Creator Diary

I'M GOING ON VACATION

Hey there! So, I was thinking, instead of like, ya know... announcing a long awaited feature, I just think I need some me time. Honestly, it's kind of been non-stop around here, and honestly, it's not like people need to see it like right now, right?

Artist rendering of Renee voicing her opinions.

OMG FINE. Okay, we're going to jump into the Playset Creator, but be warned: this is a long post.

A VERY DIFFICULT FEATURE TO CONTACT

In the beginning, this is what the creator of Xorte/IO, Sean Richer, had to write.

We can create playsets at Monocle Society, and we have been for some time now. This has been exclusively internal for Monocle writers and for community members who have had their playset uploaded into our database. All playset writers have had to go through the same process to get it into Weave. Initially, this meant that writers had to hand me a playset in JSON format, then I would upload it into Weave. Definitely not ideal, but it got the job done.

The problem with that (besides me being the sole bottleneck): it wasn't easy at all. If you weren't a developer or didn't have technical experience, it quickly became the world's biggest nightmare to work on. It didn't take long to realize that, even for ourselves, we had to have a better way...

YOU'RE SAYING THERE'S A MULTIVERSE?

But which way should it go? The more we started digging into the issue, the more we realized that this was a very deep rabbit hole we were digging for ourselves. We wanted to create a process that was very easy and gave writers the freedom they needed. Additionally, we didn't want to be responsible for creating Monocle Office Word. So, what could we do?

Option 1: Partnership?

Our first thought was to partner up with a writing app company, maybe someone who is multi-platform and is exactly what writers would want. Even briefly investigating this as an option easily wasted multiple weeks. Turns out, everybody has different tastes in what they want their writing tool to be. Okay, fine. Then, how about...

Option 2: Website?

Oh hey! That's totally the solution, right? Just make it a website! Honestly, this is the solution that would have been the easiest to fire off and forget about. But web development isn't as simple as it seems; you still have multiple browsers you'd have to support, then you'd have to choose what language or framework you'd want to use for it, then even building out the feature in a website means you'd also have to... ya know... build out a full website. As a single developer at the time, this was the scariest of all the options, because it would be the straw that would break my stack (<that's a dev joke).

Option 3: Weave App!

Well, if having multiple code bases to support is an issue, why not just put it all in the Weave app? There are two issues with that. First, we would have to design a user interface and experience that would be easy to understand, let alone work on every size screen. Second, that would require a large re-write of the Weave code base to allow for that level of app development to take place.

Option 4: Make a specialized format

We. were. so. close. to. doing. this.

Doing it this way would actually let everyone use the text editor of their choice, and all we would have to do is release an importer tool. We were so close doing it this way, that we actually did for a while. It was all in Markdown and featured multiple files and folders that all followed the same pattern.  As of now, this is still being used in our Discord community. So why didn't this work? Easy. It was boring. It still relied on a text-based format (like JSON) to import properly, and even if it did import properly, how would we import it? Desktop app? Website? Either option we chose, we'd be back in multiple code bases. No good.

THERE'S GOTTA BE SOMETHING ELSE

Well, unfortunately, there really isn't. These were all the options, and if playset creation was going to truly be part of the Weave experience, we had to choose the best one possible. The thing is, I always kind of knew the best option, and it wasn't going to be easy. Arguably, the right way was going to be the most challenging.

YOU'VE BEEN TO SPACE

We had to put it in the app. We needed to rewrite large amounts of Weave and make it a native experience where we owned the writing process. This meant including the capabilities to write inside of the app, assign suits to a backstory, set triggers, and even upload images for every single quality possible (qualities are what we call Backstories, Talents, Flaws, Locations, Assets, etc.). On top of making it work, we would have to make it look easy.

Talk about a paralyzing challenge for a game involving goblins and dice with little to no math. At the end of the day, however, it didn't matter. We needed to do it this way. It's the best option, and we shouldn't be afraid of a good challenge.

I MEAN, IT'S KIND OF OBVIOUS

Looking at the playset creator now, it looks so simple, even on a phone. It feels so natural. It took a lot to get it to this state. A lot more time went into thinking about all the ways it could work inside the app before we even hit the drawing board. Well, I'm glad we took that time, because it's almost too obvious.

This is someone named Karen during usability testing. Hi Karen!

I mean look at that! Such clean lines. Karen is even smiling while she's using it! That's because she knows that every word she writes in it is saved immediately to the cloud. This enables Karen to be creative in small bursts if needed, and if Karen wants to create for longer periods she can even use her laptop or iPad. Below you can see Karen doing just that:

Karen loves the Playset Creator for her favorite lap-tablet.

Dang, Karen, that's looking good.

IT'S OUR RESPONSIBILITY

We're going to make it easy for everyone to create. That's the uncompromising promise that we need to make, and we own it:

Mixed reality storytelling. For everyone.

The mixed reality part isn't happening until we're solid on mixed reality itself, but we can sure as heck take care of the storytelling part now. So here's a list of some of the features you can expect out of the playset creator:

  • Easy Text Entry: Actually, this is the big thing here. Your focus is almost always going to be on just writing things out.
  • Simple Mechanic Controls: The other options (such as setting suits or tags) are very visual and feel like second nature. This helps you spend your valuable time on the most important part: the writing.
  • Image Uploading: Allows image content for every single quality–backstory, talent, flaw, boss, enemy, location, asset, subplot. All of them.
  • Canon: Canon are pieces of the playset that add to the flavor of your world, but not to the game directly. These includes stories, informational articles, and lore. They really kick up the immersion of a playset.
  • Cloud Saving: Anything you edit in your playset will be automatically saved to the cloud so you don't lose your work and your content is accessible across multiple devices.
  • Every Platform: This is a big one. The same experience works on your mobile phone, your tablet, and your desktop.

YOU GOING TO STEP UP OR NOT?

Let me be clear to those in the community who have been using the markdown format. You're going to be okay. What you've written is going to translate, and if you've been writing for Advanced, you're going to be 90% there.

So, when is this coming out? Good question. We're first putting out 2019.1 in the first half of June. Then after that, we're putting our focus into Weave 2019, which includes the updated rule set, the user interface overhaul, and yes; the Playset Creator. This is already underway, but we're going to make sure we release everything the right way, at the right time.

You should expect to see a beta shortly after the 2019.1 release, and we'll even do in-depth diary entries about specific features of the Playset Creator so you can be fully acclimated to it when it lands in your hands.

Unfortunately, we can't show you anything yet. I've been known to leak information left and right without warning, and I'd only get in more trouble from Renee and the rest if the team if....

I...

were to...

....

I wonder if Renee is going to catch this before everybody sees this.
Where's the fun in only spoiling the playset creator?