Mobile-Friendly Parser Importance

I’ve been looking at making a web-based parser game engine, and I’m curious…

Is being mobile-friendly important for parser games?

I just don’t do anything, but talk and text (if that), on my phone so I’m completely oblivious to what the 7 or so people who play parser games typically prefer to use. Me? I need to type on a keyboard.

I miss my old “dumb” phone with the slide-out, full key pad with convex buttons. You couldn’t hit the wrong letter, even if you tried.


I only play on a laptop with a physical keyboard (I like the clickiness), but when I’ve recruited testers from irl friend groups instead of this forum, a lot of them have wanted to play on their phones or tablets. So I’d say yes, it’s important for expanding your audience.


My conclusion was to radically minimise any keyboard input on mobile. The main reason being the virtual keyboard typically dominates the screen, either overlaying or pushing off most of the text.

Nevertheless, I do allow some keyboard input:

  1. A settings override
  2. For infrequent game special cases, such as inputting names, codes, passwords, phone numbers etc.

…of testers. Got it! But what about actual players? :wink:

I kid… but not entirely. Those who are doing us a favour by testing a game are different than those who are strangers in the wild wanting to play a parser game. I don’t argue the value in having a mobile-friendly parser game, but I’m wondering if I’d be shooting myself in the foot… or just losing a baby toe.

When I first started looking into this, I didn’t even think about mobile, but then I saw this picture on Adventuron’s website…

…and I can see how it looks inviting. Playing on a phone might be another thing though.

So I launched Counterfeit Monkey through the most minimalist interface I know of and it just played horribly on my wife’s fairly decent sized phone. The keyboard took up too much space when active. If more than a bit of text came on, I had to scroll back up to read it… or I had to close the keyboard and tap later on to enter the next command. The whole experience was very jarring and quite annoying. Does someone have an example of a good interface for parser games on phones?

I think the parser games that work best on phones are extremely terse. Maybe too terse for my taste in stories, even though I despise reading “novels” in IF games.

However, a tablet might be the better experience… perhaps that is what they meant by “playing on mobile”? I don’t have a tablet, but if anyone has an opinion about phones vs. tablets vs. computers for playing parser games, I’d appreciate the feedback.


I barely always play IF in a tablet or ipad. I feel as the most important question the dowloadability of the game so there is many issues with html games and 4G cover.


Sounds like you prefer choice-based games (instead of parser) on the phone. That I can understand and support that fully. Minimal text input required. Absolutely.

This is my new favourite oxymoron. :wink: I get what you mean though. Most parser games are very small. Those with graphics could easily download smaller graphic files though (or have a separate mobile-friendly version in that regard).

So, of the games you do play on your tablet in a web-browser, which is your favourite from an ease-of-use perspective?


Choices are important, but they also take up screen space. I have been working on techniques to improve the text-space efficiency specifically for mobile.

Thing like:

  1. trim off as much border padding as possible
  2. compact word spacing, eg by 1 pixel
  3. compact line spacing, eg by 1 or 2 pixels
  4. text kerning
  5. improved line wrap
  6. flow text compactly around pictures.
  7. Use of clean looking fonts that can be slightly smaller

If you look at the picture you posted, you’ll see very slim (or no) text borders. But I would also squeeze the words together a bit more and trim the line-space too. The word “You” could have kerning between “Y” and “o” to save perhaps another pixel (which all adds up!).

The example shows only a one sentence description. If this was two paragraphs, it would still have to fit on screen.



Excellent points! I’d really like that exposed to the player so they can tweak it as necessary.

As a side note, in order to ensure an acceptable and consistent experience on a phone, I think you’d need to make your own touch screen keyboard as a part of the parser engine itself. I wonder if this has already been done with any other parser engines.


I’ll almost always try a game on my phone first. If it grabs me I may make an event of it and go find a computer. That’s the whole point of a phone, to be the first device that comes to hand. Outside work I don’t think most people touch a computer on even a weekly basis, although parser enthusiasts are probably more likely to. Really it seems crazy to me to ignore mobile for a parser game. Most people spend all day using their phones to type short messages and scroll through content, and it obviously works well enough for them.


For me, it’s not about ignoring phones. It’s about determining whether they are viable. I’m open to either case being made. Which parser game did you enjoy playing on your phone? …or which parser engine works best on a phone?

I’d like to see an example of a parser game done right for mobile, is all, so I can make allowances for the game I’m working on.

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I’d really like that exposed to the player so they can tweak it as necessary.

Yes, everything is on the settings. This is why I’m doing my own rich text control. So these can all be tweakable.

The picture i posted looks rather cramped on your PC because it’s running with the tweaks for mobiles currently (for testing). On an actual phone screen it looks good. but on desktops it looks nicer much less aggressively packed.

I’m currently doing really basic word wrap (ie greedy). There’s some work from Knuth where he talks about better word wrap using look-ahead that can look a lot nicer.

There’s also the idea of using intelligent auto-hyphenation. Some people don’t like that, so that’s definitely a tweakable.


I see what you mean about Counterfeit Monkey not playing well on that site, but it’s mostly because the address bar is taking up space and because it scrolls all the way to the last text printed. On Android I use Fabularium, but I wouldn’t recommend any particular game over another because I can’t think of any that are problematic. No issues with Counterfeit Monkey, since it was mentioned. I’d just be careful about fixed line breaks, which are the most common issue with ebooks as well (for instance in poetry).

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I play IF exclusively on my phone, be them choice or parser.

When playing z-machine compatible parser games, I may type 5/10 commands in the web interface to see if it catches my interest (or if there are things that are web only, like a good vorple integration or something) before downloading the game file and play it with Frotz.

Very important : to be able to download the save file(s) and load them later. Anything stored in localstorage or the like tends to be lost and if I lose a save, there are close to 0 chances I’ll start again, even if I’m a fan of the game.


I’ve worked hard to make Parchment run well on mobile browsers, and I think it does a pretty decent job. It may not be as great an experience as on a larger device, but it should be acceptable in most cases. If anyone has specific issues with Parchment on mobile then you need to let me know! :slight_smile:


Yeah, I was just about to mention Fabularium as a potentially viable option, too. It has a relatively compact custom keyboard, and you can double-tap any word on the screen to append it to the command line, which is a neat feature.

I have it installed, just in case; but in practice, I never play on mobile.

I don’t know whether there’s a huge untapped market for parser games there, but I guess it can’t hurt to make the UI/UX as responsive as possible (if you’re rolling your own interpreter or system/engine).

Edited to add:
One potential problem which wasn’t mentioned in the thread is mapping. Switching to a separate mapping app or website is a bit of a hassle on mobile, and I’m not sure whether people always have pen & paper with them when they play on the go.
So it might be good to include an auto-mapper in your system, or a nice way to let authors include a pre-made map.


I guess the main reason I’ll switch to laptop/desktop after beginning a game on mobile is that it’s easier to take notes while playing. The small screen makes it harder to multitask, and the need to pick up the phone to operate it makes it harder to play and write in a notebook. If you’re programming a game from scratch, and note-taking would be helpful, it could be worth including aids. Auto-mapping, a built in notebook, that sort of thing.


I apologize for being the bearer of bad news but (assuming Parchment is what the if-archive iplayif uses) Parchment is very unpleasant on mobile for me (Samsung Galaxy A14; tho this occurred with my Samsung S8 and Galaxy Tab FE also).

It flashes with updates, closes and opens the keyboard, and jumps around the scroll view. With typical games without any graphics or styling, the degree is manageable, but with games like Eat Me which have borders around the screen, it’s basically unusable.

I took screen recordings if you’d like to see them.

I try to play with Fabularium on mobile if need be, but it’s such a pain in general that I stick to computer for parsers.


Are you playing the top “Play Online” link for Eat Me from its IFDB page? That’s not Parchment, that’s an old version of Quixe. Running it in Parchment seems to be pretty good on my phone:

There’s one issue in Parchment in mobile Chrome, which is that the browser insists on putting up an password autofill bar above the main keyboard interface. This seems to be a Chrome bug, but as they don’t seem in a hurry to fix it I should try again to see if any of the suggested workarounds would work in Parchment.


I expect you will always expand your potential audience by checking that your parser game is comfortably playable on a phone (a much bigger ask if you are rolling your own system) but for a parser game, will you expand your actual audience by a significant amount? I don’t know, but I doubt it. If you have some weird crossover-breakout success, that’s probably the true moment you’d rue not making it mobile-friendly :slight_smile:

Reading this thread, I feel/sound like an outlier, but I have tried playing a variety of parser games on a phone, and in most cases couldn’t stand it. The overall diminution of ability to type easily, correct easily, less screen real estate. etc.

I also can’t achieve with the phone the state of contemplation I achieve reading a physical book, or looking at a parser game on a proper screen, either. To me, the phone is primarily a utilitarian tool that’s also the distraction that brings phonecalls or messages. I play parser games on my desktop computer 99% of the time.



I’ve actually played several parser games like Lost Pig on Frotz during one boring airplane trip and was hooked by it, which is why I’m on this forum.

I would honestly say many people today use smartphones over PCs. Even now, I am typing on my smartphone. I’ve played several short parser and choice-based games on my phone and while I recognize the PC is optimal, I am sometimes on the go and get the cravings for an interesting parser game on my phone.

I don’t expect full mobile compatibility, but it’d be nice if

  1. the game tells you if it uses audiovisual elements. This often borks mobile parsers. I also rarely play games with audio on.

  2. text size can be changed easily. Frotz on iOS is super awkward and for months, I had no idea that pinching would actually increase text size. The UX is very awkward.

  3. the “menu screens” of some games where you select through P and Q are undeniably awkward on phone, so something friendlier would be nice. This would however require entire rewrites of the game and I at least recognize programmers are going to be focusing on the audiences they want.

I think people here underestimate how much young people like me use their phones to do old computer media. I actually got a friend to look into parser games like Toby’s Fox because she was hospitalized and needed some game to play. However, while she was digging it, she wished the implementation was so much better. And the younger people are also unlikely to own their own PCs, so smartphones and tablets are the way to go.