Kelv's Random Collection

A random collection of my contributions to the world.

The Making of the Catan Scenario and Variant Guide

Posted by kelvSYC on 5-10-2013

It’s been 20 months since I’ve made any public releases to the Catan Scenario and Variant Guide, which is easily the most requested part of the Random Collection (some people have requested the CCA Reference cards, but no one has asked that GUCD be reposted), and while I’m still working on trying to catch up, I have to admit that I’ve been lethargic.  Why is that, you may ask?  Let’s take a look back in the history banks.

The first public release (Version 0.5, now rechristened “Revision 5”) of the Guide came in 2009, coming in at 203 pages (Yes, I still have the PDF for that revision).  At the time, it was written in Pages, and it only consisted of scenarios, in one giant volume.  If I recalled correctly, it was written entirely in Microsoft Word, with graphical elements done in OmniGraffle, and copied over to Word.  This worked well for me for a bit, but anyone who downloaded Revision 5 or Revision 6 would have noted the huge size of the PDF files at the time. (Revision 6 weighed in at 16.8 MB).  Considering that the graphics were highly compressible, and the fact that a single 225-page volume was an extensive strain on Word’s resources at the time, it motivated me to split the Guide up into volumes for Revision 7 and Revision 8.

Still, updating the Guide became an unwieldy task for me.  The large graphics files were explained by the fact that Word, at the time, still relied on PICT format images rather than anything newer, which drove up the image size for the board graphics.  Thus, for Revision 9, I had decided to switch word processors to Pages, which necessitated rewriting all of the volumes from scratch.  (Part of the reason why Revision 9 was never released was to get down the various page layout concerns and such.)  The first public release under Pages, the new word processor of choice, was Revision 10.

Part of the problem with Pages was that seemingly identical graphics would be stored as different files within the Pages document bundle (which, for those of you who have worked with Pages knows, is really just an XML document and a bunch of linked graphics files).  Due to a bug in PDF export in OmniGraffle (a bug that still rears its ugly head today), minor adjustments to the positioning of an object would result in wildly different PDFs being generated.  This, of course, made it difficult to add stuff like the inline number token graphics, because I always had to copy it from elsewhere in the document (as opposed to OmniGraffle) to avoid bloating my working file.  Nevertheless, Pages would remain the word processor of choice for the Guide until Revision 13, when it moved back to (a newer version of) Word, after a particularly troublesome board (IIRC, it was the Delmarva board) completely wrecked the Pages page layout system I had worked so hard to maintain.

And as I have said before, there is a Revision 14.  Private, only consisting of small updates.  Even then, it’s been over a year since I’ve even updated that.  What has happened since then?  Lots of new scenarios that I haven’t even started write-ups for.  Explorers & Pirates.  And in my own personal life, this last year I got out of school, moved to a different country, and started my professional career.  (Which means less Settlers of Catan playing)  Real life can make good excuse-mongering, right?

Anyways, the reason for the lack of posts to the Live Edition is largely to recreate all of the graphics in a manner that I can be comfortable with for presentation.  OmniGraffle will continue to be my editor of choice in this regard, even if it means I have to live with its spotty SVG export (SVG will probably be the image standard for all of the Guide‘s work, so that I can have the inline number tokens look good while reusing them for the board pictures).

Because of the fact that the graphics remains a point that I have to pay a lot of attention to detail into, the first few posts of the Live Edition will be, in fact, brand new content that isn’t expected to be too graphics heavy.  All of these are articles that have never seen the light of day (even in Revision 14), and all of which will be up to date with the latest developments from the Catan world.

As for the scenarios in the scenario guide, I may just have to release existing content from Revision 14 without the graphics.  We’ll see…


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