Things That Are Nice: Day 22

Pretty much anyone who has ever played more than one video game has had at least a passing thought about making one themselves. I can't speak to arcade-style shmups, and I don't have much practical experience with things like Unreal Engine. The RPG Maker line is sadly too expensive to use as a toy for me to tinker with. 

Fortunately, I am a drooling fan of various kinds of visual novel games, both of which can be produced with free software and distributed to a variety of platforms. 

Pure text games can be put together with Inform 7, a scripting engine that specifically aims to be as English-like as possible. It's got stricter syntax than actual English does, and assumes some very specific meanings for certain words, but the end result is indeed readable -- although if you're really determined to dig into the guts of Z-code you can fix that. Inform compiles games into code intended for a Z-machine of one version or another, and they are played with whatever happens to be your favorite interpreter for your favorite platform. I'm pretty sure if you asked around enough, you could find a version of Frotz that ran on your thermostat.

For bigger productions with sound and pictures (and video, and puzzles, and minigames...) along the lines of Ace Attorney, Professor Layton, 9 Hours 9 Persons 9 Doors, or Higurashi no Koro ni, you want something more like Ren'Py. It's not as English-y as Inform 7, but frankly, even actual English is often not that English-y. What Ren'Py is, is simple to start with, easy to test, and portable to the big three OSes (Win/Lin/Mac), plus both Android and iPhone. (I'm sure Apple vets things, but you can upload pretty much anything that isn't obviously broken or malicious to Google Play if it's signed with a software key.) There's also a way to compile a browser-based version, although not having my own webserver I have no idea how that would work. While you can do things simply in Ren'Py, you can also do things in an insanely complicated fashion by dragging in real Python, the scripting language on which it is based, to do whatever crucial thing it is you think Ren'Py doesn't do already.

I like having alternatives for getting things out of my head and onto a screen or a piece of paper. I've never built anything big in either language, although I've poked at them quite a bit. 


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