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Guide to Writing and Publishing in Shroud of the Avatar

Discussion in 'Player Created Resources' started by Vyrin, Oct 19, 2016.

  1. Vyrin

    Vyrin Avatar

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    Guide to Writing and Publishing in Shroud of the Avatar

    [​IMG]


    Before we delve into the state of publishing in Shroud of the Avatar, it is essential to remember that this is a game in development. You will find many of the features described below simple and unfinished. It is a “bare bones” system, but has great potential. We hope it will be expanded in the future. If you have constructive suggestions for improving the current functionality, feedback can be provided on the SotA forum. A lot has been said there already, so be sure to look around before adding your own thoughts.

    No matter what, we can be very grateful that Shroud of the Avatar already offers very rich opportunities to enjoy writing and publishing in the game.

    Now that the context has been set, on to publishing!

    Part 1 – Writing Materials
    Part 2 – Publishing
    Part 3 – Interacting with Published Materials in the World
    Part 4 – The Printing Press and its Problems
    Part 5 – Advanced Tips
    Part 6 – Why Write and Publish in New Britannia?


    Part 1 – Writing Materials


    There are two types of writing material in the game currently: books and sheets of paper.

    A book consists of multiple pages of text with a cover design. When they appear in game, they will look like this:

    [​IMG]

    You will need to acquire a “Blank Book” to write and publish one yourself. They can be bought at a “Book Merchant” NPC or crafted. Book merchants can be found in several of the largest cities of Novia. Currently all the blank books they sell have the same cover art, shown above.

    [​IMG]

    In the picture you can see other cover designs on books that you can find in the world itself. However, these are not purchasable or craftable as blank books at the moment.

    Besides purchasing, a blank book can be crafted with one of two covers, a basic one (same as the ones bought from the “Book Merchant”) and one for the Hospitallers, seen below. The Hopsitallers are a group dedicated to helping new players. Therefore, any books with this cover should be oriented toward that purpose. There is no in-game limitation to assure this is the case, however.

    [​IMG]

    Right now, it makes far more sense to buy blank books at a “Book Merchant” because they are very cheap. The recipe to craft blank books takes an outsized amount of resources. This may change as the game develops, but currently there are no specific plans. I am not providing recipes in this guide due to the fact that some prefer to acquire them in-game. They are also freely available on SotA crafting fansites.

    A sheet of paper is one page and is limited to what you can fit on it. You will need to acquire a “Blank Sheet of Paper” to write one yourself. They can be bought at a “Book Merchant”. Currently they can’t be crafted. When they appear in-game, they will look like this:

    [​IMG]

    A note about weight: The current weight of books and sheets of paper is quite large for their size. If you are buying a lot of them, be prepared for a slow, encumbered walk back to where you can put them in storage before you use them.


    Part 2 – Publishing

    “Publishing” in this game is the process of turning a blank book or sheet of paper into one filled with your writing. The process changes the book or sheet of paper into a finished state which cannot be changed.

    In order to write in a book or on a sheet of paper, it must be in your inventory. To begin the process, double-left-click the one you want to use, or you can also right-click and choose the “Use Item” option.

    When you begin the book publishing process you will see this window:

    [​IMG]

    You are offered two options: “Import Text” and “Write”. The first allows you to import a text file as the writing in your book. The second allows you to type text directly into the book. (Please also note that the windows for books and sheets of paper have a thumbtack icon and a red X in the upper-right corner. The first pins the window and the second closes it.)

    Importing text is a far more powerful way to create books, so let’s look at this option first. When you click the “Import Text” button, you will see this window:

    [​IMG]

    There are a few options and some additional information to consider here.

    First, you must type a title for the book, which can be a maximum of 32 characters. The title is very important because once you publish a book, this will be the name of the book in your inventory, as well as its tool-tip description. Take note that the title is also reproduced on the left-hand page at the top, right-justified in a brown color different from the default color for the text in the book.

    The combo box below the title allows you to choose the font for the book. There is a default English font, which you can see here:

    [​IMG]

    The only other option is a runic font. New Britannia uses a runic alphabet for transliterating English words, which can be seen here:

    [​IMG]

    Note in the picture how hard it is to see the runic title at the moment. Hopefully this will change.

    You cannot mix the English font or the runic font in the same book at this time, it must all be one or the other.

    Continuing on with the book publishing window, below the font selection combo box, there is a list of text files available to import into the book. You may select one file to be the text for your book.

    In order to import a file, and to see it listed here, you must place it in the folder indicated below the box which begins “C:\Users\….” To save time getting text files into the proper folder, create a short cut to it from somewhere easier to access on your system.

    Sometimes you may begin to publish and realize you didn’t put the text file in this folder. If you move a text file into the folder after opening this window, make sure you hit “Refresh” on the upper right of the box in order to see it.

    Files must be in plain text format to be seen here, with the .txt file extension. Each book has a limit of 8,000 characters, which is admittedly quite short. You can see how long a text file is when you select it. The example text file in the picture is 4,344 characters long. If your file is over 8,000 characters, the number will be red and the “Publish” button will not light up while it is selected.

    Once you enter a title and select a valid text file, the publish button will light up and you will see your text in the book. Unfortunately, at this point, you cannot move the overlay window out of the way, but you can page through the book to make sure it looks right to you. You change pages by clicking on the upturned corners at the bottom left and right.

    [​IMG]

    If you need to go back and make changes, you can edit the text file, save it, and select it again from the list in the overlay window. This allows you to make easy changes. If you want to quit the whole process hit “Cancel”.

    When you are comfortable with your review, hit the “Publish” button. You will get a message box that looks like this:

    [​IMG]

    Once you publish a book, it cannot be changed, hence this final step. Hitting publish will import the text and show you the finished book. If you find a mistake afterwards, you will have to recreate the entire book from scratch with a new blank book. There is no editing process after a book is published.

    Currently text in books always starts on the right-facing page and this is numbered as page 1.

    [​IMG]

    There is another option for publishing books, the “Write” option. When you select it, this window appears:

    [​IMG]

    Just as for book creation using a text file, you must choose a title and select your font. Once a title has been entered, the “Continue” button will light up and you can start typing your text directly into the book, which looks like this:

    [​IMG]

    In this mode, you may also paste text from other sources directly into the book.

    Notice that the character limit is shown to you in the top left corner of the right-facing page. In this example, I have used 155 characters so far. Remember that characters includes spaces, otherwise the count may seem off.

    There are also two-tabs. “Options” will allow you to go back to the title and font selection window. You can go back to this window and “Exit” to discard your work and keep the book blank. “Publish” will bring you to the same warning message shown before, reminding you that once you hit the “Publish” button the book cannot be changed.

    Writing on a sheet of paper happens in just the same way as free-form writing in a book. You cannot import a text file onto a sheet of paper. When you double-click a blank sheet of paper, you will only have one option: “Write”.

    [​IMG]

    After you click it you choose your title and font in the same window as was shown for books.

    [​IMG]

    Once you have entered a title, the “Continue” button will light up. After you press it, you can enter your text, and also paste text from other sources.

    [​IMG]

    There is no character limit displayed as you are limited to what can fit on the one page. Just like for books, the “Options” tab will take you back to the title and font selection window and the “Publish” tab will take you to the box warning you that publishing your sheet of paper is final:

    [​IMG]

    One final thing to address is that you can open a blank book or blank sheet of paper while it is in a container (bag, trunk, chest, etc.), but you will not be able to publish it. You can go through the whole publishing process, but when you finally hit the “publish” button you will get a confusing message: “Failed to publish because the book is in use by another player.” Make sure you always work with blank books and sheets of paper in your inventory.

    This completes the basic mechanics of publishing. However, there is much more to it than the simple processes shown here. Read on!


    Part 3 – Interacting with Published Materials in the World

    A) "Game" vs. "Player-Created" Books and Sheets of Paper

    As you travel around New Britannia, there are hundreds of titles of books and sheets of paper that you will find. These are included in the game itself. You may even stumble across bookshelves loaded with books like this, each one an item that can be examined, read, and taken:

    [​IMG]

    These books come from two main sources. First, Portalarium has created many books and sheets of paper as part of the lore itself, just as in many RPG’s. A good example is, “A Study of the Dire Prophecies III”, which appears in the opening scene. Other books, however, represent stories written by players that were part of contests prior to the game becoming persistent. There is no way to determine which source an in-game book came from, but some will be obvious. Ultimately, it is only a matter of curiosity.

    For clarity in the following discussions, we call both of these types of books “Game Books”. “Player-Created Books” are the ones created by the process described in Part 2. Sheets of paper that are included in game scenes are all Portalarium-created, i.e., none of their content came from player contests. They can also be classified as “Game” or “Player-Created”.

    All books and sheets of paper are like any other items in the game. You can pick them up, carry them in your inventory, put them in containers, trade them with other players, use them as decoration items in places where you have permission to do so, or sell them at a vendor.

    B) Reading Books and Sheets of Paper In-Game

    When any book or a sheet of paper is visible as an item in a scene, mousing over it will show you the title:

    [​IMG]

    If you are close enough to it, your cursor will turn green and you will be able to interact with the book or sheet of paper. Even in places where you do not have permission to move or take things, you can double-click the item and read the contents. This can also be done with the "Interact" key. (Default: “E”)

    Books will always open to show two pages at a time. A great feature is that you can select text in any book or sheet of paper and cut or copy it. This can be very handy when you make mistakes and need to recreate something!

    Besides learning the runic alphabet, you can read runic text by using the ability to copy text in books or sheets of paper. Simply paste the runic text from the book or sheet of paper into any text editor. This can also be done in-game by pasting the runic text into a blank book or sheet of paper in "Write" mode where you have set the font to "Default".

    C) Books and Sheets of Paper in Your Inventory

    One main difference between books/sheets of paper and other items is that they cannot be stacked in your inventory. Even if books are exact duplicates of each other (which you can create with the printing press, see Part 4) they will always remain as individual items.

    When a book or a sheet of paper is in your inventory, you will see its title if you use list mode for your inventory and you will see a book’s cover art if you use bag mode for your inventory. The tool-tip for a “Game Book” like “A Study of the Dire Prophecies III” looks like this:

    [​IMG]

    It includes the title, weight and value of the book. The weights and values vary, and it is safe to assume they are not standardized at this point.

    The tool-tip for a “Player-Created Book” has one more piece of information, the author:

    [​IMG]

    Player-created books always have a weight of 1 and a value of 1 at this point. Value represents what you will get if you sell the book to an NPC. This value does not change even if you buy a player-created book from another player and pay much more. It is very likely that the true value of books traded among players will be different.

    A tool tip for a sheet of paper in your inventory works the same way for the two types, “Game” and “Player-Created” as just described.

    D) Books and Sheets of Paper as Decoration Items

    There is not much to say about placing books as decoration items, since it functions the same as placing any other item in a house or POT where you have permission to do so. The options for placing books allow you to stack them side-by-side on a bookshelf or lay them flat (using the "R" key). Books can be stacked and positioned in many more interesting ways. No matter how you position them, books will always appear based on their cover art as shown above, without any other distinguishing features except when you mouse over them.

    It is important to note that most “Game Books” cannot be placed as decoration items at this time. All “Game Sheets of Paper” cannot either. There may be some work to do here in deciding whether to allow all books and sheets of paper to be deco items or to reserve the quest-related ones for fear of spoilers.

    Filling bookshelves with books in a house can quickly eat up the item placement limit. Solutions are being considered, but it is probably why you will not see too many filled bookshelves in player houses.

    E) Selling Books on a Vendor

    One last thing to consider is that player-created books can be sold through player-owned or public vendors. This works the same as putting any other item on a vendor. Remember that the limitation on stacking means that each book placed on a vendor will count against the item limit for a vendor. Currently this can feel a little restrictive if you have a lot to sell.


    Part 4 – The Printing Press and its Problems

    [​IMG]

    One of the most difficult aspects of book publishing right now is the “magic printing press”. It is a pledge reward item for anyone who made a “Patron” pledge or above. Oddly, it is not used in the process of publishing books or sheets of paper described in Part 2. Books and sheets of paper can be published anywhere and anytime as long as you have them in your inventory.

    So what is it used for? Currently it allows you to make copies of player-created books. It functions like the other crafting stations in the game. You place your “ingredients” and hit the “Craft” button. Right now, there is only one recipe: to create a copy of a book. Although the recipe does not indicate this, you can make multiple copies at a time by just adding blanks as ingredients. You cannot copy game books or sheets of paper.

    This may sound like a great feature for creating extra copies of your player-created books. However, the printing press allows anyone to copy anyone else’s books. Plus, the author listed on the inventory tool tip of any copy will be the same as the original author of the book. For those who plan to sell books, or control their distribution, having the ability to make unlimited unauthorized copies that cannot be distinguished from legitimate ones is a problem.

    I would strongly urge you to an honor system. Do not copy another person’s books unless they have given you permission to do so. Portalarium has been informed of these issues.

    Another version of the “magic printing press” was offered as a cross-promotion between Shroud of the Avatar and Sojourner’s Tales:

    [​IMG]

    The “Sojourner’s Tales Printing Press” adds a unique cover to the copies it creates:

    [​IMG]

    It also features an interior grayscale picture of the cover on the first left-facing page of the book. This is bugged currently and displays on all left-facing pages, interfering with any text there. There are other bugs associated with the printing press right now. This is an area where we can expect future polish, as much is needed.

    Again, I strongly urge you to honor the content created by the community and to not copy anyone’s books but your own.


    Part 5 – Advanced Tips

    A) Formatting

    When you use the “import text” option to create a book, you can use a few simple BBCode tags to format your book.

    [​IMG]

    For items you want to bold, enclose them in [ b ] and [ /b ]. (without the spaces in the brackets used here to keep them from being interpreted)

    For items you want to italicize, enclose them in [ i ] and [ /i ].

    For items you want to underline, enclose them in [ u ] and [ /u ].

    For items you want to strikethrough, enclose them in [ s ] and [ /s ].

    For items you want to show in a different color, enclose them in the hex color code. The example above shows [0000FF]. At the end of the line I then set the color back to black: [000000]. You can find a particular code using sites like http://html-color-codes.info/ or http://adobe.color.com.

    Remember that these codes, even though they do not appear in a published text, will count against the character limit of the book.

    There may be occasions where you would like to center text or justify it in different ways. This can only be done by carefully adding spaces to the text file. To create exact centering, measure the spacing on the screen when “previewing” the book. Make any adjustments you need in the text file and import it again, over and over until it looks good.

    There are no formatting options when you write text directly onto a book or sheet of paper, using the “write” option.

    B) Title Pages

    You may want to consider adding a title page to books you create. Since the tool tips do not contain a lot of information, and the title is limited to 32 characters, these can be helpful to readers. Here is an example which includes a series title, a date, a limited edition number and something called the “NBBN” I will explain in section C:

    [​IMG]

    Title pages are entirely optional and there is no standard format. Remember that if you use them, they count against the character limit.

    C) The New Britannia Book Number or NBBN

    Please consider adding a unique identifier to the books you create which will help collectors and librarians in the future. It is called the New Britannia Book Number, or NBBN. It functions like an ISBN on real books. In order to use it, you need to reserve a publisher number in this thread:

    https://www.shroudoftheavatar.com/f...-numer-nbbn-for-your-player-made-books.58249/

    You can see the list of numbers reserved already in the second post of the thread. To reserve yours, add a reply with the number you want.

    SotA has a very creative community and using this number will make it easier for everyone to identify and appreciate the work that is produced.

    D) Editing

    You may want to consider having others review your work before you publish it. There are many good writers in the game already, but even good writers will tell you that the things they write do not emerge perfectly in a first draft. At the very least, make sure to use a spell checker before you create your text files. Unfortunately, there is no spell check in-game. Be careful because all publishing is final!

    If you want to enlist others to help review your work, there are many willing to do so. One group that offers free and friendly peer review is the SotA Writing Round Table: http://thecaverns.net/roundtable/.

    E) Property Rights

    According to standard game licensing agreements, you should assume that anything you produce in-game no longer remains your property. There is no copyrighting. This is an area that can fall under international laws and is very complex. Best to assume that once you publish your writing, it is not private property anymore. If that concerns you, you may not want to put your writing in the game.


    Part 6 – Why Write and Publish in New Britannia?

    Anyone who has played Ultima Online is familiar with the value of book publishing in-game. For those who have not, there are a few reasons you might consider.

    First, it allows your unique creativity to become part of the game world itself. What is written can be shared with others. There is a simple joy that comes from the creative process itself and infusing a little more of yourself into the game.

    Second, it provides a richer level of role-playing centered on letters and books. Many enjoy the process of collecting, authoring, running libraries, or selling books. Records can be kept of meetings and transactions. Communication can be delivered in new ways.

    Third, books and sheets of paper can be extremely useful. They can be placed in important locations to give information to other players. This can be done for player-run quests or to indicate items on sale at a vendor. They can be guides and directories. The uses are potentially endless.

    This does not exhaust the possibilities. Writing and publishing in SotA is a tool that offers virtually limitless possibilities to enjoy the world of New Britannia and enrich it.

    If you have further questions, or would like to talk about about writing and publishing in SotA, please PM Vyrin on the SotA forum.
     
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2016
  2. Vyrin

    Vyrin Avatar

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    Any suggestions or edits are welcome!
     
  3. Alexander

    Alexander Avatar

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    This is nicely written up.
     
  4. Frederick Glasgow

    Frederick Glasgow Avatar

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    Great job, I am sure folks who have not published before will find their way with this guide.:)
     
  5. Berek

    Berek Avatar

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    This is amazing!! And actually quite useful of a guide for my own library I'm still putting together in Hometown :). Well done!
     
  6. Mekong Phoenix

    Mekong Phoenix Avatar

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    This is very well done.
     
  7. Bowen Bloodgood

    Bowen Bloodgood Avatar

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    Looks great so far.. will get it a better look over when I get home from work.
     
  8. Jaanelle DeJure

    Jaanelle DeJure Avatar

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    Very nice! :)

    One thing I would add is the ability to lay a book flat as deco by pressing the "R" key.
     
  9. Troll Hunter

    Troll Hunter Developer Emeritus

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    Nice article! Well done!
     
  10. Bowen Bloodgood

    Bowen Bloodgood Avatar

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    'the' should probably be 'you' . I would also note that formatting codes also count against the character limits.
     
  11. Vyrin

    Vyrin Avatar

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    Thanks for going through it!
     
  12. Numa

    Numa Avatar

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    This answers nearly all my questions about publishing books - thank you :)
     
  13. Rada Torment

    Rada Torment Community Ambassador (ES)

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  14. Magnus Zarwaddim

    Magnus Zarwaddim Avatar

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    Is it possible to expand and list the book vendors (Town, name of vendor, etc.)? I am searching for it now, but as this is bookmarked for reference for me I would imagine it could be useful to have the information consolidated in this great post.
     
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  15. Vyrin

    Vyrin Avatar

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    It's a great idea. The only reason I didn't was in deference to the explorer types who like to discover places themselves. Same for recipes. But I could put them in a spoiler tag, don't know why I didn't. I will get on it.
     
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  16. Zell Bificurus

    Zell Bificurus Avatar

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    There should be the option to have your book displayed as "unknown" if you don't want your name displayed as the author of your Book or Paper.
     
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  17. Vyrin

    Vyrin Avatar

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    There may be some issues with anonymity, but be sure to post this in the feedback forum! Eventually the developers will (fingers crossed for soon) polish book publishing.
     
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  18. Zell Bificurus

    Zell Bificurus Avatar

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    There would have to be a way to curb plagiarism though.
     
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  19. Caree Death

    Caree Death Avatar

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    I'm seriously late to this book writing party... But @Vyrin thank you, so much for this guide. I was struggling with the import & coloring of text. Now i'll be able to get my Christmas "Cards" done & printed. Thanks a million! <3
     
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  20. Vyrin

    Vyrin Avatar

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    Christmas Cards! Very creative and awesome idea that demonstrates again the potential.
     
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