Friday, May 23, 2003

See You in the Funny Pages XIII

Brian Merkel, the friend of a friend of mine, has been working on the technology side of the online comics project The Street for more than a year now. I haven't spent too much time with the series yet, but a recent email from a friend outlines some of the project's more interesting aspects.

The Street is an online comic serial. Designed to progress through regular episodes, the navigation/story progression is what makes The Street unique to online comics and interactive storytelling. The reader is able to weave their way through the various story lines, experiencing them in any order they choose.

Expanding on the effectiveness of the comic medium.
Enhancing the traditional graphic novel by using the tools of interactivity is a primary goal of this project. We are able to convey multiple storylines while maintaining the strengths of the comic medium. “Every act committed to paper by the comic artist is aided and abetted by a silent accomplice. An equal partner in crime known as The Reader…Closure in comics fosters an intimacy surpassed only by the written word.” – Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics.

Introducing non-linearity without abandoning a linear familiarity.
The technical approach to navigation accommodates the users linear sense of experience while giving them the option to jump around between storylines and points in time. This gives new readers intuitive access to the story with the freedom to experiment with non-linearity. Not only will this boost engagement, but it also enhances the unique quality of the graphic novel medium mentioned above.

Decision Mode vs. Story Mode
We employ two basic points of view in this approach. These demos deal mostly with Story Mode while touching on its relation to Decision Mode. Story Mode, reflects the traditional graphic novel. In this view, the user is able to see the various Strings (see below) and their relation to each other. In Decision Mode the Strings drop away and the panel inhabits the majority of the screen. Decision mode occurs when two or more Strings cross and the user must decide which direction to follow.

Strings are storylines. The succession of panels viewable in Story Mode. Decision Mode occurs at the point where two or more strings split into separate strings. Strings also relate relative time, allowing us to easily show the succession of events without having to address actual time. Moving right or down through a string relates to progressing forward in time, and moving up and left relates to going backward in time.

I think I'm going to have to spend more time with this.

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