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Anyone make text-based games, or try to?

Discussion in 'Game Design' started by AdventureCow, Nov 24, 2015.

  1. AdventureCow

    AdventureCow

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    I've been thinking a lot about text-based games and how to write them. (By text-based I mean games where the primary medium is text and not visuals - things like 80 Days, Sorcery, the Gamebook Adventures series, Choice of Games's games, Fallen London, etc.) Twine is a pretty popular tool in the indie scene, as well as things like Undum, Ren'py (text...ish), and ChoiceScript.

    I've been searching through the Unity forums and found a couple of mentions of more sophisticated software that are typically used for non-text-based games, like articy:draft and ChatMapper as well.

    Have any of you made, or tried to make games that are primarily text-based?
    What tools did you use? How did it turn out?
    Are there good tools to make this sort of game that are accessible to total beginners? If not, what do you think is missing?
     
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  2. Bridin

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  3. SteveJ

    SteveJ

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    Joshua McGrath made a pretty cool little asset for building text adventure games in Unity. Might interest you.

    https://www.assetstore.unity3d.com/en/#!/content/5981

    In general though, yeah text adventures are awesome, but not something that you would build in Unity if you were really taking it seriously. You're just adding a whole lot of overhead that you don't need.
     
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  4. Teila

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    That is really cool! I wish I had the time to make a text game! That tool looks saw awesome. Thanks!
     
  5. JoeStrout

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    Yes, I made a good start on recreating a text adventure I wrote as a kid on the Apple II, but in Unity.

    I didn't use any special tools; just a Canvas, some code to manage text input/output, and a more or less direct translation of the data structures I was using in the 80s.

    But that Tidy Text Adventures asset looks pretty awesome — you should definitely try that!
     
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  6. Gigiwoo

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    Heard of Twine? You can use it to prototype a text-based game in minutes. It's a 'thing'.

    Gigi
     
  7. Teila

    Teila

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    I used to make text games, long time ago. :) Loved it and loved playing them but now embroiled in making terrains and models and all that stuff. Makes me nostalgic for the simpler days...sighs. I sound old. lol
     
  8. Martin_H

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    The two most helpful things I can recommend are:
    a) Buy and read the book "Story" by Robert McKee.
    b) Watch the "ego review" playlist of yahtzee on youtube:
    https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLkkiai4nXBVL8CqfMQk4KMtKibKJUfBwZ
    Together with a friend he plays through all the games he ever made and comments on some interesting aspects. I listened to almost all the videos on his channel because I found them entertaining, but I can see them to be educational as well if you are interested in more story focused games.
     
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  9. TonyLi

    TonyLi

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    Twine, which you and others mentioned, is very accessible, free, and has an active community. @daterre maintains an open-source Unity plugin called UnityTwine. One nice thing about using Unity is that it's easy to deploy to different platforms.

    Twine, like articy:draft and Chat Mapper (which are both paid products if you want to be able to export), use branching trees where the player chooses options from a response menu. I think I prefer this point-and-click interaction to freeform parsers. As a relative old-timer, I played a ton of Infocom and Synapse text games. Fighting with the interface to learn that the game expected "get lamp" instead of "take lamp" was always frustrating. Even so, I used to prototype a lot of AI in text game frameworks such as TADS so I could get straight to the meat without worrying about graphics and menus.

    It's interesting that Shroud of the Avatar is using freeform text input to some degree. From what I've seen, reaction has been mixed.

    Another gripe I have with those old text games is their love of obscure puzzles. There are a lot of great AI plugins nowadays such as Extreme AI (and also a couple of my own) that could replace those puzzles with more narratively-meaningful interactions.

    If you happen to have the Dialogue System for Unity, the free Choose Your Own Adventure framework on the Dialogue System Extras page is fairly popular. People are mostly using it to create CYOAs for mobile devices.

    BTW, if you're looking for inspiration, GET LAMP is posting legendary text game designer Steve Meretzky's entire archive of Infocom design materials here: http://ascii.textfiles.com/archives/4834
     
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  10. Master-Frog

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  11. AdventureCow

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    Quite interesting. Does that mean no one here's actually made a text game recently?

    I suppose that's what happens if you ask on a forum for a popular graphical game engine. :p

    I enjoy the simplicity of developing a text-based game; we actually made one recently. I'm trying to find other people who've made them and learn more about the tools people are using these days.
     
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  12. Ryiah

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    Or worrying about the limitations of a real mode programming language. Writing my own parsers in QuickBASIC was fun but getting an actual game made was a constant struggle against memory constraints.

    If we're going to bring TADS into this discussion though we should also bring Inform into it. Specifically Inform 7 with it's natural language approach to game development. Being very domain specific allows it to work very well.

    Very nice. Though the document covering ZIL doesn't seem to be quite the same as the one I have. Mine is much bigger.

    http://www.mediafire.com/view/zn3c3ngdcn2/Learning_ZIL.pdf
     
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  13. Master-Frog

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    Would anyone here play one? I wouldn't make something I wouldn't play, myself.
     
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  14. Ryiah

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    Interactive fiction has a fairly active community.
     
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  15. Teila

    Teila

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    That is sad. Text games and interactive fiction can be a lot of fun. I have never found a graphical game that can match my imagination. :) A good text description can bring vivid images, much more so than the limits in a graphical game.
     
  16. Master-Frog

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    "A great game that blows all other games out of the water."

    Imagine that and pay me $11.99 for it.
     
  17. Teila

    Teila

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    I don't think anyone said that. But then, it is you and I expect nothing less. ;)
     
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  18. Ryiah

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  19. AdventureCow

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    "A million, billion dollars."

    That was amazing. I have therefore most generously overpaid thee.
     
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  20. Master-Frog

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    Of course. And it is in space AND medieval. Plus it has any character from your imagination. Did I mention that playing it gives you a sensation of pure ecstasy? And it improves your luck with the opposite sex (or same sex, whatever you want).

    You can play it anywhere, even while at work. In fact, it replaces your entire life and fills it with endless happiness.

    $11.99
     
  21. Master-Frog

    Master-Frog

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    Well, I have refunded you infinite money. Sorry for the inconvenience.
     
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  22. AdventureCow

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    If I had known you were going to release a better version 49 minutes later, I would've waited! Thanks for the refund.
     
  23. Master-Frog

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    We have just played a text based game.
     
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  24. Ryiah

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    Assuming you're actually playing the higher quality ones. These days it isn't anywhere near as bad as when I first got into computers. Many games back then were limited to two words. Occasionally you would need something more complex and it took two inputs. One to specify the action you wanted and the second to specify the object.

    If it weren't for Infocom I doubt I would have given interactive fiction a worthwhile chance.
     
  25. Teila

    Teila

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    I played Muds, Mushes, and Moos. Most were pretty good. :)
     
  26. Martin_H

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    Your comment got me thinking about why I wouldn't want to play a text based game. I think it might have to do with the fundamental differences in setting, narrative, decision making and controls that the text based games that I know have, compared to what I play usually. I dislike when games don't manage to hide that nothing that I do really matters and I only can follow 1 of X predetermined paths. When I played the Walking Dead telltale game it felt a bit like I'm filling out an Excel spreadsheet. "Do you want charactar A or character B to like you?". Just feels contrived to me and breaks my immersion at every corner. On the other hand I constantly feel like I'm missing out on content in these "free choice" (or rather "multiple choice") games. I'd often rather have a completely linear experience instead of an awkward A/B choice experience that does not feel well executed. And in case of text based things, that would leave me with a book.
    If there was a text based game that does not feel like multiple choice, is set in setting that I'm comfortable with, has a good immersive flow to it and an intuitive way to control (couldn't even imagine what would work best for that), then I could see myself enjoying a text based game. Until then... I still haven't finished Fallout 4.

    Neo Scavenger isn't text based but imho it might almost as well be text only:
    http://store.steampowered.com/app/248860/?snr=1_7_15__13
    I only played the free demo and then didn't feel like I need more of that. But it had some interesting solutions to text/decision based combat that I think have potential. Combat is a big part of most of the games that I play and it does not translate easily into text only game mechanics.
    This game might be worth a look for people interested in text based or text focused games that don't consist 100% of predetermined story paths.
     
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  27. Teila

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    Like I said..I play games with other people so not sure they compare.
     
  28. Ryiah

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    If the learning curve and controls weren't so rough I would almost recommend Dwarf Fortress. It's very much an open world game but with text-based graphics because the developer wanted to focus solely on the gameplay. It lacks a story but most people simply pick their own goal and consider themselves a winner if they don't die a horrible death.

    Interactive fiction though is a completely different beast from any other text-based game. Best way to describe it might be as a Choose Your Own Adventure game on steroids. Commands given to the game are frequently complete sentences and modern games have very extensive vocabularies.
     
  29. Master-Frog

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    Also, books. Books are pretty good.
     
  30. Martin_H

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    Dwarf Fortress is a really interesting concept, but the learning curve is too steep for me, I tried it. A friend of mine played it for way over 100 hours and told me some interesting stories. It seems this game does pretty well in not feeling pre-determined.
     
  31. Ryiah

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    Yes, it took a considerable amount of time following various different tutorials before I finally grasped it. It's adventure mode is actually very similar to the more complex roguelikes. If I had actually started there rather than fortress mode I would have picked it up much sooner.

    Speaking of which have you tried any roguelikes? ADOM and Brogue are both very popular with the latter being quite a bit easier to pick up than the former. ADOM even has a graphical release now if you decide you want something more modern.
     
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  32. Martin_H

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    I never played one of the real oldschool roguelikes, but I've downloaded Brogue and will give that a try. Thanks a lot for the suggestion.
     
  33. TonyLi

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    Not entirely related to the OP, but this thread got me reminiscing about text games. A quick google later, I found an online copy of Mindwheel, written by future U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky, which you can play online here: Mindwheel.

    The Infocom games were always fun, but Synapse hit a pinnacle with Mindwheel that in some ways hasn't been surpassed narratively to this day, even in games with full, modern graphics. It uses the same BTZ engine as Synapse's other average-to-good text games, which should be encouraging to would-be text-game authors. The engine doesn't matter; what matters is your creativity and writing! :)
     
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  34. RockoDyne

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    Brogue is a good first timers roguelike. It's pretty straightforward about what you have to do compared to something like Nethack, which has a ton of cryptic oddities.

    If you're ever up for something a little off the beaten path (not that there hasn't been some beating on that path if you know what I mean), you might want to look up corruption of champions. For a game that is all text, it actually manages to have a world that's pretty dynamic (probably more than most of the games you've played).
     
  35. Martin_H

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    "Killed by a pink jelly in depth 4 with 405 gold"

    I have to say I liked it more than I anticipated. I never managed to get into Dungeons of Dredmor for example. Brogue felt less random and weird to me and the simplicity is a big plus for me in this case. Makes it easier to play a game in a genre that I'm unfamiliar with.
     
  36. RockoDyne

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    Pink jellies are good about forcing the player to start thinking about tactics and positioning. That is also about the point you start running into packs of jackals and goblin rooms. A couple more floors down, you start running into ogres and vampire bats that force you into knowing what it is you're carrying around and figuring out how to use all your crap. It starts to feel a little more random at that point, as you get to be a little more beholden to what you're holding.
     
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  37. GarBenjamin

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    I play some here occasionally: http://textadventures.co.uk/

    You can build your own text adventures online there and share with the community. You can play many games made by the community.

    Text adventures have been around a long time. There have always been people who like them and will always be.

    And it is 2015. More people are into computers than ever before. So there are some pretty nice communities (as in multiple) for nearly anything you can think of.

    TADS is quite popular too or at least was. They held competitions at one point. I've not messed with it or been in that community in a long time.

    Anyway, check out http://textadventures.co.uk/ to see how good and bad a text adventure can be. Or try your hand at making one. Maybe someone will knock out a Thanksgiving text adventure. :)
     
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  38. Tomnnn

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    Text based games are great ways to pick up new languages. Try giving google GO a shot. I'm going to make text based + a little more to try out java 8 and javafx.
     
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  39. JoeStrout

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    @TonyLi touched on something that was always a gripe of mine with Infocom adventures: that "interactive fiction" was always a misnomer, and "series of frustrating puzzles" would be much more accurate.

    However, IF (interactive fiction, aka text adventures) doesn't have to be that way. That's just how Infocom designed their games, probably to cram more play hours onto a disk, and because of their success, many who came after them followed the same formula.

    My own text adventures had puzzles too, but relied a lot more on combat and character building in a much more nonlinear, open-world sort of way. Take that a bit further, and throw in MMO, and you have yourself the classic mud/mush/moo that @Teila was talking about. There is a lot of fun to be had in those, for sure.
     
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  40. Master-Frog

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    Sounds like a great indie game in the making.
     
  41. Ryiah

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    When did the term actually arise? I never referred to them as "interactive fiction" until after I had moved on.
     
  42. JoeStrout

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    Infocom used (and perhaps coined?) the term in their marketing materials, or so I recall.
     
  43. TonyLi

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    This blog post discusses the origin of "interactive fiction" in more detail than you'll probably ever care about. Short answer: Robert Lafore in 1979.

    I always just called 'em text games, like everyone else did before their renaissance.

    I wrote half a post about MUDs yesterday and deleted it. The gist was that Zork has more in common with Skyrim (both PvE) than with MUDs and WoW (collaborative/PvP). The former requires a sophisticated automated system to run a non-linear sandbox. The latter can get by with a weak parser and virtually no automated systems because humans provide the interaction. I think single-player and multi-player text games are completely different things. The UI is similar, but the gameplay is very different.
     
  44. Martin_H

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    If we ever have the level of sophisticated voice recognition that you proposed in your other thread and we get a bit further with speech synthesis and AI, then I could see very interesting open world rpgs come from it, that are a lot closer to the classic pen and paper RPGs with a dedicated dungeon master / story teller. Add some music, close your eyes, and I could see this becoming quite the immersive experience, given that the AI does not glitch out.
     
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  45. Tomnnn

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    What if the visuals were Tom goes to the mayor style? I'd love a game like that haha
     
  46. AdventureCow

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    Wow, no idea future poet laureates were writing games in text. That took me down a rabbit hole where I discovered that apparently famous authors (Arthur C. Clarke, Michael Crichton) were also collaborating on text-based games in the 80s. I had no idea. It'd be fascinating to see that kind of thing again.
     
  47. TonyLi

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    I think the timing was right back then. Players were more willing to accept linear games, and it was harder to write non-linear games with the technology available at the time. Later games written by traditional media authors, such as Orson Scott Card's Advent Rising, didn't fare as well. This was before the industry generally realized that writing interactive fiction is a different skill set from writing static fiction. As more people grow up living with games as well as static fiction, I think we're starting to see a new generation of writers who are able to switch between both mindsets.
     
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  48. Dunkelheit

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    I would like to do a "forum text based game" using some tools like PhantomJS or something like that. I've done some codes that worked nicely, however PhantomJS is not aimed for NodeJS (it's uses another JS engine), so I've skipped this task away. Maybe someday another tool I can accomplish that.
     
  49. mStep

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    Absolutely love text games, the Infcom file dump is a goldmine for anyone who played or enjoyed any of the Infcom stuff.

    @TonyLi totally agree with what you said about the old games being too obscure for their own good. I assume it started as a limitation of the technology, but sort of morphed into a weird design trope where those sort of bizarrely specific puzzles were indecipherable to anyone who wasn't already well-accustomed to the genre. I've thought a lot about trying to write a freeform parser with a much higher degree of freedom in command usage, but things get real messy real fast.
     
  50. muzboz

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