Twine Weekly: Elsewhere

Every once in awhile I come across a game that allows me to view genres or engines in a new light or from a different perspective. Stacey Mason’s Elsewhere is one of those games. As an engine, Twine is versatile and can be heavily customized with use of CSS and Javascript.  Despite its adaptability I had never really pictured it capable of doing anything that didn’t allow the player to take their time. The majority of Twine games play like “Choose Your Own Adventure” books, where text is displayed and the game waits for the user input, and this is what I’ve come to expect of it as an engine limitation. Elsewhere showcases just how limitless Twine really is.

What makes Elsewhere stand out so much is that it has timed segments. There are three pages that help to give a little bit of backstory to the universe and then the player is asked to make choices and take actions before the game proceeds with events. Not only that but the world is active as well. In one section the player is tasked with making decisions while a conversation appears on the screen with each sentence overwriting the prior one, forcing the player to read it in real time or risk missing information. It gives the player a feeling of urgency which is not something I have felt in a Twine game before. I’ve always felt that Twine was best geared towards the puzzle genre but now I’m thinking that it could be used to make text based action games as well.

I do want to note the attention given to choice of linked words on the third page. This is the last page where the player can move at their own pace and the word that must be clicked to proceed is “ready.” I don’t believe this topic get’s paid enough attention but it’s little instances like this that show how a small conscious decision can add immersion to a work in Twine.

The story deals with a world that is running out of water. Everyone in the apartment building shares rations and every day at midnight water is turned on for a couple of minutes. The player has choices on whether they will shower and whether they will fill a bucket up with water. There are multiple endings, though they are all minor variations on the same resolution. I was disappointed to find that each ending focused solely on the player’s gain, or lack thereof. There isn’t any room for emotions or motive as to why each action was taken, simply a quantitative analysis of the final results. Maybe I decided not to use water today because I wanted to make sure the child next door could get washed properly. The game doesn’t care though. I’m simply told that I’m dirty and don’t have any spare water.

Elsewhere’s use of real-time mechanics sets it apart and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for an interesting and unique Twine experience. I would also recommend it to anyone interested in working with Twine as it is a perfect example of what can be accomplished with the engine when the programmer thinks outside of the box.

Elsewhere
Created by: Stacey Mason
Can Be Found at: http://www.staceymason.net/games/Elsewhere.html

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