CacheCrazy.Com: Do You Know WHERIGO? The Series - Part III

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Do You Know WHERIGO? The Series - Part III

by: George ggggeo2
So now you know what Wherigo is. I know it's been a while, so if you forget, see Part 1. You know how to get started with the tools to make your own Wherigo (see Part 2.) Now, it is time to move on to what all that stuff in the cartridge builder means, and what to do to create your own Wherigo cartridge for other geocachers to enjoy.

Scout It Out
Unsurprisingly (at least to many of you,) creating a Wherigo starts with planning. You will need an idea of the area you want to create your Wherigo, and the type of Wherigo you want it to be. The main categories are "Tour Guide," "Puzzle/Game" and "Story/Fiction." Of course, it can also be a combination of any of those types. My preferred style is to tell a story with elements of puzzles and tour guides. In any case, you will need to determine what area you will guide players through, what game they will play, or what story you will tell them through your Wherigo.

I start with scoping the area out in Google Maps or a similar service, both in map and satellite views, to determine what kind of area with which I will have to work, any formations (natural or man-made,) areas, or features I might want to use in my Wherigo. I will take a screenshot of the satellite map and paste it into PowerPoint or another program that lets me take notes and markup pictures and such. I will mark off areas on this copy of the map, and make notes to myself for future reference. It is probably also a good idea at or near this point to make an in-person trip to this location so that you can take note of anything that varies from the overhead map or maybe just wasn't apparent, such as a trail, sports fields, "off limits" areas, and so on.

Sometime around this stage, you will also want to create an outline of the general flow for your Wherigo. You do not need to get into the nitty-gritty details at this point because you will fill in a lot of the gaps later. If you have specific ideas you want to use, though, go ahead and write those down for later. You can always decide whether or not to use them later. Map out where the player will go, what he/she will need to do or items he/she will need to pick up in various areas, in-game characters with whom the player might interact, and so on. Next, let's discuss what all of that stuff means.

What All of That Stuff Means
Zones: Think of zones as geographic regions with a specified boundary in a specific isometric shape. Most commonly, you will want to keep these as rectangles or squares, but a shape with any number of sides will technically work. When a player steps in to or out of zones (or in some cases, gets within a certain proximity to a zone) things change in the Wherigo cartridge. Messages could pop up, items can be displayed, zones can be shown or hidden, characters can appear, and a variety of other events. Most things in a Wherigo cartridge happen in conjunction with a zone in some way. To keep Wherigo catridges working with lower-powered devices such as Garmin Oregons and Colorados, you will want to keep the total number of zones in your cartridge to ten or below, and the number of zones which are active at any one time to five or below. Otherwise, things could get "crashy" for players using those devices and they may not be able to play the Wherigo cartridge.

Items: Items are virtual objects that exist in a container in the Wherigo cartridge. Examples of containers are the player (meaning he/she has the object in his/her inventory,) a zone where the object is visible to the player and he/she can interact with it there, a character who might hold the item until the player has met some criteria, or another object, such as a box, that could hold an item. Some items the player will be able to "Take" and move to his/her inventory; other items, such as a cave, might be fixed in location, but the player could "Enter" or do something else in conjunction with the cave.

Characters: Characters are little people who live in your device! OK, not really, but they are computer-controlled programs with whom you can interact in a Wherigo cartridge. They can be people, animals, robots, aliens, or anything else. You can program actions to talk to them, give or take items to or from them, or have them "meet" the person playing the Wherigo in various areas, among other things. You could use a character as a guide, or a plot device in a Wherigo, or anything you can think of (and of course, program in.)

Media: Media means the images and audio files you will use in building your cartridge. Images can be clip art, photographs, diagrams, etc., anything you will want to display to the user at some point in the course of playing through the Wherigo. Groundspeak has guidelines for media sizes, and I have found what works best across most devices is having images in JPG format, at 96 pixels per inch and 230 pixels wide. For graphics that will display with text I will have them 130 pixels high, without text I will use 180 pixels high. You can also create icons, at 32x32 pixels, for zones, places, and characters, but note these may or may not be used depending on the device the user is playing on.
You can also use audio files, such as MP3s, but these will not play on Garmin devices and perhaps others, so I personally have not used audio in Wherigos I have created.

Tasks: These are a list of what the player needs to do. For example, "Save the princess," "Talk to the frog," "Unlock the blue door," etc. What does your player need to accomplish, in what order, to finish the game. Tasks aren't strictly necessary to play, but I have found they help the flow, and give the player a reference point for what they need to do next as it can be easy to miss a screen and not know what you should be working on next in a Wherigo.

Variables: These are little buckets of information that the player will never see directly. Variables typically numbers, text, or true/false info. For example, you can store the number of times a player attempts a certain task, or times they enter or exit a certain zone. You can set a variable to true or false to indicate whether or not the player has done something, e.g., "Talked to the troll" or text such as the player's name.

Inputs: How would you go about getting the player's name? With an input! You can ask the player's name at the beginning of the cartridge, then store it in a variable and display it in text throughout the game. You can also use inputs to ask multiple choice, text, or numeric questions. For example "from the plaque you now see, what year was the battle fought here?" or "How many arches does the structure in front of you contain? 4/5/8/12? You can then validate the answer given and make the Wherigo cartridge behave differently depending on whether it was right or wrong.

Now what?
OK so far, so good. But let's say you want to create your own. After all, they have to come from somewhere, right? They don't just pop in to existence (though that might be nice.) So how do you go from having an idea to having a playable Wherigo cartridge on and maybe a cross-listed geocache on

The best place to start to answer that question is (unsurprisingly) In addition to having resources for people who want to play Wherigo cartridges, it also has a bunch of resources for those who want to design and build them. You can get started by clicking 'Build' at the top of the Wherigo home page.

From there you'll want to download the Wherigo Builder, a Windows-based application. Packaged with the Wherigo Builder is an emulator which will let you play and test your cartridge from your computer without having to walk or drive all over. This is an incredibly useful tool as it lets you test your creation and working bugs and other issues without having to physically be there. It is important to note, however, that many Wherigo authors add code to their cartridge to disable playing it in the emulator so that Players are forced to physically be at the cache site to play.

Groundspeak's Wherigo Emulator

We Don't Need No Education...Or Do We?
The next step is to go through the Wherigo Tutorial. This is a set of instructions to follow along with a Zip file of all the image, script and configuration files you will need to build your first cartridge. Technically, you will just be compiling a cartridge someone else has designed, but many people learn best by seeing what someone else has done instead of trying to create something from scratch the first time.

The tutorial has three levels, and each one has a series of Flash-based screen casts that show you how to use and interact with the Builder using examples from the provided zip file. Level 1 is the basics: Zones, Characters, Tasks, and Media. Level 2 adds Conditions and Commands to let the Player interact with the cartridge. Level 3 builds on that and adds Inputs and Variables, getting information from the Player and storing that and other info for later.

You will also want to check out the Groundspeak Wherigo discussion forums. This is the place that you can go to get technical or programming help, to figure out if your ideas are viable, what challenges you might face running your cartridge on Android vs. iPhone vs. Garmin, and how to resolve them. There several very helpful moderators and posters who hang out here to help other Wherigo developers. They also have several forums that are more specific to people who are looking to play Wherigo cartridges, rather than create their own.

So Many Builders…So Many Choices!
So now you are at a decision point: which Builder tool should you use? The main (only?) three builders of which I am aware are Groundspeak's Wherigo Builder (aka the "Official" builder), Urwigo, and Earwigo. Groundspeak and Urwigo are both Windows-based programs; Earwigo is web-based and more platform independent (though would be very difficult trying to use it on a phone.) To download the Groundspeak builder, you'll need a Groundspeak username and password (your login info will work here.) Urwigo and Earwigo access information can be found in the in Table 1.
Below is a table with some key features and issues to consider when deciding which builder will work best for you. At this time, I recommend Urwigo as a good starter tool, but your mileage may vary. You can also see the comparison thread over at Groundspeak's discussion forums.

Groundspeak Builder
Application Platform
Primary Design Interface
Drag and drop
Edit GPS Coordinates
Manual (enter numbers)
Drag and drop on map
Drag and drop on map
Emulator Use
Automatic, from menu
Automatic, from menu (Need Groundspeak Builder installed)
Manually download and run in emulator
Access to Cartridges
Cartridge Sharing
(for co-development)
Manual (Send file)
Manual (Send file)
Script Editor
Syntax Highlighting
Encrypt Strings
Cartridge Limit
No limit
No limit
5 cartridges
Copy & Paste Code
How to Access
Download and Install
Download and Install
Request Account (Instructions)
User Interface
(my rating)
Just OK
User Friendly
Just OK (Programming experience helpful)
George's Ranking

Wherigo Builder Comparison

Here is a quick comparison of the same cartridge, the Zooventure Tutorial Level Three, loaded in all three applications to see how it appears in each Wherigo builder.

Groundspeak Builder

Urwigo Builder

Earwigo Builder

Each tool has different options, benefits and tradeoffs. I installed all three, poked around and ultimately decided I would use Earwigo as my primary cartridge development environment, while still using the emulator bundled with the Groundspeak builder to test and iron out the wrinkles in my cartridge. For the next cartridge I am developing I have been using Urwigo, and I really like it so far as well. I doubt I'll try out the Groundspeak builder to develop anything, though I have used it through the tutorials and feel that Urwigo is a better local alternative. I still recommend having Groundspeak's builder installed so that you have quick access to an emulator.

Additional Resources

Note: You do not need to know any Lua code to write Wherigo cartridges. Lua knowledge can, however, help to set up more complex actions and cartridge features.

Wrapping it up
That wraps up the Wherigo development tool part of this series; stay tuned next time for how to plan out the Zones (geographical areas) Items, Characters, and Commands you will need to think through when planning out your own Wherigo cartridge. And of course, I am happy to share mine, so if anyone wants to take one of mine, remap it to their location, and maintain their own geocache at the end give me a shout, I'll be happy to help!


Kevin Bloodhounded said...

I have to get a small group together and head down your way to do a Wherigo!
Here is what I'm thinking:
* Rent a 13 passenger van
* invite 8 or 10 people
* Meet at a restaurant for brunch
* Do the Wherigo and have some good times with you guys!
* Grab a few local caches along the way, one being a travel bug hotel
* On the way back, stop at the Yuengling Brewery (America's Oldest Brewery)for their awesome tour (I've been there twice:)
* Stop at a Pub&Restaurant on the way back (I'll even offer home delivery since I will be the designated driver)

It would make for a full day but how awesome would that be? I've been talking about doing this for over a year now and it's time I set a date!

Thanks for this great series!

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