Thursday, January 26, 2012

Chapter 3, Title Announcement

I've finally finished my work on the preliminary version of Chapter 3! Now I'm able to setup the milestones for the chapter and I'm also able to announce the title:

Chapter 3 - A Monstrous Forest

I took me longer than expected to create the prelim of Chapter 3. My mind refused to rush through the task and forced me to stop and think frequently. I felt horribly unproductive and slow during the last 2,5 weeks especially if I compare the prelim process to the production process during the milestone phase where I just burn through the panel illustrations. I guess I just have to admit to myself that writing a chapter is a very different task from illustrating it. If I'm able to make my peace with that I might even be able to enjoy it in the future.

My next step is something I haven't done at all up to this point. I'm going to create concept art for several characters, creatures and locations that are introduced in Chapter 3. For chapters 1 and 2 I hardly did any concept art. Jonas had already been designed when I started work on the graphic novel and the other characters were designed on the fly. The locations were improvised from my childhood memories and real life reference. Chapter 3 now contains a lot of elements that I only have a rough idea of in my head. I will have to put some extra work into their further development so that I become able to illustrate them. The good news about this is that you'll find a lot of 'Making Of' material when Chapter 3 is released. The bad news is that my schedule gets screwed up by this to some extend. I don't know how much time it will take me to finish the concept art but it is very likely that Chapter 3 won't be launched before April. However, I'll try to enjoy the concept art process and don't see it as a hindrance.

In other news: I have updated the Wormworld Saga Website to reflect the upcoming new chapter. I also changed the background image to bring us all into the right mood for Chapter 3:

Translation news: Chapter 1 is now available in a Czech and a Korean translation. Many thanks to the translators, Lukáš Balcárek and Yuna Lee, and to Ivan Berov, who again did a great job on the layout of the translations. Seriously, I don't know what I would do without this guy!

Ok, I hope I'll be able to announce the Android version of the Wormworld Saga App soon. I'm off designing stuff now.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Wormworld Saga App Wins Publishing Innovation Award

The Digital Book World Conference & Expo currently held at the Sheraton Hotel & Towers in New York is the largest conference on the future of publishing in the American publishing industry. Part of the opening ceremonies of the conference is the announcement of the winners of the Publishing Innovation Awards which are awarded in 14 categories (including five app categories). This year, the Wormworld Saga App won the PIA in the "comics and graphic novel apps" category.

The PIA is a very young award that was inaugurated in 2011. However, it can without doubt already be considered an important industry award because the dramatic changes of the publishing landscape are also very young. The Digital Book World Conference & Expo hosts a long list of talks and workshops on digital publishing and distribution. All major American publishers attend the show and nowhere else will you find more answers to the question how publishing will look in a few years.

The judges of the PIA seem to think that the Wormworld Saga App is among these answers. One of my goals with this whole project is to present new ways of interaction between the reader and my work. I'm also trying to explore new relationships between readers and authors. Digital comics currently are dominated by big corporations who seem to think that a "digital comic" merely means to scan in your print product and sell it for the same price digitally. The progress of digital comics is hindered by the big comic publisher's fear of damaging the traditional print market. This is completely understandable and for you as a comic reader it simply means that, for the time being, you don't need to turn to the big comic publishers to find innovation.

So, if you happen to ask yourself how publishing might look like in a few years from now, have a look at these facts about the Wormworld Saga App:
  • it was NOT published by a major comic publisher
  • all rights are completely creator-owned
  • the main content is completely available for free
  • purchases are encouraged through special paid content 
  • the initial investment was completely crowdfunded by fans
These are award-winning facts, mind you! ;)

I'm very happy about this award but this doesn't mean that I'm going to sit back now. I have big plans for the future of the Wormworld Saga App. We are planning to introduce a very cool new feature with the release of Chapter 3 in a few months and I've already got a huge list of ideas how the app could be improved beyond that. Obviously we are trying to bring the app to more platforms. The Android version should be ready very soon and I'm thinking a lot about new ways to make the special features of the app accessible to as many people as possible. Many of my ideas need time and resources which both are very limited for me at the moment. But I'm dedicated to expand the project as much as is managable for me without compromising the quality of the story.

I want to close this blog post with a bow to the fans who have supported the creation of the Wormworld Saga App. This is your award, too! And my thanks also go to the great guys at Robot Media who developed a wonderful app that hopefully will be enjoyed by lot of people in the years to come.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Chapter 2 now available in the App!

Man it feels like an eternity since Chapter 2 has been launched on the website. As I posted just before Christmas, we had to perform an unforeseen update of the app in order to implement Chapter 2 flawlessly. It turned out that Apple (who has to approve all updates before launch) was extremely busy in the past few weeks and that delayed everything quite a lot. Well, today I can share the news that Chapter 2 is now available inside the app. I'm really sorry for this delay and for future chapters we'll make sure that everything gets launched simultaniously on the website and the app.

The Collector's Edition of Chapter 2 comes with the standard special features (artwork mode and sketch mode plus author commentary) and two new items inside the artbook portion of the app. Inside these items you will find exclusive photos from an inspirational photo safari around my brother's house and a very detailed Making Of article about the creation of my painting "The Journes Begins" with lots of material which never was published before.

Excerpt from "The Making of Chapter 2" - Click for original size!
Excerpt from "The Making of  'The Journey Begins'" - Click for original size!
There also will be news about the Android version of the app soon. I don't want to promise something that we are not 100% sure about just yet.

In other news:

Thanks to the relentless effort of Ivan Berov, we were able to launch several new translations of the Wormworld Saga during the past few weeks. Chapter 1 is now available in Dutch, Italian, Croatian and Bosnian and we also already finished the Chinese and Croatian translations of Chapter 2. Ivan did not just do a wonderful job on the layout of the translations but also was able to reorganize my working documents to streamline the whole process. He's a dream guy! :)

I'm quite close to finishing the Chapter 3 preliminary version, but more details on that in my next blog update.

Have a nice day everyone!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Chapter 3, Progress Update

So, the first week of 2012 is over and I was quite busy. One thing I really wanted to get rolling, before I start my work on Chapter 3, is our new translation workflow. After the release of Chapter 1, when the first people emailed me offering translations of the graphic Novel, I sent out a Word document with the script to every individual translator. This went fine with a few translations. But when there was a dozen of translations, and the scripts had to be sent back and forth for revisions, and when we then even started to split up the work between different translators, it was becoming a real pain.

For Chapter 2 I decided to work with an online spreadsheet in Google Documents. The document is located on the Google server and you can work on it in your browser window. You can share the document with as many people as you like and you can even work simultaniously on translations. As the document owner you get a history of all changes to the document and you can set it back to any point in this history in case anything goes wrong. I have to say, this system is a real lifesaver. Translators receive an invitation by mail and can start their work immediately. The spreadsheet format is perfect to copy & paste the texts into the layout. And I have to say that it is a very cool feeling opening up the document and finding several people typing their translations and watching the whole thing grow in realtime.

There are already 22 translators working on the document and we currently have a very nice mix of languages from all over the world including Arabic, Korean and Hindi. I'm really looking forward to provide you all these translations during the next weeks and months. 

Concerning Chapter 3, I'm ready now to start the prelim version that precedes every chapter. Last week I returned to the Story Wall and did a major revision on everything that was on it. 

Before the revision I simply used the yellow sticky notes to describe the major plot points of each chapter. A few days ago I realized that the plot actually isn't the aspect that I have to concentrate on in my visualization on the wall. I was totally neglecting the most important aspect: the stories. I remembered a line from a book about storytelling I've read a few years ago: "in order to make a good movie you don't need a story. You need a dozen stories!" That was a rather revealing thought for me. Up to that point I naively thought of "story" to be just the description of the things that happen. But that's plot. A "story" is a more abstract construct that describes a certain theme (e.g. "boy loves girl" or "revenge") that is developed through a "story arc" which spans over several "story beats". What I did in my revision is to identify the different stories in my plot and visualize their "beats" with the arrows you see next to the yellow plotline. A story normally has at least three beats in my visualization - introduction, build-up and resolution - but it can have as many beats as you want.

For example, the story with the most beats that I identified in the first two chapters is what I called "Egon Breaks Out". The story is introduced when Egon yells at a car during the carride in Chapter 1. From that point on we know that Egon can become very loud and angry. The story is build up over several beats (Egon wants Jonas to carry his suitcase, Egon asks Jonas to do the homework together, Egon calls for dinner and receives no answer) but it's always calmed down again and never brought over the point of break-out. However, after discovering that Jonas is lying to him, Egon finally breaks out and this is the climax/solution of this story. On my story wall I have marked all climaxes with a black triangle (and minor story resolutions with a black point). As you can see, there are a lot of stories that find their climaxes or resolutions at the end of Chapter 2 and that's exactly what you want when your protagonist starts onto an adventure. You want to leave things behind and create a clean slate for the story arcs of the adventure itself.

After revising the first two chapters I created the plotline and story beats for chapter 3 and 4. As you can see, things develop a lot slower and story beats are less dense. The reason for this is, that I now start story arcs that span over Jonas' whole adventure which is going to be much longer than 2 chapters so there's more time and space to develop the stories. I also have space for exposition, which is marked with green arrows on the wall. At these points I will just dive into the Wormworld and tell you how it works.

I'm quite happy with this system now as it will help me to develop the plot in a way that serves the different stories. Also, the visualization will directly show me when the plot gets too thin meaning that there are not enough story beats that keep the narration from becoming boring.

I'll continue to develop my process and keep you updated on it. I also hope to find some time to go into more detail someday. I consider the storytelling to be one of the most fascinating and challenging aspects of the project.

I'm going to create the prelim version of Chapter 3 now and you are going to hear from me when I'm ready to enter the milestone phase.

Monday, January 2, 2012

2012 Kick-Off

I wish a happy new year 2012 to everyone! I took a few days off between the years and now I'm ready to start into what's promising to become a VERY interesting year for the Wormworld Saga. There will be a lot more new content for you in 2012 and we all will find out if this whole thing is going to work out for me over the long term.

The year definitely started very encouraging for the Wormworld Saga. The launch of Chapter 2 was received very well in the online community. Between Christmas and New Year the website was visited over 100,000 times and the overall feedback from the readers was very positive. There are lots of new fans that joined the blog and the Facebook fan page and I want to welcome you all. I promise you that you are in for a ride!

I will start the year with some administrative and editorial tasks and then I will directly start my work on Chapter 3. As always I will keep you updated on my progress and tease you with preview images. Chapter 3 is scheduled for a March/April release. I have to keep the release date that loose because there will be new characters introduced to the story, I'll have to create a lot more concept artwork than for the preceding chapters, and I'm not totally sure how much time that will take.

The next days should also see some news on the Android version of the Wormworld Saga App and the Chapter 2 release inside the app. The time around Christmas really isn't the best time for having to cope with unforeseen problems and I'm really sorry that we weren't able to deliver Chapter 2 inside the app on time. As soon as things are moving forward there, you'll be the first to know.

Alright, there's a lot of work ahead - it's time to get my hands dirty!