Category Archives: Writing

Memories Currently on the Backburner

I should have written this post a few weeks ago, but I had to put Memories aside for a bit.  I’ve thought about it long and hard, but I still don’t know how the game is supposed to end.  So on the advice of my brother, I’m putting it aside to work on some other things for a bit.  Hopefully with a bit of distance I’ll be able to figure out where the story is supposed to go.

I honestly feel a bit like a failure.  I was really hoping to have the game done by now.  But that’s not how it’s going, so time to focus on something else!

Life is pretty busy right now (when is it not?) but over the weekend I pulled out a short story I’ve been wanting to edit for quite awhile.  The story was written as part of my NaNoWriMo blob.  I originally wrote the story for a friend after his dog passed away, but I never felt right giving it to him (and let’s be honest: it was a super rough first draft that was crap – I wouldn’t want anyone to see it until it’s rewritten and edited).  I came up with some editing ideas for the story last March, but never got around to implementing them until today.  Even if the story doesn’t stay the way it currently is, I’ve added 300 words (it was originally about 600 words and is now over 900), and it is shaping up a bit (it’s definitely stronger than it was!)

I had a pretty fun couple of hours working on it.  First I brought a notebook outside with me (it was a beautiful day!) and started writing.  But after a page and a bit, I ended up grabbing my laptop and bringing that outside because I needed to be able to move some things around and expand on other things a bit.  I took a break to go for a walk, then worked on it a bit more.  I’m thinking tomorrow I’m going to print it out so I can do another editing pass on it (I prefer to edit on paper, at least for the first while – it’s satisfying to mark things I need to change up with pen!)

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Filed under Game Development, Memories, RPG, Short Story, Writing

Working on Cut Scene Dialogue

So after my paper prototyping adventures last night, I felt like I was ready to actually work on a few of the important cut scenes in Memories.  The only one I have somewhat built is the one I showed you in my post about tinting the screen (and that literally has “blah blah blah” as most of the dialogue).  I didn’t feel like writing the cut scenes in RPG Maker right now because I wanted a bit more flexibility for editing.  So first I thought to try using Chat Mapper, but that wasn’t a great fit when I started (I was thinking about the mechanics of how the program worked more than actually writing).  I had the same problem with Twine.  And then I remembered: I have Final Draft!  Why not write the cut scenes with that?

Sure, it took a few minutes to remember how the program worked (it has literally been YEARS since I last used it), but that was no big deal; I was back up and writing in no time!

cut scene written with Final Draft

I forgot how easy it is to read a script for dialogue.  Final Draft has been the perfect tool for my current needs because I don’t have to think about formatting, I can just focus on writing the words right now (and I can very easily edit whatever I write).  I managed to get a couple of key scenes written before making dinner (and quickly edited one after dinner).  Once I am happy with the text, I’ll be able to copy and paste it into RPG Maker. 🙂

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Filed under Game Development, Memories, RPG, Script, Tools, Writing

Meet the Memories NPCs

I have created and named the NPCs you will encounter in Memories. Here they are:

Picture of Memories NPCs

 

I don’t know for sure at this time that these will be all of the characters in the game (plus Briana).  But these are the ones I think I’ll be needing. I decided on the design of most of them over the last week, but I didn’t name everyone until last night (with the exception of Bella and Briana); it was rapidly becoming very tough to write dialogue without names.

I always try to give my characters unique names so there’s no confusion as to who is who.  I tried to choose names with an Irish or English  origin, in the hopes that the names will sound similar (and tie the characters together geographically).  But in this case I also decided to give people from the same families names that start with the same letter.  I think the names are, for the most part, different enough; I just hope that this won’t confuse anyone who plays the game!

Ten of these characters were created with RPG Maker VX Ace’s built in Character Generator.  The other five were chosen from the characters that come with the software.  You may actually recognize Wulfric from Tears of the King; I chose the same model for the Tears woodcutter (seen in the video in my Jan 2 2016 post).

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Filed under Characters, Game Development, Memories, RPG

First Characters for Memories

When I last posted, I talked about how I have only a rough idea of the plot and characters for Memories.  Over the last week and a half, I have done a bit of work on some of the main characters, who I had determined were a set of twins.  At that time I didn’t have a clue what they even looked like. But I played around with the Character Generator in RPG Maker VX Ace, and came up with some designs I was happy with.

So first, here is Briana:

Briana portrait

Briana is the real main character twin; she’s the one that the player will get to control.  As a character she is very hard working and focussed.  Briana’s name means “strong” in Irish.  She’s in many ways the opposite of her twin sister, Bella:

Bella portrait

Bella is going to be a very important NPC character for the game.  At this point I don’t think she’ll be player controlled at all, but that may change as I build the game more.  Bella is much more vain and more of a dreamer than Briana.  Bella is often associated with the French word bell, which means beautiful (think Belle from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast).  According to sheknows.com, in other languages, it has other meanings, but often has “beautiful” as part of the meaning (ie Spanish “beautiful; devoted to God;” Latin “beautiful, loving, lovable, graceful;”).  As an American name it means “intelligent,” and the Hebrew name means “devoted to god.”

As twins, it was important to me that they look very similar, but they had to be a bit different as well.  An easy way to differentiate them is with their hair – they both have different hair styles.  Their mouths have the same shape, but Bella has a small beauty mark on her chin that Briana is missing.  Bella also has thinner eyebrows than Briana.

These are the only two characters I’ve made so far.  But they’ve been a great start because I’ve already been able to start putting together some events for the game!

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Filed under Characters, Game Development, Memories, RPG, Writing

#WriteSunday – April 9th

I spent a bit more time working on Memories tonight.  As I said in my last post, I need to work on the characters and plot and pretty much everything else in the game other than the maps.  I have a very rough idea of a plot for this game already, but it needs to be fleshed out.  And for that I need a better idea of the characters.

I don’t have names or even more than a rough idea of what the characters might look like.  What I do have right now is the fact that the main (or at least most important) characters right now are a set of twin sisters and a wizard.  One of the sisters is the protagonist/player character. She/you will be saving the other sister from the wizard. Oh I also know that I want to give this game a sort of fairy tale feel.  I’m not sure how exactly I’ll be pulling that off yet, but I’m pretty sure the game is going to involve heart magic. Think Once Upon a Time, like this scene from the first season:

Tonight didn’t involve a whole lot of writing (and neither did last night, when I discovered that heart story I linked to in my last post).  But there was a fair bit of brainstorming and researching random things online, like heart symbolism, fairy tale witches, and the like.  In the middle of all of this, I managed to come up with a bit of the backstory that leads to the beginning of the game, so that’s good.  Hopefully I’ll be able to get more fleshed out soon!

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Filed under #WriteFriday, Game Development, Memories, RPG, Writing

Write Sunday – February 5th

Life is busy.  That’s an extreme understatement.  Over the last sevenish months I haven’t been making any time for writing, which was extremely unfortunate.  So as my added fourth goal for 2017, I vowed to spend one hour a week on writing.  I didn’t do so well through January (I wrote a little bit here and there near the end of the month, plus built that chatbot, which took quite a bit of writing initially).  But it’s the beginning of a new month, which means time for a new start.

I started out by writing down an idea I had for a 10 minute play.  There’s a theater event called 10×10 here in Thunder Bay which I went to a writing workshop for back in 2015.  I didn’t submit anything that year (I was dealing with sorting out my NaNoWriMo blob around that time) and hadn’t really thought much about it since then.  But then I had a random idea from work that I wanted to get onto paper.  It’s way too late to work on anything for this year (the deadline was back in January), but maybe I’ll get this into shape in time to submit it for next year.  We’ll see!  It will definitely need a lot of work (and an ending!)

After that, I also finally tweaked my Imezza and Faeriia docs to reflect the work I did on Imezzan magic back in December.  Faeriia was an easy edit – the magic on that world will not use the basic elements at all now so I just had to take any reference to that idea out.  Imezzan magic is going to be the one dealing with the elements now because it’s way more appropriate there.

I have to say, I’m very happy to have taken the time to do this writing, even though it’s really not a whole lot.

I think my next project is to work on a short story.  There’s a local writing contest coming up that I would like to enter.  And that would go hand in hand with my goal to write some polished short stories this year!

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Filed under #WriteFriday, 10x10, Contest, Faeriia, Imezza, NOWW, Worldbuilding, Writing

How Branching Narrative is Useful Outside of Game Design – Building a Chatbot

While I was at work the other day, I came across a post by the Social Media Examiner titled “How to Create a Facebook messenger Chatbot.”  After explaining some basics on what a chatbot is and how it can benefit your business, Social Media Examiner gives some basic definitions and jumps right into how to build one with Chatfuel.  This was the picture that very specifically caught my attention:

Picture of chatbot block made of the card and button.

This image is linked from Social Media Examiner’s original post. Their caption: “This is a visual representation of the placement of blocks, cards, and buttons in a chatbot.”

My immediate reaction upon seeing this picture was: “This is branching narrative!”

Don’t believe me?  Check out this example from the Storynexus Reference Guide:

An example of a Storynexus Storylet.

Storylet example that appears in the Storynexus Reference Guide

Out of the bit of branching narrative programs I have worked with, I have arguably the most experience with Storynexus; that’s why I immediately saw the parallel between it and Chatfuel.  Under the root Storylet, the branch happens, and then you program in whatever result(s) you want.  Storynexus is a little more complex, but you can still see how it has the card and button block structure.

Here’s one more example.  This is a Chat Mapper piece I put together for Apocalypse Madness back in January 2015 called “Village Woes“:

Chat Mapper output showing Village Woes

Chat Mapper output for Village Woes

Once again, you can see how it’s got the basic card/button structure (particularly at the beginning of this story, where it has the initial split in choices).

So after I had the realization that a Chatfuel chatbot is created very much like branching narrative, my next thought was “I can make one!”

And so I did!  I got permission from CILU’s Station Manager to build one for CILU’s Facebook page.

It took me about five hours to build the menu system of the chatbot, which is its basic backbone.

Block structure of the CILU chatbot.

As you can see on the left side of that picture, the bot starts out with two built-in blocks (the welcome message and the default answer).  Then you can make however many blocks you want (my current bot has 34 plus the two built-in ones).  On the right side, I’ve got the block titled “Main Menu” open as an example.  I made the card a text card (all of my bot’s cards are currently text cards) and gave it three buttons that link it to other blocks.  I wanted to have five buttons at the bottom of this menu, but Chatfuel limits you at three buttons per card.

Once that was done, I asked friends and family members to test the bot so I can refine its AI.  The AI is the one thing that branching narrative from Storynexus and Chat Mapper did not prepare me for.  But that’s okay – Chatfuel has a really easy to use interface.

AI Set up for CILU bot on Chatfuel

You click on the big red button (on the left side of the picture) to add an AI Rule.  Then you get to tell the bot what to reply with (either text or one of the blocks you’ve already programmed) when the user says something to it.  So in this example, if the user asks what’s on the air right now, I’ve got the bot set to reply with text linking the user to the CILU schedule (and also reminding them how they can listen to the station).

The AI has been quite fascinating to build.  I programmed in phrases that I thought people would say, and have been adding more and more as people have tested it.  For example, someone asked to “speak” with our station manager, but I hadn’t programmed it to recognize that command (if they had asked to “contact” the station manager, the chatbot would have been fine).  So after that interaction, I went back into Chatfuel and added more phrases to better connect people with the information they’re looking for.

Another example was the simple act of greeting people.  When I originally asked people to test the chatbot, I hadn’t thought about getting it to say things like hello or goodbye.  But now it can!

What’s really neat about the whole thing is how the chatbot has evolved over the last week.  When I first asked people to test it, the chatbot was a very rigid menu system that you click through to get to the information you wanted.  After a few days of refining, the menu system is there if you need it (which the default answer is quick to remind you of), but the chatbot is able to get you the information you want by just chatting – no menu required!

Of course it’s still in need of refinement, since it failed with its first real customer.  But the more people who test it by asking it things, the better I’ll be able to program it.  If you’re interested in testing it, or just want to see the chatbot in action, you can access it through this link (but you’ll need Facebook Messenger), or by contacting the station on the CILU Facebook page.  And feel free to leave me any comments or feedback – it’ll help me with refining the bot!  🙂

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Filed under Game Development, StoryNexus, Tools, Updates, Writing