I’ve only seen a few mentions of Bitsy on these forums, and I thought I would see what everyone else thinks of it.
Is Bitsy technically IF?
Bitsy is clearly aimed at developers who are crafting narrative games. There aren’t many other functions built into it: Bitsy’s very basic inventory and object system is only really good for triggering text boxes and changing text.
That alone might be enough to make Bitsy games a type of interactive fiction. However there are a few things that set Bitsy apart from parser IF and Twine games.
First, despite the fact that most Bitsy games have a textual narrative, you are not going to fit a lot of text in Bitsy’s text boxes. Second, you also must have graphics, even if those graphics are not doing much.
Ultimately I think it is subjective whether Bitsy games are considered interactive fiction. As I understand it, the IF community has a fairly loose definition of IF to begin with, especially with the now-decade-old advent of Twine.
Surveying the genre
In addition to looking at Bitsy’s inherent qualities, we can also look at how game developers perceive the system. On Itch-io, about 1 in 4 games made with Bitsy are tagged as the “Interactive Fiction.” Equally often they are tagged “Adventure,” but Bitsy developers clearly consider these games interactive fiction.
On IFDB, however, the keyword “Bitsy” only returns two results, both of which are games in other engines that happen to have Bitsy games embedded in them. As I said, I have not seen much discussion of Bitsy here, so I think it is a safe guess that IF authors are not too focused on Bitsy.
I think it’s also worth noting that Bitsy seems to be approaching Twine in terms of popularity. There are about 4700 Bitsy games and 6700 Twine games on Itch-io. Of course this only tells us popularity among developers, not among the public and in the media.
My own opinions
I briefly tried Bitsy out over the holidays. I wasn’t really inspired to create anything with it in terms of a playable game. I was put off by the difficulty of adding extensions/scripts, and I found the interface annoying to work with despite its simplicity. (Bitsy game files are also editable in any text editor, but that isn’t really convenient either.)
I do like the low-resolution art style of Bitsy games, though, and I had fun painting various things in the online editor.
I think Bitsy 3D has a little more potential, as the various camera angles make things seem more interactive. Those camera angles also obscure things by default. You can make a rotation-based game like Fez or a narrative dungeon crawler like Terry Cavanagh’s Judith, or take various other approaches.
Questions for the community
What do you think of Bitsy, and have you created anything with it?
And would you like to see Bitsy games entered in IF Comp and other events? While rules are quite loose, do you think it could create excessive division if it is encouraged?
Is it appropriate to list the most successful Bitsy games on IFDB? I don’t think that any Bitsy game has attracted the level of attention that the most successful/viral Twine games have, but I could be wrong.