Sunday, 6 January 2013

Digital White Dwarf - January 2013 (part one)

New Year, new blog, new reasons to check out what’s happening in White Dwarf! (If you want to skip my preamble and get to details about this issue, head to the ‘How interested is James?’ section)

GW’s oft maligned magazine has found more favour since its redesign four issues ago and although I could see some improvements in the first of the new issues there were plenty of teething problems. I've flicked through the next issues in store rather than spending my pennies on them, but with the fourth issue out this month it feels like it's fair to examine things in a bit more detail.

I’m particularly curious about the digital download version, so I’ve hit up the App Store and downloaded it. A lot of folks have discussed White Dwarf magazine in plenty of detail, which is one reason I’m looking at the digital version. By putting some focus on the transition of the magazine into the digital realm I can hopefully talk about a few slightly fresher things.

I’ve worked on magazines, made multimedia content for them and built a few websites in my time, so I’m a somewhat qualified critic (if there can ever be such a thing). First and foremost though, I am a hobbyist. This means that I’m still going to respond more favourably to certain models, games, articles and artists.

Due to the the magazine’s content, this is going to contain a fair bit of opinion on the newest GW releases as well as a pure assessment of the magazine itself. Forgive me the occasional fanboy moment or rant, hopefully they will be somewhat entertaining, and I’ll do my best to be objective!

How interested is James

Watch James’ journey through the digital pages of White Dwarf. See his highs and lows via an uppy downy line and some circles!

A wibbly line showing wavering interest levels

This graphs the front third of the January White Dwarf, the 42 pages covering GW’s standard new releases.

1). Cover

A good start! For the first time since the redesign the cover really works. The Knights are mean models, the photograph shows them off effectively and the framing of them is just right. Go team Dark Angels! (That’s my fanboy bit out of the way then)
The front cover of White Dwarf

2). Losing control

This page doesn’t work too well on my iPad. When I swipe to go to the next page the different sections scroll, when I try and scroll the sections the page often swipes. I’m not exactly a cack handed user, so I can’t be the only one mildly frustrated by this.

The contents page of White Dwarf

3). Super size me!

The first of the new Dark Angels models - the Dark Talon and Nephilim Jetfighter - and they feel like everything the previous Space Marine flyers should have been, with an extra hint of Dark Angels silliness in the parts made of stone! The ability to see a supersized picture of the painted models and scroll around it is really great and the 360 views, while not perfect (the spin control is slightly too fast) are another good addition. Interactive White Dwarf win here then.

A zoomed in image in White Dwarf

4). Deathwing Knights 

Pure hobby geek lust makes this a high point. The Deathwing Knights are totally badass and I’m really happy to see a Watcher in the Dark is included in the set. I can’t wait to get hold of these models!

Deathwing Knights in White Dwarf

5). The spell is broken

The interactive ‘i’ icon can be clicked to show prices and gives the option to link to the GW online store. This is where the value proposition of paying £5.49 for a digital copy of White Dwarf really comes into question. The store is accessible for free, contains good quality photographs, a description that has the same depth as White Dwarf, and shows model stats too - something White Dwarf doesn’t contain.

6). Onwards with the rant (Strike a pose)

More pages of models I can look at online and the age old ‘I’ve paid for a catalogue’ sensation settles in. I'm trying to be open minded, but somehow it’s easier than ever to be cynical. The new White Dwarf promised more, they said they had listened to criticism, yet this overloaded front end has been a bone of contention for years. Seeing the same problem on a device where I'm only a click away from the exact same stuff for free doesn't help. Knowing I can download awesome interactive magazines for free, with rather non-intrusive adverts, on my iPad makes it much worse.

Belial in White Dwarf

Despite being nice, big pictures don't override the issue and I think that the digital version's crying out for so much more if it keeps the hefty price tag. Show the stats in a pop up, a video interview with an artist, designer or painter for each new release, 3D views of the sprues... just give me something more!

Good thing - this issue's photos are good. No silly lighting effects, so the models can speak for themselves… unfortunately Belial is stuttering! His photo is fine but he is posed like a numpty.

Another good thing about digital White Dwarf – clicking the ‘i’ tells me who sculpted the model, so, I can direct my ‘rage’ in the right direction. Juan, you’ve made a mess of this one chap (but you’re usually pretty good, so I’ll let you off (and your new Asmodai is cool (although I made a better version of the Blades of Reason on my old Asmodai conversion :P))).

7). The Codex cover

Lets bring things back to a happy place. The ability to zoom into the cover artwork of the Dark Angels Codex (which is a moody bit of work by Raymond Swanland) is great. One of the best things about the whole issue for me actually. I bought an iPad because it has an awesome display and this is the sort of thing it was made for. There should be more of this, lots more. In fact, more art throughout would be quite good to see.

The Dark Angels Codex cover in White Dwarf

8). The Codex contents

And suddenly all the pictures of the Codex contents are small and I can’t zoom in. Sad James! I’m not expecting to see half of the book in great detail, but a sample of a few pages (like Amazon's 'look inside' feature) would surely be a nice treat for digital viewers and add value to the digital download.

Pages in White Dwarf

9). Eagles, the Eagles are coming!

As with Fellowship of The Ring, Return of The King and The Hobbit - the eagles sweep in to rescue us! A surprisingly pleasant break from the Dark Angels and it has to be said, they are very nice eagles indeed.

A zoomed in eagle in White Dwarf

10). Too many animals

I guess my Hobbit goodwill can only last so long though (and I liked the film a lot) because 6 pages of eagles and Wargs is more than I can bear. This is purely a personal preference thing, but it does raise the question, how would I feel about spending £5.49 on this if I hated Dark Angels?

But that's been asked many times before, so let's not get into it now eh? Instead, take that breath before the plunge because…

11). My eyes, aaargh my eyes!

I don’t like to be flat out mean, and I imagine everyone involved in this model has done lots of lovely stuff before, but I’m trying to give an accurate account of my feelings as I navigate through this copy of White Dwarf… Probably best you just show really small images sometimes right? And perhaps don’t show the painting of that coracle at all!

The horror of coracles in White Dwarf

New releases done, time for some new releases

Phew, we’ve made it to the other side. Kind of! What did I learn about digital White Dwarf so far?

Well, the high quality images are good, the 360s aren't too bad (but available for free elsewhere) and it could do with a fair bit more interactive content and media. More than that, the snippets of editorial comment accompanying the new models just don't tell me a lot I can't learn online. I didn't really mention them in my write up because I didn't learn a lot from them. That's not great.

Granted, this is an easy part of the magazine to pull apart and criticise as it is essentially a catalogue. But, there's so much more scope in displaying it on an iPad. The possibilities are really exciting. Surely the creative folks at GW see that too. Yet, they aren't harnessing that excitement, they are doing the basic and obvious. I demand more, much more, and I'm not even the most demanding of chaps.  

Coming next

In part two I will look at the new releases from the other arms of GW's empire and also check out the meat and bones of the magazine's hobby content.

1 comment:

  1. Inside my aging brain, there is the old skool student who was taught art and composition amongst a billion other things add to that the little work I too have done for magazines and new White Dwarf just teases me with promises of delights and then kicks me off the ledge of disappointment...hard.

    I get the paper version, not being tech savvy enough to use an electronic version. So in many ways this is worse for me than James. The lay out seems designed and concerned with the electronic format above all else. Where images off page, no fixed borders no defined pattern of text vs image are encouraged and can work, as it fills your screen and keeps things active. I could if I wanted I am sure forgive this. But it itches in the back of my head. It needs order and restriction with in the articles. Its just too active and messy. Now many can say this is due to me being an old afraid of change fart and that I need to modernize my opinion. OK, layout of the articles aside I am still left feeling a little deflated. Again I am instantly drawn to the actual photos. despite going off page etc, they brake lots of the rules I was taught and have come to love in photography. The "mood" lighting is insane. Its everywhere! This has been done to look cool and go "Isn't this model great?" But you cant always see much of the detail on the model and we do know that the models painted by GW are lovely. So why are they being obscured? Wheres my lovely white background contained images of awesomeness gone?
    When the lighting trick works on occasion the back drop has been the same colour and tone. Ending up having the same affect of dulling the detail.
    I will say I like the new size of the magazine and front cover. It does look enticing. Back to the good old chunky issues.
    But this is miss leading. As in fact you have to trawl through oodles of adverts and old stuff to get to the juicy bits before you can be raised high and then slammed back down bewilderment at why you didn't buy a burger king and risked buying another issue convinced this would be the one to set things straight. Ill still keep trying, it surely can only get better. Right?

    Any who, back to James