Game developers with a penchant for voice apps, good news: Amazon today unveiled Skill Flow Builder, a tool that enables creators to build story-based game skills more easily, including interactive fiction, branching narratives, and role-playing experiences. It’s now live for Alexa skill developers in all supported locales and languages (with the exception of Hindi), and a reference voice app — Choose Your Own Adventure — is available starting today in the U.S., U.K., and Australia. To launch it, say “Alexa, open Choose Your Own Adventure.”
Doppio Games, creative agency Himumsaidad, and Her Interactive were early beta participants in Skill Flow Builder.
“Skill Flow Builder 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,” wrote senior product manager at Alexa Games Chris Morrow in a blog post. “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 Morrow explains, Skill Flow Builder includes both a desktop app for content creators and a Microsoft Visual Studio Code extension with syntax highlighting, definition jump, and intelli-sense for Skill Flow Builder’s bespoke file format (.abc). Within the editor, content teams can visualize and navigate through a built-in story-tree — narratives are structured as a series of connected scenes — and can write or update narratives and add visuals, sound effects, and game logic. When they’re finished, they’re able to export and share files with a larger development team or prep texts for professional narration or localization.
Projects created using the Skill Flow Builder editor or command-line interface generate both a project folder containing the content file and pre-scaffolded skill code. Developers can implement extensions, which process or modify the content before and after the import, and use them to facilitate skill requests before or after content execution by the Skill Flow Builder’s driver. Alternatively, they can add scene instructions intended to be used within the content format.
Skill Flow Builder offers a content debugger that lets developers view content variables used, save states for later testing, and view content execution steps. Additionally, creators are afforded full control of Typescript skill code via a Node.js module, meaning they’re able to interrupt incoming requests before Skill Flow Builder’s driver processes said request or interrupt and edit outgoing responses after the driver has finished processing the current state (given the request).
Also worth mentioning: Skill Flow Builder integrates with existing Alexa voice app tools. Developers can use tools including the Amazon Skills Kit SDK, the Amazon Skills Kit command-line interface, and the AWS command-line interface with Skill Flow Builder. Moreover, Skill Flow Builder integrates extensions for Alexa Presentation Language, the suite of tools designed to make it easier for developers to create “visually rich” skills for Alexa devices with screens, and in-skill purchasing, a feature that allows voice app developers to charge for digital content.
The debut of Skill Flow Builder follows shortly after the release of the latest version of Amazon’s Alexa Presentation Language (APL). In somewhat related news, Amazon recently brought in-skill purchasing to Alexa kid skills, and it made skill connections, a tool that enables developers to tap into features provided by other Alexa apps and services, generally available in the Alexa Skills Kit in all regions where Alexa is available.