This guide is here to provide a simple and accessible reference guide to the elements of Ace Attorney presentational style. This is a technical reference guide and is not meant to be read in one sitting. Read what you need. And if you see something missing, feel free to point it out here!
The first presentation rule is not specific to Ace Attorney, but nonetheless needs to be stated. Your case must follow the English language rules as much as it can! Grammar mistakes are distracting at best, and at worst, make it unclear what you mean to say. If you can't be bothered to just use presentable grammar, thinks the player, then I don't think you can be bothered to make a good case! A few mistakes here or there won't be bad, but repeated mistakes could really get on the player's nerves.
This guide is not the place to go into all the rules of grammar, so I will simply cover the most common mistakes:
- Forgetting ending punctuation
Example: "This is my guide" instead of "This is my guide!"
- Using the wrong homophone
Example: "I saw that to." instead of "I saw that too."
- Forgetting to enclose an address to a person in commas
Example: "Do you really think Enthalpy that this is a problem?" instead of "Do you really think, Enthalpy, that this is a problem?" This problem is more subtle when the address is at the start or end of the sentence. Don't say "I believe so Your Honor." but instead "I believe so, Your Honor."
- Forgetting to enclose a phrase that breaks sentence flow, or an interjection, in commas
Example: "Well he did say that, but on the other hand he didn't mean it." instead of "Well, he did say that, but on the other hand, he didn't mean it." Note that you don't need a comma between "but" and "on," because it just doesn't sound natural to have "but" enclosed in commas.
- Forgetting to use a comma before a conjunction that connects two standalone sentences
Example: "I wrote this guide and you read it." instead of "I wrote this guide, and you read it."
- Forgetting to use a comma after use of a dependent clause, which looks like a sentence but can't stand on its own as one
Example: "If the defense has an objection speak up now!" instead of "If the defense has an objection, speak up now!"
- Using a comma when a conjunction appears but does not combine two standalone sentences
Example: "He took the stand, but lied under oath." instead of "He took the stand but lied under oath."
There's a very good reason why most of these mistakes are about the use of commas. Once the basics are out of the way, using commas improperly is the most common grammar error on Ace Attorney Online trials.
Line Breaks and Ellipses
No text box should exceed three lines of text. Anything larger forces the text box to expand, which is highly distracting. If a character speaks for more than three lines of text, the text should be broken into separate frames. This is simple if each sentence is less than three lines, but rarely, you will have longer sentences that can't possibly fit in one text box.
Within a frame, line breaks should keep the text looking nice. Place line breaks so that each line is roughly the same length. The last line can be much shorter than the others if necessary. Also, do not place text so close to the edge of the textbox that it looks bad. If you don't have an eye for this yet, there should be at least two pixels until the end of the textbox. If you need to cut space, consider adding a new vertical line, changing a word, or using an ellipsis continuation.
An ellipsis continuation is one of the uses of ellipses and splits the text over two frames and adds an ellipsis to the end of the first frame and the start of the second. Any punctuation there is replaced by the ellipsis. The break between the two frames should be as natural as possible. To take an example from the canon games:
Payne: The defendant, Phoenix Wright, took the victim, a customer...
Payne: ...and he hit him! Wham! On the head! Smack! Killed him cold.
If you ever need to do a three-frame ellipsis continuation, your sentence is probably too long.
Ellipses can also be used to:
- indicate a pause at the start of a sentence or mid-sentence
- indicate a character is trailing off at the end of a sentence
- precede a bare ? or ! to indicate confusion or shock, respectively
As with all punctuation marks, you capitalize the word after the punctuation if it is meant as statement-ending punctuation and not otherwise. For example:
Klavier: That bullet you carry so close to your heart... if not attended to immediately... It could kill you.
The first ellipsis is not sentence-ending, but the second ellipsis is sentence-ending, so "if" is lowercase and "It" is uppercase.
If not quoting a full statement, do not add punctuation inside the quotation. Include any punctuation that the sentence would have normally.
Example: The defendant was "in the room the very moment that the crime occurred".
Example: ...Let's talk about "proof", baby.
If quoting a full statement that ends in punctuation, and the sentence would have punctuation right after:
If the one punctuation mark is an ellipsis, and the other punctuation mark is a question or exclamation, you can keep both. Otherwise, keep only one. Prefer keeping question marks to exclamation marks to ellipses to periods to commas. If the quote and the containing sentence have the same punctuation, include only the punctuation in the quote.
Example: You're thinking, "What self-respecting man would use nail polish?"
Example: I know what you're thinking: "You're out of your league, rock-boy."
Example: Welcome to the Wright Talent Agency, where you've "always come to the Wright place!"
Example: The victim, he shouts, "you are cheater!" and then...
Example: "Defeat the undefeated poker champion"...
Example: "Could You Write An Article With A Ruler?"... end quote!
Example: "Can I steal your stuff"? The answer is "no".
Example: (What did she say again? "Why did Mr. LeTouse have to be shot"?)
Lime text is used for timestamps in any game and for logic in Investigations.
Orange text is used for "key words," to show they have special importance. Whenever this color is used, the Key sound effect plays. Red text is not used for this!
Sky blue text is used for inner monologue and is always enclosed in parentheses.
Ace Attorney uses white text for almost everything else, but you can use other colored text in limited cases. For example, Ron DeLite's fading out used various grey font colors. However, be wary of overusing font colors. An abundance of colors distracts the player, and some font colors can be hard to read.
Timestamps, Profiles, Evidence
Timestamps should always be in lime green and follow this syntax:
- Code: Select all
Month Day, Time (Optional)
General Location (Optional)
The month is not abbreviated, and the day is written as a pure number. Jan. 16th is incorrect, but January 16 is correct. Times are never given during non-linear segments of investigation. If using a place from the canon games, double-check the original games to see what the location is.
Evidence always follows this syntax:
- Code: Select all
How it was obtained.
Type and how it was obtained should be in the metadata. The possible types are Evidence, Documents, Maps, Photographs, Reports, Weapons, and Other. Reports are most commonly used for autopsies, but are used for anything by the police. Any other written documents are Documents. The choice between Evidence and Other is arbitrary if the evidence in question isn't directly relevant to the crime. "Melissa Foster's" camera, for instance, is Other, but Larry's Sketch is Evidence. Things that are directly relevant, like messages in blood, are Evidence.
Profiles always follow this syntax:
- Code: Select all
Age and gender should be in the metadata. Triple question marks are given if an age is unknown. The age is given as "deceased" if the person was dead before the events of the case. If they die during the case, their age before death is given.
When a new piece of evidence is added to the Court Record, you type in sky blue text "NAME_OF_EVIDENCE has been added to the Court Record." You also play the "New evidence" sound effect. The same rule applies for updating evidence, except the text is "NAME_OF_EVIDENCE has been updated in the Court Record."
If two pieces of evidence are added at once, you write the text out once for each piece of evidence. The canon games never add more than two pieces of evidence at once, because introducing three or more pieces of evidence at the same time gets confusing. Evidence is always added to the court after it is explained, never before. The explanation should at least cover what the evidence shows and why the court cares, but it need not cover every particular, especially those that aren't relevant to why the evidence is being offered.
Profiles are added and updated without special effects.
Pauses, Shakes and Flashes
Pauses should be used any time you want to pause the dialogue. This is distinct from a frame timer, which automatically progresses the frame a certain number of seconds after the player enters the frame. Pauses are usually used after a punctuation mark, unless the punctuation mark ends the frame.
Shakes shake the screen and are often used when the protagonist is emotional, especially nervous or dedicated. Flashes flash the screen to white. They are used primarily for dramatic moments and when a character's animation changes. Shakes and flashes tend to blur together, though shakes are more common than flashes.
The canon games employ all three effects very frequently, but only briefly.
Conversational dialogue trumps correct grammar. For example, you can use a sentence fragment in a place where speakers would normally use a sentence fragment.
You can use "words" abbreviated to letters without punctuation. "OK" and "TV" are both okay, but so are "okay" and "television".
I'll quote from other sources on timing.
Meph wrote:Different pauses are used after different types of punctuation. This is the general rule:-
- [#100] - Used for punctuation that represent very small pauses, such as commas (,) and colons (:).
- [#200] - Used for punctuation that represent standard pauses, such as full stops (.).
- [#500] - Used for punctuation that represent large pauses, such as ellipsis (...).
- Speech bubbles - the speech bubbles (objection, hold it, take that, etc) should use a standard timer of 1500 ms. This can be extended to be longer for a longer pause, such as a dramatic objection to save the defense's case.
- Judge's gavel - the judge hitting his gavel once should use a standard timer of 1000 ms. The judge hitting his gavel three times should use a timer of 1500 ms. These can also be extended for more dramatic flair.
- Testimony graphics - the "witness testimony" and "cross-examination" graphics should be on a timer of 2750 ms if you're using a single sound effect.
- Verdict graphics - the "guilty" and "not guilty" graphics should be on a timer of 3000 ms.
- Game over - the game over doors should be on a timer of 3000 ms, proceeded by an "End the game" action or a prompt to try again.
- Crowd speaking/victory - the gallery speaking should be on a timer of 3000 ms. The victory (when confetti is raining down after a not guilty verdict) should be on a timer of 4500 ms.
There are three kinds of cross-examination themes, Moderato, Allegro, and (sometimes) Presto.
- Moderato should almost always be used.
- Allegro should be used sparingly, for cross-examinations that are either high stakes or contain a major revelation. Its effectiveness dwindles with overuse.
- Presto is usually used for the final cross-examination. In especially long cases where multiple crimes are considered, Presto can be used for the final cross-examination about a particular crime.
The canon games are flexible with post-contradiction themes. The most common ones are Objection, Pursuit, and Truth, but others can appear.
- Objection is a good "default," especially when followed by other evidence presents.
- Pursuit should be used sparingly, when getting evidence to indict the true culprit. Like with Allegro, its effectiveness dwindles with overuse.
- Truth (e.g., Announce the Truth, Inform the Truth) should be used at turning points of the case, when the defense has a contradiction that the prosecution cannot explain away, and the resolution of which drives the case forward.
- The canon games can use other themes if appropriate. This can include the witness's theme if attention moves to the witness instead of their testimony, a logic theme if the attorney needs to point out additional information to explain the contradiction, and even suspense themes when the goal is to drive tension higher.