Making Story Games with Twine 2.0

I’ve written about many game tools here at ProfHacker, including Inform 7, Construct 2, and Inklewriter. One of my favorite platforms to work in personally is Twine. As I wrote previously, Twine is a powerful platform for building HTML5 games that can be played in the browser, and it works in a card-based model that’s very friendly to non-programmers. It’s very quick to pick up and go, so it’s something that can be brought into any discipline as a new way of engaging and expressing material. Recent changes have completely revamped Twine with the launch of Twine 2.0, a version that’s got lots of potential for the classroom. Twine 2.0 is still suited to building choice-driven games and stories quickly, but it includes a browser-based editor and a new approach to scripting and syntax.

Twine 2.0 isn’t backward compatible with the original Twine syntax, which can be frustrating to experienced Twine users or those with Twine projects in progress, but it’s actually good news for newcomers. Using Twine 1.x can still be very valuable, as there are a number of macros and existing resources for working with it, but some of the capabilities that were ‘hacked’ into Twine 1.x are now much easier to use in Twine 2.0. Everything in Twine is based around the idea of passages, or fragments of a story or game. Each fragment can include readable text, images and sounds; links or ‘hooks’ to other passages and dynamic content; and syntax and scripting for handling variables and other logic. It’s now easier to work with a range of fundamental programming logic structures, but it’s also possible to make a compelling game without every getting further in the code than links. The “TwineScript” recalls JavaScript or ActionScript (from Flash), but it’s targeted towards the type of tasks a game designer needs to complete.

While Twine 2.0 now has downloadable editors for PC and Mac, the real appeal for educators might be found in the browser version. If you’re teaching in a computer lab where installing software is a hassle, building game-making into a curriculum might require lots of fuss and advance planning. Browser-based editors, on the other hand, just require a reasonably up-to-date browser. It also makes it easy for students to work on projects in a lab and at home. I’m particularly excited for what Twine 2.0 could mean for K-12 classrooms, where software rules tend to be even more restrictive, but it’s also an advantage when working with students who have a range of available technology. A browser-based editor is much more accessible at libraries and campus labs.

Twine was already a complex and powerful editor, but some of the enhancements in 2.0 are drawing attention to it for varied purposes. Carolyn Vaneseltine has pointed out Twine’s flexibility for game prototyping mechanics including flow, architecture, narratives, and branching structures. Chris Martens has been taking a look at Twine for game research.  If you want to really dive into Twine’s potential, Dan Cox has a great video series introducing pivotal concepts in Twine 2.0, including such useful topics as integrating CSS and using advanced data types in Twine 2.0.

Twine is the first platform I recommend to any newcomer looking to make games, and it’s one of the most flexible and immediately rewarding tools I’ve found to bring to the classroom. Twine 2.0 has added to the accessibility and I look forward to teaching with it myself in the fall.

Have you played with Twine 2.0? Share your tips and projects in the comments!

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