These forums for Electron Dance were closed on 09 December 2014.
HM journeys through the exhibition
  • I'm just going to jot down random notes here as I move through the different Twines. I'm not sure why I'm doing this, maybe I'll turn it into a small article? I'm guessing it will take me a good week to get through all the exhibits.

    One of the problems with Twine that I've had issues with is that it looks and smells like an HTML page. It encourages me to click through and not to pause and wonder. I can't soak in detail. Now because I am part of the exhibition I am approaching these exhibits in a different way, I am taking my time. So if I really enjoy all these Twines it doesn't mean they are the best ever - it likely means the exhibition context has changed how I engage with them. That is - it's not going to be a fair comparison.

    Tonight it was the turn of Tony Perriello's Debt and Morgan Rille's The Conversation I Can't Have.

    Debt surprised me because it had audio. I had considered using audio for Truth is Ghost but I thought Twine, right, it's supposed to be text! Plus, there was a matter of just not having enough time to have a stab at every fanciful idea in my head.

    I wasn't convinced on the plot. There's a metaphor at work here, at how the institutions spend far too much on debt recovery as a form of deterrent, a message to others, but I wasn't persuaded that a world had to come to pass where Debt's harsh judgements had become acceptable.

    But the atmosphere of the piece is undeniable. The sounds are all muted and the indefatigable streaming of the text does somewhat make you feel trapped inside something. The audio aspect works really well. There's little in the way of player choice here (there is only the recommended course of action), and whether a player finds a plus or minus is going to depend on the player. I'll admit it, I enjoyed the ride.

    The Conversation I Can't Have was a total surprise.

    Back in my writers' group a few years ago, we had someone who brought S&M pieces more or less every week. She had no intention of publishing them. It was just something she liked to do. But these tales never had an autobiographical feel; they were stories to take pleasure from - if that's what you were into. They relished the action, the excitement, the potential to lose control bubbling beneath the surface. The Conversation I Can't Have is not something naughty to read at bedtime; it's trying to be educational.

    As you know, I'm more of a sceptic about when it comes to personal stories because, well, everyone has a personal story. There are an awful lot of personal stories out there now. But so much care went into crafting all its little nuances - giving the player the chance to quit if they've had enough (like a safeword embedded in the Twine) yet offering a lot more content if you want to know more - made it an oddly gentle yet affecting experience. And that serene backdrop! This Twine isn't here to shock you, it's to teach you. As I told Richard on Twitter, this was excellent.

    (I don't think I explored every one of its passages, but I saw most of the content.)

    That's it for today.
    Post edited by HM at 2014-02-14 23:37:05
  • Duck Ted Bundy by Coleoptera-Kinbote.

    Surreal black comedy. I'm not sure any sort of critique is in order here. Just take a look at these hand-picked quotes.

    Maybe it is out of some small respect for this primitive spirituality the ducks have developed that you often toss their corpses here. Or maybe it's because they sink into the mud completely within seconds and will never, ever be found.

    No way, that's sick. Why did you even click on this? Honestly what did you expect.

    It will forever haunt you that you managed to kill 2, when there are more, so many more.

    I really enjoyed this. It even throws in a little extra audio for laughs. The lack of a back button is quite interesting, especially when you're trying to evade that duck who is wants to go HAM on your ass.

    If there are any criticisms here, it's the lack of memory. You can run through the same scenario multiple times - perform the same kill ad infinitum - which suggests the "score count" isn't important (or possibly buggy). It undermines the feeling that you're serial killing your way through the population - because there's no discernible impact.

    I can't be sure, but I don't think there's any sort of "good" ending. Just failures. But, then, serial killers don't have any sort of a happy ending. There are always more. So many more.
  • The Matter of the Great Red Dragon by Jonas Kyratzes.

    In his Lands of Dream mode, Kyratzes writes the same way I used to write. The text carries the heavy voice of a narrator, eschewing the show-don't-tell school of writing. The reason I gave this up is that it puts a peculiar slant on whatever material you are composing. I am usually looking for something cold and often alienating thus as an author I stand far back from the words, as if they emerged by themselves from stories that were true; no hands were involved in shaping them.

    But Kyratzes is emulating the tone of children's book. A children's fantasy book for adults. That particular intersection seems very Marmite: some love this authorial voice, others cannot get into it. So a caveat to begin: I've never quite fallen in love with Lands of Dream stories, they just don't seem to be what I'm looking for.

    However, in Twine format, minus the graphics that hunger for clicks, I foud myself settling down with the words more than previously. Part of me wonders what Kyratzes would make if he were given the budget to develop an old-school fantasy film, because that's what The Matter of the Great Red Dragon feels like.

    There are a great number of choices offered in this game - with the results being listed down the sidebar - and as for the eventual impact on the ending of the game, I cannot tell you. Kyratzes clearly wants you to play this as a choose your OWN adventure and not to play multiple adventures. He says this in the Author's Note and he has broken the back button, left it beyond repair.

    As you might expect, there is a twist, and there are political allegories at work (well, aside from the hedge fund reference because that's right there in the text and it did make me smile). One of the criticisms that might be made of Kyratzes' work is how well such an allegory works. If you do get the implied meaning, does it feel too on the nose to borrow one of Eric's overused catchphrases?

    If you do not get it, can it still work as an entertaining piece of fiction? The ending here turns everything on its head, and while the same narrative voice persists through to the end, it comes across quite differently. Prior to the final chapter, it's charming and warm. In the final chapter, the same voice sounds sarcastic as it gleefully tears down the world.

    I enjoyed this. Kyratzes has excellent control of this particular authorial voice and it doesn't feel lazy (like many children's books that use this style come across as badly written) but meticulously crafted. I think there is a tad more surreal invention in his point-and-click works but, do not be fooled, this is a Lands of Dream game through-and-through. The ending did not work so well for me but it didn't destroy the experience and I understand the choices made here.

    The dragon and the hero were never seen again; very few people remember them now.

    And with that, I finish the first room of the exhibition.
  • Saturday Night by Eric Brasure.


    I've recently started developing a theory that there are two Erics. There is Podcast Eric, the consummate professional, a voice that's knowing and calming; you would trust him, wouldn't you? Then there is Twitter Eric, whose every second sentence is a dick joke.

    Saturday Night is a Twine work by Twitter Eric.

    There's not too much to Eric's twine. I don't think there is a "happy ending" here - I think all roads lead to masturbation. It's even worse if you head straight for the freezer, because you end up straight and being straight is terrible.

    It's not obvious what Saturday Night is about. It's a game that screams I'm GAY. You don't believe me? Here's a dick picture. Choke on my GAYNESS. Now I know Eric quite well - and this isn't what Eric is like. He's not the kind of guy to get up on a gay advocacy platform. So I think he's making fun of that. It's a parody of personal twines that DEMAND the reader accept the author, warts and all. I could probably narrow the possible target of this satire some more, but I'll leave it there.

    The rest of you can remain shocked by the sudden appearance of a mile-high cock on your screen.
    Post edited by HM at 2014-02-22 00:59:31
  • You're half right, Joel! Or maybe a quarter. I'm not sure. I have some jerking off to do.
  • I was about to comment but I realized I need to save my analysis of everything for that exhibition guide I need to finish.
    Post edited by rgoodness at 2014-02-22 13:27:32
  • It's very interesting that people read The Matter of the Great Red Dragon as allegorical. I'm not sure I would categorize it as an allegory, since to me, there isn't really a one-to-one correspondence between the individual elements of the story and the real world. If I had to characterize it, I wouldn't say allegory. I'd say collision.

    Is the voice at the end gleeful? I think it's despairing. Almost all the Lands of Dream games are as much about loss and defeat as they are about triumph, hope, or a sense of wonder. The fact that the ending is uncomfortable, ugly, unsubtle - that's exactly how it's meant to be. It's not meant to be smart or witty. It's exactly what the world out there is like.
  • Again, not to give too much away, but I think rather than "allegory" Lands of Dream stuff is more Applicable To Life. Like Sea Will Claim Everything is a series of zoom outs showing (immoral) capitalism affecting every aspect of life--it starts with the very personal, showing how one family is affected, then moves to the town, the region, the country--the puzzles are there to show off a series of locations which have all been affected by these issues, and the ending basically states that after a while, solving puzzles is just sticking on bandaids and eventually you need to strike at the root--and that that's something you need to determine for yourself.

    It's very interesting having a lot of writer friends right now and having a pile of games that a lot of them made. It gives a lot different of a context--even simple as talking to the girl who did Duck Ted Bundy and chatting a little bout what she wanted to do with the game, it's interesting to get that kinda perspective.
  • rgoodness said:

    Again, not to give too much away, but I think rather than "allegory" Lands of Dream stuff is more Applicable To Life.

    In his introduction to The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien explains that he intensely dislikes allegory and much prefers applicability. That's always been how I thought about it, too - so you're quite right.

    rgoodness said:

    Like Sea Will Claim Everything is a series of zoom outs showing (immoral) capitalism affecting every aspect of life--it starts with the very personal, showing how one family is affected, then moves to the town, the region, the country--the puzzles are there to show off a series of locations which have all been affected by these issues, and the ending basically states that after a while, solving puzzles is just sticking on bandaids and eventually you need to strike at the root--and that that's something you need to determine for yourself.

    The one element that a lot of critics don't seem to quite notice is the uncertainty at the end of TSWCE; not as to what's right, but as to whether it can be achieved and what the personal consequences might be.

    In a way it's odd how the Lands of Dream games are known for their sense of wonder and whimsy, given that each and every one of them also contains an element of defeat or despair. Perhaps it's because they don't wear these elements as a badge of grimdark honour, but treat darkness as a real threat to real people. Even The Book of Living Magic, which is the happiest of all the stories, contains the story of Primus, the robot who ran away from Urizen's army, which is ultimately anything but whimsical.

    The point, I guess, is that stories - and games in particular - tend to be understood as falling into only one category, having only one style/tone, but I think the best stories are richer than that. That's one of the reasons I admire Babylon 5 so much; it makes me laugh a great deal, but it's as much a tragedy as anything else.

    Anyway, sorry to hijack the thread, but this stuff has been on my mind lately, and it's very much connected to The Matter of the Great Red Dragon.
    Post edited by JonasKyratzes at 2014-02-22 21:59:21
  • Well, hey, if the Lands of Dream weren't whimsical, its problems wouldn't be so horrific. If it's characters weren't funny and charming, we wouldn't give a shit about saving them.

    Anyway I will probably have similar receptions. The one review anyone's given about TWEEZER, which takes place in a clusterfuck shithole that hates the protagonist, enjoyed it as a humorous spoof. I know we've talked about people disliking works unless you're told exactly how to feel about them. Well, frankly, I'd rather write complex works than ones that any schmuck can understand.
  • You guys make smart stuff for people who won’t dedicate a fraction of the attention in playing as you put in making it. That’s why I prefer to make silly things that smarter folk than me can analyze beyond what I had envisioned.
  • I was thinking we could start a separate thread about the Matter of the Great Red Dragon but I may be too late now!
  • We could start a separate thread about your FACE.

    Yeah, I went there.
  • There's a thread on Twitter about that already.
  • It's moved onto your shoulder pads.
  • Huh. I've gotten round to playing through the exhibition a bit later than I'd originally hoped, but now that I have (and will be playing EVERYTHING this weekend) I finally read this thread, intending to pitch in, and... HM has already said pretty much everything I would have said.


    So I've only played Room 1 so far. I may also play Room 2 if I get time, but I should really be writing an article right now. Anyway. Debt was a fantastic start, extremely slick, but entirely linear and could have just been a video were it not for the occasional wait-to-click. It reminded me of Robocop, more than anything else, with its automation of violence, the heavy-handed satire and the grimdark corporate future.

    I do think there's a little more to it than a metaphor around how companies handle the economics of debt collection, though I've going to mull it over a little longer before I commit to anything. There's certainly something to the extralegal nature of what's going on, especially in conjunction with how grudgingly accepting of it the diners you encounter are.

    And then there's what it's trying to say with how incarcerated prisoners are being used as a sort of human judgement checking point in this process of corporate machine vengeance (because this is not RoboRepoman, this is punitive excess, this is revenge for reneging on debt, for 'econonic betrayal') despite no alternative options being open to the player character.

    I find myself wondering about the bit at the end where the player is told that their character's criminal record has been wiped clean. Okay, I thought, so that combined with the drone's self-destruction combined with the approaching police response suggests that this debt assassination agency is keeping its hands clean by outsourcing drone oversight to the 'correctional industry'. What does that *mean*?

    And yeah, it's not *convincing*, but nor is Robocop. I mean, it's satire, man. :)
  • I really like the writing of Duck Ted Bundy; the tone, the dark comedy, the smothering introspection. And the repetition... well, it could've been interesting if the game had featured memory of past actions and events branched as a result. I imagine the real constraint here was time or technical proficiency? Anyway, I think this flaw has been built into the game. The pile of dead ducks stuffed into the back of the rotten couch. The broken dreams and ceaselessly repeating life of Duck Ted Bundy. Players can return again and again to the same victims, just as the real Bundy did, although he didn't kill them again, and the player... well, the player doesn't engage in necrophilia, at least so far as I've seen!

    I'd guess that what Duck Ted Bundy does, aside from being amusing in its own sinister way, is mirroring aspects of Bundy's fractured psyche. Parts of it are obvious, but in terms of the repetition and apparent lack of memory in the game: from what little I know the number of victims Bundy killed never became clear. He never committed to a single number and some believe that he didn't remember or know how many he had killed. So the game's repetition kind of becomes this self-occlusion of responsibility and history and memory?

    I'm not 100% on this interpretation, as I think the score mechanic actually kind of undermines it, and there are plenty of bits of writing that I don't think really fit the way Bundy was supposed to be. Perhaps the game was just intended to go as far as it could with that without compromising the black comedy. Or perhaps I've got this stick at the wrong end and am vigorously shaking it at the wrong kind of duck.
  • I have less to say about The Conversation I Can't Have. I think everything you've said, HM, is spot on, and I don't really have much to add. Kink isn't my thing, but I've got friends who enjoy it and have read a bit about it, so this Twine didn't tell me very much I didn't already know.

    I did however enjoy the memories it presented, the little personal touch - and that it never became fully about the author. I like that it's intended and presented as an overture to someone grappling with their sexual preferences; an invitation to try something new that might be what you want. Most of my friends who've told me how they got into this stuff were brought in by a friend or sexual partner.
  • And finally, the Matter of the Great Red Dragon!

    I've still not played TSWCE bar a five minute post-install check that it worked okay, so this is really my first proper encounter with Jonas's The Land of Dream setting. And I enjoyed it!

    A problem I have with a lot of fantasy writing is that it hurls itself full-pelt into worldbuilding, presenting something that has great breadth in terms of the volume of people, places, creatures and events, but on closer inspection is revealed to have little to no depth. I was reminded of this early on in TMotGRD when I clicked on the flavour text about the Great Darkness, that fellow who lives in his mother's basement in the mountains. Reading the different names he's known by I thought, "so what are the cultures that produced these names? From what events or histories did they emerge?"

    But actually, I wonder if thoughts like this are irrelevant to the mythic quality of the writing here. This isn't epic fantasy, to me; it reads more like a modern take on children's fables and presented in the foggy language of dream logic. And whilst there are plenty of Potions of Proper Noun and Great Weapons of Yore and other portentous titles, it's the sort of thing that fits rather better in a style of writing that would've emerged from an oral tradition, of storytelling passed down generation to generation, adult to child, full of bold images and strong themes and striking names.

    It is certainly a step apart from most modern trends and I'm keen to read more and put these thoughts to the test.

    As for the story, well, I played it through the once and I'm not sure if I should again. My quest was a failure, both in terms of the quest and my - haha - 'personal journey'. But I wonder if they all end up like that, one way or another. Perhaps I should've become a bard and written that epic about horses after all.

    I do agree that the ending is a rather sharp inversion, and one that didn't feel foreshadowed earlier in the story, although I suppose such foreshadowing might conflict with the literary approach I've already outlined. I think it is a rather savage critique of the cultural philosophy of the societies everyone reading this (I would wager) is living in, and whilst it wasn't unwelcome, like HM I slightly question either its presence or its implementation as such a sharp about-face.

    But once I'm done with Out There and EDF 2025 and the rest of these Twines, I think TSWCE will be next on the list.
  • Anyone care what I think about the other three rooms, or shall I save my bullshit for elsewhere?

    Do kinda want to talk about them but discussion seems to have gone a bit one-sided.
  • I don't see why you shouldn't start a separate thread. I was intending to use this for all of my small summaries. I'm desperately short of time right now so I'm not commenting much here or on the main site.
  • I'm enjoying the bullshit no matter where it is. I still have to finish my own bullshit on the exhibiton...

    Do you think we'd be better served by having different threads for the games--or perhaps the different rooms?
    Post edited by rgoodness at 2014-03-05 18:04:06
  • I VOTE FOR A NEW THREAD FOR SHAUN, IT’S *HM* journeys through the exhibition NOT ADAM AND STEVE. Oh wait.

    (That's a Star Trek: the next generation reference)
  • Shaun you can make your own via "start new discussion" on the right (I think). On mobile its the speech bubble icon top-right. Make sure to choose Fear of Twine as the category.
  • Joel all I'm saying is if we could put photos in here I would have put in a funny one. It was not of a penis, duck or otherwise.
  • I was making a Star Trek joke, I know how to forum xxx
  • The Girl in the Haunted House by Amanda Lange.

    At first, I wasn't sure what to make of this. A kind of horror story? But then I realised this one is a total rewind piece. You aren't going to get any fun out of this unless you keep rewinding and exploring the decision tree.

    It's delightfully inconsistent. What I mean is that the story branches contradict each other. Here's a made-up example to demonstrate: if you open your present in the kitchen, it turns out to be a teapot; if you open it in the shed, it turns out to be a hammer.

    I took a bit of digging to find the two survival pieces but there's plenty of gruesome and unexpected deaths throughout, all of which are pretty much left unexplained.

    This is a party twine and the designer wants to play with you.
  • Thanks Joel!
    I guess I feel very differently about branches than The Great Red Dragon feels about branches. I assume people will explore more than one and write to that expectation. Therefore any one branch is a bit unsatisfying. Then again every horror I write often is deliberately unsatisfying.
  • The Work by Cayora Rue.

    I find The Work interesting as it I think it's one mistake was leaving the room. The titular "work" is fascinating stuff, and full of careful observations of the fragments and notes people write to each other. It's riddled with mystery: Why is the protagonist trapped in this room? What is the point of The Work? Is this real?

    And I think had the twine not lurched so close to answering those questions during the endgame, we would be in different territory - a slice of surrealism, horror that cannot be understood. But we are left snatching at answers that seem to exist but elude the reader. We are encouraged to seek them; and that, to some extent, damages its power, taking the half-formed twisted reality in our imagination and breaking it into something a little too well-formed but incomplete.

    But what we learn of The Work itself makes the story fractal in nature; all these tiny, little mysteries that scream of unexplained importance... yet are impossible to solve. Beautiful reflections in the shards of a shattered narrative mirror.
  • I liked it very much, but I’ll admit I had to download it and set the font to Arial in order to play it.
  • Drosophilia by Pippin Barr, Gordon Calleja and Sidsel Hermansen.

    At first, this felt like it was a wide open twine with lots of passages to explore but actually it's smaller than you think. But it doesn't mean you're going to figure out it's meaning.

    It makes use of more bleeding edge twine design: backdrops are zoomed-in video, text switches on a timer (random?), text is corrupted dynamically and links change name when clicked. As a technical demonstration, it's pretty stand out.

    I admit I "worked this out" via the titles at the top of the window which revealed the names of the passages, such as "FlyCafeteria" and "HumanCafeteria". I believe this is the story of an office worker who imagines he/she is a fly - or perhaps a fly who imagines him/herself an office worker.

    It's a nuanced work and there's plenty of subtle detail changes in there (as you "control the fly" between the office and cafeteria it will move between the two rooms from the human's perspective).

    I can't say I grasped the entire meaning of this but it intrigued me for a good while as I poked away at its link structure, wondering exactly what I was exploring.
    Post edited by HM at 2014-03-26 21:52:27
  • Abstract State-warp Machines by Ivo Shmilev.

    I'm not great at poetry. I mean, in its appreciation. The writing group I used to go had several poets and I did my best to listen and give some advice, but I always felt I was faking it. So I was nervous about this twine as everything is written in blank verse. Turned out it wasn't that bad and gave Abstract State-warp Machines a different feel.

    But what is it about? This is a twine that requires several attempts to understand what it is about. It's a true hypertext piece, if you're familiar with my recent essay Stop Crying About Choice. Initial guesses would be to find a path through where the protagonist is successful in his research but I've been through the game several times and I don't think a win condition exists.

    This twine is about the difficulty of (scientific) academic research. It covers many areas like team conflicts, personal issues, the struggle to continue on even if it the research seems hopeless and the inevitable slid towards monetising research.

    On a single shoot through the text you might not think much of it - my protagonist committed suicide and it felt rather ... sudden and incomplete. But spin through all the different paths and a much more complete picture is formed. It won me over in the end.

    When Acting As A Wave by David T. Marchand.

    Holy crap. This is likely going to end up as my favourite twine. It's so clever that I can't believe anyone else hasn't done this before.

    The main conceit is that there is no text, just links. Those links respond to events that you can't read about - which means you're constantly extrapolating backwards from the link text.

    Order food. Don't order food.

    This leads to an extraordinary sense of dread throughout with links like "Ignore steps on the hallway / Get close to door". This trick gets repeated so many times and it doesn't get old.

    There are some other perfect additions to the twine formula too - links transforming as you click them or new ones appearing - which gives you this impression of events in motion, things happening.

    It appears there isn't too much genuine branching here (although you can skip the whole second dream) and you don't really need to play it twice. And even though the ending is, effectively the same whichever way you play it, it doesn't feel like that at all. The minimalism of the twine projects so much of the story into the player's imagination that these options really feel like they have weight.

    I don't think I need to talk too much about the story. While it's quite non-specific (the story is delivered through links alone) it feels quite detailed. I can only guess at what "the law" is.

    For all my talk of distance from the hypertext form, this one reels you in. I'm shocked that people aren't chattering more about this twine. It's extraordinary is what it is.
    Post edited by HM at 2014-04-04 01:00:45
  • Aw, you guys spoil me too much :) Some thoughts about your thoughts about my game:

    All of it was unintentionally inspired by Richard’s praise of my Úrquel. He liked the bits where the links tell a part of the story you don’t get anywhere else, so I thought for his project I would take what he liked in Úrquel and make an entire game out of it.

    I understand I deliberately suppressed non-link text from the formula, yet it still surprises me that you feel the text is there to be extrapolated from the links, instead of the more realistic “the links ARE the whole text.”

    There is indeed no branching. There was, originally. My first concept started from the moment you either signed or refused to sign the law and branched quite a lot. I began to write longer and longer introductions to that initial decision, and eventually that intro became the game (the dream sequences are what’s left of the consequences of singing or not).

    The story is detailed enough that I was amazed by the review that compared it to Drosophilia as an incomprehensible experimental piece. I didn’t think of the law in terms of its content though, but I did assume the game gave enough clues about it being morally wrong. An email from Richard tells me he got the exact opposite impression: he didn’t think the law was described as good or bad, but felt the content might have something to do with gay marriage (or maybe he just used marriage as an example, don’t remember).

    The attention it got has been quite a lot in terms of the exhibition. I’m very very glad this is my second appearance in HM’s Favourite Twines list, and I bragged several days with friends and family about Emily Short picking it among the 3 most interesting ones from the bunch.
  • Well I guess saying the law is "morally wrong" puts a bit more of an absolutist stance on it than I think the game feels, or should feel: It's very clear the law is seen on moral terms, as most laws are, and that the exact content of the law is almost irrelevant. I put in "gay marriage" simply cause it's one of those that concerns me that my country is dealing with, but it could really be anything--abortion, drug reform, abolishment of corporate donation limits on political campaigns, whatever. We want to think about the protagonist as being on the side of the angels, but it's possible to recast the protag as being a villain without any rewriting as far as I can remember.

    Anyway fear of twine has taught me one thing: People really DO fucking hate ambiguity or works which don't announce their intention from the first sentence. I have always thought that was a stereotype but apparently it's true. Deep reading is not really a Thing is it? But either way, your piece is deservedly lauded. I love that terseness to it.
  • The Scientific Method by Evil Roda.

    It's unfortunate that The Scientific Method's subject matter is very close to Abstract State-warp Machines: the process of science.

    Nonetheless, I find this twine curious as it has a single decision in it. There's no way to know which decision is correct other than choosing and clicking through to see. A coin toss for the future of civilisation. I'm not sure what I make of that single, naked decision; I don't feel like it really sold me on the tension of the choice.

    I was incredulous that Papers, Please could make people worry about their "family", a bunch of statistics on an interstitial screen. The Scientific Method does better than statistics and there are lesbian parents: but that aside, I still feel the family is too vanilla. I wasn't really interested in the people involved, although the bad ending is quite horrible.

    It has some nice touches - the film-like opening scene for example, switching between titles and scene, works better than you might think.

    There is some solid writing here and it does build some tension as you follow the story from week to week but, in the end, it didn't really grip me.

    Workers in Progress by Konstantinos "Gnome" Dimopoulos.

    This is Gnome's take on the situation in Greece which has been playing out for some years now. What happens in Greece affects all of Europe. If Greece leaves the Euro, it could lead to a domino of exits. So Europe want to keep Greece in at any cost: and the cost is generally at the expense of the Greek people. I talked to someone at work today who left Greece a couple of years ago and she gave me no good news about relatives still living there - things are still bad today. Greece may not be on the news agenda, but Greece is still in trouble.

    So Gnome has implemented a politics simulation. You represent no individual but the choice of the "Greek people". How they vote, how they respond to events. I got some elections, voted in SYRIZA (they were the party many had hopes would take the reigns and walk away from the European table, but they just didn't pull enough votes - of course, SYRIZA was the scary option from the EU perspective), and pretty soon put Greece on a path to a bright future by exiting the Euro. I then spent a lot of time trying out different scenarios and seeing where things went.

    I'm thinking back, now, to the idea that all systems are biased, because they are based on the developer's ideas, not from any scientific basis. Is Fate of the World a decent simulator? Or does it make some big assumptions and therefore not to be trusted in an educational sense? To some extent, this is the problem with Workers in Progress.

    Playing this, no one will be under any illusion about what Gnome's political views are. I wonder if that is a problem, because I'm not sure Workers in Progress works as a conversion piece, to persuade others that Greece needs to look for better options outside of troika-imposed austerity. That the twine leans so smoothly towards the socialist options might undermine its message. I don't know; maybe heart on sleeve is the right approach, as opposed to sneaking it under the rug and pretending you are impartial.

    A few other things bothered me. One is that "who" you are seems to drift after a party gets into power, because you seem to direct the actual government less the workers at that point. The other is that a euro exit is handled with a single click and that, for me, is the real interesting point; I'd love to see someone tackle the ramifications of what a Greek exit would look like.

    But I like the fact it considers holding on to the euro a difficult, maybe impossible goal, something that isn't considered with Greece in the grip of austerity politicians.

    (BTW, I hate austerity.)

    This is clearly one of the more complex twines in the exhibition, though, and I believe gnome is still working on refining it.

    Zombies and Elephants by Verena Kyratzes.

    I kept putting this one off because I suspected it was dense and long. Guess what.

    It was dense and long.

    It didn't matter though because Zombies and Elephants is superb.

    Where to begin? The subtle characterisations? The fleshed-out world? The slow but knowing development of the story? The dread? Oh my God, the dread? The ending with the elephants?

    Zombies and Elephants comes across like a great short story that happens to be developed in twine. This short story takes its time and develops plot at its own pace. It isn't rushing. And the subtlety in which racism is implied in the early scenes is pitch-perfect.

    Do we need choices in a story like this?

    It's peppered with odd little decisions that seem minor but have interesting repercussions later on. I'll hold up my hand now and say I have only played this twine once: it objects to rewind and, despite having a catastrophic ending, I feel little need to "explore" more.

    There was one terrifyng moment where I could descend the stairs to the darkness of Level 4 and I decided to choose that option. ARE YOU SURE? I was asked. I noted the lack of rewind and decided HELL NO. I DON'T NEED TO GO INTO THE DARKNESS.

    What I like is that it's a zombie story with a rich mix of Africa, elephants, racism and big pharma. It feels unusual enough for every environmental detail to be interesting.

    If there's one thing that jarred: I wasn't sure how the protagonist switched from being just a worker into a makeshift leader. That transition didn't seem to work for me.

    But the final scene in which all hell breaks loose is masterful stuff. It didn't end well, but it didn't matter.

    I wasn't playing this to win.
  • @DavidMarchand: Don't take me too literally. Indeed, the links are the whole text, but the links do not tell you what is happening, they imply it. So the whole game is about extrapolating that information - as if you were working out "the missing text".

    I assumed the law was a bad thing and the dreams were about the protagonist wrestling with conscience. I assumed the shooting attempt was about the law itself and not about, say, anarchy in the country.

    Incomprehensible experimental piece? Really?
  • Joel, why do you assume that March is lying to you? That's what he claims the reception of his work was and if he feels oppressed by it, you have to just let him follow his bliss. #peaceman
  • In response to Harbour Master's thoughts:

    Unfortunate?! That bastard stole my concept! It's alright, though, because I snuck into his house and stole his wallet in revenge, and then I bit his arm off while he was sleeping.

    The whole point of the choice was that nobody was going to know how things would turn out. You got a single tidbit of foreshadowing that didn't help the decision, and off you went. I was going to have a checklist system, but time was short (I had the idea for this work so late in the game, I wasn't sure I could develop it properly, and I even started writing two twines alongside each other to see which idea stuck), and the only thing it would have added was the illusion of choice, so fuck it, it was unnecessary.

    Funnily enough, the other twine is where the movie opening came from. It was going to have a B-movie feel to it, so I thought it fitting that it have a cinematic opening, but I liked the idea so much, I added it to The Scientific Method, partly because I didn't even know if I was ever going to finish the other one. Sadly, I still don't know if I'm going to make it. It's such a good concept, too. ;~;

    The actual reason I had lesbians in the story is because I feel like the best way to stick it to the Tumblr social justice assholes is to have characters they think of as oppressed, and then make it so that the identity is irrelevant. Oh, you want some more queer characters in stories? Here's some, and their queerness has no real effect on the story because fuck you and your identity bullshit. And yeah, the characters are a little weak. I was rushed, and I'm not too good with characters, anyway. I can do mannerisms and dialogue really well, but character traits are lost on me.

    Thanks for your feedback, though. I thought you'd never get to mine! ;w;
  • Coyotaje by Joseph Domenici.

    In this, the protagonist is on his first outing as a coyote: someone who is smuggling people across the Mexico-US border for money.

    This twine wants to show the reality of what's involved in the border crossing, add the personal scale to a big picture political football. So easily this could have slid into mawkish mud, but Domenici resists that temptation. It doesn't judge.

    The characters feel fleshed out enough and the twine tries to weave an accurate portrait of the crossing itself. There are some decisions to be made here but I made it through the crossing on my first attempt.

    I'd have preferred it if the image links had been rendered inside the twine rather than spawning windows, but I think that's more an issue of technical knowhow. I find it's a little too much like a documentary ("docudrama"?) at the start, where it feels heavier on exposition for reader who is unfamiliar with the terms like pollos and coyotes.

    But, all in all, a solid entry.
  • TWEEZER by Richard Goodness, PaperBlurt.

    I was nervous about playing TWEEZER simply because I had played Richard's previous works. That's a bit gross, I'd tell Richard. Do you really mean that, Richard. What is all this stuff you are writing into your mother, Richard.

    But TWEEZER is nothing like his previous works. And with PaperBlurt's technical input, this is a proper polished twine.

    TWEEZER's conceit is that it is an RPG on a yesteryear computer. It sends up RPG tropes while at the same time reflecting what we love about RPGs.

    And by god, there's a lot of content here. A mountain-high pile of content.

    There's no real goal to TWEEZER. Just enjoy the environment and make it out alive at the end of three days. There's so much to uncover if you're willing to look, including an achievement (I'm going to write about this on the main site sometime next week). Who is Dr. Igor? Can you make the Antidote of the Miraculous (and what does it do)? How do you kill a haint? Do you really want to kill that centaur? Are you sure? Are you suuuuure?

    It does a great job of feeling like a real RPG and this twine could easily pass for a "game". There are no graphics but it doesn't need it.

    This is a lot of fun - provided you give it some time.
    Post edited by HM at 2014-04-06 02:03:37

    1) When Acting as a Wave - MUST READ
    2) TWEEZER
    3) Zombies and Elephants
    Post edited by HM at 2014-04-06 01:59:10
  • Also a Fear of Twine Counterweight podcast is on its way!!!
  • The Fear of Twine Counterweight was going to feature a hidden bonus of Joel singing, but I messed it up so it doesn't include that.
  • @HM: Thanks for taking the time for a write-up dear Joel. Agree with many of the points you make, but will be coming back to discuss objectivity as soon as I manage to relax even a bit.

    For the record: I do consider Fate Of The World to be deeply subjective, scientifically wrong on many aspects and infuriatingly presented as objective.

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