Monday, September 4, 2017

I'll catch you peeps LATER! (Technical Difficulties Hiatus)

The end-screen for my Twitch Stream (http://twitch.tv/skipperwing) The text isn't really appropriate, but the sentiment is. We might be going away for a little bit, but we'll ALWAYS be back.

WARNING: WALL OF TEXT! TL:DR: We're going on hiatus, so I can get the comic on its own hosting, and covert the comics to HTML5/javascript to make them easier to read on mobile and avoid the 2020 Flash-drop deadline.

So, if you've been visiting the Crimson Fly for the last few days, you'll notice that instead of the comics, there are just white rectangles where the comics used to be. That's because, in Dropbox (who I used to render content)'s words:

"Effective September 1, 2017, Dropbox Plus and Business users can no longer render HTML content, and the Public folder and its sharing functionality have been disabled."

What this means is that the blog can no longer access the strips from Dropbox to render on the site, so the "white rectangles" are the site's way of throwing its hands up, trying to show something it can't acccess.  The thing is, using dropbox to broadcast flash content on a blogger site was a "series of bandaids" on top of two on-going problems that I've always had since the comic's inception, that I was always going to have to address at some point. One is easily fixable now, the other is not.

The first problem is that the "site" isn't actually a site, but rather a blogger page retrofitted to look like a blog. This was done because, when I started the comic, I didn't have a source of income to pay for domain names hosting fees, and so I had to take what I could get. Tumblr couldn't host the swf files, and blogger was the most reliable "free" alternative I had at the time, using Dropbox to publish the content, since I couldn't directly upload the swf files to blogger. Buying a host would allow me to upload the strips (and flash player) directly to the site, and this would not be a problem.

This has been fixable for a while; remember when I switched from "thecrimsonflycomics.blogspot.com" to 'just' "thecrimsonfly.com?" Well, that's because I started ponying up the money for a domain name.  Ever since I got my day job in 2014 (ish?) I've had a steady source of income that's allowed me to tackle a variety of small up-scaling projects; a new workstation with two new computers for the comics, a web-camera and microphone for video recording and streaming, and the actual funds for tabling at comics conventions and printing comics to SELL at those conventions.  The only reason I didn't make the jump into hosting is that I didn't want the responsibility of maintaining upkeep on the site. I'm not a programmer or web developer by trade, and I wouldn't know how to either set anything up or fix anything if it broke (hence why its not business-as-usual right now).

The second problem is really the coalescence of several small problems; my mediocre "skills" as a programmer, the increasing obsolescence of Adobe Flash and the SWF format, and the obscurity and lack of infostructure to support anything resembling animated interactive comics (due to said medium obscurity). What all that means is that beyond BARELY being able to make my comic strip, the internet doesn't know how to support and/or publish it, and it doesn't help that the file format chosen to make it is prone to hacks and better off dead in a ditch. And while I've been trying as many courses that can hold my attention span since Adobe decided to try out HTML5 in their little rebranding project called (bleh) "Animate," I don't know enough to convert the comic to a file format that will endure for the next 5-25 years. So, basically, a "crash" like this was always inevitable, whether now (thanks, dropbox) or in the next 3 years, thanks to Adobe promising to drop support for the swf format the comic exists in the next 3 years.

You can see the extensions of this problem if you're visiting the site for the first time; when the comic asks you to "activate Flash player" so you can even SEE the comic, or on mobile, where the comic isn't visible at all (Thanks, Steve Jobs). I'd kinda ignored these problems because I didn't know how to fix them, or even make an attempt at fixing them and I figured I'd have enough time to either learn the skills myself, or get someone else to fix them for me (even though I turned my nose up at getting actual help, since I'm trying to never be so cheap as to NOT pay someone, even if only in a consulting role). Well, the clock hasn't completely run out (I could get hosting and host the comics until 2020, at which point this problem would resurface), but I might as well start ripping off those bandaids and work on actual fixes.

So, to that end, rather than burn the candle at both ends, the comic is going to go on the dreaded hiatus until these goals can be met:

-The comic is stably viewable on computers using HTML5
-the comic is stably viewable ON and formatted FOR mobile using HTML5
-All current 104 strips are converted to a mobile/user friendly User interface
-All current 104 comics are translated in their entirety (or updated to reflect the most current user interface) with no compromises in format or integrity.

What this means is:
-No new comic updates
-No new Youtube Comic video updates

Why not just give up on the animated portions until the situation is resolved?  Because the construction speed ratio of static, non-moving comics to the time it takes to animate one panel of the interactive strips is so horribly skewed that if I started doing static strips and waited for the fix to work on animated comics, I'd never catch up. The Crimson Fly would be effectively DEAD as an animated comic.

Why not just give up on the static portions and make it a series of animated shorts on YouTube? Those things take forever to make (3-5 months per short), and there'd be no content in the meantime, at which point, people's attention spans would wain and I'd lose all but the most loyal of fans. Sure I could make weekly 15 second strip-videos, but Youtube's algorithms are such that they wouldn't be very profitable, due to the minimalistic watch-time. I'd have to redirect fans to other forms of support that currently don't exist atm.

And both of those solutions (including the others that I'm not elaborating on) ignore the crux of the problem; the Crimson Fly is an Animated Comic in full, equal measure. Its not just the character or the story, its the format in which you guys enjoy it as well. Its something different for anyone looking for something different on the web, and until animated comics become so ubiquitous as to be the default medium for comics on the internet (not likely, but I can dream), the Crimson Fly will continue to be the premiere animated comic on the web. To go halfsies on either the animation or static illustration kills the interactivity, and that's just not acceptable.

And honestly, I need the break to be able to focus on fixing the problem, rather than bouncing between testing out code/fixes and making a diminished comic (and all the other stuff I have to do on top of that). Focusing on one thing at a time and all that.

I honestly don't know when I'll be back; I don't know how long it'll take to learn what I need to learn to fix/update everything, to say nothing of how long it'll take to actually fix/update everything and/or even compile them into complete stories and/or volumes (something I never fully figured out, even in actionscript). I can guarantee though, that I'll be out for rest of the year, and the Crimson Fly won't return until 2018, at the very least.  When in 2018? I have no idea. Ideally? January? Realistically? June at the earliest. Cynically speaking? This time next year, at the earliest.

But here's the thing: THE CRIMSON FLY WILL RETURN.

I've worked too hard, I've got too much planned, and there is too much faith in me to NOT come back to this adorable Spider-Sonic ripoff. So I will be back with a website, an easily viewable and readable animated comic, some PDFs for peeps who don't like their comics moving, some videos for peeps who don't like to flip pages, (maybe) an app, and (maybe) some merch. But I will be back.

And I'm not disappearing entirely! I'll still be on Twitch; working on other projects like animated shorts, the Eleven second club challenge and/or other projects.


This has just been a long time coming, and I figure that its better to deal with the consequences now, learn some new skills and maybe come up with some cool toys for everyone to play with, than have this conversation in 3 years time.

So, for those of you who've gotten to the bottom of this page, Those of you who're just now picking up the Crimson Fly for the first time from elsewhere, and those of you who've been around from the beginning:

Thank you.

This project can't just be for me, and your faith in me keeps me going every single day. It will be rewarded with an even better Crimson Fly; just you wait. Until then, I'll catch you peeps LATER!

-Collin "SkipperWing!" Byrd

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