Playing with Twine

Twine’s a user-friendly story-building tool that I’ve (mis-)used to make a short interactive reading experiment. The sample text (unsurprisingly) is taken from the Argonautica: A.R. 1.922-984, the Argonauts’ arrival at Cyzicus.

I’ve made the structure and syntax for the experiment straightforward. The sample has been split into ten ‘chunks’ and the quickest route through is simply to click ‘Continue Story’ and read along. I’d suggest doing this the first time around. It’d be interesting to know both how long the first-time reader took to get from 1-10 and (very) interesting to note what observations and questions arose in the process.

‘Continue Story’ always advances you to the next ‘chunk’ of the text and ‘Return to Story’ always takes you back to the last one. The ‘Explore’ option opens four additional ‘game’ options, summarised as follows:

‘Read Journal’ – the place to find citations of any (potentially) relevant information found in the text so far (Argonautica 1.1-921).

‘Consult Scrolls’ – the place to find citations of any (potentially) relevant intertexts (here restricted to Homer).

‘Ask Guide’ – the place for occasional reading prompts.

‘Visit Seer’ – the pompously titled place for (my) commentary on the passage.

And that’s the lot as far as the syntax and navigation system goes so far. This information is repeated on the first page of the ‘game’ in any case. Not every option will provide more information, some might provide too much and send you off on tangents, but every click will increase the reading time and (hopefully) complicate the experience. How long does it take second time round, third time round? How does the exploration modify the reading?

Behind the scenes, the structure does look fairly horrific! Some more screenshots on Pinterest.


On the reader side though, Twine publishes the chaos to a html file (Cyzicus.html). It’s hosted at for anyone who wants to play.

Some future additions:

Add more content to sections to slow down the reading. An incessant clicker will finish the experiment quite quickly.

Make the content friendlier to the average reader!

Incorporate some form of navigation tracking system. For example, making some ‘Explore’ options only available after following a particular section path (so no commentary related to a specific intertext without having previously accessed that intertext) and making some ‘Explore’ options available via multiple pathways as the current underlying structure is too rigid and unnecessary backtracking could be eliminated via a ‘location’ counter.

Expansion of ‘Explore’ options. For example, comment on stylistic features (‘Listen to Orpheus’) or inclusion of maps (‘Survey Terrain’).*

Subdivision of ‘Explore’ options. For example, whilst the prototype is focused on Homeric intertexts and commentary adapted from my own thesis on the text, intertexts could be expanded and reader preoccupations varied (reading as the historiographer, the spatial theorist, the Hellenist and so on).

The guide could be more of a guide…

Other suggestions welcome!

* Addendum on maps. I’ve had a (very) quick play with Recogito – map creation from texts via browser interface. Easy to use with several export options. My sample text file was very short and I didn’t see any obvious way to alter it once uploaded but I did get a pretty layout of the route through the Hellespont to Cyzicus.


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