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Crafty_Pat
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« on: April 03, 2012, 01:15:14 PM »

Hello everyone out there in the Final Empire! First of all Alex and I would like to extend our thanks for all your support over the last few months. Not only has the Mistborn Adventure Game been a great success on the sales front, but the critical response from the readers has been fantastic. We’re deeply touched by all your kind words, and proud to bring this amazing product to your gaming tables.

This is a brief update on two fronts. First, we want to thank everyone for their diligent attention on the editorial front. As we mentioned when the game released, a late game version control issue caused several small issues to slip through, forcing us to either release a mildly flawed Digital Edition or delay the release (again). We chose the former knowing you’d prefer to have the files immediately, and we asked for feedback to correct the issues before we went to press.

For the last while we’ve been taking feedback on typos and similar issues, plus soliciting ways we can improve the game, and you’ve come through in spades. From rules clarifications and tweaks all the way down to misspellings and grammatical errors, every post and email has been read and carefully considered. We’ve compiled a list of significant revisions in this forum post, and if you think that anything else needs to be addressed, now’s the time. We’re getting pretty close to the finish line with this one — which leads us to the second update.

Several of the revisions led to layout changes, which meant more time had to be spent massaging the finished product. That’s done now and the master files are back in our hands. The next step is to read through the book one last time with a careful eye toward correcting any lingering issues and simultaneously building the index, along with a rules summary appendix that’s been requested so experienced tabletop players can “skip to the meat of the rules, all in one place.”

We expect to transfer the master files to the printer by no later than next Monday, and after that it’s a matter of working with their schedule to figure out when the printed products will arrive back to us. It usually takes 4–6 weeks to turn physical copies around, though it varies a bit based on many factors at the printer’s end, and we won’t be sure of any subsequent dates until we confirm with them. With this in mind, we’re probably looking at books arriving back to us sometime in mid to late May. Shipping will commence immediately, and of course we’ll fill all pre-orders first.

One last thing: as we’ve promised, Digital Edition customers will receive a fully updated version of the game shortly after the files are sent to the printer (there are a few extra steps between outputting the master files for prepress and delivering a polished, fully bookmarked PDF).

That should about cover it for now. With the Mistborn core book inching out the door, we’ll soon be looking at other new products, and so you can expect details on those fronts in the near future. As always, you’ll hear from us as soon as we have something to report.

Stay Crafty,

Alex and Pat

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« Last Edit: April 03, 2012, 01:18:37 PM by Crafty_Pat » Logged

Patrick Kapera
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« Reply #1 on: April 03, 2012, 02:36:26 PM »

Quick observation and question: A fully bookmarked PDF is mentioned but nothing was said about the ePub version. Will the updated Digital Edition include the ePub version, too?
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« Reply #2 on: April 03, 2012, 03:00:58 PM »

Quick observation and question: A fully bookmarked PDF is mentioned but nothing was said about the ePub version. Will the updated Digital Edition include the ePub version, too?

That's an entirely separate enterprise, and to be honest we're not sure when it will hit. There's even a remote chance we may have to scrap it entirely, though at present that chance is small.

It turns out that ePub development is not only still in its infancy, it's positively backward. We were very excited when Adobe finally included ePub output options in Creative Suite 5 and immediately started experimenting. That was early in the visual development of the Mistborn Adventure Game, and we figured there was ample time to hammer out the kinks. It also looked like those kinks were fairly manageable, at least according to our early research into the process.

Turns out that's not even remotely the case. What you're actually looking at with any ePub book is an extremely rudimentary web page with so little developer support as to be nigh-crippling. Basically everything has to be coded by hand and virtually nothing can be automated. This is true with every page pointer on every page, as well as each and every image and table placement (which also have to be turned into images, resized, and anchored by hand). Even if you commit to all that work - and again, we're not sure it's reasonable or even viable - you still have to go through the product page by page on multiple machines with multiple operating systems, making tweaks by trial and error to ensure that your final product works on as many destination devices as possible (and you'll still never hit them all, as the digital book platform wars aren't even close to decisive yet).

In short, it's a nightmare the likes of which we never envisioned when we got started with all this. Even specifically developing our layout to support the format we're still looking at so much development, testing, and other work that we really have no idea when - or again, even if - it's possible. In the end we may have to land on a format that's relatively primitive, without many of the bells and whistles that we feel are real value adds to the product *. That's a shame, but it may just be the compromise we're forced to make. More as the graphic designer digs deeper into the outputs.

* For what it's worth, this is why it looks easy from the outside. Novels make up the vast majority of ePub products on the market, and they have pretty much no pictures, tables, pointers, or anything else that requires additional work or testing beyond the raw output. The second you add the interesting things that make RPG products unique, everything falls apart. Hopefully a market leader will emerge soon and everyone will have to adapt to it, because that's the only way it's going to get any easier for publishers.
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« Reply #3 on: April 04, 2012, 12:20:09 AM »

In the end we may have to land on a format that's relatively primitive, without many of the bells and whistles that we feel are real value adds to the product *. That's a shame, but it may just be the compromise we're forced to make.
As far as I'm concerned, it's not a problem. As long as the PDF version has all the "production value" included, the ePub version can remain a very primitive, practical compilation of text and tables, without any sexy - and complicated - graphic design. In my opinion. Anyway, I just wanted to stress that I'm feverishly expecting the ePub too, and that being a regular customer of ebooks I know - as must other regular customers I guess - that it won't look anywhere as nice as a PDF, and it's fine.
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« Reply #4 on: April 04, 2012, 01:25:37 AM »

Agreed. The main purpose of EPUB is unobstructed reading (and, at the table, searching); if I want to enjoy artwork, I can pick up the book on my shelf. So if you get the main text, structure and the most important tables and pictures (are there even non-decorative ones?) in it, it is fine.

Note that EPUB3 seems to offer lots of improvements on this front; it might be worthwhile to look into even if there are no readers with full support now.
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« Reply #5 on: April 04, 2012, 01:45:08 AM »

It's not so much getting all the text in alongside the tables and illos (if we include illos in the ePub - jury's still out on that as well) - it's whether we can feasibly turn page pointers into links (the only way they're in any way effective in an ePub document), or have to pull them entirely with no links at all (entirely possible given the sheer volume of work involved in doing that work by hand). There are some other considerations as well, but the pointers are the big one.

EPUB3, huh? Most of what I'm seeing with a quick Google search speaks to multimedia support, which doesn't exactly solve our current issues. Do you have any links speaking to it possibly emerging as a format leader or otherwise helping on the output front?
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« Reply #6 on: April 04, 2012, 09:37:58 AM »

* For what it's worth, this is why it looks easy from the outside. Novels make up the vast majority of ePub products on the market, and they have pretty much no pictures, tables, pointers, or anything else that requires additional work or testing beyond the raw output. The second you add the interesting things that make RPG products unique, everything falls apart. Hopefully a market leader will emerge soon and everyone will have to adapt to it, because that's the only way it's going to get any easier for publishers.

Sounds like the history of HTML is repeating. Instead of market leaders emerging and setting standards, expect 3-4 big ones you have to ensure work, and then 5-10 more 'little-guys' you can safely ignore/hope it works.
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« Reply #7 on: April 04, 2012, 10:02:13 AM »

* For what it's worth, this is why it looks easy from the outside. Novels make up the vast majority of ePub products on the market, and they have pretty much no pictures, tables, pointers, or anything else that requires additional work or testing beyond the raw output. The second you add the interesting things that make RPG products unique, everything falls apart. Hopefully a market leader will emerge soon and everyone will have to adapt to it, because that's the only way it's going to get any easier for publishers.

Sounds like the history of HTML is repeating. Instead of market leaders emerging and setting standards, expect 3-4 big ones you have to ensure work, and then 5-10 more 'little-guys' you can safely ignore/hope it works.

Honestly, if it goes that way, you can expect most RPG companies to ignore the format. It's sad, but true - outside the very largest houses, none of us have the time or resources to customize more than a couple digital outputs for a product, let alone four to five (assuming we include 3-4 ePubs + PDF).
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« Reply #8 on: April 12, 2012, 02:29:07 AM »

it's whether we can feasibly turn page pointers into links (the only way they're in any way effective in an ePub document), or have to pull them entirely with no links at all (entirely possible given the sheer volume of work involved in doing that work by hand).
I am sorry to pick on that, but that is a tool (usage) problem, not a format problem. If your software enables you to maintain links in a structured way (anchors/lables + references) chances are you can use that to create links easily. If your references are plain text, outlook is bleak.

By the way, I have found links to be less than useful as you usually have no backlinks. So I have to bookmark every time I follow a link? With CSS3 and Javascript in EPUB3, I think it is viable to look at including the referenced content reference-site in a hover box or something, if applicable.

Quote
Do you have any links speaking to it possibly emerging as a format leader or otherwise helping on the output front?
The former is clearly a matter of opinion. If you look at the companies who support the standard, though, it becomes clear that EPUB is the standard already. Amazon seems to be the only big player holding out (to a fault, imho). You can buy EPUB from many distributers already, including B&N and Kobo. Technical books are another issue, though. Former versions of EPUB where not equipped for those so people stayed at PDF. We will see what ongoing adaption of EPUB3 changes there. Picture-heavy books will probably never be a good idea on ereaders (regardless of the format).

People jump on that multimedia stuff, true. I don't think that is a useful perspective, in particular because today's readers probably can't handle the load. But then, technology is moving onwards quickly. More important is that EPUB3 specifies HTML5 and CSS3 as used formats; clearly, not all mistakes from HTML are to be repeated. Those two, especially CSS3, are supposed to make formatting good ebooks easier. For detailed questions and advice, I suggest you head to the official EPUB forums and ask the experts.

Again, EPUB adaption seems to be a tool issue. Good tools are only now emerging, and authors/editors/publishers are bitten in the ass by bad decision-making earlier: hardcoding semantics to fit individual formats (e.g. print, PDF) is a bad idea. There are tools that allow you maintain one source for many targets (e.g. LaTeX, Markdown), allowing to create either format in no time, but those have other restrictions. Normal fiction authors should certainly have no problem writing their stuff in say Markdown (easy, plain text, free) so they have no barrier to any format. Illustration/format heavy documents are certainly harder to get right, but why not drop some demands there and exploit the format-specific advantages? The book does not have to look the same in every format, it has to be useful in every format.

For instance (as I said) give me the main text with a good table of contents and maybe index (should be superfluous with fulltext search) as alternative for easy use at the game table and I may get more value (compared to book and PDF). If you try to emulate the PDF to the last pixel, the end result will probably not solve any problem I have with the book or PDF.
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« Reply #9 on: April 12, 2012, 03:25:20 AM »

it's whether we can feasibly turn page pointers into links (the only way they're in any way effective in an ePub document), or have to pull them entirely with no links at all (entirely possible given the sheer volume of work involved in doing that work by hand).

I am sorry to pick on that, but that is a tool (usage) problem, not a format problem. If your software enables you to maintain links in a structured way (anchors/lables + references) chances are you can use that to create links easily. If your references are plain text, outlook is bleak.

I'm not sure what you're saying here but allow me to walk you through it. When we put together a print book or PDF, we have to manually insert page pointers at the very end (it's one of the more laborious and time-consuming parts of the process, honestly). This basically involves exporting the book in PDF and then searching for "XX" and manually replacing all of those instances with pages from the finished book. We have yet to find a faster method of doing this that's reliable (just as we don't use InDesign's native indexing feature, as none of you would appreciate the results - we certainly don't).

This appears to be much worse in ePub exports, as once you're done with those manual replacements - which again, have to be done regardless - you have to hand-code HTML hyperlinks links for each one of them, using whatever arcane pointer structure is used on the ePub back end to signify each section in question. As far as we can tell, there's no practical way to set files up for automatic linking, though we're still doing the research (or rather, our graphic designer is - we're still waiting for his findings).

Quote
By the way, I have found links to be less than useful as you usually have no backlinks. So I have to bookmark every time I follow a link? With CSS3 and Javascript in EPUB3, I think it is viable to look at including the referenced content reference-site in a hover box or something, if applicable.

I'm glad someone else brought this up, as it's been a nagging question on my end as well. I have to admit, I don't own a tablet and probably won't for some time (I like PDFs and physical books just fine, and don't see the need to "upgrade" outside knowing what's going on with our ePub products), so my knowledge of the platform and its various formats is limited to what I'm told and shown by others. I've had it in my brain for some time that once we figure out whether we can even manage links on a small scale, we need to ask the very basic question: is there a "back" button of some kind on these machines and/or with these programs. Because not having one makes pointers kinda... pointless IMO.

Quote
Do you have any links speaking to it possibly emerging as a format leader or otherwise helping on the output front?

The former is clearly a matter of opinion. If you look at the companies who support the standard, though, it becomes clear that EPUB is the standard already. Amazon seems to be the only big player holding out (to a fault, imho). You can buy EPUB from many distributers already, including B&N and Kobo. Technical books are another issue, though. Former versions of EPUB where not equipped for those so people stayed at PDF. We will see what ongoing adaption of EPUB3 changes there. Picture-heavy books will probably never be a good idea on ereaders (regardless of the format).
[/quote]

This is roughly what we've found as well, and it's why we're focusing on ePub outputs right now, with Kindle being a distant and far less going concern. That said, we're struggling with even picture-light products like the Mistborn Adventure Game, so it's a safe bet you won't see ePub versions of any of our other lines anytime soon - at least not unless a market leader crops up that makes it viable, which at present looks highly unlikely.

Quote
People jump on that multimedia stuff, true. I don't think that is a useful perspective, in particular because today's readers probably can't handle the load. But then, technology is moving onwards quickly. More important is that EPUB3 specifies HTML5 and CSS3 as used formats; clearly, not all mistakes from HTML are to be repeated. Those two, especially CSS3, are supposed to make formatting good ebooks easier. For detailed questions and advice, I suggest you head to the official EPUB forums and ask the experts.

We've already pointed our guy there, and hopefully it'll wind up yielding some useful data.

Quote
Again, EPUB adaption seems to be a tool issue. Good tools are only now emerging, and authors/editors/publishers are bitten in the ass by bad decision-making earlier: hardcoding semantics to fit individual formats (e.g. print, PDF) is a bad idea. There are tools that allow you maintain one source for many targets (e.g. LaTeX, Markdown), allowing to create either format in no time, but those have other restrictions. Normal fiction authors should certainly have no problem writing their stuff in say Markdown (easy, plain text, free) so they have no barrier to any format. Illustration/format heavy documents are certainly harder to get right, but why not drop some demands there and exploit the format-specific advantages? The book does not have to look the same in every format, it has to be useful in every format.

For instance (as I said) give me the main text with a good table of contents and maybe index (should be superfluous with fulltext search) as alternative for easy use at the game table and I may get more value (compared to book and PDF). If you try to emulate the PDF to the last pixel, the end result will probably not solve any problem I have with the book or PDF.

This works well enough for you, but the RPG market speaks to very different standards. The demand for premium production values is higher here than in most other parts of the publishing world, and books built for utility above and beyond appearance (function over form) are judged pretty harshly.

There's also the fact that virtually every graphically oriented creative - and by that I mean virtually every professional graphic designer and illustrator - has long-since adopted Adobe's Creative Suite as the exclusive market standard, and you've got a recipe that doesn't afford ingredients like LaTeX or Markdown. You switch to unconventional software and suddenly no one out there can work with you, even if they want to. Production and market standards may seem draconian and limiting form the outside, but they serve a very important purpose: they let creatives speak to each other quickly and (relatively) easily, which on the business end is a requirement to keep things moving.

Now if Adobe could just let folks backsave by perhaps one more iteration, we'd have that particular problem solved, or at least mostly managed. So it goes...
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« Reply #10 on: April 17, 2012, 06:07:49 PM »

Quote
I'm not sure what you're saying here but allow me to walk you through it. When we put together a print book or PDF, we have to manually insert page pointers at the very end
And you already lost me. I understand what you say but I don't think that is a good idea, meaning that a tool that forces you to do this is ill-conceived. Apparently you have no choice in the matter; poor you. Undecided

Quote
The demand for premium production values is higher here than in most other parts of the publishing world, and books built for utility above and beyond appearance (function over form) are judged pretty harshly.
I am pretty sure that is true for print and probably even PDF books, but I wonder wether the sentiment transfers to EPUB. Customers know (at least after you inform them) that EPUB is first and foremost built for reading. Will they really expect beauty? You ought to try. Also, a beautiful EPUB (if possible) is bound to be more expensive than a raw "text dump". The latter is probably for free, even with your tool chain, so you could give it away for free (with PDF or prints) to get a read on your target group. I know I would have use for it (and would even pay a couple of bucks), but that is only me. Maybe others can chime in?

Quote
There's also the fact that virtually every graphically oriented creative [...] has long-since adopted Adobe's Creative Suite [...] they let creatives speak to each other quickly and (relatively) easily.
That is sad, for many reasons. For example, you can not be a (professional) creative without deep pockets. You are locked inside the Adobe box. The evolution of your technique is limited by the release cycle of a company. And so on.

I am sure we agree; I am trying to analyse the situation to discover angles of attack, if they exist.

Everyone can read and edit plain text, so that is clearly not a barrier (for adoption of alternative approaches). The problem would therefore be that few people in your area "speak", say, LaTeX. While this can be remedied the cure costs time (=money), I get that. Have you tried LaTeX for fun? Back then, I was amazed how little you have to write to get good results. So even though you program your documents (arguably a harder task than point-and-clicking something  together) you have very little boilerplate beyond the actual text. So if you focus on (textual) content, there is virtually no barrier between creatives -- the text is there, naked, and not much else. Of course, graphics heavy stuff is hard to set up. Then again, if done properly this vanishes in the preamble (you need an expert for that, otherwise you will go crazy) and you can work on the bare text again.
I am not a business person and I do not assume I can solve your problems in a snap. I just think it is worth being aware of the alternatives, and maybe trying them out on some small supplemental material, especially because you seem to have problems other approaches do not have by design. If you are interested in an example, I am happy to send you a write-up of an RPG campaign I once played; I wrote it in LaTeX and am quite pleased with the result (visually).

I might even try and reproduce a small part of the Mistborn rulebook as closely as possible, just to see how hard it is to get how close to its visual appeal. Not before my thesis is done, though.
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« Reply #11 on: April 20, 2012, 08:51:30 PM »

An update on the ePub front...

After a lot of testing and finally pinning down the (rather insane) amount of labor that will actually be required to produce a polished, professional ePub that we'd be proud to have out there and feel would appropriately celebrate the Mistborn brand, we've come to the conclusion that it's just not in the cards.

Perhaps we'll explore ePub at some future point for another project - likely after the formats settle down a bit and a market leader emerges - but for now it looks like we'll be sticking exclusively to PDF for the Digital Edition of the Mistborn Adventure Game.
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« Reply #12 on: April 23, 2012, 10:20:47 PM »

So now ePub is ruled out... What is the latest on the revised PDF?  And the print version, for that matter?
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« Reply #13 on: April 23, 2012, 10:44:08 PM »

So now ePub is ruled out... What is the latest on the revised PDF?  And the print version, for that matter?

We'll have news on both really soon.
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« Reply #14 on: April 30, 2012, 10:44:01 PM »

New to the Boards here and looking forward to the Version release.

I am about to begin a new story with a six person crew, I am excited to see how it plays out.
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