The Final Frontier Development Diary – Part 2

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Having decided to revive our Amiga disk magazine The Final Frontier, it was clear that the first major task we had after discovering the beta disks was to see what was actually on them. We needed to know just how much material we had actually written, what was still worth using, and whether or not there was an overall theme for the issue and how much had to be scrapped. Even worse, were we going to be faced with the prospect of starting over if the content was too badly dated…?

When working on the content for the website, we were also struck with what was potentially going to be another problem. The magazine was stored on 3.5″ disks and magnetic media is known to have a limited shelf life. I’ve got games on cassette for the Commodore 64 that are over 30 years old and still work perfectly but there was still a risk. This was highlighted when I attempted to convert some of the back issues of the magazine so they could be included as free downloads only to find an error on one of my disks! I was aghast! Worst case scenario, we were going to have to start production on Issue 11 from scratch.

That wouldn’t have been a complete disaster. We still have templates on disk, all the software I used to create the magazine and everything else we need. It would just take longer if we had to start from scratch. So, armed with pen and paper ready to note down everything that made it onto the early disks, I turned on the A1200 in anticipation and booted up Disk 1…

The Final Frontier Issue 11 Prototype Image 02 The Final Frontier Issue 11 Prototype Image 04

The first thing that struck me was the main title screen. Wasn’t that supposed to say Issue 11? The initial boot screen seemed fine with the right number but I was beginning to get a bad feeling but I pressed on and the disc moved onto the main menu. Once that loaded up, the first thing I noticed was that we had set a provisional release date for the magazine of 31st March 1997. Okay, we missed that slightly(!) but unlike previous issues, there was no mention in the header that it had any set theme to it. Curiosity then set in so I checked out the music menu…

The Final Frontier Issue 11 Prototype Image 05 The Final Frontier Issue 11 Prototype Image 06

At this stage, it looks as if we had already sorted out the music for this issue and added it to the disk’s file structure. Once again it was from the library supplied to us by our friend and former Team 17 composer Bjorn Lynne. Bjorn had kindly given us permission to use any of his pieces of music on The Final Frontier and while none of the pieces were exclusive, it was great to be able to hear his work on the magazine. At this stage, the next step for me was to see what content had actually been created.

The Final Frontier Issue 11 Prototype Image 08 The Final Frontier Issue 11 Prototype Image 11

While it appeared as if most of the menu structure had been set up already, I did get the feeling that most of it was based on Issue 10 and that it had been used as a template. The Editorial Menu – while populated – was full of dead links and it was the same for the Art Gallery and Conventions Menu. Our LCARS menu system is incredibly easy for us to use and customise, but having the basic menu system in place in this way would have made creating Issue 11 even easier for us, even if it had been created from a previous issue so I started to get the impression that this is what had happened.

The Final Frontier Issue 11 Prototype Image 09 The Final Frontier Issue 11 Prototype Image 10

And then I moved into the Star Trek: First Contact Menu… and this is where I was in for a surprise. Issue 10 was a special focusing on the movie offering a preview on First Contact but here looking at the menu it was clear that it was intended to be a special section dedicated to reviewing it. We had obviously planned to see the film and review it and give it as much coverage as we possibly could. Had I discovered the theme for the issue? It would certainly appear to be the case. The second cinematic outing for the Star Trek: The Next Generation cast didn’t hit the movie theatres until November of 1996, months after Issue 10 had been released so there is no way that this menu could have been produced with Issue 10 in mind. It certainly looks as if I had struck gold with this part. Infact, we had already added a small First Contact photo gallery to the disks as well.

Now, it has to be said that this film is now 20 years old so it’s hard to imagine why we’d want to review it now but it has given us some ideas in terms of content for Issue 11 and a general focus and some direction for the new issue, but I’ll save that for another diary entry. Anyway, I’m digressing here so back to the focus of this entry…

The Final Frontier Issue 11 Prototype Image 14 The Final Frontier Issue 11 Prototype Image 13
The Final Frontier Issue 11 Prototype Image 12 The Final Frontier Issue 11 Prototype Image 15

Looking around the last few areas on the disks, one thing I did discover were the number of sections that were either dated or no longer relevant. Certainly it’s clear to us that some parts of the magazine simply won’t work 20 years down the line so there are definitely going to be changes to the magazine in terms of content. Regular features that we ran for the first 10 issues won’t be making a return either because the team members responsible are no longer with us (as part of Infinite Frontiers that is, not in a morbid way) or because they’re just not practical for us to produce and others just aren’t relevant any more.

We do have some great ideas though and looking at the magazine, the structure and the menu system itself holds up remarkably well. The next thing for us now is to look at all of the content that we DO have in draft form on our Amigas, see what we can find for the Art Gallery and if new art is needed, and then see if we can find some new writers who want to get involved.

Next time… the first content planning meeting!

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