For the past several years, I’ve been using Twine to write and prototype branching scenarios. The upgrade to version 2.4 included some significant changes to the Twine user interface. While I know additional changes are planned to continue to improve the application, I upgraded to Twine 2.4.1 this week to get some first impressions. Mostly, I like the changes and new features, although I’m hoping for some additional improvements in the future.
First, the Twine website has had a complete refresh. It’s no longer the old cork board design, but instead a cleaner design with a gradient background. I think the new website design makes it easy to find the references and basic formats.
Twine 2.4.1 home page and library
I had no issues upgrading to version 2.4.1, although I have heard of several people having issues opening stories after upgrading. The biggest issues seem to have been fixed for the most recent release.
The home page and story library has a new style. Instead of the larger menu on the right side, the menus are all moved to the top. The functions are reorganized, but the button to create a +New story is in the upper left and prominent. The “bubbles” for the stories have a new look and feel too. While I didn’t mind the previous home page, this new layout provides more space for the stories, and puts the menus at the top in a more typical UI location.
Tags and filters for stories
One of the new features in the library is adding tags for individual stories. You can select a story, then Tag in the Story menu. From there, you can create new tags and assign colors. These tags appear in the lower left of the card for the story. (BYBS is my Build Your Branching Scenario course.)
The tag feature is nice, although it would be great to have it in a context menu for the story card rather than having to jump back to the top menu each time.
The more important improvement that the story tags allow is filtering the library to view only stories with a specific tag. When you have a larger library of stories, this could be really helpful.
To filter, select the View menu, then Show Tags. Select a tag from the menu to filter for just stories with that tag.
The story itself looks similar to before. The default font appears to have changed, but that can be adjusted in the Twine preferences. You can still double click to open a passage, just like always.
The big change is to the menus. I like the shift to putting everything in a traditional menu at the top. I think that will be easier for new users to understand and learn than the old menu at the bottom.
The Passage menu has actions for individual passages, as you’d guess. The options all seem clearly labeled, which is another helpful improvement for new or infrequent users.
The Story menu has actions related to the entire story, like renaming the story or editing the stylesheet.
I like the new Passage Tags option, which shows you all of the tags used in your story. You can easily rename or recolor them. This would be useful to troubleshooting (like here, where I see I have tags for OK in uppercase and ok in lowercase).
One change I don’t think is effective is how buried the story format is. It’s under Story > Details. While people shouldn’t be changing the story format often, I don’t think it’s intuitive to guess where this option is. Personally, I probably would guess it was under Build instead of Story Details.
The Build menu has options to Test, Play, Proof, and Publish your story. While that’s all logical, I think I’m going to miss having Play be one click away at any time in my story. I’m going to shift my workflow to use Test from here under the Passage menu instead.
Edit passages on the right
One of the most controversial changes in this version is that when you open a passage to edit it, it opens on the right side instead of in the center of the application. Currently, there’s no way to resize or move that editing panel. This has caused a lot of grumbling in the Twine Discord.
This change reduces the available editing space, and I don’t actually see much benefit to being able to see the story structure while editing. There’s value in being able to just focus on the writing and ignore the overall structure.
Based on the discussions in Discord, I expect future updates will allow some flexibility to at least resize the panel.
While most of my stories seem to be working fine so far in my testing, my Twine chatbots are now broken. The Trialogue story format doesn’t seem to be compatible with the newest version of Twine yet. Hopefully that story format will be updated in the future. In the mean time, if you want to use Twine for a chatbot or text conversation simulation, I suggest sticking with an older version of Twine.
Overall, I think this upgrade is an improvement. It’s exciting to see the project have so much investment in making it feel like a modern application. I’m hoping for a few tweaks in the future, but this is a step in the right direction.
More posts on Twine
All of the posts below are based on older versions of Twine. Most of these directions should still work, but some things have moved in the interface.
- Twine Makes Branching Scenarios Easier: This is my intro to Twine (and a great place to see the old interface for comparison).
- Branching Scenario Prototype in Twine
- Visual Design for Scenarios in Twine
- How to Use Conditional Feedback in Twine Scenarios
If you’re looking for specifics in the new version, the official Twine Reference has details on where to find everything. I’ll write more on these changes and update old posts in the coming months.