ARIS Quick Reference

This is a much shortened version of ARIS – The Manual. This guide is only meant to give you a basic rundown of some commonly used features. My intent is for it to be a helpful reference when making your first game or two.

Vocabulary

The ARIS Client is also known as the ARIS app. This is what you use to play games made with ARIS. It runs on iOS devices and can be downloaded free from the App Store.

Pro-Tip – ARIS on iPad

If you search the App Store for the ARIS app from an iPad you won’t see it at first. You need to look in the iPhone apps section.

The ARIS Editor is what you use to make ARIS games. It is done on a computer, in a browser. Just go to http://arisgames.org/editor.

Game Objects

There are three basic objects you can use to make games and stories using ARIS, plaques, items and characters. Each is a bit different.

Plaques are points of information. They can include text and media. They can also give out and take away items to and from your players. The metaphor is an informational plaque nest to a point of interest.

Items are the things in the virtual world. Players can pick them up, trade them with other players, drop them on the map, get them from characters or have them taken away.

Characters are virtual people. Players interact with them via multiple-choice style dialogue. They can exchange items with players in each bit of conversation.

Each of these three objects acts a bit differently and can be used for things other than their basic metaphors might suggest.

Locations

Even though you can use ARIS to make games that do not use GPS, this is where ARIS started out. As a result, the way you make your game objects real (for the most part) begins with creating a location for them, even when you’re not using GPS.

You create a location for an object (plaque, item, character) by dragging it onto the map.

Pro-tip – ARIS Without Maps

If you’re not using GPS or the map in your game, use the map in the ARIS Editor as a visual organizer to help you as the author of the game.

Organizing via map in the ARIS game Mentira
Organizing via map in the ARIS game Mentira

Once your object has a location, you can make some simple choices about how a player accesses that object.

Physical Proximity (AKA GPS) – This is the default way for players to access game content. They walk to where you put your objects on the map and – Bling! Bling! – the object comes up on their screens. You decide how close they need to be in the location’s error range.

Pro-Tip – Rule of thumb for GPS Accuracy

  • 15m – can’t get much better than this, even with good phones and good signals. For a game like Rupee Collector, this is close enough to make the gameplay feel like it works. You get a gem when you are there at the spot.
  • 50m – good starting point for when devices do not have GPS chips (iPod Touch, wifi-only iPad).

Pro-Tip – Turn off GPS

To make a location inaccessible via GPS, simply make its error = 0. This is a life lesson: one can never have exactly 0 error.

Pro-Tip – Always Nearby

This is the opposite of the above tip. If you set a location’s error = –1, this is fancy computer speak for error = ∞, meaning that your player is always near enough to access your object. You can use this in connection with requirements to make things happen automatically in your games regardless of where your player is.

Moving on a Virtual Map (AKA Quicktravel) – Instead of actually having a player go to a location, you can turn on the option for them to simply tap the icon of the location on their game map to “go” or “quicktravel” to that location. This is mostly used for testing your game quickly or off-site.

Scanning QR Codes

You have probably seen these on posters.

These funny images are called Quick Response codes, or QR Codes for short. Scaning a QR code within ARIS is another way for players to access objects. All you need to do is click on the small QR code on your location in the Editor and it will pop up in another page/tab in the browser. Then save this image and print it out to use for your game.

Pro-Tip – Creative Use of the Scanner

Each QR Code in ARIS by default actually encodes a 4-digit number. A player could enter this number instead of scanning the image of the QR code and ARIS treats it the same. You can use this back-up plan creatively though. Instead of the 4-digit number, you can enter words, other numbers, pretty much any combination of characters and numbers (a string in CS speak) up to something like 100 characters. Then, instead of having your player scan a picture, you can ask them to solve a puzzle and enter the answer to access your game content.

Character Conversations

Characters are the most complicated ARIS game objects, the ones most capable of supporting interaction with the player. The basic metaphor for characters is a conversation with a virtual character.
Each character has

  • Title – The name of the character.;
  • Icon – This represents the character’s location on the map and the character in the nearby bar.
  • Media – An image or portrait representing the character.
  • A greeting – Text that the character first utters when visited.
  • Conversations – After the greeting, players are given a list of available options to say to the character. The character can respond with a script. Together these make conversations. More on conversations below.
  • A closing – What the character says after greeting and when there are no active conversations.

Conversations and Scripts

Conversations with characters are created from individual bits of conversation as rows in a table.

The Conversation Table is a list of all the parts of conversation. Each part/row has

Option – A choice the player makes.Script – The character’s response to the player’s choice (scripts can do much more, but we’ll leave that for later).

When a game is being played, the player sees and makes a choice (option), and that results in a response (script).

This is a common way to structure conversations in games. If you’ve played a Bioware game, say KOTOR or Mass Effect, we are using the same hub-and-spoke model, and the same way of representing an entire script with a short title for the player to choose.

Dialogue options in a conversation in Mass Effect

An example may help to illustrate.

A Conversation Example – Meeting the Editor in Dow Day

Idea of the Conversation

You, the player, meet the editor when you start Dow Day. He greets you, you choose a response (only one in this example), and the response is a nice little back and forth. Then, there are no more conversation options available and the editor closes with “Good luck”.;

What the Player Sees in the ARIS Client

Click to embiggenate
Click to embiggenate

What This Looks Like in the ARIS Editor

Diagram of the Conversation

Description of What’s Going On

Greeting

  • A character greets the player. This appears as text partially overlaying the character’s portrait (i.e. media).
  • This greeting is the first thing the player sees when they access the Editor character.
  • In all character conversations, the (up-down arrow) icon next to the character’s title will expand the text to fill the screen.

Options and Scripts

  • After the greeting and completion of each script, the player has a chance to choose conversation options or to Leave the conversation.
  • Each option is the beginning of a part of a conversation the player can have with this character. When a player chooses one, they are taken into the corresponding script.
  • At a basic level, the script can simply be text for the character to respond to the player. There are other possibilities as well.

Pro-Tip – Conversation without greeting

If an author does not use a greeting script, the first thing the player sees upon visiting the character is this list of options.

Requirements

Requirements are what allow you to not have everything happen all at once in your game. They primarily work to turn locations and conversation options off and on when the player has done other things.

Rather than explain requirements generally, I’ll show a couple common examples.

Turn a Location off after visiting

Say we have a plaque at a location. We want this plaque to “turn off” after the player has visited it. So in that location’s options, we click on Requirements bringing up a Requirements Table. Each new row is an additional requirement for a player to meet to be able to access that location.

By default, the requirement table is empty. That is, the author does not require the player to have done anything to access this plaque. Locations (and everything else with requirements) is ON by default.

To have this location turn OFF once the player has visited it, we set the requirement that the player has not seen that plaque.

Player Has/Not Requirement Objects AND?OR QTY
Player Has Not Seen plaque/script The plaque we want to turn off AND N/A

Thinking through the logic of requirements is probably the hardest part of making games with ARIS. It often helps to think through the possible situations like this:

Simple Choice in a Conversation

Here’s a setup for a conversation.

The player is talking to a guard. The guard asks the player for their favorite color, giving two options: blue or green.

We want to use requirements to turn off BOTH options once a choice is made (either color is picked). If we don’t set any requirements, both choices will continue to be available to make. That’s not how this guard works. You only get one chance.

Conversation Table

Option Script Exchange Requirements
Blue Wrong! You lose! + +
Green Correct! You may pass. + +

To turn off these two options once either has been chosen, we set the same requirements on both rows/parts of the conversation. This is similar to our example with turning off the location above except we make use of AND along with a negation (it is very useful but easy to get backwards).

Requirement Table (for BOTH options)

Player Has/Not Requirement Objects AND?OR QTY
Player Has Not Seen plaque/script Blue AND N/A
Player Has Not Seen plaque/script Green AND N/A

Again, a diagram may help make it easier to see why this works.

Game Settings

Throw the Switch

Say you’ve just got your game all together and are ready to test it out. The final step is to make your game easy to find in the ARIS Client. Click on Game Settings in the sidebar and check the Game is ready to be played/rated box.

Test using Quicktravel

In addition to being able to make any location available through quicktravel, you can temporarily make ALL locations quicktravel. This is really useful for testing a game off-site. In the ARIS Editor, just go to Game Settings and Config. Check the All locations Quicktravel box. Importantly, when you uncheck this box, all the locations go back to how you had them beforehand.

Pro-Tip – Turn off tabs like Quests in the Client Interface

I often make games without Quests, but I don’t want my players to be confused by looking at a blank Quests tab when they first open my game. It turns out you can turn off any tab in the player’s UI. In the ARIS Editor, click on Game Settings and Tabs. Click on any tab you don’t want. It will now look gray. You can also rearrange these tabs by dragging them around.

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