Search Results for: twine

Dropbox dropping support for playable HTML

(This has been widely noted, but I wanted to summarize what's known.)

At the beginning of September, some Dropbox users got email:

We’re writing to let you know that we’ll be discontinuing the ability to render HTML content in-browser via shared links or Public Folder. If you're using Dropbox shared links to host HTML files for a website, the content will no longer display in-browser.

(Text copied from a post on the ChoiceOfGames forum -- thanks jeantown.)

Dropbox has posted a more complete summary on their web site:

Dropbox Basic (free) users: Beginning October 3, 2016, you can no longer use shared links to render HTML content in a web browser. If you created a website that directly displays HTML content from your Dropbox, it will no longer render in the browser. The HTML content itself will still remain in your Dropbox and can be shared.

Dropbox Pro and Business users: Beginning September 1, 2017, you can no longer render HTML content.

In other words, in a month (for free users) or twelve months (for paid users), people will no longer be able to play your HTML-based games directly off of Dropbox. They'll either appear as raw HTML or as "download this file" links -- it's not clear which. (Other kinds of files, such as images or CSS files, will not be affected.)

Why are they doing this? I haven't seen a public explanation, but I assume it's because jerks are using Dropbox to anonymously host Javascript malware. Google Drive has announced a similar change.

Okay, you may ask, but does anybody publicize games this way? The ChoiceOfGames forum thread implies that the answer is yes. See also this thread and this thread.

In fact I've done this myself. When I first posted Bigger Than You Think as part of Yuletide 2012, I hosted it on Dropbox for the first seven days. Yuletide has a seven-day anonymity period, and Dropbox was an obvious short-term solution.

I know of games which only exist as Dropbox URLs, notably the creepy-comic Twine game Mastaba Snoopy. It was widely discussed in early 2013, but the only known source was this Dropbox URL. (Which currently redirects to this equivalent URL.) So that's a wee bit of history which will stop working in a month, or maybe twelve months.

To be sure, Mastaba Snoopy will not vanish. You will be able to download it as HTML (from the old URL) and play it locally. It will work fine that way. (In fact, it may work better. I've seen the Dropbox version mess up the game's Unicode something fierce.)

However, that only works because the game is a single self-contained HTML file. An HTML game with included images, sounds, JS/CSS files, or other resources would be harder to fetch. (BTYT included several JS/CSS files.) You'd have to download the HTML, ferret out all the relative URLs, and then download those too. This is always possible (unless the author has really worked to obfuscate the code!) but it may not be trivial.


If you are the author of a Twine game (or other web-based game) on Dropbox, and you have abandoned it, then you're not reading this post. Drat!

(If you're reading this and you care about the future playability of your game, I count that as "not abandoned".)

Your game is not under threat of disappearance, but most casual players will think it is broken. Preservation-minded fans may pick it up and make copies -- probably without your permission, since you're not reading this post. Sorry! Deliberate non-archivability of games is an interesting subject, but chances are high that somebody will download a copy for posterity. I have downloaded a copy of Mastaba Snoopy for my own files.

If you are the author of such a game and you want to keep it easily playable, you have various options for reposting it:

  • Itch.IO: Free. HTML games work fine, although they appear in an iframe. Probably you could launch the frame as a separate window if you tried.

  • Github Pages: If you have a Github account, you can post HTML pages at This is a better fit for open-source projects, although the Pages repository is not required to be public.

  • Free but you need a Twitter account. Intended for Twine games. I believe you can only upload a single HTML file, but I bet you could rig up a scheme where the HTML is on and the resource files (images, JS, CSS) are on Dropbox. Let me know if you make that work.

I've seen people suggest the IF Archive, but this is not a great solution. Speaking with my Archive hat on, we prefer that HTML-based games be uploaded as archives (.zip files). We don't want to be a front-line resource for playing IF; we're just not set up for that.

(We're not enforcing this as a hard-and-fast rule. In particular the IF Competition folders on the Archive contain a lot of playable games. Sorry; a 25-year history makes for a lot of exceptions.)

(It would be interesting if or a similar site gained the ability to download a Twine .zip package off the Archive, unpack and cache it, and offer it as a playable game. Eh? Eh?)

I have a long-held view -- admittedly biased by my long history with the IF Archive -- that IF preservation is deeply tied to the notion of a single-file release format for games. Of course this goes back to the days when you put your .z5 or .gam file up on and that was it; that's what people downloaded.

Years later, we caught on to the idea of making browser-playable IF. That left us in a weird state where authors were expected to release games twice, on a web page (a bunch of files) and on the Archive (a single file). The service helped stitch that divide back together -- you could just upload to the Archive and get browser-playability for free. (Although without stylistic customizability.)

But then Twine turned up, and life got messy again, because the Twine model only envisioned browser playability. Which was clearly sensible; downloading a file in a funny obscure format is obviously the wrong choice. Unless you think about archiving and preservation! Then having a file at a URL makes life so much easier.

And so we wind up back at this blog post. I have no concrete suggestions beyond the unpack-and-cache service I mentioned above. Which, yes, has its own security implications. (The same ones Dropbox faced in the first place.)

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The Interactive Fiction Technology Foundation: a new nonprofit

Here's something new!

Today we are announcing the Interactive Fiction Technology Foundation (IFTF), a new 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting the software and services that underlie modern IF.

The web site ( has all the information. But the quick overview goes like this:

For the past 25-ish years, IF has been primarily a free hobby supported by free-time volunteers. This is great; it's organized around a community (or communities) rather than being pinned to one company's fate. But it's also a weakness. People's free time varies. Services and tools go unmaintained.

The goal of IFTF is to support these efforts; to provide an umbrella organization that can manage projects when the original creator doesn't want to; and to be a visible donation point for benefactors who want to support IF.

(To be clear, IFTF does not plan to directly support creators or become a paying market for IF. The "technology" in the title means tools, services, and web sites.)

Our first project involves assuming stewardship of IFComp, lending the event (and its website) the legal and financial backing of a formal organization. Jmac will still be in charge of IFComp, but he will now do it wearing an IFTF hat. And IFComp will now (through the parent organization) own its own web-site code and copyrights and so on.

Our plans for the near future include support for Twine and doing a study on accessibility of existing IF tools. Beyond that, well, we'll have to see how much money comes in.

Who are we? A bunch of IF fans, authors, and people generally known in the community:

  • Chris Klimas (Twine, Blue Chairs)
  • Flourish Klink (Muggle Studies)
  • Jason McIntosh (IFComp, The Warbler's Nest)
  • Andrew Plotkin (Glulx, Hadean Lands)
  • Carolyn VanEseltine (ParserComp, Ollie Ollie Oxen Free)

We also have a large advisory committee drawn from across the various IF worlds.

I could burble on about this project, because we've been swinging at it for several months and the ideas are flowing rapidly. But today's the day we announce it, so I'll stand back and let the news percolate.

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An IFDB quick-add bookmarklet for Twine games

Twine superhero Leon Arnott has created a bookmarklet that allows authors or curators to quickly add new Twine-based entries to the IFDB. Once this JavaScript one-liner lives in your browser’s bookmarks, you can navigate to an online Twine game, open the bookmarklet, and follow the prompts.

(An improvement, should anyone feel up to it, would involve letting one back out of the process via the resulting dialog’s Cancel button. Feel free to tell me about the existence of improved versions. I share this code as-is because helping the Twine community sit at the larger IF table makes me happy, and also because lazy.)

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Zarfplan: August report

The holiday weekend is over, so it's September by anybody's definition. Where are we?

I got one of the lead-weight puzzles hammered into shape. (Not a pun, it's not a hammering puzzle.) I implemented the alchemical effects that deal with the lead weight -- and some other lead objects lying around, of course, because you gotta acknowledge consistency. I put in some common verbs ("free", "release", "unfasten") which I've been meaning to do for months. I dealt with several irritating map-navigation cases.

Not done: the other major lead-weight puzzle; the puzzle elements outside the starship; more map quirks. Since that's roughly equivalent in scope to what I did this month -- and half of what I described as "remaining major puzzle items" last month -- I'm happy to say that September should cover them.

Once again this is a short update, but you get a September milestone out of it, at least.

My non-HL milestone for the month was presenting Seltani at a Myst fan convention (at the beginning of August) and then to the rest of the Internet. You can read the introductory talk on my web site, if you haven't already. Try it out! Ages are being added nigh-daily, at this point.

I haven't been working on Seltani intensively -- that was May and June -- but I've been bumping the features and bug fixes forward, with the help of the first wave of dedicated users. (Thanks, users!) I will continue to push on it in combination with all my other crazy projects, because I believe in it.

And I will see you all at the end of the month.

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Seltani: an introduction

Last month I mentioned Seltani, my multiplayer hypertext Myst fan project.

Here's a detailed introduction to Seltani, with lots of screenshots.

(This is a version of a talk I gave a few weeks ago at Mysterium, the Myst fan convention. The original talk is available on youtube.)

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Zarfplan: Seltani, or what I did in June

Up front, here: what I did in June was not work on Hadean Lands. The secret project ate my soul and my life.

This will happen sometimes. I spent a bunch of 2011 working on Meanwhile and other early iOS projects. In 2012 and 2013 I have made steady progress on HL but not daily steady progress, and this is because I am balancing the usual large number of things. In June I got obsessed and the balance went sideways. In July I will drag it back.

(I could make myself look better by pointing out that this idea clobbered me in February, and I managed to put off starting it until May. Okay, that doesn't make me look good, exactly...)

Shall I leave the post with that? No, that would be tacky. If I'm going to foist you off with this "secret project" excuse, I should pull back the curtain and give you a look. Behold -- (shwoooosshh) Project Seltani.

Seltani is interactive fiction -- but not traditional, parser-based IF like HL. It's... sort of the love child of a text MUD and a CYOA engine, conceived in the stairwell at a Myst fan convention...

This metaphor, it has failed. Let me start over.

I'm not a hardcore MUD person, but I've been on a few, starting with the classic TinyMUD at CMU. The TinyMUD family are social text environments. They were supposed to be like interactive fiction, but multi-player and real-time.

It never exactly worked that way. I've never been on a MUD that had a real, Infocom-quality (or Inform-quality) parser. It's not a technical problem -- zog knows all these parser libraries were cobbled together by the same sort of hacker geeks. It's a design problem. In good parser IF, everything the parser tells you is tuned to the particular game -- that's how you learn how to play the game. Even though most of the IF commands are pretty standardized, there's always some give-and-take. You type "WEIGH ANCHOR", and the game responds "I don't know that command," or (in a pirate game) "You're not on a boat!" So you learn. Even a simple response like "What do you want to unscrew the screw with?" points at a potential puzzle -- and if the game doesn't ask that, you probably aren't looking for a screwdriver.

This whole model falls down in MUDs, because MUDs are (in general) extensible by multiple authors. Every area in a MUD could have different potential actions. So there's no way to learn them. TinyMUD's model was to have different actions for every object. Even a simple command like "push" wouldn't be recognized if it was applied to a random bit of scenery.

That was frustrating. I did a little bit of MUD building, but it wasn't really up to what I wanted. And that stayed in the back of my head for twenty years.

Second angle: Twine. This is a hypertext-style game system -- that is, choose-your-own-adventure -- which has gotten a lot of attention recently. (Credit to indie designer Anna Anthropy for getting that ball rolling, and old-time IF guy Chris Klimas for the Twine engine.) It's got a really smooth learning curve. Twine isn't a programming language optimized for text games (like Inform); rather, Twine is a wiki optimized for text games. You write passages of text, and link them together. It's a very simple model that gets the job done.

I'm a programmer and code doesn't scare me, but I can see how a wiki is way more approachable than a compiler. So I started thinking: does it make sense to build a multi-person, wiki-style text world?

Third angle: Myst Online. I don't post much about it here, but I used to be active in Cyan's abortive attempt at a Myst MMO. It sorta-launched several times from 2003 to 2007, and now hangs on as a free service kept alive for the fans.

Fans being fans, there's an ongoing effort to mod in new content. It's a very slow effort, because 3D modelling is an infinite abyss, and (obviously) the codebase is getting antiquated. People have built some cool stuff, but it's still a trickle, and there are way more ideas than there are finished areas.

So now I start thinking: does it make sense to built a multi-person, wiki-style, easily-extensible, all-text Myst fan MUD? Project? Thing? I know that people want to build worlds, and some of them are programmers but some aren't. And there are plenty of MUDs out there, but they all seem to be bogged down in this half-baked command-line model; they're hard to play and they're really awkward to build in. And there are plenty of Twine games out there, but only a few of them have any notion of multi-player, and those aren't the sort of hang-out-with-your-friends social environment that MUDs provide.

There must be something at the intersection, I thought. I could see it; and nobody was doing it.

Reader, I had to do it.

Seltani is not yet public. (Although you'll see the teaser page at, and you can find the source code on my Github page if you really want.)

The engine, and my first few worlds, have had some very limited testing. I struggled to finish the world-building interface by the end of June, so that I could push it out the door... and I did, but I haven't finished writing the documentation yet. Hopefully this week I can invite in a few alpha world-builders, and then the server will crash a lot and I will rend my garments and howl at Jupiter's moons. After that...

I think this is important. It's a new style of MUD, it's never been seriously tried -- as far as I know -- and I think it could turn big very quickly. Or not! If I were reliably right about things turning big on the Internet, I'd have a gold-plated sofa. But I need to try it.

In the meantime, July will be back to HL progress, as well as the April secret project (which has not advanced beyond its last milestone, argh). I will certainly lose some time to fixing Seltani bugs; this is inevitable. But life will go on.

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