fiction” back in the 80s too.)

    • qrter says:

      Hey look, everyone! It’s Kieran!!!

  3. NPC says:

    Hmmm, I think that defeats the purpose of Andrew’s experiment. He needs to know if he can get a stable income to sustain the venue – and instead he gets a spike of interest, with no guarantee whatsoever that it will continue. Will those same people be able to pay $60 monthly? Doubt it.

    But it is great to see a supporting community, I am sure :)

    • Matthew says:

      No, this is exactly what the plan was. He needed a budget so he can go work on the game. You may notice that the game will not be free (except for the people who kickstarted him). The idea is to try and see if IF is now a commercially viable genre on mobile platforms.

    • Kast says:

      This is the point of Kickstarter. To provide initial sales/interest/investment.

    • NPC says:

      Oh, okay, THAT makes sense. Thanks :)

  4. Brumisator says:

    So “interactive fiction” is just a fancy way of saying text-adventure? Just like comic books are “graphic novels” ?

    Anyway, good for him, although I’d never heard of the fella, getting featured on RPS may just booset his income further.
    But if he intends to make this full time, I doubt that he’ll get as many contributions each month.

    • Urthman says:

      Some works of Interactive Fiction are not Adventures, and some Graphic Novels are not Comic.

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      phlebas says:

      Some people like their Harry Potter books to have grownup looking covers.

    • Urthman says:

      No, no. Text adventures are games. They have puzzles. You can win or lose.

      A lot of interactive fiction has no puzzles, no game. It’s a story or experience you can interact with. Calling it a text adventure would be very misleading.

  5. Eclipse says:

    making them for mobile platforms seems like a bad, bad idea imo

    • Mo says:

      People read on the bus, why not play a text adventure?

      (That said, I think it should additionally be released on Windows/Mac)

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      phlebas says:

      It is being released on Windows/Mac/Linux – but only as a pre-order bonus. It accounts for about $3000 of the Kickstarter total.

    • Xercies says:

      @Mo

      Have you tried typing on the iphone?

    • wiper says:

      @Xercies – well, I have (or, rather, do), and it’s brilliant. Not quite as comfortable as typing on a full-size keyboard, but then IF tends not to require huge sentences (especially as nearly every verbal action can be reduced to a single letter). It’s ideal for IF.

    • apocalypsecow says:

      The “choice of games” method works well on mobiles, it’s like a text adventure (or IF) game but it’s all multiple choice.
      http://www.choiceofgames.com/
      I’m writing a game of my own using their choicescript language, it’s pretty simple to get started too.

    • Bassism says:

      I play IF on my iphone all the time. Frotz has been a permanent fixture on my phone since day 1.
      Once you get past the “omg how can you type on that thing, and the screen is so small!” shock, I found that it became quite natural and comfortable. It’s the ideal platform for the genre in my opinion.

    • Mo says:

      @Xercies: Yes.

    • Bib Fortuna says:

      The best platform to play interactive fictons is the ipad. It seems crazy but it is true. You have to see it to belive it.

    • Mo says:

      @Bib Fortuna: which app would you recommend?

    • Bib Fortuna says:

      @Mo

      I used Frotz for the ipad

      http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/frotz/id287653015?mt=8

      It is free but it has not TAD support. Direct browsing and download of IF games from on-line databases is also a nice feature.

    • Baf says:

      I personally play IF on the bus all the time. But I do it on a laptop.

    • Foxfoxfox says:

      @ Xercies

      GO WEST

      I think we could manage it!

    • Thants says:

      @Bib Fortuna – What’s better about it on an iPad? I can’t think of any advantages over a laptop, and the disadvantage of being harder to type. Actually that applies to iPads in general.

    • Bib Fortuna says:

      @Thants

      Because you can handle it as a real book (portrait mode), and I think it is very suitable, the best way, to play “interactive fictions”. It is a real interactive book.

  6. thurzday says:

    Also, Andrew Plotkin has an excellent collection of reviews for adventure games and IF, both old an new, that are great reading material for someone wanting to dig into the genre:

    http://www.eblong.com/zarf/gamerev/

  7. qqq says:

    Someone gave him 1000$!

    I’m quite curious who and why gave such a sizable sum. I’m pretty sure that Plotkin never expected that option to actually be used by someone.

    • Mo says:

      If you really think about though, it makes a lot of sense. A reasonably wealthy person would pay a lot of money for good art, right? Or to fund a movie, an art installation, and so on.

      With the videogame generation kids of the 80s all grown up, we now have enough disposable income to spend on art. For the 80s generation, that means video games. If you think about it in that context, a $1000 donation isn’t a ridiculous concept.

    • Auspex says:

      It still surprises me that no stupidly rich person has bought a games developer/publisher in the same way they might buy a football team: accepting that they’re going to lose a huge amount of money and doing it purely to see some cool stuff. At least as far as I’m aware.

      Though I suppose the reason this doesn’t happen is that people buy football clubs for the prestige and to act as a fancy club house for their fancy friends, buying a game developer would achieve neither of these.

    • internisus says:

      It’s not curious at all. If I had the resources, I wouldn’t think twice about giving him $1000. You can’t put a price on his talent.

      This makes me sound like some kind of horrible snob, but I am shocked that there are people here at RPS who don’t know about the IF scene or even who Andrew Plotkin is. That’s just crazy.

    • Phil says:

      Andrew is a really, really good writer & has thrown a lot of fantastic material over the wall for free over the last decade or so. I imagine some of the people ponying up donations viewed them just as much as a thankyou for past work as paying or future work.

      How sustainable that makes this model going forward I don’t know though.

    • qrter says:

      This makes me sound like some kind of horrible snob, but I am shocked that there are people here at RPS who don’t know about the IF scene or even who Andrew Plotkin is. That’s just crazy.

      I wouldn’t say you were a snob, more just not very realistic – how many people talk about IF outside of the people who play or create it? Even if you’re interested in PC gaming, it’s easy to never ever come into contact with IF.

    • Mo says:

      It still surprises me that no stupidly rich person has bought a games developer/publisher in the same way they might buy a football team

      Not yet. Give it time, say another 10-20 years.

    • malkav11 says:

      There are some games companies (Valve, say) run by people who are independently wealthy, although I suppose that’s not quite the same thing.

  8. Handsome Dead says:

    The Watchers laugh

  9. President Weasel says:

    Hooray, Internet!
    Not just for porn. Also for connecting people with the niche stuff that doesn’t get distributed through bricks and mortar shops, and for connecting creators with the people who like their stuff.
    (also for porn, obviously).

  10. qqq says:

    @Mo

    I certainly don’t think it’s ridiculous. It’s just… amazing. I’m amazed.

    I imagine you’re right, it’s from someone who has quite a bit of money and happens to be a Andrew Plotkin fan. Rich computer geeks aren’t a rarity, so why not?

    I’m still curious who it is :).

  11. Saul says:

    This shows that publishers are completely barking up the wrong tree with DRM. What they SHOULD be doing is asking people nicely to pay what they can afford. So people respond to genuine human connection and not to restrictive corporate bullshit? Who woulda thunk?

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      phlebas says:

      Won’t the release version be DRMed? I thought iPhone apps were.

    • Malibu Stacey says:

      It’s pretty much the definition of DRM. Closed proprietory hardware locked in by the management software unless you do naughty things to bypass the management software which renders your warranty of the hardware void & opens your device up to all sorts of nasty things.

      Any surprise every games publisher has been flocking to the device like flies on a freshly deposited pile of excrement?

    • Nick says:

      Thats probably more to do with the huge customer base and ability to make money off utter shit with comparatively small developement costs.

  12. AdrianWerner says:

    I would be interested if there would be a regular PC version, but the way it’s set up..meh… I will pass.

  13. wiper says:

    I really, really wish there was a way to pay without having to go through Amazon.com, thus making it impossible for me to pay.

    Ah well.

  14. Nallen says:

    So could someone point me to a nice baby step in to IF? browser based would be lovely…

  15. The Sombrero Kid says:

    the internet is full of strange people.

  16. internisus says:

    If anyone needs an introduction to IF, I put together a package for this purpose some time ago here. I would link to the cleaner revised post I later did on my blog, but my website seems to have been infected with a virus or something.

  17. Dean says:

    Good he’s got so much cash for it already, but a shame he’s pitching the iPhone version at $5. No-one is going to pay that for a game in a genre they’ve never played. Not when other stuff is $0.99/$1.79

    • internisus says:

      “Other stuff” doesn’t have brilliant puzzle design and intricate writing, as his releases surely will.

    • J. Prevost says:

      Another thing to think about is that people who aren’t already interested in IF (or brought in by serious word of mouth) are unlikely to pay $1 for a text adventure, but people who *are* are likely to be willing to pay $5 for a quality Zarf game.

  18. Bhazor says:

    Now lets see Emily Short go pro.
    http://nickm.com/if/emshort/galatea.html

    • internisus says:

      Yes, it occurred to me as well that this success might encourage others to try the same. However, I doubt Emily would be interested, as she is some sort of classical literature or ancient Greek art academic by day and very busy about that most of the time. And there are not many others with the kind of history Plotkin has. Still, though.

      There was an attempt to revisit commercial possibilities a while ago with Textfyre, which employs different well-known designers and writers on a per-project basis. Their first release was so-so, but everybody loved The Shadow in the Cathedral.

    • jmac says:

      Other principals of the IF world have gone pro in less direct but still quite relevant ways. Emily Short currently brings her experience in writing and critiquing IF (and videogame narratives in general) to the marketplace as a consultant to commercial game producers. Aaron Reed spun the experience and reputation he gained from spending years writing the enormous IF work “Blue Lacuna” (http://lacunastory.com) into an excellent book on crafting interactive fiction, as well as an entrance into academia.

      What Plotkin’s doing that’s new is taking a daringly direct path: writing games, and then selling them. It’s been a long time since anyone’s done that successfully with a text-based game, but the marketplace has changed an awful lot since the 1980s (or, hell, since 2005). Plotkin’s strategy is both a radically different tack from anything that would-be IF sellers have tried before, and a bold grab at the amazing new tools that have very recently become available for independent creators.

  19. Red Avatar says:

    Not releasing for Android but only for iPhone is an automatic skip for me. At long as developers keep supporting the closed market of Apple, I will refuse to pay them a penny and this despite me being a HUGE text adventure fan.

    • Jack says:

      You’d boycott a dollar-and-dime indie developer in an attempt to teach a giant corporation a lesson?

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      phlebas says:

      I’m not sure it counts as a boycott not to buy something because it isn’t released on any platform you own. The Kickstarter page does have an “If I ever port to Android or Kindle or any other mobile platform” clause, so it’s possible there will be a non-Apple release. But for now the only safe option is the $25 one.

    • Malibu Stacey says:

      Yeah I’m boycotting this too. Down with those evil giant corporations! I also boycott Nintendo by not buying Wii games & Microsoft by not buying XBox 360 games. The fact that I don’t own devices on which those games are playable on is completely beside the point. JOIN THE BOYCOTT FELLOW INTERNETIANS!

    • Red Avatar says:

      @Malibu: Except I could have paid for the PC version. But I choose not to. There are already more Android users than Apple users and text adventures are the easiest kind of games to port if you wrote a proper engine. If he can’t get an Android version, I’m not interested. And: the Android has text adventures already, and with emulators you got a small treasure mine of them to boot.

    • colinmarc says:

      Just seems like a dick move. Look at that guy! He seems so nice! Surely the PC/Linux version is worth $25…

  20. Jack says:

    Oh my god fuck yes!

    I can’t believe people were so generous. I’m just amazed. And now I get to reap the rewards!? A professionally-produced text adventure would be amazing.

  21. Bassism says:

    This is very, very cool. Plotkin’s games are very good, and I’m excited to see what he comes up with.

  22. brkl says:

    I want to play IF titles on my Kindle!

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      phlebas says:

      It does seem rather the ideal platform. Is there not a Z-machine available for it?

    • george says:

      There’s a z-machine for the Kindle, it was released recently, but I think you have to root the Kindle to install it. The newer Kindles also should be able to play IF using browser-based interpreters like Parchment, but I’m not sure how smooth that’ll work.

  23. Dean says:

    Thinking about it, I’d shove down the $3 but how would I get the game? If it’s an iPhone app, given Apple would want there cut… and there are some issues over promo codes across countries no? May support this by just buying it when it’s out instead!

  24. Taffer says:

    I wonder if this insta-success had anything to do with Waxpancake tweeting it.

  25. Phydaux says:

    > xyzzy

  26. MadMatty says:

    more Cowbell? gotcha….

  27. MadMatty says:

    I actually learnt computer programming when i was 11, learning from type-yourself C64 BASIC books-the coolest starter language, possibly with exception of the Starcraft 1 Editor. I read a couple of books
    on making text adventures, which included database handling, word parsing and chopping up text. It was sorta fun, but i´ve given up to making a 2D action game instead.
    My favourite text adventure was undoubtedly “Kentilla” for the C64- great atmosphere, music and sorta cool graphics too- but boy did i get stuck, and i never did find a walkthrough (pre-internet times).

  28. malkav11 says:

    Zarf’s games are brilliant but sufficiently esoteric to doom me to walkthroughs. I can’t say as I’m terribly tempted to buy his proposed game, especially for iOS (typing on an onscreen keyboard is wretchedly inaccurate – might do it for my Android phone with hardware keyboard, though). Still, I wish him success in the endeavour. IF’s cool shit and he’s one of the stars of that particular community.