Chestnut Lodge Wargames Group

Adventures with Twine: Interactive computer games

I ran a session on using Twine to create interactive computer games after my game Hill 70 caused a little bit of a stir.

Twine is a very simple to use editor that can be used to make either interactive fiction or interactive graphical adventure games. Twine uses web tools like HTML, & CSS, and a computer programming language called “JavaScript” to create websites that include text, visuals, sound and in a limited way, video.

In the session we discussed how easy it was to use Twine to create a story and how to use basic programming concepts, like variables and selection statements. I did nothing more than this to create Hill 70.

Plan the endings

It was pointed out that my Hill 70 was perhaps a little naive in that I narrowed down the ending to 2 main outcomes. It did not give enough options to the players for them to feel their choices mattered as there was no real feeling they could fail. In my defence I used the final statement of the variables, Ammo, Strength, and Morale to qualify how good a victory the player had had.

This lead to an interesting discussion about how to plan such games. Essentially you always start from one point and then write down all the final outcomes and then plan your way to them. As Joe Robinson said, the ending should feel that it is a consequence of the decisions the player has taken. In fact all your decisions should be reflected in the final outcome.

Truly Interactive Adventure Games 

There was a further discussion about what could be done with such games if they were truly interactive, in that the decisions and outcomes of a player would alter the game world of another player. This on the face of it might seem to be an interesting idea but there are many examples of other games that work very well online. Why would an web-based interactive game be noticed against such competitors?

Using Twine in Megagames

Another line of the discussion was how Twine – or other simple programs – could be used to plot out options in megagames. For example a decision tree could be embedded into Twine for a NPC country. The idea would be that an umpire would run a Twine story for a country, adjusting the variables, to see what decisions would be suggested by the embedded decision tree.

Other games

Little Bit of Bread and No Cheese

I was keen to talk about how I could adapt analog games I had produced at CLWG with Twine. The obvious candidate was “A Little Bit of Bread and No Cheese”, and also “Live and Let Live”. The participants at the session thought that I could use Twine to do a lot of the number crunching to calculate agriculture production. And it is certainly possible to use Twine to do this.

I think there would be a problem running this such a game several players simultaneously. Each player would have to have their own laptop with their own Twine customised story. There would be a lot of parallel play, with people clicking on their own Twine story, on their own laptop. How will they trade, talk, or interact?

I would have thought there might be better programmes that could handle multiple player inputs and interactivity, though I know these are currently beyond my level of programming capability.

Cyber Warfare Game

Another analog game I have been developing is a cyber-warfare tool where the player is a sys-admin attempting to defend their business from attack. I have not explored this idea in any detail but it strikes that this sort of defensive solo-game could run using Twine.

 

Prototyping Computer Games

A final aspect is that computer games designers are now creating working prototypes in Twine – or Twine like editing suites – because they are quick and cheap and can be rapidly deployed to test ideas, or sell game concepts for a larger, more complex and expensive game.

I know this from experience because I have been running a project to produce a game to promote the donation of blood in the NHS. My students showed the client this youtube video of Pewtypie crying whilst watching “Walking Dead” a video based interactive adventure game. Watch the scene from about 11:30 minutes in to the video. We have been creating a mock-up of our ideas in Twine, as we don’t have the same kind of resources to make an interactive video.

A new genre

There has been some talk about a launch of a new computer game genre – video based interactive adventure stories like Walking Dead and Detroit: Become Human (video 4:45 minutes). Some are using motion capture technology and story writing to create a new type of computer game. However TellTale games – the creator of Walking Dead – recently went spectacularly bust. So perhaps the rumours of this new renaissance might be exaggerated.

Conclusion

I am not sure where my next steps will be.

I am teaching Twine as a first game design suite to several classes of 16 – 17 year old college students. It is an excellent little tool, reusing web skills and some simple programming concepts and building interactive stories very quickly. So I will be using it for a bit longer.

As for another club game or as an aid to a club game. I am still not sure.

I’d be interested to hear from other members what they think about this. After all it is a new way of looking at games and / or stories.

Perhaps CLWG’s role is to produce games and megagames to order and is no longer the exploratory group I joined back in the 1990s, when thinking seriously about game design and doing it seemed so new back then. Perhaps this is why I decided to take up a new challenge offered by Twine; to explore new game design challenges, to take up new things. Using Twine has inspired me. I am not sure where it can go. And that is what makes it interesting.

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