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What did it really take to make Vanilla WoW? The game's first 3D level designer reveals the ugly, crazy world of making games.
What did it really take to make Vanilla WoW? The game's first 3D level designer reveals the ugly, crazy world of making games.
8,379 backers pledged $598,999 to help bring this project to life.

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Manufacturing!

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Great news! There were no major snags with the spot UV varnishing! The WoW Diary has moved from the ink/drying stage of production to the physical manufacturing of each hardcover. I'm flying again to the printing plant on December 6th to sign copies for the showcase editions. I haven't seen the spot UV sheets myself, but my printer says this job is looking so good that they're submitting The WoW Diary for their entry into trade contests and industry competitions for the year 2018. I suspect whomever spends the most money to print their book wins these contests, but that's just me being cynical about something I know nothing about. ;)

As you know, spot UV varnish wasn't part of our original plan, so adding it has set us behind schedule a bit, but that's fine since most people prefer superb quality to holiday deliveries. That said, we're still unsure when deliveries will happen, as we're shipping things all around the world, at the busiest time in the year, using multiple fulfillment companies my printer has never worked with before, so books will arrive as providence allows.

My next update will likely be December 8 or 9, and will include loads of pictures from my visit to the plant. Wish me luck on my trip. ;)

Hi-resolution PDFs and eBooks Have Been Distributed

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Backerkit's staff informs me there was some weirdness going on with their digital distribution last week. We should be beyond these glitches, so I'm sending out our digital rewards. 

We have a new, electronic version of The WoW Diary, put together after I returned from trip to the printer late last week. I've corrected a couple of misspelled words before going to press it it's reflected in this new file (e.g., correcting Scarlett Monastery to Scarlet Monastery), and I used a more recent photo of myself on the author page...but the big difference is I fixed the "invisible" images and increased the PDF picture resolution. Because the new file size is 70 megabytes I cannot send it to anyone directly. Keep in mind, eBook images did not increase in resolution, since some eBook readers won't handle files over a 5 megabytes. For sharp images, check out the PDF. 

If you haven't received an email about it, Backerkit's customer service representatives will be able to help you Monday: https://thewowdiary.backerkit.com/faq#contact-us

Backerkit gave some suggestions for email problems. With backers logging into Kickstarter through Facebook and supporting projects across different machines (which might have different email addresses as account logins), wires get crossed...or so it's been explained to me. I don't understand the issues, but if you're one of the 4% who haven't filled in your survey (or aren't getting the new electronic file), contact Backerkit's reps through the link above. 

  • Often users have old emails tied to their accounts (particularly if they authenticate through Facebook). To make sure that emails from your project creator don't get caught in your spam filter, add no-reply@s.backerkit.com to your address book. 
  • Avoid marking BackerKit e-mails as spam. Check your spam filters/archived e-mails. 

Print/Digital Progress

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Stacks of The WoW Diary Sheets
Stacks of The WoW Diary Sheets

Printing News: I got back from my first trip to the printer. The facility I visited was enormous. The company is worth a quarter billion dollars and has been around for almost a century...yet The WoW Diary will be their largest job ever spot-varnished. We've completed the first stage of printing this week, and will soon begin applying spot varnish.

The pressworkers were wary of our December deadline, and cautioned that everything must be completely dry before binding...and they couldn't say exactly how long it would take. It's a wait and see process. When I originally made a December estimate, spot-varnishing wasn't an option, but the overwhelming backer enthusiasm for bells and whistles convinced me that spot-varnishing was worth the extra effort, money, and time. If the spot-varnish doesn't dry as fast as we expect, we are likely not going to get rewards by Christmas. 

This warning about spot-varnishing was the only foreseeable hitch in delivering goods. The delivery professionals I talked to seem comfortable working with the other fulfillment companies (for worldwide distribution), even though they've never worked together before. At least, there are no other red flags on the horizon. 

During the marathon session of giving press approvals, they gave me a tour of the plant. 

This is the machine printing our book. It runs 24/7 all year. It's the first in a row of printing presses. Note the misters in the upper-left; they're maintaining humidity.
This is the machine printing our book. It runs 24/7 all year. It's the first in a row of printing presses. Note the misters in the upper-left; they're maintaining humidity.
Behind each of these gray panels is an ink well. There are 8 total, 4 for each side of the paper.
Behind each of these gray panels is an ink well. There are 8 total, 4 for each side of the paper.
This is a close up of the ink well. Magenta ink pours into it continually.
This is a close up of the ink well. Magenta ink pours into it continually.
A fine layer of powder lies between each sheet. It facilitates drying and prevents sticking. The powder is invisible on the paper, but here you can see it clumped beneath the finished sheets (that's a stack of recently printed pages on the skid).
A fine layer of powder lies between each sheet. It facilitates drying and prevents sticking. The powder is invisible on the paper, but here you can see it clumped beneath the finished sheets (that's a stack of recently printed pages on the skid).
The glue that helps hold the book together isn't contained in a squishy plastic bag. What I'm holding is a skin of dried glue! Everything gets melted down into usable adhesive.
The glue that helps hold the book together isn't contained in a squishy plastic bag. What I'm holding is a skin of dried glue! Everything gets melted down into usable adhesive.
Believe it or not, this is what a paper shortage looks like at the plant. After decades of ready availability, paper prices have jumped 20% and the industry is plagued by delivery delays.
Believe it or not, this is what a paper shortage looks like at the plant. After decades of ready availability, paper prices have jumped 20% and the industry is plagued by delivery delays.
Throw-away paper. To calibrate the press, a healthy chunk of the paper is used. This bin fills quickly and its contents are recycled...
Throw-away paper. To calibrate the press, a healthy chunk of the paper is used. This bin fills quickly and its contents are recycled...
Recycled paper is broken down into reusable pellets.
Recycled paper is broken down into reusable pellets.

Electronic news: I arrived home from the printer on Thursday and began converting the book into a PDF without buggy images. I finished the new version yesterday, and outputted the file into a higher resolution PDF, but I can't email it until Backerkit explains to me why their software won't distribute the new files. Their UI says the PDFs are ready to be sent, but nothing is happening. After spending 7 hours working on this problem last night, my only recourse it to wait until Backerkit's support staff can assist on Monday. 

Printer Proofs and Electronic Rewards

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That's a ton of proofing! In the 1990s, it would have taken weeks to sign off on a project this size.
That's a ton of proofing! In the 1990s, it would have taken weeks to sign off on a project this size.

How about some good news? The proofs are looking great. No major issues. I've been working around the clock checking out the design's consistency, tweaking and updating files, indicating PMS colors, and doing the finicky things graphic designers normally do when prepping files for a print run. The proofs I'm talking about are the bookmarks, slip cases, covers, supplemental booklets, and, of course, the book. Everything is looking mighty keen, and the manufacturers (the printer is partnered with companies doing the hardcover and the slip case) don't see any red flags. 

When I'm at the printer, I'll have my first face-to-face meeting about fulfillment. I'm hoping for a better picture of what's involved with delivery and whether I'll be able to deliver rewards in time for the holidays--which is why I've been pushing the post-campaign production so hard. Backerkit reps say they've never seen a project (with this many backers) get such a high response rate for delivery addresses and that's largely due to me cracking the whip! If you haven't given your address, you can do so by telling their customer service guys at this URL:  https://thewowdiary.backerkit.com/faq#contact-us Again, messaging me won't help, I'll be on the press run for the next five days. 

For anyone who cares, this won't be my only trip to the printer. There are too many balls in the air to schedule any more flights, but in November I expect to be flying back and forth to oversee and sign off on various things...the least of which will the 1300+ Showcase Editions. That's a lotta autographs! 

The delivery person dropped the printer's proofs against the side of my house on Wednesday (to keep it out of the rain) instead of the usual spot. I only discovered it on Thursday, which is unfortunate because I needed to dedicate my attention to the proofs and not distractions. I had released the eBook and PDF about an hour before discovering the package, so I was torn between the proofs and the electronic distribution issues. I decided to put the eBook/PDF stuff on the back-burner because the printer stuff is WAY more important. 

Fun fact: PDFs are created from the same book file I send to the printer! Thursday we discovered that the spot-varnish indicator was "whiting out" images and text in the PDF. For whatever reason, this isn't visible on my PC. Adobe InDesign doesn't allow me to suppress this spot-varnish globally which slows down my ability to create a clean PDF. I won't be able to distribute a new electronic package until late next week, when I'm back from the printer. 

When I put the new PDF together, I'll output it at a higher resolution to improve the image quality. PDFs can be larger than eBook files, so I won't be so frugal with file size. After looking at the color proofs (pictured above) I can say The WoW Diary images are going to be better in print. I suspected as much, but it's nice to know that images from 1990s cameras and screenshots are going to be fine for printing. But if you zoom to 1200% magnification and complain about digitization...well, there's not a whole lot anyone can do about it. 

With all this going on, I haven't been able to respond to everyone's messages. I'm truly sorry about this. I'm aware that the same folks who weren't reachable through Backerkit's survey emails aren't getting links for downloading the electronic version...that'll be another hump we'll have to climb when I get back next week. Don't worry, I haven't forgotten you guys! I'll need to get a file link from Backerkit and create another Mailchimp email campaign to get the word out. 

Tomorrow I get up early and go to the airport. Wish me luck! 

No PDFs today :(

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I found the issue with the PDFs but the resolution involves going through the entire book and suppressing the spot-varnish on every "object" that uses it. The fact that InDesign doesn't allow users to globally suppress plate output by color is a shame because it would be so much safer on complicated files. 

Changing every instance of the spot-varnish is problematic because I'm reviewing proofs form the printer today...and I can't risk making mistakes, so I'm not moving forward with changes on the PDF until the printed file is locked down. That probably means you won't get the PDF until I return from the printer late next week. Sorry, folks, but I need to keep my eye on the ball.