Twine: A Game Engine For Writers

Throughout my creative writing degree, I wanted to learn how to write and make video games. However, I found out it was a topic not mentioned much by my tutors, due to it possibly being seen as digital media rather than literary. It was even more difficult finding an engine that uses literary skills rather than digital skills. However, writers rejoice, there is a game engine we can use. This engine allows the use of literary skills to create video games, allowing us to get in on the popularity of games. This engine is called Twine.

First released in 2009, Twine is an open source game engine that allows users to create interactive fiction. This interactive fiction is primarily text-based, much like PC games from the early 1980s like Zork, but can contain images, music and video. The program is free to download and from the time of writing is currently in Twine 2.0 (version 2.2.1). Twine uses three different computer codes to work: JavaScript, CSS, and HTML5. For those writers unfamiliar with coding terms, these are the most basic codes used in computer programming. They are typically used in creating web pages and their functions.

You can create many different narratives with Twine. My personal favourite (and recommended for beginners) is the “Choose Your Own Adventure” narrative. This allows you to create a narrative with multiple endings and make the players think carefully before they making a choice. This was the first story style I created when I started with the engine back in 2016, hence why I recommend it for beginners. The narrative style is simple to create and requires little coding knowledge.

If you are looking to create a more complex game like a survival horror or RPG, then you will need to learn coding. Thankfully, it is very easy to create code in Twine. The internet contains many tips and shares source code on how to develop functions like keys, playback video, and health points. For those interested, check out this example from Twine Wiki about creating a key using code. A word of warning: some codes were written a few years ago and may be incompatible with newer versions of Twine. It will also take time to learn this, but it will let you create more complex stories.

One piece of advice before creating anything in Twine: plan your narrative. You need to know what happens on each panel before you begin in the engine. You have to make sure your story makes sense before constructing it, or you will find it to be very difficult and tedious going back and fixing everything later on. I know this because I have made the same mistake. I am usually someone who never plans when writing, which is fine for short stories or novels, but not for video games.

You can also use Twine as a basis for developing a game further in another engine like Unity. Due to its basic coding script, you can develop a game completely within the engine and give it to a friend or colleague who knows game programming. The narrative aspect of the engine also allows your programming friend to get a feel for your game which they can replicate in another engine.

If you are looking into writing for video games, Twine is a great starting point. It allows literary writers to transfer their skills to digital media with ease. Check out some examples of what people have made here. You can download the engine from the link to their site here.


Words by Cameron Lowe 

camCameron Lowe is a horror and sci-fi writer, editor and student. He’s had fiction and articles featured in Speakeasy Zine and Empire Times. He loves to read, play video games, and drink green tea. He’s one of the 2018 editors at Empire Times. He tweets at @cloweshadowking.

Restarting Your Creativity: Part III

PART THREE: FINDING MOTIVATION

Some advice I was given (and tried my best to follow) is to write something, anything every single day. Writing is like sport, and like any sport you need to practice to get good. Sometimes this might be a few thousand words, sometimes a paragraph or a sentence or even a single word. Everyone works in different ways but the surest and strongest way to get started is to do just that. Start. And everything starts somewhere.

These are some ways in which you can find your motivation today!

1.) Clean your workspace

It sounds counter-productive and sometimes it is. If your workspace isn’t how you want it, it might put you off for days, weeks, or even months. Clean it. Tidy it. Make sure it’s not a distraction.

2.) Set yourself a challenge

As with finding time, challenges can be very handy to motivate you. If you need to get 3,000 words done by Friday and you have a friend holding you to it, you’re not going to want to disappoint that friend. Generally you have an understanding of your own working ability so it is up to you to set yourself a goal or challenge that you will realistically meet. If you are a slow writer you might aim for 500 words or a page a day, or if you’re a quick writer a few thousand words might not be too ambitious. But a challenge that works for you won’t necessarily work for everyone.

 

3.) Enter a competition

Competitions give you deadlines not just for a word count but for a polished copy of whatever it is you’re writing. Working towards this deadline, in theory, means working towards a deadline of at least one week ahead and then taking the time to edit thoroughly before submission. Even if you don’t end up entering your work you put the time and effort into creating it.

4.) Ask a friend or family member to read your work

This would also appear on a lot of lists of what not to do. But in the end you want to be motivated right? You want to hear about how much talent you have and how wonderful you are. So get someone who loves you to read your work and bask in their praise. Hopefully, if you push on, people who don’t know you will also want to praise you.

5.) Tell someone about your writing

In telling someone about your project you’re making it real. They might remember and ask you how the writing is coming along. Plus, if you’re talking about it you’re thinking about it, and if you’re thinking about it you’re working on it. Don’t worry if it comes to nothing or if you switch from one project to another, just keep voicing those ideas.

6.) Read good books

Writers are always encouraged to be constantly reading. The advantage of this is you’re surrounding yourself with good writing, which encourages you to also produce good writing. As I mentioned in Rediscovering your Inspiration, reading something that provokes you (in a good or bad way) is also helpful. It encourages you to do better and to respond to the work. The caution here of course is to let yourself read bad books, but not bad writing. Bad books make you want to do better (and destroy your faith in humanity), but bad writing is just… bad.

7.) Read literary magazines

Find out what’s going on in the writing world and stay in touch with it. Know it’s where you belong and stay there. You might write highly experimental literary fiction and find places like The Lifted Brow and (increasingly) Voiceworks a great comfort. Or you might prefer Meanjin, Kill Your Darlings, or Overland, there are plenty of literary magazines out there. You might even just want to stay up to date with Tulpa Magazine (we have a newsletter, you should sign up!). Whatever you decide to do, keep literary magazines in mind—we certainly have plenty to offer. Tulpa is currently free to read, and other places (if you don’t want to pay subscription fees) are generally available in your library.

8.) Stop reading

Yes I am contradicting my earlier point. If you’re like me (constantly reading) you might find that this motivates you to write. You’re so used to being in a story that you need to write just to get back into the zone. You’ll be desperate to finish your project just so that you can escape back into a good book.

9.) Have a plan

Some writers are pantsers and some are planners. Know which one you are and how much planning you need to have done in order to succeed. If you’re a pantser hold on tight to your idea, sit down, and start writing. If you’re a planner, like me, you might want to have a highly detailed plan and over-write the hell out of your piece. As long as it works for you it works!

10.) Have a write-in

You might work best on your own but there is seriously nothing like writing with others. Hearing other keyboards going, pens scraping paper, having the occasional chat and talking about your work is always a wonderful experience. I’ve personally found this can also work well with visual artists because you’re all doing something creative and losing yourself in your work in the same way. Writers SA run a write-in called TWELVE each quarter where you spend twelve hours working on a creative project. Alternately Simone Corletto and Mhairi Tocher run a regular virtual write-in called the YA Jungle which you are welcome to follow along with. To find out more check out their website.

One of the biggest things I would like for you to take from my Restarting Your Creativity series is that you are more than capable of writing. You can finish your project. You can find the time, inspiration, and motivation to fulfill your goals. There are so many things you can do to get yourself ready to write but the easiest and most effective thing to do is to just sit down and write. Make the time, get inspired, and get motivated.


Art by Rhianna Carr

Words by Kayla Gaskell

Kayla Gaskell is an Adelaide based writer and reviewer whose work has appeared in Empire Times, Readplus, Buzzcuts, Where’s Pluto, and now Tulpa.

 

OTHER PARTS IN THIS SERIES:

Part I: Finding the Time to Write

Part II: Rediscovering your Inspiration