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A picture of John Ayliff

John Ayliff

Writer, game developer

in developer, game, windows, writer

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm John Ayliff, writer and text-based game developer. My most successful game so far is Seedship, which is about an AI colony ship trying to find the best planet to settle the survivors of the human race. I've also written a few other text-based games and a science fiction novel titled Belt Three, which was published by Harper Voyager. My games are free, but you can back me on Patreon or Ko-fi, and you can also follow me on Twitter.

What hardware do you use?

I mostly work on a Dell Alienware Aurora R6 desktop. I also have a Dell Inspiron 15-3552 laptop which I use when I'm working away from the house.

And what software?

I do my game development in Twine, which is a free tool for developing hypertext-based games. Twine is beginner-friendly, but it's also very flexible, because the game compiles into an HTML file and you can add CSS to customize the game's appearance and JavaScript code to extend Twine's functionality.

Twine has several story formats, each of which provides a default appearance (which you can however override with CSS) and a set of macros with which to write the game's code. The format I used is SugarCube, which I find is the most suitable for complex scripting, although the choice of story format is largely a matter of personal taste. For my more complex projects I find I'm doing most of my coding in JavaScript rather than SugarCube's macros.

The Twine program is its own IDE, which graphically represents the game structure by showing passages as boxes connected by arrows. This is ideal for choose-your-own-adventure type games where you're navigating between passages and there isn't much complex code. For my latest projects, however, I've switched from using that to using Tweego, which is a command-line compiler for Twine stories that lets you dispense with the Twine IDE and write the code in any text editor. My text editor of choice is Notepad++.

When I'm writing large amounts of text (either a piece of non-interactive fiction or text for a text-heavy game), I use Scrivener.

My usual web browser is Chrome, and I use two extensions: Ghostery to block trackers and LastPass to manage my passwords. I share files between my desktop and laptop using Sync. For the small amount of image editing I do (making cover art for my games by manipulating stock art) I use GIMP.

What would be your dream setup?

Honestly the setup I have is already more powerful than I need to make Twine games. I suppose if I had infinite money I could get a whole host of different mobile and tablet devices so I could make sure my games worked well on all of them, but my work setup is how I like it.