Last night, I came across an interesting call to action:
A Grow-like Twine game where you have a single scene and eight verbs that can be performed once in any order.—
Leon Arnott… (@webbedspace) November 26, 2012
If you haven’t played any of the Grow games, I highly recommend you check them out. They and the rest of EYEZMAZE’s games claimed many of my adolescent hours. The premise is fairly simple: choosing from an array of eight objects, apply them one at a time so that they transform the playspace, building on each other progressively to reach the optimal outcome. Didn’t work out? Try a different order!
Fortunately for me, today worked out just beautifully to take a shot at Arnott’s proposal. Twine is an absolute breeze to use, so if you’re at all interested in writing interactive fiction, you ought to have a look. I’d also like to highlight Anna Anthropy’s introduction to Twine, which helped me get up and running.
Taking Arnott’s Tweet as written, I began to map out eight verbs in the workspace. After a short amount of work, I realized the colossal number of possibilities that that worked out to. Beginning with eight choices, the number of unique chapters adds up to over 40,000! Certainly more than I’d be able to get done in an afternoon. So, after some further math, I decided to go with a much more manageable four verbs (65 chapters).
It was an interesting project to undertake and I rather surprised myself with the setting of the story. Initially, when I was still looking at eight verbs, I was thinking of beginning in the void and then progressively building a world by taking broad, general actions like “love,” “doubt,” “run,” “remember,” and so on. I still think there’s some interesting potential there; perhaps I’ll revisit the idea. Or perhaps you will? If you’d like to use my four-option framework, you can download the Twine file here. Simply use “Replace Across Entire Story” to swap out my numbers for your chosen verbs.
Anyways, I ended up with romantic relationships as a theme, and was surprised to find some of the corners I ended up in. Having to write narratives in such a way that every single one of them contains every possible verb was an interesting thematic challenge. Though I think I did an alright job of tying things together, I feel like a bunch of the stories are kind of samey in their arc (especially when it comes to endings). Perhaps some greater advance planning would avoid this, or perhaps the setting was just too narrow.
Another issue I found with creating a story like this is the vagueness of player (reader?) choices. I tried to account for this as best I could, but there’s really no assurance that choosing “cry,” for example, will lead to the sort of crying or what-have-you that the player has in mind. This has often been a frustration of mine in choosing from among dialogue options in other games: “No, I didn’t mean it that way!” These might be unavoidable limitations of the format, though I would be curious about the possible applications of adverbs in these situations. Or dynamic AI, but that’s way beyond the scope of a Twine game.
Either way, it was fun to run around in this space for a little while and I must thank Leon Arnott for the impetus. Let me know what you think!