Just a quick update. I am up to my elbows in the programming of a new online game. This one is an adaptation of the card game Deena and my boys created, Juhyo. The printed card game, which is in very limited circulation right now with a select group of players, is a trick-taking game about snowmen in the guises of various monsters. A website will launch soon with more details.
While you’re waiting, I hope you’ll give “Tombs & Mummies” a spin over at the IFComp2020 archives. If you rate fives games there before November 29, your votes will help determine the contest winners.
I’m donating production of a 30-minute audiobook as a prize to the Interactive Fiction Competition (IFComp). The prize description under “Expert services” of the prize pool is as follows:
A short (up to 30 minute) audiobook of a short story by the author
Includes pre-production, narration (by the donor), and post-production of your story, with music intro & outro, suitable for sale on a platform of your choice. Must be claimed within one year.
Donated by Matthew Warner
IFComp’s winners will be announced in mid-November. See their schedule.
The Interactive Fiction Competition is a 26-year-strong contest sponsored by the Interactive Fiction Technology Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization for the preservation of interactive fiction. Interactive fiction (IF) is the genre of text-driven digital games and stories such as parsers and game books.
Each year, they solicit donations to the contest. These consist of cash to the “Colossal Fund,” which is awarded to contest winners, plus services from the prize pool such as editing, publicity, content creation, gift certificates, games, books, and magazines. There is no fee to enter, so I’m impressed that so many people are willing to donate their time and money, making this the most award-heavy writing contest I’ve ever seen. I’m under the impression the great majority of competitors will receive something.
I expect my donated prize, once claimed, to require 8-10 hours of labor on my part. “Audiobook Production Tips” goes into detail about my process. I will work with the prize winner as my pro-bono client. We will begin with a token-remuneration (i.e., free) contract to spell out our responsibilities concerning things like copyright and byline. I’ve learned the hard way as a partner in Deena Warner Design and as an author that it’s helpful to have something written down so there are no misunderstandings.
The next step will be pre-production. I’ll request a short story manuscript of up to 4,000 words, sent to me in MS Word or .RTf format. I’ll pre-read the manuscript and consult the author about things like special pronuciations and accents. Following pre-production will be production, when I will record the narration. Post-production, once the recording is in the can, will consist of de-breathing and the addition of intro and outro material such as a short musical transition I will purchase and donate from third-party stock. Post-production is where the majority of my time is spent, as I may take up to an hour polishing each five minutes of audio. (This time out, I have access to a bona fide professional recording booth, so I’m hoping to cut this down a lot with better inputs.) I’ll then share the recording with the author and ask for notes s/he may have. It’s my hope we can finalize the content within two or three rounds of edits.
Once the recording is approved, I’ll master the audio quality according to ACX audio standards and send the final MP3 back to the client. My recommendation will be to sell it through a third-party service such as Author’s Republic for redistribution to channels such as Audible and iTunes. The author will not owe me any royalties, which will also be spelled out in our contract.
I’m doing this for a few reasons. When I found out about IFComp and entered a game I programmed this summer, I was very excited and impressed with the whole enterprise. Basically, I just want to support other writers — especially during the economic downturn — and this seems like a great way to do it. Programming little online games is one of my hobbies and a great marriage of my writing and programming skills. However, I always felt alone in the endeavor, so I’m glad there’s an organization like this out there. (Not to mention I would love for 1990s-style MMORPGs like Galactic Empire to make a comeback, but maybe that was just one of the few things I enjoyed about my high school years.) I’ve been going on for years about interactive fiction without realizing there is a whole subculture devoted to it. Maybe my Google-Fu hasn’t been up to snuff. I may also want to explore voiceover work as a side hustle (see my new portfolio of audio samples), and working with a real client is a good way to get experience.
So, with all that said, best of luck to my fellow competitors, and I hope to work with one of you soon! And to the general public, keep an eye on the IFComp website for this year’s entries, and vote, vote, vote! (Also register for the November election if you haven’t already, but that’s another topic.)
Our local independent radio station, WQSV 106.3, recently asked my family to send them some “sonic postcards” to play on air as filler material. So we recorded the below recordings about nature journaling, cats, interactive fiction, and more.
They’ll be playing these on the air over the coming weeks.
(Although it sounds like we recorded these out in nature or at gyms or what have you, we actually recorded these in the studio, and the station added ambient sound effects later. )
Deena, “Nature Journaling”
Thomas, “Intro to Spanish”
Owen, “The Cat Hub”
Matt 1, “Breakfalls”
Matt 2, “Interactive Fiction”
Instead of regular summer camps, my kids have been taking online courses to learn video game programming. Check out Owen’s creation, “Experiment #79”! Click to play:
I’ve added a new subpage of my Games page called “Games Made by Kids,” featuring little games Deena and I made at the behest of our creative children. It features quizzes and online adventures. Video game industry forecasters would do well to pay attention. Enjoy!
Here’s something to keep you entertained while you’re waiting for my next publication.
Programming little online games is one of my hobbies. They’re not awesome games, but if this were the 1970s, I’d be rich! Lately, I’ve been programming games to amuse my son Owen. Some dads make toys for their kids; I code games. I’ll spare you our “What Dragonball Z Character Are You?” quiz, but you might enjoy this one:
I’ve resurrected my Mad Libs-style game from the Horror World days. Click below to play, and enjoy!
From the I Am Secretly A Geek Department, today I launched an online player-versus-computer Battleship game I programmed myself. Click here to play.
It began a couple years ago. I had a great time making the Haunted House Adventure, a puzzle game set in my home, and wanted to try something else. Deena one night suggested we play a pencil-and-paper version of Battleship to amuse ourselves, and that’s when I wondered if the experience could be duplicated online.
I gave up on a player-versus-player version after a couple months. While I had a member-management system in place and dreams of turning it into a Facebook app, there were two fundamental problems. First, it wasn’t completely hack-proof. How could I safeguard private user data and prevent people from cheating? Second, people would get bored playing online Battleship as a turned-based game unless they were both online at the same time.
So, I put it down until this year, when the idea came up of programming an artificial intelligence to play against. From there, I learned things like the value of using flowcharts to work out boolean logic before ever laying down a single line of code.
I don’t have a good answer to the question posed above. Why spend time on something like this? Sure, it has collateral benefit to Deena Warner Design in that I’ve sharpened my object-oriented-programming skills. But this wasn’t “writing” unless you consider programming to be writing.
Well, I don’t like leaving things undone, for one. But it was also fun. Why spend time on any creative project in which creation is the only point?
The pleasure of making something for the making’s sake is an attitude I hope to cultivate in anything I build, whether it’s writing-related or not.
Free swag — Download your very own website banner and desktop art about THE SEVENTH EQUINOX. And don’t forget that if you order the print edition by Nov. 6, you’ll receive $2 off.
Meanwhile, nobody conquered the Haunted House Adventure game. My evil genius remains virtually undefeated — and lonely. There must be a superhero out there worthy of the challenge. But who could it be? . . . (breaks into song) . . .
The first person to solve the game from now through Halloween will win an autographed copy of THE SEVENTH EQUINOX hardcover, out Nov. 6 from Raw Dog Screaming Press.
This is not an easy game. Only three people have solved it in the four years its been online. So I won’t be responsible if it breaks your brain. I will only laugh.