Every so often, a news outlet or online magazine will publish an article (such as this one) about the current state of text adventure (or Interactive Fiction if you’d prefer) gaming. While this genre has certainly fallen from it’s original position at the top of the computer gaming ziggurat, there is a dedicated community of enthusiasts working to improve the technologies behind these games, and because of these efforts and the newer technologies available to play them, the genre is once again growing! Even so far as to have spawned the documentary film Get Lamp by documentarian Jason Scott.
There are several reasons why text adventure games are regaining popularity, and I won’t go into them all here because that’s the subject of a different article, but I believe the two biggest ones are:
- There’s usually a smaller barrier to entry for developing interactive fiction, especially with the advent of tools that enable you to do so with no programming experience, and because you don’t have to worry about graphics and sound effects to make a full game.
- Text Adventure games are one of the only genres of video games that are accessible to visually impaired gamers who happen to be a very large demographic that’s completely ignored by the mainstream video game industry. Also, as I have several visually impaired friends, creating games that are accessible to them is of particular interest to me.
Coincidentally enough, there is a tool out there for creating text adventure games written by my friend Alex Warren, who has taken great care to ensure the resulting games created with his software are accessible by the visually impaired and which happens to get overlooked almost as often – and that program is called Quest.
Quest is probably one of the easiest systems available for developing text adventure games, and despite it’s reasonably sized user base (surpassing the popularity of tools such as TADS and HUGO) is largely ignored by the Interactive Fiction community. There appears to be somewhat of a pervasive view that Quest is feature-incomplete compared to other systems such as Inform, and while that may well be true in some very specific instances, it is by far the easiest system to learn and robust enough to handle almost anything you can throw at it.
What makes Quest unique and easy to grasp by new users is it’s graphical editor (the only other system I know of that features something like this is ADRIFT), which allows authors to create the code to their games using a series of drop-down boxes and other visual elements. What’s done in the graphical editor translates directly into Quest’s scripting language, called ASLX which can be viewed and edited from the code editing window, or in the text editor of your choice.
Since the release of version 5 of Quest, it has stopped including the option to create a standalone exe, instead turning the focus towards web-based technologies and the web runner, which allows you to upload your published game file to the textadventures.co.uk website where it can be played online. Additionally, there is a web-based version of the Quest editor you can use if you’d rather not download the program, albeit with some slight limitations – like the inability to upload or download games you’re working on to switch between the offline and online editors, and the lack of the code view for instance. Also new to version 5 is the inclusion of Quest’s gamebook mode, which allows you to create very simple multiple choice narratives similar to the Choose Your Own Adventure books which were quite popular in the late 80′s and early 90′s.
EDIT: I just realized I forgot to post a link to Quest. Oops! Here it is: Link