Opinions on Bitsy? Is it IF?

(But I do see a strong parallel between Twine, Bitsy, and PuzzleScript – intentionally low-res tools meant to entice people into using them.)


Beware the unintentionally high-res tools that mean to repel people from using them!



You laugh, but that describes a lot of open-source tools. Ever try to learn the early versions of Blender?

(I hear it’s improved.)


My goal was to make you laugh :slight_smile: I already secured my own laugh.

I don’t even know what Blender is. I’ve got Applesoft BASIC, some 8/16 bit assembly, some Reaktor (visual language for music), Inform 7, and an annoying ability to hack at blobs of already-existing stuff in other languages (Inform 6, and currently Python).


It’s not pure IF but can be treated as IF-adjacent as much as RPG Maker games.

@zarf (But I do see a strong parallel between Twine, Bitsy, and PuzzleScript – intentionally low-res tools meant to entice people into using them.)

In terms of story structure I can see similarities between Twine and Bitsy, as Bitsy rooms are roughly equal to Twine passages.

However, I don’t really consider Twine low-res as it doesn’t have any visual design limitations compared to HTML and Javscript; it’s just an easier way for developers to make use of those tools. By contrast, Bitsy does have definite visual limitations (which help to set the engine apart, possibly for the better).

Strictly on the visual design front there is also Zdog. This is meant to be used for 3D modelling in web pages and provides access to HTML’s canvas a bit like Twine provides access to HTML and JS.

@Tobiasvl However, the interactivity in most IF games seem limited to moving around and interacting with the world/fiction, which usually is very linear. Very rarely does a game have any choices or meaningful interaction.

@HanonO There’s no combat nor a deep puzzle system (I think there might have been a limited number of flags to set?), so many games are built out of “find all the apples/triggers” with flavor text appearing occasionally which lends to exploration IF-like experiences.

If I get around to playing more I might try and create a taxonomy of Bitsy games: some games rely on collect-the-objects as you mention, some games heavily on hidden triggers, others rely more heavily on the player playing as an “item” rather than a character such as a fishing hook, other games are mainly canvases for graphical art.

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My two cents is that Bitsy does not make IF. However, it does narrative games.

Me myself classify Bitsy as a “minimalist J-RPG maker”. Don’t debate me on that :wink:


Personally, I subscribe to the Spring Thing’s definition of IF, the main point being that the game must still be playable/recognizable when everything but the text is removed (like most novels are still themselves when reduced to plain text). I’d argue that Bitsy games aren’t IF under these criteria.


I should have saved the budget simulator link - I can’t find it now. Sorry! (It doesn’t help that I think I may have meant a different language as the example, because otherwise the sentence structure makes no sense).

Blender’s a tool for creating 3D graphics. Coded in a combination of C, C+ and Python. I’ve never tried to learn it in any version, so I’ll take zarf’s word for it that the early versions were complex to learn.

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Personally, I subscribe to the Spring Thing’s definition of IF , the main point being that the game must still be playable/recognizable when everything but the text is removed (like most novels are still themselves when reduced to plain text). I’d argue that Bitsy games aren’t IF under these criteria.

I think the Alice example overlooks something. Lewis Carrol did not illustrate the book (or, now that I look it up, he did some early illustrations that have been replaced, and the book has been reillustrated several times). But anyway, let’s say that Alice is the same work even if it has no pictures.

By contrast I’m not sure whether I would consider The Cat in the Hat the same work if it had no pictures. I think Dr. Seuss’ illustrations are integral to the work for no other reason than the fact that he is the author.

At the same time, if Dr. Seuss or his estate deliberately published The Cat in the Hat’s original text-only manuscript I would be more likely to consider it the same work.

Applying this to Bitsy, I’d be likely to consider a plan text transcript or hypertext transcript of a Bitsy game “the same work” as the original Bitsy game if the author created it or approved of it…even if something is lost in the format shift.

(To take this further, I think that most people would consider a reillustrated version of The Cat in the Hat a different work even if it had the same text. I think most people consider remixed work original now? I know I do. That’s not really relevant here though I guess.)

I think most Bitsy games could actually be transformed into “proper IF” very easily, for example in Twine. (Making them parser games would be overkill.) The only reason they wouldn’t be playable if you removed all the graphics is that you’d have to add some textual exposition to replace them, not necessarily that the experience would be drastically different if that’s done. In fact, maybe I should try to do that with my Bitsy game!

Interestingly, this thread is starting to overlap with this one now: RECOMMENDATION REQUEST: The Future of Interactive Fiction - #50 by ChristopherDrum

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Sure. Many dialogue-heavy adventures or RPGs (think Disco Elysium or Torment: Tides of Numenera) could be turned into IF by “just” replacing the graphical world representation they currently use with a textual one. I’d still consider those to be different games (albeit closely related and telling the same story). The feel would be fundamentally different from what the author(s)/developer(s) of the original games had intended.


@Tobiasvl Re: converting to Twine, I suppose developers could use Unicode icons to preserve some of the graphical elements while sticking strictly to text.

I also played your game “Cabin” along with some others from other Bitsy developers and I am getting a better sense of the techniques that are used. Character icon switching and invisible event triggers (such as the top of the staircase in your cabin) seem to be frequently used in games. I am still not sure how much it is possible to build on these ideas though.

One of the commenters on “Cabin” also noted playing through a second time; I quite like the loop effect that is built into Bitsy games by default. It seems like it encourages authors to write short stories and also encourages players to keep playing.

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I did try to learn early versions of Blender. It was hopeless. v3.0 is SO much better, and it only took them (checks Wikipedia) 28 years to get it right.

Meanwhile…(glancing sideways at GIMP, Inkscape, etc…)

Using Unicode symbols as building blocks to create graphical elements would be essentially similar to ASCII roguelikes or ASCII art in general, and would, IMO, not be the same kind of textual presentation and gameplay that IF has.

In principle, you could build an entire graphical point-and-click adventure out of carefully chosen & assembled symbols, but that wouldn’t make it IF.

Roguelikes and similar games use those symbols to directly build and depict the environment and the goings-on (in lieu of graphics), whereas IF games use the symbols (letters) to build words and sentences which describe the environment and the goings-on. In my view, that’s an important difference.

(But if the pictures are just a non-essential embellishment to a game that’s told in prose and receives commands in textual form (typing words to be parsed, or clicking on words to make a choice), it could/would be IF. I agree with what Adrian said above on the overall question.)

Edited to add:
Regarding Bitsy games, in my impression, they’re more akin to minimalist graphical adventures (or maybe form a subgenre of their own), as there’s usually a graphic representation of the environment, and you move a sprite around that environment, and the interaction also centrally involves that sprite (it’s not just that a sprite is overlaid upon a background as in VNs, but rather so that one of the core interactions is walking into objects and people, somewhat similar to JRPGs). They’re a different kind of experience from what I regard as IF.

A possible narrative focus, if it exists, is IMHO a bit of a red herring, to a certain extent. Graphical point-and-click adventures, immersive 3D “walking sims” (I’m not using the term derogatorily) with voice-over or text pop-ups, RPGs and others can all have a lot of text and a heavy focus on story and characters, but they aren’t IF, in my view.

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Yes, I have seen some IF games that use full ASCII grid maps, and others that just use symbols in place of the text.

I actually had two games in mind but I can’t remember the title of either. I think the one with symbols-for-words is a little better known. I think the premise was that it was from the perspective of a child, and therefore used that picture book convention?

Does anyone know the one I am talking about?

I’m also thinking now that the Twine game do not forget is relevant to the discussion since it is sort of the opposite of a Bitsy game.

In “Do not forget,” you are primarily interacting with the text. However the graphical map is not totally irrelevant since it is necessary or at least useful for navigation.

In Bitsy games you are primarily interacting with the map; however, the text is not totally irrelevant since that text can tell you where to go.

In either one you can probably brute force your way to the end by randomly clicking (Do not forget) or by hitting the arrow keys (Bitsy).

I will be partial to the conversation as, as part of a team of gamedev, we’re planning to make a bitsy-like game with a forked clone of bitsy we affectionnally name Binksi that is essentially a 2D renderer for a script that exists primarily as an ink script (the narrative language of inkle for those not familiar with it).

We asked ourselves that very same question in relation to submitting to SpringThing and whether our game fit the above mentionned definition. In my own personnal opinion, it does, because the game will be entirely playable from top to bottom in the default ink player. Playing in the bitsy player certainly eases movement and allow more interactions that would otherwise clutter and make the number of choices unbearable in pure text format, but I’d say that this is only an affordance to get around the intrinsic limitations of the choice-based interactive fiction.

All member of the team are primarily writers and/or narrative designers usually doing twines, ink text games or linear kinetic novels so maybe it’s just that we see everything under that prism of Interactive Fiction : « we usually do IF, so if we do something different, it must also be IF » (which may very well be flagged as a fallacy).


I actually designed an adventure game like what you said, except instead of sprites, mine is circles, rectangles, and squares. Maybe someday I’ll implement it. It was an exercise in geometric collision detection. It has an extra dimensionality to it due to the nature of forms and space. I imagine bitsy is nothing more than choice IF in 2 dimensional form, assuming that is the goal.

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