Always on Twine
November 20, 2014 4:19 PM   Subscribe

Laura Hudson at NYT Magazine offers a great profile of Porpentine, one of the most talented voices working in an ultra-accessible medium for crafting new interactive fiction. She also reviews landmarks in the genre from other authors. What better time to celebrate the profusion of excellent Twine games out there? Links galore inside.

Trigger warning: Many of these games probe themes of abuse, trauma, violence and mental illness.

Porpentine's "Howling Dogs" (previously)
Porpentine's "Ultra Business Tycoon III" (previously)
Porpentine's "Their Angelical Understanding"
Porpentine & Brenda Neotenomie's "With Those We Love Alive" (previously)
Porpentine's "All I Want Is For All Of My Friends To Become Insanely Powerful"
Porpentine's "Begscape"
Porpentine's "Crystal Warrior Ke$ha," on the many virtues and infinite wisdom of the "Tik Tok" singer
Zoe Quinn's "Depression Quest" (previously, also there's this asinine culture war you may have heard about)
Anna Anthropy's "Queers In Love At The End Of The World"
Lydia Neon's "Player 2"
Cara Ellison's "Sacrilege"
Merritt Kopas' "Consensual Torture Simulator," though this one is an anomaly in that it actually costs money, it is well worth the three dollars if you are interested in a thoughtful mediation on violence in video games and consent
Dan Waber's "A Kiss"
Javy Gwaltney's "A Terror Aboard The Speedwell" This one's two bucks. Save the money you might have spent on Mass Effect 2 or anything in the Dead Space franchise and get this instead
Deirdra "Squinky" Kiai's "Quing's Quest VII: The Death of Videogames," This one's cheating a bit since it uses javascript in addition to Twine
Tsukareta's "You Were Made For Loneliness" (previously)

You may notice that this list is a little Porpentine-heavy. She's quickly entering the pantheon of modern-day interactive fiction deities, along with Adam Cadre, Emily Short and Andrew Plotkin.

posted by zeusianfog (19 comments total) 100 users marked this as a favorite
Would also recommend Short's new iPad game Blood & Laurels despite a snooty New York Times review in which the writer tempered his praise by claiming the sentences were not good enough.
posted by johngoren at 4:22 PM on November 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

UBTIII is the only one I've played all the way through; it's very good, and I've decided I need to save the others for when I have a chance to take my time with them.
posted by mr_roboto at 4:35 PM on November 20, 2014

"With Those We Love Alive" was my first Twine game and quite an emotionally intense experience. The mechanic of writing on yourself was really interesting -- I didn't draw anything particularly interesting or artistic, but it made the game stay with me in a literal way. (And I spent several days thinking, "Damn, my sleeves aren't long enough to cover this, I might have to explain to someone that I did it for a computer game.")
posted by Jeanne at 4:36 PM on November 20, 2014

It's kind of a mixture of hypercard and Choose-Your-Own Adventure.
posted by Nevin at 4:56 PM on November 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've been collecting my own list of recommended twines. Here's a few more (only the first one needs a trigger/content warning, since it's horror):

The Uncle that Works for Nintendo
Candy Quest 3: Edge of Sweetness
Even Cowgirls Bleed
Five Words (go go go)

I would consider twine exceptional among interactive fiction tools, but very few twine games are exceptional in and of themselves (I think "With Those We Love Alive" is one of the few real stand outs). There's a few reasons why twine gets attention from journalists that other forms of interactive fiction don't - friendly usability, using communities/social media to spread the word, and the type of stories told in twine are controversial or otherwise likely to draw a lot of attention.
posted by subject_verb_remainder at 5:08 PM on November 20, 2014 [4 favorites]

Ah, hypercard! I did a project in it (basic Chinese vocab, I think--it was SO LONG ago!) and, having grown up with Adventure/Colossal Cave & Infocom*, always meant to try doing a game in it ... or various other tools over the years. But maybe Twine will be the one I finally go for. Interesting article and links, thanks!

*Adventure is hard when you're 5 years old, just sayin'.
posted by wintersweet at 5:52 PM on November 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

So, the faux-noise/static flickering gifs in Depression Quest: any way to make those not do that? I'd kind of like to play it, but they hit me right in the sensory fail and make me want to peel my eyeballs off.
posted by dorque at 6:13 PM on November 20, 2014

don't forget one of the best twine games, MASTABA SNOOPY (previously)
posted by smasuch at 7:10 PM on November 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm sad though that little recognition is given to the decades of inventive technical and creative achievements that developed the more complex IF writing tools - which are also "open to the masses" but just harder to learn. But then they are harder to learn because you can do so much more with them. Adam Cadre, Emily Short, and Andrew Plotkin have each individually contributed far more to IF than the entire Twine scene combined.

I agree that it would have been great to go into more detail about important figures in IF more broadly, but I don't buy that last characterization. Something like Varicella or Galatea is more elaborate, immersive, intricate, etc. than what you can achieve using Twine, sure. But Photopia, the piece that arguably put Adam Cadre on the map, could be remade in Twine almost trivially. And in terms of emotional impact, I think the Twine games I've seen (particularly Porpentine's) can certainly hold their own. (I also feel weird about framing these writers in opposition or competition, given that they are in fact in dialogue with each other.)
posted by en forme de poire at 7:21 PM on November 20, 2014 [6 favorites]

Fantastic List. One of my favourites is Michael Lutz' creepy 'My Father's Long Long Legs'
posted by beijingbrown at 7:24 PM on November 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

But Photopia, the piece that arguably put Adam Cadre on the map, could be remade in Twine almost trivially.

I agree with most of your other points, but Photopia pulls a couple of tricks that require a blank command prompt to have full impact.

(As a long-time player of parser IF, I was initially leery of Twine - it's so simple, what could you do with it? - but there's plenty of good work coming out of the community and there are plenty of stories that are a good fit for choice games but not parser games and vice versa.)
posted by murphy slaw at 8:25 PM on November 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

Woo! Made it through Crystal Warrior Ke$ha on the first run! SISTERHOOD IS POWERFUL.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 8:48 PM on November 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

MS, are you thinking of the maze? That's the one part I can think of that would require some inventiveness to translate into Twine, but I think you could totally do it (maybe with a little CSS trickery).
posted by en forme de poire at 9:49 PM on November 20, 2014

Also a couple of sections have dynamically ordered rooms that give a false sense of choice. But, yes, much of the impact of the maze comes from having to guess the verb.
posted by murphy slaw at 9:54 PM on November 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

no mention of the superb and horrifying horsemaster for shame
posted by Sebmojo at 10:25 PM on November 20, 2014 [9 favorites]

There's a regular Interactive Fiction meetup in the East Bay! (I've been meaning to go.) I wonder if Porpentine knows about it.
posted by Pronoiac at 12:56 AM on November 21, 2014

I think Porpentine's games are often brilliant but sometimes it feels like she's straight jacketed by the form. Her writing and world building is just jaw dropping, but it feels like Twine is too small for her.
posted by empath at 8:13 AM on November 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

One naysayer called it “about as much fun as randomly clicking links on Wikipedia.”

Wait, that's not a ringing endorsement?
posted by Juliet Banana at 8:28 AM on November 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

So, uh, I "won" Horse Master, but it felt more like this.(penny-arcade)
posted by murphy slaw at 9:10 AM on November 21, 2014

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