Help me figure out how to make The Tarquin Engine available.

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Help me figure out how to make The Tarquin Engine available.

Post by Merlin »

The following comes from the introduction to the user instructions I'm currently writing for the Tarquin Engine:
What is the Tarquin Engine?

The Tarquin Engine is a tool for the creation and delivery of zooming infinite canvas webcomics. In it?s current form it exists as a series of Action Script routines within a Macromedia Flash FLA file. Users can customise this template file through a simple drag-and-drop process in order to create their own original infinite canvas narrative.

What do I need to use the Tarquin Engine?

You need a copy of Macromedia Flash MX or MX 2004. A 30 Day trial of the latter can be downloaded for free from Macromedia?s website. To view the finished comic on the web, your browser will need Flash Player version 6 or later installed.

How well do I need to know Flash in order to use the Tarquin Engine?

Some level of familiarity with the basics of Flash is necessary in order to work with the Tarquin Engine (and to make sense of these instructions). Users should be comfortable in working with elements such as the timeline, layers, scenes and the symbols library. However, no knowledge of Action Script is necessary in order to use the engine in its basic form.
I'm posting that here so people have an idea, in real terms, of exactly what they're getting when they download a copy of the engine.

My thinking at the moment is that I'm going to offer the engine as described above for download for free from e-merl, with a request that if users find the engine useful they contribute a donation of X-amount towards my development time and hosting costs.

So, questions:

1) What do people think is a fair amount to ask for? Off the top of my head, asking for $5 feels about right. Too much? Too little? On the one hand I'm aware this is just an FLA file at the end of the day, not a complete bit of software. But there's also a chunk of my time gone into it and I don't really expect that many people to download it (which is why I haven't gone the bitpass micropayment route - that and I can't get bitpass working on my server).

2) Anyone know (or know anyone who knows) how to write a simple bit of software copyright blurb to go with it? I really know nothing about this kind of thing, but I figure I need something to say "this is mine" and maybe some simple terms of use. There's nothing I can really do to stop anyone picking apart the Action Script code that runs the engine (and anyway, it's all pretty obvious stuff and probably badly written to boot) but I'd like to maintain some hold over the concepts behind the engine in case making a stand alone version every becomes a real possibility.

Any help with the above is appreciated. The Engine itself is, for the record, now finished. Well, unless any more tweaks occur to me, anyway. Writing the FAQ to go with it is what's currently absorbing my time (as well as figuring out the above). I'm kind of optimistcally hoping I might be able to get the whole thing wrapped up before Christmas, but time will have to tell.
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Post by Greg Stephens »

I think asking for $5 to $10 as a donation is reasonable.

If you're distributing it for free and if you allow others to distribute it- and potentially modify it- as well, you may want to think about the GNU General Public License. That may not be what you're going for, but it's a place to start reading, so far as software copyrights are concerned.
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Post by Jason Alderman »

Would <a href="">Creative Commons</a> work in a case like this, or is it only for text, audio, and visual <i>works</i>, themselves?

I think $5 is extremely reasonable. I agree with Greg, too.

I'm super-psyched about this...

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Post by William G »

Merlin, are absolutely certain you want to give it away? You got a pretty decent program there that i think need more than a shake of the tip jar.

Maybe you do something like the pay sites and set it up that folks need to pay for the download.

It's all pretty much beyond my knowledge, but I think it may be an idea.
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Post by Merlin »

> Merlin, are you absolutely certain you want to give it away?

I think people deserve a chance to try it out before they plonk their money down. Like I say above, you're going to need some Flash knowledge to work with this thing, and I don't want people buying it and then discovering they don't actually know enough Flash to use it.

One option would maybe be to specifically describe the thing as shareware and state that people should pay to register the software if they want to continue using the engine after a trial period. That'd still rely on people's good nature, but would be a bit more insistant rather than just holding out a tips jar. It does create more work for me, as then really I'd need to keep some sort of record of registered users, but it's a possibility.

I'm not sure if there's any kind of precident for offering an FLA file as shareware. In fact, if anyone can find any FLAs for sale anywhere on the web, I'd love to see some examples.

The various creative-commons style approaches is also something I'm thinking about. I guess my concern there is if something like that could later damage my ability to put out a more commercial version of the Engine as stand alone software. I guess that' something I need to read up about in more detail.
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Post by kaos_de_moria »

hmm, i'd personally think other payment systems might be more reasonable.

possibility 1) a per comic fee (about one or two $)
possibility 2) a per income fee - if comics based on tarquin are sold, so to say, people make money with tarquin comics, they have to pay a certain percentage (5 to 10% seem to be reasonalbe to me)

as you can quiet easily recognize a tarquin comic and more so you can see if the persona makes money out of it, the second might be a good way to go.

just my 2 cents,
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Post by Merlin »

Huh - okay, turns out there are a bunch of people selling FLAs. Useful info, thanks for that Tim. Maybe selling the engine as an FLA is more of a possibility than I originally thought.

I did consider some kind of per-comic fee or per-income fee (making the engine free to those people who aren't earning) but both struck me as tricky to implement (as they require me to keep an eye on what everyone is doing with the engine) and possibly a bit off-putting (I don't like the idea of software you have to pay to use every time you create something new with it).

Something else that's occured to me while I've been going over my acounts for the year - I'm going to have to start thinking of prices in ? rather than $ on my website. Can't keep taking the hit from this crazy exchange rate spiral.
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Post by J-Sun »

Hello Merlin,
I love - I feel you have some great work going on over there! :)

I would like to chime in regarding making your Tarquin Engine Available...
I don't know how elaborate the code for the Engine is...
I imagine that it is perhaps a lot less complex than most people might think -
But that doesn't neccessarily mean you should just give it away!

I created simple non-zooming horizontal scrolling infinite canvas which uses just six lines of action script:
I also created a simple non-zooming infinite canvas that scrolls omni-directionally (both X and Y) with a mere eight lines of action script: see Cybertropolis Christmas Morning, Chapter 4 - coming soon! ;)
If I had to guess at how you created the Scrolling and Zooming functionality of the Engine I'd have to figure it is something that only consists of a few lines of cleverly composed, presumably rather elegant actionscript...

Regardless of how simple the Engine might be, I feel that if there is a demand for this sort of thing - which it seems there is - you should not be too generous to just give it away for a small donation and undercut a fair profit for yourself.

Personally I would have no problem paying ?10 or more just to see how you put the Engine together.
But for many people just selling them a FLA file wouldn't neccessarily allow them to properly use the file/scripts/engine because they might not be familiar with the subtleties/intricacies of actionscript... as you mentioned.

This is where your User Instruction Set or Tutorial for using the engine really comes into play.

Instructions that would allow a novice flash user to properly utilize the FLA file would have incredible worth - and would significantly and justifiably increase the value of what would otherwise be a few lines of code.
I think that imparting the knowledge of how the engine works would be equally if not more valuable than the engine itself...

So if you include a thorough set of instructions as part of the package people get when they buy the engine you need not worry so much about people not getting "a chance to try it out before they plonk their money downabout". You can rest assured they will be getting their moneys worth.

Good luck - and be please be sure not to set too low a price!
Meanwhile, I am looking forward to a peek at the Engine soon!