This post title was brought to you by Rocko’s Modern Life.
Earlier this week Ian from Top 100 Best Graphic Novels shot me an email with a couple of questions regarding ATC – my answers are included with an ATC synopsis in his year-end writeup, The Best Webcomics to Follow in 2014 (Part One). Go check it out! :)
In other, more local news – a new version of the website is live! It’s the third and definitely final release of 2013, and will hopefully last for at least a few weeks. I’d prefer it to last for all of 2014 but that’s, like, fifty years in internet time and if I think of a better way to do things you can bet I’ll jump on it. V12 is an iteration on V11 with a cleaner presentation and a pseudo-mobile version – I’m using a couple of mobble checks to feed mobile devices an augmented stylesheet and different ad locations. The mobile sheet isn’t business-card-sized and doesn’t use @media queries – it sticks the left sidebar to the top of the page and that’s pretty much it. I may extend it further if I ever get a tablet or a phone with a bigger/sharper screen. I’m digging the new look, and I’m digging the speed boost and performance gains I wound up getting by working through the initial display issues. The site’s looking good, and as usual it’s the best version ever!
Here’s the v12 build log. It’s a lot shorter than the v11 build log. That build log really whipped the llama’s ass.
The title was going to be “Website launch & comic production timeline” or something equally dry.
The new version of the website is up, with only a bit of weirdness. All the practice on deadcityradio.org paid off, and the experience was mostly painless. There was some wonkiness with jetpack – I have no idea why the fix worked but it did and I hope that’s the end of it. Turning curl off to make SSL work strikes me as the modern equivalent of sacrificing a chicken the first tuesday after an eclipse but whatever, that’s mild compared to other voodoo lurking around under the hood. There’s some charset stupidity despite the database, tables, templates etc. all reporting UTF-8, so there may yet be some funky characters to batch edit. OTHERWISE…
New cover, if you hadn’t noticed – keystone for the new comic archive and the first non-canon group shot, with Raven sporting a Woo Hoo!-inspired dye job! :D
ATCv11 build log
This post chronicles the epic epicness of transitioning a multi-blog Movable Type 4 website (that happens to be a webcomic) to a single WordPress site with custom post types (that doesn’t use comicpress). As documentation it’s a buildup to the website version 11 release notes.
It’s that time of the year – and that time of the project life cycle. Comments have been shut off and all site components except for the blog have been archived – and that (this) is getting backed up as soon as I hit “Save” on this post.
ATC started life as a voodoo’d MT 3 blog. In 2008 hosting moved and the project moved from a badly implemented MT 3 site to a badly implemented MT 4 site spanning a number of subdomains, where it limped along for five years until it was rearchitected into a properly implemented MT 4 site earlier this year.
At some point within the next couple of months – roughly around the five year anniversary of the transition to MT 4 – 870 posts, 158 tags and parts of 8 pages will be migrating from a six-blog MT 4 install into a custom WP theme. Comic pages, covers, Universe entries and Cast members will all be custom post types. The relationship between Cast and Universe entries and Comic pages will be preserved, tag search will be seriously improved. Commenting will be easier for you to do and for me to filter. SEO will be possible. Facebook updates (and hopefully twitter updates) will be automated. I may muck around with some Subscription capability, though I want the site built and functional before I start digging around to see what that looks like. I’ll be able to add a page without having to rebuild a blog; I’ll be able to add to the Cast or the Universe without having to rebuild two (or more!) blogs.
For most of the past decade, MT was a good fit for ATC – but aside from ATC and the sites hosted on deadcityradio.org, I’ve never really been a Movable Type developer. When I transitioned from video to web in early 2010 it was in response to a call to learn WordPress – and over the past couple of years I’ve learned the shit out of it. I know enough about wordpress to turn a six-blog MT site into a single WP site, and I’ve learned enough about custom post types and custom meta boxes to make the page navigation voodoo work as a matter of design as opposed to a horrible, horrible hack.
In short, WordPress is more malleable, easier to work with and extend, and vastly more capable. The choice between upgrading the MT install or migrating to WP isn’t actually a choice – and it isn’t up for debate. I made the decision earlier this year, and now that TV.2 is complete it’s time to make the last of the backups and the first of the imports – I’ll be starting with deadcityradio.org domains to sort out the remaining design questions, and plan to start work on the new ATC website in late October or early November.
Downtown Pittsburgh from the Commemorative Air Force’s Bucket of Bolts, a 67 year old C-45 Expeditor.
My first flight!
December – Asset development and pre-rendering of pages TV 2.10 through 2.15, then 2.07 through 2.09.
January – Quit smoking, which really throws my game off. Asset development continues; key asset for TV.2 scene one matures; the rest of the TV.2 script is “applied” to page templates. A to-do list the size of the moon combined with a depression from hell cause asset development to bog down into a vacuous suck-pit of suckiness.
February – I scraped through January with a bit of piecemeal freelance, though the landlord claims to have never received the rent check written against that work (and has yet to cash the replacement). January was a thin, wavering trickle of paying work – February kicked off with a torrential BLAST of contracts. A month of managing three (and then four) different clients and three to six related projects pretty much killed any ATC time, though this past weekend I finally had a Moment of Clarity and stepped over The Great Art Block From Hell like it was nothing. TV 2.01 has been rendered and ready for line art for almost a week. It looks sweeeeeet. Unfortunately I still need to cook up the environment for TV 2.00 (chapter cover) and 2.02-2.06, and it might be some time before I can get to that.
March – I haven’t decided what’s next – either the TV.2 scene one exterior environment or the ATC v.10 website, which is a fairly well advanced paper design that promises to be a massive structural departure from the previous nine iterations. I know that once I finally pull the trigger on TV.2 I’ll ignore site mechanics until it’s done, and the site as structured has some issues I feel a new version would effectively address. Version 10 would also be a chance to play around with some buzzword-compliant web development concepts that I haven’t had a chance to use on the job (yet!). Concepts that I think would be a huge boost to site navigability and malleability. Both the site and the remaining environments (not just scene one) are going to be a lot of work, and I’d like to get both done before ATC turns 10 in May.
Of course, I’ve said I’d like to get a page of TV.2 up in February, and that hasn’t happened. That page is ready to draw, and I would have drawn it already if I didn’t have such a sizable pile of contract work to gnaw through. I’ll likely be busy-busy with that through March, after which I should hopefully just be regular busy.
TV 2.01 is stuck in production hell. It’ll be another 20-40 hours to get things thinged enough to render the first page of the next chapter, then another 20 to 60 to who knows to set up for 2.02 through 2.06. 2.07 through 2.15 are, fortunately, rendered and ready for line art.
The launch assets for this chapter are the timesink from hell. The fact that I quit smoking and haven’t ingested nicotine (first-hand, anyway) since January 2nd has complicated things, but the fact is I am seriously burned out on asset development and was even before that kicked me in the head.
I’ve sort of “budgeted” for this – I’ve said previously that TV.2 production would likely kick off in February and it looks like that’s going to hold. So I’m technically on schedule. I’m also at the point in which I feel like I’m technically scaling a cliff with my eyelids. It’ll be awesome when it’s done and rolling. Whenever that is. I plan to try to “dial it down” for TV.3 and TV.4 – this kind of work used to be fun but at this point I really need to stop with the uniques and start moving towards a Bethesda-style toolkit that can be continually repurposed for new environments.
Not that that’s a problem I’m facing at the moment, mind you – production has hung up on a one-off that has to look good, and decisions I made about production quality and the production values of Transitional Voices back in 2007 are holding things up. I’m holding things up, re-learning caffeine, re-learning focus, re-learning how to work and be productive and how to get things done without one stimulant effectively nullifying another.
Nine pages rendered, fifteen pages framed and lettered. Script revised some more, still has a couple of small-but-serious issues that need to be addressed. All of the boring-but-necessary page setup work is done; the next step is pages or stop, and I do not intend to stop. I hope to have a page up in February, and I hope to have the major environment for the first scene ready to go within the next few weeks. I want to be in serial production for ATC’s tenth anniversary, and that’s still a possibility.
TV.2 production start – Return To Color – is, in the immortal words of Porkins, “Almost there.”