Free Tools for Narrative and Dialogue Games

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Free Tools for Narrative and Dialogue Games:

Free Tools for Narrative and Dialogue Games Jonathon Myers, Writer, Designer & Co-Founder, Reactive Games Brown Independent Game Development Expo Saturday, April 16, 2011

PURPOSE:

PURPOSE What is this about? This presentation will discuss several free tools available to independent developers for prototyping and building narrative and dialogue focused games. AND my journey into discovering tools and developing games. What is this NOT about? How to make games How to form or run an independent company How to get a job Detailed academic information and citations

OUTLINE:

OUTLINE WHERE IS THIS COMING FROM & WHY? BRIEF HISTORY LESSON TOOLS 4. CONCLUSION

1. Who am I? - Background:

1. Who am I? - Background MFA in Creative Writing Became very interested in video games again GDC - met people, joined IGDA I am NOT a programmer but I am learning as fast as I can I want to tell stories in an interactive medium. I want to innovate.  Step by step. I believe there are a distinct lack of good tools out there for writers! (Which leads us to)

How did I gather this info & why?:

How did I gather this info & why? At GDC 2010, everyone said “non-interactive writing will not get you a job” General consensus, learn by doing.  Get something to show for it. Goal: Get a contract in the next year Networked, networked, networked Researched, researched, researched Mission accomplished, now what? Looking around, I realized how much I had learned, how many people I knew, and I even had partners and some games to show for it! I had become an indie developer and I didn't even know it.

Boston Community:

Boston Community People’s Republic of Interactive Fiction Boston Indies Boston Postmortem Boston Game Jams Boston Unity Group

Reactive Games before Reactive Games:

Reactive Games before Reactive Games MEMBERS Arshan Gailus, MIT, Music, Theatre Me My girlfriend Jenn Arshan and I wanted to do a Jam: “Let's find a free engine and make one of our own so we don't feel like idiots who have never made a game when we go to a jam.” Matilda Wants Some Foods The three of us in one room for one weekend in September Meanwhile, beginning to get freelance work

Lunar Game Jam, October 2010:

Lunar Game Jam, October 2010 Project: Perchance to Dream Came to know Darren Torpey better as a result Team: Me & Arshan (Sound), Dave Evans (Art), Don Mitchell (Programming) Dave Evans www.hybridmind.com

Failure? :):

Failure? :)

2011, Reactive Games and GDC:

2011, Reactive Games and GDC Continued to work very hard on Perchance to Dream Formed as a company in January Upcoming PAX East stuff gave us a deadline. Heavily involved in Boston Indies by this point Mission statement and how to step it up New member Darren Torpey for programming/tools assistance Keeping day jobs – no need to “go all in” No pressure to monetize, plan to play/experiment GDC and getting into a new development environment! Vision Engine vs. Unity experience at GDC

Where are we now?:

Where are we now? Pax East – gaining some attention Want/need to finish a game and release Must be low or no cost, we can’t afford it Shifting away from current framework (Ren’Py) Spent a lot of time looking at alternatives Most likely building in Unity Porting our complete game “Matilda” BostonIndies.com – a worthwhile distraction Consulting and contract work

OUTLINE:

OUTLINE WHERE IS THIS COMING FROM & WHY? BRIEF HISTORY LESSON TOOLS CONCLUSION

2. SUPER SHORT NON-ACADEMIC HISTORY OF NARRATIVE IN GAMES:

2. SUPER SHORT NON-ACADEMIC HISTORY OF NARRATIVE IN GAMES As stolen from Andrew Plotkin in IF Theory Reader Characterizing, If Not Defining, Interactive Fiction Also, see Get Lamp , a documentary by Jason Scott EARLY Colossal Cave Adventure by Will Crowther and Don Woods Infocom (1979) and classic text adventures Zork , Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Sierra Entertainment and Mystery House (1980, initial graphical interface), King’s Quest , Space Quest , Leisure Suit Larry

SUPER SHORT NON-ACADEMIC HISTORY OF NARRATIVE IN GAMES:

SUPER SHORT NON-ACADEMIC HISTORY OF NARRATIVE IN GAMES “Adventure Games” Text input at a command prompt. Language parsers Mapped world Inventory/objects Dialogue Also Adventure Games??? Myst (no text input), Secret of Monkey Island Point-and-click. Graphical User Interface

SUPER SHORT NON-ACADEMIC HISTORY OF NARRATIVE IN GAMES:

Text Adventures Puzzles Simulated World Text input Language/fiction SUPER SHORT NON-ACADEMIC HISTORY OF NARRATIVE IN GAMES Graphical Adventures Puzzles Simulated World Mouse input Graphics/Sound

SUPER SHORT NON-ACADEMIC HISTORY OF NARRATIVE IN GAMES:

SUPER SHORT NON-ACADEMIC HISTORY OF NARRATIVE IN GAMES Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) 1979-1998 Branching narrative from multiple-choice options. Not simply an open world to explore, but a story on rails in multiple directions. People say “non-linear”, mean “multi-linear” This structure anticipates/informs dialogue trees Lucas Arts ( Haunted Mansion , Monkey Island ) Popularizes menu-based dialogue options for text. Example: insult sword fighting in Monkey Island

SUPER SHORT NON-ACADEMIC HISTORY OF NARRATIVE IN GAMES:

SUPER SHORT NON-ACADEMIC HISTORY OF NARRATIVE IN GAMES PROSE = INTERACTIVE FICTION DRAMA = CYOA Role Playing Games (RPG) D & D tabletop games become BioWare (that’s the condensed version) Doom & FPS = IMO, big setback for narrative (much love to Valve/Irrational for perfecting environmental storytelling to reverse trend)

SUPER SHORT NON-ACADEMIC HISTORY OF NARRATIVE IN GAMES:

SUPER SHORT NON-ACADEMIC HISTORY OF NARRATIVE IN GAMES DIALOGUE AS GAMEPLAY Ultima Series (good study) Begins with language parsers (IF) and moves to a keyword “topic” system, selectable from a menu, phasing out command prompt input in graphical adventures trend System Shock, Deus Ex, Fallout Series, Elder Scrolls Series, Mass Effect, Dragons Age, etc

SUPER SHORT NON-ACADEMIC HISTORY OF NARRATIVE IN GAMES:

SUPER SHORT NON-ACADEMIC HISTORY OF NARRATIVE IN GAMES MEANWHILE Interactive Fiction is still going strong. Incredibly complex. The ‘avant garde’ of game narrative. Emily Short, Andrew Plotkin, Aaron Reed, Nick Montfort, Adam Cadre, etc Also, AI research for NPC conversations: Façade and more adept Natural Language Processing

OUTLINE:

OUTLINE WHERE IS THIS COMING FROM & WHY? BRIEF HISTORY LESSON TOOLS CONCLUSION

3. TOOLS:

3. TOOLS Oh yeah, that thing this talk is supposed to be about. Let’s dive in…

What is a tool?:

What is a tool? It does the work. It makes the job easier. But for whom?

Q: For whom?:

Q: For whom? A. Usually not the writer. However, this is changing …

TOOLS - PROPRIETARY:

TOOLS - PROPRIETARY Toolsets for Mods Free for non-commercial use Cookie-cutter, more for hobbyists Confined to a particular narrative system Can be a good portfolio/experience builder Deus Ex BioWare (several from NWN to Dragons Age ) Bethesda ( Fallout 3 /Geck)

TOOLS – OPEN Interactive Fiction and Inform7:

TOOLS – OPEN Interactive Fiction and Inform7 http://inform7.com Write script/code with natural language World map visualizations Dialogue system and other plugins Exports as web page, playable in browser Quick to get going, a long time to master Very well documented, strong community Book: Creating Interactive Fiction With Inform7

TOOLS – OPEN Interactive Fiction and Inform7:

TOOLS – OPEN Interactive Fiction and Inform7 Blue Lacuna by Aaron A. Reed http://www.lacunastory.com/ Glass by Emily Short Involvement in a dramatic scenario, dialogic Retells Cinderella, you participate during glass slipper moment Fairy and folk tales good b/c we already know the story, goals and potential outcomes as participants. Warbler’s Nest by Jason Macintosh Great for beginners, simple puzzles and excellent applied literary structure with powerful emotional payoff

TOOLS – OPEN CYOA and ChoiceScript:

TOOLS – OPEN CYOA and ChoiceScript www.choiceofgames.com Dan Fabulich Multiple Choice Games – CYOA stigma Based on an update of code from Alter Ego (1986) Download, engine runs script from .js file on any browser. Can use most script editors, needs a syntax plugin Fairly simple language, but variables and branching may become complex very easily Helpful introductory tutorial and guide; Google Group Profitable, ports to both Android, iOS and Kindle Release under “Choice of Games” and share revenue for advertising or purchases

TOOLS – OPEN CYOA and ChoiceScript:

TOOLS – OPEN CYOA and ChoiceScript Examples: Choice of Broadsides Choice of the Dragon Choice of Romance Downloadable on Android Market and others Full of interesting choices, re-playable Complex background variables Make use of tabletop and video game RPG techniques

TOOLS – OPEN Twine and Twee:

TOOLS – OPEN Twine and Twee http://gimcrackd.com/etc/src/ Chris Klimas “Hyperlinked non-linear story” = still CYOA However, somewhat of a hybrid. IF Qualities Not only choices, but clickable output text Save game as HTML file for any modern browser. Web page output is more customizable Vimeo video “how to” series, Google Group Online reference

TOOLS - OPEN:

TOOLS - OPEN TWINE Graphical visualization in authoring tool Can easily see pathways instead of simply lines of code Tool runs on top of source code Can still edit and add to code TWEE Stripped down version Command-line interface for coding Requires Python Works with text editors Downloadable syntax modes for editors

TOOLS – OPEN GameMaker 8.1:

TOOLS – OPEN GameMaker 8.1 Lite Version is Free, Mac/PC only More for hobbyists, web community, & sharing Need no coding experience, but still editable Not much narrative, but an adventure category 2D and 3D, but minimal graphics/sound Great for prototyping or learning basics Android / iOS porting now taking place Suddenly a potential for profit. Better version for $25

TOOLS – OPEN Adventure Game Studio:

TOOLS – OPEN Adventure Game Studio http://www.adventuregamestudio.co.uk/ Like the “point-and-click” adventures, taking it further Download full environment to PC/Windows However, games are playable in Linux and Mac (beta) as well Better graphics/sound capability, but still take a lot of effort and time Strong indie-spirited community Annual contests, driven by innovation/art Shared tools, collaborative forum Many community-generated tutorials and resources Very difficult to monetize, more of an expressive medium

TOOLS – OPEN Adventure Game Studio:

TOOLS – OPEN Adventure Game Studio Eternally Us                                  By the Numbers Dialogue Designer http://goo.gl/ldzUY Basic adventure games are prevalent on Nintendo DS, but Telltale Games is making a name with them. (new Back to the Future )

TOOLS – OPEN Chat-Mapper:

TOOLS – OPEN Chat-Mapper http://www.chat-mapper.com Urban Brain Studios Must pay extra ($20) for Indie commercial license Strong branching dialogue tool Can edit using GUI or directly edit Lua script Visual mapping with nodes & dialogue visible Can replay conversations including sound files (simulation) A good tool to use with other engines like AGS, etc Makes recording voice convenient Prints out dialogue to screenplay for recording Export assets in Excel and the entire project in XML Review on GameDev.net, video tutorials

TOOLS – OPEN Chat-Mapper:

TOOLS – OPEN Chat-Mapper

TOOLS – OPEN Ren’Py:

TOOLS – OPEN Ren’Py www.renpy.org A visual novel engine Menu-based choices for dialogue or narration Framework comes with Jedit Built on Python for customization, but the basic Ren’Py language is simple and easy to pick up Graphics are static background images with tiles or sprites in front that can change or shift. Some basic animation is possible, but time consuming Sound is adequate and voice tracks work well, but more complex sound engineering is wonky, must re-build a lot Develop and export to Mac/PC/Linux Android porting is in beta

TOOLS – OPEN Ren’Py – Matilda Wants Some Foods:

TOOLS – OPEN Ren’Py – Matilda Wants Some Foods

TOOLS – OPEN Ren’Py – Perchance to Dream:

TOOLS – OPEN Ren’Py – Perchance to Dream

TOOLS – OPEN Ren’Py – Christine Love:

TOOLS – OPEN Ren’Py – Christine Love Digital – A Love Story Don’t Take It Personally Babe, It Just Ain’t Your Story

TOOLS – OPEN Stuff Worth Mentioning:

TOOLS – OPEN Stuff Worth Mentioning Unity3d www.unity3D.com UC Santa Cruz http://games.soe.ucsc.edu

OUTLINE:

OUTLINE WHERE IS THIS COMING FROM & WHY? BRIEF HISTORY LESSON TOOLS CONCLUSION

Twitter: @jonathonmyers jon@reactivegames.net www.reactivegames.net www.jonathonmyers.com:

Twitter: @jonathonmyers jon@reactivegames.net www.reactivegames.net www.jonathonmyers.com

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