A while before leaving the UK’s blustery shores for a land more maple-y and hockey-rich, I decided I couldn’t say farewell to my best friend without marking the occasion. Kris, as he is known to most, has been my acquaintance for more than a decade, after insisting one day on following me home from school, then calling round for me the next morning to walk back. Sure, his family had just moved across the street from my house, but I was distrustful of this sudden and unsolicited act of friendship. Nonetheless, he persisted, my contempt gave way to fondness, and the rest is a beautiful and only slightly unsettling bromantic saga.
And so: armed with many years’ worth of SMS logs between the two of us (amusing to exactly two human beings in the known universe), I set out to compile a mini-anthology of our textploits, over the course of our friendship. This is what it ended up looking like:
The first and most arduous step was sifting through the stupefying quantity of raw material to find the print-worthy conversations. I didn’t have a word count in mind when I started out, and the quality threshold was a little hard to find, but I got there. I used a very simple XML schema to manage the data, which looked like this:
<all> ... <conv div="And then:"> <msg name="k"><![CDATA[Just WALKED down ye olde ass sliding stairs.]]></msg> <msg name="a"><![CDATA[Changed times... *single tear rolls down cheek*]]></msg> <msg name="k"><![CDATA[My ass will never slide these streets again.]]></msg> <msg name="a"><![CDATA[*solemn nod* 'Tis a burnt out husk of an ass.]]></msg> </conv> ... </all>
Once I had sifted through the eons of texts and copied them into my XML file, I was left with a script of about 12,000 inane words. I then started work on the visual design, and decided on a retro-pixel look, to compliment the great deal of gaming shenanigans we undertake. I made up some 9-slice resizable speech bubbles and accompanying 8-bit avatars, then started work on a layout system in AS3 (for compilation to AIR for desktop). A finished page looked like this:
I knew the final size of each page would be A5, per the printing company I’d chosen, so I worked with a 1:1.4142 aspect ratio and wrote some classes to paginate the full script into bitmap-after-bitmap of carefully placed speech bubbles. From here, I added some code to save each page sprite out to PNG, ran this, and was left with a set of 48 page images.
I then took to the Colour Lovers site to borrow and manipulate some of their lovely patterns and palettes, and ended up with a set of 24 pixel-art-esque background spreads to use throughout the book. I brought the backgrounds and the previously-exported page content together in Photoshop, then printed the whole thing to PDF, conforming to the print-shop’s format.
The print and binding shop I opted for was the Gloucestershire, UK-based Inky Little Fingers, who did an excellent and speedy job of printing the books. I was pretty short on time amidst the many tasks involved in moving country, so I decided not to have a proof printed in advance of the final set. Sadly, as it turned out, the matte finish I picked for the front/back cover desaturated the design somewhat. To contrast to the printed shots above and below, here’s the original cover image. It would have been good to crank up the contrast and vibrancy to compensate for the finish, but as that was my only issue, and the rest of the book turned out great, I have no complaints.