How to Make Your Own Text Adventure Games: 7 Tools
Modern AAA video games are feats of engineering. They utilize physics engines, artificial intelligence, realistic graphics, and even virtual reality. However, other types of games exist. Including text adventure games.
Text-based games (also known as interactive fiction) are growing in popularity alongside retro games in general. They’re perfect for anyone who prefers to imagine a game’s events rather than seeing the action play out on screen.
Text-based games are comparatively simple to make, and don’t require hours creating graphics and sound. Interested? Then try these tools to start creating your own text adventure games…
You don’t need any coding experience for simple, basic stories, which is where Twine comes in. Giving you the tools you need to start creating your interactive fiction, Twine runs on desktop and in your browser.
Simply use the app to create your interactive stories and export them as web pages. When your story is finished, upload the HTML files to a web server and share them with the world.
To help you learn Twine, check the official wiki, and view the screencasts. There is also an informative reference guide and community help in the Twine forums. Get active here and share works-in-progress and learn tips and tricks from your fellow users.
Download: Twine for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Web (Free)
While you don’t need programming experience to use these text adventure makers, it can help with Quest. It features a built-in scripting language for handling complex logic and supports the addition of sound, images, and video.
Available for Windows or in your browser, completed Quest games can be exported to the web and played online. Furthermore, there are no commercial restrictions, so you can even sell your Quest games if you want to.
Quest is open source (open source vs free software ) under the MIT License, which means you can download the source code and modify it. You probably won’t do this, but forking the project remains a possibility if you don’t like the direction Quest takes in the future.
This tool has one of the most active communities of all the text game engines currently available. Specifically, the official Quest forums have regular traffic and new posts on a daily basis. If you want to become part of a community, Quest might be the best choice for you.
Download: Quest for Windows and Web (Free)
ADRIFT is one of the oldest functioning options for creating your own text-based games. Its unique selling point is pretty clear: absolutely no programming experience needed, even if you want to create non-trivial narratives.
The beauty of ADRIFT is that everything is driven by the GUI. This means drag-and-drop selections, folder navigation, drop-down menus, etc. All characters, events, objects, variables, etc. are click-to-set-up, making ADRIFT one of the easiest systems to use.
The only downside is that ADRIFT games can only be played through the ADRIFT Runner application. The good news is that ADRIFT is cross-platform, so it’s not too much of an inconvenience.
ADRIFT hasn’t been updated since 2016 but don’t let this put you off as it remains in use.
Download: ADRIFT for Windows and Linux (Free)
A free app that uses a programming language based on English, Inform features two built-in books to help you learn. These are a tutorial, Writing With Inform, and The Inform Recipe Book. Using the tutorial, you can ease yourself into the software; the recipe books shows you how to control objects in your text adventures.
As well as being bundled into the game-making software, these books can be read on the website’s documentation page. Meanwhile, there is a community of creators working with Inform on the Interactive Fiction Community Forum.
In addition to Windows, macOS, and Linux, versions of Inform are available for FreeBSD and Raspberry Pi.
Download: Inform for Windows, macOS, and Linux (Free)
From the same team as Quest is the simpler Squiffy tool. While Quest is aimed at writers planning to create advanced text adventures or gamebooks, Squiffy focuses on story.
Download: Squiffy for Windows, Linux, and Web (free)
For a more polished product there’s Ren’Py, a popular game creation tool. You can use this for anything from interactive fiction and other text games to point-and-click adventures.
While powerful, Ren’Py might prove to be too much for you to handle if you’re new to making games. However, if you have already developed a story with another tool and are ready to upscale it to another platform, Ren’Py is ideal.
Download: Ren’Py for Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android, and Web
Not sure if you want to commit to any of these text game makers at this stage? Inklewriter is a web-based tool that guides you through the creation process with an interactive tutorial. It’s a more casual tool, designed for less advanced stories.
Simply head to the website and follow the steps. An interactive “Tutorial Story” guides you through the process, enabling the creation of a branching story. With no special code requirements, this is a largely point-and-click process, with you simply adding the story.
Head to the Inklewriter website to start creating your text adventures.
Create Your Own Text Adventure Games
While game creation was once a closed shop, these days there are many free game development tools.
So, if interactive fiction, text adventures, or text-based RPGs are your thing, the tools listed above are perfect. They’re suited to all levels of difficulty and can deliver instant results too.
Looking for inspiration? Check out the best interactive fiction games to see what’s already out there.