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

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

#31 Post by Sin » Sun Oct 10, 2010 4:18 am

As someone who has written a user-friendly tool I want to give my two cents.

I think it's very easy for people to underestimate what an enormous task it is to create a creative tool that has visual and "hands-off"-development. The issue isn't that it is hard to make. It's just a huge amount of work. The key-word here is "creative tool" because it means you can't make any assumptions on the whats and the hows of your users creations. Even if someone created a functional tool like in the mock-up posted in the Renpy gripes thread, that would probably not be enough to satisfy every Renpy user.

My experience with developing Novelty is that users will always want more. You add one feature to satisfies a request or issue but will usually open up another request or issue. For instance, I don't believe a preview-window would be enough. As soon as you give that to users they would naturally try to interact with it. Try to move things around by clicking and dragging inside the preview. Is that something the tool should support? If not, why not? Etc.

I embraced this kind of feedback-driven development early on because I take my users very seriously and I need their feedback to know where to spend my efforts. That said, Novelty is now almost 170.000 lines of code and has taken over 3 years to develop. Additionally, the only reason why Novelty can work at such a high level is because there is no code involved. I don't have to worry about generating valid Python code.

As for Renpy, I believe an intelligent code-completion feature (intellisense) would go a long way to support its users; old and new.

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

#32 Post by luminarious » Mon Oct 11, 2010 10:44 am

Having worked on a long VN for some time now, I can say just this. Writing code is OK, 95% of a VN is text anyway, so adding commands here and there makes altogether really little difference. What I'm wishing for instead are smaller, more specialized tools.

A path analyzer - like Hyena - would be nice. It would generate flowcharts for simpler games with choices and variables. For developers, it would also describe how often people would reach some endings if there are randomized jumps anywhere. If the game is too complex for such analysis, it says so.

A helper for writing complex dialogue. In my unfinished Planescape: Torment total conversion, I was faced with the task of converting complex (often 10+ choices) dialog to .rpy. For simpler dialogs, like this one just at the beginning of the game (
morte.rpy
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), it's not too hard. But one of the reasons I gave up on this conversion was that writing this kind of dialogue without any assistance from my computer was killing me. What interface would work best for this remains to be seen, because there are several ways of going about it and all of them would need to be tested.

An editor with an outliner. Wouldn't it be great if you opened a .rpy and the editor showed you the outliner on side, listing all the other labels from all the other files in the same folder in the order Ren'py would play them? Navigating a longer script would be considerably easier. I'm currently using Notepad2 with code folding to accomplish something similar:
Clipboard01.jpg
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Re: do we need a Ren'py maker with a user-friendly interface

#33 Post by rioka » Fri Oct 15, 2010 11:36 am

DarkSpartan wrote:
jack_norton wrote:Code autocompletion or at least highlight wrong syntax would be the best addition ever to Renpy. 90% of the "bugs" I have are typos in renpy keywords... :oops:
This... Definitely this. Most programming errors are typos, as stated, no matter what the language.
A general spell checker would be great if it isn't included yet. Spell check a slew of text can be quite eye straining...

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

#34 Post by yummy » Fri Oct 15, 2010 4:06 pm

Maybe we need something like a flag analyser - some sort of mix from a branching analyser and a text analyser - that would help the different sections of game makers: the writer, the character (sprite) designer, the illustrator, the composer...
Something that would play the role of some sort of staff director (without the repulsive nagging IRL) to coordinate a project.

Just a fact: I remember that I always seem to forget things while I write, where to insert designs, put audio thingies... Maybe that would help.
I mean, the actual launcher is great: it manages a project, defines the working directory, some assets, builds the project, but lacks something to coordinate a project made from multiple hands (and toes).

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

#35 Post by luminarious » Fri Oct 15, 2010 6:23 pm

rioka wrote:
DarkSpartan wrote:
jack_norton wrote:Code autocompletion or at least highlight wrong syntax would be the best addition ever to Renpy. 90% of the "bugs" I have are typos in renpy keywords... :oops:
This... Definitely this. Most programming errors are typos, as stated, no matter what the language.
A general spell checker would be great if it isn't included yet. Spell check a slew of text can be quite eye straining...
A code editor with a speller feels just wrong somehow. In the sense that code is not exactly text. A syntax checker could be useful, but a speller? Isn't that what Word et al are for?

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

#36 Post by killdream » Fri Oct 15, 2010 7:11 pm

luminarious wrote:A code editor with a speller feels just wrong somehow. In the sense that code is not exactly text. A syntax checker could be useful, but a speller? Isn't that what Word et al are for?
I wouldn't say that spell checkers are that uncommon for code editors. There is a really large number of languages where spell checker is desirable (and Ren'Py would be one of them). Emacs has spell checker through ispell/aspell/whateverspell. Probably Komodo Edit and Vim would have it too, but I haven't even tried the former and dislike the former. There should be other editors for programming that comes with spell checker, tho.

Though I really shouldn't mention Emacs here because it has even Tetris, so...


Regarding the thing said earlier about the path analysing stuff, it should be pretty doable for any game that uses the internal Ren'Py objects for control-flow. Games that include minigames that modify the control-flow depending on arbitrary conditions would be trickier though. But some automated testing like that would be a really nice addition, I'm such a absent-mindedly person that I always leave obscure errors that lint won't catch, but an automated test would.

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

#37 Post by PyTom » Sat Oct 16, 2010 12:35 am

When it comes to path display analysis, a problem is that any non-trivial game will be so complicated as to be unusable. Here's the menu structure of Ori, Ochi, Onoe (from the easter egg). Realize that this is a simplified version, only showing menus, rather than labels. The full structure is significantly more complicated. (For example, those disconnected components in the upper right are actually called from multiple points in the code.)

Having thought about it for a bit, I think the right place for much of this is in the launcher. One thing I plan to add to the launcher is a screen that displays all the labels in the game. Clicking on a label will cause it to open in the editor, making it easy to navigate within a file.
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Re: do we need a Ren'py maker with a user-friendly interface

#38 Post by yummy » Sat Oct 16, 2010 8:22 am

I think it's a good compromise, since one can't really tell which way a story branch goes when it gets too complex.
Hmm, maybe if there was something like a list of the used assets, assets comments along with the labels? I mean, labels are only descriptive, you wouldn't always know what was put into it until you actually browsed the file/label contents (I think most of us use several files to create chapters or scenes, which include several calls to images that belong to each of them).
Why not create a "mode" (switchable) that would enable a user to follow his own advancements using a special comment sequence?
Like image assets, audio assets, movie assets...

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

#39 Post by OdysseyStudio » Wed Oct 20, 2010 1:35 am

Yeah, an user-friendly interface would be nice, but after you get to know Ren Py' it gets pretty easy. I been using it for about a week now, and I getting the hand of it. Plus something cool about jedit is that it has a macro system thingy on it. I think if you want, you could create some macro that could help you speed up some things. I could take a look into it and try to create one to confirm my theory. I'm not a coder though, so I might take awhile. Another thing jedit does have a spellchecker you just have to install the plugin to do it (plugins-plugin manager-install tab-Jazzy{you need to restart the program after you install it}). The only thing I would add to Ren Py' is some sort of preview window to get an idea on how you doing on your game. It dose get annoying after awhile typing you script. Then opening your game to check them to see if you did it right over and over, but then again I glad Ubuntu has multiple desktop to help me with that.(more space to work with)^^'

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