Which engine is best for my needs?

Hello everyone,

I’m plotting an IF game, making copious notes and keeping them all in Scrivener (what I use for the traditional novels I write). The recent post that talked about the strengths of each engine was very helpful, but even after reading it I was still left with an overwhelming abundance of options.

The gist of it is that the game has the player be presented with text that describes the scene and dialogue. Once in a while a choice comes up. The choice leads to (a) a different dialogue tree and (b) a change in variables, such as Courage or relationship to other characters.

One scene could split off into six different ones. These six then become three, which then go back to sharing the same scene afterwards.

What my game needs:

  • Persistent variable tracking
  • Easy way to update variables (like the Pythonic courage += 1)
  • Have a way for the player to save their state in the game and come back to it later.
  • Have a way to have players input their name at the beginning of the game “out of the box”

I am moderately familiar with Ren’Py and I know it has a way to do all of this. That said, I am not making a visual novel so I do not want to use Ren’Py.

I’m open to listening to suggestions!

I mention Python because it’s the only programming language I am familiar enough to use for a project (I use it daily for data science). I would be OK paying to host the game on my own website.

Thank you for your time

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Twine, Choicescript or Ink (by Inkle). There are many other choice based systems, but if you want to narrow it down I’d recommend those.

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I was going to suggest ChoiceScript which focuses on text with no images, but has lots of tools for stat and relationship tracking including a built-in statistic screen with progress bars.

There is also a community developed IDE which makes file management and testing really convenient: [CSIDE] The ChoiceScript IDE (v1.3.0 Now Available — 18/06/2019) - Game Development - Choice of Games Forum

Main info about ChoiceScript: Introduction to ChoiceScript - Choice of Games LLC

ChoiceScript is free to use if you don’t monetize your game. If you want to sell your game, you would contract with Choice of Games.

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I’m an advocate of Ink, it’s 100% free and very flexible, and in my opinion has the best, non-intrusive, syntax. But it offers only the bare bones of a story engine. You won’t get a text input field out of the box as you wish, since that’s considered part of the “front end”.

ChoiceScript seems to be very close to what you’re looking for. But it’s proprietary. You can use it for free if you do not monetize your game, and that includes ads displayed in the same page as the game. If you want to make it commercial, you’ll either have to buy a license or contract with Choice of Games, which may or may not be interesting to you. Also, it doesn’t have a save system either.

Twine is the best after Ink, in my opinion, and a good compromise between Ink and ChoiceScript. You get a lot out of the box, and since it’s 100% free and popular, there’s a lot of resources out there. Tutorials, assets, tooling, plugins, what have you… I personally don’t like the macro syntax, though.

There are many other tools, but the less popular the harder it is to find good community support.

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