I haven’t had much chance to make games lately. Lots of leading design jams and student work, but not a project where we make a game and play it. A game we spend some time and energy on, where we try to realize a singular vision. Not in a while. But this last year, in my spare time on weekends and such, I found myself lucky enough to work on a new game. A couple weeks ago, we finished a 1.0 and ran it up the flagpole. It was exhilarating. It felt great to see it come to fruition and put it through its paces. I’d like to tell you a little about this project and where we might start to look for learning and games to come together in ways that can lead far.
My design partner’s name is Alex, he’s 5, and he’s my oldest son. Our game is called Another Awesomenauts.
ARIS is most often used to author content for players to experience. But it also holds functionality for you to send players out to experience the world and share what they find with each other and you. This can be data collection, photo mapping, etc. The Notebook allows players to record geolocated media (video, audio, photo, text) and together to build a collaborative record of their explorations. This functionality has broad potential and combining data collection features with the other affordances of ARIS (making games, telling stories, etc.) is a truly unique thing. Being able to richly establish a context for those who you are sending out to do the collecting is a fantastic opportunity.
Buuuuut, if you’ve actually used the ARIS Notebook, if you really had people go out there and collect some pictures, etc. then you know that clutter is a problem, especially when there is a good deal of non-Notebook content you need players to see. After a bit, the map just looks like a mess.
In ChronoOps, by the 503 Design Collective, notes left by players obscure the map and authored content.
Clutter exists because every note is marked on the game map for all players. This can be useful for viewing notes later, but it can really get in the way too. ARIS will continue to evolve, so this clutter may eventually be less of a problem. But there are some things that you can do right now as an author to clean things up for your players. Continue reading
If you haven’t made a new game in ARIS in a while, you’ll be happy to know that the long nightmare is finally over: you can now set a default location for your game’s locations!
That’s right! No more moving every single trigger from Madison, WI to your location. Depending on what you allow your browser to know about you too, ARIS will default the above “create game” screen to show your current location, making it even more convenient in most cases.
When you set this location, and make new (location) triggers in the editor, they will start out at this default location. It should save countless frustration.
This feature has been in the beta editor for some time, but today I noticed it in the vanilla editor.
Last wek I ran a workshop remotely for a class at Portland State University hoping to learn a bit about ARIS with an eye to language learning. Before my workshop, this group took an ARIS based multi-lingual tour on their campus made by Steve Thorne and (some students – sorry, I’ve forgotten your names). Rather than have them build Thief, I thought it would be more appropriate to take them through the basics by making a simple tour.
If it’s useful for any of you, here is the script I wrote for that little tutorial.
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. Continue reading
Sometimes it doesn’t take much to make your ARIS game a little prettier and a little bit easier to follow. Even if you’ve never coded before, you can use a few html tags in your quests to really improve the way they are read by your players. In this short tutorial, I’ll show you how. Continue reading
Beginners understandably drag their items onto the map to create locations where players can get them. But this isn’t how pros do it (okay maybe just me).
Instead of item —–> map, make a plaque too. Then plaque —-> map, and edit the plaque to give out the item to the player.
- Confusion. Easily one of the top 5 confusions for new authors is what happens when you play test a game with items on the map is that you end up picking up all the items. Then you’re like “Where’d my locations go? I remember putting the items there on the map, and they used to be there. This ARIS stuff makes no sense!” – Very frustrating.
- Player interaction is simpler. Instead of a pickup screen and then another screen where the player chooses how much to pick up (and currently a third screen the player needs to exit to get back to the map), a plaque is just “tap to continue” and you’re done. And the author gets to choose how many of an item the player gets.
- Flexibility. Often I will later decide I need to give out many things at one place, or set up some give and take (like purchasing an item with money). If you have a plaque, it’s a simple matter of adding a new entry to the exchange table. With items on the map you have to muck about with a bunch of stuff on the map, and worrying about stacking the order. It just doesn’t work well.
Even though this is the way to do it in >95% of cases, there are specific circumstances where this is not the case and you should put items directly on the map. They include:
- If you need to manage scarcity/quantity of those items for all players in a static way for a multiplayer game. Think a single key that everyone is racing to get first. With an item on the map, there can be exactly one key that’s gone when it’s gone.
- If you are interested in something with multiple items at the same location or a complicated interaction with getting and losing items, you might consider a character instead of plaques.