First Look at ARIS Editor 2.0

We’re just around the corner from a pretty big update to ARIS, both the Client app and most importantly, the Editor. Big thanks to Phil, Kevin, Dave, Sarah, and everyone else who put a ton of work into making this happen. The current Editor is a Flash environment, pretty terrible to work in at this point, and has been neglected for some time since a total redesign and recode in HTML and javascript has been in the works.

By next month, we should all have a brand new editor to work with. It’s not functionally complete yet, but I’ve been playing around with a mostly functional prototype this week. I’m pretty excited and wanted to share, so I made a video tour for you.

This first tour doesn’t yet get to all the features, and the UI is bound to change a bit, but this video still should serve as a tutorial, getting you up to speed on how to use the new editor to make ARIS games/stories. As I get more time and new features get implemented, I’ll share more. If you’d also like to start playing around with ARIS Editor 2.0, we’re happy to include you. Below is my script for the video.

ARIS Editor 2.0 Beta Tour 1

We’re just around the corner from having a brand spanking new ARIS editor. No more flash, yay! In this new version, some significant changes have been made. If you’re pretty familiar with the old version of ARIS, this may take a little getting used to. A few names have changed, there are new ways to organize your designs, and everything is in a different place. If you’re new though, this editor should be way better right away.

Even though the editor is not entirely done yet (you can’t create conversations or delete objects for example), a mostly functional foundation is in place, enough for me to help you learn how to use it and get comfortable with the new stuff. In this first video, I’ll take you through
* basic stuff like logging in and the overall interface,
* scenes – a new way to organize your stories and games, and
* basic object creations and editing.

Login

The new login screen is really clean and simple. We won’t go through migration right now, but registering is as simple as filling in your details as if you were logging in and hitting “register” instead.

After logging in, you’ll see a list of your games, and a button to create a new game.

Basic UI

The basic interface of the editor is divided into four sections:

  • A main window
  • A Left Sidebar
  • A Right Sidebar
  • A header containing tabs

Tabs at the Top

The tabs in the header allow you to change what’s in the main window, giving you different perspectives on what’s in your game/story. They also give you access to your list of games and logging out.

Right now, the tabs are: scenes, locations, quests, conversations, media, settings, game list, logout. In this first video, we’ll only look at scenes, both because it’s new and because it’s the first you see: we think of it as the main interface for designing in ARIS.

Scenes

Scenes are about helping you to tell stories more efficiently using ARIS. It replaces the map as the main interface for creating with ARIS.

Objectively, scenes are containers for collections of game objects (plaques, conversations, etc.). But the metaphor is with cinema/theater. A scene is a basic organizational unit of design to help you think about the different parts of the story/game you’re making as separate productions that are linked together. A story will typically be made up of several connected scenes, and the branching connections between scenes could become quite complex if you want.

To see how this works, let’s make a few scenes and add some objects to them.
* The button to add a scene is in the top right of the main window,
* The button to add objects to a scene (the main way to create game objects in ARIS) is in the upper right corner of each scene.
* You can create plaques, items, conversations, and web pages.
* You can also create scene switches, objects that only serve the purpose of moving players from one scene to another.
* Each time I create an object I have the ability to edit some basic information: the object’s name and picture.
* Each object type has its own icon to help you tell at a glance what’s in your scene.
* The verbiage here (e.g. view item) should help you think about not only what you’re making but how your player is going to interact with the content in your scene.

So I’ve created a handful of scenes and objects within those scenes, no purpose really, just to help us explore the interface a bit.

  • You can drag objects within scenes. Soon you will be able to resize scenes. This allows you to graphically organize your scenes.
  • You can drag scenes within the window. This will help you to organize scenes within your story.
  • Each object has a small blue icon, indicating how a player accesses it in play. The default is good ole map location, indicated by a map marker.
  • Each object can be clicked in the scene window or in the left sidebar, enabling you to edit its properties in the right sidebar.

As we’ve been creating all these objects, notice how the left sidefar has become populated with them. This as an always available way to see all the bits in your game/story, organized by headings for each object type:

  • conversations (notice this is separate from the characters who have the conversations, another big change I’ll get into in another video)
  • plaques
  • items (includes attributes and web items)
  • webpages
  • scene changes

It looks like someday you will be able to choose other sorting methods to make it easier to find the game object you’re looking for.

Now that we have some objects, let’s go ahead and look at what we can do with them in the right sidebar. I’ll use an item because items have more settings for us to goggle at. The others are quite similar. The main features here are grouped into three categories:

  1. Edit Object – Details about what the player sees and does once they are looking at or using your object.
  2. Locks – This replaces the former notion of requirements in ARIS. If you are familiar with requirements, this is the same, just with a better name. If not, Locks are what allow you to not have your objects show up at the same time for the player. You lock an object, and by doing certain things in the game, the player can unlock it.
  3. Access – Various mechanisms for a player to actually go about getting to your object. Access generalizes our previous notion of location.

Edit Object

The first section of buttons you’ll see is “edit item” (or edit plaque, etc.). Clicking on the button brings up a modal dialog where you can determine what it is your player is interacting with. For all objects this includes text and media. The text areas are actually html fields capable of executing arbitrary javascript as well. You can make these pretty fancy by looking up a few common html tags and how to use them. The media asset can typically be an image, video, or audio clip.

As you can see the properties of items are more numerous than those basics. I’ll come back to these specifically at a later time.

Locks

I click on Locks to bring up the Locks editor, and click the big plus button to add new locks. I won’t go into too much depth about how locks work here, but let’s at least create a simple lock for this item. To prevent the player from being able to get to this item until they have seen my intro plaque, I add the lock “has” “viewed plaque” “intro”.

Notice now that there are two plus buttons, the big one and a little one. Again, I won’t go into details now and there’s some unfinished work here, but this allows authors to create and group locks, a much more powerful and intuitive approach to the AND’s and OR’s involved in logically connecting complex locks. It’s going to be awesome.

The short version is that grouped locks need to ALL be unlocked by the player to unlock the object, and satisfying ANY of the ungrouped locks will unlock the object.

Access

You have three basic, mutually exclusive ways that a player can gain access to the objects you create in ARIS. You can choose among them here.

  • Location – object is accessed through GPS location or touched on the map
  • QR Code – object is accessed through scanning a QR code or entering the corresponding string of letters/numbers into the Decoder.
  • Sequence – object is accessed automatically and immediately upon the player unlocking it.

Notice, you need to hit enter or click save after selecting any of the toggles to make them active. You will be able to tell which is active from the small blue icon next to the object’s icon in the scene window (place marker for location, mini QR code for QR code, chain link for sequence).

Location

There are many options when you make an object available to players via location. Starting with the basics:

  • Where – There is a minimap to situate the location of this object in the world. Just drag the dot in the center to move. Don’t worry, the “locations” tab we haven’t covered yet gives more room to work than in this little window.
  • Distance – A blue circle indicating how near a player needs to be. This is in meters. Yay metric system! Notice that this is a visual interface instead of numeric. You can draw how near the player needs to get by dragging a point on the edge.

The map title and icon options deal with what your player sees on their map to represent the object.

Finally, there’s a toggle representing how the player views the object once they are actually in range:

  • Immediately – one additional option here, to make the object invisible on the map, like a trap door.
  • By touch – The player can view the object by tapping on its map icon.
QR Code

Switching these access toggles can be a little disorienting at first. The numerous location options disappear, leaving the spartan ones for QR codes. There is an image and a text entry area. If you change the text, the image changes with it. The QR code image is a direct encoding of the text you enter. Your player would either scan this image or enter this text into the decoder to access your object.

Sequence

This replaces all the hacks for infinite distance and auto display we had to use to stack objects previously in ARIS. If you want this item to be picked up immediately after the intro plaque is viewed (unlocking the lock we just made), this is how to do it.

More to Come

That’s enough for a first look. I’ll put together more videos so we can see some of the other main windows, learn about how conversations and characters work in the new ARIS, make quests, and make use of media. I’ll also be back to describe more about locks. Or maybe you can beat me to making the next video sharing how to use the ARIS 2.0 Editor.

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One thought on “First Look at ARIS Editor 2.0

  1. This was really helpful, Chris! I’m very excited about the new interface… though a bit intimidated about migrating my projects over to it! 🙂

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