Twine is an editor and converter for IF, Interactive Fiction. Writers use it to create the kind that is text-based as opposed to animated.
In this read-and-click variety, players read text provided by the author and choose from the links, also provided by the author. While many of these stories contain some beautiful art work and music, the emphasis is on reading the story, and using the links to explore and make choices in what happens next.
As an author, the writing is done in short sections of a couple of paragraphs (or less). Links are coded [[like this]] in the text to another section (named like this). The author then writes that section with more links, etc.
The writer provides all clues and motivation, alternate endings, scores, combat scenarios, and so forth as may be desired. As with mysteries, the author can include some red herrings in the tale!
Players navigate to the webpage, click the Play button and the HTML is sent to their computer. Or, for performance reasons and also to allow play when off-line, many games offer a Download option. (I’ve provided a link to a nice example by some talented artists at the end of this post.)
On the player’s computer, he/she then reads the text, and as desired, clicks the text links to go from one passage to the next.
Writing a story takes place at two levels.
First, there’s the overall network of passages. Each of these contain a few paragraphs of text and links to other passages.
Here’s a preliminary design with six “passages” (places).
The Introduction passage (top-center) is marked with a green rocket icon. That’s where the story will begin when played. That passage tells the player, “You are an angel,” and that they will be influencing a real person named Blake. After the player reads the Introduction, there is a link they click that takes them to the begin passage.
The text is written in a specific dialect of Markdown. In the text above, doubled slashes, //, denote emphasis (italics). As the author, I’m choosing to show Blake’s internal thoughts that way.
When someone plays this game (below), they’ll see four words or phrases in blue. The player can click those; they are hot-links to another place.
A small story might have one or two dozen passages. A bigger work might run to a hundred or more.
A full-blown novel, however, is probably both impractical and unmarketable. The “read-and-click” manner of play suggests that the audience for this form of entertainment would probably not sit still very long without becoming twitchy. It is, after all, called Interactive Fiction. The player wants to participate.
As a writer, the challenge is to nudge the player in the right direction without being too obvious. In the begin passage, for example, there’s mention of a backpack. If the player clicks that link, he will find several items that suggest things about the owner, one of which is that Blake, the protagonist in the story, is well off. (In fact, his “urban camping” is due to a major depression. That will be one of the obstacles the player must address in his/her choices.)
In this story, the Introduction tells the player that he/she is a guardian angel. As they play the game, they will discover they can influence what Blake does, but not always control his actions. (Player choices will lead to alternative endings, now all of them successful.)
In an early passage (not shown), Blake gets a text message on his phone that gives him something specific, a goal, to accomplish. If the player works toward that goal, the story may eventually reach a successful ending. If not, or if the player flubs things along the way, he/she will fail.
The player can play and replay the game as often as desired so, if at first you don’t succeed, …
One place to find IF written in Twine is here. Once there, click (on the left) to see “Free” games.
Caveat: Many of the free games are first attempts by novice authors, so don’t expect too much. As with many things, the higher the price, the better the quality. Also, some of the games are text-only but many include some very nice art work.
An excellent example is here. It includes music and some rather nice graphics. The passages are very short and the play has lots of alternatives to explore.
- At the web page, click Download Now, and at the price prompt, you can choose “No thanks, just take me to the downloads.”
- Click the HTML download and wait for it to complete.
- Use your computer’s file browser, and in your Downloads folder, find the index.html file inside the Golden Threads folder. Double-click it to start the game.
WARNING: Some games are Adults Only. Graphics, sound, and text may all be NSFW, Not Safe For Work.