The Monster Files: Content Creation

Posted by (twitter: @literalgames)
September 2nd, 2015 10:18 am

First off, a massive thank you to everyone that’s played and rated our game so far! We’ve been trying to play as many as we can – it’s always nice getting comments.

Click to play!

We’ve been getting a lot of comments impressed at how much content the game has for 72 hours. There are 3 cases, each with 4 characters that take about 5-10 minutes to play through. We didn’t use an existing interactive fiction/point and click engine, and there’s a whole other game mode, so we didn’t exactly have a lot of time for writing stories.


We had an hours planning before bed (the theme is announced at 2am in the UK) and we settled on a Pheonix-Wright like game in that hour. Whilst I was drifting off to sleep, I was thinking about a good format for the cases.

It had to be

  • human readable and writeable (I didn’t want to write a whole new program to create the cases!)
  • very flexible (I had no idea what structure the cases would take or what info they would need)
  • easily parseable by AS3 (I didn’t want to spend ages writing a parser for it)
  • simple/lightweight (for quick creation of cases)

It seemed like I wouldn’t find anything that would fit all of those restrictions, so I fell into an uneasy sleep, worrying about parsers, interpreters, and why we even decided to do an interactive fiction game in the first place.

Then I woke up. And it hit me.

Apparently this is the JSON logo

The first dialog. This is best-seller material right here.

JSON was perfect for this. No set structure but complex objects can be created, ability to reference things just by strings, and – the icing on the cake – with native AS3 support.

Getting AS3 to read and convert a JSON text file into a native AS3 object was a breeze. After that, the dialog system fell into place. This meant that after only 4 hours work, we had a little test dialog, with characters on screen talking. It was fantastic.

The structure itself is fairly simple. We just have a list of characters, like this:

Screen Shot 2015-09-02 at 15.46.43

A list of evidence/items, like this:

Screen Shot 2015-09-02 at 15.48.01

And a list of dialogs, which can be referenced by name anywhere where they’re needed (in questions, from evidence, from other dialogs, etc).

Screen Shot 2015-09-02 at 15.49.15

The system we created was so easy to work with and quick to extend: adding new functionality was as easy as adding a new statement type, then deciding what it should do. This could be anything from simple things like characters talking or turning, to giving you evidence, to removing a question from someone. It was that simple, and allowed us to write each of the three cases quickly and efficiently. Once we’d eventually decided the plot for them, at least…

Screen Shot 2015-09-02 at 16.11.13

Solve the case! Click to play!

Thanks for reading this. There will probably be a bigger post-mortem coming soon!

2 Responses to “The Monster Files: Content Creation”

  1. g_o says:

    “Monster! ous cock”

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