advice on easy-to-start platforms?

Please suggest a system/engine/platform for me…

The first thing I’m looking for is that it is easy to start authoring content. Ideally, I’m looking for something as immediate as those wiki’s allowing you to write “choose your own adventures”.

However, they have two deal-breaking limitations:

  1. public access to the content. I don’t want any schmuck to be able to delete or edit at will.
    [size=85]Allowing users to add more content is fine, however, just as long as the core game (that I write) remains “read-only”. But not necessary.[/size]
  2. they seem to have a total lack of storing persistent information. If you “return” to a page it’ll be like everything that happened in between was just a bad memory. Just writing a big tree of branching content is too limiting for my needs.
    [size=85]Supporting a (short) list of attributes would be fine. But being allowed to define a bunch of (hidden) variables that you can check later is really all that I need. Supporting a small set of items and an inventory would be great. If only because they can emulate variables (like in gamebooks: if you have the mushroom, I know you have defeated the monster, so I can have the guardian let you pass, etc)[/size]

I really would like to not have to deal with the full complexity of TADS and other engines. Partly because I want to focus on story and not programming. Party because this will not be a locations-driven thing. Those full-blown engines simply contain way too much functionality for my simple needs.

The other thing is that ideally the user/reader should be able to navigate around the game world using the mouse only, selecting among 1-6 alternatives (some of which are available only after certain conditions are met). In other words, no “go north” or “pick up lantern”. Also a big reason why I feel TADS like systems are not right for me…

Again, if there were a service that allowed you your own wiki-ish thing (automatically storing the story/adventure with public web access as well as automatically hyperlinking the different pages), and it allowed you to set a bunch of game variables as well as lock your pages using a password, then that would be super-great.

Or perhaps an editor with similar capabilities that compile your story into a Flash .swf file that everybody could play just using their web browser (and which could even be hosted and played directly online)…

Barring that, what are my options?
[size=85]There are no stupid suggestions. Assume I’m a total newbie (which is almost the truth here; I do have messed around in TADS), so assume I know of none of the options you know of…![/size]

Thank you very much!

Have you looked at ChoiceScript?

I think you might like Twine:

The editor for OSX or Windows is a very simple GUI. You write your story/game/whatever as a collection of hyperlinked cards, and there’s support for variable tracking (,variables ). It can output as web-ready HTML, and some of the output options include slick-looking Javascript transitions, if that’s your thing.


Your suggestions are really spot on, complexity-wise. However, nothing is ever as easy as it should be…:

Twine: browsing through its Google Groups, it seems the project is abandoned by its developer. Have you completed a story in Twine/Twee, Tove? (It looks really promising, but if the program can’t handle non-trivial programs I’m hesitant to dive in. It also appears the main thrust is supporting the “Jonah” style with expanding/collapsing passages and not the “usual” style of hyperlinked pages here called “Sugarcane”). In short, can you point toward any finished (or even semi-finished) Twine-driven story that can allay my fears the project isn’t stable enough for a real project? (Normally the developer would be eager to highlight these on the homepage. Not finding any is the main reason to not jump in head first)

ChoiceScript: here I have completely different concerns. Put simply: how do you distribute your finished story for others to read?

I mean, by posting say a link to a zip archive at this forum, so that I can post my work completely anonymously, and that you can read it whereever you want, also anonymously. Is there a ChoiceScript reader you can download and use to read the ChoiceScript games I create? (I’m not interested in involving ChoiceOfGames and/or making money. I definitely don’t want to be restricted to a platform that requires some kind of approval process or censoring scheme)

Possibly this is a stupid question with an obvious answer, but since I couldn’t find anything surfing their website…

I am still grateful - both suggestions are definitely in the right ball-park for my needs. If anyone can just vouch Twine is minimally robust, or that ChoiceScript stories can be published completely independently, I’ll probably use one of them.

But feel free to suggest other solutions in the meanwhile! :slight_smile:

You might want to take a look at these two Inform 7 extensions: Simple CYOA and Adventure Book. I haven’t used them but it looks like you could use them easily without knowing much about Inform 7, but if you need more power you could use Inform to add any level of complexity you need.

Then there’s Undum which is a JavaScript hypertext fiction framework. It’s not as easy to get started with as the other options but it’s not that much harder, and having some experience with TADS helps.

This sounds like what you want:

If you just want to concentrate on the story, you can’t really go wrong with ADRIFT

Anna Anthropy’s Encyclopedia F*ckme and the Case of the Missing Entree is a story that just appeared that was made with Twee – same underlying system as Twine, but I think it means she didn’t use the GUI. So I think it means that it’s definitely stable enough to support a finished product. (Content warning: well, look at the title. Also, Christine Love who is not entirely erotica-averse said “This kind of really freaked me out.” Also, if anyone knows exactly how to get the winning ending, let me know.)

There were a fair number of ChoiceScript entries in IntroComp this year. Check out the Comp games to get a sense of what that feels like for the player. It’s just a zip file that they unpack, and then they double-click the index page to launch the game.

You can also host your game on another website, though if you don’t go through Choice of Games, you’re restricted to noncommercial use - no ads on the site.

I haven’t done anything more than a test program in Twine, but as mattw said, Anna Anthropy has done a few projects in Twine that she’s posted. Encyclopedia F*ckme and Choose Your Own Predicament are both NSFW. I haven’t played through Afternoon in the House of Secrets, but, well, it’s Anna Anthropy so expect the unexpected.

Afternoon in the House of Secrets is safe for work (unless there’s a secret I’ve missed). The central puzzle can be super frustrating, so I’m going to post the solution below a spoiler tag.

The combination is printed invisibly between the paragraphs of the room descriptions. Highlight to see it.

Thanks everybody - this really was the right place to ask! :slight_smile:

Twee: Yes, I was made aware of Anna Anthropy quite recently (through the A.V. Club’s coverage of cheap/free video games). Okay, so my hesitation against Twee disappears (and I will probably skip Twine completely).

ChoiceScript: Thanks, I’ll check those entries out. I guess I was expecting something like this - I would have been surprised if you were forced to use CoG… but since there was nothing on their web pages to even hint at a non-CoG method of distribution I had to ask.

Simple CYOA and Adventure Book: I don’t think they’re right for me (the first being too simple and the second retaining text input) but I’ll keep them in mind if I can’t use my primary options.

Undum: I had a quick peek. It did look promising, but I guess better documentation - read “more immediate help to the impatient newcomer” - would have been necessary to hook me. Sorry but no; the stuff there is moderated. And if the site goes down, it would have taken my work with it.

ADRIFT: Sorry, I’m not interested in text input. Need the game to provide choices as clickable buttons or links. I’m actively uninterested in putting players in the text equivalent of pixel-bitching dilemmas like “is it OPEN DOOR WITH KEY” or “USE KEY TO OPEN DOOR”… :slight_smile: Besides, fancy stuff like pictures or 3D maps only give me stage fright…

At the moment I’m going to go ahead with 1) Twee 2) CS
…but don’t let that stop you all from posting more suggestions!

I did google around a bit, finding these lists of resources: … plete.html … ing_system

…but all that did was take me from a state of knowing of no good (non-text) systems to learning about a bewildering overload of them…! :slight_smile: Meaning your suggestions still count - I will probably not check out a system not mentioned here…

(I work on ChoiceScript at Choice of Games.) Our website doesn’t discuss distributing CS games outside of our website because it’s actually a bit tricky; we don’t yet provide a build tool to roll everything up as one file like Twine, and this creates bugs on Google Chrome and Internet Explorer when running the game off of a filesystem. (I’ll probably do some work in 2012 on making a build tool for ChoiceScript that generates an executable version that can be played more easily offline.)

So, for now, ChoiceScript games really are easier to play on a website (or as a mobile app), and ours is as good a place as any!

Hi dfabulich,

I actually registered on your CS google group, but I don’t think the moderators there have approved my questions threads just yet. So I might just ask here as well:

When you download the zip file you can start playing the example directly. Am I getting you wrong, but that works off-line right? It’s not just that I was lucky I used Firefox I hope… Regardless: my question was indeed if you need to do your story and wrap up that entire (now personalized) zip archive for distribution, and I guess I have my answer. Thanks.

The other question I asked (will be asking :wink: ) at Groups is this:

Is ChoiceScript suitable only for strictly tree-based games? Or does it support going between, say, location A and B repeatedly. (Perhaps something random happens at location B each time you visit). I’m asking since I haven’t seen any mention of proceeding through chapters in any other order than pure sequentially (as you define in that javascript file) A->B->C etc. And none of the games I’ve checked out (say Choice of Dragon) seem to divert from this strict order (making decisions regarding thing A, then moving on to decide on thing B, then thing C etc but never making repeat visits to thing A)… It’s cool either way, I sure understand if you want to keep things simple by catering to linear stories only.

(An “ugly” solution like a goto command would suffice, as long as you’re not limited to an arbitrary stack depth or something. I need a game engine allowing the story to go around and around an arbitrary number of circles. Which I now realize I probably should have specified already in my OP)

Perhaps consider Quest:

I know you ruled out ADRIFT because you didn’t want a parser in your game - Quest is similar BUT you don’t have to have command input. Instead you can use hyperlinks - players could play the entire game without having to type anything. If you want to enforce no typing, you can turn the command input box off.

This will give you the full flexibility of a system with a world model, so you can use scripts to check if the player has a particular object etc, but with a simple interface.

Quest games can be played in a web browser, and they can be packaged into iPhone apps too.

Thanks, yes hyperlinks are acceptable. (Actually they’re more than acceptable, providing the player with short lists of links to click on to choose between options is exactly what I want) So Quest is on the list!

Btw: I’m almost giving up on Twinkle, because 1) little to no activity in the support group 2) no real documentation (which macros are there?) 3) the GUI tool seems unstable and not really suited to larger projects 4) I’ve encountered bugs in my simple 5(!) paragraph test story. (The twee command line interface is something else and I’ve not given up there but I can’t figure out to make it plus Python work :blush: - again the instructions are minimal; and besides, even if I get it up and running, I really do need a comprehensive reference document of the twee/twinkle language; several question are posted at the google groups but left unanswered for months). A shame really, it seemed to be wonderfully simple and yet powerful enough.

Also btw: Googling found this: Interesting - everybody seem to agree there is a real need for exactly the tool I wish for :slight_smile:

A bit strange really - those TADS-like systems are incredibly complex, huge projects. Is it just me that is wondering how come such enormous resources have been spent on Infocom-style adventures but next to none on simpler tools. (I’m gathering you could create ten twee’s for even one tads!)

Yeah, I’m really hoping that somebody who has figured out how to use Undum puts together a full tutorial. The results I’ve seen so far have been really inspiring (Zarf’s The Matter of the Monster, Jon Ingold’s Flaws, and Dierdra Kiai’s The Play come immediately to mind), but I kind of just don’t know where to start with it. I’m sure I could figure it out, but since I already know Inform 7, and would probably use Twine if I wanted to do CYOA, there’s just slightly too much inertia.

Seconded. Jon Ingold says he’s working on releasing a perl script to help make Undum games, but until something like that happens I think Undum will only be accessible to people who know stuff. (I never wound up doing anything with Firebug and TextWrangler because I don’t really understand what the other people in that thread are talking about.)

[1000T – is it possible to get what you want by setting up wiki software, and then not letting anyone else have an account with editing privileges?]

Okay, so I had a peek at the tutorial.

It quite quickly delved straight to the nitty gritty of detailing objects, exits, descriptions and verbs.

So let me ask a direct question: how do you envision me using Quest?

I want to describe a scene and allow perhaps four choices of what you can do. Kill the goblin, run away, smell some flowers or climb a tree to look at the view.

I don’t want the hassle of actually defining “kill”, “run”, “pick” and “climb”. I don’t care to actually define flowers and trees - they’re just part of the scenery. I have no intention of building a general parser which understands “climbing rocks” or “climbing staircases”. Those things don’t exist other than pure languages in scene descriptions (and choices).

What I can be bothered to do, however, is to set up a dozen “rooms” or so. Having the game automatically take care of inventory (in case you can pick the flowers or loot the goblin) is nice.

But in each room I need to simply and quickly be able to tell the system what the alternatives are. As opposed to (the much more complex and ambitious alternative of) presenting a number of objects the player then can freely interact with.

The reason I brought up the wiki comparison is because it’s like a hyperlinked set of paragraphs. What a wonderfully simple platform!

What I need over and above this is:

  1. not be dependent on some online server. I want to write my stuff on my own computer and give you the finished work for you to read/play wherever you want. Also, I don’t need moderation or censorship.
  2. the story is more like a simulation in that it is not linear and has no finite set of endings. You can play the game, moving about the “world”, as long as you like (within certain limits). Merely a branching tree won’t do.
  3. of course it needs to support variables (no ultra-simple CYOA). Setting them, allowing choices based on them etc. The easier it is (more transparent, less cumbersome syntax) to output conditional text the better!

A full-blown inventory system isn’t required. Nice, but not required. (I think I could manage by simply setting variables to and fro, like WEAPON = 3 for the sword and = 4 for the axe; meaning no real objects are needed).

And that’s it really. The closer you can get to just focusing on the story and not the “innards” of your chosen development system (while still allowing the above) the better! :slight_smile:

My answer: not sure but don’t think so. You’re thinking of chooseyourstory?