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A Game Maker Is You – Twine – Infodump

The last two entries about Twine were light on info because I was hoping to encourage a little discussion and perhaps some parallel discovery. That didn’t happen because you’re all terrible, so today I’m going to go ahead and make with the infodump and lay out a whole heap of information you might need in the future.

Hopefully this will be a one-stop shop for entry-level Twine resources… At the very least it’ll mean I can finally close some of these tabs.

Where to Start

The best place to start for Twine resources – apart from the excellent official, but slightly dry and daunting guide at gimcrackd – is to find the online homes of the people who make Twine games. Basically all the resources I’m going to list came from poking around these sites, or from a quick Google… that ended up pointing to one of these sites.

There’s also Glorious Trainwrecks which isn’t specifically a Twine-related site, but has lots of tutorials related to (I’m assuming) higher-level Twine shit, like macros. GT is dedicated to “throwing a bunch of random crap into your game and keeping whatever sticks”, which is a philosophy I appreciate – great things often come from experimentation and not taking things too seriously.


Zeroing In

Ok, those were some general places to help you get started – below are some more specific links with additional commentary.

  • This page right here by Anna Anthropy, is the beginner’s bible as far as Twine is concerned. It’s got everything you need to know to build a Twine game. It might not be the prettiest or the most unique (we’ll get to that soon), but it will be fully functional.
    There’s also some basic tips that I hadn’t seen anywhere else, such as how to get the story and author names into the Twine and how to add CSS without having to manually edit the HTML (that’s what I’d taken to doing).
  • Twine comes with two built-in templates. Personally I prefer the functionality of Sugarcane over Jonah, but I’m not a big fan of white text on black background. I assume that experienced Twiners cringe at the default templates in the same way graphic designers cringe at the use of Comic Sans, but even if they don’t, you want your story to stand out from the crowd. This post by Ashton Raze has some CSS for the Sugarcane template specifically – it’s a straightforward little guide, and will help you customise Sugarcane to suit your needs/story/fashion sense. After going through this I was quickly able to change my Twine from bog-standard to rather-pretty. It took longer to find the right HTML colour codes than it took to actually implement the CSS.
  • This page on Glorious Trainwrecks is itself a Twine [Insert outdated Xzibit/Inception reference here] which details various macros that are built-in to the Sugarcane and Jonah templates. (“Built-In” is possibly a misnomer. A macro is either supported or it isn’t, as far as I’m aware you can’t add more – you can however use Java for additional functionality, which is why I made the clarification.) These macros are how you’ll go about adding more complicated navigation than simple branching. There are examples of each macro built into the page (this is why it was done in Twine) which doesn’t really help me to figure it out, but I’m sure playing around with them will.
  • And finally, this page is Porpentine’s big list of Twine Resources. Some links are for general resources, some are for very specific things that you might never need or want to use, but a quick perusal of the list will show you that it is possible to do any number of things that might not be immediately apparent. Timers, screen-shake effects, music, pre-loading images, health bars, etcetera etcetera. Simply knowing that these things are possible will give your mind places to go when you’re coming up with your next (or first) Twine game idea. Which leads me to…

 

Creation

Hopefully those links will cover the basics, and then some. Where you go from there is really up to you – the ideas you have and how deep into Twine you’re willing to go to make them a reality. So let’s talk about the creation aspect.

  • A simple tip that I have realised myself and haven’t seen anywhere else – If you are writing your story in a dedicated word processor and then building the Twine game from there, make sure you are completely, utterly, 100% happy with your text before you start. If you jump into Twine prematurely you will likely find yourself swapping constantly between Twine and [Word processor of choice] constantly as you find and fix errors and issues.
    Also, that’s something to consider – do you need to use a word processor, or can you write it straight into Twine? Currently my workflow depends too much on Word and the tools it provides, but if you can work in Twine directly you’ll be saving yourself a lot of alt-tabbing and copy-pasting.
  • It’s worth considering what your goal is when you’re sitting down to start a Twine game. Is there one version of events that you’re wanting to portray? If so, and the playereader has minimal real choice (see: Six Years Plus Change) what else can you do to make the story interactive, make the reader invest in it?
    I don’t want to discourage you from using Twine, but if you think about the various ways you can use these tools to tell your story then it should be more interesting than a story that simply goes from A to B. For example, you could use variables (as explained above) to add depth to a story even if you don’t want to change the outcome.
    Perhaps she didn’t know he cheated on her? Perhaps she did know? How would that affect her inner monologue? How would that affect the dialogue?
    Perhaps he got drunk? Perhaps he didn’t pick up on some parts of the conversation because he was too wasted to focus? How would that affect what he sees and hears, or what he remembers the next day?
    Think outside the box a little, see how many variations of the same story you can tell, see how vastly different you can make one person’s experience of a story to another person’s.

 

Examples

There are hundreds of Twine games out there, and the vast majority of them are free. The only thing standing between you and diving into more Twine than you can count is time. But here are a three that represent a very good place to start:

  • Brokedown by Saguaro – written for the recent Ludum Dare 26, with the theme of minimalism. Very interesting take on the theme, and technically very interesting (read: I need to figure out how it works).
  • Sacrilege by Cara Ellison – a ‘dating sim’ according to Cara. She also says it is about sexytimes – what more could you want? The text is suitably Cara-esque, penduluming between brash and beautiful, yet always honest.
  • Howling Dogs by Porpentine – Part of the reason why I wanted to make a Twine game before playing too many others is so they wouldn’t effect what I wanted or was trying to do. It’s lucky I didn’t play Howling Dogs before now because I may have simply given up. Seriously, if you want something to aspire to with Twine, this is it.
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