Sketches for Story-Arc View

ma
matt
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Sun Jan 11, 2009 4:31 am Post

I have just posted some sketches and discussion for the planned Story-Arc View for Aeon Timeline.

Please read the blog post:
http://aeontimeline.wordpress.com/2009/ ... tory-arcs/

Comments and suggestions are most welcome (just reply to this thread).

sj
sjmagy
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Sun Jan 11, 2009 11:39 pm Post

I reviewed the blog post and I can't think of any other way to handle what you've outlined. The floating context inspector to help you focus the main viewing area on one particular part of the story arc(s) seems like it could be workable.

The dilemma for me is, I'm a visual / "hands-on" thinker, so until I see it in action and begin to use it, it's difficult to wrap my head around.

gh
ghoti
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Sun Jan 18, 2009 3:00 pm Post

What a treat to see a developer taking Tufte seriously!!

Matt I'm sorry that I'm not playing much with the application so these comments refer to your blog post but are not based in much experience with the current version.

1. I'm not sure I understand why an author would want to display causal links in a story arc, because I can't quite imagine that an author would need reminding about them. This might be a failure of my imagination - it's a bit tired at the moment. Still, I assume that Aeon isn't trying to actually replace the author's head, and questions of coincidence or cause are outside the territory I'd expect Aeon to map. As you might say.

2. I really like the floating context view - very reminiscent of Google maps. Question: Is it possible for the context pane to be moved right outside the Aeon window? Google maps doesn't allow it move at all, and naturally it gets in the way.

3. My tired imagination is boggling a bit at how to enter all the information Aeon will be capable of displaying. At this stage your imagination is obviously working overtime on the development. Are there some imaginations exploring how new users might find their way into the application? I imagine the possibilities being rather overwhelming.

Hope this helps... somehow. Scrivener plus Aeon is looking like a truly awesome combination of apps.
Thanks.

Ghoti

PS The reason I'm not playing with Aeon very much is that my current project needs dates BC and I'm so wrapped in it that I can't seem think about much else. I did try making my earliest date 1800 and doing the arithmetic, but I'm so used to working with my material in BC dates that I got completely confused. I note that dates BC are included with fantasy dates on the ToDo list for the next release, so I thought I'd wait for that.

Thanks again

ma
matt
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Sun Jan 18, 2009 11:06 pm Post

ghoti wrote:1. I'm not sure I understand why an author would want to display causal links in a story arc, because I can't quite imagine that an author would need reminding about them. This might be a failure of my imagination - it's a bit tired at the moment. Still, I assume that Aeon isn't trying to actually replace the author's head, and questions of coincidence or cause are outside the territory I'd expect Aeon to map. As you might say.


It is not trying to replace the author's head: that is to say, not their thinking, but perhaps trying to replace their memory. This was last on the list and not yet addressed because I think it is the least important, and won't happen unless I can find a visually neat and convenient way to enter and represent the information.

But there are examples where I could see you wanting to be able to map things such as this -- if you were writing Heroes (TV show), with time travel and alternative futures featuring heavily, you may want to trace causal links. Similarly with a movie like Butterfly Effect, or even Sliding Doors (which I haven't seen, but I know the concept).

I know I am playing with a problem where it would be helpful at the moment, when I am not writing software.

ghoti wrote:2. I really like the floating context view - very reminiscent of Google maps. Question: Is it possible for the context pane to be moved right outside the Aeon window? Google maps doesn't allow it move at all, and naturally it gets in the way.


Yes, I will make it a floating window that can be moved anywhere on the screen, or even onto a split screen. Will probably make it so that the window can be made larger or smaller and the overview map will adjust to fit the size.

ghoti wrote:3. My tired imagination is boggling a bit at how to enter all the information Aeon will be capable of displaying. At this stage your imagination is obviously working overtime on the development. Are there some imaginations exploring how new users might find their way into the application? I imagine the possibilities being rather overwhelming.


I am taking Tufte seriously for visual design, but simplicity still trumps that every time (I don't think Tufte and simplicity are working at cross-purposes anyway).

A new user will see entity view (which is the current Aeon TImeline), and story-arc view. Until they setup multiple story-arcs, story-arc view will just act like a normal flat timeline, but one with a lot of intuitive mouse control to shift events around. If they do setup multiple story-arcs, shifting events between them will be drag and drop.

Anything more advanced, such as linked events (time-wise), fuzzy dates etc. would certainly not be necessary, and will hopefully keep out of the way until the user is acclimatised. Even then, I want that stuff out of the way unless the user is looking for it.

ghoti wrote:PS The reason I'm not playing with Aeon very much is that my current project needs dates BC and I'm so wrapped in it that I can't seem think about much else. I did try making my earliest date 1800 and doing the arithmetic, but I'm so used to working with my material in BC dates that I got completely confused. I note that dates BC are included with fantasy dates on the ToDo list for the next release, so I thought I'd wait for that.


I did look to put BC dates into the last release, but unfortunately, none of Apple's inbuilt Dates and Calendars are able to handle BC dates very well (if at all), so it has to wait until the fantasy calendar implementation.

Matt

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Scott Seely
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Thu Jan 22, 2009 7:25 pm Post

Matt,

Regarding causal links, maybe they don't have to display. Perhaps there could be a 'notify on violation' function, which pops up a window describing where the author has gone wrong. The same thing could be used for lead time and sequencing issues. It could be supported by a separate function that lets the author review all lead time and similar settings that have been created.

Keep it up,

Scott

ma
matt
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Sun Feb 15, 2009 5:00 am Post

I am making progress on the Story Arc view. At the moment it is static only, but I will add the drag and drop for events later.

Here is a screenshot of where I am at:

storyArc_screenshot.png
storyArc_screenshot.png (95.08 KiB) Viewed 2543 times


Each horizontal background colour change represents a different story arc. The vertical lines and colour panels are just to aid alignment as you get lower down the stack of story arcs. Story Arcs are configurable through a pane similar to the one used to manage Entities. The background colour is configurable there.

I am 50-50 about keeping or removing the lines from the timeline to the dot. I might make it a user option.

SPLITTING / MERGING STORY ARCS

The big difficulty remaining is sorting out the data structure for splitting and merging story arcs:
- Some story arcs will be completely standalone.
- Other story arcs will branch off from an existing story arc.
- Story arcs can also merge together back into one story arc.

In organising this, there are a few ways I can go, and I am unsure which would be best:
- Should the splitting and merging occur at a set date? or a set event? or should it just be based on the first event in a story arc, with no reference to the preceding events in the arc it splits from?
- Likewise with merging back - does it merge at a set date, or into a set event, or just some time after the last event in the story arc?
- If a story arc splits into two different arcs and then merge back together - is that 2 arcs in total (main, branch), 3 arcs (main -> branch + branch -> main), or 4 arcs (main -> branch + branch -> main2)?


I need to determine these type of constraints - and therefore the data structure that ties story arcs to each other - before I will be able to complete the story arc.

Any feedback would be appreciated, especially from anyone who could analyse a real-world project they are working on.

Thanks,
Matt

ik
ike
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Sun Feb 15, 2009 3:29 pm Post

Hi Matt,

I like the lines, and I think once we start dragging and dropping events around all over the place, they're going to be essential for fine-timing close events. So please keep them or at least make them an option. It all looks good at the moment – a lot of information but very clear and uncluttered.

I don't know if you had it in mind, but a horizontal split screen ability would give us a number of flexible viewing options (particularly if we're comparing different story arcs) or alternatively we could leave the dateline visible at the top without having to scroll up and down each time we wanted to check a time or date.

As for story arcs, I'm giving it some thought and will get back to you.

Thanks again,

Ike

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Hugh
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Sun Feb 15, 2009 4:33 pm Post

Hi Matt

Looking very good. I think this view could be particularly useful, and not replicable in any other software as far as I know.

I'm going to be very tedious and say in answer to your questions, simply "All". I can certainly imagine various plots in which any or all of your scenarios might be applicable.

However... I suspect you're asking those questions because of the complexities involved in coding all the eventualities, and so as a first cut I suggest the following:

1. Set event;
2. Set event;
3. Two arcs.

In other words, I've chosen what I imagine are the simpler options in terms of application logic, and as a writer I could work with them all.

H
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matt
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Sun Feb 15, 2009 10:50 pm Post

ike wrote:I don't know if you had it in mind, but a horizontal split screen ability would give us a number of flexible viewing options (particularly if we're comparing different story arcs) or alternatively we could leave the dateline visible at the top without having to scroll up and down each time we wanted to check a time or date.


At the moment the dates remain fixed at the top, and it is just the section below it that scrolls vertically (same as with the Entities scrolling in Entity View, whilst leaving the events and dates visible.

Hugh wrote:I'm going to be very tedious and say in answer to your questions, simply "All". I can certainly imagine various plots in which any or all of your scenarios might be applicable.

However... I suspect you're asking those questions because of the complexities involved in coding all the eventualities, and so as a first cut I suggest the following:

1. Set event;
2. Set event;
3. Two arcs.

In other words, I've chosen what I imagine are the simpler options in terms of application logic, and as a writer I could work with them all.

H


You are correct, that I am looking for the least complex, most elegant way to set it up. But it is at least as much for the user experience (where simple and elegant is always best, wherever achievable) as for me programming it. I can do the hard work coding it any way, if I have to. Its just with each added possibility, that makes it harder to design a nice user interface as well.

Unfortunately, for backwards compatibility reasons, it is usually best to set it up the right way from the start -- otherwise, you have the problem of potentially updating the data structures saved by previous versions.

Matt

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Mon Feb 16, 2009 4:56 pm Post

Maybe try dropping the lines to 50-60% opacity unless the dot or label is being hovered over, or an active drag is in progress. That way you don't have such a mess when a bunch are clustered up like that, but still have precision when you want/need it.
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ky
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Sun Jun 14, 2009 12:34 am Post

I posted this as a comment on the blog post, but thought I'd replicate it here (with some considerable tweaks) for the Forum crew:

I wonder if, using something like the OpenCL aspects of Snow Leopard, it would be possible to bring the third dimension into the timeline to represent both “rising tension” and individual story arcs.

Imagine if each story arc gets its own depth on an infinite plane stretching out to a horizon.

Using the story in the figures in the blog post, imagine if the split story arc of “boy during the war” and “girl during the war” had different depths on the screen (so instead of splitting up and down from the perspective of the computer user, they get split left and right from the perspective of the split point — “war begins”). The user could “zoom in” on just the boy’s story or just the girl’s story, but the user could also zoom back out to see them both at the same time.

Also, each point in the story arc would be positioned “higher” or “lower” than the preceding point based on the tension.

Now, as for knowing which point belongs to what arc, maybe you could use some sort of shading technique.

Each individual story arc gets its own shade, but the shade isn’t a solid color as much as it is a kind of “light mist” surrounding each point in the arc, so that when you’re looking at the screen, it looks like a rising or falling trail of floating colored breadcrumbs.

Perhaps a way to visualize this is like Apple’s Time Machine visualization, except where Time Machine has you facing “downstream” the view in Aeon Timeline would have you looking at it from the side (maybe you could even give the user control of the “camera”?).

Maybe, for those stories that have crazy time sequences like Heroes or Back to the Future, you could do some sort of zooming visualization that would look more like a swirl than a rising and falling horizontal line?

I don’t know.

But with OpenCL supposedly being such an easy thing to use now (I’m not a programmer, so I only have Apple’s PR claims to base this one), I’m wondering how you might use it to totally change the way we imagine timelines.

But maybe that's a 2.0 kind of idea :-)
-
Kyle

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matt
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Sun Jun 14, 2009 6:31 am Post

I promise to re-read that post when my brain is less fuzzy from coding small picture stuff.

In the mean-time, I should have version 0.3 released tonight or tomorrow, which includes the initial work on Story Arc View - still no links between Story Arcs, as I am still experimenting with ideas for how to display it succintly and neatly, but the horizontal timeline is there, and the events can be broken into different arcs.

Matt

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Rita
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Sun Apr 25, 2010 4:49 pm Post

Hi Matt,

I'm using the latest 0.4.4 version. Love the Story-Arc View.

Causality:
I think that causality and other relationships (such as This Scene must occur before Other Scene but after Another) would be very helpful. I was getting completely confused because I have multiple subplots and have all my scenes but keep changing the order. This feature would prevent me from making careless errors in sequencing. Knowing nothing about writing software, I'll make a naive suggestion from a user standpoint only. How about a third view where you can establish those connections? Or a feature in inspector that allows you set out parameters there? And the Story-Arc View won't allow you to violate those rules but will generate a pop-up reminding the user to check the parameters s/he has set.

Lines from timeline at the top of the page down to the event:
My vote is, I like them. But do hear your other users that they could be controlled to either have them disappear or become faded. It would be helpful as well if you could see a pop-up that shows the exact time/date of an event when you hold your cursor over it. Also, having an automatic or user-generated ability to see stronger divides between calendar periods (In my case, where one day ends the next begins). It would be great to have the option for black vertical lines down the computer screen.

When One Event Belongs to More than One Story-Arc:
Having a way to indicate that a particular event serves more than one story-arc would be fantastic. Perhaps something like the way you use tokens in Event View to show there's more than one entity related to each event. The user could chose one story-arc that the event is most related to, then use tokens for the other story-arcs, or put the event in Global and then add tokens to the other story-arcs.
:D Rtia

Ri
Rita
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Sun Apr 25, 2010 5:44 pm Post

Hi Matt

Sorry, an amendment to my previous note. The lines delineating time periods are fine in Story-Arc View. It's Entity View that could use them. Rita

Ri
Rita
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Sun Apr 25, 2010 8:25 pm Post

Hi Matt,

Is there a way to hide the 'Date:' before the Event name in Story-Arc View? It feels redundant (seeing as I have the timeline above, plus the time of day is more important to me than the date) and clutters up the screen. Many thanks. :D Rita