Making Trigaea: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Twine
I never set out to make Trigaea. While I’ve been working on it for the last three years, it was actually born from the ashes of an entirely different game.
It all started in 2011, when I quit my job as a print journalist. Writing news stories didn’t feel like my future, or a good fit. I wanted to try my hand at something more creative - writing a book, or something like that.
Something like that came up. A friend approached me to work on some creative projects with them, including games. The biggest idea we had was to make something like Baldur’s Gate but in Flash.
I worked on that game for a year. By any metric, it was ambitious. I wrote around 400,000 words for the project. For those who don’t measure word counts (and I try not to, because there’s something about comparing sizes that seems terribly sad) that’s the length of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
The project fell apart for internal reasons. The game never came to be, and even worse, friendships were lost. I was also left with this really long game script that nobody would ever see.
So I started teaching myself game development.
I started with Unity, and even took a short course. After a solid try, I hit a wall and burnt out. My coding fundamentals simply weren’t strong enough.
The next thing I tried was turning the game project into a book. If the coding is a problem, strip out the code, right? It didn’t take long to realise this was a garbage idea - the entire game was based too much on choice. Without it, the value was gone.
And so I shelved it for a very long time.
In the meantime, I wrote a bit for other people's games. Largely, I dedicated myself to my day job.
It wasn't until mid-2017 that I opened the box on the script again. At the time, I complained about the game-that-never-was, and my wife suggested I take another look at what new technologies were out there, like a low-code way to turn that script into a game.
(It was also likely slang for "Stop complaining about that old project and do something about it.")
And so, I found Twine. It seemed perfect - a medium where I could create a text-based game with multiple branching paths. Surely, it would be minimal work to translate what I’d written into Twine and just publish it.
I called the new project Solus. However, two things became apparent after a few months of work.
The first thing was that Twine attracts writers who don’t want to code. However, it is never “no code”. In reality, the amount of coding you need to do scales up with what you’re trying to make. For a small five minute CYOA, it’s low code. For an epic-sized RPG, it’s a whole lot of code.
Ironically, the latter is what a lot of writers come to Twine to try and make. This is the demographic I fell in (and still do).
The second thing is what I’d written in my mid 20’s and shelved was not Asimov. I’d grown as a writer, and all I wanted to do was attack it with a red marker. Every sentence I was putting into Twine was being torn apart and reworked.
That’s when I realised if I was going to put in the effort, it would just be faster to write a new story from scratch.
That’s how I started making my new project, Trigaea, using Twine. I even went a step further and started a tertiary degree in game development - I'm studying the same degree alongside my wife.
It’s been three years. I’ve gone from knowing nothing about coding to knowing how much I don’t know about coding. I’ve also been a moderator for the Twine Discord for the last three years.
I still have faint ambitions of being a B-grade Eric Barone or Edmund McMillen - using my mix of writing, coding and graphic design knowledge to achieve some sort of amazing trifecta.
(The reality is I’ll probably wind up taking too many levels in Bard.)
Even then, my hope is that I make something that a handful of people enjoy - really enjoy - for all the work. It’d be great if that’s Trigaea.
To learn more about Trigaea - and perhaps see the cool promo trailer I put together - read this dev log.
~ Adam Ipsen (RynGM)
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