Story Format Pros & Cons?

I’m taking a look at Twine – just at the very beginning. What I haven’t found a discussion of, so far, is any explanation of the strengths and/or limitations of Harlowe 3 vs. Sugarcube 2 vs. anything else. What would a newbie need to know in order to choose a suitable format for a project?


My Twine resources guide has a brief overview of the story formats here:

In general though, I recommend trying them all out before settling in one.


Thanks. Since trying them out would require learning different types of code for each, I’m hoping to short-cut that a bit. I tried a few things in Harlowe, haven’t yet looked at Sugarcube, but I suspect I’ll go with Sugarcube. It seems possibly to be a good compromise between customizability and ease of use. I have in fact poked around a bit in javascript and css, but I’m not keen to roll up my sleeves and get serious about them, so Snowman is out. My feeling is that I really ought to be keeping my eye on the story, not on the coding.

Unless you have a very specific need, SugarCube is probably the one that you want. It is the most well-developed and flexible, with lots of built-in tools and it doesn’t hit the “complexity ceiling” that you can run into with Harlowe. It also fairly seamlessly integrates JavaScript as well. Finally, most Twine sample code out there is either in Harlowe or SugarCube. So, considering all of that, SugarCube is generally the best choice.

Chapel’s resources give you a good rundown of all of the well known story formats and many of the lesser known ones, so I’d definitely recommend checking that out as well.

Hope that helps! :slight_smile:


If you want to check them out without learning code, you can view the cookbook comparison of the different formats:

But basically, on ease of use, it goes (from easiest to most difficult): chapbook > harlowe > sugarcube > snowman

However, the amount of flexibility that each language offers you decreases as the languages get easier. Chaboook barely lets you customize anything, and then on the other end of the spectrum, Snowman basically requires you to write nearly everything (like the save system and everything). So there’s a give and take.

Most people settle on Harlowe and SugarCube. Harlowe is pretty good at getting things done quickly, whereas SugarCube requires a bit of reading up first. But if you want to customize stuff like writing your own functions and stuff, SugarCube is the way to go.

I really like to program, so I’m heavily biased towards SugarCube. But Harlowe isn’t that bad, all things considered.


I think it’s still wise to try them all. Realistically you’re talking about a few evenings to do a crash course in each and throw something basic together. While there are a variety of objective factors to consider, like how extensible the format is, how large it’s core feature set is, etc, there are also other, less obvious considerations that are more subjective and come from experience.

For example, writing off Chapbook might be a mistake, since it comes with a huge set of debugging and styling tools called “backstage” that make it incredibly attractive as long as your game is a close enough fit. It’s also more extensible than Harlowe, even though Harlowe is technically less opinionated.

Likewise, Harlowe’s hooks are much easier to reason about and work with imo than the equivalent features of other formats, and Harlowe uses a more normal markdown formatting than SugarCube, which may be a benefit of your project’s scale fits with Harlowe. Harlowe also allows you to nest macros and for macros to return values, so it’s more consistent overall.