On Writing Text-Based Games From Stories

Text games (or, “interactive fiction”:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interactive_fiction) were some of the first games for the console that were put out, decades ago. They were based in DOS, the old computer language (that isn’t quite dead, it just isn’t used as much). They were called text games because that’s what you got: text. Story, plot, monsters – it all showed up as text. Either you got a good description of what you were facing, or just a small one – for instance the game Zork’s “white house” (that took me forever to figure out how to enter it). But they could still be entertaining! They were kind of like reading a book in an interactive way, to me at least. Today, text games still exist, just not in as huge a sense as the MMORPGs, the FPS’s and so on, where you actually do see what’s going on. Even so, there are still large amounts of people who play games like Zork and like them for what they are. Heck, I still like them myself!)

Story → text game is pretty straightforward, therefore, as you’d imagine. You need a plot, you need basic programming skills, and you need maps (yes, most likely you’ll need maps for any game you design).   http://www.ehow.com/how_4913288_write-text-game-script.html, for instance… But that’s about it, really. You don’t have to worry about coding in the look of things; you can decide to what level you want to describe this or that place, person, monster, etc. You can make your game mildly complex – Zork, for instance, has a mess of puzzles integrated within it, and there are very involved maps – or very basic – where you go from point A to point B pretty easily, just following the plotline. And how complex you want said plotline, too, is up to you.

I’m doing my first text game (ever), for instance, based on a small story of some dwarves fixing up an issue in one of their power plants. So what do I need? I need to figure out what creatures they’ll stumble across – what’s causing the outage? It’s a soft steam-fantasy world, so a lot of things are possible. They have engineers there, cybrids, living alongside basilisks, lions, and plant-creatures. I need to know how many are going on this trip. How the problem is to be solved… But really, because it’s based on a story of mine, I already have a heads-up on those things. I know all of them. My plot is already set, from an authory point of view.

However, now what I’m doing is converting that so that it’s playable as a game, and that makes things slightly more complicated. Not particularly hard, since I know all the stuff mentioned above, but now I need to also consider where things are going on, how a PLAYER will get my characters to point B, how they’ll deal with Thing X in there, what are the things they are carrying, how each character fits into the storyline specifically, what the place looks like from a mapping point of view, what stuff the monsters drop, and so on.

 If you were going to take a story – either of yours or if you don’t write, what one’s your favorite – and make it into a text game, what one would that be? Would you do it plot-heavy, with a ton of description, or just with basic descriptions and more action going on?

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