Lab 5: Mapping Twine Games

Text-based videogames have a long history. For several years in the 1980s, the best-selling games were so-called “text adventures” like Zork and Planetfall. These games were parser-based, which means you typed your commands (like “Turn on lamp” or “Examine scroll”) and the computer parsed the meaning of the sentence and responded in kind.

Indie developers continue to make parser-based interactive fiction (IF), and we’ll look at some contemporary examples in a few weeks. But with the advent of Twine, choiced-based interactive fiction has exploded in popularity. Whereas the creation of parser IF requires the use of a high level programming language like Inform, the creation of Twine IF requires no programming experience.

Parser-based IF is organized around the concept of “rooms”—discrete spaces the player navigates through with commands like “East,” “Northwest”, or “Down.” It was customary for players to map these spaces as they explored them:

Mel, Zork Map (2009)
Mel, Zork Map (2009)

You can similarly map Twine-based interactive narratives. Which is what this lab is about—with a twist.

Procedure

You’ll map two different games in this lab.The twist is while your first map is a straightforward representational map, your second map must be a non-representational, conceptual map.

  1. Partner up and start replaying Michael Lutz’s Tower of the Blood Lord.
  2. As you play, make a spatial map of the game world. In other words, create a fairly representational map that corresponds to spaces in the game. Aim to make your map as complete as possible.
  3. As you and your partner play, talk about what a conceptual map of the game would look like. It might help to think about what kind of organizing principle makes sense: an onion-like map of concentric circles, a Venn diagram, a Maslow’s Hierarchy-style map, and so on. Brainstorm ideas, but work on the actual conceptual map outside of class.

About halfway through class, you’ll need to switch to your second game. You’ll create two maps for this game as well.

  1. With your partner, pick either Sleepless, Quing’s Quest VII, With Those We Love Alive, Well This Is Awkward, or (new addition!) Silver and Gold by Rosencrantz.
  2. As you play, make a spatial map of the game world. In other words, create a fairly representational map that corresponds to spaces in the game. Aim to make your map as complete as possible.
  3. As you and your partner play, talk about what a conceptual map of the game would look like. It might help to think about what kind of organizing principle makes sense: an onion-like map of concentric circles, a Venn diagram, a Maslow’s Hierarchy-style map, and so on. Brainstorm ideas, but work on the actual conceptual map outside of class.

Lab Report

The 500-word lab report is due Thursday, April 5, shared as usual as a Google Document. Include images of all four of your maps:

  1. Tower of the Blood Lord representational map
  2. Tower of the Blood Lord conceptual map
  3. Other Twine game representational map
  4. Conceptual map of the same other Twine game

Then, in your report consider what mapping these games, both representationally and non-representationally reveals—and obscures—about the games. Some questions you might want to consider include the following: How did mapping the games change your perspective and understanding of the games? What challenges did you face with the maps? What surprises did the maps reveal? What elements of the games did you struggle to incorporate into the maps?