I’ve done an “annual review” at around this time of year for the last few years, so it feels like a good idea to do it again, one last time. For reference:
This is the last time I’ll do an annual review because I am no longer working on Quest and textadventures.co.uk full-time. The good news is I’ve just started an absolutely awesome job at Stack Exchange, and for pretty much the first time ever I am thoroughly enjoying being employed.
textadventures.co.uk has grown quite a lot over the last year:
Some things that happened since the previous annual review
June 2013: Wrote up some thoughts from the Futurebook Innovation Workshop, and started accepting games built with Twine, Undum, Parchment etc.
August 2013: Added more games to the site by accepting external listings for web-playable text games.
September 2013: Wrote up some notes from the Publish 2013 conference. The IFComp games were released, including my very own first work of interactive fiction - a story set on the London Underground called Moquette.
October 2013: Enrolled on the 3-month Story Innovation Programme, experimenting with stories and technology with a whole bunch of interesting people.
November 2013: The IFComp results were in, and I wrote a two-part analysis of Moquette - part 1 and part 2. I also wrote a three-part series of blog posts looking back at 15 years of Quest - part 1, part 2, part 3. Meanwhile, as part of the Story Innovation Programme, I started work on an experimental interactive fiction project as part of a brief we had been given by book publisher 4th Estate, to come up with something to promote the forthcoming “Annihilation” by Jeff VanderMeer.
December 2013: After failing to get funding to continue with Quest and textadventures.co.uk full-time, it was time to start thinking about moving on. I didn’t let the knock-back stop me from released Quest 5.5 Beta though. The Story Innovation Programme came to an end, and we demonstrated our prototype to 4th Estate, who liked it enough to want to see it turned into an actual thing.
January 2014: Mostly job-hunting, really.
February 2014: After finally getting the go-ahead from 4th Estate, I spent most of the month working with Caroline Moran, Simon Mercer, Martha Henson and Sam Howey-Nunn to build our interactive experience Join The Southern Reach, which launched at the end of the month.
Good, but not good enough
I think there are a lot of positive aspects to what’s happened over the last year, but ultimately none of the major projects were as successful as I’d hoped.
What next for Quest and textadventures.co.uk, then? They are back to being spare-time projects, which is a relief in many ways as I no longer need to worry about how on earth I might make money from them - giving me a lot more freedom to just pursue the aspects I’m interested in.
textadventures.co.uk is growing, getting more visitors and receiving more submissions. Managing this is an interesting challenge. How should we highlight and encourage good games, how can we help people to post useful reviews and comments?
It was with this in mind that I started work on Squiffy, which is pretty much the system that would have needed to exist for me to have been able to write Moquette as simply as possible. I haven’t really announced it much yet, and there’s still some way to go before it’s really usable.
I will continue to accept any pull requests that are sent my way for Quest, but I can’t see myself doing anything too major on it in the future.
The wider world of interactive fiction continues to grow and change. Inkle seem to be doing very well, people are still making stuff in Twine, the IFComp is changing, there are new meetups like the Oxford and London Interactive Fiction Group. This is all very encouraging, but maybe over the last year I’m just not seeing the acceleration of change that I was expecting. I used to be convinced that interactive fiction could grow to become much more mainstream than it currently is, but now I’m not so sure at all.
So it feels like the right time for me to be putting interactive fiction projects back into the time-slot marked “hobbies”.