Is writing int fiction still worthwhile?

Hi all, I’m new here. Before I get to my question, just a little background. I’m an older gamer, so I was around during the hayday of text adventure games. I still have a nostalgic fascination with IF. I also love CRPGs (old school and modern). I am playing around this the idea of writing a single player, multi-character hybrid IF/CRPG game in python. Exploration would be classic IF with locations described in text and user input derived from an command line parser (go north, get lantern, open door etc). Combat would be resolved on a tactical grid reminiscent of the old AD&D Gold Box CRPGs, except using letters instead of graphical icons (B = Bob, T= troll, W = wolf etc: it would look a little rogue-like, I suppose).

I have already written some code for a prototype but I am concerned there will be insufficient interest in the (hypothetical) end product to make it worthwhile (just to be clear, it would be free to play). For example, if only 3 people ever play the game, then it’s not really worth the effort to me.

So my question is, for folk who have announced a new IF (or IF-like) game here, how have you found the response? Have you gotten much traction or interest? Did your game actually get played all that much? Enough to feel like it was worthwhile writing? (I’m putting aside folk who are doing projects more to learn a new language etc).

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Hmm… It’s kind of a subjective thing. I mean, I’m pretty happy if a person who isn’t me plays one of my games…

I get the feeling that games made for “jams” or “comps” get played more, due to both playing being a part of the judging and increased exposure.

I think it’s a bit of an uphill battle when coding from scratch, as you’re suggesting. What you’re describing could be done in Inform (6 or 7), TADS, etc. So, it might get more play from people if it were to be a “standard format” that could be played on pretty much anything. Heck, inform 7 (and with some work 6) can even be played in web browsers.

In my experience, stuff that can be played in a web browser sees more play.

I love Python as a development tool, but it’s sort of at an anti-sweet-spot when it comes to distributing games for people to play. Windows doesn’t come with Python. MacOS does, but then you’re asking people to play in a terminal window, which is not to most people’s taste when they’re in a game-playing mood. If you rely on display libraries like SDL, you’re asking people to install Python dependencies, and that loses basically everybody.

If you want people to play it, you need to either create an .exe/.app for distribution, or make it playable in a web browser. (Or use one of the formats that’s familiar to IF players, TADS or Inform. Although you’re still well advised to use one of the first two solutions in addition.)

There are packaging and browser solutions for Python; it’s a solvable problem. I’m saying you have to think about it.

I enjoy it a lot, but have found that releasing a game outside of competition is like dropping a rock in the Grand Canyon - good luck getting anyone to notice it - unless you’re well-known or have a lot of interested followers on social media, or release on a site where your game is tagged well and has elements people are interested in. IF is a niche, so the numbers for a well-trafficked game are much lower. Also, genre can make a difference - my adult games on get 20-30 hits per day on average.

You’re probably not going to make a living writing classic IF if that’s what you mean by “worthwhile,” though some people do okay monetizing on sites like In general, people are reluctant to pay for an all-text game, although Visual Novels seem to have a devoted fanbase and can monetize successfully.

Write your own system if it’s what you want to do, but do check out existing IF systems that can save you the trouble of re-inventing the wheel.

Except for Choice of Games, where Dan Fabulich has labored mightily to create a bespoke paying fanbase for that specific style of choice-based game.

Yeah, I’m not sure one should make a broad statement like “people are reluctant to pay for an all-text game”. You’d be surprised what people will buy if the price is low.

The IF community is great because everyone is very helpful, open-minded, and skilled in a variety of sub-topics. Basically, the IF community is here to support and help people learn about, play, and write IF; not to make you a well-known, professional IF author. That part is up to you. (Not that this sentiment was advanced yet, I’m just making the point.)

I think Hanon’s metaphor of dropping a rock in the Grand Canyon is true to the extent of the overall gaming world, but in the community, such rocks are usually discussed or even dissected, especially if you say to one of the IF forums, “hey, check out what i made.”

Getting your work to volley outside the community and into the net-at-large can be done and has been done. There’s zarf (and others) with years of garnering a loyal fanbase, there’s word-of-mouth juggernauts like Mike Gentry’s Anchorhead, there’s topical and social issues being discussed in games especially by Twine authors (just a quick observation, all formats are represented here) that, in turn, get discussed by other journals, blogs, etc. Oh, and i edited to add (what I intended) is creative, group projects like Cragne Manor that make a stir. These are just a couple of examples, there are others.

I guess the idiom “Cream rises to the top” fits here.

I think that statement is true for any medium: visual art, music, standard linear fiction, etc. Is it worth it? Yes, if you feel that the thing you are making needs to exist in the world for its own sake. Will people notice or care? It depends on your vision, execution, marketing, and a fair helping of luck, more than it does on any particular means of expression.

Right. CoG is the happy exception to the rule!

If I had a like button, I would be smashing it hard right now.

It’s similar to when people would ask me whether they should pursue an acting career. If someone says “Can I do this?” the default response is no because the odds are heavily stacked against it. But the more detailed answer is “If you love doing something, no one can stop you. So do it without unreasonable expectation and you’ll learn pretty quickly whether you can make a serious effort of it.”

“You Can Always Fail at What You Don’t Love” ~Jim Carrey

Just wanted to add my two cents’. I’m not exactly ‘well-known’ or highly experienced in Inform7 (I am the author of ‘Bullhockey!’–49th place in IFComp2018), but I can tell you that I get a lot of satisfaction from expressing my ideas and thoughts via IF. Just the act of writing–and even editing and perfecting–a work of IF, I find fulfilling. Why don’t I just write a paper or even a book? In IF, you give the reader–and yourself–a lot of freedom of choice. It’s really only afterwards, after I have ‘finished’ a work, do I think, ‘I need this work to be played.’ And yes, I do agree that by entering the Comps, you have a lot better chance of having the work seen and played by others. Even so, I have a number of games that may never be seen…?? I just thoroughly enjoy the process.

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Last summer i joined the Spanish narrative JAM Rayuela de Arena at itch io, with a game based in H.P.Lovecraft tale Celephaïs, using my own authoring tool Parser Commander

The game was a mixture of classical parser and clicking options game. It was the most voted in that JAM, with a total 21 games submitted. During all this time i would say that the game has been seriously played by 100 people or so.

Is it worthwhile? Well, i take a great time creating the game, so for me there is no doubt :slight_smile: So i will join to this year game JAM edition too.

I can imagine that in English you will have a wider public for interactive fiction game, but i suppose that here this is also a minority entertainment. It would be great if people could share statistics, real or estimated, they could have about their games.

Hope this helps you to make the game. It looks interASCIInting ^.^


I still play some old Goldbox CRPGs, at least a session or two per year, and I play some text-only roguelikes. This sounds like something I would definitely want to try, so you might have at least one player.

As others said you probably would have a better chance of seeing the game played if you used something like the z-machine. I think it is possible to do simple ASCII art for that, maybe even using something like Inform (or Dialog that someone posted about here a while ago that looks like a very interesting alternative to Inform?). One great thing about old Goldbox games is how they can run in Dosbox on any system I can imagine wanting to play a CRPG on today. If you use Python you might consider also supporting something graphical. Like some roguelikes, like Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead does with either running ASCII in a terminal or rendering characters to a graphical window (CDDA also supports, and uses by default, various graphical tilesets for rendering in a window, but it can use just plain ASCII art as well).

Making it run in a browser is the best way to reach more players though. Would not have to rule out also offering a downloadable version.

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It is absolutely worth it!

We, the H2O: A Drop in the Ocean Writer AI team are fans of IF and a recent entry into the scene. Building the event network can be daunting, so we did away with the network altogether except for an occasional bit here and there and trained an AI to serve up the ideas that we have rattling around in our heads. The AI doesn’t write, it just serves ideas, all the writing is still ours. Thus a new kind of an IF experience was born. We are releasing in about a month. We are completely cross-platform: PC, mobile, what have you and run out of the browser as a downloadable. Because AI serves things picking out of a sea of possibilities, so to say, no two play-throughs are ever the same. Check out our Facebook page:

Never stop creating,

– the H2O Writer AI team


I just want to drop my two cents here.

Tuuli, made by Daurmith and I for IFComp 2017, placed 16 with 58 votes. After that I published the game at itchio, in both english and spanish language.

The analytics show the following numbers:

1358 views, 81 downloads and 3 pays (yay!)

It is worth for me? Hell, yes.

But the most important part of doing this “for free” art is the community. To share the experience of going to the IFComp with others, share reviews and comments, etc. Also it is nice to receive from time to time accolades from people around the internet (mostly twitter).

I would not recommend to be on it for the money.

Also I higly recommend to go for the numerous jams and competitions. My favourites are IF Comp, ECTOCOMP (halloween stuff) and Spring Thing. I think nowadays, if you don’t have an active profile on twitter or something, it is very important to participate in those events (or others) to be rewarding.

Hope it helps! (sorry for the bad grammar)


I’m a few months late but i’ll chuck in my 10p worth…

My short answer is “yes, more so now than in previous times and seems set to become more so in the coming years.”

If you watch Get Lamp and/or a handful of the interviews you’ll get a view of how things were in the late 00’s versus now. Late 00’s it felt like a small bunch of people who created work, predominantly in Inform and TADS, for each other and there was a very real sense (or at least that was my takeaway) that the future was uncertain. Wind forward 10 years and you’ve got a golden age with mobile technology, app stores, Steam, Indie Dev scene love, more tools and varieties of IF than you can shake a stick at.

IF in 90s-00s was Inform, TADS, bit of Twine in the latter stages. IF in the 10’s, particularly the latter half (now!) is extremely wide-ranging.

If you want proof of this look no further than what’s happening with ZIL and ZILF! We have a small group on Facebook, literally it’s a niche within a niche, but thanks to a combination of reasons - mainly it has to be said due to Jason Scott releasing the Infocom source code - our member numbers are growing daily and more people are trying their hand at ZIL/ZILF than ever before … and let’s be honest there are many more “modern” and frankly “easier” ways to do it! :slight_smile:

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