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Writing for Video Games resources

General Resources

Emily Short’s Interactive Storytelling: Essays and reviews on narrative in games and new media.

Interactive Fiction Technology Foundation. – The foundation that now maintains the IF Archive.

Interactive Fiction Archive. – An archive of playable games for various IF platforms.

Possibility and Play: Morgan Read-Davidson’s website presentation.

Authoring Tools

Note: As of April 2018, articy:draft, ChoiceScript, Ink, Ren’Py, Storyspace and Twine were the tools in active development with code updates within the last six months. Popular tools such as Inform and TADS have not been updated recently.

ADRIFT. – ADRIFT (Adventure Development & Runner – Interactive Fiction Toolkit) is a graphically-driven application, designed to be intuitive and easy to use for creating interactive fiction. Locations and scenes are diagrammed as a flowchart or mind map, similar to using Visio or OmniGraffle.  (Windows only for authoring, player is cross platform.) Last updated June 6, 2016.

“ADRIFT Developer is a Windows application that allows you to create complex interactive fiction games quickly and easily. It allows you to concentrate on the story by making everything else easy, such as having all options available in dropdown lists, rather than you having to spend a lot of time just trying to figure out how to code the game. Games in ADRIFT are created by adding locations, objects, characters and tasks. These can be organised into folders, allowing you to group things together in a logical manner.”

articy:draft. – articy:draft is a visual tool for modeling computer games. Possibly the most advanced authoring tool, articy:draft can import screenplays, create Unity templates, and much more. This is a professional tool for both text and action games. Commercial, Windows Only.

“The professional game design solution. articy:draft is a visual environment for the creation and organization of game content. It unites specialized editors for many areas of content design in one coherent tool. All content can be exported into various formats, including XML and Microsoft Office.

“Featuring a non-linear flowchart editor. Each node in your story flowchart can contain an inner flowchart. For example, you can start with a top-level chapter structure and break it down into quests and dialogue. This nested approach ensures clean flowcharts for each level.”

ChoiceScript. – ChoiceScript is a simple programming language for writing multiple-choice games. Browser-based, publishes to HTML. Choice of Games LLC developed ChoiceScript for their award-winning mobile games. Currently maintained.

“ChoiceScript is a simple programming language for writing multiple-choice games (MCGs) like Choice of the Dragon. Writing games with ChoiceScript is easy and fun, even for authors with no programming experience.

“We believe that text-based games are an underutilized format within modern computer games. Just as motion pictures, radio dramas, and television supplement books without rendering them obsolete, similarly modern graphic-based games cover only part of the computer gaming landscape. By using text, we can interact with the imagination in different ways from a graphics-based game. We can also allow game designers to quickly and inexpensively produce games in comparison with graphics-based games.”

Inform. – Inform is a design system for interactive fiction based on natural language. It is a radical reinvention of the way interactive fiction is designed, guided by contemporary work in semantics. Last updated December 24, 2105.

Ink. – Ink was conceived as a tool that complements other game engines, such as Unity. However, you can create text-based IF with Ink and test them within the Inky editor. Inkle Ltd. publishes award-winning games and used Ink internally as a development framework. Currently maintained.

Inklewriter. – Inklewriter is a free tool designed to allow anyone to write and publish interactive stories. Hosted online, with development now limited. Inkle had intended Inklewriter as an IF-specific tool. (Discontinued Summer 2018 – site going offline!)

Quest. – Quest, from the team behind Squiffy, offers more complex IF tools than the gamebooks of Twine and Squiffy. Actively maintained, with monthly patches and improvements.

“Quest lets you make interactive story games. Text adventure games like Zork and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Gamebooks like the Choose Your Own Adventure and Fighting Fantasy books. You don’t need to know how to program. All you need is a story to tell. Your game can be played anywhere. In a web browser, downloaded to a PC, or turned into an app.”

Ren’Py: – Ren’py is a tool for interactive graphic novels, occupying a space between text adventures and visual stories like Myst. Actively maintained.

Sigil. – Sigil ePub3 authoring tool, used to create hypertext books for e-readers. Ideal for interactive textbooks. Actively maintained.

Squiffy. – Squiffy is free and open source. It creates HTML and JavaScript. You can convert games into apps using PhoneGap. Last updated December 23, 2016.

StoryNexus. – StoryNexus is a web-based gamebook creation tool. Sadly, this promising tool seems to be dormant, like many others.

Storyspace. – Storyspace is a tool for complex, interlinked narrative, both fiction and nonfiction. Incredibly powerful, but pricey and only for MacOS. Notable because designers include Michael Joyce, Jay David Bolter, John B. Smith, and Mark Bernstein. Commercial. Mac only.

TADS. – TADS (Text Adventure Development System)  is a free authoring system for writing your own Interactive Fiction. It offers a complete set of programming tools for creating high-quality IF. (Windows only for authoring; command-line tools for Linux and MacOS.) Last updated March 7, 2016.

Texture. – Texture creates gamebooks and hypertexts within a browser. Games are played online. Last updated May 5, 2017, but appears to be actively maintained.

Twine. – Twine is an open-source tool for telling interactive, nonlinear stories. Twine publishes directly to HTML. Twine 1.x is not longer developed (since 2015. Twine 2 is located at on GitHub and is actively maintained.

Players / Readers

Many of the new IF tools include a player mode or use web technologies to run in most modern browsers.

Frotz. – Frotz plays most z-machine (Infocom) games and is available for iOS devices.

Gargoyle. – Gargoyle is an IF player that supports all the major interactive fiction formats.

Parchment. – Parchment is the z-machine player included with Inform 7 for browser-based play. Last updated June 2016.

Spatterlight. – Spatterlight is a MacOS IF player, superceeded by Gargoyle.

Zoom. – Zoom is a Mac-only player for most z-machine games, along with TADS support.


2D Game Engines

I’ve tried to collect affordable 2D game engines accessible to game developers new to coding and design.

GameMaker Studio 2. Free trial, $100 for permanent desktop license. The platform allows creators to use the tool’s easy-to-learn drag-and-drop interface, or work hands-on with the engine’s own scripting language, GML.

RPGMaker MV. $79.99. Free trial. RPGMAKER was born to fulfill the desire of creating an original RPG without programming knowledge. Sprite assets are additional costs.

Defold. Free. A 2D game engine that uses Lua, which is regarded as an easy to learn language by most.

GameSalad. Monthly subscription, but discounted for students. Feature-limited, but easy to use drag and drop program that comes with its own physic and simple rules you apply to objects. Marketed as a platform for educators.

Construct 2. Free trial, starting cost $80. A very intuitive drag and drop for creating 2D games. The learning curve is super fast, and the interface looks a lot like Microsoft products, so it makes it an ideal tool for PC users who have never looked at a game engine before. There is no Mac OS version, and games can only be exported as HTML5.

Clickteam Fusion. Free trial, $75 license. Uses a drag and drop visual editor, so you won’t need to type in any code, but you will need to learn what each function is.

More extensive game engine list with reviews: