The Vigiles Amicae is a roleplaying guild in Everquest 2, on the Freeport and Antonia Bayle Servers.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

How to: Clean logs for RP records


Now you know how to organize your chat text for readability in game, and how to record your chat logs for later. What next? And why keep logs at all?

One reason to keep logs is bound up with what we do as role-players: story.

Every scene you role play in, you are writing. It is a collaborative, improvisational style of writing, which can yield unexpected, humorous, or sublime stories. By nature your logs are going to be full of typos, contradictions, and digressions, as any rough draft in creative writing is bound to be - but they are a record of your part in a collaborative writing session even so.

You might want to forget some scenes, and remember others - keeping logs will allow you to preserve favorite and/or pivotal moments in your role-play adventures.

As you hone your character, so also your writing will improve. Consider for a moment that hardcore role-play is very much like  full-contact improvisational theater, and you are the puppeteer behind one or more of the actors on the stage. Regular and dedicated role-play is a wonderful, lively forum in which to hone essential parts of the writer's craft: well developed characters, solid dialogue, intriguing plot, and your own favorite balance of comedy and tragedy.

If you go on to hone your writing craft further, or compare your role play session to a really good novel, you may cringe at the roughness of your role play logs. Remember to be kind to yourself and your role play partners: improv and role play are more like a rough draft. Rough drafts can contain the seeds of brilliant narratives, but they need much refining and growth to be on the level of finished work.

In role play, the burden of perfection is lifted: you aren't ever going to have a finished product, so there is no pressure** to push for perfection. Your stories are perpetually unfinished, growing, changing.

Neither do you have to fight the daunting Blank Page: you have chosen to site your characters in the world of Norrath. Your page already has a rough sketch on it - a world, and a collection of npc's and quests and challenges to face.

Against this background, you can begin to draft your character - their nature, their history, their mannerisms, and it's easier, because you have something to bounce them off of already in the world itself.

As you explore the world and your own story, you will encounter other players and their characters, and the sketch of the world will start to evolve. Soon, you'll have an ever changing stage you move through - and it will change your character as well.

Keeping and cleaning up your role play logs will fill your digital bookshelves with scripts for short and long plays which record your character's history and parts of others'. You may want to read these later, or share them with others - but they will always, by their very existence, be a reminder. You are a role player. You are a writer. And you're damn good at it.

How to clean your log files into a script:

It is entirely possible to tidy up logs by hand, using the ever-helpful find/replace tool in your favorite text editor. I know, I've done it.

Then I was shown a better way.

At the link, you will find a link to download the LogCleaner written by Cliff Stanford. It's fabulous, and the work put into it will make cleaning your old logs a piece of cake compared to the longhand method. I've linked to a screenshot of the program off to the right so you will know what to expect.

As you can see, the Log Cleaner is written to recognize those gobbledegook codes you saw in your raw log files. Chat categories like /say, and /tell, /guild and /group will all be familiar to you from adjusting your chat display settings. Selecting any number of those categories of text will create a final file which contains all of the chat from the raw file which was coded to that channel.

If your rp session largely happened in /say, and you want to create a file which strips out all the ooc chatter in /group and channels, you might select the following channels in the log cleaner: say, tell, guild, and shout. This will collect a majority of what happened in the session, and strip out all the extra code, leaving you with only the timestamp, the command and the chat text.

This is a fairly readable file already, though when you review it, you'll notice there's something missing.

Your emotes.

Emotes are unfortunately coded in a way which is not easily distinguishable from combat. So... your emotes and your combat are both going to be under the heading "Everything Else".

What to do?

Well, if your rp was in a quiet place, you can probably add "everything else" to your selections, without having to clean out too many extra tags. If you were hungry, or a passive ward refreshed you, you'll see that, but there won't be very much, and you'll be able to use find/replace to strip that out fairly easily.

What if your RP session was in a dungeon? On a hunt?

If you used /guild or /g to roleplay, then just select those channels, and use find/replace to shorten the "so-and-so says to group" to "Character ::".

If, however, you roleplayed in /say and /emote, perhaps in the rest spaces between fights, you do have some work ahead of you. There are two ways to approach the challenge: one, is to create a single cleaned file to work with which has all relevant channels in it. The other involves producing two separate files: one, with your /say, /shout, and so on, and the other, with only one box ticked: "everything else".

In the first method, you will have a very large file, even if your session was only an hour or two. In this method, you can strip out the timestamps before you begin, if you prefer. You can add a line at the top of your file with the linguistic date (ie: Monday February the second from roughly ten in the evening to five in the morning on Tuesday ) if you want to keep that information, and the find/replace won't touch that.

If you clean up your log within a short time of the roleplay, you'll remember about how often you stopped to roleplay, what chatter to look for, and you'll be able to scroll through and isolate the stops and starts of your chatter relatively easily. Even if it's been a while, you'll be able to identify where you "went into battle" and where you "stopped to chat" more and more easily as you scan through the text.

I recommend creating extra line breaks between those sections, and combing over the log more than once before deleting much of the combat text, just in case you missed a section.

You will still have to comb or find/replace for "You are hungry..." and "Your ward of elements refreshes you..." mixed in with the roleplay chatter, but it's easier to pull that out AFTER combing out the larger combat blocks.

Leave several blank lines between your roleplay segments: trust me, it will help.

In the second method, you'll be doing much the same thing in your "everything else" file, but WITHOUT stripping the timestamps out yet, and because you're only looking for emote tags, your rp sections will be shorter, and slightly harder to find.

So what is the advantage to the second method? Well, it allows you to clean the speech records more quickly, for one, and divides a large job into two smaller ones. It's always difficult to find the motivation for tackling a large tasks, even if we really want the result. Having a breakdown of smaller steps helps us mark our accomplishments more easily and encourages us to finish them.

Once you've cleaned the "Everything else" file down to the emotes only, then you can begin the work of splicing the two together. This is where those timestamps come in handy.

In your speech file, look through the isolated roleplay segements, paying attention to the timestamps. Anywhere there appears to be a break of more than 30 seconds or so, add a linebreak. Now, before moving onto the next rp section, flip over to your emote file, and look at the timestamps. Move the entire section of emotes over to your speech file, fitting them into the spaces between your speech as needed.

If you are doing this shortly after the rp in question, this will actually go fairly quickly, as the "holes" will stand out easily and you'll have a fresh memory of what to look for in your emote file.

Now what?

Whatever method you chose, wherever your roleplay happened, you've now got only a few small things to do. Soon, you will have a clean, readable script-like record of the evening's collaborative writing, which you and your friends can re-read or share in the years to come.

Remove time stamps:
The easiest way is to run find/replace on each numeral 0 through 9. Then you will be able to select the remaining time stamp artifact, which will look like [Mon ::: ]. Make sure you select the space between that, and the start of the command line! Leave the replace field blank, and it will strip these things out without leaving anything behind.

Simplify chat attributions:
There's a number of ways to do this, and you may change your style as you build your log collection. The important thing is to make the result more readable. You might choose to use nicknames for the characters, or codes for the kinds of speech.

For example:
You say, "Hello there, handsome."
A :: "Hello there, handsome."

You tell Bob, **a sultry voice touches the edge of your consciousness** "Hello there, handsome."
A~Bob :: **a sultry voice touches the edge of your consciousness** "Hello there, handsome."

Guildmate: Bob has logged in.
You say to the guild, "Hello there, handsome."
Bob logs in.
A ~ VA :: "Hello there, handsome."

It may seem like a small change, but over the course of a 20k word role play scene, it will make reading far easier. Once you get into the thread of the scene's plot, the smaller attribution tags will start to "disappear", as they would if you were reading the script for a play.

Clean up errors:
This step is entirely optional, but many times in role play we catch our errors after they've posted to chat-bubbles, and so in your logs you'll have many corrections and clarifications. Streamlining these into the dialogue as if they'd posted correctly the first time may be less "accurate" to the original experience, but it will make a more pleasant reading experience later. While you're at it, you might choose to correct other minor errors of grammar, punctuation, or spelling, especially in your own lines. It is excellent practice for the future writing, revision, and proofreading.

** Your mileage may vary. The Perfection Monster is one we all fight to some degree, and you may need different tools to fight yours. I invite you to try out some of the tools that have worked for me, and for friends of mine. May you find victory in all your creative endeavors!

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