Blog 560: Brownscape: EnTwinement

So-called “Twines” are pretty fashionable these days. I still don’t know entirtely what they are (something something “interactive fiction”), but I intend to find out… using one of my less successful recent projects.

Brownscape: Torment

I may have said recently that the WC3 RPG project Brownscape: Torment has become too wordy for its own good (and while we’re here, let’s all laugh at that closing comment: “nobody wants to wait another year… do they?”). I threatened that it either needed a full-scale conversation system or it needed to get out.

Needless to say, it’s been languishing in development hell for a while now. Project Y4 R02 remains the primary focus, in amongst actually playing some mods and games, and Brownscape is sadly confused as to whether it wants to be a game or an endless train of sluggishly-paced cinematic conversations. (It can’t be made to skip line-by-line without insane amounts of work, so you don’t want this.)

And then it occurred to me… If it’s too wordy, why not just fuck up and make it a damn text adventure instead?

Twine

What the hell is a Twine? I don’t know, but everyone’s talking about them all the time these days. At least on RockPaperShotgun, and where else do you expect me to go for middle-class PC gaming news?

Anyway. From what I can gather from an initial sweep, a Twine is just a finite state machine created by this handy tool called… Twine.

The generated results are in fact little wikis, powered by TiddlyWiki (one of those nasty self-modifying-HTML-file wikis I rejected when selecting a home for the Wreckageverse re/constructions, before canning even that and just making my own) — the adventure is just progression through pages in some sequence that is as non-linear as the author wants it to be. It’s just clicking links, no flags or variables to change the course of the world…

Actually, a cursory look at help files suggest that there are some ways to store state and show or hide choices based on it. Seeing as I’ve spent the last ten years juggling global variables in WorldEdit, I should settle into this easily enough.

Let's just do a little proof-of-concept before we worry about my prose, okay?

Let’s just do a little proof-of-concept before we worry about my prose, okay?

The Pros

Words might not come easy when talking to people (or making up character names or — shudder — new passwords), but ensconsed here in my inner sanctum (previously known as Fort Robbie, i.e. my bedroom) they flow like a veritable mountain stream. Just look at the hojillion entries on this here blog. I can do words. Words are easy. (Whether they’re any good or not is up for grabs, but you can’t fault me for quantity.)

Obviously there’s a lot more to an actual game than words, especially for a man like me who makes all his own artwork. (Apart from the base model for this particular project, which was Olof Moleman‘s Geonosian. Yes, that’s right, I based a whole project on a) somebody else’s model and b) it was a Star Wars expanded universe model.) It’s the never-ending hurdle that slows everything down — having to take some nebulous idea from my head and turn it into a usable set of decorations or, horror of horrors, a fully armed and operation unit model.

Why do you think it took two years just to get to the first release of Y4?

There’s also the potential for branching narrative. In a game you’ve got to track a million flags and set up different cinematics and make different models and items and… Oh, it gets painful fast, especially in an engine like WC3 that’s not entirely designed for it. (Global variables… global variables everywhere.) Here, well, what’s another five thousand words between friends?

And then there’s that whole it-won’t-require-WC3 holy grail. You, dear reader, regardless of your status (and since you’re on here I know you’ve got a web browser capable of displaying HTML), will be able to download and read it. Isn’t technology amazing?

It's going to take all my CSS knowhow to make this thematically appropriate. It's not a Y4 novelisation, white-on-black won't fly.

It’s going to take all my CSS knowhow to make this thematically appropriate. It’s not a Y4 novelisation, white-on-black won’t fly.

The Cons

I’m sure I’ve said before that the intro to Brownscape remains one of my favourite contrivances. The slowed-down music, the bleak desert scenes, the overly dramatic words that gently link it to This Wreckage… Augh!

So we’re going to lose the visuals, and the music. We’ll also lose wandering around a nigh-endless empty space worrying about our character’s core body temperature.

We’ll also lose an area close to my heart, the items and inventory management — where the mood can be set further with quirky item descriptions and, hell, the items themselves (I had mushrooms and desert ale instead of health and mana potions, for example).

… Depending on your opinion of how I make my WC3 RPGs, this may not be a con at all.

The Verdict

Let’s do this!

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