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I'm going to write and sell a full-length text adventure for iOS (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch). The game framework will be open source.
Created by

Andrew Plotkin

713 backers pledged $31,337 to help bring this project to life.

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Why it takes longer than you think

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In case you're wondering, nobody hassled me about how long the rewards took. Apparently you folks really were in it for the game -- or to support me, which is even nicer.

However, I bet there are people out there who are working on Kickstarters. And they should be warned: it always takes longer than you think. To substantiate this, here's a timeline of Hadean Lands work that came after the game shipped.

Note that I did lot of reward design in December, but didn't order the stuff until early January. That's because I knew I would be out of town for the last week of December. I didn't want expensive parcels arriving when I was gone.

  • Oct 30: Hadean Lands goes live for sale. (I won't describe the whole monkey dance of sending out iOS gift codes. Too painful to recall.)
  • Oct 31 to Nov 3: Catching up on backers who had problems getting the game, or who sent in late Kickstarter surveys. Also general PR work -- answering emails, posting on every social network I know. 
  • Nov 5: Submit iOS app version 1.1. (Better iPhone 6 support.) 
  • Nov 7 to 10: Toronto trip for WordPlay. (File under "marketing".)
  • Nov 10: Release iOS app version 1.1. 
  • Nov 13 to 17: New York trip for Practice. (File under "networking".) 
  • Nov 30: Finalize book design; order proofs. 
  • Dec 2: Finalize postcard design; order postcards. 
  • Dec 6: Get first proofs of the book. 
  • Dec 8: Finalize map poster design; order proofs. 
  • Dec 12: Decide the books are too large. Reformat smaller, order more proofs. 
  • Dec 19: Submit iOS app version 1.2. (Save-file import and export.) 
  • Dec 25 to 31: Out of town. Not thinking about HL. 
  • Jan 1: Release iOS app version 1.2. (I didn't want to release this while I was gone, either.) 
  • Jan 2: Order books. 
  • Jan 3: Order posters. 
  • Jan 6: Look into CD pricing. 
  • Jan 11: Finalize CD design; order CDs. 
  • Jan 21: Positive Slate review! (And PocketTactics too.) Suddenly I am back in PR mode. 
  • Jan 22: Argh, half of the posters are misprinted and not usable. Contact customer support and ask for replacements. 
  • Jan 24: Post Steam Greenlight page for HL. 
  • Feb 1: The Month of Postage begins. (Assume days and days of sticking labels on things.) 
  • Feb 17: Haul books and posters to the post office. 
  • Feb 27: Haul half the CDs to the post office.
  • Mar 3: Haul the rest of the CDs to the post office. 

(In case you were wondering, the foreign postage seems to have all turned out okay. Nobody has reported a delivery with postage due.) (If you don't know what this was about, don't worry about it. Potential problem that didn't wind up occurring.)

All bulk rewards are shipped

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I just hauled the last batch of Hadean Lands CD packages to the post office. This means that the postcards, CDs, posters, and books are all out the door. US addresses should get their CD within a week, if it hasn't already arrived.

(If you are getting both a CD and a postcard, the postcard is packed in with the CD.)

That covers all the mass-produced rewards for this project. I still have the hand-made calligraphy and the cookies to arrange. The calligraphy will take a few more weeks; I need to buy supplies and remember how this "pen" device works. I will send private messages about that.

Thank you all for your patience. I know it's been a long time since the game was released, and (obviously) even longer since you gave me money for this crazy idea. If anybody asks, tell them that Kickstartering is hard.

Hadean news of the week

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I thought this was the boring part of the release process. Hadean Lands has been out for a couple of months, I've done a couple of iOS updates, time to settle down and work through the Kickstarter rewards. Plan for more distribution platforms, like Steam and the Humble Store. Boring stuff.

Wrong! It's crazy excitement time.

First thing this week, two fantastic reviews appeared:

"The best video game I played last year is a science-fiction thriller about alchemy, and it has no graphics or sound effects." -- David Auerbach, Slate 

"Hadean Lands is an endlessly clever experience." -- Sean Clancy, Pocket Tactics

Suddenly the sales rate is going nuts, Twitter activity is buzzing, and my head is spinning.

When a wave of publicity hits, that's when you want a Steam Greenlight page, right? (Greenlight is the voting system that Steam uses to gauge public interest in new indie games.) So I have spent the past day constructing one. Here it is:

Vote for Hadean Lands on Steam Greenlight!

This isn't a purchase; it just indicates to Steam that this is the kind of game you want them to offer. When enough "yes" votes accumulate, I get a slot on the Steam storefront. (No, I don't know how many votes is enough.)

(Speaking of Greenlight, I note that two other parser IF games went up this month: Jack Toresal and The Secret Letter (Mike Gentry and David Cornelson) and The Shadow in the Cathedral (Ian Finley and Jon Ingold). There's also Her Story, which is not a text game, but is by IF author Sam Barlow. And that must only scratch the surface; I haven't even tried to survey the Greenlight world.)

Other news:

- The process for getting a Humble Store slot is already under way. They say there's a queue for games to show up there, and I'm in it.

- The current sales widgets (Humble Widget and Itch.IO) now offer separate downloads for Mac, Windows, and "generic" (everything else). The generic download is the same package that's been available all along; it contains the game file and instructions for finding an interpreter. The Mac package contains the interpreter, ready to install. The Windows package has a standard Windows installer which sets everything up for you.

- David Welbourn has written a detailed walkthrough of HL. Massive spoilers, obviously! When it comes to HL hints, I like to send people to the IF forum rather than a walkthrough. I think it's more engaging to talk to other fans about the game, rather than finding a file of answers on the Internet. But David's work is terrific and deserves recognition. (Also, maybe, a tip? He's got a Patreon for creating IF walkthroughs.)

- The Kickstarter reward CDs are in production. They should reach me by Feb 6th, says the duplicator.

- I have the reward books now; they just have to be packaged up and hauled to the post office.

- The reward posters have arrived, but the printer screwed up somehow. Half of the posters are smeared. The other half are fine, but I want to ship them all in one batch, so there will be a delay. I have contacted customer service and hopefully it will all get straightened out; I don't know when. Sorry about this.

- For added fun, I have jury duty next week. That will fill up an unknown number of work days.

I want to address one other issue: the font preferences in the Mac and Windows interpreters. "But there are no font preferences in the Mac and Windows interpreters!" Yes, Watson, that is the curious thing.

In fact you can adjust the fonts in Gargoyle. You have to edit a file called garglk.ini, which is bundled with the interpreter (on Windows) or in your home directory (on Mac). On Linux I believe it's named .garglkrc. Go in there with a text editor and bump up the propsize line, and also leading while you're at it.

(If you used the Windows installer, you'll have to make the file editable first. Select Properties on the garglk.ini file, select Security, edit the permissions).

Yes, this is a rigmarole. Why did I stick you with it? The short answer is, well, the Kickstarter was for a game and an iOS interpreter. I didn't have time to write desktop interpreters too. Gargoyle is the best interpreter available right now, but it started as a Linux project, it's got this Unix-style config file, and that's just the way it goes.

(For the Steam release, I'd like to modify this. But no bets right now.)

More rewards progress

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The situation:

Postcards (roughly 600 backers): Printed, sitting in my living room.

CDs (roughly 550 backers): I have burned a master; will test this week and then send to replication. Should reach me by the end of the month.

Posters (roughly 200 backers): Being printed, should reach me this week.

Books (roughly 30 backers): Being printed, should reach me next week.

Other things that I have ordered for this task: 250 poster mailing tubes. 50 book mailing boxes. A new printer. (Do you know how much space 250 poster tubes take up? It's a lot.)

I have not started the calligraphy (12 backers). But I am totally stashing this cool link for when I do.

The cookies are on their own schedule.

I will start mailing out the posters and the books when they arrive. The postcards will mostly be packed in with the CDs, so it makes sense to hold off dealing with those until the CDs have arrived.

But remember, next weekend is Mystery Hunt so I'm not getting a lick of work done between Friday and Monday. Whee!

Rewards progress

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I don't plan to do monthly updates any more, but it's the beginning of December and I happen to have some progress! (Not a coincidence -- I spent a bunch of the holiday weekend on rewards stuff.)

I've formatted the source-code book and pushed the data files to Lulu.com. I'm getting a proof copy back soon, and if that looks good, I can order the crate of books for those backers.

(The book was the limited $180 reward tier, so no, you can't get one if you didn't get in from the beginning. Sorry! That's how this gig runs. But as a teaser, or perhaps taunter, here's the cover art:)

Hadean Lands source book cover
Hadean Lands source book cover

I've started designing the map poster, which goes to the $40-and-up reward tiers. (About 200 backers.) The map will basically look like what you've already seen, but I've added a bit of bonus detail.

Postcards will be easy: the famous IF reference card on one side, and the HL cover art on the other. I haven't put in the order yet, but I should do that this week.

The CDs, they will be fun. Not the printing -- that should be easy -- there are still a zillion CD-making places out there, even in these internetty times. (Not that I know which one to pick...)

No, the fun part is that I want to make a Windows package. Not just for the CD! The current "here's your game file, go find an interpreter" package was intended for IF fans and Kickstarter backers. But HL is selling surprisingly well -- for a text game -- and so it makes sense to build a Windows-specific executable. (Followed by a Mac-specific executable, but of course Mac users are smarter, so it's less... no, delete that last line, Siri.)

I should be able to do this without any interpreter hacking. (Thanks to David Kinder for tips.) Mostly I just have to install a version of Windows that isn't XP-never-updated-from-2002, and then do the installer setup business.

I've been thinking about a bug-fix update to the game itself. But that's more work. (The launch release has no serious bugs, but you folks have reported plenty of typos and parser tweaks that I could make. It will take some time to get through that list. Plus there's the extra headache of distributing an iOS app update which potentially breaks saved games.)

I don't want CD production to wait up on all of that. So I figure the CD will have to contain the launch version of HL, typos and all. Sorry about that. A bug-fix update, when I do one, will be available through the digital distribution channels.

That's about all the news I've got. It's been a great first month for Hadean Lands. I talked about the game design in Toronto (audio recording of that talk). I've gotten terrific reviews from AdventureGamers and other sites (list on the web page). I've sold a non-zero number of copies to non-backers. And I've spent a month not writing Inform code, which feels pretty good.

An obligatory final note: as these updates wind down, I will get back to blogging on The Gameshelf. Follow me there to keep an eye on my future projects. And daily Zarfness (including projects) will appear on the Twitter stream at @zarfeblong.