Ace Attorney: Spirit of Scripting – Programming and Logo Creation

Sep 11, 2016
2016 Sep 11
Janet Hsu

Hello, one and all, and a Happy Ace Attorney Weekend to you! If you haven’t heard yet, or forgot in the hubbub of life, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice is out RIGHT NOW on the Nintendo 3DS eShop! I hope you’re all enjoying it so far!

I’m back today with some commentary from two of the people whose very vital work often goes unnoticed: Ms. Hirata and Mr. Onishi. They’re in charge of the actual scripting of this game. If you don’t know what scripting is, or would like to know what their work consisted of specifically on this game, you’ve come to the (W)right place! So come on in and gather round!

When you first turn on the game, the very first thing you see is the title screen, but did you ever wonder how we create and design each game’s logo? Well, for Spirit of Justice, we asked Mr. Naoyuki Tsuchiya, a designer who specializes in logos and packaging. These are just a few of his initial ideas.

All of us on the dev team liked option D, but with the narrow diamonds on the ends of the subtitle’s bar, it looked more like a double-headed arrow and didn’t quite have that Khura’inese feel to it. So our UI designer, Ms. Nakano, came up with a few suggestions.

Mr. Tsuchiya took these ideas and gave us a few more variations and after a few rounds of discussion back and forth, well, I think you can see which one became the basis of the final logo.

 

So now that you’ve gotten past the title screen, just how are all the parts that make up a single Ace Attorney experience put together? Well, Ms. Hirata and Mr. Onishi are here to shed a little light into how Ace Attorney games are programmed and scripted.

And now, I present the excitably energetic Ms. Hirata! (By the way, she writes all of her daily reports with extreme gusto, too, which makes them extra fun to read!)

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It’s All About Scripting!

Hi, I’m Momoko Hirata, one of the programmers on Spirit of Justice!! It’s nice to meet everyone!!

My role on this title was to support those on the dev team responsible for scripting and localizing the game by creating and maintaining the programming tools necessary for them to do their jobs!! I was also tasked with managing how screens outside of the main portion of the game display!! I wasn’t responsible for a lot of things at the beginning, but bit by bit, I was put in charge of more and more things. That’s because I’m actually the youngest and least-experienced one on the whole programming team!! But since I’ve been given this opportunity to write an entry, please allow me to talk with all of my youthful vigor and excitement about Spirit of Justice !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

Now then!!

Let’s get talking about scripting!!

Now, I’m sure there are a few of you out there wondering what a “script” is, and if they’re delicious, but I’m here to… give you a pop quiz!!

In every Ace Attorney game, there are all manner of things that appear onscreen with the characters’ lines including character models, backgrounds, UI*, and sound effects and music, but do you know how we get all of those elements to appear and do their thing?

*UI – User Interface. These are onscreen elements that make a game easier to play or understand such as the message windows where the characters’ dialogues are displayed or the “Present” button.

This screen shows everyone’s beloved Phoenix Wright as the lawyer he is!! Those of you who’ve been playing the game will, no doubt, have seen this scene, right?!

Everything like the character model, background, and UI shows up on the game screen at once, but each part is actually its own separate set of data!! How do you suppose we put all those parts together into one screen? Actually, we use something called programming scripts!!

 “But how do they know how to construct these scenes?” you might be wondering. Well, using the scenario script the writers wrote as a base, we write programming scripts that control things like:

• when which character will appear on the screen and what kind of movement they will perform

• what a character will say

• which background will display

• which piece of background music will play

It’s almost like a magical spell that allows us to take the amazing things the artists and sound designers worked so hard to create, and freely arrange them as we wish!! But since we base all of our programming scripts on the scenario, whenever the story gets changed, we have to reflect those changes in the programming scripts as well.

As with the previous games, there was a lot of trial and error on the part of our writers as they kept writing and re-writing in search of a fun and interesting story. This meant that they changed the scenario script a ton of times… And each time, we had to fix the scripts, and then playtest that section of the game, and…

“What? Another change? How many times have I edited this script now? And when will they stop changing the scenario!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

I wonder how many times I actually asked myself these questions in the course of the game’s development…

The writers wanted all sorts of things like different dialogue branches depending on the piece of evidence presented, and sometimes, just when we were pretty much done making the scripts for a section, they would ask me to add another multiple choice question…

All joking aside, I worked super hard to make sure that the scripters were able to truly bring out the very best in the game’s story!!!!! With everything we put into Spirit of Justice, I just want to say that this game features both a lighthearted yet deep story, and extravagant and gorgeous dramatic presentation!!!!!!!!! I really, really hope you’ll enjoy this latest, ace installment of the Ace Attorney series!!!!!!!!!

And that about does it for me!! See you in Spirit of Justice !!!!

Next up is Mr. Onishi, the leader of the dramatic presentation scripting team!! He’ll be talking about the charming and appealing presentation style that makes Ace Attorney as fun and entertaining as it is. Plus, he’ll talk about the history and evolution of scripting as the games themselves evolved. Stay tuned!!!!!!!!!!!

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Scripting the Game – Dramatically!

Hi, everyone. I’m Yoshimi Onishi, and I’m the presentation lead of Spirit of Justice, and I’d like to take this opportunity to share a little about this game from a “dramatic presentation” viewpoint.

But before that, perhaps I should explain what it is the presentation team does.

Imagine, if you will… a courtroom where everyone stands ramrod straight, and the only movements are the characters’ mouths when they speak. You’d probably grow drowsy and even fall asleep just looking at that scene, wouldn’t you? Well! That’s where good presentation comes into play!

Broadly speaking, the presentation team’s work is to match each piece of dialogue with the appropriate character and their animation while adding just the right background music and/or sound effect to complete the scene.

“Objection!”

When and how this famous pose is used is also decided by the presentation team.

Those of us who use simple mini-programs called “scripts” to put these scenes together are called “scripters” on the Ace Attorney team.

And actually, before we scripters can even begin our work, there are a lot of other people who, through hard work and personal battles of their own, pave the way for us by preparing and programming the actual scripts. In fact, Ms. Hirata outlined some of her struggles a little earlier, as you’ll recall.

Now then, returning to the topic of scripters, what I’m about to tell you only applies to this series, but scripting work requires a great deal of empathy and attention to detail. For example, take Ahlbi, the young boy you meet at the beginning of your Khura’inese journey.


A young Khura’inese lad, Ahlbi Ur’gaid

Ahlbi may be an expressive young boy, but you can’t say, “Just make him all cheery and energetic with over-exaggerated animations” and expect that to fly.


A carefree smile… but it wouldn’t do to have him smiling all the time!

“Don’t make him look like an airhead! But make him lovable!” Mr. Yamazaki had ordered. Fulfilling such an order required a little extra attention from us in how Ahlbi expresses himself. We scripters had to pay attention to not only how Ahlbi responds to Phoenix in terms of his reaction animations or even the occasional serious facial expression, but also in terms of his emotional response to Phoenix. We express those nuances through the addition of sound effects like *smack!* *slap!* *thud!* and screen effects like flashing and screen shaking to his dialogue, though it took a fair bit of trial and error to make sure we were conveying exactly what we wanted to each time.


When presented like this, Ahlbi becomes quite the salesperson, and a surprisingly clever boy to boot!

I hope that gives you a better idea of the type of work and the kinds of struggles scripters face every day. Now I’d like to go into the history of scripting for this series, and also a little bit of the very beginning of Spirit of Justice .

Scripting has been a part of the series from the very beginning with the first Ace Attorney game, but as the number of characters and their many expressions increased, so did the scope and complexity of the work itself. The basic elements of the series’ presentation such as character animations, sound effects, flashing, and text speed variations haven’t changed since the series’ 2D days, but the transition to 3D has greatly changed how we deal with things like camera work and bridging animations that help different motions flow into one another for a smoother, more natural look.

Furthermore, compared with 2D sprites, it takes longer to load 3D models, which would sometimes results in the screen appearing to freeze for a second when a character appears onscreen. That’s why we’ve had to find and implement workarounds behind the scenes, such as preloading character model data before they make their appearance. You should see all of the things we’ve implemented behind the scenes as a result of some very passionate discussions among those scripters who are virtually walking encyclopedias of Ace Attorney scripting.


Phoenix was the only lawyer at first, but now there are two more.

…And that’s why, with the transition to 3D, we have been able to do and show more complicated things, thus making our own work as scripters that much more complicated as a result.

Each successive game is more intricate than its predecessor, and with the appearance of a certain person in Spirit of Justice that sings and plays his testimony, this strong – no, knock-out punch really threw us for a loop.


A singer-songwriter of testimonies? Who would’ve thought!

In order to make his dialogue display in time with what he was singing, we had to set markers in the audio file and then work with the programmers to create a new system that would make the right text appear at each audio marker… The creation of whole new implementation systems just to make this one insane thing in the story a reality is also a part of a scripter’s job.

Truly, nothing would make me happier than if you could feel the suffering the art designers, sound engineers, programmers, and, of course, the scripters all went through during your playthrough of this game.

I know it was just a peek, but I hope you’ve enjoyed this look into the history of AA scripting, and specifically, some of the scripting for the beginning of Spirit of Justice .

Finally, I’d like to share Rayfa Padma Khura’in’s angry face with you.


I hope you’ll envision and enjoy the sound of her beautiful voice insulting you like this with your imagination.

…And that brings me to the end of my entry. Thank you for reading to the end.

I wonder what kind of impression you’ll have of Ahlbi and the rest of the Khura’inese cast. I really hope you’ll enjoy looking through the lens of “dramatic presentation” at the unprecedented richness of Phoenix, Rayfa, and all of the other characters’ expressions and animations in this game.

 

I’ll see you all in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice !

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Thank you so much, Ms. Hirata and Mr. Onishi! If nothing else, I definitely noticed all of your hard work when I had to script the English version, har har. But really, without such a great Japanese version, the English version definitely wouldn’t have the same charm either.

So! I actually have one last treat for you, dear readers: The logos for the two short stories that were announced yesterday!

While these designs may seem like an obvious choice, we still tried out one other layout.

Poor Apollo can’t catch a break in option B, what with the being stabbed by his own bracelet’s sparkle and all…

Needless to say, the terrible balance between each character’s name and “Asinine Attorney” wasn’t all that great in option A, so the original Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney logo style it was! Now, in Apollo Justice flavor!

Well, that about does it for me this week. Join me next week as I delve into a discussion about sound design and 2D illustrations, and the process of localizing them.

And be sure to keep a look out for the launch of the first of the Asinine Attorney parody episodes next Thursday!

Until then!

Catch up on previous blog entries here!