Which CYOA program to use for an RPG?

Hello, very new here, no idea if anything like this has already been asked.

I’ve been writing for a while and I just discovered that there are programs to write “choose your own” style games, which is something I’ve always wanted to try. I have basically zero coding experience so I’m finding which program/language to work in a challenge. The project I’m thinking of is… ambitious, especially for a beginner, but hey hopefully I’ll be an expert by the end of it or something? If all goes well ahaha.

I’m really interested in doing a choice of style rather than parser, partly because I think it might be easier to write and partly because I generally like CYOA more than parser. What I want to do (in short) is an RPG style thing where you collect party members that help you travel, but also have times where said party members could die and the game just goes on without them. (Think Fire Emblem, basically.) The main story wouldn’t change, but there would be consequences and different opportunities depending on who’s in the party. I also want to have friendship and karma counters and maybe a menu where you could check all that out? Like you can chose to be super nice to everyone and help every old lady to cross the street or you can be a bit of a snot and take ice cream from children and make them cry. Some choices would be locked to karma over or under a certain amount. Same thing with the friendship counters with the party members. It might end up being on the long side, because I don’t seem to know how to shut up, so knowing the maximum of what each program can handle would be nice too.

I’ve been looking at Twine which looks neat and I am a very visual person, but I’m worried that I won’t be able to do the things I want to in it. Meanwhile, ChoiceOf looks kind of ideal but very, very challenging to learn and extremely text heavy. Twine has those boxed passages on the main screen that you can move around and see your story and ChoiceOf doesn’t, as far as I know, which would make it difficult for me to remember what things I haven’t written yet. I took a look at Inkling but it didn’t really appeal to me, but maybe I’m just not seeing any good examples of it. I’m a huge fan of Fallen London, but I don’t think that StoryNexus would be a great platform for this idea.

Honestly, I do intend to start off with something much smaller than this project, but I figured if this is the goal then why not start outlining it and learning how to do it now?

So, tl;dr, these are my questions:

  • What do you think is the best CYOA program for a coding noob who wishes to write an RPG style game? And by noob I mean really, really noob. I know basically nothing.
  • What is the maximum choices/wordcount/what-have-you that some programs have, if any? Not like I expect to hit it, but it would be useful to know.
  • Are there any good tutorials for people getting into IF coding that you could link me to? General ones would be good too.
  • Anything similar to this question that has already been answered that you could link me to?
  • Is there anything else you think that someone new like me should know?

Thanks in advance! I always loved CYOA books as a kid. I can’t just pass up the opportunity to write something similar. :smiley:

RPG style is ambitious because it goes for big games. IMHO, you’ll want to choose a platform that supports big games, with quests and NPCs and maybe even XP and economy. And, which is actually more important, allows many debugging options, because debugging a big non-linear game by playing it again and again is extremely frustrating.

Any web platform runs in a browser, so you can make a browser macros to replay the game automatically.

Twine is a good bet because it’s easy to start and the debugging is decent. It presents you with a node list and you can replay from any point in the game, it gives you a proofreading copy. Plus debugging from browser.

ChoiceScript gives you fully automated tests. And again - web platform, so browser macros is an option too.

Ink has… nothing yet. Probably you’re supposed to make your own debugger.

Other popular “noob”-accessible engines I’ve seen are worse in this regard, with only a dev in-game console or eval() console. There’s a good rule of thumb here: you can do a RPG game in some engine if you see many other RPG games in it.

I will throw in in AXMA Story Maker as I seem to be its sole champion. It’s as easy to use as Twine without some of the fiddlier code, and it does some stuff out of the box that can be a little obscure in Twine. It has easy sound and music support, supports inline graphics as well as a permanent graphical window if you want it, side menu code built in, sprites (which I assume would let you move a map marker around a larger map?) and has a default save system, text adjustment system, and audio on/off built in. It looks beautiful on a monitor or a mobile device without you having to bother with it, and contains automatic setup templates that include “Classic RPG” which prioritizes the graphic window with a smaller text window and an extensive menu bar for your stats.


There is an online editor if you’d rather not download it, or want to play with it before you do so:


It is made by a Russian developer, but they’ve been very responsive in the RU intfiction forums to my mangled Google Translate questions. I have also paid (about $21 US) for a “Pro” account which removes the “Made with AXMA Storymaker” on the title page and allows you to directly export an HTML version of your game you can host online or zip up to distribute and play in any modern browser. If you use the free version, you have to distribute your game (privately if you wish) into their library, from where you can download the same resulting HTML and couple it with your own copy of the media files folder to distribute further.

Here’s my blog review of a previous version; they’ve updated a couple times since this, and now you can adjust text effects like zoom, flip, up, down, etc. [breathless clapping]

pyramidifblog.blogspot.com/2017/ … ker-5.html

Ordinarily I wouldn’t recommend ChoiceScript for such an ambitious first project, or at least not to a total newcomer, but with the impending public launch of the community-driven CSIDE (ChoiceScript Integrated Development Environment) announced for June 15—less than 48 hours away at the time of writing—it may now be worth a shot if you’re willing to put the effort in.

I’ve been a beta tester since the very beginning (over three years now!) and it has a host of features and functions designed to take the chore out of CS coding. It also comes with a detailed, step-by-step Interactive Tutorial—“Learning Basic ChoiceScript”—aimed at complete newcomers & non-programmers.

CSIDE Website: choicescriptide.github.io/

All that said, you do have quite an ambitious project planned there so my main advice would be, whatever system you finally settle on, it may be well worth considering lowering your sights initially and aim for something a little easier as a first project, at least until you get the hang of things. That would make it much easier to design your ambitious project properly from the outset, making development far more efficient and much less of an exercise in frustration!

I can confirm CSIDE for ChoiceScript is awesome, whether making an RPG or not. I’ve tested it on and off during its development, and I would never have been able to produce a playable CS game due to the fiddly manual setup without it!

It actually makes CS authoring very similar to Inform 7 with instant-compile playtesting, automating the test routines, pointing out errors, debugging, and includes very useful highlighting the script by color.