Good parser IF to recommend to novices?

I sometimes feel like spreading the good word. But as you all know, the learning curve is steep and it’s hard for a lot of people to get into this stuff.

I recently had a friend play Lost Pig and had great success. He beat it in one sitting (with some gentle nudges from yours truly) and had great fun. So that’s in my arsenal. Depending on the type of person I’m dealing with, I’m thinking Photopia might be another good entry point. As the left hook I have Counterfeit Monkey. I think that one’s examplary in what IF is capable of being both as a game and a story telling medium, and shouldn’t be too hard to pick up as it has a decent tutorial, an amazingly detailed parser, and its type of puzzle is free from the baggage of traditional adventure game funk.

So. What else is there? How do I make the text adventure bug epidemic?


I talked about this already elsewhere:

I don’t think Counterfeit Monkey is a good choice. Puzzles are far too unconventional. You want novices to get conventional stuff so they can learn the conventions of parser, not show them a coding masterpiece, or they’ll expect the same level of wordistry in other IF.

Photopia is great early on too, but introduce a different, more beginner-friendly one first.


At the risk of expressing a controversial opinion, to me Galatea felt more like a proof of concept pertaining to a very limited functionality of IF than a full, finished piece. I did have fun with it for some hours but it didn’t leave me wanting for more, although I 100% know I didn’t come near to exhausting it.


True, but it introduced me to the idea of extensive conversation in parser games, which I didn’t realize was a thing. This meant that in other games like Garry’s Who Kidnapped Mother Goose (which I betatested) I had an idea of what to ask, etc.


Most of the games from the Text Adventure Literacy Project (TALP), which includes Who Kidnapped Mother Goose.
Most of them come from the TAL jam, which has been running for 4 years now:


I routinely recommend Mathbrush’s IFDB lists as a great place to look for recommendations. His Starter pack for those new to IF is half parser games.

I think @AmandaB 's The Lonely Troll is a good choice for first-timers, though I can imagine some people bouncing off of its being a children’s story. If so, their loss: it’s a very charming children’s story. (It was a TALP game.)

And then, maybe, Emily Short’s Bronze next.

[ edited to add: ]

Actually, thinking about it more, it’d probably be better to start someone on several short games before something of Bronze’s size.




ADRIFT is a great tool for beginning programmers. It’s not as powerful as Inform but it’s good enough to do most what what you need done as a beginning programmer. Plus, it’s window driven with drop-down menus to help. It’s a good beginner’s system.

Any easy parsers made in ADRIFT for novice players?

I think Matt misunderstood the question somewhat. I wasn’t talking about programming tools but entry points to people who know (next to) nothing about the genre.

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If my experience is indicative (I am drawing from a data point of one, mind you), then Photopia is, if nothing else, a work that easily garners the interest of the IF novice. However, if your friend is like mine, he might need your help once again. In particular, I recall that my friend was nowhere near finding the solution to the maze on her own.


The maze took even me a little while as I recall. There was also a point I had trouble leaving the garage for some dumb reason I can’t remember.

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I’ve had good success with Counterfeit Monkey - there’s a good built-in tutorial, and the core mechanic is both 1) very fun and 2) obviously only works in text, so novice players quickly grasp why the parser works the way it does.

On the flip side, it’s not the most typical IF experience for moving to other games afterwards.


I would play something by Amanda Walker. Fairest or Lonely Troll, I think. Her games are very readable and do a great job of explaining what they are about. Considerate regarding synonyms, etc. etc. I think the length is right, too. Substantial without being overwhelming.

Some of her darker work would be fine, too, depending on taste. I just think her games are mechanically thoughtful.


On another hand, it’s the type of game that will greatly appeal to certain demographics. I have quite a few friends interested in language and linguistics for example. Counterfeit Monkey’s world-building is basically 90% linguist in-jokes. :laughing:


“The Lookout” by Winters I had some succes with. My friend completed it with no prior experience.

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I was thinking of games by Mike Roberts. In particular, Perdition’s Flames or The Plant are games which are parser-y in a traditional way, and maybe can’t be made unwinnable?

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My game Six is on a ton of lists, but not on lists of games to recommend to novices, and seems not to come up in these topics.

This has surprised me in general, but I can’t dispassionately assess that quality for my own game (though I expect I’ve brought it up at such times at least once)

I wonder if it’s because the kids’ birthday party subject matter is seen as being For Kids? I know for sure the game appeals to kids, but I did not specifically target them. I’ve descibed it as a child simulator that anyone can play. All the initial players in IFComp were adults, and the game was 2nd in that year.

It has been used in an Australian primary school to get kids into IF, and kids who haven’t played IF are in the same boat as adult novices, except for their subject matter interests. I’ve described the game’s parser as as good as or better than Lost Pig’s, which may sound arrogant but I think is a correct technical assessment.

Anyway, if you’ve considered Six for these ‘good for novices’ things before, but decided not to mention it because (reason N), I’d be interested to hear that. I’m not offended, I’m genuinely interested in why the game seems to skirt this recommendation area. Maybe it just is because it’s a kid’s birthday party.



I’ve been teaching IF to children this year.

Big recommendation:

This is in the Mathbrush list, but the Itch version also features auto-mapping which is really useful for people who don’t understand the old school conventions of mapping in IF. It has a very clear goal: get to as many rooms as possible! It is suitable for all ages, funny and has some great puzzles. Just a perfect introduction in my view. You could even transition from the Itch version to a traditional IFDB version if you’re trying to train players / potential authors in getting into mapping / command input.

I’ve moved from there to Wishbringer to give the children a sense of the past. I have to do a lot more railroading there, giving them specific goals such as find the gold coin (clue: it’s in the middle of Festerton) and so on. But it bridges that gap towards a fuller verb set and having to type input.

Those are my picks which aren’t featured yet here. Happy adventuring!


Thanks, Drew!

I wrote Fairest deliberately to be friendly to parser newbies. It really only has one hard puzzle in it and the rest are gentle fetch-quests or are hugely clued. It’s got a lot of help and hint features and I very much hope it serves that purpose well. I always try to make games approachable, but this was the one into which I threw a lot of effort for a gentle learning curve.