14 Apr 2016 / 1:41 pm / software
If you're just interested in seeing the demo video, scroll to the bottom of this post.
Fourteen years ago, a six year old boy and his family moved from a house they outgrew in South St. Paul to Hastings, Minnesota. He wouldn't realize until today how important that house was. Sure, he had the basement mostly to himself to build Legos and play games on his PS1 (and eventually play a Lego game on a PS2), but none of that could amount to the spectacular backyard waiting for him.
The previous owners of the house had built and left a lot of fun to be discovered in that backyard. There was a sandbox, which was roofed off by a two story red "treehouse". Next to that was a tree which had a robe with notches attached 40 feet up, which made it perfect to throw up to the treehouse and swing down from. We had this plastic "Jungle Gym" we had brought from our last house, which I'd climb frequently, trying to find the fastest way through it. Behind the garage and shed, each in a corner on the left side of the backyard, were strange walkways that served no purpose, and the walkways of them were covered with small yellow rocks, kept contained by two logs stacked on each end. When our neighbors moved, they gave us their trampoline, making it the ultimate backyard for any kid. The adventures, oh yes, the adventures that happened in that backyard... they were out of this world. The thrill of taking items from the garage and crafting stories around them was a rush unlike any other, and allowed me to have fun even before I went off to first grade to made friends in my new town.
Don't hold me back
From the young age of six, I had a deep love for stories, both in enjoying those that existed and imagining my own worlds. Whether in the backyard swinging away from imaginary explosions or in the basement playing with Legos, I was crafting stories, exploring how humans interact and the constant battle of good vs evil. I created a six-part saga about a team of kid superheroes over the next two years, and in third grade, I sat down to actually write out a story. I wrote that story periodically for the next two years, and we moved to a bigger house to accommodate our growing family once again.
While we were moving my parents asked if I wanted the old eMachine we had that ran Windows 98, and thus began me typing my stories on that ancient white turned slightly yellow computer, as many computers did as they aged. Being thrilled to have this machine of my own to customize and play with, I didn't mind, and booted up the ol' Microsoft Word from the 20th century and typed my heart away. In sixth grade my dad was the head coach for my hockey team, so we frequently had the team over at our house, and I remember showing people my stories with varied responses. Once the hockey season had ended, I needed something to do, and stumbled upon Game Maker. The epiphany that I had the power and the resources to make video games filled me with determination. Sixth grade ended, and seventh grade began. That year I grew as a game developer. We moved to another house, and there, I remember telling my mom about how I could take my passion for writing and make it interactive.
Once again, it was time for us to move, but this time, away from Hastings.
At this time I had established a life on the internet, and had a handful of good friends who also made games. But I followed old habits and started writing again, this time a project more ambitious than any of my others. It was long, had many plotlines that interwove, and involved dozens of characters. To this day, I'm still working on this story. Keeping things in my mind hasn't been too much of a challenge; if you put your all into something, you tend to remember every detail of it.
Cool story bro, but what's Storyboard?
Stories don't always develop chronologically, and even if they do, more often than not a writer jumps back and changes details of the past without realizing some of the potential consequences of that action would be. As a result, plot holes and inconsistencies develop, and the longer they're left, the harder they are to fix, if ever.
Storyboard is a word processing software with story oriented features to allow writers to keep tabs on attributes of characters, locations, items, and other story elements over time as it progresses. One of the things I've always had trouble with is knowing where exactly every character is at a given point in my story. It's never fun when you realized you've teleported a character across an ocean, and have to figure out how they got there because their role has become super important. Do you make it so they don't partake in those events, or do you wiggle in a way to explain how they got there? You could take after The Dark Knight Rises and leave people scratching their heads how your high profile hero made it across the world and broke into the heavily guarded city, or you could use Storyboard and realize you've screwed up before you continue writing.
What separates Storyboard from other story writing softwares is the timeline: just about everything in Storyboard ties back into the timeline, allowing you to see changes over time. Many story creation tools only allow you to create static entities, but my goal is to allow writers to express as much information as they can within this text editor, so they don't have to hold it themselves at all times. Character info pages, interactive maps, event overviews, and many more features are on the list for this Story Development Kit (SDK).
This project is being worked on in my free time and will be available sometime this decade. To get updates, subscribe to my blog's RSS Feeds, or give me a follow on Twitter.