Wanting to create a "Retro" IF system in a retro language, BASIC

This would be a “Lite” engine where one could easily create a Choose Your Own Path
(with minimum effort) with a second release that would include variables to write something
like Cloak of Darkness.

Is there any interest? Will users be willing to download a free Basic language in order
to run the program?


There were many (many) adventure frameworks based around BASIC back in the day published in books and magazines; some of which formed the basis for commercial releases… We list over 2,000 adventures written in BASIC on CASA. There are some modern exponents of tools like QBasic who frequent this forum, who create new adventures.

You’re probably getting into the very niche side of what is already a pretty niche audience, especially with so many other great tools out there for creating fast & efficient “retro” adventures. My rule of thumb is always make something for yourself first… if anyone else enjoys it or finds it useful, then that’s just a nice bonus.


Thanks, I refer not to making a game (been there done that) but rather an engine, for others to write and or play.

There are certainly lots of examples of BASIC game engines, from back in the day, that you could draw inspiration from.

What would be your “USP” for any engine you were looking to create?

A system that requires players to download any kind of software to be able to play it will be a hard sell. If the system is limited to one OS, even more so. If it requires some kind of emulator of old hardware or OS to run, even more so, except if you’re pushing the game specifically in channels where people interested in that platform hang out.

For the general IF audience, games need to be playable on the web and/or be released in one of the big, well-known file formats, or you’ll get very few players.


USP stands for ?

Unique Selling Point - what would make your system stand out from the many other established (and excellent) development systems?

The reality is that many people announce new IF development systems each year, and they rarely get any attention, because author needs are generally already met by the existing systems. For a new system to get attention it needs to be truly special in some way. We don’t want to discourage people from making new systems, but we do want to gently warn them not to expect too much enthusiasm.

Aside from some genuinely unique functionality, the other way to get attention for a new development system is to release a very good game/story in the annual IFComp, so that people see it and think “I want to make something like that, so I’ll check out the system it was written in.”

But online play is standard now. Some people will download a new interpreter to play a game if their existing interpreters won’t play it, but most won’t.


I’d also add that while there are still games coming out each year written in BASIC, my sense is that much of the appeal for these authors is working on their own homebrewed systems – so I’m not sure there’d be as much demand for a BASIC engine that would allow you to write your own game without building the system themselves. This doesn’t automatically mean such a project wouldn’t be useful or interesting, of course! Just that I wouldn’t extrapolate too much.


I would love to see that! The problem is that I can’t do QBasic. I did try out yabasic, but my preference right now is Processing, which compiles to Java. I really should figure out how to put that on the web. There’s also P5.js that compiles directly to web page, so that’s an option.

You should be able to do it easy if you pattern it after 2 word parser, instead of Inform.

Also, take a look at Adventuron, since I think that platform is good for beginner!

To answer a couple of questions:

  1. I would use JustBasic
  2. USP - Certainly nothing to sell but rather to share.

I try all the free IF products, and mostly use Twine and Squiffy.
I have programmed in many vintage languages on the mainframe
and Basic and Python on the PC. My “problem” is that many of these
(meaning IF products) have a significant learning curve.

My system will be extremely easy to learn and write IF. Starting
from the easiest CYOP and adding features as time (and/or demand)

As far as using Justbasic, all one would need to do is run my
program and when prompted, point to your own input text file.

All coding, would be in a text file so most of all of the authors
work would be done there.


It sounds more like a project just for yourself initially then, unless it has some unique selling point.

I’m a 100% retro-focussed text adventurer but I personally would struggle to see the appeal of using a Just BASIC authoring system for a Windows game. If I was going to use BASIC then it would be just to target a very specific 8-bit retro platform… and I’d just customise one of the existing BASIC frameworks from back in the day. If my target was a modern PC then I’d just use one of the other retro-flavoured adventure writing tools, such as Adventuron for a parser game… Or even just hypertext for a really simple choose-your-own-path experience… I used to get my class of eight-year olds to do that.

But these threads often degenerate into a “why would anybody use anything but Inform (or Twine)?” conversation. Don’t be dissuaded. Make the system for your own amusement. Make a game with it. Show it all off. There’s always somebody out there that will find it interesting and make something with it too. But I wouldn’t expect a huge wave of interest. It is, like I said earlier, the niche-est of niches. That doesn’t mean you can’t get a lot of enjoyment personally from the project.


Much as I used to enjoy writing programs in BASIC, these days I wouldn’t create games with a version that only ran on one platform.

It might be worth looking at cross platform BASIC languages, such as BlitzMax, FreeBASIC, BBC BASIC for SDL or wxBasic to see which one has a syntax you like.


Thanks for some great replies. I agree that “if it works for me”, that is the first step.
As far as BASICs go, I will start with JustBasic as most BASICs are easily ported to other BASICs.
They also have RunBasic which is a web-based product however, it is not free.

Regardless of the program used to display the “game”, I certainly need feedback on the syntax

Now I need time to complete a BETA version.


This is the USP, FYI.

That’s a great plan. Personally, I’m rather influenced by Fabled Lands Gamebooks.
I’m looking forward for your updates!

My apologies to the Forum Users. You gave me all the right answers, to all my wrong questions.
I misled the Topic to be about the engine I will use. Like other text file projects like Ink, Choice, Squiffy, etc, most do Not care about the language the developer uses, but rather the exact syntax of the input text file, how easy it is to write, what can be done, and what cannot be done. One also wants a short learning curve. The development language could even be changed to others like Java, etc if enough interest.

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I have the first one and enjoyed it. It definitely is creative.

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On the other hand, there might be some demand for a well-commented and easily-extensible (in the sense that it is easy to add bits on without worrying overmuch about knocking something else over that’s 3000 lines of code away) BASIC system, so that the sort of people who are interested in homebrewing an engine in it can do so without worrying about reinventing the most standardised and labourious parts (and focus instead on the new and exciting bit that will make their game unique).

Indeed the demand was strong in early-to-mid '80s that not few book about writing text adventures was published, and practically all of these books has a complete text adventure BASIC system.

I can even provide a bibliography :wink:

Best regards from Italy,
dott. Piergiorgio.


This would be an excellent idea. Research is always good :slight_smile:

So you might think this is obvious, but it’s something that absolutely slips the mind of any programmer as project scope increases: Your format will be easy for you.

A lot of the problems you had with learning curves will probably come up in your project as well, because there is some minimum complexity required for writing IF. You’re going to be spending a lot of time thoroughly trying to reduce project complexity again and again and again and again.

As you develop this project, you will be deeply familiar with how it works, so you’ll basically be skipping the learning curve process entirely, but anyone else who wants to use this will have to start fresh.

Even if you’re mindful about it, it can still creep in.

It’s going to require a lot of careful prioritization of features to minimize how much people need to know to accomplish most things. It’s also going to need a lot of frequent testing as it develops. You will need new testers each time, mostly so you can see how difficult the current iteration is to learn from scratch.

Once again: You probably already know this, but it’s best that you engrave it upon a metal plate and hang it on the wall above your work area. Project familiarity happens to everyone.

EDIT: This is advice from someone who attempted stuff like this before. I absolutely wish you all the fortune in the world in getting this working.