Tag Archives: Chat Mapper

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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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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Hello 2017!

Happy New Year everyone!  2016 was in many ways a difficult year.  But in other ways it was a great year.  I started my radio show AND got a permanent part time position at the library.  I also just got back from a wonderful few weeks in sunny Florida (pictures forthcoming on Flickr!)

Here’s all the things I wanted to do in 2016:

  1. Finish Tears of the King – failure.  I didn’t finish it, but I did work on it a bit more earlier in the year (to the point that I would say 1/3 is functioning and built).  I think I made this game much bigger than I should have; it’s going to take me awhile yet to finish it.
  2. Write four polished short stories – failure.  I don’t think I really wrote any short stories.  I brought a few older ones with me to edit and that didn’t even happen.  Oh well.
  3. Take a Lego Picture a month (and actually post it in a timely manner) – failure huh partial success. I took one and posted it relatively on time every month until the fall.  I seriously thought this had fallen apart long before then.
  4. Eat healthier – huh, partial success. I started using my dietary scale to make Greek yogurt parfaits with granola (which I love). I’m also a bit more conscious of my portions.  Not bad!
  5. Be more active – partial success.  I walked a lot over the summer, and a lot over the last few weeks in Florida.  Plus last month I went swimming a lot, too.
  6. Read the anthologies I own – failure.  I read 4 anthologies or short story collections.  One of them was honestly an accident (I didn’t realize The Jungle Book was a short story collection when I started reading it).  I also think I’ve read one of the four before (but didn’t realize it until I recognized the final story in the collection).  I’ve also got two anthologies on the go right now and haven’t read from either of them in awhile.
  7. Build 1 of my worlds that need building.  – this is another partial success.  I did spend some time working on another world, but I don’t think I got it to the point where I feel it is ready to work with (the setting is still unnamed at this point, though I have spent some time trying to name it with no luck thus far).  Hilariously I also spent a bit of time working on magic in Imezza while I was in Florida; sitting on a beach watching dolphins is sort of the best inspiration for an ocean world! 😉
  8. Edit my NaNoWriMo 2012 book – failure.
  9. Take apart my NaNoWriMo 2015 blob – success! I succeeded at this back in February!  🙂
  10. Work with Chat Mapper – failure. I have done nothing with Chat Mapper since January 2015 (which was fun though!)

While I didn’t accomplish many of my goals for the year, as I said, I ended up starting a radio show, which has been a great experience!  My life has taken me in some unplanned directions, making me a lot busier than I may have previously been.  So with that in mind, I’m going to make less goals for this year, but make them things I really, really want to accomplish.  Hopefully this way I can keep myself a little more focussed on things now that I have more limited time.  So this year I want to:

  1. Read 40 novels.  In 2016 I read a lot of shorter things (both graphic novels and short stories).  So this year I’d like to focus on longer works.  Ideally most of those longer works will come from books I have stockpiled in my house but we’ll see what happens.
  2. Write four polished short stories.  I have three worlds built to a point they can be written in/about, and a fourth one coming along okay.  It’s time to start using these worlds!!!  Plus there’s a short story contest I’d like to enter.
  3. Work on Tears of the King. Ideally I’d like to finish it.  But even getting another third built would be awesome!

Those are realistically my most important creative goals for this year.  Taking Lego pictures is fun, but I don’t want to bog myself down thinking I HAVE to take them.  Chat Mapper hasn’t happened for the last few years, so there’s no point in worrying about it now (but if it does happen this year, that’s still cool).  Likewise, I haven’t gotten around to editing any of the NaNoWriMo books I’ve written and they’re not a priority to me at this time (but again, if I do get around to them, that’s great).  And I don’t need to do any more worldbuilding, but again if it happens, that’s great (and I already know I have to tweak a few things in my Imezza and Faeriia Google docs thanks to my brief work on Imezzan magic over the last few weeks).  I also decided not to bother posting my non-Creative goals here since this blog is entirely devoted to my creative endeavours.

EDIT: I came up with one more goal.  Goal #4 is to spend one hour a week on writing.  This hour can be spent on Tears of the King, worldbuilding, editing, short stories, novels, whatever. I’ll even schedule it into my week if I have to!

So there we have it – my goals for 2017.  Wish me luck as I work to accomplish everything!  I’ll do my best to keep this blog updated with my writing progress.  🙂

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Filed under Contest, Game Development, RPG, Short Story, Tears of the King, Updates, Worldbuilding, Writing

Hello 2016!

Happy New Year everyone!!!  2015 was overall a really good year for me and I’m rather sad to see it go.  But hopefully 2016 will be just as good!

Here’s all the things I said I wanted to do in 2015:

  1. Read 50+ books off of The List -partial success.  I read 51 books this year, but only 25 off The List.
  2. Stay in shape – I’m going to say failure.  I did get back to swimming, but really late in the year.
  3. Get 2+ of my worlds that need building up to the point Imezza is currently at – success!  City of the Dead and Faeriia are not done but I can easily write stories set in them.  That sounds like the point Imezza is at to me!  🙂
  4. Finish the screenplay I started – failure because this was going to be a gift for a boyfriend who I broke up with in March (so I stopped caring about it).
  5. Write the Grief Project  – success!  A first draft was completed in my NaNoWriMo blob!
  6. Write a story a month for Apocalypse Madness  – success!  I actually wrote 13 stories plus wrote something with Chat mapper for Apocalypse Madness last January.
  7. Build a game – partial success. After Storynexus stopped being supported I switched back to RPG Maker (which meant switching to a different game).  Tears of the King is not completed, but I’m still working on it!
  8. Figure out Chat Mapper – I’m going to list this as a partial success because I did write that Apocalypse Madness thing in January.  But that was the last time I even looked at the program, so I don’t want to say it was a full success.
  9. Take a Lego Picture a month  – failure.  I stopped taking as many pictures in general this year and miss it, but I just haven’t had time!  😦
  10. Fix up my Red Bubble profile – I actually did do this early in 2015.  So it’s a success, but I haven’t added anything to it since then.
  11. Edit my NaNoWriMo 2012 book – failure.  Lack of time.

No wonder 2015 was a good year for me – out of 11 goals for 2015, I completely succeeded with 4 of them (and 2 of them were quite sizable – writing a story a month for Apocalypse Madness and getting two worlds to the detail level of Imezza!)  I also made a valiant effort on a few others, with only 4 as outright failures!  What’s more, I actually succeeded on more writing projects than I did last year!  (I think my main accomplishment last year was to build Imezza).  So 2015 really was a good year! 🙂

So let’s look to 2016.  This year I want to:

  1. Finish Tears of the King.  That should obviously go without saying.
  2. Write four polished short stories.  I’m very proud of the work I spent writing for Apocalypse Madness this last year.  But Apocalypse Madness is all about writing first or maybe second drafts.  So this year I want to put the time into writing more quality pieces, not quantity.  I’m planning on perusing Duotrope for markets that I’m interested in and writing a story every quarter for one.
  3. Take a Lego Picture a month (and actually post it in a timely manner). I can do it!
  4. Eat healthier.  I’ve been so busy over the last several months in particular and I feel unhealthy.  So 2016 is the year I’m going to try to be healthier.  I’m just listing this here as part of my goals, but don’t worry, I’m breaking this down for myself in better detail!
  5. Be more active.  Going hand in hand with number 4.  Also breaking it down for myself into better detail.
  6. Read the anthologies I own.  Looking through my list of books, i have over 25 anthologies of short stories on there!  So this year I’m going to focus on getting through most of those (if I make it through 20 I will consider this a success).  As a side note, I’m going to mark my Goodreads Challenge as reading 40 books for the year. So that means I hope that half of my challenge will be made up of short story collections.
  7. Build 1 of my worlds that need building.  I don’t really need to do this this year, but I know there are two main worlds that need building (well, one world, one science fiction setting that in reality will be multiple worlds).  If I can get through one more right now, that’ll only help me more in the future, right?  🙂
  8. Edit my NaNoWriMo 2012 book.  This is the same as last year – I want to make it into a coherent narrative that I can share with people.
  9. Take apart my NaNoWriMo 2015 blob.  This sounds a bit silly, but I’ve already put it off for a month.  The blob is made up of worldbuilding, Grief Project, more worldbuilding, and several other, smaller things (stories, a blog post, etc).  I need to take it apart and organize everything (particularly the worldbuilding and Grief Project.  The smaller things are pretty much self contained inside of it).
  10. Work with Chat Mapper. This poor goal has been on my lists for the last few years (since 2013!)  It’s time to actually do some work with branching dialogue!

So there we have it – my goals for 2016.  The first five goals are really my priorities for the year.  Wish me luck as I work to accomplish everything!

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It’s That Time of Year Again…

…time to see how I did with my goals and set some new ones for the year!

Last year I set ten goals for myself, but only wrote down the writing-related ones.  But after a bit of a scare (I thought I lost the paper I wrote them all down on), I’m going to list all ten off here, along with my progress on them:

  1. Move out – success!  I got my own place this December.  I moved there with my new cat, Merlin. 🙂
  2. Get to GDC Main in SF – success!  You can read all about it here.
  3. Finish reading 50+ books -success!  I actually read 58 books!
  4. Get in better shape – sort of a success – I was going swimming twice a week all fall, but had to stop in December due to moving out and Christmas.  Will be heading back to the pool this month though!
  5. Clear out my writing magazine stash – success!  I got rid of a lot of them once I knew I was moving.
  6. Fix up my website (and eLance profile) – sort of a success – I fixed it up a bit before GDC, but haven’t done anything new to it since then (except update it with any articles I’ve had published).  For the eLance profile, I don’t think I’ve even BEEN on eLance since the spring…
  7. Edit my NaNoWriMo 2012 novel OR write a new novel using 90 Days to Your Novel – failure.  All I did was look over 90 Days and decide not to use it.  Since that time, I haven’t done a thing with my novel.
  8. Build 2+ of my worlds that need building – failure (sort of).  I spent quite a bit of time working on worlds earlier in the year, and managed to get one up to a point that I think I could write stuff in it.  It’s still not “done” though – there are some aspects that I still need to work on.
  9. Build a game (I don’t care with what) – failure.  I was all gung-ho to build a Storynexus game after GDC, but that fell by the wayside (particularly when I realized the story I had in mind wasn’t going to work).
  10. Figure out Chat Mapper and write some branching dialogue – failure.  I haven’t done a thing with Chat Mapper.

So of the ten goals, I succeeded at five, worked on two, and utterly failed at three.  Unfortunately I didn’t really succeed at any of my creative goals (but I did a lot of work on worldbuilding, which will only benefit me in the future!)

With that in mind, it’s time to set some new goals for 2015!

  1. Read 50+ books off of The List (so that means non-library books – just books I currently own!)
  2. Stay in shape (get back to swimming and keep it up!)
  3. Get 2+ of my worlds that need building up to the point Imezza is currently at.
  4. Finish the screenplay I started.  I forgot to write about it, but I started a screenplay at the end of November.  It was meant to be a Christmas gift, but I ran out of time due to moving.  So now it’s going to be a birthday gift.  I have until August to finish it.
  5. Write the Grief Project.  I had planned on doing this sooner, but my grief for my cat was too great and I couldn’t do it last fall.
  6. Write a story a month for Apocalypse Madness.  Apocalypse Madness is a blog I started back in 2008.  The idea is that every month someone would post a quote, then everyone who contributed to the blog had to write at least one story inspired by that quote.  The blog died in 2011 (due to a number of reasons), but I decided I wanted to revive it starting today.  So for the first time in three and a half years, there is a new quote; hopefully stories will follow!  And if you’d like to join in on Apocalypse Madness, send me an email or comment on this post! 🙂
  7. Build a game.  I don’t care with what (could be Storynexus, RPG Maker, Game Maker, a game book, whatever!)
  8. Figure out Chat Mapper. Same as last year.
  9. Take a Lego Picture a month.  I’ve fallen away from Lego pics over the last while.  I miss it.
  10. Fix up my Red Bubble profile.  This kind of goes hand in hand with  9.

As a bonus:

  • Edit my NaNoWriMo 2012 book. At least to the point where I feel okay sharing it with people.

So those are my new goals for 2015.  This year there’s a lot more creative goals, so wish me luck with them!  You’ll notice that there’s also nothing about getting to conferences.  As much as I’d love to go back to GDC, or one of the other game ones, I don’t think that’s a reality for me this year.  Of course, if that should change, I’ll blog about it. 🙂

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Oh Yeah…Goals

Last year I made myself a list of goals, most of which were writing related.  Of the 11 goals I made for myself, I managed to accomplish exactly one off of the list.  And it wasn’t one of my writing ones.

That being said, I did some work on the other goals.  I played around with Chat Mapper a little bit.  I started world building one of those worlds that need building.  And while I didn’t clear out my writing magazine stash (one of my unlisted goals), I did clear out some other magazines.

I also accomplished some things which weren’t on my list.  I was involved with a game project among friends.  Sure, it ultimately didn’t go anywhere, but it was still a valuable experience.  I also worked on Holdfast, which resulted in a published credit.  And then I wrote that submission for the Dark Crystal Author Quest, which was quite a feat in and of itself (a couple months of research followed by three writing and editing it).  I think the lesson from all of this is that while goals are good, it also pays to be flexible; you never know what opportunities life will throw at you.

So with that in mind, here are my new writing goals for 2014:

  • Figure out Chat Mapper and write some branching dialogue with it.
  • Build 2+ of my worlds that need building.
  • Build a game (can be with RPG Maker, Game Maker, StoryNexus or whatever).
  • Edit my 2012 NaNoWriMo novel OR write a new novel using 90 Days to Your Novel 
  • Get to GDC Main this year.

Most of these goals are the same as my last year’s goals, but that’s okay; I’m thinking they’re still good goals to strive for.  For the fourth one, I’ve had 90 Days to Your Novel for quite awhile and wanted to give it a try.  I might even just rewrite the NaNoWriMo novel using that book’s techniques since I’m pretty certain the book needs an almost total rewrite anyway.

I have a couple of other goals for the year that aren’t really writing related so I’m not going to post them here.  That last goal isn’t completely writing related, but I do talk about conferences from time to time here, too.  I’ve been saying I’m going to GDC for the last few years and still haven’t made it; I’d really like to change that in 2014!

Hopefully 2014 will be a creative and productive year for us all – Happy New Year, everyone!  🙂

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Writing Goals

I know, I know, this is a bit late.  The new year has been here for a month already.  I came up with my goals for the year about two weeks ago and have been meaning to post about them for awhile.  You know how it is; life gets busy and sometimes the best of intentions get waylaid.  But better late than never, right?

Back on January 14th, I wrote down ten goals for the coming year.  About half of them were writing related, so I’m going to share them here:

  • Submit at least six short stories for publication
  • Figure out Chat Mapper and write some branching dialogue with it.
  • Figure out StoryNexus and write a game with it.
  • Build 2+ of my worlds that need building (I have a list of ten and counting).
  • Build a game on RPG Maker.

Of course, when I wrote those goals, I managed to somehow forget about my NaNoWriMo novel, so a bonus goal is editing that, putting my goals up to 11 for the coming year.

There are many narrative systems that you can build a game with nowadays.  I chose RPG Maker because I own it already and have been meaning to make a game with it for awhile.  StoryNexus and Chat Mapper were both recommended to me by friends.  I’ve checked StoryNexus out a bit and am intrigued with it, especially after playing Winterstrike (it’s well worth checking out!)  For the branching dialogue, I wanted to give both Chat Mapper and Twine a try, but didn’t want to inundate myself with systems and so chose only one; if I manage to find more time I’ll be checking Twine out as well.

So what are your writing goals for the coming year?

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