Games — Tools — Twine

Today The New York Times published a very good article on Twine written by Laura Hudson, where she gave a history and interviewed some creators who use the interactive fiction tool. Twine is something I’ve used off-and-on for the past couple of years in my endless journey for a game-creation tool that felt right for me and it’s been awesome watching it gain so much exposure from so many different creators trying it out.

I was introduced to Twine back in 2011 thanks to Anna Anthropy’s game Encyclopedia Fuckme and the Case of the Vanishing Entree. After playing her game I followed the little Twee link because I was really curious about the tool she used to make such an impressive looking browser game. Turned out Twine had a visual interface for editing, which I found much more easy to use than scripting in ChoiceScript or Undum. At the time I was working at Irrational Games and I shared Twine with any of my coworkers who were curious about messing around with interactive narrative stuff on the side. I also was sharing the tool with my indie game dev friends, particularly women I knew who hadn’t been too encouraged by the existing tools out there.

At the time I took my own game that I had been poking at in Inform 7 for the past year at that point and ported it over to Twine. I actually did most of this transfer work on Sundays at a local Cambridge coffee shop sitting with my friend Andrew Plotkin who is an Inform 7 programmer and engine contributor, so I felt a little guilty about bailing on his engine of choice. But it was a really fun exercise trying to figure out how to make a traditional interactive fiction style game work in a more choose-your-own-adventure setting. Twine is also easier to share due to it building to a simple single HTML file that could be uploaded to free services like Dropbox.

I actually just uploaded what little bit exists of my Twine game, P/alewife, if you’re curious to see. I haven’t touched it in nearly a year and it’s a first-pass, so it’s really rough! And I have no idea where I’m going with it, but I would like to revisit it some day.

As time went on Twine started getting more popular thanks to Anna’s great example of what Twine games could be like and so she created a really useful from-scratch tutorial to support the already existing videos and wiki provided by the engine’s creator. I recommend going through this tutorial even after looking at the new, updated documentation for Twine! It’s still very helpful and supportive!

In 2013 I attended local Boston game developer conference No Show at which Twine’s creator Chris Klimas was going to be giving a talk. You can see the video of the full talk here. What’s amazing about the talk is that Chris completely credits Anna with reviving this dead side-project of his, and for showing him him how much potential something like Twine really had for empowering new creator voices. Anna was in the audience at the time. It was awesome experiencing that first-hand. Then I got to meet Chris later at dinner and he is probably one of the most pleasant people I’ve ever had the privilege of chatting with.

Also at No Show, Chris announced the existence of Twine 2.0. This would be an attempt to revive the project, modernize the engine, and make it even more accessible. The existing Twine was open source and had pretty much been abandoned, except for some random patches you could pull off the newsgroup to help fix annoying macro bugs. Instead of being an executable Twine 2.0 editing would run itself directly off a browser. Not through a cloud server or any kind of auth service but a local copy of the program that would launch and be usable through any browser. This would make multi-platform support and bug fixes much easier.

Twine 2.0 is currently in beta if you’d like to take a look!

When I ran the Magical Girl Jam last year I got quite a few Twine submissions! It was really fun seeing all the different style and aesthetic takes on the Magical Girl theme that transferred over to text.

And speaking of magical girls, my most favorite Twine game of all time is Porpentine’s Cry$tal Warrior Ke$ha. Please play it. It’s important!