Five Free Interactive Storytelling Tools
Interactive storytelling is not as new as many would think. In 1976, Edward Packard, long-considered as the creator of the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure genre of novels published Sugarcane Island. In the years that followed, Choose-Your-Own-Adventure became a smash hit, resulting in over two hundred-fifty million sales in between 1979 and 1998, when the growing digital landscape started to make interactive storytelling much more accessible and easier to produce.
In the early 1980’s, text-based adventure games such as Zork and the digital version of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy became common forms of escapism for early adopters of the technology. But as time and technology progressed, interactive storytelling was almost entirely supplanted by increasingly sophisticated games. These days, the video game industry commands a cool $18.4 Billion each year in the United States alone.
But the era of interactive storytelling is far from over. In this list, we’re going to share 5 free apps that you can use to create your own interactive adventure.
Ren’Py is a visual novel engine – used by thousands of creators from around the world – that helps you use words, images, and sounds to tell interactive stories that run on computers and mobile devices. These can be both visual novels and life simulation games. The easy to learn script language allows anyone to efficiently write large visual novels, while its Python scripting is enough for complex simulation games.
Ren’py is used primarily to create Visual Novels, a form of interactive storytelling popular among Japanese audiences and fans of anime. While in order to create an attractive-looking interactive story one must also have a flair for art, one can find a robust catalog of visual novels created with the engine.
Ren’py is open-source and available on multiple platforms.
Quest lets you make interactive story games. Text adventure games like Zork and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Gamebooks like Choose Your Own Adventure and Fighting Fantasy books. You don’t need to know how to program. All you need is a story to tell. Your game can be played anywhere. In a web browser, downloaded to a PC, or turned into an app.
Quest makes the list in part due its flexibility. As it states, you don’t need to know how to program, but for those that are more technically-minded, it allows you access to the source code. Quest is built under the MIT license, and any creations you make using quest can be sold commercially for profit.
Dedalus is an authoring system for generating Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) narrative.
Undum is a game framework for building a sophisticated form of hypertext interactive fiction.
Undum is a little more robust than Dedalus or Quest, offering all sorts of dynamic options for your interactive story. The engine helps keep track of your reader’s experiences, allowing for variables and other options. Unfortunately, it’s not for the weak of heart, as Undum, despite its dynamics, provides its tutorial through the form of in-line comments within the code itself.
Twine is an open-source tool for telling interactive, nonlinear stories.
Twine is another free tool to build robust interactive stories accessible to all. Next to no HTML knowledge is required, although it does come with detailed tutorials for those who want to take their stories to the next level. My daughter, who has almost no coding knowledge whatsoever, used Twine to complete a grade 11 creative writing project and received an A. It does, of course, have its limitations, but they can be worked around with a little bit of flair and creativity.