Welcome to the official Story Maker tutorials! We’re going to take this step-by-step, from the basics and fundamental concepts all the way to manipulating story flow with Actions. In this tutorial, we’re going to learn all about the basic elements and properties of a story such as chapters, messages, and choices.
P.S. You might be wondering where Story Maker FAQs when after the Seen 1.0.10 update. It’s gone and outdated. But here’s a copy if you want to read it anyway.
First of all, a story is, well, a group of chapters that tell a story. When you first make a story in Seen, you’ll encounter this screen. Title and Author properties are pretty self-explanatory.
Description is the summary of your story; it is visible when you choose a story in the main menu and when you publish your story in Story World, but try to keep spoilers away if you want to.
Player Name is the name of the player’s character. You can check Let the player decide if you want players to set their own Player Name, but you’ll still have to set the default names in Full Name and Nickname either way.
Finally, Allow initial chapter skipping allows the player to choose a chapter to start at. This option is only recommended for linear stories where player’s choices don’t affect your story’s outcome.
To change your story’s thumbnail or picture, tap on the blue book icon on the top-left corner. Your picture gallery will then show up. Select the desired photo and Story Maker will crop it for you.
Figure 1.1. Properties of a story
Story Maker Chapter List
Once you’re finished on filling up all the required information, tap the Check button on the top-right corner and you will be greeted by this screen of a completely blank story.
Figure 1.2. Story Maker chapter list (but it’s new and blank so yeah)
There are two options in the top bar as shown in Figure 1.2. The pencil icon is for editing your story’s properties that we discussed earlier, which are title, author, player name, and so on. The folder icon is to access Media Library; we’ll get to that later. On the other hand, when you tap the Plus button on the bottom-right corner, you’ll see three options.
Figure 1.3. Story options
Publish to Story World will let you publish or update your story to Story World. For that to work, make sure that you have a Story World account and that you are logged in.
Check Warnings, once tapped, will present a list of warnings you might want to consider in your story. It informs you about blank messages, blank chapters, and more.
Add Chapter is what we want to do right now. So, let’s go ahead and make our first chapter in our story.
In this part, you’ll encounter new concepts such as Chat Buddies, Media Library and Real Talk, but we’ll save the last one for next time. The following screen will show up once you tap the Add Chapter option as mentioned earlier.
Figure 1.4. Chapter properties
Title is the title of your chapter, obviously. Date and Time tells your chapter at what date and time to start, and I’ll tell you why these two properties are significant later.
Description is where you’ll put the summary of your chapter, but it’s not shown anywhere yet as of version 1.0.10, so don’t bother about what to put for now. Though it’s a mandatory field, yeah, just put anything for now.
We’ll discuss about Real Talk, Background Photo, and Initial Status in a later post.
Since we don’t have a Chat Buddy to choose from yet, we’re going to make one by tapping “Create…”
Chat Buddy (and an Introduction to Media Library)
Figure 1.5. Chat buddy dialog
Afterwards, this dialog will show up. Full Name and Nickname are pretty self-explanatory. If you want to permit players to customize their name and/or pictures, then check Custom name and/or Custom picture. Players will be able to customize the chat buddy before the chapter begins.
Note that you don’t have to make a new Chat Buddy for every chapter. Say, you have a character named John Doe and you’re going to use him for the first three chapters. For the first chapter, of course, you create him. For the next two chapters though, John Doe is already available as a character so then you select him. That means, you’ll only have to make a new Chat Buddy if he/she isn’t created yet.
However, let’s say that you checked Custom name for John Doe. Does that mean that every time Chapter 1, 2, and 3 begins, the player will have to customize his name? Nope. Customization only occurs when the Chat Buddy is used for the first time, which means the player will only have to set John Doe’s name at Chapter 1. The same principle applies to Custom picture.
To change your chat buddy’s profile picture, simply tap on the default avatar, the one with a circle for a head. Your story’s Media Library will pop up. In a nutshell, Media Library is a place where you can access all your photos and sounds and import them as well.
Figure 1.6. Media Library photo selector
In this case, we want to upload or choose a photo for our Chat Buddy, only to realize we have no photos yet. So what do we do?
First, tap the Pencil button to access your photo gallery and choose a photo you desire to import. Your imported photo will then be now shown in Media Library. Hooray! So, let’s use it! Tap the photo you just imported (it will turn blue signifying that it’s currently selected) then tap the Check button on the top-right corner.
What? “Photo not optimized”? Do I have to change the resolution all by myself? Hold on, you don’t have to. As the dialog in the left side of Figure 1.6 says, the photo you choose must be optimized for either Chat Buddy Photo or Story Thumbnail. The problem with the photo we just attempted to apply is that it’s not optimized yet.
First of all, how do you know if a photo is optimized or not? When you select a photo, it turns blue, right? A blue bar at the bottom also pops up. You can pull that bar upwards to reveal all that there is to reveal.
Figure 1.7. Media Library photo info
As you can see, the photo is Optimized For, well, None. Tap the Plus button on the right then tap Chat Buddy Photo since that’s what the app requires.
Figure 1.8. Optimize for Chat Buddy Photo screen
Crop the photo accordingly as you desire. A preview is shown on the bottom-left corner. Once you’re done, tap the Check button above. After all that, you’ll have a new photo in Media Library. An optimized one.
Figure 1.9. Unoptimized (left) vs Optimized (right) photo
As you can see, the optimized photo has an icon on top unlike the unoptimized one. Now that we have a photo optimized for Chat Buddy Photo, we can select the newly optimized photo then tap the Check button without going into any problems. Now, you might be wondering. Why do all that? Why optimize? Why?
The profile pictures you use for Chat Buddies must be square (whose aspect ratio is 1:1), just like profile pictures for social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Unoptimized photos vary in resolution and we don’t want some odd rectangle profile picture for our characters. As seen in Figure 1.7, the unoptimized photo has a resolution of 183×275, which is definitely not a square photo.
More optimization options will be included (besides Chat Buddy Photo and Real Talk Background) as Seen incorporates more features on photos in the future. We’ll talk about Media Library in more detail next time. Now that I have explained why optimization is significant, let’s finish up our Chapter 1.
Figure 1.10. Meet John Doe
Once we’re finished with filling up all the required information for a Chat Buddy, tap Done. Great! We’re done with our chapter. Make sure to select your newly created Chat Buddy (as shown in Figure 1.11) before tapping the Check button on Figure 1.4. And one more thing, you can modify your Chat Buddy’s properties by long pressing it.
Figure 1.11. Selected Chat Buddy
Internal Story Clock
So as I said, why are Date and Time properties important in a chapter? You see, Seen has a built-in internal story clock that is different from real world time or whatever the time is on your device right now.
Your story’s time is important to its realism and feel. Your messages depend on this pretend time. If you haven’t noticed yet, when you tap on a message during gameplay, you’ll see the time when it was sent above and the Sending/Sent/Delivered/Seen marker below.
However, there’s one limitation to take note of, especially if your stories take place during late night. Once the story clock passes by 12:00AM, you’d expect that the date will increment by one day. turning January 2 to January 3. Unfortuunately, Seen does not support that yet as of version 1.0.10.
Messages and Choices
Upon making your very first chapter, you’ll go back to your story’s chapter list, but not blank this time. You may now tap on Chapter 1 to access it, and you’ll be greeted by this screen.
Figure 1.12. Story Maker chapter screen
A chapter is basically a container of messages either coming from the Chat Buddy or the player. To add messages, tap the Plus button on the bottom-right corner and you’ll get to see two options (message sender) as shown in Figure 1.12.
There are two icons you can tap on the top-right corner. The Pencil icon allows you to modify your chapter’s properties, such as Title, Date, Time, and so on. The Play icon lets you test your story; however, the chapter is not ready for testing for now due to the evident lack of messages.
First of all, a message is a container of actions and choices. It’s starting to feel like inception, isn’t it? Think about it. A story is a container of chapters, which is a container of messages, which is a container of actions and choices. Actions are containers of statements. Don’t worry about actions for now. All that you have to understand right now is the difference between messages and choices.
A choice is where the content of the message itself is, from textual content to delays between Delivered and Seen statuses. A choice is where you put the textual message itself, such as “Hello, John!”. So, why does a message have to contain choices? Remember when you played the story of Nicole and Mark? You get to choose between three replies or choices. There can only be one message added in a chat box but there are three possibilities of what its content can be.
If that’s still not enough, I’ll give an example. Think of a message as a box, and that box has, say, four items. However, you can only retrieve one item among the four. That’s what a message is, a container of possibilities of what the chat buddy or player will say. I hope that’s already clear enough, but if not, don’t worry. We’ll work our way through examples.
There are two types of messages as shown in Figure 1.12: Chat Buddy and Player. Chat buddy messages are basically messages wherein the sender is the chat buddy, and the same rule goes for player messages. Where do they differ besides who the sender of the message is? You’ll discover their differences when you add a choice for each.
Figure 1.13. Chat Buddy and Player blank messages
Here, I added a Chat Buddy message then a Player message. Both are blank and red for now, but they’ll turn into their respective colors (Chat Buddy – gray, Player – blue) once at least one choice is added. To determine the sender of a message just by looking at the position of No Choices, take note that Chat Buddy messages lean to the left and Player messages lean to the right, like how such messages are arranged in a chat box.
Side note: To remove choices or messages, simply long press them.
Chat Buddy Choice
Figure 1.14. New Chat Buddy choice
Content is the textual content of the choice like “Hello” and “Here come dat boi.” It’s the heart of the choice.
Typing Timer allows you to record the typing indicator intervals of the choice. By default, the chat buddy will “type” for 1 second then the message will appear in the chat box. Upon recording, the typing indicator is initially visible. You can toggle its visibility as if the chat buddy stopped typing for a moment.
Photo lets you attach a photo to the choice. Upon clicking the gray Plus icon, the Media Library photo selector will pop up. Luckily, optimized or not, any photos are allowed. Advanced provides you some options that’ll occur immediately after the message has been sent.
Figure 1.15. New Player choice
Preview is what shows up in the Choose Reply dialog during gameplay. It gives the player a hint of what he/she will type in. Supposedly, it should be shorter than what the player will really type.
Type Recorder is the same as the Content of a Chat Buddy choice, but it actually records your backspaces too. Remember the story of Mark and Nicole? Mark sometimes erases his real thoughts and replaces it with something else. Well, Type Recorder allows you to do that too, you know, for dramatic effect. You may check the flow by pressing the Play button next to “Type Recorder”.
The problem is if you want to avoid typos while recording and unintentionally made one, you’d have to record all over again. Easy peasy, purchase TypoShield in the Shop with in-game Coins (2nd tab located at Main Menu). Upon purchase, you’ll see a shield icon as you record. Toggle the shield icon to enable/disable TypoShield. When enabled, it ignores all typos.
Status Timer allows you to type in the duration (in milliseconds) of how long a message status will stay that way. By default, it takes 1000 milliseconds or 1 second from Sending to Sent, Sent to Delivered, Delivered to Sent, and the final delay after Seen. If you desire to see how long it all adds up, you may press the Play button next to “Status Timer”.
Photo and Advanced, like Chat Buddy choice’s, lets you attach a photo and perform additional options after the message is sent by the player, respectively.
Some Things to Remember
- If you only want to show a photo without textual content, put “@null” in Content or Type Recorder (without typos).
- Variables work for Content in Chat Buddy choices, Preview and Type Recorder for Player choices. More on variables soon on a later post.
- Removal of a Chat Buddy is not possible when it is being used for at least one chapter.
- Remember to delete photos in Media Library when not in use to save memory. (i.e. Unoptimized photos left unused).
- Testing a chapter is only allowed when there is at least one message that has at least one choice.
- Backing up stories is a good habit. Sudden loss of stories, sadly, occurs. Improvements are being made to prevent this. To backup stories, tap Export on your story’s options as located in the third tab. When an error occurs, try to export it in a different directory.
- To trim down the chances of losing your story, when going to other apps or Android home, save first by going to the main menu. XML hacking, though legal, plays a major role in sudden story removals, so be careful with experimentation.
- Overuse of photos and sounds may lead to Out-of-Memory errors as of version 1.0.10. Read more about it here.
I hope you learned all about the basics of Story Maker. In the next post, we’ll learn everything about Media Library, how media is imported and managed, and you’ll be introduced to variables and how they can help with making your story immersive to the player.
Nice work Polychroma Games. Love your game named Seen due to the Story Maker. Now I know why the images keeps coming up with not optimized. It’s not a square. Thanks. Can’t wait to hear more from you guys. Just coming in to say hi.