2014-08-25

Twine Game Story Authoring 1: Structuring Game stories with Pain and Progress

Twine is a versatile tool from writing game stories. It is freed from the imposition of somebody else's RighWayToDoThings framework and allows the author to focus on what is important to them. The downside is that the author must program everything they want themselves. A previous article discusses how Twine can be thought of from a programmers perspective but don't worry it that article makes little sense. This article is specifically about structuring game stories.

For our purposes, a game story has a mainloop because the story is driven by data. That data might be a map, character stats, an inventory or something else you can dream up. This style of story does not suit a hypertext branching narrative.

The over all structure of the story goes:
  1. Introduction Text
  2. Initialise Variables
  3. MainLoop Passage
  4. Actions Passages
  5. Check Conditions Passages
  6. End of Game Passages

I like examples, so here is a link to the Pleasure and Pain v1 (HTML | Twee) files. Try out the playable HTML version first then take a look at the Twee code in your favourite text editor. In twee new passages start on lines beginning with double colons ::passagename. Pain And Progress is a simple demonstration with two conditional variables. Let's examine the passages and their intent.

Start, RealStart, Instructions
These passages deal with beginning the story, giving background and the option for instructions if the reader so chooses. Here you might add extended about information and links to information about the story and the author.

InitGame
The game re-runs this passage whenever the game is (re)started. Initialise all the variables that your game uses in here. Twine itself does not require variables to be declared and initialised but that can cause awkward side effects if a game story is re-run. Imagine the reader picks up an axe in one play-through, then the $hasAxe variable is not reset and they suddenly have an axe on the next play-thru. Not good - but completely avoidable if ALL variables are initialised here.
Enclose the variable initialisations in a <<silently>> ... <<endsilently>> block so that you can add free-form comments to the variables that will not be seen by the user.
Once this passage has ended then control is passed to the MainEventLoop.

MainEventLoop
This is where the major action occurs. Typically the story might perform any engine initiated actions (e.g. random weather events, monster encounters), display status and provide a menu of actions.

MainStatus
Consider separating status displays so that they can be re-used.

MainActionPain, MainActionProgress
These passages are the entry points from user actions. They start by performing any action related things and then checking the game state. A flag variable $gameendflag lets the game story know if they should print user actions or not. The reason for this is that <<display>> will always return to the passage that invoked it and nothing further from these passages should be displayed if the game should end.

CheckPain, CheckProgress
Perform constraint checks in their own passages so that they can be re-used through the game story.

GameEndLose, GameEndWin, PlayAgain, PlayAgainNo
These passages deal with the game ending conditions. Game stories could expand this list for different ending conditions. The PlayAgain passage ensures that replays will begin again from the InitGame passage.

The Pain and Progress, the passage names are typically prefixed by their function, though prefixing by variable name is also valid. The idea is to make things as obvious as possible.

Hopefully this example will serve as a guide to structuring gamestories and encourage more Twine authors to try this type of story. If you found this guide useful then Share / Comment / Like - because it encourages me to write more on this topic.