Commercializing IF

I know over the years people have been trying to get IF to a bigger audience and commercialize it. But now in the modern age there are far more variations of IF, more developers, and platforms, but most IF seems to be freely available on the internet.

I know there’s been a few attempts to sell it. One example being the Telltale games; but are there other examples of IF being sold commercially besides that? Also,

Have you tried selling IF yourself? If so, how and where?
Have you ever bought IF yourself?

I don’t think that Telltale makes IF…

So far I’m not a creator, but I have bought:

  1. Classic Text Adventure Masterpieces of Infocom, circa 1996
  2. Shadow in the Cathedral (when the Hobbyist edition was released)
  3. 1893 (got the Bundle In A Box Adventure Bundle just for that)
  4. Hadean Lands

I could be persuaded to buy more IF in the future, but it would have to be parser-based and stored as a file on my computer, not in a browser.

Doom could be considered IF if we just mean something thats not static and not real.

Choice of Games is doing really well (by artist standards). Coming from the novel-writing world, the potential of a $10,000 advance is absolutely gobsmacking. That was the hook that got me into IF.

A few other games and gamers are doing well, but CoG consistently sells well.

Sometimes people are angry that it costs up to around $5 per game, but I think most people know it’s worth it.

I think Doom (where the story is secondary to the gameplay) is stretching the definition, but absolutely Telltale makes Interactive Fiction. Sure, it’s not text based, but their Walking Dead and Game of Thrones games are remarkably similar in structure to a lot of text based IF. Story is central to the experience, you play the protagonist and drive the direction of the game through your choices and interactions with NPCs. Your interactions with the game consist of choosing dialogue from a list, walking around in a scene and interacting with objects using a limited set of actions and simple quick-time events (that are more for effect than for challenge).

In a similar vein to what Telltale makes, but much bigger budget, check out the work of Quantic Dream (Indigo Prophecy/Farenheit, Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls)

People who complain about that need to get some perspective. That’s the cost of a burger for heaven’s sake! They’ll happily pay for a bun with a manufactured “100% meat” patty and a piece of limp lettuce that some spotty teenager spent 30 seconds slapping together, and which they will devour in in a matter of minutes. But a game carefully crafted over hundreds of hours that gives them one, two, maybe five hours of reading pleasure and leaves them with something to think about. That’s overpriced???

Sustenance isn’t optional. Video games are.

People are weird like that. When I first got back into the IF scene, I used ADRIFT. ADRIFT 4 carried a one-time registration fee, which was £12 or thereabouts. Considering the amount of people that complained about the exorbitant cost, you’d think Campbell Wild was charging you your life savings to use it, or your first-born child. So many times I heard comments along the lines of “I’ve just found a bug! But I paid money for this! I demand a refund!” and used to roll my eyes about it.

For myself, I’m quite happy to pay money for commercial IF games. Even if I don’t like them, the cost is pretty trivial (less than I spend on my dinner every day, in fact). I bought Future Boy and World’s Fair and Hadean Lands. I’ve bought several games from Choice of Games but due to the lack of customisation options (I read them on my iPad and the tiny, non-changeable font makes my eyes ache), I won’t be buying more for the time being.

True, but fast food isn’t exactly cheap. If people were as picky about food prices as they are about games, they would all be choosing to eat no brand 2 minute noodles at 25c a packet. But then I don’t know any of them personally so maybe the 1% who do all the complaining about paying money for games do eat 2 minute noodles. Who knows.

Let’s not get carried away. If you stretch it far enough, yeah, Doom can be IF, and so can the Telltale Games, and so can Sonic the Hedgehog. They can also be RPGs.

Telltale Games, like Wadjet Eye games, makes adventure games. Point and click graphical adventures. There is already a word to define what they do, we might as well use it. Quantic Dream I’m hard pressed to fit into a genre, which is A Very Good Thing, but it always falls on the adventure side of things for me.

Adventure games and IF have a close affinity, and that can cause confusion. Fair enough. But let’s not call Eric The Unready or Gateway graphic adventures (though they ARE adventures and HAVE graphics) or Monkey Island and Sam & Max IF (though the composing elements of IF are there), because those two definitions are clear and there’s no point in muddying them for no good reason. I often did, at one time, and I concluded it’s a pointless exercise - these genres are not so much about describing accurately what a game is, but to provide a clear idea to a newcomer of what the gameplay is going to be like. They are labels that you immediately identify. That is the full extent of their usefullness, let’s not deny them even that, heh? :slight_smile:

I’m not sure, BTW, what to call the AGI games - and their successors, like Altered Destiny. I go for “parser-based Adventure games”, which lacks punch, but sounds about right.

To get a bit back on track, Inkle Studios are doing IF - the CYOA version. Sourcery! uses the CYOA mechanic to tell a sort of RPG. 80 Days abuses the mechanic to do something altogether unique. I buy every game from Inkle Studios.

I bought the games from Textfyre faithfully - and gladly - for as long as they were being sold.

I bought Hadean Lands as soon as it became available. I’m not, however, particularly inclined to buy the iOS versions of Zarf’s games, because I already played them for free. Same for PataNoir and any platform-specific commercial re-release.

I have purchased every parser IF that I could, AFAIK. CYOA I’m a hell of a lot more picky about, and for a number of different reasons I don’t see myself buying Tin Man games or Choice Of games.

I am, however, planning to buy the iOS version of Ryan North’s To Be Or Not To Be. Which is CYOA, but that doesn’t matter because it’s awesome! It’s the kind of CYOA I do like!

I did buy Lifeline and kinda regretted it afterwards.

I would have gladly bought Blood & Laurels and all the games associated with that engine, if it had been available for the iPod Touch when it was available at all. Ah well.

Genre names must not be taken literally. Just because something is fiction and is interactive does not mean it’s IF. What Telltale makes cannot be considered IF.

You cannot apply a genre to something because of the literal meaning of the genre’s name. Telltale also doesn’t make point&click adventures, even though in their games you can point and click.

If we took genre names literally, then virtually every game that is made nowadays that has some story in it and a playable character, would be an RPG. We’d call everything an RPG and call it a day, since it’s a game and you play a role. This would also cover pretty much every text adventure ever made. They’re all RPGs, not IF.

Sometimes, genre names are even contradictory. The literal meaning of “Space Sim” for example is “space simulator.” But space sims are not actually simulators (think “Wing Commander.”) Far from it, even. But they’re still space sims :slight_smile:

Heh, RealNC, you made almost every point I made. :slight_smile:

But why can’t Telltale games be called Point & Click adventures? We seem to agree on most everything, but I use the terms “graphic adventures”, “P & C adventures” and “graphic P & C adventures” interchangeably. Is there an actual distinction?

Come to think of it, I would also paint Grim Fandango with the same brush. Even though you don’t USE the mouse, the general mechanic is the same…

Hey, speaking about commercial IF, I just learned by accident that Jim Munroe has a new game out - Wonderland. Looks intriguing!

EDIT - Unfortunately its main gimmick relies on GPS tracking and so I can’t know whether it’s playable offline, so I’ll have to give it a miss. Oh boy. Future of IF, please consider not being reliant on web access…

IMO, it’s tradition. A P&C adventure has a very distinct design and plays in a very certain way. Maniac Mansion and Monkey Island really are in a different subgenre of “Adventure” games than the Telltale games. People try to give them appropriate names, and the most accurate I’ve seen so far is “CYOA-style graphical adventure game with quicktime events”. But that doesn’t roll off the tongue very nicely :stuck_out_tongue:

Indeed. Grim Fandango is considered to be in the same genre as its predecessors, so that would make it a P&C adventure even though there’s zero actual pointing and clicking in it (just like a Space Sim isn’t a simulator.) I think this is due to “P&C” being a relatively new term. At least I don’t remember that term being used in the 90’s. All the Sierra and Lucasfilm/Lucas Arts games were simply called “graphics adventures”, and Grim Fandango certainly falls into that. I think “P&C” was retrofitted in order to distinguish them from more recent games that do have adventure elements in them, but aren’t quite what we used to describe as an “adventure game.” Like “Fahrenheit”, “Heavy Rain”, “Until Dawn”, etc.

And I think that’s actually part of the “future of IF.” Games like “Until Dawn”, “Life is Strange”, and the Telltale games are a mixture of IF, action, RPG, and other genres. I think that IF in itself doesn’t actually have a future, since changing it would mean it’s not IF anymore, if the definition of IF is tied to Infocom. That would also mean that IF doesn’t actually need to have a future. It is what it is. If you can sell it, great. But its audience is far from that of other genres. But if the text goes, it’s just not IF anymore. Consider what other publishers have done with some RPGs, for example. They wanted to produce an RPG that appeals to the masses. In the end, their “RPG” game was actually a third person brawler (or shooter) with some RPG elements. So they didn’t commercialize their RPG franchise; they simply changed genres and sold something that’s not an RPG.

Seconded. As far as Shakespeare parodies go, they don’t get much better than this.

And he’s got “Romeo And/Or Juliet” coming next year too!

In recent times, I’ve bought Hadean Lands and Dominique Pimplemouse (spelling).

Because of the existence of, I decided I would sell my re-take of my Apple II game Leadlight, Leadlight Gamma, which I released earlier this year.

In the context of not having sold an IF game before, I realise that knowing that I was going to sell it to strangers was motivation to push it further technically and polish it even more than I might have otherwise. I am a big fan of the final product, though I did not expect to sell a ton of copies, and I haven’t.

In some topic somewhere on this forum, at some point in time, someone said something like ‘The traditional parser community don’t buy many IF games, as they’re used to them all being free.’ I don’t have a LOT of data to go on, but looking at who has rated or reviewed LLG, that seems to have been bourne out. They’re not anyone I know. On one hand, that’s cool - you can just put out your parser game and, if it looks cool, strangers might try it. On the other hand, I thought some of the people who gave the game a 10 in IFComp might buy Leadlight Gamma :wink:

As far as retakes go, it’s pretty novel. The game mechanics have parity with the Apple II but there are tons of extra conveniences, IF tech things, extras. Built-in music player, comes with all the graphics (though they come out small on iPads - grr!), etc.

So I can say that I have not planned to make a fortune from IF, but my own inclination is now to sell the IF games I make if they’re standalones. They’re still very cheap, and it’s easy for me to sell them, and in my sample size of one, the commercialising did help me push the quality of the project. Whether it wise to sell them if the staple audience of parser IF aren’t the people who would pay for them, I don’t know!

One important point is that there are now means to be able to sell your IF game without enduring ongoing resource drain. For instance, to be in the iTunes/App store, you do have to pay annually to be an Apple developer. But to put your game on, you don’t have to pay anything, and then you also decide how much to pay itch (as a percentage) if you sell a copy. I decided to pay them a fairly standard percentage for their great service, but when I’m not selling any copies, I pay nothing. That is a big attraction. Au contraire, to keep my pre-label indie music on iTunes is mostly costing me money now that that album shifts units at a trickle.

I also talked a bit about the going-commercial aspects of LLG on this podcast: … ght-gamma/