Best Free and Open Source Interactive Fiction Tools

Write and Play Interactive Fiction with Open Source Software

Last Updated on September 18, 2020

Interactive fiction is a form of computer game which shares many traits with fiction in book form, role-playing games and puzzle-solving. It’s one of the oldest forms of computer games.

Interactive fiction is a somewhat nebulous phrase. It can refer to text adventures where the player uses text input to control the game, and the game state is relayed with text output. They are known as text adventures. Crowther & Woods invented this form of games in the 1960s when they designed the famous Colossal Cave Adventure, which was available on many mainframe computer systems. They were massively popular when computers were limited to displaying text. Mobile phones offered a resurgence to the genre, given they consume little resources.

The phrase can also apply to gamebooks, which offer the reader given choices at different points of the text. Over the years the phrase IF has extended to include interactive stories and experiences that don’t meet the definition of a game.

While the game genre is somewhat niche, there’s still a committed community of enthusiasts who love writing and playing interactive fiction.

To create an enthralling interactive text-driven digital fiction game, the focus is on an author’s talents rather than a programmer’s skills. If you’re interested in writing interactive fiction, there’s a wide range of authoring systems available.

There are some awesome open source tools that will let you exercise your creative juices and create some fun interactive tales.

Here’s our recommended open source solutions for writing interactive fiction. Many are powerful and sophisticated tools with specially designed programming languages that use a form of natural language and are therefore easy to learn. Some of the applications don’t require you to write any code to create a story. Developing games can almost be as much fun as playing them.

Best Free and Open Source Interactive Fiction Tools

Write Interactive Fiction
Ren'PyCreate over a thousand visual novels, games, and other works
TwineVisual tool for creating interactive stories
ALANALAN Adventure Language
QuestA good system to make interactive story games
SquiffyUseful tool for creating interactive stories
FrobTADSAuthoring System to Create Your Own Interactive Fiction
InformPopular design system for interactive fiction based on natural language

The following open source tools are also worthy of a mention. QTads and Gargoyle are both excellent interpreters for interactive fiction. An interpreter allows you play an interactive game file.

Tools for Interactive Fiction
QTadsProvides a very good interpreter for TADS game files, using a Qt interface
TrizbortInteractive Fiction Mapper
GargoyleIF player that supports all major interactive fiction formats
Best Free and Open Source SoftwareRead our complete collection of recommended free and open source software. Our curated compilation covers all categories of software.

The software collection forms part of our series of informative articles for Linux enthusiasts. There are hundreds of in-depth reviews, open source alternatives to proprietary software from large corporations like Google, Microsoft, Apple, Adobe, IBM, Cisco, Oracle, and Autodesk.

There are also fun things to try, hardware, free programming books and tutorials, and much more.
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Alexander van Oostenrijk is a browser-based tool that lets you easily map adventure games. Drag rooms into your map and link them up using connections in all compass directions. Add a list of objects present in each room. Finally, export your map straight to your adventure game toolkit of choice: TADS, Inform, Quest or Alan. is inspired by *Trizbort*, a desktop-based mapping tool originally created by Genstein and enhanced and maintained by Jason Lautzenheiser.

** Edit room details quickly ** lets you edit the properties of your rooms using a quick and intuitive editor. Room name and description, room colors, room borders, elliptical or octagonal rooms are supported.

Add named objects with descriptions to your rooms, and create containment relationships – which will be included in your code generation later.

** Generate code from your map ** can export your map to various adventure game development system. It supports TADS 3, Inform 7, Quest and Alan 2/3, among others. Code is generated for your rooms, connections and objects, and you can feed it straight into your compiler.

If you’d like to dive straight in, here are some links that open with a map preloaded:
* [Colossal Cave map](
* [Zork map](
* [Castle of Doom map](