It was 2008 when I first started serious work on an authoring tool for digital comics.
I began by relying mostly my own instincts as to what kinds of features would be needed to merge the visual language of comics with interactive screens. That effort really kicked into high gear in 2011 when I discovered the Unity game engine and realized that by leveraging its capabilities I could move forward much faster than I had expected. This lead to a wonderful collaboration with Ezra Claytan Daniels on our app Upgrade Soul, built using the first iteration of the tools.
As my interest in the field grew, I began to gain an appreciation for the many different forms of digital comics being produced in the U.S. and around the world, and their antecedents in other media, bringing that knowledge to bear on the development. Then, once it became clear that the tools could be a viable commercial product, it still took another few years to improve their functionality and usability to the point where a public release was possible. And now that release is here!
Panoply: Comics & Splitscreen for Unity is now available on the Unity Asset Store—and if you’re looking to make use of the visual language of comics in your game or story-based app, I invite you to check it out! Here’s a tutorial on the basics:
Panoply’s strongest suit is in the experience it provides readers. Every panel transition is calculated in real time, bringing a smooth, momentum-style feel as readers move from step to step. This approach also means that readers can move forward or backward in the story in a very readerly way, when and where they choose; they aren’t forced to wait for canned animations to start and stop. And yet, because each panel is also its own camera in 3D space, the range of creative possibilities for storytelling remains wide open. Panoply is the only digital comics tool that provides this combination of features.
I can’t wait to see what people do with Panoply, and frankly I’m looking forward to using it more myself—the ability to fuse sequential art, interactivity, and a features of a 3D game engine is still very new, with much territory remaining unexplored. It’s my hope that Panoply will help contribute to the experimentation already underway as artists stretch digital comics to their greatest potential.