Twine without CSS or Javascript

I recently learned that an online Twine jam was going to be happening this weekend. It’s a “Naked Twine Jam”, where all submissions must avoid using any CSS or Javascript modifications whatsoever:

Twine is also very easy to customize. However, while visual modifications and external modifications can produce lots of interesting results, they aren’t at all necessary to tell compelling stories.

For this event, we’ll all work within the creative restriction of using only the basic Twine program with no CSS or Javascript modifications. If you don’t know what that means, then don’t worry about it! Just download the program here and start playing around with it.

I haven’t actually completed many Twine projects I’m proud of, but all of the ones I’m deeply invested in involve a LOT of javascript plugins and CSS modifications. My favorite thing about Twine is the versatility you can achieve through unusual text behaviors and page layouts. A lot of my favorite Twine games ever would be impossible without javascript plugins. Breakfast on a Wagon With your Partner, for example, could not exist without the cycling link macro. All I want is for all my friends to become insanely powerful would not have the same crescendo without the targeted CSS macro. Anhedonia has important audio and visual elements that would not be possible without javascript and CSS. Without those elements, it would be a completely different kind of art.

I have no problem with the idea of a “naked” Twine jam– in fact, I’m already participating– but it is making me realize how much I value customization and specialization in Twine projects.  I’m fascinated by words changing and behaving uniquely on-screen. I like cycling links, unfurling sentences, etc. Not all of my projects use these kinds of behaviors, but I really like them, both in my work and in others’. I like that Twine allows authors to add this functionality.

Fact is, when you add new behaviors to onscreen text, you can actually say new things. I recently met with another writer who’s interested in new ways of presenting nonlinear narratives, and during that conversation we talked a little bit about how the artistic possibilities of hypertext are unrealized by the tools and platforms people have been using to consume digital writing. When you add cycling text to a page, you can actually communicate in new ways that you could never could before. When you add “unfurling” text, the possibilities for communication expand again. To make an awkward analogy, when it comes to the communication of ideas, these features are less like fonts and more like entirely new words.

Twine is special because it’s accessible, but it’s also special because it can be incredibly complex. You can make Twine behave in extremely specific and unusual ways, which in turn allows you to say very specific and unusual things that can’t be quite said in any other way. If I’d been writing Swan Hill in linear form as a short story, I could have communicated the Chancellor’s inward-looking attitude in a number of different ways, but I couldn’t have possibly communicated it in exactly the way that I ended up doing so. And I have the replace and revise macros to thank for that. That’s the kind of thing that I value about Twine.

Nevertheless, I’m enjoying the challenge of making a game without CSS or javascript modifications of any kind. I’ll probably go back after the jam and spruce it up before hosting it on my own website, but until then, the story looks a little like this:

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Desert Hike EX

playa[1]Desert Hike EX is a game I wrote content for at the San Francisco Indie Game Jam last weekend.

You can play it here.

I wrote the first draft of the text for this game in basically under 24 hours. I spent the first half of the jam writing a completely different set of content before we decided to switch our theme to Bay Area startup culture.

We actually won two award categories at the jam with this game (no prizes, though): “narrative excellence” and “outside-the-box use of theme.” The theme of the jam was randomly selected from Wikipedia and ended up being “The 339th Flight Test Squadron,” an American air force group from Georgia. There are a couple of events in the game which reference this flight test squadron. (I was actually pretty disappointed with this method of selecting the theme, but it worked out OK.)

Our team was actually quite big, but things went very smoothly. Other team members were Jim Crawford, James Hofmann, Matt Rasmussen, Duncan Robson, and Stevie Hryciw. We also had a shit ton of beta testers I never met.

This was one of the most rewarding game jam experiences I’ve had so far. The jam organizers did a great job.

Sister Power Activate

Sister Power Activate is a Twine game about sisterhood and superheroes.

My friend Katie Welka and I made it at the iamagamer jam in Mountain View, California, in early July.

You can play it here.

Here are some things you should know about the game;

  • it has two endings. Also, you cannot “fail” out of the game, so don’t worry about that stuff.
  • The game tracks several variables! Your decisions throughout the game will contribute to the final ending!
  • It has sound! Sounds were provided by Philip Foster.
  • THE SOUND WILL BREAK IF YOU NAVIGATE BACKWARDS DURING THE STORY!*
  • We wrote this whole thing in 48 hours! it has 255 passages and 16,189 words! THAT’S INSANE!

No other game jam I’ve been to has required me to type so many words so quickly.

Immediately after finishing the iamagamer jam, I went home and started writing the first parts of my other story Swan Hill, which is why it took me so long to get off my ass and fix the sound cues in this game. I feel very bad about that. The version on the iamagamer website is identical to this one, except for those sound cues, which this new version uses more effectively.

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* Do not do this! DEFINITELY do not do this and then tell me the game is “broken”! No, it is YOU who are broken, cheater!

My Favorite Molyjam 2013 Games

Of course, I haven’t played EVERY Molyjam game this year. But I have played a nonzero quantity, and among those, these were my favorites.

The Rogue Less Travelled

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It’s a randomized dungeon-crawler done IN TWINE. Very exciting! Far and away the most interesting-to-me submission in the entire jam. These guys were working directly behind me at the IGN office and I kept getting fascinating glances at their work whenever I got out of my chair. Definitely worth SEVERAL plays.

Haughty or Naughty

haughtyornaughty

Haughty or Naughty captured my imagination in the same way that Drawception once did. It’s a magnetic poetry game/website which provides you with a poetry title, then gives you a series of suggestive words themed to that title, along with a bunch of more-ordinary words common to every poem. You arrange them to make a four-line poem, which other users then rate as “haughty” or “naughty.” I love the way words are themed to the title. There’s some great stuff popping up on this site right now. It’s given me a lot of neat ideas!

Back to the First Date

backtothefirstdate

A comic about two time-travellers trying to fix the date they went on several weeks before. You click on the things they say, change them, and watch the changes propagate down through the panels of the comic. It’s a very cool way of presenting this kind of conversation gameplay! It reminded me a little bit of the memory remixing in Remember Me– but the comic layout makes it way easier to see all the changes and plan your decisions in this game. This is another one that gave me a lot of good ideas.

Molydog: Dogulus Rift

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I of course have not played this game on its intended platform, as I’m not a swank motherfucker who owns a Rift development kit. However, I watched a video of it, and it was awesome. I love the verbs the player uses and I love the idea of a game about embarrassing the in-game dog owner and the player, simultaneously.

Scarred

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Scarred is simple but sobering . This game used the same prompt that my Twine story did. The creator of Scarred, Leo Burke, took it way more literally than me, however– and did a great job. The environments seem crudely-constructed at first, but are actually very effective at communicating a specific mood. The mazelike corridors and passageways made me feel trapped and lost. The scripted events at the ending are also pretty good. Make sure you read the quote through before playing. I personally picked this quote because, out of context, it seemed so important and significant. The creator of Scarred managed to tease the significance out of this quote much more effectively than I did.

Hello World!

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Explore the environment and leave messages. There’s a lot of cool stuff to read here, and the environment is bright and appealing.

Loyal

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This game isn’t actually finished yet, but it was demoed at the SF location and I was super impressed by what they had to show so far. Great art, an interesting puzzle mechanic, and effective micro-storytelling. You play a dog growing up alongside a young girl. You must protect her and keep her safe. Every screen depicts a major life event; you get to choose three actions per screen, and watch the results play out. Special action combos result in interesting events.

You Monster!

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You Monster! is a game I made with a team at Molyjam 2013. It is a randomly-generated supervillain-base-destroying game.

You can find the most recent build of the game on our Molyjam page.

You Monster! includes a large amount of randomized text. I wrote all the text in the game and also did some of the pixel art. I also voice-acted the evil supervillain.

This was the first time I had worked on a non-interactive-fiction game at a game jam. It was an interesting, enlightening, and slightly frustrating experience to be part of a game jam team to which I could only contribute a few things.

Currently at Molyjam

I’m currently at the Molyjam in San Francisco.

The prompts this year are not quotes from @petermolydeux, but actual quotes from actual Peter Molyneux. Here’s the full list.

I’m working on two separate projects here: a semi-roguelike based on this quote, with a team of eight:

group prompt

and a Twine story based on this quote. by myself:

single prompt

I’m providing writing for both. Right now, the Twine story looks something like this: (click for bigger)

twine wip

…while my contribution to the roguelike looks something like this:

wip roguelike

You can watch us molyjam here.