do we need a Ren'py maker with a user-friendly interface?

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renoa-heartilly
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do we need a Ren'py maker with a user-friendly interface?

#1 Post by renoa-heartilly » Mon Sep 27, 2010 1:53 pm

hello XD
after testing renpy for a while (and figuring out that it's long since supported Arabic lol silly me) i realized just how hard it is to keep doing repeated actions for different scenes/conversations and ended up copypasting while changing what needed to be changed, but i'd accidentally remove an important quotation mark or spelling mistake that broke the game *-*
i don't have any knowledge in programming, but yesterday i saw the page of 'the snowflake guy' who promotes the snowflake writing system (if you don't know it, its explained here) that system is easy to follow with any text editor, but he still decided to make a software with an interface for it to make it easier for writers to arrange their information on characters and scenes (and get some cash ).
which got me thinking: shouldn't ren'py have something like that since it's more complicated?

there's also that famous RPG maker, it gives you options like start a new game/scene, start a new battle, make this character jump around until you talk to him, if option A is chosen then play this song etc

is it hard to make a program like that but for the visual novel creator? the interface would have like 'new VN' and 'new scene' where you have the option to add a picture as a background and from there edit it's properties and effects, and the MP3 for that scene if there is one... plus adding and removing scenes and movies, adding graphics for the menus and just basically whatever you can do by writing to the script file manually. but it would have ready fields for you to fill or drop down lists to choose from.

the interface could write directly to the script file so that later if you want to make edits to the whole file you can do it in notepad++ or your preferred editor, and make backup copies of it or add complicated effects and stuff that the interface isn't equipped to handle.

I'm not sure if this is the right place for this thread XD i hope it's not considered a request or anything, because if it's hard to do (or impossible, since i don't know the inner workings of ren'py) we can just forget about it, but if it's possible maybe sometime in the future a bored programmer would consider making it (either open source or commercially XD )
i haven't found a thread on this topic yet, so either it's been brought up long ago or it's been thought about but never posted D: i'm sure i'm not the first one to think about it...
anyway, i hope it brings out a good discussion :3

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Re: do we need a Ren'py maker with a user-friendly interface

#2 Post by Phosis » Mon Sep 27, 2010 1:57 pm

I personally like the simplicity of ren'py now that I am used to it. Novelty seemed cool at first, but ren'py just seems so much more functional to me.

If you like a more graphical interface, check out Novelty. It is the most similar thing I have seen to what you are describing.
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Re: do we need a Ren'py maker with a user-friendly interface

#3 Post by Melkoshi » Mon Sep 27, 2010 2:08 pm

Yep sounds like you just explained Novelty. I never used it, but from what I read it really sounds like what your looking for.

Personally, I like renpy how it is. XD Theres more choices out there then just renpy.(Novelty being one of them.)
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Re: do we need a Ren'py maker with a user-friendly interface

#4 Post by Mikan » Mon Sep 27, 2010 2:15 pm

no
Last edited by Mikan on Sat Oct 16, 2010 6:19 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: do we need a Ren'py maker with a user-friendly interface

#5 Post by PyTom » Mon Sep 27, 2010 8:38 pm

Honestly, I would like to give Ren'Py a better interface. Maybe not a GUI like Novelty (there's a reason why people write a movie script, rather than jumping directly to a storyboard). But I do think there's quite a bit that can be done to make the editor better.

My resources are stretched thin enough that writing a new text editor from scratch is not something I can contemplate. The existing editor I'm thinking of extending is peppy, but I'm not sure how well it runs on the Mac.

This will also noticeably increase the size of the Ren'Py download - but we're already big enough that, say, a doubling in size won't matter much, as long as it doesn't make the produced games any bigger. I think it's already (and unfortunately) impossible to download Ren'Py over a dialup modem.
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Re: do we need a Ren'py maker with a user-friendly interface

#6 Post by jack_norton » Tue Sep 28, 2010 2:15 am

I think already some sort of editor with auto-completion (or "intellisense") would save lot of time / bugs because of typos errors in renpy keywords :)
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Re: do we need a Ren'py maker with a user-friendly interface

#7 Post by renoa-heartilly » Tue Sep 28, 2010 9:36 am

whoa D: novelty is exactly what i was describing interface-wise it's almost creepy... i've never seen it before though even after googling visual novel engine >3> "
but i'm not sure if it has the same functions as ren'py since i only got around exploring it yesterday, but i didn't like the fact that it's not open source :s which means whatever language or functions it cannot support can't be added... and i really need RTL support before even thinking about starting a project...
not open source also means i can't sell the game after finishing it because it just says: a free visual novel creator. well ok it's free now but what about later?
I'm not sure if i want to start a serious project on it right now since it's still in beta and it would suck if the next update they'd be: oh you have to pay us now! HAHA!

i understand it's hard to make an interface for ren'py, but it wasn't my intention to remove the current 'advanced' editor at all XD i just thought there's a way someone could make a simple interface without the actual engine and when i install it to my system I'd tell it: my ren'py installation is here c://ren'py so just use that script.
kind of how you can make an HTML website using notepad if you know the language, but also you can use dreamweaver's interface to make the same HTML file :O
or am i totally off? XD LOL
i just want to understand how this works even if it's impossible right now

thank you for all the suggestions though *-* now i know i have to search in the VN world harder before making a fool of myself XDDD

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Re: do we need a Ren'py maker with a user-friendly interface

#8 Post by Phosis » Tue Sep 28, 2010 11:06 am

What I would really suggest to anyone, is to spend a decent amount of time with ren'py. Even though it seems intimidating at first, it's so insanely simple in the long run to create very decent VN's right from the get go.

The thing is, all the source scripts are included with the program, so you can open them all up and see how everything in the tutorial was done. And really, the tutorial covers a lot; most of which you will need to start creating decent games. If you start thinking of things that may not be in the tutorial which you may want to implement, most free ren'py games I have seen come with the source files, including the scripts. So pretty much everything you could ever want is at your fingertips if you have the time to make use of it.

Ren'py is almost too streamlined in the sense that it TRICKS you into thinking it will be more complicated than it actually is. My biggest mistakes using it so far have been in trying to complicate my code too much. It seems for every thing you can do in Ren'py, there is a simpler way to do it. I have lost a lot of time by thinking I had to do a bunch of things that were completely unnecessary in the long run.

Give it a shot, a real effort. Once you get over the initial hump of intimidation, you will find it is very easy to work with. Anyone who claims the engine is restricting them simply hasn't taken the time to learn in my opinion. And while it may seem redundant to have to repeat code, it is even more time consuming in my personal experience to work in a graphical environment.

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Re: do we need a Ren'py maker with a user-friendly interface

#9 Post by PyTom » Tue Sep 28, 2010 11:55 am

A lot of the design decisions I made with Ren'Py are intended to make creating medium-to-large games easier, even if it make smaller games more complicated. For example, the use of Characters complicates the smaller game a bit - but over the course of a very long game, I think the level of abstraction provided makes the whole thing better. Ditto with the definition of images, and so on.

I had kinda hoped that if I built the engine, tool support would emerge from the community. For the first few years, the editor was a separate download. Really, there hasn't been much in the way of tool support built, so I added first SciTE and later jEdit. It's actually really hard to do some of the things people want to do (like being able to rearrange code by dragging), to the point where I saw an academic talk on that topic last week.
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Re: do we need a Ren'py maker with a user-friendly interface

#10 Post by Crocosquirrel » Wed Sep 29, 2010 8:36 pm

Python can be kindof quirky, but worth learning in this case. Alpha 4 of the Battle Engine looks pretty good, even if it does still need a little polish. I know a lot of games have worked around new tech according to their needs.

Maybe it'd be worth it to contact those makers for the rights to use it for tools?
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Re: do we need a Ren'py maker with a user-friendly interface

#11 Post by Jake » Thu Sep 30, 2010 4:35 am

PyTom wrote: I had kinda hoped that if I built the engine, tool support would emerge from the community.
I think that the problem here probably stems from the fact that the users who need the tools haven't got the first clue how to go about making them, and the ones who could put them together often don't really understand that there are people who actually need them.

(That and that it's a long and involved process to create a usable UI app, a lot of the feature requests are either unfeasible or just incredibly time-consuming compared to alternatives, and most of the remainder would rather be spending that time on the more-clearly-specified and rewarding task of working on our games!)
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Re: do we need a Ren'py maker with a user-friendly interface

#12 Post by renoa-heartilly » Thu Sep 30, 2010 5:38 am

I had kinda hoped that if I built the engine, tool support would emerge from the community
a lot of open source scripts for websites have that, just one main script for a shopping cart or a blog, and the community makes like a thousand add-on. but they're easy because you just download the add on and 'install' it into your existing script... it doesn't touch the main code at all, and if it did it probably does it automatically so you don't have to do it yourself and mess up if you're a n00b xD
but how can it be done with ren'py that is written in python? is it prepared to easily install add-ons? (if there ever came one)
or do we have to hard-code it into the functioning ren'py files? (either way i don't mind, but i think it's interesting to see what kind of add ons or tools can be made for it *_* )

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Re: do we need a Ren'py maker with a user-friendly interface

#13 Post by Jake » Thu Sep 30, 2010 6:09 am

renoa-heartilly wrote:is it prepared to easily install add-ons? (if there ever came one)
or do we have to hard-code it into the functioning ren'py files? (either way i don't mind, but i think it's interesting to see what kind of add ons or tools can be made for it *_* )
If one were to write a tool to support Ren'Py development, it would probably be a standalone application - much like the Ren'Py launcher itself - which you just pointed at your Ren'Py installation so it could run the game. It might integrate into Ren'Py as an editor, in the same way SciTE and JEdit do, but that shouldn't involve any difficulty for the user.



But the distinction is that with a website system (I presume you're talking about stuff like Drupal or Joomla?) if there's no image gallery already, then an experienced programmer can't have an image gallery on his site unless he writes some code for one, at which point he's got what he wants and he isn't losing anything by giving it away.

An experienced programmer can write Ren'Py games just fine without a tool to make game development easier, because he's already used to diving into the script in a text editor and doing everything by hand... he doesn't gain anything by writing the easy-game-dev tool, but he does lose a lot of time. :/
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Re: do we need a Ren'py maker with a user-friendly interface

#14 Post by Quadratic » Thu Sep 30, 2010 2:08 pm

Hmm, I actually have a very good idea for a better interface (of course, it would be completely optional).

Beware: Many much images below.

The character initialization menu would work something like the image below.
http://sadpanda.us/images/230232-MCD7Y3O.jpg
A desciption of each section:

Name: Gives a name to the character.
Shortened Name: The name that would appear in the text box when they are speaking.
Profile Picture: Assigns a basic picture of that character to the profile. In the script (explained later), you'll be able to select which expression the character has. These images would be contained in a folder (for each character), and would be accessed when that character's main profile picture is selected.
Description: Gives the character a description. Not much use in-game, but would be nice for developers.
Automatic fame data: Not very much use, other than auto-voice. But I still don't see how even that could wok...

And, now for Audio (skipping over Evidence, since it won't be used in a normal VN).
http://sadpanda.us/images/230240-C6NLK0J.jpg
Simpler description:

Basically, you upload music into the track selection, and then pick Play to play the sound, and Select to add it to the list of tracks in the VN. Same for sound effects and voices (would probably take a LONG time though). After Selecting the tracks to be used, they can be added in at the Script.

Script time! It's a biggie, so I split it into basics and more advanced stuff. Basics first:
http://sadpanda.us/images/230247-OFCU1WN.jpg
Background: Selects the background to be used, which can be loaded from the game folder (if PyTom can find a way). Only needs to be set once, or until the background changes.
Character: Selects the character that is speaking, along with their expression. These would be loaded from the game folder.
Sound: Selects the background music, and/or sound effects to be played. Music loops, and SFX play once. Can also Stop anything playing.
Text: A big part of any VN, text. Text that is writting in an ID box (the number on the left side) that doesn't have a designated character is spoken by noone, but text that does have a character will be spoken by them, their Shortened Name appearing in the text box.

Advanced Scripting! (Well... MORE advanced, really... still pretty easy...)
http://sadpanda.us/images/230256-HYRQ6SQ.jpg
Under the Text subsection
Colour: Changes the colour of the text, can either do the whole selection, or only a portion.
Effect: Adds an effect to the text, such as making the screen flash or shake, or the text pause for a moment.
Sound: Useless.
Speed: Changes the playback speed of the text. The higher it is, the faster it reads back.

Others
Hide Character: Hides all characters on the screen, but leaves the background.
Wait: Sets a timer, and then automatically proceeds to the next ID number.

And last, but not least (I sure hope not least, at least): Actions!
http://sadpanda.us/images/230259-2ESB1YQ.jpg
Action tab: A scrolling list of actions that can take place. Would all be preset. This includes menus, assigning variables, and other stuff. I'll explain menus first.
Menus: An action. Asks the player a question, and then sends them to a frame depending on their answer. Look at the top-right corner of the image, it's easier to explain.
Answer (#): Put the text you want in there.
Target Frame (#): Sends the player to the frame corresponding with their answer.
But that won't be enough, after going through the text relating to it, you will have to send them to another frame (past all the options), or else the player will just go through all of them.
We do this with the Action 'Proceed Directly to another frame'. It asks for the frame number (in that case, 13),and sends the user there.

There are other things we could do with it, but I'll leave that for you to explore. If you'd like to see it for yourself, go to http://aceattorney.sparklin.org , make an account on the forums, log-in, go to the main page, click on Play, then Trial Manager, then make a new trial. Experiment around yourself, and see if you'd like Ren'py to also work that way.

Or, if you'd just like to see the example program, I'll link it below.
http://aceattorney.sparklin.org/jeu.php?id_proces=19357 (It works best on Firefox, but Chrome is fine too.)
A more advanced one (but not really a VN), another one I made showcases a bit more, but some of it isn't useful for a VN.
http://aceattorney.sparklin.org/jeu.php?id_proces=19354

Your thoughts on this idea?

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Re: do we need a Ren'py maker with a user-friendly interface

#15 Post by neowired » Thu Sep 30, 2010 3:31 pm

instead of having to write nvl, or menu, or whatever, you'd get let's say, a dropdown menu with for example "dialog", then you set the character speaking,
the editor generates the whole code by itself
The problem with this is that the current code to have a character speak is:

Code: Select all

e "Once more unto the breach, after all..."
While things like auto-completion could help here, it's not clear how having to hit a drop-down menu repeatedly would make something like this any easier to write.
such an editor would need some sort of preview screen which would show the background/character/text as it is at the present frame
then you move to the next frame (also set the time of each frame, if it's automatic, etc) and set the next action.

similar to some subtitle editors maybe
Unlike a subtitled movie, Ren'Py games are multi-path. For code like:

Code: Select all

menu:
     "Let Lucy listen in":
           show lucy with dissolve
           l "I'm here."
     "Lock Lucy out":
           l "Hmmmph."

e "Now where were we?" # <-- this line

For the code above, what should the preview display on the line "this line"?

the problem with renpy is a lack of any graphical editor for the code, this not only makes it much harder to use for any new user, but also makes the process of making the code much slower.

remember, a major reason for using graphical editors (as opposed to text editors) and templates is that it's just much faster this way
While I agree that it might make the learning process seem easier, I actually disagree that it would make coding much faster. You'd lose a lot of the abstraction that Ren'Py brings to the VN making process, and it's not clear to me you'd get much back in return, especially when compared to an editor that does auto-completion for you. (So when you type "show", you'd get a list of characters you can show.)

Now, I think that there are places where a graphical editor might be a great idea, especially a graphical screen editor. But I don't think those apply very much to straight-up VN scripting.
i have no idea how hard would such an editor be to make, but I'm sure it would be much easier to make than making whole renpy was
I think it would be a project of a similar magnitude to Ren'Py. Ren'Py has been going on for more than six years now - so even if it's half as much work, that's still a huge commitment of time.
So right now renpy is limited to those few people who can code or who can get someone to code it for them.
I wonder how true this is. I think we've had people without a pre-existing coding background who have been able to pick up Ren'Py and make games with it.
(the code is simple as hell, for a code, but it's still code!)
Graphically-represented code is still code as well.

Having said that, I think renpy is really awesome and so is PyTom (not sure if i ever said that X3, so I'm just pointing it out), this is already grand work as it is.

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