What’s Up With The NAM Documentation? (August 2015 Edition)

There are a couple of closely-related questions I’ve been asked a fair bit over the past 18 months:

  1. “Why does all the NAM documentation say ‘Version 31.2’?”
  2. “Are you guys going to update the NAM documentation?”

The answer to #1, of course, is because most of the documentation (excluding the RRW guide) has not changed since NAM 31.2, which obviously begs question #2.  The answer to question #2 is to the affirmative, but it’s one of those “yes, but . . . ” situations, complete with a very long pause.  To get into the reason for that long pause, we are indeed planning to update the documentation, but there are a lot of caveats and complications that have vexed us before now, and continue to make the process of producing anything beyond that little “Read First” document in the NAM 33 Pre-Release package a very difficult task.  Suffice to say, if anyone is thinking that we will manage to accomplish this by the time NAM 33 is given its official, finalized release, they will, more likely than not, be quite seriously disappointed (especially as the relative stability of the NAM 33 Pre-Release means that not much will need to be done to get to the official version).

Probably the primary reason why nothing has been updated has been RLS–good old “Real Life Syndrome”.  More time will have elapsed between NAM 32 and the eventual official NAM 33 than between any two other NAM releases, even eclipsing the marathon waits between NAM 19 and 20, and between NAM 30 and 31. That’s in part because many NAMites have had busier lives than usual during the development cycle for NAM 33–myself very much included–and the projects we embarked on for the release were quite substantial.  We also lost a few key NAMites during that time, including one of the two key architects of that last documentation revision for NAM 31.2.  Additionally, the task of writing the documentation has required, at the very least, substantial input from the development team, if it hasn’t been written entirely by developers.  Writing NAM documentation requires very intimate knowledge of what is included in the mod, and how it works.  I personally handled much of the NAM 29 and 30 documentation, and all that work for the NAM 31.x releases was done largely by Ganaram and MandelSoft.

The NAM 31.x documentation was probably the most thorough and substantial documentation we’ve ever had, but with the amount of change that has occurred with the mod, and continues to occur, the advice in there (especially with the RHW) is not particularly useful nowadays.  And more troubling is the fact that the format we wound up using has proven to be a nightmare to try to further update and edit.  The RHW Users Guide is especially so, as the NAM 31.2 edition of it is 130 pages long and drenched in illustrations.  My own efforts to attempt to open the source .docx file with OpenOffice to attempt to do some updating has caused an incredible number of CTDs.

Additionally, one thing that has marked the “monolithic”-era NAM releases, from 31.0 onward, is that some components have been in a constant state of flux.  One of the biggest initiatives that has been ongoing since the NAM 31 development cycle has been going away from what had been the NAM’s bread-and-butter–cranking out hundreds of static puzzle pieces–and going toward more intuitive FLEX and draggable implementations, designed to make the majority of those static puzzle pieces obsolete.  It’s been a relatively complex process on the modding side, so we’ve had to do it in phases, meaning that some components (the RHW, especially) have been in a transitional state.  NAM 33 is two substantial notches farther than NAM 31.2, and NAM 34 will be another beyond that.  Had we been able to update the documentation for NAM 32, we’d probably be having to do almost as much work to update that to meet NAM 33 standards as we are currently facing, with the last real revision being from the release before that.

One thing we have been discussing is using some sort of Wiki format–possibly through SC4D’s long-dormant SC4 Encyclopaedia–in order to update things more dynamically, and potentially ditch most of the offline documentation.  Ganaram’s also been diving into YouTube to showcase some of the NAM 33 additions.  However, we are still figuring out just what will happen, and it won’t be until after the official release of NAM 33 that we are able to do any real legwork on that front.  In the meanwhile, as always, we will be around to answer questions from NAM users, and try to make the experience of using the mod as enjoyable as possible.

-Tarkus

 

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