The Ongoing Examination of Making Things

General / 10 October 2015

Last weekend I had one of those chains of experience where one thought or discovery leads to another new and interesting thing. In this case, it started with this video from esteemed video game people at cool ghosts.

My curiosity was peaked, I loved The Stanley Parable so the prospect of experiencing new things interrogated using a similar structure was appealing.

There's a particular scene in The Beginner's Guide (the second game from part of Galactic Cafe) where a character's creative ability is represented by a machine. While it's probably the most literal section of the game it's also the part that resonated most with me due to the kind of question asked of the machine, and of the player. Why isn't the machine working anymore? Should the machine be destroyed, or the work it created? Is the machine making you unhappy?

This lead to conversations about ideas and making things, the stupid filter we (I) have. So having talked that filter into taking a few days off, I picked up a tool I'd wanted to have a go at learning for a while.

Twine is a free tool that allows you to write passages of text and link them together to create whatever you want; it's primarily used for branching stories. There are also simple programming commands you can get Twine to execute: did the player see this passage already? If the player did, show them this text. Did the player click this word? Then display this passage. Things like that. Here are some of the most useful links I found whilst learning basic "if" statements, and a couple of other things.

You can play my Twine thing here. There are a couple of junctions where 1 of a possible 4 random passages of text are displayed depending on what kind of outcome you get from the machine. These are coded to be random, so there's not a whole lot of real choice going on here, but I'm pretty pleased I managed to get some of these code base bits working. Never managed to get anything like this to work before so that's exciting!

You can see some of the structure of my story in the image above. Notice how some text branches out where the player made a choice, and then the story converges again with the main branch. Some passages are floating islands, detached from other passages, these are generally the ones that are displayed randomly within other passages.

It's felt good to be making stuff, not good stuff, or even stuff that I've tried particularly hard on from a design perspective. Just working on something, learning a few genuinely new skills, and having something to show at the end of it. The act of making that thing is so much more valuable to me than the resulting thing itself, I suppose that value distribution will balance out with a lot of practice.