Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Five Calidar PDF Secrets

Making the most of Calidar's PDF digital editions

Calidar's Kickstarter fulfilment is proceeding apace, and the PDF versions of the main book and the Kickstarter exclusive short story compilation have both been sent out.  Public release is drawing closer and closer, and hopefully Kickstarter backers' books are winging their way to you as I type.  Here's a little look at the PDFs to tide you over.

One of the last things I did for +Bruce Heard's first +World of Calidar project before release was preparing the PDFs.  Coming off of layout, it felt like the logical next thing to do — creating an index, bookmarking, creating hyperlinks, and a few other little tricks to enhance the usability of the PDFs.

But you can't use them unless you know they're there, so I'm going to take a moment to introduce these hidden features.  (Note that I will be explaining these using Adobe Reader.  Not all PDF readers give you access to all of these options.)

1. The background can be turned off

In the Layers tab, you can see the layers that make up the PDF file.  Not only that, you can even turn them on and off.

In the current version, all the text and images are on Layer 1, while the background elements are on the layer named Background.  This means you can turn off the parchment background graphic to print out on white paper.  (For your own use, of course.)

Notes: Layer 2 is empty, and currently the deck plan backgrounds are not on the background layer.  With Bruce's approval, these things can be fixed in a future update.

2. Bookmarks for easy navigation

Both of Calidar's PDF files are fully bookmarked.  Access the "Bookmarks" feature (called the Table of Contents in some PDF readers), and you will get an expanded version of the Table of Contents right in the sidebar.

Rather than just duplicate the Table of Contents, I went a step further and added in all the sub-sections, as well as two separate lists at the bottom: an index of maps and an index of art appearing in the book.  Using these lists you can peruse all of the maps and art, as well as getting a caption for each picture telling you what's in it.


3. Table of Contents and Index are hyperlinked

In addition to the bookmarks, the book's actual Table of Contents itself is made up of hyperlinks to its various sections.  These links are invisible, but that's okay because everything is linked.

The page numbers listed in the Index are also linked.  When there is a range of pages, the links take you to the numbers shown, which is to say the first and last pages in the range.

I also indexed the art and maps.  This is what the "Hidden Text" layer is there for.  You can't see it, but it actually includes text captions for each image, allowing them all to be indexed just like regular text.  To differentiate these, we used blue for art, brown for map references.

4. References are hyperlinked, too

You know when the text says things like "see This Section" and "for which see That Section"?  These are all hyperlinks, too.  The linked part is the bold chapter or section title.

5. Maps include scalable vectors

While most of the visual elements of the maps are medium resolution raster images, some of them include vectors — and all of the text is plain old vector-based text.

What does this mean?  You can zoom in on vector text and images and it will remain sharp.  And the text is fully selectable and indeed searchable: a normal search on the PDF will throw up text on the maps.

Maps which include vector elements include the Soltan Ephemeris Orbital Diagram (fully vector), the World of Calidar world maps (everything but the coastlines is made of vector art), and the City of Glorathon (only the external terrain is not vectors).

Best of all, all of the deck plans are 100% vector.  This means that you can zoom in as much as you want, and they will remain crystal clear.  You could use this feature to create floor plans for use with miniatures, for example.  (Again, for your own use, of course.)

Zoomed in view of the Star Phoenix's Forecastle, generated from the PDF.

Calidar is here...  Time to explore!

All of these points apply to both the main book CAL1 In Stranger Skies, as well as the Kickstarter exclusive PDF, CST1 Under the Great Vault.

Happy reading!

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Guided Tour of Meryath

Welcome to the Kingdom of Meryath!  As promised, I have created another video tour to preview and explore +World of Calidar's second poster map, the Kingdom of Meryath hex map.

This map was the result of a stretch goal in the Kickstarter campaign, in which it was available as an add-on.  Very soon now it will also go on sale on eBay.

It was a pleasure working on this map with +Bruce Heard, who has always been a master at this style.  We developed a new set of hex art, including settlement symbols by Bruce as well as terrain by myself.

The video also explores the topographical style of map, which we used for Meryath's map in the book itself.


Saturday, 13 September 2014

Calidar Kickstarter Fulfilment

If you have been following +Bruce's blog (notably here) or his posts on Facebook (embedded below), you will already have heard that the fulfilment process has begun.  To sum up (and spread the word):

  • The poster maps are away!  International backers' packages were sent on Wednesday 10th, US backers on Thursday 11th.  Has anyone got theirs yet?
  • Admirals' packages were sent on Tuesday 9th, except for four packages still awaiting the softcover book.  (More on this below.)  These packages include the hardback book (signed and dedicated), poster maps, cloth map, and bookmark.  I'd love to see some "unboxing" pictures from you guys!
  • Hardback books for international backers were ordered from DTRPG on Friday 12th.  These will be printed and shipped directly to backers.  Books going to Brazil will first be shipped to Bruce, then on to Brazil.  And there is a problem with Canadian orders which will hopefully be sorted out very soon.
  • Hardback books for US backers are scheduled to be ordered today, Saturday 13th.  These will also be printed and shipped directly from the printer to backers.
  • Softcover books have been stalled, but the problem has been found and dealt with.  I'm sure Bruce will be posting more about this soon.  Due to the way DTRPG works, it will likely be another two weeks or so before these can be ordered.
  • Main book PDFs are scheduled to be delivered in the form of coupons for download from DTRPG this weekend.
  • Kickstarter exclusive PDFs, titled Under the Great Vault, will likely be delivered at the same time.

And that's that.

Having worked on this project for so long, I'm really excited to see it get into your hands.  Kickstarter backers, I'd love to hear about it when you get your stuff!  According to Bruce's latest update, things have already started arriving.

Calidar In Stranger Skies, Under the Great Vault short stories cover
Cover for the Kickstarter exclusive PDF.
For those of you who missed out on the Kickstarter, it shouldn't be long now before the book and poster map go on general release.  Bruce has added a new permanent page to his blog, with a short overview of Calidar's product library, and information about where things will be available.

At the same page, you can read an overview of Under the Great Vault, the Kickstarter-exclusive PDF compilation of Calidar short stories.  Good news for people who missed the Kickstarter, too: this PDF will be made available again in future Kickstarter campaigns, of which Bruce mentions the next will be held sometime next year.

For Kickstarter backers, the inclusion of the Kragdûras (dwarvish) dictionary after the short stories is a little added value.  Think of it as a thank you for all your support, as well as your patience in dealing with production delays.  I spent a couple of weeks reformatting Bruce's original blog entry in order to present it in book form, and I think it has turned out great.  I hope you'll find it as useful and fun as I do.