Checked in at Bord Gáis Energy Theatre

Checked in at Bord Gáis Energy Theatre.

Off to see the wizard…


The problem with books

Books are so ingrained in our mental model, that’s it very hard to think outside the concept of the page. The problem with the eBook is that it itself is a legacy idea; you take the pages of a book, digitize and put it on a screen. In the past decade we’ve advanced the usability and design opportunities of the eBook, but it’s still the same legacy product at heart.

That’s fine for novels where reflowable text and indicators to showing progression through the content, but for reference books like textbooks and manuals, that’s a little trickier.

  • How do you reference a page without pages?
  • How do you keep the instructional design of the layout?
  • How do you get a “feel” for the size of the book to move freely around in the content?

All these questions go back to that artificial content component, the page. A page does not mean anything, but it contains the information that does.

Books produced for both Inkling and iBooks, although proprietary, have shown what’s possible when you go beyond the standard EPUB. By breaking those bounds and identifying the individual blocks of content (image, paragraph, questions) we can build a better eBook, with intelligently reflowable content but still have a well formatted document with a rich design.

Over the next few months, we’ll be working with a new client. They’re excited by the fusion of learning design and responsive web development that we have here at Purple Guerrilla and they’re prepared to let go of their “pages” to see what we can create. We’re going to be working with the EPUB 3 specification (extending it in ways that won’t break the content itself on other readers) and introducing our fork of Readium-JS into both Jotterz and back up upstream to Readium itself.

Working with a company from outside ed-tech industry feels like the opening a new chapter*, but it’s just a natural continuation of everything we’ve worked at over the past two years. Remember “legacy” eBooks aren’t just being pushed into schools, look around and you’ll see plenty of examples of “second-class” EPUBs being created to appease customers who don’t use iBooks.

A new type of book and a new way to read it, who wouldn’t be excited about that?!

* What’s a chapter ;)


Fancee Watch


Apparently 2013 is the year of the smart watch. Back in April one in particular caught my eye Pebble, by the aptly named Pebble Technologies took Kickstarter by storm raising  $10 million (!!), well over their initial goal of $100K.

The Pebble uses Bluetooth 2.1+ EDR and 4.0 to pair with your phone an receive notifications, paired with an e-ink display the drain on both watch and phone is very low, unlike last year’s Sony Xperia Smartwatch.

Out of the box (and on iOS especially) the Pebble doesn’t do much more than show the time and weather, but on Android (and  iOS 7) it can be set up to receive custom notifications, receive navigation directions from Google maps, control music and more.

Honestly, it takes more work than most people would be bothered with, but I don’t mind. I even took to creating my own watch face, combining the popular split-screen look with Calendar events. That might not be for everyone, but being able to look at my watch and see when and where my next meeting is, is a small win in my book.

For anyone else wanting to download the “Fancee Watch” face, you can grab it here and install it on Android using Canvas for Pebble.


Designing the future

I’ve never been particularly happy the portrayal of cities in Wargames. In the latest 90’s the trend was some burnt out buildings on a green playing mat; in some clubs very little has changed. Necromunda brought something of a revolution with modular 3d environments. Bridges, gantries and bulkheads help give that claustrophobic feel but I never once believe these components to be part of the world that was built up in images and fiction.


The 40K universe is very dark, grim and dark you could say and apparently full of war; on the other hand the Necromunda scenery looks a lot the the set design of the USS Enterprise in the new Star Trek movies; filmed in a real life brewery.


GW’s prose always pointed to the hopeless end of the spectrum; here humans lived and died in anonymity and ignorance, with little chance of even seeing the sky let alone having happy life. It was dark grungy British sci-fi at it’s best. Books like Inquisition War helped paint the picture of literal layers of society one atop the other with human lives lived in the cracks.To me, hive cities of the 41st millennium are more like a planet sized version of Kowloon Walled City, a feeling I never got from the terrain.
The Warpath universe, from what fiction exists, seems a lot more like our own world. Powerful corporation remaking lands in their image with greed and affluence spread about in equal measure, something that would no doubt be seen in their architecture and city plans. Some of the best sci-fi world building I’ve ever seen have to be in Firefly, the extreme wealth of an industrial world, or the “barely scraping by” feel of a frontier settlement. The (fantastic) Deadzone terrain feels much more like the latter, although I can see some very creative (and wealthy) individuals proving me wrong.


In real world cities, like London or New York you see either immense rapid advancement (NY) or a slow but gradual growth and spread determined at times by Geography and with cyclical period of renewal. Take 1980s London dockland developments, what was once waste land, farms and industry is now the glistening towers of Canary Wharf. New York on the other hand, in less than a decade went from large city to sprawling metropolis.


I imagine the world of the Warpath U, particularly the core systems to be more like modern London or New York than Kowloon; cities in a consist state of change as the old is demolished to make way for the new and improved.

With this in mind I wanted to give my gaming board a real world feel, albeit exaggerated for scale. Skyscrapers, construction, roads, bridges, footpaths (sidewalks) lighting, shipping, transport, sport and entertainment as opposed to burnt out gothic stonework. It’s a tall order, but I have to start somewhere. As I mentioned in a previous post I’m building 6 2×2′ tables split into a grid of 64 squares. Each board can be played on it’s on as a skirmish game fighting over a map location; an lockdown at the civic centre, a robbery on the storage facility etc. however if you put them together and fill in the games with bins (trash cans) street lights and other street furniture, you get a very convincing urban environment, claustrophobic, but not grungy or gothic.

Core world

I’ve got some of the WorldWorksGames terrain queued to print, I plan to eventually supplement it with the Deadzone terrain and some of my custom tiles, to create an extremely modular, but realistic feeling sci-fi gaming board. I don’t know about you, but adding this level of detail and giving your fictional city character really helps create a place you feel is worth fighting for.


Urban Earthworks

If you want a quick and easy way to defend your city from the oncoming zombie apocalypse, it’s amazing what you can do with a few broken tiles and some grout. I decided my Enforcers needed some cover, and so my urban trench line was born. I really wanted to get the feel of a hastily constructed ditch thrown together by civilians, with nothing but rubble and trash. I currently have 8 modular straight line pieces, but will do a few corner bits in the coming days. I had a few bits of GW scatter terrain in my bits box (I’m actually not sure where it’s from, Gorkamorka maybe?) that really helped with the look.

I have to apologise for not taking photos while I was making these, I really didn’t expect them to turn out so well, but when I sprayed them black I realized they actually weren’t half bad and they were so simple to make too. Using one of my 3″ tiles as base I dropped a large dollop of tile grout in the middle and sprinkled on some gravel from my garden. Using the pieces of a few smashed tiles, I pushed the grout into a pile in roughly the middle of the tile. This helps it look like the ground has been dug up with broken paving slabs everywhere.

I’m also made some progress on the board itself, spraying black and then applying a grey highlight, give it the feeling of a road and the tiles (more pics to come) were also sprayed black and then unevenly sprayed with the same grey. They’re maybe a bit too clean and sterile yet, so I may do some work on texturing them. Once I’m happy I plan to make a mould and cast up some resin duplicates.

PS: I love using the Cityscape from Hawk Wargames as a back drop. I know it the wrong scale, so just think of them as being further away :)