Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Open Thread: Authors and AIF Engines

There have been a few times on this blog were people have discussed the pros and cons of the different engines available for AIF, but I don't think we've had a thread directly about the topic

So I thought I'd address that: Authors (whether you have ever finished/released a game or not) why do you use the engine that you do? Have you tried others? What features do you like about the one you are using.

BTW, this thread is not about neutrality, this is about personal opinion. Why have you made the choice that you have?


  1. Over the last year or so I have fully embraced Twine (especially version 2.0) after years spent fiddling with traditional engines such as Inform, TADS, and even Adrift. Twine allows me to stay focused on story and character whereas the traditional parser-based engines eventually sap my creativity and motivation by diverting my focus away from writing.

  2. I haven't released anything fully yet, but my main focus has been on Inform. I've tinkered a slight bit with Twine, but I really need to get some syntax down. Web-like coding and the like has never been my forte, so I don't really remember much of anything CSS for customizing and the like.

    ADRIFT is relatively easy to use compared to most others I think. There may be keyboard shortcuts, but I found the need to move the mouse and open this object or that a tad annoying. Still I wouldn't mind trying to make a game with it at some point just because of how relatively friendly it is for the creator.

    I've never actually touched TADS, which is strange. It is probably - once I get the syntax down - the one I would be most at home at. I'm not a professional programmer by any means but I've tinkered around enough in C#, Java, etc. that it would probably be the best fit.

    I think the reason I went with Inform is mainly because it is just a bit different. I don't know that it is as easy as they sometimes claim. Though it is written like English, just like the code for a programming language you still have to learn the syntax - the words that you can use and how to use them - for it to work. As a sorta-programmer it also can make something I know how to do easily in code difficult to figure out. But I have enjoyed it just for the experience and have got the furthest with games through it.

  3. I started writing a game in TADS 2 some time ago and thought it was well designed language for writing IF, but I never managed to finish anything beyond the simplest games with a couple of rooms before it started to feel more like work than fun. I never liked TADS 3 as it seems to have been designed specifically to suit C programmers.

    I tried CYOA type games, but I found them very limiting for anything more than telling a linear story and was spending most of my time looking for ways to join different branches back together so I didn't end up having to write thousands of branching nodes.

    Inform I just found odd, and could never get the syntax right to get it to do exactly what I wanted it to do.

    Then I found ADRIFT 5. I can draw an entire world map on the screen in a couple of minutes, then just type-in the descriptions of each location. Objects can be created in a location with a click of the mouse and made to be working containers, tables or keys by ticking a box or two. With the basics of the game finished so quickly I can spend all of my time on the story and the characters.
    ADRIFT 4 is often criticised for being very limited in what it could do compared to other engines, however I have found that I can get ADRIFT 5 to do whatever I want it to, even quite complex tasks that are hard to do in the other engines.

  4. I love TADS 3, for me, as someone that has a degree in C++, it is perfect, and it's so easy to cheat, rather than making everything complex you can just work around it. I find it beautifully simple, although I struggle with the simple things, if that makes sense. I can do all the complex stuff but struggle with the easy stuff, mad I know, but there it is.
    I hate Twine and very rarely play a game that uses it, I used to design web pages for a living and it just feels like that. Most Twine games, in my experience, are just interactive story's, there is no feel of the real world about them at all and there is certainly no open map, although I have not played enough of them to be able to say that 'hand on heart'.
    I looked at inform, gave it 20 minutes, threw it out.
    I looked at Adrift, gave it 20 minutes and thought 'you know, this isn't half bad.'
    And then I fell on Tads, gave it 20 minutes, then another 20 minutes and so on.
    Tads, for me, is the most versatile one there is, but, you have to be prepared to learn, it is not simple by any stretch of the imagination, but I love it all the same.

  5. Only ever really used Adrift 5, reason being it doesn't require prior programming knowledge (though supports quite advanced functions and expressions). Would love to have a go at TADS but the learning curve would take away too much of my game development time.

  6. I have just released my second game in Twine.

    Yes, most games are in the 'Choose Your Own Adventure' style, but if you put some thought into your design you can create other styles of games and some interesting puzzles for the player.

    I found Twine to be very easy to use, the biggest learning curve was in understanding CSS.

    I feel that it is a big bonus for a game to be able to be played online without the need to download anything. If you insist that a player download an executable file or a second program to play the game, you will reduce your potential audience.

    I avoided using a text parser program for this and a few other reasons. This style of game fell out of fashion when I was about ten, so I don't have any nostalgic love for it. When I discovered AIF, it surprised me that people were still making these kind of games.

  7. I use Twine, here’s my experience with others:

    Tads: Went through their demo program. Seemed nice, but too complicated when I looked into it (which was many years ago).
    Rags: Not really used around here, but I gave it a look, but didn’t really like the interface (either for an author or a player).
    Inform: Looked at it very briefly. Can’t even remember why I didn’t pursue it further.
    Adrift: Had a game in the minicamp under 3.9, started a few games with 5.0, and had the design pretty far in one.

    Twine: I originally looked into Twine because I was thinking about choose your own adventure, but stayed with it because of speed/annoyance. As SpiketheGoat mentioned, I disliked the drops down menus and moving the mouse around. While this was very helpful when I was starting out, it became incredibly annoying over time. Especially when I would have a task that would have multiple conditions, having to select each of the menus one by one was very slow. I feel like typing out the code in Twine is much faster and less aggravating.

    My experience with Twine was also superior to other ‘code’ programs, though there was a large amount of time in-between. With Tads I kind of had to learn everything at once, Twine being its base is clickable links, allows you an easy start and place to build from there.

    There have been a few times I have gone back and given Adrift a try. I do miss some of the functions, primarily being able to select task does not repeat, but I quickly get bogged down by the menus and switch back.

  8. I use TADS 2 and 3. I've looked at Inform, Twine and ADRIFT and none of them really interested me.

  9. I guess it isn't too hard to figure out that I am a big fan of TADS v2. When I first started writing AIF games (wow - is it really more than 16 years ago?!?), I was using some of the popular engines at the time: AGT, Inform (v6), etc. They worked all right. Then I found TADS (v3 was not out yet). As Doc Realgood mentioned here, I have a lot of experience in C-like programming, with many years of professional programming in my background. So, perhaps TADS just fit my experience better than other authoring engines. Plus, I liked that TADS let you "get under the hood" so to speak and tinker with how everything worked.

    I've since worked with ADRIFT, Inform v7, RAGS, and TWINE as well as dabbled with other authoring languages. I like where RAGS and ADRIFT are heading, although I understand the limitations of working with a Windows-only program. And Inform v7 is great - but after getting into the guts of TADS using Inform 7 felt like coding while wearing thick gloves. I couldn't get a feel for what was happening. TWINE is also really good for CYOA-type games, although my personal feeling is that it lends itself to huge walls of text. Actually, that is more the CYOA-style than just TWINE. TWINE is just reflecting that style of game.

    There is nothing wrong with lots of text, I just like my games with long scenes, but short interludes between them.

    When using something like TADS, I appreciate that there is a huge learning curve if you've never used this sort of language before. Even if you have, there is lots to learn in TADS before you can begin creating games. Other languages, like ADRIFT and RAGS are much easier to crack open and get started with little starting knowledge. (However, to really take advantage of their features you need to work at it as well.)

    I've been playing a LOT of RAGS games right now, from over at the Hypnopics Collective forum (mostly dealing with mind control games). I enjoy the medium, which is graphics and point-and-click, but I've found that most authors tend to rely on the graphics with very scanty text describing what is going on in the scene.

    A couple of new languages just making their way into usage in other areas are Ren'Py and RPG Maker. These were originally designed to mimic old RPG games like Final Fantasy, and Hentai games like "Three Sisters Story". But they've been used successfully to create some nice games as well. The problem with these, that I see, is that there is a huge base you need to install just to run them, making even a small game 200-300 MB sometimes, even without graphics.

    I haven't used these two myself other than to take a quick look at them. They show potential, at least in the few games I've played using them. Unfortunately, all of the games I've seen are alpha level (a common problem with games at Hypnopics Collective as well) - the author gets an idea, publishes a short "demo" or test, then loses interest. But that isn't a slight against the medium, just the author. And if you've ever written a game, you can understand how easy it is to lose interest in something that can sometimes take months or even years to complete.

    Speaking of which, did you know that "A Spell for All" is *still* under development, with a new version released just over a month ago? And, *still* not finished! But I digress.

    Anyway, I think I've rambled enough. For now, I'll just say that if I ever were to release a new game I would probably still stick with TADS 2.