The Final Frontier Development Diary – Part 3

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Now that work was underway to bring The Final Frontier back for the Amiga, it was time to get serious! In getting some of our old Amiga collection ready for downloading from the website I encountered some problems with some of my old disks having read errors so the most important thing I had to do straight away was to get my master disks for Issue 11 preserved. Out came the trusty A1200 and all three disks were converted to ADF files so not only could I run them on Amiga Forever on the PC, but also send copies over to Sven so we could check over the mag in unison, ready for the next phase…

So it was time to get serious. What exactly was going to be on this issue of the magazine? During its original run, we had produced several special issues and we wanted this to be no different but what? It wasn’t really going to be as tough a decision as we thought because even though we had been gone away from the Amiga scene for 20 years, 2016 just happened to bear some significance for the Star Trek community as it just happened to be the 50th Anniversary of the show. It opened up an incredible world of opportunities – retrospectives, movie flashbacks, character profiles, episode reviews, personal memories… we have an entire history of the show that we can openly discuss without having to worry about what is / isn’t relevant.

Looking at that 20 year void, and even the print-based fanzines that we have produced since The Final Frontier was last produced, it’s amazing to think that we haven’t given any coverage to Enterprise or the rebooted movie franchise. Star Trek: Voyager was still in production and we hadn’t seen any of the numerous fan produced shows that are now paying tribute to the original series. It’s been an incredible time so we knew that we weren’t going to be short of anything to write about!

At the same time, there were regular features of The Final Frontier that we knew had come to the end of their natural lives and wouldn’t be making a return for Issue 11. One regular section was our BBS Collection where we provided readers with a selection of some of the best content found online between issues that authors had made freely available. Back then internet usage amongst Amiga owners wasn’t commonplace but with every reader of Issue 11 likely to be online this section seemed pretty redundant. The magazine also featured a menu dedicated to our own Mail Order services offering back issues of The Final Frontier, our other releases, subscription services and other items for our readers to buy. Another one for the axe!

With specific articles and features, we knew that many of our regular guides and features simply wouldn’t work 20 years on either. A guide to all of the Star Trek fan clubs out there – not only would that need to be re-built from the ground up, but how many readers would be likely to join a club instead of an online community? We ran guides to collecting Star Trek novels (including a complete listing), checklists for the Star Trek: The Next Generation customisable card game from Decipher and similar pieces… all sorely dated and not worth bringing back. Suddenly the planned content on the menus was starting to thin out…

Size was the next question on the agenda. The latter issues ran to three disks each. Content wise that seemed to be a nice fit for us. While music and graphics used around 100-150k for each file we used PowerPacker to compress everything and text files were always small thanks to high compression rates. That was great in terms of packing content in but always a nightmare when it came to filling disks! However, we want to make this return issue special. It’s still a decision we haven’t made completely yet but it will be either three or four disks. If we go for four, it will mean extra art and music, but we do want to offer physical copies for sale if people want them. That’s the sticking point right now for us. Blank disks are very hard to source, at least new ones. We could use reformatted recycled disks but we certainly won’t be able to match the old price we sold the mag for.

Even though we’re doing this on a non-profit making basis, back in 1996 we sold a 3 disk issue for £5 inclusive of postage. In 2016 we’re probably looking at that price just to source the blank disks alone for a three disk issue so taking all our costs into consideration and what percentage we want to invest back into the website and development of further issues is something we’ll have to look into further. However, that’s a question for another time.

Onto the specific content though and the one thing that came up while talking was our 27 year history. When we ceased production of The Final Frontier, we didn’t disappear overnight. We launched a Star Trek fan club and moved into paper fanzine production and produced several titles for a few years. All of these had limited print runs, mainly for our club members and – without exception – all of these are now out of print. That got us thinking. We’re reprinting content on this site from some of our other fanzines, so why not reprint Star Trek content that’s new to The Final Frontier? It made sense to us and after some quick searching we’ve already potentially identified some content for the Fiction section as well as some articles and movie related content for a retrospective feature.

Even better, because all of these old fanzines were created on an Amiga using Wordworth, the files just need to be copied and edited and they’re ready to roll! It was certainly looking more and more likely that we had a lot more content prepared than we had first thought. A good job really because our team was a lot smaller than it used to be…

Infinite Frontiers Team Circa December 1993 Part 1 Infinite Frontiers Team Circa December 1993 Part 2

As you can see from this screenshot taken from one of our Amiga releases in 1993, in our prime we had a lot of people working on our projects. This revival sees just two of that team remaining – myself and Sven Harvey! While we still have some content in Issue 11 of The Final Frontier by former alumni such as Bjorn Lynne, Mark Platts and Gary Moffat we have sadly lost contact with most of our former team members. In most cases we simply have no idea where most of them are now, or others have simply moved on with their lives. It’s very clear that without fresh blood, we’re going to have our work cut out on the writing side of things, so we need to find a way to make things that little bit easier…

Which brought us to something of a dilemma… We’re both very proud Amiga owners at heart. It wasn’t until around 2001 or so before we started using PCs for anything that Infinite Frontiers did but it was time to be realistic. Times have moved on and no matter how much we love our Amigas, Sven and I are now active PC owners. It’s unavoidable and do any practical work, the Amiga can’t compete in a modern environment for much of the work we want to do at Infinite Frontiers. After much soul-searching, we came to the decision that we’re going to use the PC for part of the production of the magazine. We won’t be using Amiga Forever to create The Final Frontier under emulation – that would be an insult to our work over the last 27 years. What we will be doing is writing some of the content on the PC and possibly some of the image editing before transferring the files across for the final processing work. Because of the way the final magazine is constructed, we will need to do a lot of work on every article and written submission on the Amiga using ProText but we know we can write content faster on the PC. With just two of us acting as the current writing staff, it’s going to be more important than ever that we save time wherever we can.

It’s the same for the artwork side of things. While we have the artwork ready for the Gallery, we may still need title screens and other images and this is where the PC will come into play. We can create artwork on the PC before transferring it to the Amiga for final processing using Personal Paint or Photogenics. The only other area we’ll probably need to use the PC for will be bulk testing. Converting the magazine into ADF files and sending out beta copies to testers on a semi regular basis for proof reading and checking will make our lives considerably easier.

Wow… It was never this complicated back in the 90s!

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Simon Plumbe

Husband, father and lifelong geek. Originally from the West Midlands, now spending my days in South Wales with my family and a house full of animals. Passionate about video games, especially retro gaming, the Commodore 64 and PlayStation Vita. Love pro wrestling, sci-fi and I'm an animal lover and vegetarian. Enjoyed this and my other articles? Why not buy me a coffee: http://ko-fi.com/simonplumbe