We've built game skills ourselves, and have met with game studios to understand how we can help with creating game skills faster. Throughout the process, we discovered an opportunity to create a tool that is optimized for game skills with game development cycles in mind. We are excited to introduce Skill Flow Builder (SFB), a new tool that enables you to build story-based game skills faster, including interactive fiction, branching narratives, and role-playing games. Skill Flow Builder is now available to game skill creators in all locales (please note, Hindi isn't supported yet).
SFB complements tools like the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) SDK, and provides an easy-to-use solution for the creation of skill flow and content by separating content creation from skill code. The tool has two components: The editor desktop application for content creators, and the VSCode extension for developers. Both components share a common SFB file format (.abc), which enables more efficient hand-offs between teams.
Superior Collaboration Between the Content and Development Teams
SFB allows both the content and the development teams to focus on what they do best, and help increase productivity by minimizing dependencies that slow them down. Content teams can focus on quickly prototyping without having to rely on the development team every time they make content changes. In the meantime, development teams can focus on building differentiated features instead of having to change code for every content update.
“As game developers, there is one thing that is paramount to having great quality: speed of iteration. SFB helps us do that by making it super quick to get something up and running, so we can go from idea to player testing in no time; and by allowing content creators to use the editor to get their content running without the help of engineers. With SFB, our writers can work directly in the editor and test their work immediately.” says Jeferson Valadares, CEO at Doppio Games.
Writer Experience: Create, Update, and Test Game Content Without Involving Developers
Using the editor, content teams can visualize and navigate through the built in story-tree. The narrative is structured as a series of connected scenes. You can easily write or update narratives, and add visuals, sound effects, and game logic - all without having to involve your development teams. When finished, you can export and share a new SFB file format (.abc)with your development team or export texts for professional narration or localization.
"SFB lets voice designers focus on what matters: crafting out intuitive voice experience without needing extensive knowledge of code. It’s an amazing tool for building engaging and fun skills. Want to apply game logic without much development experience? Done." says Ray Savvas, a designer at the Himumsaidad creative agency.
Developer Experience: Simplified Skill Building Process While Maintaining Full Control of the Skill Code
For developers, SFB simplifies skill building process by offering a content debugger, integration with existing skill developer tools, and extension supports. You can use tools like the ASK SDK, the ASK CLI, and the AWS CLI with SFB. SFB integrates extensions for the Alexa Presentation Language templates and In-Skill Purchasing, saving you the implementation time. Additional features include:
- Collaboration: When you receive a new project file from your content team, you can quickly get setup to deploy and validate the content functionality as a skill. After updating a few skill and AWS configurations for the project, you should be ready to deploy the skill even before touching the code. You can also implement simple business logic directly in the content file by using the built-in scripting ability calledscene instructions.
- Debugging: Content debugger available with the Skill Flow Builder CLI helps isolate debugging process from the content. Using the debugger, developers can view content variables used, save state for later testing, and view content execution steps.
- ASK CLI and SDK Scaffolding: Creating a project using the SFB CLI or the editor generates a project folder containing the content files, and the pre-scaffolded skill code, which utilizes the ASK SDK module. The deployment script provided by the Skill Flow Builder CLI also leverages the ASK CLI allowing for familiar and well-understood deployment process.
- Clear Code Entry and Backend Visibility: You have full control of the Typescript skill code. This means developers can interrupt the incoming request before SFB’s driver processes the request, or interrupt and edit the outgoing response after the SFB’s driver has finished processing the current state given the request. All execution logic provided by the tool is implemented as an NPM module, which means you have a full control of how SFB features are used.
- IDE (Visual Studio Code) Language Extension for Content Format: You can install language extension for your Visual Studio Code. The extension provides syntax highlighting, definition jump, and intelli-sense for SFB file format (.abc). This extension is especially useful if developers wish to work on the content with Visual Studio Code instead of the SFB editor.
- Customize Skill Flow Builder with Extensions: You can develop and implement extensions for the Skill Flow Builder’s importing and/or content executing logic. Using the SFB extensions, you can process or modify the content before and after the import; you can process skill request right before the content execution by the SFB’s driver; you can add customizedScene Instructions to be used within the content format; and/or you can add to the generated skill response after the content execution/processing by the SFB’s driver.
“I had the privilege to work with SFB over the past couple of months, and I find it incredibly helpful and productive. I’m using the tool for the creation of our next game skill. The editor really feels like a swiss army knife to me, with a great variety of useful features. Especially the debugging functionalities and the tree overview map provide a perfect development environment for both rapid prototyping as well as finalization and polish of release-ready skills” says Ralf Adams, director of product at Her Interactive.
Get Inspired by Trying Our Reference Skill
Try our reference skill Choose Your Own Adventure, an interactive audio experience that takes you through the first five titles. The depth of interactive content of Choose Your Own Adventure was made possible by Skill Flow Builder - it enabled the team to quickly import, test, and refine multiple books’ worth of interactive content and to easily integrate professional narration, sound design, and visual assets. Try the skill in the US, UK, and Australia by saying “Alexa, open Choose Your Own Adventure”. To get started with SFB, read our technical documentation.
Source: Alexa Developer Blog