Awesome Open Source
Awesome Open Source

Twine App Builder

Build and Test

This project takes your existing browser-based game and automatically generates a standalone desktop version for both Windows and macOS, as well as optionally providing you web-based hosting.

It's primarily intended to take games made in tools like Twine (both 1 and 2), Bitsy, and PuzzleScript and produce desktop builds suitable for distribution on platforms such as Steam or Itch. But you may find other uses for it as well! It works with any game whose output is HTML/JavaScript/CSS.

And yes, it works with custom assets like images and audio! If your game works in Google Chrome, it should work here. Your game can additionally work offline, as long as you don't reference any externally-hosted assets or scripts.

To use this, you will need basic familiarity with git and GitHub. No other technical expertise is needed beyond whatever you need to make your game!

For the technically-minded: this uses GitHub Actions to bundle up your game into a prewritten Electron app template, which then gets built for Windows and macOS. If you opt to publish your game on the web, it also deploys your site to GitHub Pages.

How to Use

More detailed instructions follow, but here's the big-picture of what you'll be doing:

  1. Fork this git repo, and add your game's index.html file (and any art assets) to it.
  2. When you commit those changes to git and push them to GitHub, GitHub automatically takes your game files and bundles them up into downloadable desktop binaries
  3. Your GitHub repo's "Releases" section will now contain downloadable Windows and Mac versions of your game, and a web copy of your game will optionally be published as well
  4. Any time you push new code to your repo, this process will repeat and new binaries will be auto-generated!

Getting Started

  1. While logged in to GitHub and viewing this project, click the green "Use this Template" button at the top of the page.
  2. Move your game files into your new git repository. Put anything you'll need into the src folder. This must include an index.html file, which will be loaded in a custom web browser whenever players open your game, but might also include other resources like images or audio. If you have files like images, audio, or external JavaScript, it's better to include them directly in this folder instead of linking to external URLs so your game will work offline.
  3. In your new repo, there will be a file in the .github/workflows subfolder called main.yml. On line 22, there are a few configuration variables for you to set around things like your game's name and description
  4. By default, Twine App Builder will also host a web-based version of your game at https://USERNAME.github.io/REPO_NAME. If you want to disable this, delete the PUBLISH_ON_WEB: true line.
  5. If you have a custom app icon you'd like to use, put that as icon.png in the root of the repo. It will be automatically resized as long as it is square and at least 1024x1024.
  6. Commit and push these changes to GitHub
  7. Wait a few minutes! You can go to the "Actions" tab in your GitHub repo to see build progress. If you don't see any progress in the Actions tab, you may need to enable Actions for your repo in the repository settings.
  8. When the build is done, the "Releases" section of your repo will contain download links. You can find that by clicking the "Releases" section on the right-hand side of your main repo page, or going directly to https://github.com/USERNAME/REPO_NAME/releases.
  9. If you have the option enabled to host your game on the web, the first time you build your game you may need to enable GitHub Pages. Go to your repo's Settings page and click Pages. Set the Branch to gh-pages and click "Save". A web copy of your game should now be hosted at https://USERNAME.github.io/REPO_NAME.

As you make changes to your game, repeat the last few steps. Every new git commit that you make and push up to GitHub will result in a new build of your game.

Advanced Features

Building less frequently

By default, this generates new builds every time you push a new git commit to the main branch to GitHub. This is simple and easy to use, but it might be tiresome and unnecessary if you're making a lot of rapid changes to your game.

For more mature projects, it's recommended that you make triggering builds a slightly more manual process. Here are two recommended paths that both require slightly more git knowledge:

Build by pushing to a different branch

Instead of generating binaries every time you push code to the main branch, one approach is to work off of a development branch, and merge those changes into a production branch every time you want a new build.

As mentioned, by default this GitHub Action runs every time code is pushed to main. An easy process change would be to push work-in-progress commits to a branch called dev (or similar), and treat main as your production branch. If you would prefer dev work to happen on main, you can create a separate branch intended for production builds (e.g. prod), and you just need to update the correct GitHub Actions workflow line to trigger builds off of prod instead of main.

You will also need to make this change if your default git branch happens to be something other than main. For older existing projects, your main/default branch may be called master.

Build by pushing git tags (recommended for advanced users)

A common approach to software versioning is to use git's built-in tagging system to flag certain git commits as certain versions. A more advanced option for this tool is to tell GitHub Actions to build new desktop binaries only when you push a new git tag that matches a certain format. This is my personal preferred approach, as it makes it easier to maintain clear version numbers, but it does require more experience with git and version control.

At the top of the GitHub Actions workflow file lives some code that tells GitHub to run the Action whenever new code is pushed to main:

on:
  push:
    branches:
      - main

Instead, replace that in your own fork with a command to build any time a tag is created

on:
  push:
    tags:
      - 'v*'

Using the git command-line tool, you can create a tag pointing to the most recent git commit by typing git tag TAG_NAME (e.g. git tag v1.0.3). You can then push that tag to GitHub by running git push --tags, which (if you've made the previous change) will trigger a new build.

Windows version numbers can only contain numbers and periods, which means your version numbers must also conform to that. This project is hardcoded to check for a preceding 'v' (as in the YAML above), so you should be sure to make your git tags of the form vX.Y.Z.

Customization

This project provides a sensible set of default options in the generated app, but you might want to customize it! If you want to add deeper integration with OS-level features, or make configuration changes to things such as the menu bar, you can modify the Electron app template being used to generate the app. This will require knowledge of JavaScript and Electron.

When GitHub Actions builds your app, it fetches a simple wrapper Electron app located at https://github.com/lazerwalker/electron-wrapper-template. You can fork that template, make any changes you want, and then update your GitHub Actions workflow to point to your own fork in the "repository" key of the "Check out Electron app template" step.

Windows signing

Signing your Windows app removes the "untrusted publisher" warning message that Windows may show upon running your game. If you're primarily publishing on Steam, this may not be necessary, as this warning does not show up for games launched via the Steam launcher. Signing your app for Windows requires purchasing a developer certificate.

Warning: This has not been tested and may not work as-is

  1. Go through the process of creating a certificate for package signing.
  2. Once you've done this and have a valid PFX file, base64 encode it. You can do this in PowerShell by using the command certutil -encode infile outfile.
  3. Open up your GitHub repo's Action Secrets (Settings -> Secrets), and create two "Repository secrets". CERTIFICATE_WINDOWS_PFX should contain the base64-encoded contents of your PFX file, and WINDOWS_PFX_PASSWORD should contain the password.

macOS Code Signing and Notarization

Apple has two different ways that you can sign your app for distribution on iOS.

Code signing is only needed if you plan to distribute your app on the Mac App Store. Right now, this project doesn't support code signing, but this may change in the future.

Notarization is for apps being distributed outside the Mac App Store. Notarizing your macOS app will avoid warnings that your app is unsigned, which may require users to go into their security settings to allow it to run. At some point, either Apple or Steam may require all apps to be notarized, but neither of those has happened yet as of the writing of this README. In order to notarize apps, you will need a paid Mac development account, which costs $100/year. It also (currently) requires having access to a Mac to create your developer certificate.

To set up your app for notarization:

  1. Create an app-specific password for your Apple ID. You may consider creating a new free Apple developer user that has been granted access to your paid account instead of using your personal Apple ID credentials. https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204397
  2. Set up two repository secrets (from your fork's repo page, Settings -> Secrets -> New repository secret) called APPLE_ID and APPLE_ID_PASSWORD containing the username and app-specific password (respectively). Proper codesigning (instead of merely notarization) should be supported as well, but more work needs to be done here.
  3. Go to the Certificates page on the Apple Developer Account site, click the plus button to create a new certificate, and select the "Developer ID Application" type. When prompted, create and upload a certificate signing request. Download the resulting .cer file.
  4. Double-click the .cer file you just opened to open up the Keychain Access app and add the new certificate to your keychain. In the Keychain Access app, search for "Developer ID Application" to pull up the certificate you just added.
  5. Note the full name of your certificate. This will probably look like "Developer ID Application: Your Name (string of random letters and numbers)". Back on GitHub, add another repository secret (Settings -> Secrets -> New repository secret) called CERTIFICATE_NAME whose value is that name (the entire title, including the "Developer ID Application").
  6. Right-click the certificate and select "Export". Export it as a .p12 file, and enter a passphrase when prompted.
  7. Create a new repository secret called CERTIFICATE_PASSWORD containing the passphrase you chose in the previous step
  8. Open a terminal window (Terminal.app) and execute the following line of code: base64 -i path/to/your/certificate.p12 (swapping in the actual path for your certificate). This will generate a base64 string representing the certificate. Copy/paste this string into a new GitHub repository secret called CERTIFICATE_OSX_APPLICATION
  9. Finally, rebuild your game again! You can either make a change to your project files, or go to the "Actions" tab on your GitHub repo page, click the name of the most recent workflow run, and click the "Re-run" button in the top-right.

If everything has been done right, the resulting macOS binary should be properly notarized! Note that Apple's notarization servers can be slow, and adding notarization to your app can add minutes or tens of minutes to your build process. Be patient!

If you get an error that reads "Your Apple ID account is attached to other providers. You will need to specify which provider you intend to submit content to. Please contact us if you have questions or need help." (if you are a member of multiple Apple developer accounts) you will need to manually specify a provider. You can look up a list of your providers by running xcrun altool --list-providers -u [your apple ID] -p [an app-specific password for your Apple ID] on a Mac. Take the ProviderShortname of the provider you want and add it as a GitHub secret called APPLE_PROVIDER

How does this project work?

Under the hood, project relies on two core pieces of technology: GitHub Actions and Electron.

  • GitHub Actions is a free service integrated with GitHub that can run little bits of code on cloud servers whenever you do things like push new code to GitHub.
  • Electron is an open-source tool that lets you build desktop apps using browser technologies like HTML, JavaScript, and CSS
  • GitHub Pages is a free static site hosting service. It's used if you opt to publish a web version of your game through Twine App Builder

I maintain a GitHub repo that contains a minimal scaffolding project built on Electron. When new code is pushed in your repo, a GitHub Action runs that grabs your HTML files, injects them into that scaffolding project, and builds the project for you using Electron tools.

"Why don't you support [insert feature here]?"

Open a GitHub Issue in this repo!

This project is an experiment, so I've intentionally kept the initial release very minimal. If people are actually using this, I'd love to expand on it! Let me know if you're using this and there's something you're dying to see added, or if there's some missing feature preventing you from using this, so I can prioritize improvements! Some specific things I'm currently thinking about:

  • Linux support
  • iOS and Android support
  • More customization options that don't require forking the Electron template
  • Integration with store platforms (e.g. Itch.io, Steam) to automatically upload new builds
  • Game auto-updater (i.e. push out new versions of your game without requiring players to download new binaries)

License

This project is licensed under the MIT license. See the LICENSE file in this repo for more info.


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