14 October 2018Many updates, including a new story format

This post originally appeared on my Patreon.

I've been quiet for some time now, because I've been working on something new that I'm excited to share. In fact, I have a lot of news, so I'll summarize everything first, then go point by point.

Told you it was a lot! Let's start at the top.

I have a new story format, Chapbook, that is in prerelease state.

This is probably the most exciting bit of news to most of you reading this. I am pleased to announce Chapbook, which is a story format whose origins began in two separate, quite different projects: writing up a guide to Snowman, the story format I created for Twine 2, and collaborating on a Twine game.

My Snowman guide idea was in theory noble: to teach people the rudiments of front-end development--HTML, JavaScript, and CSS--on the way to building stories in Snowman. I still think it would be an interesting book to write, but I quickly realized as I began to outline it: this is way too much to learn just to write a story with some links.

At the same time, I had been working with my creative partner Joel on a game we were creating with Snowman-- hopefully more about that soon. After much back-and-forth, the workflow we decided on was that he would pseudocode out the functionality he needed in each passage and I’d actually write the JavaScript to make it happen. As I was typing away, I thought: why can’t we make the pseudocode actual code?

I’ll let the rest of the Chapbook guideexplain where I went to from there. I consider Chapbook to be in a state that you can at least build small stories with it. I have, for example, built out a Cloak of Darkness example with Chapbook that you can play around. But there is a lot left to be done, and many design decisions to make, which brings us to…

I’m going to involve Patreon backers in the Chapbook development process, and have added reward tiers and a goal.

I want to try an experiment with Chapbook. Right now, I am not accepting bug reports, feature requests, or pull requests on Chapbook from the general public. When it reaches version 1.0, I will. Before then, I want to allow Patreon backers to collaborate with me on the shape it takes.

What this means in practice is that I will begin postly weekly patron-only updates on Chapbook and Twine development, and I’ll use these posts as a way to gather feedback and suggestions as I work on Chapbook. If you pledge $5 or more per release, you’ll receive access to these posts, and have the ability to share your feedback there. I can’t promise that I’ll incorporate every idea, of course, but I will promise that I will read everything and do my best to respond in the comment thread.

If you pledge $10 or more per release, I’ll also add your name to the Patron page of the Chapbook guide, and if you pledge $20 or more, I’ll also give you access to a monthly one-hour livestream. The livestream will be an experiment! I’d like to use the stream as a chance to talk about what I’m working on, talk about IF, and answer questions from patrons. I’ll even do my best to give advice on building stories with Twine! I really mean that it will be an experiment, because I’ve never tried anything like this before.

Just as a reminder, my Patreon is based on releases, but I only charge patrons at most once a month. If I don’t do any work on Twine or Chapbook, I don’t charge patrons. And although I am building Patreon into my Chapbook development process, you can use Chapbook right now without having to be a Patreon backer, and you always will be able to.

On a final Patreon note, I’ve added a goal: the amount of money pledged I’d need in order to work on Twine fulltime. The number I’ve come up with is also a bit experimental, to be honest. It represents how much I think it would take for my Patreon to become a primary source of income, though not my only one. I’ve been doing a lot of back-of-the-envelope math about my living expenses, and so in a lot of ways the goal is also a back-of-the-envelope number.

But… even so, reaching that goal would be a life-changing moment for me. I hope that doesn’t sound too overdramatic, but I mean it. I love working on Twine and everything surrounding it, and I constantly wish that I had more time to do so. Reaching this goal would allow me to reorder my working time to better reflect what I want to do. And--if you want to be a bit selfish about it, it’d mean more regular Twine updates.

Which brings us to…

I am getting more transparent about my Twine development process.

If you pop over to the Twine source code repositoryand click on the Projects tab, you’ll see that I’ve laid out the roadmap for the next release of Twine, which will be 2.3.0. Right now everything is sitting in the To Do column; as I work on things, I’ll move them forward to In Progress, and finally Done. This way, everyone can get a sense of what’s on deck for the next version, and how close we are to a release.

This is just the beginning. I think as I get more experience with GitHub projects, I’m likely to add multiple projects, so that the roadmap goes further out than just the next release.

Finally, a slightly sad note.

I am seeking someone (ideally, some people) to take over ownership of the Snowman story format.

I know I can’t maintain two story formats, so I am looking for people to take up the mantle of ownership of the Snowman format. If you’re interested in this, please drop me a line. Snowman as-is will remain an option for use in Twine, but I don't have the time to devote to it right now.