My name is Peter Zetterberg and I have been working on a Platform for interactive audio books for mobile devices. In short, a non-linear story is told by a synthetic voice, supported by sound effects, and the player uses his/her voice and speech to progress and impact the outcome of story. Would love to hear what you creators, storytellers and writers think about this concept. There are plenty of videos, documents and news on our website. Thank you!
Sounds interesting! I think there was something like that on IOS once done as an old 1940’s style serial radio drama where the listener would say certain lines to select how the choices went forward. A platform for something like that would be cool though!
Sounds(sic) amazing, actually. I’m reading the website and I can’t wait to get my hands on this.
Thank you derekmetaltron! I am looking into various games that are in similar but have not found any. I will provide updates in this forum. Will be looking for testers and writers in the future.
Thanks you @MahatmaDagon! I’m hoping to find writers and testers in the future and will keep updates coming. Right now I am very eager to learn more about interactive fiction and this forum seems very rich in talented people.
Love your enthusiasm!
I do very much like the concept, and I do see some great potential in it. Though I also foresee potential challenges, and matters that bear questioning. If the platform were to simply work with a pre-existing program like CS, and read those lines which would appear as part of the story- or, devise its own method for doing so, that’s that. In short, I simply mean to say that it would need to recognize, and skip, lines that are used for code. A potential concern, is that you seem to plan to use voice recognition of some form for choice junctions. I softly caution towards some form of written choice-making, or, even ‘button pressing’- reasoning in my line of thought stemming from several amusing youtube videos depicting Siri’s inability to recognize Scottish accents, and likewise considering that other accents or for individuals who understand English, but don’t speak it as their native language, might have difficulty with certain wordings. Other matters- simple interactive fiction can branch simply off choices, more as a choose-your-own-adventure. Choice Script and other more advanced interactive fiction can branch in the middle of a story section based on previous choices made or current stats. If the platform could only support branching at choice junctions, that would be fine- something people could work around, but wouldn’t per-se be compatible with games created through CS and many pre-existing interactive fiction stories. -I’m not sure if being able to adapt IF/CS into audiobook form is something you have as a goal or not, so I brought it up on the chance. Another matter that occurs to me is … filesize. Audio ends up much larger than written word- though if the file is stored in written form rather than audio I suppose that’s moot as a point.
I do love the idea of an interactive audio book- I’ve been going through the Dresden Files series (albeit slowly) in audiobook form. I’m not sure if it would have the same effect in a synthetic voice, but I’ll reserve judgement on that, and I think the concept is novel. The School Days VN played out like an interactive animated movie and stands out as unique for a VN, so having another unique format for interactive storytelling will be worth it for those of us hungry for expansive creativity, and will provide something unique for IF once it has a project finished in the platform. Just concerned to some degree over the idea of voice recognition, not so much for myself, inasmuch as that there are a large number of non-native English speakers around here, and thus likely a large portion of those interested in this could likewise be.
This is exactly the type of feedback and commentary that I needed. Thank you @Shawn_Patrick_Reed. Great perspectives. Too much to respond to each and every piece. However I am taking it all to heart. Re: speech recognition, I completely hear you. As a Swede with English as my second language I do struggle sometimes with pronouncing the words correctly and it confuses the Wanderword engine and outcomes are sometimes unexpected or undesired. This issue is partly resolved by using speech synthesis and not recorded speech by voice-actors. Wanderword can scale to pretty much any language since Text to Speech solutions usually support 15-25 languages. Since everything is written as text and played through the StT engine, we can translate or contract someone to translate a Wanderword story and then “simply” play the translation through the speech synthesizer with the selected language. With dialects and accents, there is plenty of efforts among the larger companies (Amazon, Google, Microsoft etc…) to improve speech recognition of accents, pitch (children) and dialects. I am carefully confident that almost all players will be able to enjoy Wanderword, likely most the English speaking territories first but I’m planning on having all Wanderword stories available in Spanish, followed by Italian, French, German, Russian and later Japanese, Chinese etc… Hope this makes sense and thanks again for your viewpoints!
In a reply to the answer- (and thank you for it) - TtS being supported by a large number of languages is good, but even with translation there can be… err, difficulties. Grammatic differences that are difficult to directly translate and sound very very odd with literal translation if the platform wants to attempt cross-language releases (especially in languages with noticeable grammatic differences, or untranslatable cases/words). Hiring a translator would work, but hopefully someone fluent enough in both languages to smoothly integrate meanings that aren’t direct translations (and hopefully not getting the subtleties wrong). Being able to translate, StT, via digital voice, is nice-ish, though doesn’t take away that a human translator will be doing the gruntwork, and it might be faster for the translator to work with StT rather than TtT-to-synthesized-StT, as TtT translation could take a great deal of time. What I mean to say is, well… you either need someone who knows many languages all at once, or, to leave out some game translations across certain languages, or… hire hrmrm 225 translators at 15 languages, 625 for 25, to cover all translations from each language into each other. In a way… perhaps it’s not a great issue, and any game with enough popularity will naturally start drawing out translation demand, and likewise perhaps some games would be fine with single language support at the beginning. I commend the ambition, and- I am thankful for the efforts in breaking down linguistic barriers. I think it might be more work than it at first seems, and err, more expense, but I look forward to seeing how these matters are worked out. Working with synthetic StT as a translation method will still require an additional step somewhere via a human translator to keep the translation understandable, in some cases.
Good points! I think I explained poorly. As a player, if I am Swedish and I play the English version of a Wanderword story, the likelihood for errors increase since I am speaking back to the game in my 2nd language (Swedish being my first). However, if the Wanderword story comes out in Swedish, I speak back in Swedish, it should reduce the risk for errors. Translation of one story The way I look at it, I use a combination of machine translation and a human translator per language (depending on their linguistic skills). The narrative structure, game logic stays untouched. “Localization” and translation of traditional video games is an established vendor industry. In my daytime job I work for the Microsoft Minecraft team and mostly all our posts, blogs and constant updates of the game, we rely on translation services that have short turn-around times to support at minimum EFIGS. I’m conscious about the ‘lost in translation’ risk which jeopardizes the narrative integrity and the authors intent/story but believe in the ability of our team, future Wanderword ‘storytellers’ and professional translation services to maintain the beauty in a story’s language and the intriguing and delightful journey the player will take on, regardless of language. If you are more than curious @Shawn_Patrick_Reed and would like to know more or if you write interactive fiction yourself, I’d be delighted to connect outside the forum to present more of Wanderword, under NDA. Thanks again!
I do understand your explanation better now, and I feel comforted that you have experience and support through your team and industry. I’ve seen excellent game translations in my time, as well as some that are rather horrid. I’m glad there’s thought sunk into this matter.
I do write using CS, mainly a long-term WIP I’ll be working on for years to come. I’ve done some side-projects, but mostly for building my own skills and to track down ideas before they pass. The forum has a PM system, if you’d like, I can message you in that manner when I have some more time for it?
Hi! It would be good to connect via PM to learn if there are things we can collaborate on relating to Wanderword.