BURNAWAY Dev Log: The Interactive Story Primer


Earlier in the project\’s timeline, I was talking to someone with TTRPG marketing experience about incentives for the BURNAWAY email list. I wanted something we could offer people that would encourage them to sign up for future project updates. They told me that for TTRPGs, a common incentive was a quickplay module; a stripped-down version of the game that a group could play through to get a taste of what\’s to come.

Normally, I\’d be down to develop something like that. However, due the relatively straightforward mechanics that BURNAWAY is built on, offering everything needed to play a session of the game would result in very little to save for later. A quickplay incentive is great for bulkier TTRPGs with great swathes of content already planned, but at the time of our conversation, I didn\’t have much finished content to offer up from the already lightweight system.

Regardless, I wanted to create an incentive that was, 1: a complete experience that felt like a worthwhile investment of time for the audience, and 2: an experience that communicated the core aesthetic and gameplay elements that BURNAWAY is built upon. And then 2.5, some kind of content that didn\’t have a high barrier of entry: i.e. you didn\’t need to gather other people together and schedule a game session to enjoy it. With those perameters, the idea for a Twine game came up pretty naturally. I could have narrative control over what I wanted the players to see and interact with, but they would still have a factor of engagement through the choices they made within the story. It would be a short experience, unless one wanted to go back through and see everything they missed. And it would all be in a package that could run right inside any modern browser. I just had to get my sea legs back with Twine; I had messed around with it a bit a few years back, surely it wouldn\’t be that hard…

It\’s at this point I need to acknowledge the talent and patient indulgence of BURNAWAY\’s editor, Rascal, who was called into early duty once I saw just how unprepared I was for dealing with Twine\’s codebase. I had grand visions for what the program would do: a global timer system! Inventory slots! Branching dialogue trees! And most of that only made it in because Rascal told me they could do it, realized they might not actually know how to do it, but then spent hours learning how to do it anyway.

I\’ve always had a fondness for PYOP/CYOA (Pick Your Own Path/Choose Your Own Adventure) narratives, though I realize now that creating one as a book, like those you\’d see during the height of their popularity in the 90\’s/early 00\’s, is a far simpler task than programming one, even with a \”just add water\” game creation toolset. Choices, ones made difficult by the prospective consequences, are what BURNAWAY\’s engagement hinges on, and being able to effectively translate that to a text game experience was probably our biggest success here. I\’ll be very interested to hear, after the full game\’s official launch, whether the Interactive Story Primer, as we\’ve call it, was the spark that caught someone\’s interest in BURNAWAY.

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