Thursday, March 31, 2016

New Program - ChoiceScript Interactive Tutorial

ChoiceScript (made by Choice of Games) is a great tool that allows people less familiar with programming to make engaging interactive stories. There are so many ways to make cool and fun ways to make something in ChoiceScript.

However, it can be hard and intimidating to learn something entirely new from the ground up, and it can be frustrating dealing with seemingly random error codes. As a non-programmer myself, I've definitely had to wrestle with a lot of that, and I wanted to make it easy to get into a great tool. So to help deal with all of that, I've taken the time to write a guide to ChoiceScript.

This guide offers an introduction to ChoiceScript that starts with a top-down visualization of what the code looks like (it's mostly indent-based) and then progresses to show off all the different commands and how they're used in the game. Different commands are ranked based on their usefulness (easy or often-used / tricky or rarely used / obscure or never-used), and examples of how to use the code are provided alongside examples of common mistakes that will end up causing errors. In fact, I've also provided pages that help interpret auto-testing errors that pop up in ChoiceScript's Quicktest and Randomtest features.

In addition to basic introductions for the commands within ChoiceScript, I've also included several higher level examples of design templates that I use frequently within my games, along with strategies for writing and insights into editing and testing ChoiceScript games.

The tutorial is provided in an interactive way, where users can click to turn on or off examples, and can choose to go through the tutorial "in order" or can hop around at any point to find the specific command or situation they would like to know more about.

I specifically created this tool to provide a helpful, single source of information that condensed information about how to program in ChoiceScript from multiple sources: the official Choice of Games guide (which is actually very good, but just had room for some additional information), the ChoiceScript wiki (which is somewhat outdated), the Choice of Games forum (whose largeness can be intimidating for new authors), as well as some other interactive guides (that were written in ChoiceScript).

All of the examples use a combination format of tutorial and example. A quick sentence or two describes what the example is doing, and then the example uses realistic variables, text, and/or structure. This format was specifically designed to minimize confusion by making clear distinctions between expected formatting syntax and descriptive text. Also to minimize confusion, the examples default to being shown one-at-a-time, but the tutorial can be set to show multiple examples together, if desired.

Because my goal was to provide help to those who need it, I'm always soliciting feedback: whether it's information, or a specific feature, new ways to break the games, or even errors / typos, I'm interested in improving, refining, and keeping this game up-to-date. Thank you, and I hope this is helpful!

Screenshots of the program are below. (The ChoiceScript Interactive Tutorial was written in Twine.)

An example of a tutorial page explaining how variables work in ChoiceScript.

An example of Quicktest error explanations (with general description of Quicktest at the top).

Some segments of the list of post-tutorial page navigation.

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