Story Maker (Sierra) Review | Apple User - Everygamegoing


Story Maker
By Sierra
Apple II

Published in Apple User Volume 5 Number 1

Story Maker

I have a sneaking suspicion that although Sierra On-Line published Story Maker, it was actually sponsored by the disc manufacturers. Basically, it's a program which enables children to write and illustrate stories - so why am I suspicious? Well, it needs a new disc for each story, and it's so much fun to use that kids are going to be begging for more discs so they can write more stories!

Once you've booted the master program you are presented with four options - read the instructions, prepare a new story disc, work on a story and quit.

The first is self-explanatory while the second simply prepares a blank disc - there's even one supplied with the package, along with ten pretty labels, a book of tips and a handy reference card. Working on the story gives a new menu allowing a choice of making a title page, writing the story, drawing the pictures or reading the story.

Opting to write the story yields a mini word processor, with all the major commands shown clearly at the bottom of the screen. On an Apple IIe or IIc the shift key functions normally. If you have a II or II+ without Shift key mod then Ctrl-S puts the next single letter in upper case.

With the on-screen prompts for the commands, any child who is used to the keyboard would find it easy to write a story - at least the mechanics of it are easy. Of course, the interesting part of a story is its creation, and that's where the book of tips comes in. This gives some hints on how stories are put together and discusses elements like the setting, theme, characters and so forth. It even gets onto such things as metaphors, dialogue and the distinction between first and third person writing.

It's all quite nicely explained, but isn't essential if the child is eager to make a start. After all, every child can tell a story - the book of tips merely provides a good tutorial on the techniques of composition.

If you opt to draw the pictures, you are presented with a bordered hi-res screen. Again, the control keys are shown at the bottom of the screen so the child doesn't have to commit them to memory.

Drawing can be done with joystick, touch tablet, keyboard or mouse, with single-pixel movement available from the keyboard. There are line, box and circle drawing modes, with a painting mode to fill in the colour and an undo command to remove the last action.

As with all freehand drawing systems, this one takes a bit of getting used to. Response to the joystick seemed a little slow in circle drawing mode, but it was not really a problem.

Of course, you don't have to write all the story and then illustrate it. You can move between the two activities, and you can edit the text or change the pictures. The pictures are positioned using Ctrl-P while in text mode. This command yields a catalogue of available pictures (including a "new picture" option). Once the picture is selected its title is inserted in the text at the appropriate point.

If you think you've finished, you can read the story. The disc is self-contained and doesn't require the master at all so you could give the story to a friend with an Apple. On booting the title page appears and any key other than Esc will take you into the story.

If you decide that it's still not honed to perfection you must reboot the master disc and select the option to work on a story. You can then load your story back in and carry on with the creative process. The only omission worth mentioning is the lack of a print option. At least that would allow you to take a hard copy and then recycle the disc, or send the story to someone without an Apple.

All in all, this package strikes a good balance between power and ease of use. The word processor and the graphics facility are sufficient to produce a reasonable finished story, yet are simple enough (and well-presented enough) for most children of story-writing age to manage.

In fact, it's so much fun for children that I've taken to leaving my important discs well out of reach. Maybe I could get the kids to write and illustrate some reviews for me. Come to think of it, I should have got them to write this one.

Cliff McKnight

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