April 15, 2007

Boulevard Of Broken Dreams #1

by Chris Randall
 

Now that Audio Damage is, what? A going concern, I guess... I started to think this weekend about posterity. In working on the new website (and by that I mean playing computer games while my wife works on the new website) it occurred to me that a section with all the print reviews and such would be a good idea, since most other companies have such a thing. I also thought it would be amusing to put in a section that had all the plug-ins that we _DIDN'T_ make.


Just for the record, there are a _lot_ of these. My role in the company, aside from the ranting and such you see here and around the net, is mainly in designing the effects. When we're doing something that doesn't really exist in real life (unlike, say, 914 or Phase Two) a lot of thought goes in to what it will do, how it will do it, and what the best user interface might be for those two things. Our process, now that things have shaken out in to a normal job, goes something like this:


1. Either I or Adam gets a wacky idea for a plug-in. (Usually this falls to me, being the wackier of the two; however, Adam can get freaky with it when necessary.)


2. After some discussions about what we can already do, what we'll need to invent, and how things will work together, I mock up a UI.


3. We then move things about for a while, add and remove features, and get it to where it seems to be usable.


4. Adam starts coding.


Now, that's our current system. Back in the day, it worked a little differently. We tried out several different working styles, and had many ideas for plug-ins. I have, I learned after a sojourn through my graphics folders, made a LOT of mock-ups. Some of these have even made it all the way to step 4 before they died, or morphed in to other products somewhere along the way. (Such is the case with TimeFnk II, which became Ronin eventually.) Obviously, for reasons that should be fairly understandable, I can't put up the UIs for all the products that didn't become products, because some of them might still become products. Or something.


However, there are quite a few that were either spectacularly stupid ideas, or turned out to be impossible to make, or just didn't seem like fun. Over the next few days, I'll put some of these UIs up and we can laugh and laugh. First up...


Audio Damage came in to being when Adam and I met in a previous company, called Creative Synth Development, which existed mainly as a farm team for Cycling '74, and was responsible for the MODE package they still sell. While designing for CSD, we all had it in our heads that effects products should follow the Pluggo model; that is to say, rather than one plugin that does all kinds of shit, we'd have 20 plugins that all do one little thing. In that light, I felt it necessary to come up with ideas for all kinds of little boopers and beepers. Here is, I think, the best example of that misguided design process, Mr. Bits. (Click the image for the full-sized UI, and yes, that is _exactly_ what the UI would be.)


Ironically, of all the couple hundred UIs I've done, this one is still my favorite. Aside from the obvious fiction of putting 80-column text in an otherwise 40-column context (yeah, I'm fucking old like a motherfucker) it is everything a simple little plug should be. Clean, concise, and obvious. And when you think about it, it has the same number or more controls than several of our otherwise successful products. So what's the problem? It's fucking stupid, that's what. The only way this could be a for-sale product is if it was in a package, and packages are stupid. We learned that with our first product, and we'll never make that mistake again. Not only that, but it is based upon one of the singularly unspectacular products of all time, the Decilionix sampler for the Apple II. (Yeah, there's a reason you've never heard of it.) It is a rare product that can turn a failure of such epic proportions around.


So, in to the posterity file with Mr. Bits, unfortunately.

 
 
 

11 comments:

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Apr.17.2007 @ 12:15 AM
synthetic
I love the UI. It only appeals to geeks who always wanted a Fairlight CMI Series IIx, though. Probably not a very large market.
 
 

 
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