Twine Makes Branching Scenarios Easier

The free open source tool Twine makes planning, writing, and creating branching scenarios easier. It provides a simple way to create functional prototypes.

The free open source tool Twine is designed for creating nonlinear stories. That makes it perfect for creating branching scenarios. I use Twine for planning the structure, drafting the content, and building a functional prototype.

Twine makes creating branching scenarios easier.

Getting started with Twine

First, download and install Twine. (If your workplace doesn’t allow downloads, try the online version instead.)

The first time you open the application, click Tell Me More for help. Read the information and click OK for each part until you finish the introduction. The online guide provides documentation.

Screenshot of the opening screen of Twine the first time after downloading.

Click the +Story button to create a new file. (The screenshot below shows some of the existing stories, but this will be empty the first time you use Twine.)

Twine home screen, focusing on the +Story button

Give your story a name and open it up. You’ll see a single Untitled Passage in the center to start.

A brand new story in Twine

Double click the Untitled Passage to open it.

Empty untitled passage

Enter a title for your passage. Enter your first text (this is usually the introduction to the scenario).

Creating the structure

The power of Twine for branching scenarios is in the simplicity of creating additional passages with links between them. Unlike many other tools, Twine is built for nonlinear structures.

To create a link to a new passage, just type double brackets around the text of the link. In the screenshot below, [[Get started]] is the new link.

Screenshot of the first passage with a link

When you close the first passage, you’ll see a new passage with a link from the first passage.

You can continue repeating this process for your entire scenario. You can create the structure first; just add titles and links (plus maybe some brief notes about the content). Adding multiple links creates multiple new passages.

I usually write the ideal path first, the one showing all of the best possible choices. I write that from start to finish before going back to fill in the rest of the branches.

Building a functional prototype

In addition to the ease of creating links and new passages, the other huge time saver with Twine is that those links are functional. You can preview and test your branching scenario.

Click Play to just click through your entire scenario. Click Test if you want to use debug mode to view where links go (very useful if the link text is different from the passage name). Play mode is usually fine for basic branching scenarios.

Scenario in play mode with 3 links
Passage in Play mode with 3 links
Passage in Twine debug mode
The same passage in debug mode

Publish and share for review

In my experience, most SMEs have a hard time envisioning how branching scenarios will work unless they have used them before. They just couldn’t understand a storyboard in Word or PowerPoint, or they’d get lost trying to jump back and forth following “jump to slide 15” notes. Twine makes review simpler because SMEs can click through and see how everything fits together.

Select the title of your story at the bottom, then click Publish to File. Just upload your html file to a server, and your SMEs and other reviewers can play through every path.

You can also select the title and then View Proofing Copy for a copy of the text for the entire scenario. I often copy this to Word and provide this to SMEs in addition to the prototype if they want to make significant text changes. I find it’s easier to track text changes in Word, especially if there are significant text changes.

Twine has some other options for proofing based on proofing formats. These formats have to be installed. If you’re looking for a simple option, Entwee creates a plain text version of the story.

Example prototype

You can see a functional Twine prototype that I built for another scenario. This is just plain text, but all the links work. The scenario is fully functional.

Beyond prototypes

Although I use it for plain text prototypes (I build the final version in another tool like Storyline), you could use Twine as your final product. You can use CSS to format the story. Twine also has macros for some simple coding (like offering different choices depending on an earlier choice). It’s also possible to add Javascript.

Have you tried Twine?

If you have tried Twine yourself, I’d love to hear if it helped you. I’m also interested in learning more tips and tricks. I know I have only scratched the surface of what’s possible in Twine. Please share your ideas for using Twine to create branching scenarios.

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