Leo Loikkanen is a visual artist, animator, writer, and one of the most prolific authors of Twine story-games around right now. You can currently find links to all 18 of his Twine games here: https://dl.dropbox.com/u/14190886/twinegames.html
When it was pointed out to Leo that he had (at the time) the most Twine games listed on a certain website (http://twinehub.weebly.com/), he had mixed feeling about that fact. He grappled with these feelings in the excellent Twine story-game The Hack (link: https://dl.dropbox.com/u/14190886/TwineGames/thehack.html).
It wasn’t long after this that the Big Chaos Twine Jam took place. This jam produced over 50 new Twine games and introduced Twine to a broader audience. And then Leo Loikkanen released all of his games under a Creative Commons license. I spoke with him shortly after this announcement.
You are the first Twine author to release your entire body of work under a Creative Commons license. So the obvious question is, why? And, is the timing significant (right after the Big Chaos Twine Jam)?
The timing was coincidental. I didn’t really pay attention to the jam because it was hosted by a person I accidentally offended via a poorly structured sentence (remember, English is my second language).
Well. The reason I CC’d my work was because I was very, very drunk. But, after having woken up and realizing what I’d done, I knew it was the right decision to make. This way people can take a look at the stuff and how it’s structured together. To me, that’s a big plus. I’d love to see more people do that. Also, I feel that my Twine games don’t really have any monetary value. If that’s the case, why not do it?
Actually, reading your Twine games, it never occurred to me that you didn’t speak English fluently! Ok, so you CC’d the games because you were drunk. But was it in a fit of depression or inspiration? Other authors have made their source codes available and no one has yet charged money for a Twine game (though this is about to change), so why was it necessary to use the Creative Commons license?
I think that Creative Commons is best for all kinds of creative works, like BSD license and GPL licenses are for code. As for the fit, it was more or less a fit of inspiration. If I can help people to learn something, it would be so nice. Also, let us not forget that you can tailor the CC license to fit your needs.
I think that I couldn’t really sell my Twine games. I liked the fact that I could make pretty short games, think short stories, instead of having to write over 300 pages of content, that would then let me feel like “yes, I could charge money for this”.
Would you ever CC any of your work in other mediums?
Also yes, most of my animations are licensed under CC BY on YouTube, simply because they’re about 19 seconds long and nothing special.
I also did a comic strip template called American Efficiency, which was licensed under CC 0 (Public Domain). Sadly, it didn’t take off as I hoped for…
How did you first discover Twine?
I discovered Twine from Auntie Pixelante
In your view, what are the advantages of Twine? The limitations? Why do you work in Twine?
- Low barrier to entry
- Can be either simple or complex
- Easy to distribute
- Easy to create in
- You can get stuff done fast.
- Need to learn CSS for custom “magick!” stuff
- Variables, etc. not easy to implement, in my opinion
- No built-in WYSIWYG editor (I need to use HTML tags to create bigger fonts for example)
- Images need to be linked to; you can’t use Wiki code for the images
- Adding images is kinda hard…
I think that limiting it on text as well as some variable loops is a good thing: you need to learn to use text well (and images, if you can be arsed to draw some…) in order to tell a story or just make people laugh.
I like the sense of community that Twine can foster. People share their code snippets and read each other’s stories. I also like the versatility of Twine. You can use it to make really “gamey” games, CYOAs [choose-your-own-adventures], complex interactive fiction, linear hypertext fiction, poetry and even nonfiction instruction manuals and tutorials. But does Twine have a chance to really gain a wider audience?
I don’t think so. Twine is good as it is but it would be cool if embedding images and some other small forms of multimedia, or even having a custom background for each passage, were easy and the ease of making that happen would be beneficial to all. Of course, its simplicity already allows it to be able to do much, even though the ways of doing stuff can be a bit convoluted.
Is it only length that would make you feel like you were justified in charging money for something? What about quality or your own time investment? Do you see yourself eventually producing something commercial, in whatever medium?
I think something like Zork would be “big” enough to sell. With some custom images, changing backgrounds, etc. As for doing something commercial, maybe. If I happen to land a job in some corporation where I’d be part of a team, in charge of one thing.
As a visual artist, have you thought of making more Twine games with images (despite the complications)?
Yes, but then I’d need help with the writing. I’m pretty lazy and I know that’s an excuse. But I like to focus on one thing and doing that one thing well. I could, of course, just draw something on paper, take pictures of that and then add those images to the game. Actually, with a crappy camera, I think I could do a parody of a horror game or something.
That actually sounds great! A horror parody game made in Twine, with photos. Please file that idea away for later use! Well, there is at least one commercial Twine game being developed right now, so it will be interesting to see how it fares. I hope it does well. Have you had any interest in trying out other interactive fiction authoring systems?
I’ve tried Inform 7 but I found it to be far too complex for me to use. I might get back to it someday, though.
I want to change course before we wrap up here. Could you tell me a little about your webcomic, Man of Mystery? It definitely has some game-type elements to it.
Man Of Mystery is a comic about a man who has all the answers and none of the questions. Thing is, he knows that he has to “go through the motions” of any kind of mystery and cannot simply just go to the person who asked the question in the first place. The other thing I can tell you is that the comic aims to examine ideas and concepts. The current storyline examines the idea of greed via Steam: “If i get onto Steam I’ll get rich, even though my game is absolute crap.”
It’s also a critique of people who view various internet stores like IndieCity, Desura and Steam as ways to get rich quick, without having the gumption and will to work hard on that one great game idea, polishing it, and then releasing it.
I’m really enjoying Man of Mystery. Do you have an endpoint in mind? Or could the comic go on indefinitely?
I decided early on that when I ran out of ideas, I’ll write a story where the Census Taker comes.
And can you tease your new animation project Tales of the Darklings?
All I can say that it’s going to be silent and instead of speech, it will be using iconographs (animated ones).
Is there anything else you’d like to tell the world or at least our readers, at this time?
Create for creation’s sake. Not to get attention. I learned that the hard way.
I want people to be aware that you also write some non-interactive fiction, and some darn good poetry. And I think your poem “Twine: A Poem” would make an excellent coda to this discussion. Do you mind if we reprint it?
Please do. I’m OK with people sharing my work, although it’s nice of them to ask.
Thanks so much, Leo!
Twine: A Poem
Linked with Hypertext
Leading to other
I think it’s a
Outsiders are not
Allowed to write
I just wanted to tell jokes.
Only a handful
It was wanky
There is already
the ‘inside circle’.
A Closed group
games made by their friends.
We won’t break out.
We are ignored.
My struggle is better than yours.
Art blog: http://leoartblog.blogspot.com/
Writing blog: http://leowritesoften.blogspot.com
Twine games: https://dl.dropbox.com/u/14190886/twinegames.html
Man of Mystery: http://mom.smackjeeves.com/
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Paul Hack (Phack) writes about indie games when he can find time away from his day job and from his role as a dad wrapped around his 2-year old daughter’s finger. Not satisfied with just playing games and writing about games, he is currently learning about making games. You can find Paul on Twitter @indiegamehunt. Paul also runs the website twinehub.weebly.com.