Make Your Own Adventure With Twine

Posted by | June 04, 2014 | Feature, Tips for Parents | 2 Comments
Twine header image

Many gamers have dreamed of making their own games. There are plenty of resources for people learning how to code, but getting from the early coding lessons to a fully functional game can be daunting. The good news is that you could make your own game in the next hour—and you don’t need to know how to code, script, or even draw.

Twine is a free, simple program that allows you to create a “Choose Your Own Adventure” style text game. The game, once completed, can be played using any web browser. If you can master one or two easy commands within the program, you can make your own game! It’s that simple.

How Twine Works

Twine works like “Choose Your Own Adventure” books—but instead of writing “turn to page 59,” you use hyperlinks to direct how players experience your story. After downloading the program and working through the tutorials, my first completed game looked like this:

Each box represents a page in a web browser. The intersecting lines show how each of these pages link together.

Each box represents a page in a web browser. The intersecting lines show how each of these pages link together.

After you finish your story, you can publish your story as an HTML file and share it with your friends! While I was able to see my story as an interlocking web of pages, my testers experienced my game as an online text game. There are several sites that will host Twine stories for free, so you can share it with the whole Internet if you like.

This screen is what players see when they play your game. This basic background can be highly customized if you’re comfortable with HTML and CSS.

This screen is what players see when they play your game. This basic background can be highly customized if you’re comfortable with HTML and CSS.

Sliding Difficulty Scale

There are plenty of storytellers who love games and would love to make their own, but are scared off by the thought of coding and scripting. Twine removes those barriers and makes it easy for anyone to make a game. And if you dive deeper into the program, you can make more complicated games—and see a bit of what professional game writers have to contend with when they work on a game.

As an example, Twine allows you to create variables that affect how players progress through the story. For my first Twine game—a typical survival game with scary noises and poor lighting—I created a variable that tracked whether players had any battery life left on their phone.

Twine back end

Players who have battery life on their phones experience a different part of the game than players who don’t. It’s a simple mechanic, but it reveals a lot about how choices and dialogue are managed in more complicated games.

For tech-savvy or artistic users, Twine offers additional flexibility—while my idea of customizing my game meant changing the font size and background color, other Twine users have created games with pictures, sound, and unique fonts.

Learn How Game Writing Works

When I first began working with Twine, I went wild with player choices. Each choice led in a completely different direction than the others. Before I knew it, I had a tangled mess of story fragments that led nowhere. If I wanted to make a coherent game without spending weeks of my life writing it, I had to make some tactical decisions. Each option, no matter how different it seemed from the others, would need to lead to one of the three variations of a “Game Over” page I’d written.

By the time I’d whittled my Twine connections down to a reasonable journey from “Start” to “The End,” I had a lot more respect for game writers who have to account for far more variations than the four I’d created in my simple game.

Get Started!

If you (or other gamers in your life) are passionate about storytelling and want to write your own games, Twine is a great place to start. Depending on the scope of your story, you could finish a game with little more than an hour of work. The tutorials on the Twine Wiki are a great place to get started. You can also play entire collections of Twine games to see what other game makers are coming up with.

(Note: Some of these Twine games contain intensely graphic or personal content that may not be suitable for young game makers.)

Sara Stern photo

About Sara Stern

Sara is a writer and aspiring game designer from Seattle. She's never quite let go of her childhood ambition to be an X-Wing pilot. On off days, she can be found running around Lake Union or raiding the comics section of the public library. Find her on Twitter @se_stern.