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The Twine Traveller

Skegness in 1923


We recently made a short game called One Night in Skegness, for the wonderful SO Festival.

It’s a Twine game, and it takes maybe 5-10 minutes to play. Which you can do now, it’s at that link above! Or here! (Better with your sound on, but it works fine without.)

It’s pretty simple, as a play experience. Your character travels between a few different places in Skegness, and visits a few different historical eras. There are some low-key adventures. There are a few jokes. There’s a robot, there’s mild peril, there’s a chance to change the future. If you’re lucky and careful, you’ll return to 2086 and see what changes your journey into the past made.

But we thought it might be interesting to write a little bit about the process of making a time travel game in Twine.

Raise Haiku Ratio

At Now Play This last year, we ran a game called Woodlouse (created by Jake Simpson and Pete Morrish). To play Woodlouse, you think of words (like “woodlouse”) that have more vowels than consonants. That’s it. If a word qualifies, it’s “a woodlouse”.

When we ran the game, we had a big piece of paper with some marker pens nearby. We put instructions out, and I wrote up a few sample words (in different coloured pens, with an unconvincing attempt at faking different handwriting styles). Then we invited people to write up any woodlouses they could think of.

The History of Text Generation

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve seen a lot of people write interestingly about computer-generated text – partly as a result of National Novel Generation Month, which ran through November and prompted some really lovely generated texts.

And as I read, I started wondering about the history of text generation. Not the twentieth century stuff, the Dadaists and William Burroughs and all the later work that happened once computers came into the picture. The old stuff, from the nineteenth century and before. “This won’t take long,” I thought. “There can’t have been much going on.”

So hey, I was up till 3 last night reading and guess what: it turns out I was really really wrong. There’s been a ton of text generation going on over the past thousand years, and it’s fascinating stuff. Most of it comes from writers who really feel like they’d be making deeply confusing experimental games if only they hadn’t died back in the 1680s.