For all the convenience and delight that Twine templates have given me while working on interactive fiction, I was sort of nostalgic the other day. My very first game that I'd thrown out into that wild, wonderful world- anxious, but bright eyed with nervy anticipation as to the reception of something I'd cobbled together in a month long mad rush, like the countless stabs at NaNoWriMo in the past: was made in Harlowe, and quite clumsy.

I had no understanding of how to use variables to track progression, like visited rooms- and instead, painstakingly pathed out all possible routes someone could take in duplicated rooms, which led to a confused jumble of a visual map, and one occasional (non game breaking, thank goodness!) glitch where you could repeatedly enter the father's office ad nauseum.

Arguably, I still haven't really gotten a solid grasp on using variables- the beauty of Twine is that you can absolutely use it to create emotionally resonate pieces without a strong coding background. I wouldn't have gotten into game development without the confidence boost of being able to jump in head first armed with nothing more than a basic understanding of wrapping words in double square brackets [[to make links]] and wind up with something I was proud of. More of my recent works have fallen on the linear/kinetic side of things- whether because that was the story structure they demanded, or because of scope knifing and working within my personal parameters of energy and effort.

There are still things that I'd abstractly like to circle back around to stab at again: unfinished game concepts I feel better prepared to try with more experience under my belt, finally sleuthing out a parser game in Inform 7, dabbling in some of Bitsy's sister spin-off programs or other choice based platforms... The list goes on. It feels as if there's never quite enough time to do all that we'd like to. Perhaps that's why the lonely, still night is such a refuge, away from the rising dawn's hurried expectations...

Coming back around to the point: I was feeling nostalgic. The layout of Sweetpea isn't the most hideous thing in the world, but as I've found my footing in Twine development, I've definitely learned how to better represent my personal aesthetics, and soft expectations within the design space: a good soft pink gradient is a cherished favourite. I first set out, and still do, to incorporate 'at least a little pink' into the design of my projects, and if I can do that- find that I'm really rather quite pleased with myself. It's my favourite color. It's quite the low goal, but vaulting over it feels good- and building up those warm fuzzy feelings really helps settle you into the grind that can be writing and coding.

But as I mentioned in the beginning- I so often default to modifications of templates or my own cobbled together layouts that heavily change the CSS in ways that are difficult to untangle. It's part of growing as a creative, I think: over time, amassing a personal pile of mulch to pick through and use to throw together projects by avoiding scrabbling over the difficulty curve in actually beginning.

The way that I approach my interactive fiction projects is slightly unusual in that editing the UI and making things look pretty, (including cover art) is often one of the very first things I do: it helps to set the tone and intention of the story, for me. But I knew that for this particular project, (to which I have sticker bombed and dedicated a cheerfully bright yellow journal to) that I would want the save functionality that Sugarcube comes pre-built with, and it would've been difficult to make any of those assembled templates really work for me in the way I was envisioning.

So I figured a return to basics would be an instructive exercise: to begin with the base UI, and comment my way through changes I made to it, so that I could more easily adapt portions of it or return to it in the future with fresh eyes, and make it into a slightly more presentable, polished version of itself. Subtle colour tweaks, for the most part- a tiny bit of shading, injecting some warmth into the background, a good swapped font can do wonders when you're working with such minimal design space: and walked away feeling very satisfied with the way things came out.

I might go ahead and add in some images in the future, (a sort of logo like sticker-ish design, perhaps a hand written accent) but for now, working basically with just the vanilla UI, I'm really happy with it. It looks nice. It'll work for what I need it to. And it should be a lot more comfortable to write in- one of the major banes of my existence when writing interactive fiction is how I have to sometimes awkwardly cut up my writing to make it comfortably fit on screen.

There's a quiet glow of pride and a sense of real accomplishment that small acts of tinkering around with things and problem solving things that I'm invested in brings, and it's nice to soak in that feeling. Some other factors in my life have improved significantly as of late, and it feels good to be happy again: and to feel capable of doing things that I want to do, not just things that I have to force myself into agonizingly doing while burning past spoons and landing right onto a bed of knives. Things are better, as of late. I hope that they continue to improve.