My Opinion (Advice)

As an experienced programmer just starting to get into IF gaming via Twine, I suggest starting with the Hawlowe format. I’ve programmed in many languages and hardware since the 1960’s.
I always do the same dumb thing. Start or use something BEFORE reading the instructions.
Gaming IF sounds like fun, so I’ll just jump in at the SugarCube level, and promptly had a million questions. So after days of flailing around, I tried Harlowe (with excellent tutorial by CCH Learning, called " How to Create Adventure Games using Twine".
Now I’m “happy as a pig eating slop !”

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I am currently “Twine-curious and experimenting” and I really like Harlowe’s text flexibility, though making images and audio work sound like a pain. Chapbook is more limited but familiar and handles media, and Sugarcube seems the most flexible. I experience mental choice-lock when trying to decide which one to take up.

I do agree that Harlowe is easier to get in to. From an outsider’s perspective, Harlowe looked cleaner and simpler simply due to it’s syntax and the way it phrases and builds it’s code, but at the time Sugarcube dominated from a coding perspective as it provided more options and flexibility-- it could, functionally, do more. I remember one notable point being the likes of real time counting, something impossible to do in Harlowe but manageable in Sugarcube.

With the introduction of Harlowe 3.2.1 it feels like it’s more of an even playing field. I still feel like Sugarcube can do more but I’m so used to the ease of Harlowe’s syntax at this point that I don’t think I could ever switch.


When I found Twine, I struggled a bit with Harlowe because it’s confusing to look at, prevents you from using javascript and making anything complex in most cases, and the default CSS is ugly as sin. I hated it immediately. If it weren’t for Sugarcube’s existence, I would have abandoned Twine quickly and probably wouldn’t be on this forum right now.

Sugarcube is basically like putting javascript into your HTML page. In fact, a lot of times it literally is that. I think the zillion << >> tags are pretty ugly and I have some serious gripes about how it manages blank spaces with all of the <<nobr>> and \ bits clogging up your text, but it gets the job done and is really powerful.

If I were to just make a simple CYOA without any complex stuff though, I’d probably just use chapbook. It’s really clean and well suited to that purpose. The main issue it has even with simple projects is that you can only do an if/then statement one level deep. For more than that you have to include a separate passage for the other condition check, or something like that. I’m not sure why they designed it like that.


I haven’t used any of the Twine story formats other than SugarCube myself, but I’ve often seen people hit a stopping point with Harlowe where they’re unable to do certain things due to how Harlowe is designed. Those same things can often be done in SugarCube, usually fairly easily.

So, I’m not a fan of Harlowe.

That said, Chapel, who has written code in both Harlowe and SugarCube, wrote a rather informative post comparing them on r/twinegames in the “SugarCube vs Harlowe in 2021” post. If you want an up-to-date commentary from someone who has extensive experience with the Twine story formats, then I’d highly recommend reading that.

Enjoy! :slight_smile: