interview // 2011.01.11 08:32:58 [hh]

Plasq-CEO Robert Grant im Exklusiv-Interview: "'Comic Life on the iPad' will be released earlier this year"

Screen2.0 sprach mit Robert Grant, CEO der Software-Schmiede Plasq ("Comic Life") über Motivation, Hintergründe, Best Practices - und über die Zukunft der Software als Multi-Platform-Tool. Lesen Sie hier das exklusive Interview in voller Länge und in Englisch.

Screen2.0: Congratulations for your wonderful software "Comic Life". Who is plasq and what is the background?
Robert Grant: Thanks! plasq started off as a loose collection of developers and UI folks that wanted to pool their talents and products to provide a central location for buying their products.

Screen2.0: How do you as a "collective of computer enthusiasts from around the world" make decisions about your products?
Rob: Well this question kind of precedes the next one as "Comic Life" became a huge product and really shifted the balance of power in the collective (so to speak :) ). So now I'm really the primary decision maker - but I do seek input from the others and make sure they are in general agreement.

Screen2.0: How did the first "Comic Life" became reality? What was the vision behind it?
Rob: Back in 2004 I was fishing around for ideas for a new product - it struck me that digital cameras had finally become the standard camera and that finally we were no longer worried about the cost of photography. Before digital cameras we were very worried about the cost of developing film. It was very expensive to develop a roll of film and find that only one or two images were worth keeping. It struck me that suddenly photography was effectively cost free which meant that the ability to tell stories with pictures was completely feasible (even if most of the pictures aren't used) - but then how would one go about it? Voilá - "Comic Life".

Screen2.0: How many people work on this product? Where are they located?
Rob: We have 4 developers including me: 2 in the US, 1 in France and 1 who is pretty continuously traveling. We have a full time support person in Australia and a part time server guru in Norway.

Screen2.0: What is the reason for the myriads of variants of the product ("Comic Life", "Comic Life Deluxe", Comic Life Magiq", "Comic Touch")?
Rob: Soon after Comic Life was released we were approached to release it in the retail channel (in a box) but were told that the retail market needs to charge at least $30 in order to have something left over after all the intermediaries take their cut. So rather than change the price of Comic Life (which we'd just lowered) we introduced a Deluxe version with more fonts etc. This became the most popular version by far.
Of course we started thinking about "Comic Life 2" and began working on it. But in the meantime we were getting a lot of interest in the education market - which meant that we were also getting a lot of pressure to produce a Windows version. Then it became obvious that the "Comic Life 2" code we'd been working on would never be able to be ported to Windows. So we decided to release it as "Comic Life Magiq" and go back to the drawing board as far as "Comic Life 2". The result is something that brings in much more usability but leaves out some of the advanced Mac features that you see in Magiq.
The new "Comic Life 2" also gave us a smooth route to "Comic Life on the iPad" which will be released early this year. "Comic Touch" is our photo-comic product for "iPhone" and "iPod Touch".

Screen2.0: Why did you leave out some of the features that were introduced in "Comic Life Magiq" (Props & spray art; Image editing interface for warping, cutting, drawing; advanced compositing & layoutlike two page spreads)?
Rob: As mentioned earlier "Comic Life" has become our multi-platform product so it focuses on the core photo-comic capabilities. Some features from "Comic Life Magiq" have been brought back into "Comic Life" - templates, advanced gradients, text layout enhancements etc. but others such as compositing and warping are just too advanced for the Windows graphics system. As it is our Windows porting team has been meeting a lot of challenges with "Comic Life 2" even without those features!

Screen2.0: Creating large comic books with more than 150 pages and thousands of images makes the app's responsiveness real sluggish. What are the best tricks to keep up the performance with large projects?
Rob: If you're tackling a big project like that then the best advice would be to break it up into chapters and work that way. Say 10 chapters of 15 pages each. The new page numbering system in "Comic Life 2" can help with that (you can specify the starting page number) if you're using page numbers.

Screen2.0: For us, "Comic Life 2" is the "Pages for image books". What is the main difference to Apple's product?
Rob: Well it's exactly that. It makes creating photo-comic stories extremely easy. And has tools such as lettering, balloons and gradients to let you get a great looking photo comic. Most of these things are not possible to accomplish in Pages - or they look like poor imitations of the real thing.

Screen2.0: What are the most unusual uses of "Comic Life" that you ever heard of?
Rob: I was blown away in the very early days by a guy who made a how-to comic for creating a certain kind of Japanese wooden bowl. It was extremely well done and great example of what could be done with the product.

Screen2.0: What can we expect in the future? Will there be updates to the "iOS" products or Windows versions?
Rob: We're working on bringing "Comic Life to iPad" and "Comic Life 2" to Windows. After that we'll be iterating away and thinking of new things! We're not having trouble keeping busy!