A Short Tour – PSU ARIS Workshop

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.

A Simple Tour

[Since you’ve taken a tour just now, and have some feeling for what that looks like on the ARIS Client, it might make sense to have you build a tour in the ARIS Editor. – not true if you’re reading this now] The theme for this tour is:

My Favorite Places

Imagine sending someone in this room to visit a few of your favorite places. Maybe places they know nothing about them or maybe you know something they might not about these places. These places can be nearby or very far away. You’re going to make a short tour from these and have a guide introduce the player to your tour.

3 Places and a Guide

First, you need to think of

  • 3 places to be a part of your tour
  • A guide who will introduce players to your tour and its theme.

Once you have those figured out, we can put them into ARIS.

Editor Basics – Logging in and Getting Set Up

The ARIS Editor can be found at http://arisgames.org/editor. You will need to create an account to make games. This is separate from an account to play games but you can use the same username and password if you want.

Next let’s make a new game in the ARIS Editor. You can call it whatever you want, just make sure you are going to remember the title 10 minutes from now. Use something descriptive, not just test 1 because there are a lot of ARIS workshops so those kinds of names are too common to be helpful.

You should also have the ARIS Quick Reference available to you.

Making and Naming Plaques and Characters

Once you get logged in and are in the game that will become your tour, you’re looking at the main ARIS Editor interface. The main parts are the sidebar and the map. We’ll get to the map in a bit. For now, we are going to make our objects. Use the button on the bottom left of the screen to create 3 plaques and 1 character. These will show up in the sidebar.

To name these objects, double-click on each. The palette that shows up allows you to customize this object in many ways. Right now, all we want to do is name them all.

The plaques are your three places. Notice that you have the option of adding media and some longer text than the title. We will be using those in a minute.

The character, surprise, surprise, is your guide. When you open the palette to name this person, you’ll see a bunch of options here too. Again, we’ll get to that in a minute. For now, just a name will do.

  • Go ahead and name the 3 plaques and 1 character.

Plaques, Items and Characters

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.

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

Items are the things in the virtual world. We’re not using them just now, but they are a basic type so it’s good to hear about them. Players can pick items up, drop them on the map, or destroy them. characters and plaques can give items to the player or take them away.

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


Now we get to use them map. This is a basic Google map. Use one of the navigation options to get the area for your tour on screen at a good zoom level.

  • The controls at the top right
  • Scrolling with your track pad or mouse
  • Entering a place name in the search box at the bottom of the map.

Pro-Tip – Super Zoom

You can zoom in two clicks more if you’re in Satellite or Hybrid view than in Map view.

Once you’ve done that, drag your plaques and characters out to the map where you want them to be.

Our basic assumption for this tour is that a player would ideally go to these places and the GPS on their phone would make the tour work. There are other ways to make games/tours and to have players access game objects, but for legacy reasons, this always begins with a location anyway.

When it comes to actually testing this tour, we will find a way to cheat. We will be able to see the tour content without actually going to the places in question by a little trick called quicktravel.

Content for Plaques

Here’s the part where I can’t really help very much. Come up with something you want to tell and show your player at each of the 3 tour locations. Think about what you know about those places that they don’t or that they wouldn’t immediately be able to tell unless they knew the place. Or maybe you want to tell a story that takes place across these locations.

What you do not want to do is be repetitive. Use what comes over the device as a way to augment, not repeat or replace, what they get from their own senses.

Add this information into each of the 3 plaques. Double click them in the sidebar to edit.

Your Guide

Now it has come time to fill out our guide. We want to make a brief virtual conversation that sets the stage for the tour.

Double click this character in the sidebar. The other parts we care about now are
Greeting – How the guide greets the player. Maybe

Hello. I am so glad to show you some of my favorite places.

Conversation Table – This is a list of all the parts of conversation. Each part is a row in this table and is made up of

An option – A choice the player makes or a question the player asks.
A script – The character’s response to the player’s choice (scripts can do much more, but we’ll leave that for later).

For now, we are going to make a very simple conversation. Our player will have two questions to ask, and the guide will have good answers.

Player questions

  1. Why should I take this tour?
  2. How long is this going to take?

The answers are of course up to you. But you start by hitting the (+) button at the bottom of the conversation table. Do this twice to make two rows/parts of the conversation. Then enter the questions above in the options column. Your conversation should look like this:

Option Script
Why should I take this tour? Well, maybe that’s something you’ll just have to find out for yourself.
How long is this going to take? No longer than it needs to take.


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. We will use a couple different requirements to give our tour just a little bit of depth.

Conversation Sequence Using Requirements

The idea with our two questions is that the player would ask them in sequence instead of both at the same time.

Player questions

  1. Why should I take this tour?
  2. How long is this going to take?

This means we need to use requirements to

  • “Turn off” the first question after it has been asked,
  • “Turn on” the second question after the first one has been asked, and
  • “Turn off” the second question after it has been asked.

Remember, everything by default is “on”. In the lingo, “We do not require the player to have done anything to see these options”.

On the first conversation option, Why should I take this tour?, we set the following requirement (hit the plus button in that row of the conversation table and hit plus again on the requirement table that pops up to add a new requirement):

Requirement table for the first conversation option Why should I take this tour?
Player Has/Not Requirement Objects AND?OR QTY
Player Has Not Seen plaque/script Why should I take this tour? AND N/A

Another way to read this requirement:

The option Why should I take this tour? shows up until the player chooses Why should I take this tour?

The second option needs two requirements. One to turn it off in the beginning, keeping it off until the player chooses the first option, and the other to turn it off again, just like we’ve done with the first option.

Requirement table for the second conversation option How long is this going to take?
Player Has/Not Requirement Objects AND?OR QTY
Player Has Seen plaque/script Why should I take this tour? AND N/A
Player Has Not Seen plaque/script How long is this going to take? AND N/A

Tour Sequence Using Requirements

Locations are the other very common place to use requirements to create structure within an ARIS game/tour/story. Here, we are going to be doing this in a very simple way. We want the places that are on the tour to show up after the player speaks with the guide. To do this, on each plaque’s location, we set the following requirement:

Requirement table for each plaque’s location
Player Has/Not Requirement Objects AND?OR QTY
Player Has Greeted Character The Guide AND N/A

Game Settings

All of the content for your tour is now in place. The last thing to do is to change a couple settings to make it easy to play.

Throw the Switch

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

Your tour might not be physically available here and now. To make it so your players can try it out anyway, we’ll set all of the locations to quicktravel. In the ARIS Editor, just go to Game Settings and Config. Check the All locations Quicktravel box.

Turn off tabs Quests

You don’t want your players to be confused by looking at a blank Quests tab when they first open your tour. You can turn off the Quests tab in the player’s UI. In the ARIS Editor, click on Game Settings and Tabs. Click on Quests. It will now look gray. You can also rearrange these tabs by dragging them around.


One thought on “A Short Tour – PSU ARIS Workshop

  1. Pingback: A Short Tour – ARIS Tutorial – PSU Workshop | Local games lab ABQ

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s