Critter (App Log 001) – A Web-App for Dialogue Systems
Pest Control “Beware”
A scattering pit-patter across the floor jogs my memory. This time it’s not necessarily my remembering, but what seems almost so missing in detail it was likely something forgot. Following the many long years of growth, attachment, and learning in game development, it has ultimately come to my attention that most developers do not open source their story line and dialogue scripts- regardless of just how useful and often these more complex devices appear. Usually one can find a simplistic tutorial on how to “push” text to the screen in a various assortment of ways and languages, and the rabbit hole really just ends here. A majority of teachers expect this to be the starting point for those who enjoy much more complicated and polished exchanges, full with sound, animations, monologue, expressions, event triggers, and more.
Upon spending the past few weeks dipped in a vat of Blake Snyder’s “Save the Cat” screenplay juice with pen in hand, massive plot-line changes have brewed from far opposite this hemisphere to hang dazzling above my bleak Ohioan April horizon. And being an air-breather of sorts, some find this spider-fingered freak fed an oxygen-food-tube-mix-up only that of Trelby’s phantasmagorical freeware “book of the dead” (or at least that is how alive he may seem towards the end of this game development venture). If only I could actually fork one of my newest fictitious concoctions- steamy roasted mossballs- a favorite among the Aderus Bats in previously mentioned.
Sounds appetizing? Well, I’ve never been much of a chef, anyways.
Less Than Edible
My fellow artisans, I have come bearing a solution. When the realization struck that Gongbat’s new story will be written in a cinematic fashion, it also bit me on the a** like lightning that feature-film length will surely be leeching into my summer free-time. That’s fine, I didn’t like friends anyways (I know you’re reading this). Dalai-Lama– er Dilemma- whatever you want to call it- ate at me just as usual. Where was I going to find the time to not only write all of that wonderful dialogue spilling the story’s guts and glory, but also put it in the d*mn game? Critter might be the solution.
Almost gummed in a battle with my perfectionist self, the solution is not in dropping an already well-desired length, but in speeding up the workflow to get there. Critter is something I have wanted to make for years, alas just never seemed to get around to it. This is a concept for a web-app working in tandem with GameMaker: Studio 2 scripts that utilizes the ease of simple forms and shortcuts to layout and design extravagant, complex dialogue.
Small but Mighty
Critter will let users build presets upon starting a project that store characters, common cues, and items that may appear in a story UI, and then shortcut the hassle of re-inputting said information every line. Not only will it support simple text-based exchanges, but it should continue to encompass that of sound effects, animation and event timing, differentiated fonts and styles, and more, all while allowing writers to edit these features simply in the web user interface. Judging by Gongbat’s mostly linear tale (the test rat), Critter may not initially include options for user selected dialogue options, but fear not! I do plan to add this feature if there is enough need in the not-so-far future. Other cool jazz to be expected: reverse compatibility (turn Critter scripts into distinguishable story files and vice versa), import and export ini files with full story information (ordered scenes and exchanges), custom scene titles, and drag’n’drop reorientation of all elements. By the release of the full version, expect non-programmers to be able to put together interactive stories with the use of Critter and GMS2, at ease.
The current web-app and future updated versions can be found here. Do not expect very much soon seeing as it is currently in a conceptual design state- but the idea and early interface are there. I will be keeping development open source and might be looking to add other developers to join the cause, eventually. It all really depends on where I foresee Critter going within the coming months. And with that, it’s once again time for me to sign off.
Your friendly neighborhood
game developer web-app designer,