Why Are There So Little Parser Games Now?

Nowadays, we see that most of the new game releases on IFDB are Twine or CYOA games. For the past few months, there are only 2 parser games released without the presence of a competition on IFDB, which are ‘The Ambassador’s Daughter’ and ‘Mansion Escape’, which are made with Inform and TADS respectively.

Honestly, what has happen to parser-based IF games now? Do we have to organize more ParserComps just to see games like this? The difficulty of programming using Inform or TADS can’t be blamed on, as Inform uses a natural language system that makes it very easy to write functional code with. I have never programmed anything in my life, but I managed to make a small game with Inform previously. For TADS, plenty of handbooks and guides are published by experienced writers, so anyone can create a decent game with that system too.

Oh course, we can’t decline the fact that is very easy to create games with Twine and Quest. Anyone with a great story in their head are able to create games with those systems. But what about the result? Is it going to function well? Are players able to efficiently interact with these stories? Note that most CYOA games are linear and straightforward, so there aren’t much choices for players to choose, making it more of a ‘CYOA Fiction Game’ rather than an ‘INTERACTive Fiction Game’.

With ease of creation too, we will have more games. Compare the amount of IF games released now compared to the time before Twine is out and we come to the conclusion that IF releases from 2007-Present is a lot more than it was before. But with quantity, do we get quality? We can’t deny that plenty of great games that are made on Twine were released in the past, like ‘With Those We Love Alive’ by Porpentine and ‘the uncle who works for nintendo’ by Michael Lutz.

Just like any other sort of game, we will get bad releases too. I’m not in the position to name any, but I can assure you that in the past one month, we have a share of poorly created and implemented Twine games in IFDB. (Hint: It’s an AltGame which had absolutely no story or interactivity in it) What I’m trying to say is that we will also have bad authors using a simple tool to create bad games. If a more complex system is used, no doubt we will get less games, but we will be reassured that the quality of the games won’t be as poor as the ones made on simpler systems.

I hope that I’ve stated enough points to prove my premise. Tell me your opinions about the topic in the comments below.

This topic has a way of coming up. :slight_smile: A lot has been said, and no doubt a lot will be said by better people than myself, but my personal stance is as follows:

I think that for a number of years people have been writing parser games when what they really wanted, and didn’t know it, was to write CYOAs. The result was a number of games that were, shall we say, less good, and trying too hard to go in one direction, and where the authors didn’t care about the implementation at all. Now these people are making, or have the chance to make, good CYOA games, as opposed to mediocre parser games.

Also, the bar for parser games is pretty damn high nowadays. It takes real time and effort to make something that your players will agree to being playable, much less enjoyable.

I prefer to have less parser games if that means that the people doing them are the people that really want to do parser games.

Disclaimer: I love the parser and think it’s the best interface ever. Personal opinion.

PS: Some games are CYOA and some games are parser. It’s a matter of design, rather than interface. Again, personal opinion - I found Coloratura (twine) a pale and shallow imitation of the brilliant Coloratura (parser); and, unlike most people, I think Enigma was right in being a parser game, instead of a mess of hyperlinks. A CYOA game moves differently - taking Ingold as an example, you couldn’t really make Mulldoon into a CYOA any more than you could make Sorcery into a parser game.

I mean, I guess you could try to make Sorcery into a parser game, but to make it right - to make it a true parser game, instead of a CYOA in parser form - it would most likely bloat beyond the tight pacing it’s achieved. It’s meant for quick, meaningful choices (and, in Sorcery 2 and 3, a fair bit of wandering as well, which may be the best of both worlds).

Agreed! :slight_smile: The perks of the parser is that you can actually interact with the game without the choices being laid out in front of you, so it requires some thinking of what to do next.

And it has the charm of old-skool too. :wink:

The bar is high, but so is the bar for Twine games. Most people just bash up those poorly made games, therefore people will have to adapt. That’s why you rarely see games made in plain Sugarcane anymore (Most of them, to be exact).

You are probably right about people wanting to write CYOA’s instead. But is it true for the majority of IF authors? I mean, of course there will be people who only want to make parser games only! Where have all of them gone? I can imagine 70% of people who would want Twine. So where did the other 30% go? Only Infocom knows…

Not sure where you’ve taken that number, but there are records for 33 Inform games and 6 TADS games in IFDB for this year, and a couple in other languages. The number has fluctuated between about 30 and 80 in the past 10 years so we’re on the lower end of the scale but currently there are no real signs of parser games being in decline.

Sorry, I meant the ones that are released not in competitions, but on their own in the ‘New on IFDB’ area and made in English. Edited the post to fit the conditions in the past few months.

It’s certainly not in decline, but parser games are not made as much as Twine games are.

That is nothing new. Most parser games have always been released as a part of a competition.

It seems that your assumption is that there’s suddenly a lot more people making IF games and most of them have chosen Twine as their tool, and if Twine didn’t exist all those people would now be making parser games instead. The cause-and-effect is the wrong way around: without Twine those people wouldn’t be making games at all.

To me, it seems that maybe 1 out of 10 Twine games are actually games/stories that a person can actually enjoy. The rest are either trollish jokes or amateur shit.

Or they would try to make a few false starts of a couple of parser games (I mean, if there’s nothing else, why not?), get some encouragement but mostly the realisation that it just isn’t the sort of game they really wanted to make, and give up.

Sure, it’s all conjecture, so apply pinches of salt as required.

Although you are entirely correct in providing a significant number of parser games, I sort of see where mattgoh is coming from. The parser games come in bunches and usually within a comp (which, as you rightly say, is not abnormal); so it feels as though there aren’t many of them. Of course, the realisation that there are is just as important, so thank you for that.

That’s quite normal, though, because it’s so easy and immediate to make a game in Twine. It takes more effort to do a parser-based game than to do a Twine game, and I’m not belittling Twine - CYOA just doesn’t have to handle the amount of input a parser has to take in its stride.

Because Twine allows anyone to do anything really quickly, and there are very very easy ways to host and distribute a Twine game, that’ll happen, yes. But hey, take my word for it, because I’ve downloaded them all and am slowly making my way through them - parser games are not all that different.

In fact, I have to say that over the past couple of years the overall quality of parser games has improved, and I am steadfast in my belief that that’s partly because people who never wanted to make a parser game in the first place have discovered Twine and are making good Twine games instead. Surely that’s a net gain.

It seems that your assumption is that there’s suddenly a lot more people making IF games and most of them have chosen Twine as their tool, and if Twine didn’t exist all those people would now be making parser games instead. The cause-and-effect is the wrong way around: without Twine those people wouldn’t be making games at all.
The number of IF authors have been around the same from the past till now (more or less), therefore if Twine haven’t existed, there wouldn’t have been an easier way for authors to create IF games.

They have two choices: a) continue making parser games - b) stop making IF games and play modern games instead

If they continue to create new parser games, it will be just like the past, but releases will definitely slow down when competitions are not held. If they decide to stop creating games, the void will be filled up by newcomers to IF who decide to create new stuff, whether they are those from the 80’s or the ones from the modern generation (those who were born with HD games).

The way you mentioned that Twine is currently the backbone of IF makes me think that if the system never existed at all, IF will just crumble down and become like a floppy disk. Obsolete, and overshadowed by the 4K graphics of today. But of course, it isn’t like that! We still have people who are loyal to retro games! :smiley:

No-one has said that.

I wouldn’t mistake “parser” with “retro”. :wink:

BTW - we must not overlook Quest and ADRIFT as very, very easy IF authoring tools (although ADRIFT was commercial for quite a while, and Quest gets quite harder as you want to do more complex stuff, encouraging tons to keep it simple). People wanting to make games which might not necessarily be best served with a parser, who found I6 or TADS prohibitively difficult, probably migrated towards these two.

Probably. I have no facts to back these up, and if anyone cares to correct me I’d be more than welcome.

Yes, this so much. In the past someone who wanted to whip something together quickly and decided to do it in Inform would be really likely to wind up with a parser game where the interaction was pretty much broken–players would want to examine things that weren’t implemented, there would be unguessable actions, etc. Now if you want to write a game where the player has only a couple options you can write a multiple-choice game where the player only has a couple of options, so we don’t get nearly as many broken parser games.

Not that that’s the only or the main thing you can do with Twine–it’s the kind of Twine game I’ve made, but of course there are tons of other things you can do with Twine. What I’m saying is that a lot of the parser games we used to get should’ve been multiple-choice games.

(I also suspect that some of the Twine games that people are describing as trollish or amateur or whatever are actually games that some people have enjoyed–de gustibus and all that. At least these games by and large don’t have broken interaction.)

Absolutely. Because Twine is easy to approach, it doesn’t take as long for people to go, “Hmmm. Wonder what ELSE I can do with this”. Whereas mastering I6 was in itself a feat. Well, less so for some people, but I think we’re agreed in that the people who are more comfortable with Twine are people who are less comfortable with I6. :wink:

Hmm… Perhaps now we need more authoring systems like ADRIFT or Quest, but are more capable of creating better and deeper implemented games, with simplicity and ease of creation kept in. With the option of easily creating choice based games too. Together with a great interface. That will be the ultimate IF creation system.

Well, we DO have I7, which hasn’t come up in this discussion before because we’ve been sticking to the past. Granted, the natural language of I7 can be deceptive, but it’s heaps more friendly than I6, and is a definite step forward. ADRIFT is now free and still getting updated, so it’s a viable alternative for those interested, and it can be played online for those who care.

There are extensions for creating CYOA games in I7, it’s pretty easy, and gives you a lot of flexibility if you want to. It’s just that generally people use the screwdriver for the screws and the hammer for the nails; you can hammer a nail with a screwdriver, sure, or even hammer a screw in, but isn’t it easier just to use the tools designed for what you want?

As to the “great interface” you mean, I suspect you want a graphical interface. :slight_smile: You can take a look at SUDS, but IMHO it went to buggery after Andy Elliott left it. It used not to allow parser input at all, but I was fine with that. Now it isn’t very good (last time I checked, any item you added to a room automatically generated a “You can also see” listing… whether you wanted to or not. Eugh), but the programming side seems like the sort of thing you’d want to see. It helped, of course, that with no parser there was a definite limit and method to user interaction - that makes programming much easier!

Also, I rather doubt that the sort of person who shies away from a language as accessible as I7 and wants something even easier - ever easier, ever easier - is the sort of person to undertake a parser WIP. :wink: There may be some contention here, of course, but I am rather skeptical. Usually someone who wants the easiest of all systems is unwilling to delve deep into the cogs of the machinery, and delving deep is pretty much what a good parser game is all about. They’ll probably make a parser game that may be brilliant if played with a walkthrough, but mostly broken otherwise. Which means that person probably actually wanted to make a CYOA in the first place, freeing them from the harsh necessities of the world model and allowing them to focus on the story they want to tell.

Speaking of SUDS - and I think this merits a double-post rather than an easily overlooked EDIT - I remember its tutorial game, Cave Adventure, as being a great example on how to design a game, starting small. It walked you through the reasoning behind the puzzles. It started with a premise or two, then expanded on them. It wasn’t just a tutorial for using SUDS; it really was a tutorial on making your own game.

A shame it never really took off. I suppose it was a weird niche it occupied - text-based point-and-click. Not a very happy marriage. But I really think the documentation - the one Andy Elliott wrote - is worth salvaging.

I think as a general rule, people will always use the easiest software they can find. Hence the popularity of systems like Twine. Why go to the hassle of learning a programming language like TADS – certainly not an easy feat for a non-programmer – if you can do whatever you want in a system which doesn’t require any learning? ADRIFT 4 was immensely popular for years because it allowed people with no programming experience to write games; ADRIFT 5 added a lot of complexity and as a result lost popularity.

Why were there so few parser games in 2005? Why were there so few parser games in 2010? Why will there be so few parser games in 2020?

It’s a legit concern. Some IFers are tired of seeing the craft of IF be reduced to Twine offerings that waste time and have nothing whatsoever to offer.

We’re sorry to the OLD IFers who are tired of this topic coming up. But (spoiler alert) crops of newbie IFers come along all the time and they wish to discuss the same things you’ve already discussed.

If you’re tired of discussing it. Stay out. :sunglasses:

Also- the more I think about it. The more I realize it’s comments like one the by zarf above and the tweet by Juhana re: this thread that make many newcomers to the IF community perceive the community as elitist.