m. c. de marco: To invent new life and new civilizations...

Hyperfiction Software

This page began as a blog post that I felt the need to update frequently because hyperfiction tools tend to come and go.

There is no easy way to write a long work of hyperfiction; if you like using a GUI (I don’t and I’m not alone), you could use Twine. I write in Twee (the plain-text format underlying Twine) instead, but I remain curious about developments in a field littered with abandoned software projects and lost websites, and so this software list goes on.

The Software

Unless otherwise mentioned, the programs are mostly open source and free as in beer, and mostly output HTML that can be read/played in any browser, except for the cloud services which generally host the story for you. Some defunct software is provided for completeness and/or amusement. For a similar list, see the Interactive Fiction Wiki. See the cloud for hyperfiction-as-a-service options.

The Big Players

Presented in alphabetical order rather than order of importance:

The Up-and-Comers

It’s too early to say whether these will become big players or bit players.

The Book Makers

Some engines produce print and/or ePUB gamebooks. These programs can usually output to HTML as well (ePUB is mostly a web page without the pesky JavaScript), but tend to neglect scripting in favor of more print-focused features like shuffling gamebook sections.

For easier post-processing of ePUBs, you may want to spring for Vellum. Their blog is also a good self-publishing resource.

The Rest

It’s not hard to write a gamebook engine, and lots of people do it without getting much traction. That doesn’t mean a tool isn’t for you (especially if you’re willing to take over the development or maintenance of it).

You can also use the wrong tool entirely, like Google Forms/Microsoft Forms, PowerPoint/Google Slides/Keynote, Google Docs, OneNote, GitHub, Twitter, Alexa, Buncee, App Lab, Roblox, repl.it, etc.

The Cloud

The only thing riskier than writing prose at length in a browser is trusting it to the cloud afterwards. Here’s where you can do that:

>playfic_ is that rare beast, a cloud site for parser stories (using Inform 7) instead of CYOAs.

Cloud Heaven

It’s amazing how often the cloud idea is tried and fails, so I’ve separated out the deader cloud services and listed them in semi-chronological order (with links to the last relevant wayback machine crawl, if it lived long enough to be crawled).

Thanks to an old survey by Larry Ferlazzo for many of the dead (and some living) links.

The grass is always greener

True interactive fiction lets the user express their actions in natural language, and so requires a text-parsing engine to move the story along, rather than just the hyperlinks and simple variables used by gamebooks. The notable engines are TADS, which uses a C++-style scripting language and has some windows-only features, and Inform 7, a fully cross-platform engine that uses a natural-language scripting language. For a fuller list of interactive fiction software, check out Awesome Interactive Fiction.