Chris Klimas, the hypertext and IF author who runs Gimcrack’d, has just released free versions of Twine for Mac and Windows, along with documentation and several screencasts that explain how the system works and a command-line tool, called “twee,” for working with stories in Twine’s format. Twine is a system for constructing interactive stories using a visual map, not unlike Eastgate Systems’ Storyspace. While it lacks the august heritage of that piece of software, Twine is freely available and free to use for any purpose, even commercially.
When Twine build a story for publication or for the author’s examination, it does this in HTML/CSS. That means that readers won’t need any special software to explore stories written in Twine. Lots of text formatting can be done without getting into HTML and CSS, although authors are welcome to get into it as deeply as they like. The system supports some sophisticated presentation capabilities, including a stretchtext mode. It’s not quite a guard field, but the “choice” macro locks off certain options when others have been taken. Under the hood of Twine is TiddlyWiki, a personal Wiki took for the Web. This handy personal notebook system has been reshaped for interactive narrative rather than productivity, though, and pretty thoughtfully.
Having just started up Twine and fiddled with it a bit, I’m impressed at how easy it is to use, even if one doesn’t read the documentation or watch the screencasts first. It seemed at first that there would be no way link two different occurrences of a word to two different texts, but after a quick bit of reading I was able to figure out how to change [[word]] to [[word|word2]] in one place and give one of the links a different internal name. I’m looking forward to using Twine (and probably twee) further. It could be useful for doing a small project – perhaps a collaboration? – and it might work well as an option for students, too.