Thursday, 22 February 2018

Where has all the time gone?

It's nearly March? Crumbs, the time has simply evaporated. I've been busy though, perhaps that's what's happened, I've just not really noticed.

I'm still working on Mind Games, and I'm really happy with the major structure. There's still some subplot and theme stuff to plan, but it's shaping up nicely.

I've been quietly converting my Mac-based apps to 64-bit, ahead of Apple's deadlines later this year. The next version of OSX is apparently going to drop support for 32-bit programs, so in order to keep the apps working, I'm converting them to 64-bit. So far it's going well. There's some more testing for the first batch, and then I'll release them to the app store.

I've also been working on my game design - an RPG. I actually found the first incarnation (the very first germ of the idea) in a folder of old Visual Basic 6 code, that's how far back it goes.

I've had a couple of rejections from agents for Intertwined, but it won't deter me.

So, it's business as usual - writing, developing, planning, plotting, working. Just another day at the office.

Happy writing!

Friday, 22 December 2017

Merry Christmas

It's been a difficult couple of months. The usual doubts and anxieties over what I'm actually doing with my writing, as well as the app development - it all comes to a head around this time of year, as we all naturally start looking to the horizon and the new year looming.

I'm still looking to get Intertwined in front of an agent. So far I've had a really dismal 'Dear Author' reply, but I've also had a really nice rejection that was personal and hopeful, and made me feel as if I'm not completely wasting my time.

One of the novels I've had for a long time, is called Eight Minutes. I'm going to work on editing that down, and I think I may self-publish it next year.

I'm working on Mind Games at the moment, and my goal for the first quarter of 2018 is to get the first draft completed.

I'm using the plot of another novel that I've outlined as the basis for a game that I'm designing, but it's not ready to be revealed at the moment.

This year, I released my thirteenth app, Plotline 2. It's a Mac version of Plotline, and it's designed to be a simple way of plotting out the major beats for a story.

It's over six years now since I started developing apps for the Mac, so in 2018, I'm going to turn my attention back to Subplot, and see what I can do to give it a lick of paint.

It's been a bit of a slow year for games for me. But there have been three notable highlights: -

Mass Effect: Andromeda
Despite some dodgy animations, and some (admittedly) cringe-worthy dialogue, Andromeda is nowhere near being the insult to humanity that some on the internet would have you believe. I put 107 hours into it, and absolutely loved it. It's a crying shame that there will be no continuation of the story.

Life is Strange: Before the Storm
The prequel that no one asked for, but it's wonderful. It's been great to return to Arcadia Bay and see the relationship blossom between Chloe Price and Rachel Amber. So many terrific moments. I'm not even sure I want to finish it, because then it really will be over.

Doki Doki Literature Club
The little game that came out of nowhere and bowled me over. If you haven't played it, go and play it.

A special mention goes to Quantum Break. Another game that was seemingly maligned 'just because' when it launched in 2016 - but it's actually terrific!

So that was 2017 for me. I hope you all have a happy, safe, and festive Christmas, and a wonderful 2018.

Happy writing!

Friday, 20 October 2017

Plotline 2 released

It's been quite a while since we put out a new app, but Plotline 2 is finally available.

Plotline 2 is designed to help writers quickly map out a story, placing them on a scrolling view of the story. Each scene has an intensity value, that is intended to show how tense or important a scene is. Typically in a novel or screenplay, this intensity ebbs and flows, but generally moves upwards as the story edges towards the finish.

I wanted the original Plotline to work on the Mac back when I was designing it, but at the time, I wasn't convinced I could make the scrolling section/scene view work. On the iPad, it's a very intuitive, tactile screen, allowing you to move the intensity values for a scene in place.

Over the summer, I decided to revisit the idea of a Mac version, and I'm happy to say that I'm really pleased with how the functionality has been translated to the desktop.

One of the best features of the iPad version is retained - the OPML export. As a writer myself, that's what's driven most of the app design that I've done - time-saving, useful functionality. I use all my apps myself.

One of the most useful is the OPML export, because I use it once I've finished the Plotline (or now Plotline 2!) outline, and use Scrivener to import the OPML file. This creates the structure of the story instantly in Scrivener's document binder, with folders for each section, and a text document for each scene. Additionally, the scene details are copied to the synopsis for the text document, allowing me to basically get writing straight away.

I hope you enjoy using Plotline 2 if you give it a try.

Happy writing!



Friday, 13 October 2017

Update

I've been working on a version of Plotline for the Mac. Based on my own use of the iPad version, I've included some modifications to the design that help with creating the scenes. Plotline 2 has been approved by Apple, so it will be releasing soon.

There are some looming changes behind the scenes at Apple's Mac App Store, so I'll be looking at what changes if any are required for my apps.

Hopefully Plotline 2 will be released before November.

It's a busy time of year for a lot of writers - particularly if you're gearing up to have a crack at National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). This year, it coincides for me with work on my next novel, Mind Games, so I'll be writing every day during the period anyway.

If you're taking part in NaNoWriMo this year, I wish you the best of luck.

Happy writing.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Short-sighted entertainment industry

So, Dark Matter was cancelled yesterday by SyFy, after three seasons. Not only was it a great little show, but you could tell how much everyone behind the scenes enjoyed it. I also watched the 'After Dark' discussion show, and you could see the joy on the cast when they got together.

Of course, that doesn't matter to what we out in the audience would probably describe as a 'faceless TV exec' - it's ratings and ad revenue, and a ruthless desire to cull anything that isn't working. The crazy thing is, that by all accounts, Dark Matter was delivering on the ratings - and even more so with DVR catch-up viewings.

What's worse, is that season three of Dark Matter ended on a cliffhanger. So that's it, goodbye, no wrap-up, no resolution. SyFy have just rebranded (with a hideous colour scheme, I might add), and their tagline is now "It's a fan thing". Clearly, that's a lie. That's one of the worst things you can do to your fanbase.

Someone at SyFy gave the okay for Dark Matter to have a cliffhanger ending. I think that that decision requires the network to accept a degree of responsibility towards their viewers: if you greenlight a cliffhanger, you're saying to your viewers (your life-blood, because without people watching your network, what are you?) - "Yes, we're doing a cliffhanger, and that means we're coming back, because we're not going to leave you hanging, we respect you too much to do that to you."

Of course there has to be some commercial interests in programming - it's a business after all. But what really grinds my gears is just how short-sighted networks seem to be.

Are we ever going to see something become the sort of phenomenon that gave us Star Trek? Not if those 'faceless TV execs' have anything to say about it. Anything that isn't a massive ratings hit straight away is earmarked for destruction. Nothing is ever given the opportunity to grow. Genre television has a tough enough time as it is - if networks keep alienating viewers in this way, then they will stay away from shows.

Three seasons is barely enough to get going. Star Trek: The Next Generation just about hit its stride in season three - imagine if that had been cancelled after Best of Both Worlds Part 1?

Already, a lot of people don't like even starting a new show - because they think "it's just going to get cancelled after one season anyway" - that, SyFy, is what you and the other networks are making your audience think. How is anything going to thrive or grow or last five to seven seasons if that's the way you make people think?

What's the solution? How about a different model for funding shows? Live ratings are a meaningless indicator. And honestly, don't get me started on 'retaining ratings from the previous show'! People are not stupid. Just because show X was on at 8pm has no bearing on who watches show Y at 9pm - guess what? Viewers are clever enough to turn the television on at the exact time they need if they choose to watch something.

The sad thing is, that Dark Matter had a lot more of its story to tell. Why isn't the show just the beginning? Why aren't networks looking at things like merchandise? Dark Matter easily could have been translated into action figures, toys, games, it's a sci-fi show for crying out loud! Why aren't networks looking at a show concept as an holistic entity - something that can be grown and expanded upon for the future?

At this rate we're never going to have new 'classic shows' - think forward twenty years. What are we going to be watching then? What will the classic shows be then?

The really sad thing is that genre television attracts some of the most passionate fans in the world. The sadness online at the moment over Dark Matter's cancellation is a testament to just how much the audience cares about the show, the characters, and the cast. You can't buy that kind of loyalty - it's earned. Dark Matter's earned that over the course of its three year run. I think that loyalty deserves something more than a shrugged shoulder from a network.

Timeless got a well-deserved reprieve earlier this year - so it is possible. SyFy, if you really do believe "It's a fan thing" - then you'll do something about keeping the crew of the Raza flying.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Disgruntled iPad owner/developer

My iPad is old. In fact, I'm pretty sure Apple considers it to be obsolete now. It's an iPad 3. It isn't allowed to update to iOS 10, let alone the soon-to-be-released iOS 11. But, it works perfectly. I'm sure I'm not the only person in this position where Apple's relentless drive to keep everyone buying new versions of almost the same product is actually getting pretty frustrating.

Thanks to the 'Brexit effect' last year, Apple hiked the price of everything. Despite the pound recovering somewhat against the dollar, that price increase hasn't been softened. So as someone who would love to develop and update my apps for the iPad, I find myself in the position of simply being unable to justify spending £600+ on a new iPad.

Most recently, I've had a notice from Apple that Shelf Life for iOS hasn't been updated in a while. So I'm doing an update for the app so that they deign to allow it to remain available on the App Store. The fact that it works perfectly well, is apparently irrelevant. I'm not one to do frivolous updates for the sake of saying there's an update. If I'm updating something, it's because I see a clear need to do so.

So hopefully they'll accept the (virtually pointless) update in the next couple of weeks - I'm still deliberately targetting older versions of iOS (8.4), because I don't want to have to force people to upgrade to use my apps. I don't want to upgrade my iPad when it still works just fine, so why should I make anyone else? I have removed the spellcheck/autocorrect on the title, author, and genre fields, as they did bug me a bit, and I've also had a little bit of a graphical tidy up around the table gridlines - but other than that, it does everything I want it to do.

As much as I love the Mac and the iPad, the Apple I grew to love when I started doing the app development seems to have lost sight of what attracted people to them in the first place.

I've been working on a Mac version of Plotline over the last month or so. In part it's come about because I've grown so fed up of the iPad. The iOS App Store is horrendous for discovery of content, and the drive to the bottom of the pricing tiers means that there's an even bigger drive towards subscriptions, for things that simply have no business being a subscription.

Anyway, Plotline 2 as it will tentatively be called is looking good so far on the Mac. It's obviously a lot easier to move text content back and forth compared to the iPad, and I've just implemented the all-important Scrivener export. So, I've got that to finish in the next month or so, as well as carrying on with my own writing.


Monday, 19 June 2017

Summer Heat

Currently listening to my cheap-as-chips air-conditioning unit work its magic as I struggle through the abnormal heat in South Wales, I've still been writing every day.

I'm waiting to hear from a few agents about Intertwined, and I've been doing background work on a new novel as well.

Wearing my app-development cap, I've been working on the Mac version of Plotline. Which has also been spurred on by the background work on the novel. It's coming along nicely, and next on the feature list to implement from the iOS version, is the Scrivener export.

So it's all go here, from writing, to development, to actual day-job work, with not much time in between. I did complete Mass Effect: Andromeda though recently - and highly recommend it.

Happy writing!