PlayFic: an online toolset and community for easily making text-adventure games

Andy Baio and his 15-year-old nephew Cooper McHatton created PlayFic, "a community for writing, sharing, and playing interactive fiction games (aka 'text adventures') entirely from your browser, using a 'natural language'-inspired language called Inform 7." Basically, it's a site for making your own Zork-style games, sharing them, critiquing them, and collaborating on them. It includes a "view game source" button that, like the "view source" item in browsers, can be used to kick-start your own progress into creation by seeing how the work you admire is put together. Waxy sez,"

My hope is that Playfic opens up the world of interactive fiction to a much wider audience — young writers, fanfic authors, and culture remixers of all ages.

While the language can be tricky, building simple games is surprisingly easy. Cooper had never coded anything or made a game before trying Playfic, and within 30 minutes of futzing around, he'd made his first game.

Some stuff is broken and missing, but I'd love to hear what you make of it. Open to any and all feedback. Go make some games!

Playfic (via Wonderland)


  1. Kids these days! When I was that age, I was reading the source code in the file ADVENT.FOR and figuring out how the database was encoded.

  2. You walk into a room, and see a computer on a table.  On the computer’s monitor is displayed a prompt for a text adventure game.

    What do you want to do?


  3. This is awesome.

    I’ve written inform 7, before, and to call it “natural language” is a little off. It *is* natural language but also… writing the games is much like playing them.

    For example, creating a room might go something like this (this is not accurate, it’s been awhile, but gives the flavor):

    I’m in a room called “BoingBoing Lobby”.

    It is not dark here.

    The room’s description is ‘This is a small room filled with happy mutants.”

    There is an exit to the east. The exit to the east goes to a room called “Mark’s Office”.

    Go east.

    (and then you would start working on that room.)

    1.  … and I cannot imagine why one would consider that an appealing way to construct a game, but apparently, people do.

      The world is truly filled with surprises.

      1. I actually find Inform7 easy to work with for basic building. i’ts actually keeping a string of thoughts long enough for proper descing that trips me up.

    2. I wrote a game in Inform 7, and found the syntax was just as restrictive as traditional programming languages, with the added problem that just because a malformed sentence made sense in natural language and looked like what I thought Inform 7 would be expecting did not mean it was a well-formed Inform 7 sentence.  I found debugging in Inform 7 harder. 

      1.  My experience with Inform 7 was exactly the same.  It’s easy to create trivial things, but once you try to construct anything with any complexity, the eccentric syntax drags you down.

        1.  Exactly. I like to think of Inform 7 as the RAD of IF games; it’s good for rapid prototyping a simple layout but it’s time to drop back to Inform 6 when you want to do something complex.

          But then, Inform 6 was already pretty awesome.


    You glance around. It is humid.


    A sweaty monkey appears. He climbs into your hammock, visibly irritated at its crudeness.

    > NW

    Ha. You couldn’t find east at sunrise. But by all means, let’s pretend you’re some sort of orienteering champion for the four turns it will take you to put the game in an unwinnable state.

    1. LPC taught me object-oriented programming before I’d even heard of it.  *nostalgic sniff* I loved making new toys for the players, like swords that disintegrated into a swarm of Programming Bugs and Tannen Bombs for Christmas.

  5. I’ve been implementing, on and off for years, a text adventure set in a summer camp.

    There’s no way that Inform 7 could do what I want to do*, so I’m using Inform 6.

    At one point, your camper character needs to keep from falling asleep. There’s a coffee maker  that has to be supplied with water and grounds and a mug. And when you drink the coffee, you hallucinate meeting Abraham Lincoln who gives you helpful advice, bu that’s another story . . .

  6. Interesting. Wish there was a more definate ‘how to build’ tutorial that doesn’t rely on user hunting material out themselves, but the fact they’ve even gotten this far is encouraging.

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