I’ve learned a lot since I started writing my first story, and I wanted to share some tips that might be helpful for newer creators. I’m by no means an experienced coder, but before I lightly re-vamped my story’s directing, I could clearly see how much better I had gotten at coding over time. Some of these may seem dumb or obvious, but if this helps even one person I’ll be happy!
Using Simple Coding Commands
Something I didn’t know about was the “starts” command. You can use this in place of “is” when animating a character and the next line of coding will begin right after your character starts that animation, rather than after they finish it.
Another important one is using “then”. If you want your character to walk somewhere and then immediately perform an animation, write “then CHARACTER is” on the same line as the walking command.
If you want the camera to follow your character to another zone, use this:
&pan to zone X in T
@CHARACTER walks to spot x y in zone X in T
If you want a character to perform animations quickly, repeatedly, and/or only halfway, use this:
&CHARACTER is animation
@pause for T
Repeat these two lines if needed.
Using Zooms and Effects
Something that I find takes a story to the next level is the use of zooms in simple scenes. Instead of always having your characters stand side by side having a conversation and keeping the zoom set at 100%, zoom on your individual characters each time they speak! This allows you to have characters talk to each other from different zones, or even different backgrounds.
Zooms are also incredibly useful in scenes where characters are sitting. As we all know, we have an embarrassingly limited number of sitting animations. If you want your characters to have a more animated conversation while they’re sitting, zoom in on a character while they’re sitting, copy and paste that zoom command into your script, change them into a standing animation, and then re-position them in that zoom so that they’re in the same spot as they were when they were sitting. Now you can use any animation you want!
Next thing is zoom effects! I always thought that the bounce zoom effect was a complicated coding command, but all you have to do is add “using easebounceout” after your zoom command. Another favourite of mine is “easein”, it’s good for dramatic scenes.
Directing and Customizing Background Characters
Whenever I have to direct a club or party scene, I have all of the characters stand in the same spot. Then, using the preview feature I manually zoom out so that I can see all 2 or 3 zones of my background. I then grab and move and re-scale all of the characters and put them where I want. You can also use the layering features in the preview to organize your characters. From there, just copy and paste the script under the preview and then add animations.
Another tip is to change the features of background characters rather than making new ones every time. I like to create multiple outfits for each background character, and then change their hairstyle, hair colour, and/or eye colour whenever I re-use them. You can do this by using the previews command, or the changes feature into command.
Keeping Track of Points
This has been really useful for me. Whenever I include a choice that can give the reader points, I include the maximum numbers of points they can have at that moment in the choice name. For example, if the first choice is worth a maximum of 1 point and the second choice is worth a maximum of 2 points, I will label the first choice “1” and the second choice “3”. Then when I have the reader check their points at the end, I can just look at the last choice in the chapter and use that as the number that their points are “out of”.
Chapter menus are so much easier to create than they seem! Like zooms, they can take your story to the next level. Including customization and/or skip options at the beginning of every chapter is greatly appreciated by readers. You can use tappable overlays for your menu options. These work exactly like choices! All you have to do is use the word “tappable” instead of the word “choice” and write the name of your overlay as the choice option.
Navigating Poorly Named Overlays
This one is pretty specific. I’ve noticed that some Episode overlays include the word “AND” which makes them hard to use because the portal views “and” as a command. If you want your overlay to be visible and in one place for a whole scene you can combine all of the commands into the background name like this:
BACKGROUND with OVERLAY AND CO to scale x y in zone X at layer X
Another specific one. There is a cafe background by Episode which I personally found confusing to figure out, as the background and overlay names don’t really make sense. Here is how to use this background:
INT. CAFE- DAY with INT. CAFE OL - DAY at layer 2 with INT. CAFE2 - DAY at layer 0
&overlay INT. CAFE OL - DAY shifts to 155 -1 in zone 1
&overlay INT. CAFE OL - DAY scales to 1.072 1.072
&cut to zone 2
I can’t believe I didn’t figure this one out earlier. If you want to use an overlay, but it is flipped the wrong way, you can just add “-” before the scale. For example, “OVERLAY scales to -1.0 1.0”.
If you want to smoothly transition into a scene while adding a filter, use this:
&set hsl to filter in T
@transition effect in T
If both T values are the same you’ll get a seamless transition.
I hope this helps! I will add more tips if I realize I forgot some.