These days, regular folks across the world are using free software to easily create homespun music, Webisodes, and movies, so why not interactive fiction? A little program called Twine (download for Windows or Mac) that brings a DIY ethos to text-based Web games has slowly emerged as a huge player in the indie-game scene. If you're new to Twine, it's freeware that lets users develop their own interactive stories and games. It enables players to determine their own adventures by clicking on hyperlinks scattered throughout the text.

Originally developed by Chris Klimas, Twine has been used by myriad storytellers to great effect. A directory site called TwineHub lets users upload their completed stories and games for the enjoyment of others, and it is packed to the gills with submissions. From the teeming mass of Twine games, I've selected a few of the best or most interesting:

Howling Dogs (by Porpentine)

Opening scene from Howling Dogs (Credit: Screenshot: Josh Rotter)
An unknown man awakens in a futuristic hospital, told by the nurse that his sobbing is causing the dogs in the courtyard below to howl. From there he is cast into a lonely reality.

Bklyn Trash King (by Ben Esposito)

Opening scene from Bklyn Trash King (Credit: Screenshot: Josh Rotter)
The success of your Kickstarter campaign is impacted by a pack of wild raccoons who are disconnecting Internet connections across Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. If you want to save your campaign, then you must first appease the Raccoon King.

Hypnagogue (by Mitch Alexander)

Opening scene from Hypnagogue (Credit: Screenshot: Josh Rotter)
You awaken from a strange dream only to find yourself in a nightmarish reality, but the line between waking and sleep is so blurred that it's difficult to tell one from the other.

If any of the above stories inspire you to create your own Twine game, then download the freeware and follow these simple directions:

1. Double-click the "Start" passage, which pops up. Leave the title as "Start" and type the first page of your story in the paragraph box.

2. Create a hyperlink to the next page in your story by wrapping the text you want users to see in brackets and then entering the name of the next passage they will go to on the other side of the "|" symbol. For example: [[text user sees|name of passage they will go to]]

3. Click on the piece of paper on the top-left corner to create your next page and keep hyperlinking pages as see fit. Add multiple links to the same page, and voila--a branching story with multiple potential paths.

4. Your text pages will now be connected to each other in a movable diagram so that you can easily keep track of them.

5. When you are finished, click on "Story," scroll down to "Build Story," and then save your prized creation as an HTML file.

6. Give your story a title and author name, and you're ready to publish it on any Web site.

For added support, Klimas has even authored a Twine (GUI application) and Twee (command-line version) reference manual, filled with lots of useful how-to tips to help users along their way. Those who work better collaboratively would do well to join the Tweecode / Twine Google group. Happy Twining!