Basically this set is a done deal:
(1) The stage model is finished.
(2) It's packed with features; most are now controlled with simple sliders.
(3) The basic set up instructions are done; these are in my usual comic book presentation style. Simple, but to the point.
(4) There's already a video that shows what it is capable of doing.
It's actually ready to be released except for one thing and honestly it is something that has been bothering me for awhile. To put it bluntly, I'm stumped ...
When I first en-visualized this design there were certain features that I wanted it to have and these are for the most part now built into this model; but at the back of my head one thought kept bothering me. In fact, several of my previous stages have the same problem and the question boils down to one simple question:
Are these type of stages too hard to use?
Specifically, stages with animated parts. The point is this, I've seen a lot of MMD videos that use my stages on YouTube. Very flattering to be truthful, but at the same time, many video makers don't realize the full potentials of these stages. A rare few do (and I know who they are), but the majority I suspect just plonk them into MMD often with parts missing, the draw order all messed up, the supplied animation is not used and I strongly suspect they never even looked at the instructions. But by the same token, these are the same people who use canned motions and at the end of the day, how many reiterations of, say for example, Ponponpon and Bad Apple can you stomach?
There are some really nice stages made by Japanese modelers. I've looked at these and some of these are really hard to use. Nothing wrong with that. Top quality performance stages in real life are complex structures so it follows that their MMD equivalents would be equally complex to a lesser degree. I've looked at a lot of real stages from the ones used on Broadway all the way to the ones used for concerts, in music videos and events like the Eurovision Contests. The best ones are attractive to the eyes, dynamic, lots of lighting effects, etc. A lot of these things are almost impossible to duplicate for MMD. But then again, MMD stages do have the option of being impossible to build in real life. Which personally, I find fascinating. Which is why I like building stages for MMD.
So going back to the stage at the top. The video shows some of what it can do, but it's not that easy to make those things happen. Why? Because they are done with animated sequences. The thing is this, with these types of designs, you cannot prepare "canned" motion because it won't work. Why? Well because as in real life, stage decorative performances generally have to be coordinated with the performance of the artists.
Anyway I've spent the good part of the evening thinking about how to resolve this and it boils down to several options.
(1) Issue the stage as is; the user can go figure out how best to use it as best they can.
(2) Include detailed instructions on how to animate each part of the stage; honestly, this is a real pain to do.
(3) Not issue the stage at all, but make it available only by request to people with a good track record of producing quality videos.
How do you think I should proceed?
The problem with (1) is that in some ways it goes against my intention of making complex stage designs assessible to as many people as possible.
The problem with (2) is that wherein I've made the stage as easy to animate as humanly possible, I don't really want to invest a lot of time and effort writing a manual to use the dang thing. For me, since I made it, it's really easy. But I can just see that this may not be the case for your average MMD user. So, in not writing the manual on animating the stage am I denying them access to the full potential of the design? Or, am I being asinine and thinking that many would be too lazy to figure it out for themselves?
As for (3), when I first made this stage I was thinking exactly that this may be the way to go. Why make something available when you know many users won't be able to figure it out?
It is entirely possible that I have a jaded view and that my assumptions are totally incorrect. Part of the problem is that I see a lot of stupid remarks posted on my pages. Evidence of people who don't read instructions. Who are too lazy to figure out things for themselves and expect things to be handed out to them on a silver plate. Are these just the vocal minority? Is it that the true picture is that the majority would be smart enough and happy enough to figure out the potentials of these stages armed with only the most basic of instructions? So the next question is:
Where does the responsibility of the model maker end?
Most Japanese modelers just provide their stages with basic instructions, and then basically it's have at it and go figure out the rest for yourself. The downside of this is that most people won't be able to figure it out which means the models rarely get used. Some of the better modelers have at least a video demo showing what the stage can do.
So I went another route. I also use demo videos and oftentimes GM34 and several others have pitched in to make these for me and I'm really grateful for that. But the problem with this, as GM34 pointed out, is many people don't even bother to watch the demos. Well it follows on then that the same people who don't bother to watch the demos probably won't bother to read the instructions either.
Like, how stupid can you get? And I know this to be the case when people ask me about things that if they had either watched the demo or read the instructions they wouldn't have needed to ask ...
I mean seriously, I've tried different methods to present the instructions and I don't think any other stage model maker actually makes illustrated instructions. Why? Honestly, because they can take a lot of time to make. If I could get away with just writing a few lines in the readme.txt I would be a happy camper. But this doesn't work as I then get a whole barrage of questions from people in the comments section. Often times many different people ask the same questions too. Like how hard is it to read the previous comments to see if your question was answered before you post the same question again?
Seriously, you can't win ...
Well anyway, I am throwing these questions and thoughts out there. I really want to hear what some of you think on some of these points. And also, please answer this question:
Should I issue the stage above without animation instructions?
Because, when I thought about it, I made it really easy to animate so should I just consider my "job" as being done and people have the responsibility to figure out the rest for themselves? As seriously it ain't hard, but you do need to use some grey matter ...
Oh I forgot, and for reference here are the instructions.