Catch me up... briefly?

It looks like this year’s IFComp is primarily CYOA-style stuff. Has it started getting a higher level of recognition in the community, or is it just the result of a user base that’s trending younger? (Younger in the sense that they weren’t exposed to parser-based IF, regardless of actual age.)

I have a creative spark that urges me to come up with a three-hour-something for the Ectocomp. So I dusted off my Hugo directories, fixed some broken paths to the compiler, and peeked at some of my old source code. What I realized is that I’m too rusty with it to make effective use of a three-hour limit. And even if I wasn’t, writing (coding, mainly) and testing something worthwhile – even if short – would likely be difficult. Eight hours… maybe. Or a one-room no-object conversation game… maybe.

So tell me about “Twine”. I’ve visited the website, and it seems like something that would be easy to use. And it seems to have latches into the programming for more advanced stuff, including inventory tracking. My hunch is that it could be used to come up with something that’s elevated above just static CYOA… but possibly not in a mere three hours.

Twine handles numbers simply and inventory slightly less so; you’d be able to build something with stats in a few hours but you’d feel more of a crunch trying to implement a more traditional inventory-based system (probably the simplest way to do this is with a series of boolean variables).
One of Twine’s strongest features is the ability to nest passages within each other, so making your environments responsive is simply a matter of doing the writing and the very simple coding necessary.

You could build something with Twine within three hours. Whether it is a work of quality depends on how slim your concept is going in. If you know exactly what you’re doing, it’s possible, but I could see getting overwhelmed if you can’t pare your ideas down well enough.

Also check out AXMA story maker and Inklewriter as alternatives. Axma has nicer output if you don’t want to mess with html and inkle is web bound but has a great UI and looks beautiful online on monitors and small screen phones.

The community has been paying more attention to CYOA since 2010-ish, partly as a result of outside CYOA-ish communities engaging with the traditional community, and partly as a result of internal soul-searching about the difficulty of the parser (and whether it’s suitable for every kind of story we might want to tell) and outreach and suchlike. Emily’s post So, Do We Need This Parser Thing Anyway? is a good introduction.

Twine was developed by Chris Klimas and not much-noticed for a little while; the central reason for the Twine Revolution is Anna Anthropy championing it as a low-entry-barrier tool in Rise of the Videogame Zinesters, with the express idea that easy-to-use, open-source tools empower marginalised groups that are otherwise underrepresented in game creation. This, together with the powerful advocacy work and founder-effect of Porpentine, has had a huge influence on the typical subject-matter and style of Twine games, which often deal with subjects of oppression, gender and queerness.

Twine’s learning-curve is super-easy on the low slopes. It gets a bit more complicated at moderate levels - partly because there’s no real comprehensive documentation yet, and most of the information on how to do stuff is scattered across blog posts (Porpentine has compiled some of these, which helps a lot, but it’s still a very long way from the quality of docs you’d expect from a mature platform). If you’re already fluent in CSS and Javascript, though, you should be able to do a great deal, but if you’ve got three hours I wouldn’t expect to do anything more complicated than setting and checking simple flags.

I decided to write a game for the EctoComp and figured Twine was my best choice (I don’t use ADRIFT anymore and I’m not familiar enough with Inform 7 to be confident of getting a fully-working game done and dusted in just 3 hours) and found it very easy to use. I deliberately steered clear of anything complicated because I didn’t want to spend any of my 3 hours debugging it or posting messages here asking for help. For simple games (like mine), it’s possible to download, install and be using it in a few minutes.

I haven’t looked into writing anything more complicated yet but I might at some point.

I may go this route then. I’ve been looking at the online tutorial, and I’ve downloaded the Windows development tools. It does seem super simple. I don’t know how clunky it would be, but I envision something where every room (or page) is given an Inventory option which goes to an inventory page. Stuff you’re carrying is handled by flags. You can click something in inventory and it’ll take you back to where you left off, basically doing a generic “use” with that item. I could see it being a little more complicated by first “looking at” something (ex: a door) and then going to inventory to select the “key”, provided Twine supports all that. But for EctoComp, that’d be too much in three hours.

I’m pretty experienced with JavaScript and CSS, since that’s a portion of my day job. But I can only think of two scenarios where I’d personally want to dive into Twine or something similar. One would be the limitations of EctoComp or other SpeedIF development under a very short time constraint. The other would be if I was wanting to create something for a more general audience; something that’s both web accessible and with a hyperlink interface people would find familiar. Otherwise, for anything at all complicated, I think traditional parser-based IF would still be my choice.

Ooooh, yeah. I don’t think this is the first time I’ve heard of it, actually. But I had forgotten. It seems like I was around when it was in development or new, but I never really checked it out. Or if I did, I forgot about that too.

Also gamebook mode in Quest.

we need a parser-based IF category

No we don’t.