The Apology(and thoughts on Twine 2.0)

I’d known of Twine as a tool for interactive narrative for a few years now, and have loved the wealth of games that use it as an engine for quickly spinning up fascinating and convention breaking indie games. I’ll provide a list of recommendations at another time, but for now, I am especially partial to Porpentine’s With Those We Love Alive.

As a visual artist though, while I am delighted by the tinge of 80s and 90s dirty cyberpunk nostalgia that permeates these games, it is largely a sad result of the engine. The Twine engine handles only rudimentary file linking, and the default black on white and sidebar look is so reminiscent of early 90s webdesign that it fundamentally directs a certain aesthetic. Really, Twine 1.0 is just not that pretty, by default, and it is not particularly easy to wrangle it into prettiness. (But definitely not impossible while keeping in the spirit of “easy” – see Cryptid Hunter, which cleverly packages up the text area in a custom frame and tosses in some simple but clever animations for a game that feels pretty polished)

I poked with it a lot in 2014, but the only short project I finished was the Citizen Science Portal, based on my Center for Otherworld Science stories.

This just ain’t that pretty.

Enter Twine 2.0. Oh man, I love the hell out of Twine 2.0. Aside from becoming web based(although I prefer the download), and getting rid of some tiny annoyances with file linking, it now handles standard HTML and integrates stylesheets quite elegantly. And most importantly, the default is clean and…dare I say it – pretty.

I wrote a short piece of interactive fiction; it is about a five minute read. It’s set, vaguely, in the Last Apothecary universe, but in the inner colonies. It’s mostly about going to a dinner party where everyone is weird to you. It is called The Apology.

It might be hard to tell, but getting rid of that default awkward sidebar makes a huge difference.

With Twine 2.0, I was able to take this vague inkling of a story to some sort of publishable interactive fiction format in about four hours, including the writing and the (very rudimentary, to be fair) graphics. There is a tiny bit of stylesheet poking, but I largely stuck to the defaults.  Four hours, though! That’s a pretty great prototyping tool for interactive fiction that can make the transition to published work fairly quickly(even faster if, like me, you’ve developed the habit of just iterating in production. I will never find work in the tech industry again, I’m sure).

Anyway, I am delighted with the changes in Twine 2.0, and think it is an excellent tool with a welcoming bar of entry, and I am incredibly excited to see more work built with this engine.

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