These days, the push for the cutting edge in video games is all about graphics, artificial intelligence, and physics. You’ve got beautiful 3D games that have the potential to look like real-life photography (I’m looking at you, Crysis). But what about games before the graphical revolution? Does anyone remember text-based games?
Indeed, long ago games used to be all text and imagination. You may know them as interactive fiction. When interactive fiction moved to the Internet and allowed multiple players to play in the same text world, they were called MUDs (multi-user dungeons). Sadly, text-based games are a niche today.
If you’re still interested in the text adventure genre, though, there are a handful of resources out there that will help you get your fix of verbose quests. Want to create your own text adventure game? You’re in luck because there are some great programs out there for you.
My first taste of interactive fiction was a game called Legends of Terris and it was hosted in the UK. I don’t know what it is about that area of the world, but they’re fantastic when it comes to text adventure. There is a UK-based text adventure community (open to all people, though, not just UK players) where you can create, share, and play through these word-based quests.
This community provides a program called Quest that you can use to create these games. It only runs on Windows, which is a bummer for those of you who have moved on to other operating systems, but it’s entirely free and pretty robust. It comes with a full tutorial to help you get started so you can download the program and be devising your first text quest right away.
Once you’re done, you can upload it to the website and other people can play it. There are over a dozen categories for these adventures (Comedy, Educational, Fantasy, Horror, Romance, etc) and the community is still alive. Give it a shot!
TADS is a more serious creator for interactive fiction. It has a much steeper learning curve than other “point-and-click” editors because it’s built with its own scripting language that resembles the C family of programming languages. But because of this added level of complexity, text adventures created with TADS can have sounds, graphics, and other advanced features.
The TADS community is alive and kicking with community news updates on a regular (almost daily) basis. There’s an annual interactive fiction competition using TADS as their engine of choice. Additionally, people can submit their TADS-created adventures to the Interactive Fiction Database, which is the central repository for the community.
TADS comes with all the tools you’ll need to script your text adventures from start to finish. It even has a full-featured development environment. Best of all, it’s free and available on Windows, Mac, and various distributions of Linux.
ADRIFT is a self-dubbed interactive fiction toolkit. Out of all the text adventure systems out there, ADRIFT may actually be the easiest to learn and use. It has a graphical interface that lets you point-and-click your way to the completion of your text adventures. The best part is that if you’re not a developer and you only want to play text adventures, you can do that, too.
ADRIFT is divided into two programs: Developer (for creation) and Runner (for playing). Developer is only available on Windows, but Runner can play these text adventure games on both Windows and Linux. Both Developer and Runner are completely free. Want to see how easy it is to use this program? Check out the video above.
The ADRIFT community is not very big nor is it very lively, but it’s not dead, either. There are forum discussions going on and people still upload their games to the games database.
You would think that creating a text adventure game is easy, right? After all, it’s just a bunch of… text. But getting all of the logic and connections set up can be hard work, especially if you don’t have a background in programming. If that’s the case, Quest and ADRIFT will get you started without too much of a hitch. On the other hand, if you’re experienced with coding, you may want to dive right into TADS’s powerful engine.