Update 5: What happened to me and the Blog?

6 09 2010

You may have noticed that it has been a long while since I updated the blog. This is for the simple reason that it was taking up too much of my time. You will remember that, in my last post, I discussed the development of my characters and visual styles and also grouped the different methods of documentation into the groups, “for me”, “for others” and “for both”. All these things have a relation to why the blog has not been regularly updated as I said that it would at the beginning of this project.

In the week following the previous blog I spent my time developing the characters and began to experiment with the use of styles and creation processes. This took a lot more time than I had anticipated. Due to the amount of time the creation and development of the visual assets was taking I needed to prioritise my time to create efficiently. As a result I looked at my timetable and the documentation table that I produced in the previous blog and decided that as part of an effort to give myself as much time as possible I would stick with the “for me” areas and drop the others. The reasoning behind this was that the “for others” section did not benefit the project and therefore seemed a logical thing to drop for the time being until I was able to get back on track with the development of the project. Once at that stage I would then be able to reproduce the notes I had taken in the process as a website or readable re-writing for the outside view to see my processes.

As it turned out I had grossly underestimated the time it would take me to produce the visuals of the piece and it soon became apparent that it would be nearly impossible to get the visuals completed within the allotted time period for the project. As the visual quality had always been the key criticism of my previous work I was determined to make the visuals as strong as possible. This included the learning of a new software (Adobe Illustrator) and new skills in terms of visual production (see my website for more details). When the production of the visuals began to eat into the time that I had initially timetabled for the production of the flash coding and player I set myself a new deadline to end the production of the visuals in favor of producing the Flash based elements. This lead to approximately a third of the visuals being produced to a near finished standard.

Realising that my initial timetabling had not accounted for the incredibly lengthy process of creating the visuals it became apparent that rather than having a polished, finished comic it would be far more appropriate to strive for a finished prototype of what the comic would do in terms of the combination of interactivity and comics. After all, this was the main study of this project; to investigate the use of interactive media in the creation and readership of a digital comic. The importance is the comic form and interactivity working together.

I then began the creation of the player itself. This consisted of producing a number of flash tests of different possible methods of interactivity within the panels themselves and experimenting with methods of navigation. After a week or so of producing and analysing these tests and looking at current existent comic book readers/players I decided on exactly how the comic player would work and what it would do. It would consist of three “levels” within the comic itself. The first would be a zoomed out viewpoint on the temporal map of the comic which would be navigatable by scrolling up and down it. It would also have the option for the user to turn on/off a visual display of each character path and on clicking on a panel it would move to level two of the comic. The second level of the comic would be a zoomed in verion of the temporal map  which allowed the user to navigate the comic as well as read it in its temporal form. The character paths would still be viewable and would allow for the user to turn on and off the inner monologue of individual characters. If the user then clicked on a panel it would be brought up in the third level of the comic. This level would be the Frame-by-Frame view where the reader would see each panel independently of the one next to/above/below it and be given options as to which path to follow via the use of buttons and hot-spots. These three levels each serve a different purpose both in terms of their interactive nature and the nature of the comic form. An example screen from each level can be seen below.

Level 1: Showing temporal map (zoomed out 18%)and all character paths.

Level 2: Showing temporal map (zoomed in 100%) with Blackbird and Crown character paths

Level 3: Showing the frame by frame view with arrow key links and hot spots (focus points)

Whilst each of these levels of the comic served their purpose in terms of the comic form and their basic interactive nature and methodologies there were many issue involve in creating them and producing them as a final single comic file. The biggest problem was the transitions between each level. Going from the zoomed out “level 1” to the zoomed in “level 2” for example requires the comic not only to zoom but to center as well. On top of this the map also needs to be navigatable at both levels. A lot of the coding used to create this transition and the functions of the comic directly contradicts causing one or the other (or both) not to work correctly. Trying to solve this problem has taken up a large period of time in the creation of the player. As yet the problem still remains unsolved.

At this time I am reluctant to spend more time producing the comic or comic player itself as I have only a couple of days before my final hand in. As a result I am making the decision to stop working on the piece itself and instead concentrate on the readable re-writing of my notes so that the decisions and processes I have taken throughout the project can be fully understood at the time of assessment. As such I will spend the remainder of the time on creating a website chronicling my work, processes and reasonings from the past months before continuing with the comic itself after the deadline.

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