You may well have recently heard of a new development tool for creators called Archivos but if you aren’t quite sure what it is then read on. It just so happens that the creator is one of our judges and sponsor, Dave Robison. So without further ado, here is the full low down on Archivos, including how it can help you and how you can get your hands on it.
In just a couple of sentences, what is Archivos?
ARCHIVOS is a story mapping, development, and presentation tool. It allows storytellers of all kinds (writers, gamers, educators, and more) to not only document the characters, places, and events of their story settings, but also the relationships BETWEEN those story elements. Then, ARCHIVOS displays those networks of interaction in a series of visual narrative interfaces, allowing the user to see the patterns and structures of the connections in their story worlds.
Where did the inspiration come from for its creation?
It’s hard to define “root causes” with something like this. I’ve been developing it (in my mind and on paper) for almost a decade. But in essence, I think it was mostly influenced by my experiences with two technologies: wikis and The Visual Thesaurus.
Wikis are one of the primary sources of information about “things” in the digital age. They’ve received a bad rap on the “citing as a source” scale of things, but if you’re looking for detailed information about a story or game, your search will ultimately end at a wiki. I say “end” because the wiki will likely have that complete cast list you’re looking for, or the plot summary, or whatever nuanced detail your fevered brain has latched on to.
The down side of wikis is the dreaded “Wall of Text”, and that’s where the Visual Thesaurus comes in.
It’s an ingenious conception the presents a visual map of the synonyms to a word. In the interface, the synonyms orbit the root word like planets, and then THOSE words have THEIR synonyms orbiting them. At a glance, you can see the connections and follow them up stream to help you find the thing you’re looking for.
Combine the information-richness of a wiki with the visual connectivity of the Visual Thesaurus and you have ARCHIVOS.
I notice that it sits beneath the umbrella of Wonderthing Studios LLC, what does that mean for the future of Archivos?
The short answer is it means ARCHIVOS’s future is ensured by having a legal business entity protecting and supporting it.
I have been developing various properties over the past several years. The Roundtable Podcast (newly re-branded as The ARCHIVOS Podcast Network), Vex Mosaic (an e-zine presenting essays on pop culture), Manifest (a board game in development for release in 2018), and others have emerged from my desire to engage with and support the creative community. Some of those properties were in danger of actually making money (gasp) and for business and legal reasons, it made sense to set up an LLC under which they could operate.
Wonderthing Studios has become my interface into the world of creative expression and the foundation upon which I build my interactions with it. The podcasts indulge my delight in meeting other creatives and exploring their craft. The e-zine allows me to share the reverence and importance of popular culture. And ARCHIVOS? It’s my magnum opus, an idea that I feel will – and I say this with the utmost humility – change the way we interact with the stories we love.
Getting down to the bare bones, how does Archivos work?
There are two basic structures at work in ARCHIVOS: documentation and display.
First, Storytellers create and configure a story setting in the application. It can be an original work, a licensed property (in the case of a fan wanting to document their favorite story world), or something in the public domain (like the works of Shakespeare or Steinbeck). It can also be a historical era (since “history” is just a story that actually happened).
Then the Storyteller documents the story elements, including characters, places, events, organizations, items… all the significant elements that comprise the setting. Each element TYPE has its own unique properties (the dates of an event for example).
Finally, the Storyteller defines the relationships between the story elements. This is where we’ve invested a lot of thought and consideration, trying to balance the impulse to define every type of relationship with the need to create an efficient and elegant data interface.
We settled on four broad relationship types: Personal, Familial, Professional, and Political. Once the relationship type is defined, the Storyteller is presented with a list of specific relationships relevant to the selected type.
Once the story elements are entered and relationships defined, ARCHIVOS can really shine with three story mapping displays that illuminate the story settings.
The Story Web is like the Visual Thesaurus, only with story elements instead of words. The display will focus on a single element – a character or place – and then show all the elements related to it in orbit around it. And each of those elements has their related elements in orbit around them. At a glance, you can see the interconnections across dozens of characters, places, and events!
The Living Map applies a geographical perspective to those interconnections. Storytellers can upload maps for any region or location and then position related elements on those maps. The Living Map displays those maps with hotspots at the related locations. Clicking a hot spot opens up summary details and access to more extensive information.
The Timeline organizes the events of the story setting in a linear chronology. Users can scroll through the entire history events the Storyteller has entered and call up details of each one.
All of the ARCHIVOS display modes are searchable and filterable so users can find precisely what they’re looking for and pursue whatever perspective or inquiry has caught their imagination.
(The Archivos timeline)
Having had a good look through it reminded me a bit of Scrivener, is this something their users might find helpful or interesting?
Absolutely! ARCHIVOS isn’t going to replace or supplant any of the remarkable storyteller tools (like Scrivener) currently in the world. Those platforms help writers organize and compose their stories. ARCHIVOS is designed to expand on those tools, offering a completely unique way to document, examine, and analyze the content of a story. Scrivener and applications like it will help you write your story. ARCHIVOS will be your story bible, easily accessible by you and your collaborators to call up the details of your setting with a few key strokes.
Who do you envisage will use this development tool and how will it help their creation processes?
We have two primary audiences we’re hoping will find ARCHIVOS to be a valuable tool.
The first, of course, are the Storytellers. Authors, gamers, playwrights… they can all use ARCHIVOS to document the elements that compose their story and then use the displays to ensure consistency and continuity. The Timeline will reveal at a glance if you have a character in two places at once. Can’t remember the name of that supporting character from chapter three? Call up the events or the characters they interacted with and there they are.
On a more thematic level, ARCHIVOS illuminates the areas of storytelling “density” in your settings. Significant elements will have more relationships than secondary ones. ARCHIVOS will show you if one of your supporting characters has more defined relationships than your protagonist… at which point, it might be time to reevaluate who your “main character” really is.
The second audience is comprised of the fans of these stories. Every Storyteller has the option to make their story setting “public”. If they do, then it is included in the Story Catalog which will be accessible to the general public when ARCHIVOS holds its grand opening in January 2018. Through the Story Catalog, fans can search for their favorite stories by author or genre and then explore the Story Web, Living Map, and Timeline for those story settings.
To help facilitate the interaction be Storyteller and audience, we’re developing the capability for Storytellers to embed the ARCHIVOS display modes in their own websites, so they can keep the traffic they’ve worked so hard build and still offer the compelling engagement of ARCHIVOS’s displays to their fans.
Your website touches upon possible use within education and mapping historical information, do you see this as being useful for teachers and students in the future?
The educational applications of ARCHIVOS are very exciting to us.
From a literary perspective, being able to see the narrative structure of the works of Dickens or Shakespeare summarized in a concise and interactive display would be a huge boost to understanding and appreciating those classic stories. Future development of ARCHIVOS will include incorporating the inspired strategies of e-learning that have been developed in the past decade, empowering teachers to create unique ARCHIVOS curriculum to enhance the appreciation of literary classics.
History can receive the same benefits, with each era of history being documented and illuminated through the ARCHIVOS interface. Everything from battle field maps to the organizational networks of ancient civilizations and governments, economic networks to religious influence can be laid out in an easy to comprehend interactive display.
In fact, the schools themselves could benefit from documenting the organization of their districts in ARCHIVOS! The interconnection teacher to classroom, to school, to district could be laid out with pertinent information included and accessible with the click of a mouse.
(The Archivos Story Web)
With Archivos premiering on Aug 17 at GenCon 50, what can folks expect at your booth?
The Pre-Beta Launch at Gen Con is going to be a blast! We’re going to have laptops set up for interested con attendees to try out ARCHIVOS on the spot with knowledgeable staff on hand to guide them through the finer points of the application. Even though the program doesn’t go into open beta until September, Gen Con attendees will be able to purchase Patron or Storyteller subscriptions on the spot and be able to start using ARCHIVOS right away for their game setting or novels.
Plus, we’re even offering a 20% discount on all subscriptions!
Storyteller subscriptions will be marked down from $60 USD (Open Beta pricing) to $48 for Gen Con attendees. These subscriptions unlock all the Storyteller features of ARCHIVOS – for an unlimited number of story settings – all the way through 2018.
A Patron subscription (which allows the user to access the Story Catalog and experience the Story Web, Living Map, and Timeline for the settings there) will be $12 (USD) during the Open Beta, but only $10 at Gen Con. Patrons can also apply the price of their subscription to the price of upgrading to a Storyteller subscription.
The official beta launch on 1st September is not far away now, what elements will users be able to access in the beta and are numbers going to be limited?
Excellent questions! There will be no limits on the number of people who can subscribe to ARCHIVOS during the Open Beta. We want as many visionary Storytellers as possible working within the program and developing their stories.
We’re holding nothing back for the Open Beta… all the features of ARCHIVOS will be available to subscribers. But it will be a beta offering, meaning things will be changing and developing over the months from September through December. Subscribers are cautioned that, while ARCHIVOS has been forged into a stable and reliable framework, individual features may be a little rough around the edges. We have a support team in place address any issues that come up as quickly possible.
What platforms will Archivos be available on and are you planning to create an app to co-exist with it for smart-device users?
ARCHIVOS will initially be an exclusively web-based application optimal for desktop use. Mobile viewing – especially on smartphones – will initially be… um… sub-optimal.
I know, I know… we’re a mobile culture and our technologies have to be just as mobile.
There’s a saying in the creative community: “perfection” is the enemy of “done”. I had to make a choice early in the development cycle to either hold off on launching until we had all the things we envisioned in place or to get a solid functioning version of the core features out in the world and enhance them as we go.
I opted for the latter. I’ve been a professional web developer for over 20 years and if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s this: you cannot anticipate all the ways the public will apply your creations.
With as much thought and consideration as I’ve given to ARHCIVOS over these past years, I know in my heart that I haven’t considered all of them. Even in the closed beta we’ve been running for the past several months, the beta testers have been coming up with ingenious applications of the application’s framework.
Mobile support and implementation are top priorities for us, but we wanted to get a better sense for the features the users wanted before we allocated resources towards developing stand-alone applications. Once we do, however, we will be leveraging the fullest extent of mobile technologies to ensure the experience is as extraordinary as the web-based app.
(The Archivos Living Map)
Where do you see Archivos in two years time and how vital will it be to the process of creation for its users?
There are so many paths on the ARCHIVOS road map we want to pursue. By 2020, I would love to have ARCHIVOS:
• Available in stand-alone apps for desktop and mobile across all platforms
• Translated into 30 or more languages.
• Fully developed for educational and corporate implementation.
• Partnered with other writing applications, making the best of all technologies available to storytellers
• Become more collaborative, embracing the wiki philosophy of peer-review to the content of a setting and allow fans to add their own characters and events to the canon of a story setting.
• Create a marketplace where Storytellers could sell their ARCHIVOS settings to other Storytellers for use in their fan sites.
• Expand the content that can be embedded in a story element to include video, audio, and document technologies.
• Research text-mining algorithms so that Storytellers can upload the text of their settings and have the primary story elements identified and outlined for them.
And that’s just what we’re considering now! Who knows what discoveries we’ll make in those intervening years?
Much of that list will be determined by how successful ARCHIVOS is during the Open Beta and when we launch to the public in January 2018. But if the initial response we’ve been receiving is any indication, ARCHIOVS will be around for a very long time indeed.
So there you have it folks, Archivos looks set to be an amazing new tool for creative writers. Why not be a part of its evolution and join the open beta, it looks like it’ll be an exciting journey.